Academic journal article Journalism History

Oliver Stone's USA: Film, History, and Controversy

Academic journal article Journalism History

Oliver Stone's USA: Film, History, and Controversy

Article excerpt

Book Reviews

Toplin, Robert Brent, ed. Oliver Stone's USA: Film, History, and Controversy. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2000. 360 pp. $34.95.

Writer and director Oliver Stone must be a serious filmmaker deserving serious treatment. Why else would scholars of history and film dissect nine of Stone's films for a university press book? But there may be a less flattering explanation: Stone is an effective filmmaker whose disturbing questions and outrageous statements would be ignored if they were not directed toward tens of millions of moviegoers. As the saying goes, it is the squeaky wheel that gets the grease.

Stone has been squeaking on celluloid and in public to the point of becoming a parody of himself. His contributions to Oliver Stone's USA, two essays that make up nearly a third of the text, will reinforce that image for many. But no one can deny that Stone's art has power in the mind and in the heart. Furthermore, no other filmmaker has established himself so firmly as the chronicler of his times, winning Oscars and adulation along the way. The essays collected here-some positive, some negative, and several offering a mixed view-make a strong argument for why Stone and his work matter beyond the box-office. As might be expected, the contributors often question the natures of history and film. "Taken together," historian Robert A. Rosenstone writes, "his films create a kind of collective historical argument about contemporary America." Others question the validity of that argument. Stephen Ambrose, no slouch when it comes to history, accuses Stone of academic fraud for marketing a movie whose script was footnoted but full of lies about its subject. …

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