Oliver Stone's USA
Film, History, and Controversy
Robert Brent Toplin, ed.
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.
“It is gratifying that an American film artist has done work that needs such spirited discussion.”
—Stanley Kauffmann in The New Republic
“This is an essential addition to film, history, and American culture collections.”
—Library JournalSee all reviews...
“Affords a deeper inquiry into how political ideas and ‘history’ are constructed and conveyed to mass audiences.”
“In our media age, movies are the mirrors in which we see ourselves reflected and Oliver Stone is the most influential director of our time—rivaled only by Ken Burns as a visual interpreter of American culture. Nothing less than an understanding of the meaning of America is at stake in this vibrant and challenging volume, a stimulating work of film/history studies appropriate for all concerned with the ways in which visual media interpret American life and values.”
—Peter C. Rollins, editor of Film & History
“Oliver Stone’s USA is a sterling collection of thoughtful essays about and by America’s most controversial filmmaker. If Stone’s artistic objective has been to compel us to rethink landmark events such as JFK’s assassination and the Vietnam War, then this volume offers concrete testimony to his creative success.”
—Douglas Brinkley, author of The American Heritage History of the United States and director of the Eisenhower Center at the University of New Orleans
“I believe there are larger truths than the supposedly factual accounts of events given in orthodox histories. . . . The role of art is to make up for the overwhelming power of the Establishment by using emotion to intensify and magnify suppressed truths. Oliver Stone has done that in his films.”
—Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United StatesSee fewer reviews...
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.