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Oliver Stone, Prisoner of the 80’s

Oliver Stone released Platoon, his first significant movie in 1986. That was followed by Wall Street in 1987. Before that he had worked on the scripts for 80’s classics like Scarface and Conan the Barbarian. It’s impossible to think of the 80’s without Oliver Stone and it’s impossible to think of Olive Stone without the 80’s.

oliver stone
Oliver Stone’s career ended when the 80’s did. JFK was the last movie that Oliver Stone made that anyone cared about. Like most of his movies, it was loud, dumb and stupid. It got your attention and hoped you wouldn’t realize how much of your time it wasted once it had it.

Stone in the 90’s kept trying to be Oliver Stone in the 80’s. Natural Born Killers was loud and stupid. But it was ignored, except as a goat for advocates against violence in film. Oliver Stone went back to Vietnam, he went back to Nixon, he did loud and stupid. but no one was paying attention anymore.

Things got worse the next decade. He kept trying to talk to the Zeitgeist, but the Big Z had moved on. In Natural Born Killers, Stone proved he had nothing to say about violence in the culture. In World Trade Center, W and a Wall Street sequel, he proved that he had nothing to say about terrorism, Bush or Wall Street. It was all coming up empty.

Harvesting more 80’s chic, Stone went south of the border looking for some of that Sandinista energy, but no one cared. The 80’s were done. Oliver Stone giggling with Hugo Chavez over drug jokes wasn’t anything. Just more 80’s smoke. The big stuff was going on in Pakistan, while Stone was still searching South of the Border.

And now Stone gives us Savages. Savages is the real Miami Vice. Forget Michael Mann, Savages is real Miami Vice. All those colors, all those guns and all those tilted shots. A classic R Rated 80’s boys against the mob movie. They used to roll them out by the dozen. But no one makes those anymore. No one except Oliver Stone. Prisoner of the 80’s.

How retro is savages? The script comes from Stone and a guy who wrote the Shaft remake in the 90’s, one of the Alien vs Predator movies and a bunch of episodes for the Hawaii 5-0 reboot.

Poor Oliver Stone. The man just cannot escape the 80’s. His scripts, his esthetic, his whole focus was flash frozen in 1986. He hasn’t evolved or learned anything new. He can’t. All he can do is post-process Vietnam, chew over the 70’s, turn out unironic pulp fiction like Savages, biopics of “great men and women”, play around with his bag of visual tricks and try to be a Great Director.

But what is a Great Director? The answers vary, but most of them concede that it isn’t Oliver Stone.

End of the Road for 80’s Nostalgia Movies?

What did Take Me Home Tonight and Hot Tub Time Machine have in common? They were both 80’s nostalgia movies that bombed badly. Take Me Home Tonight opened in 11th place even though it was in over 2000 theaters and had the lowest per theater average of any movie in the top 15, (not counting Drive Angry which alienated moviegoers so badly that it scored under a 1000 per theater), so what went wrong?

This video of the Take Me Home Tonight cast hanging out in a trendy club surrounded by the MTV idea of hip kids while they recreate 80’s movie scenes telegraphed the problem. Its coolness becomes lameness, because it’s completely unreal. Like the Rolling Stones bringing out teenage girls to stand in the front row so they can pretend they still appeal to the kids. 80’s nostalgia doesn’t appeal to that audience and 80’s kids are still not ready to give in and get nostalgic. Topher Grace, the star and producer of Take Me Home Tonight, of That 70’s Show should have known it wasn’t a good idea, when That 70’s Show’s producers tried to create That 80’s Show, a decent enough sitcom that nobody watched. 80’s nostalgia just doesn’t sell.

The Wedding Singer gave some studios the bad idea that this would work, but the Wedding Singer didn’t work because of the 80’s nostalgia, but because audiences liked the story and the characters and the music. But the nostalgia wasn’t the selling point. But try to imagine Take Me Home Tonight or Hot Tub Time Machine without the nostalgia and what do you get? Nothing.

Studios shouldn’t despair. The time will come when the 80’s kids will be ready for a heavy dose of nostalgia. Give it another 10 years when they’re losing their hair and packing paunches. They’ll come around. Just like the Boomers did.

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