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

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Robert Brent Toplin, Oliver Stone
University Press of Kansas, 2000 - Performing Arts - 335 pages
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Challenging audiences and leaving critics in disarray, the films of Oliver Stone have compelled viewers to reexamine many of their most revered beliefs about America's past. Like no other filmmaker, Stone has left an indelible mark on public opinion and political life, even as he has generated enormous controversy and debate among those who take issue with his dramatic use of history. This book brings Stone face-to-face with some of his most thoughtful critics and supporters and allows Stone himself ample room to respond to their views. Featuring such luminaries as David Halberstam, Stephen Ambrose, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Walter Lafeber, and Robert Rosenstone, these writers critique Stone's most contested films to show how they may distort, amplify, or transcend the historical realities they appear to depict. These essays-on Salvador, Platoon, Wall Street, Born on the Fourth of July, The Doors, JFK, Heaven and Earth, Natural Born Killers, and Nixon-enlarge our understanding of Stone's films, while also giving us a fuller appreciation of the filmmaker as artist and intellectual. They reveal how Stone's experience in Vietnam colors his views of American government and corporate culture and suggest new ways of looking at the complex tensions between art and history that shape Stone's films. In response, Stone offers an articulate and passionate defense of his artistic vision. Disavowing once and for all the mantle of "cinematic historian," Stone declares himself first and foremost a storyteller, a dramatist and mythmaker who deliberately refashions historical facts in pursuit of higher truths. The undeniable centerpiece of this artistic manifesto is Stone's fascinating commentary on the making and meanings of JFK, the film that reopened a case that many thought finally closed. A provocative and timely reexamination of a great American artist, Oliver Stone's USA will also reignite public debate over the relationship between history and art as well as the artist's responsibility to his audience.

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Oliver Stone's USA: film, history, and controversy

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Filmmaker Oliver Stone (Platoon, Wall Street, JFK) is viewed as either a perceptive chronicler of recent U.S. history or a na ve believer in antidemocratic cabals. Undoubtedly, he is an artist who ... Read full review

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About the author (2000)

Robert Brent Toplin, a professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, has been principal creator of a number of PBS and Disney Channel films and is the film and media editor for Perspectives in History.

William Oliver Stone was born on September 15, 1946 in New York City. He attended Yale University for two years but left to enlist the U.S. Army requesting combat duty in Vietnam. He fought with the 25th Infantry Division, then with the First Cavalry Division, earning a Bronze Star, a Army Commendation Medal, and a Purple Heart before his discharge in 1968 after 15 months. Stone graduated from film school at New York University in 1971, where he was mentored by director Martin Scorsese. He is an American film director, screenwriter, and producer. In the late 1970s, Stone was a scriptwriter and directed his first two films Seizure and The Hand. In 1978 he won his first Academy Award, after adapting true-life jail tale Midnight Express into a hit film for British director Alan Parker (the two would later collaborate on a 1996 movie of stage musical Evita). His other films include Scarface, Conan the Barbarian, JFK, and Natural Born Killers. He received two more Academy Awards for his work on the films Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July. His book, The Untold History of The United States, was published in 2012.

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