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Oliver's army

By PAUL BABIN  |  August 9, 2006

The dehumanizing capitalism of the Reagan years
Movie:Wall Street (1987)
Thesis: The consumer drive of the 1980s was reducing individuals to money-making pods.
Key scene: Martin Sheen and Charlie Sheen yelling at each other.
Key quote: “Greed is good.”
What the critics said: “The movie’s real target isn’t Wall Street criminals who break the law. Stone’s target is the value system that places profits and wealth and the Deal above any other consideration.” — Roger Ebert
What Stone said: “My father believed that America’s business brought peace to the world, but this idea seems to have been perverted to a large degree. I don’t think my father would recognize America today.”
US box-office gross: $43.8 million
Read The Phoenix's original review by Owen Glieberman (December 11, 1987)
Watch a clip from Wall Street (YouTube) 

The sadistic star-making power of the American mass media
Movie:Natural Born Killers (1994)
Crackpot Theory: Trash TV causes serial killing.
Key scene: The prison riot.
Key quote: Reporter: “Do you have anything to say to your fans?”
Mickey: “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”
What the critics said: “For all its surface passions, Natural Born Killers never digs deep enough to touch the madness of such events, or even to send them up in any surprising way.” — Janet Maslin
What Stone said: “Satire or parody is meant to make people think. But it’s supposed to make you smile or laugh as you go, too, so you’re not sitting there feeling this is real.”
US box-office gross: $50.2 million
Read The Phoenix's original review by Peter Keough (August 26, 1994)
Watch a clip from Natural Born Killers (YouTube)

The corrupt, financially obsessed world of professional sports
Movie:Any Given Sunday (1999)
Crackpot theory: Women make lousy football-team owners.
Key scene: Cameron Diaz making football decisions.
Key quote: “It’s TV, it changed everything, changed the way we think forever. I mean the first time they stopped the game to cut away to some fucking commercial that was the end of it.”
What the critics said: “The kinetic furor of the game sequences helps camouflage the weaknesses of a screenplay that is a mechanically contrived series of power struggles.” — Stephen Holden (NY Times)
What Stone said: “The football movie [Any Given Sunday] was tough physically. That’s probably why I didn’t make another movie right away, because I just got exhausted.”
US Box-office gross: $75.5 million
Read The Phoenix's original review by Tom Meek (December 23, 1999)
Watch a clip from Any Given Sunday (YouTube)

The 9/11 disaster
Movie:World Trade Center (2006)
Crackpot theory: None.
Key scene: Jesus Christ appears with a water bottle.
Key quote: “Don’t fall asleep.”
What the critics said: “As a tribute to those who died, and survived, on Sept. 11, World Trade Center is a scrupulous and honorable film.” — Owen Glieberman
What Stone said: “It seems to me that the event was mythologized by both political sides, into something that they used for political gain, and I think one of the benefits of this movie is that it reminds us of what actually happened that day, in a very realistic sense."
Read The Phoenix's review by Peter Keough
Watch a clip from World Trade Center (YouTube)

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 See all articles by: PAUL BABIN