Note to the New York Times: Didn’t Oliver Stone Go Down This Conspiracy Path Once Before?

By Jack Limpert

unnamed-2Sunday’s New York Times Magazine cover story was on Oliver Stone, who the cover said “wanted to make a movie about America’s most iconic dissident.” The dissident, Edward Snowden, is shown on the magazine cover in a portrait randomly distorted by computer, and the story, written by Irina Aleksander, is generally admiring of Stone as a movie maker. Snowden is due to be released September 16.

The nine-page story mentions most of Stone’s movies. It says Stone became a Buddhist while making Heaven and Earth and sampled a buffet of psychedelic drugs for The Doors. Stone’s Savages was “a beachy Blake Lively thriller.” Stone’s early successes were Platoon and Wall Street. Stone’s Born on the Fourth of July was a Ron Kovic biopic that won Stone an Oscar. Also mentioned were Nixon, Any Given Sunday, and Alexander.

Sunday’s Times Magazine story says “The Snowden story had all the ingredients of an epic Stone picture: politics, government conspiracy and, at the center of it all, an American patriot who had lost faith.”

Not mentioned in the Times Magazine story was Stone’s 1991 movie, J.F.K., also full of politics and government conspiracy. J.F.K  showed Stone the filmmaker to be somewhere between irresponsible and crackpot.

I remember J.F.K. because the Washingtonian parted company with its movie critic, Pat Dowell, over her review of it.

The 1991 AP story:

WASHINGTON (AP) Film critic Pat Dowell never wrote a review her editors wouldn’t run. But that was before she gave 3 1/2 stars to J.F.K. She’s now the ex-critic of Washingtonian magazine, after resigning when editor Jack Limpert spiked her words of praise for the controversial movie.

Dowell’s unpublished critique called it ”a brilliantly crafted indictment of history as an official story.’‘

”The idea that the president, the Pentagon and the CIA are all acting in concert” to assassinate John Kennedy and cover it up ”is bizarre, just crackpot, preposterous,” Limpert said Friday. His view after seeing the film: “The dumbest movie about Washington ever made.”

Oliver Stone on government conspiracies: Maybe the Times Magazine should have mentioned Stone’s earlier take on the subject. It’ll be a surprise if Snowden isn’t another J.F.K..

The New York Times review, by Vincent Canby, of J.F.K., on December 20, 1991: “The film’s insurmountable problem is the vast amount of material it fails to make coherent sense of.”

The Rolling Stone review, by Peter Travers, of J.F.K., on December 20, 1991: “Even when his intentions are worthy and backed with skilled technique—as they are in J.F.K.—Stone will fudge any fact, hype any situation, pull any stunt to make his case.”

For a broader perspective on J.F.K. and books about the Kennedy assassination, see Stephen Ambrose’s essay, “Writers on the Grassy Knoll: A Reader’s Guide,” in the February 2, 1992 New York Times Book Review.

In 2011, Alex Von Tunzelman, in The Guardian, looked back: “J.F.K. is a cleverly constructed, tightly written and sometimes breathtakingly well-acted movie—and one of the most appalling travesties of history you’re ever likely to see.”


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