Oliver Stone: The Stone Age

Come inside the cave of producer/screenwriter/director Oliver Stone, where men are men and women exist, at best, only to please. Our reporter took a long look at those etchings on the wall -- JFK, Platoon, Wall Street, Salvador, and The Doors -- and concluded, "It's a man's, man's, man's, man's world".

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At the very beginning of Oliver Stone's most interesting movie, Salvador, sleazeball photojournalist James Woods's nagging wife gets ready to pack up her bawling infant and go back to Italy, tired of waking up every morning to find eviction notices, a grimy apartment and sleazeball photo-journalist James Woods. Desperate for cash, Woods seeks an immediate assignment in El Salvador, but has the phone slammed down on him by a cold bitch of an editor. While he is on the phone, Woods is harassed by a fat bitch who wants to make a call her-self, and after he gets off the phone he is arrested for speeding by a tough bitch of a cop. Bail is posted by his pal Jim Belushi, a sleazeball deejay who has just broken up with his yuppie bitch of a wife because she wants him to stop being a sleazeball deejay and start being a sleazeball computer salesman.

The lurid Jims now decide to head south to Guatemala, but not before dropping by the local dog pound to pick up Belushi's beloved mutt. Alas, the dog has already been dispatched to the great kennel in the sky, and it is a cold-hearted bitch of a dogcatcher who breaks the bad news to the boys. Thus, perhaps 10 minutes into Stone's most successful movie (even though it's really just a remake of Under Fire, which appeared three years earlier), Jim and Jim have had miserable dealings with two nags and four bitches. No wonder they now find themselves on the way to merry El Salvador, where even though they'll have to deal with a moronic female journalist, an overbearingly pious nun and a local witch doctress who ramrods a huge needle into Belushi's huge buttocks, at least, as Woods says, "[you can] get a virgin to sit on your face for seven bucks."

I think this says a lot about Oliver Stone's worldview.

Because most of Stone's movies deal so intensely with political themes--the war in Vietnam, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the inexplicable rise of hate groups hellbent on killing performance artists like Eric Bogosian-- there is a tendency to discuss his films as if they were primarily political films, or, as some critics have dubbed them, propaganda. But this ignores the underlying theme that binds all Oliver Stone movies together, and accounts for their box-office appeal to a primarily male audience. Oliver Stone, whether he is directing, producing, or writing the screenplay for a film, basically makes buddy movies.

In buddy movies, women do not exist, or, if they do exist, they don't exist for very long. Yes, JFK is a profoundly disturbing film about the threat posed to this fine, pluralistic republic by the sinister machinations of the military-industrial complex, but it's also a buddy movie about a crusading district attorney and a bunch of his pals who try to pin the rap for the President's murder on Tommy Lee Jones and his buddy Joe Pesci and his buddy Ed Asner. The major female character is a nagging bitch (Sissy Spacek) who periodically surfaces to make dinner, put the kids to bed and complain. Salvador is a buddy movie about a couple of fuck-knuckles who go to Central America to get wasted and have virgins squat on their faces. The major female character is a Latino madonna who periodically surfaces to chide James Woods for little things like getting her kid brother abducted, tortured and murdered by death squads. Wall Street is a buddy movie about Charlie Sheen and his sleazeball buddy Michael Douglas who rig the stock market. The major female character is Daryl Hannah, an entirely ornamental interior decorator (a role she was born to play).

The Doors is a buddy movie about the adventures of Jim Morrison and his pals Robby, Ray and John in never-never land. The major female character is the hilariously miscast Meg Ryan (When Sally Met the Lizard King...), the most wholesome groupie since Barbra Streisand charmed the leather pants off Kris Kristofferson in the 36th remake of A Star Is Born.

Platoon is a buddy movie about a bunch of guys like Oliver Stone going through hell in Vietnam--there is no major female character. Born on the Fourth of July is a wheelchair buddy movie about a bunch of guys like Oliver Stone going through hell in Vietnam. The major female character is a dim-bulb cupcake played with consummate verve by the indefatigably bland Kyra Sedgwick. Throughout the movie, intransigent heterosexual paraplegic Tom Cruise repeatedly complains that because of Vietnam, he'll never be able to use his penis again. Wasted tears, Tommy-boy--in an Oliver Stone movie, where the hell would you find a woman you'd want to stick your penis into? You're lucky if you can find a virgin to sit on your face for seven bucks.

The buddy theme goes all the way back to movies Stone merely scripted. Scarface is a buddy movie about a bunch of Cuban dirtballs who come to the United States and have a lot of interesting adventures in the cocaine trade. The major female character is Michelle Pfeiffer, a coke-snorting slut, though she does get some serious competition from Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, a coke-snorting slut.

Talk Radio is a buddy movie about a couple of late-night buddies trying to make a big splash on the national scene. The major female character is a prim cutie pie who favors those neat little neckties that businesswomen from the Midwest always wear in a desperate attempt to be taken seriously by their male colleagues.

Conan the Barbarian is a Stone Age buddy movie about a mighty Vikingish warrior and his somewhat less mighty chum who lock horniness with James Earl Jones and his two gigantic, longhaired buddies who look like power forwards in the Ozzy Osbourne Look-alike Basketball League. The major female character is Sandahl Bergman, who has enough muscles for eight buddies.

And you really can't find a more explicit buddy movie than Midnight Express, which is, after all, set in the ultimate buddy environment: a Turkish prison. The only female character in this cheerful affair is Brad Davis's girlfriend, whose one big scene involves squashing her bare breasts up against a glass partition so that her imprisoned boyfriend can lick her reflection.

I think this says a lot about Oliver Stone's worldview.

I don't want to spend too much time dwelling on the pathetic cartoons that pass for women in Oliver Stone's movies, but it's a pretty damning statement when the most fully realized female character in any film Stone has ever been associated with is the Thighmaster pinup girl played by Sandahl Bergman in Conan the Future Republican. At least she has a job. The rest of the Family Stone are trophy wives, girls-next-door and an endless parade of coke-sniffing whores and yuppie bimbos. If Stone were not peddling a politically fashionable anti-Americanism that never goes out of style in Hollywood, feminists would already be all over him as one of the most reactionary, sexist moviemakers alive.

Stone is, of course, one of our most sadistic auteurs, whose particular brand of mayhem involves the surgical removal of important body parts from their customary moorings. Stone's first major motion picture was The Hand, a 1981 film that announced Stone's fascination with dismemberment by portraying a cartoonist (Michael Caine) whose severed cockney hand starts running around murdering people. (Let your fingers do the stalking.)

The next year, with the screenplay for Conan the Future Kennedy In-Law, Stone worked his way further up the human anatomy: The film begins and ends with a decapitation, but also features a scene in which what appear to be Vestal Virgins or Vestal Vixens (I can never tell the difference) drink a puke-colored bisque containing skulls and human hands--Cro-Magnon nouvelle cuisine, if you will--and apparently enjoy it. After Conan, Stone scripted Scarface, which features a man who has his head cut in half with a chain saw, and Year of the Dragon, in which the villain drops a bloody head onto his plate in the middle of an otherwise refined business luncheon with the Khmer Rouge. This certainly gets everyone's attention.

Salvador, which Stone directed in 1986, features no explicit decapitations, but there are plenty of bullet holes in the forehead and numerous references to another recurring Stone theme: castration. In fact, the movie's climax occurs when James Woods is threatened with a machete poised perilously close to the crown jewels, which elicits memories of Midnight Express when Randy Quaid is beaten so badly that he loses a testicle, and then is beaten so badly that he loses the other (NB: Even in macho Oliver Stone films, men are limited to two testicles per customer). This was certainly one way to make Quaid less randy.

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