Matt Zoller Seitz on ‘The Oliver Stone Experience’ and the Decline of American Cinema for The Film Stage
The Film Stage: Reading your book, a comparison came to mind for Stone; Samuel Fuller. He was a soldier, journalist, pulp writer, and filmmaker. Is that a fair comparison?
Matt Zoller Seitz: I think that’s a very fair comparison. In fact, we talked briefly about Samuel Fuller, particularly The Big Red One. It’s a memoir of his service in the pacific in World War II. Of course, that movie came out 35 years after Fuller’s experience, and Platoon came out approximately 20 after Stone’s in Vietnam. That’s a fair comparison. And, also, the left-wing politics.
You bring up the various criticisms Stone has received on a number of his films regarding treatment of certain ethnicities or female characters. But now that we’re in an age where films are judged far, far more on the basis of ideology, how much worse do you think these controversies would’ve been today?
I don’t know if they would’ve been better or worse, but they would’ve been more immediate, I think. I think people kind of forget nowadays that movies open on 2,000 screens and then they’re gone in a month. Everything happens faster now, like the way movies are released and the reaction to them on social media. Back in the day, Platoon played in a lot of theaters for three months, six months — nine months, in some cases. And there was plenty of time for a reaction to sort of build, and it happened in slow-motion. I don’t necessarily know if it would be worse, but certainly it would be more simultaneous.
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