|Title:||Born on the Fourth of July|
Other Movies Seen By This Director (15)
- The Hand
- Heaven & Earth
- Natural Born Killers
- South of the Border
- Talk Radio
- Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
- World Trade Center
|10.13.07||Paramount||This Screening is part of event: Austin Film Festival 2007|
Busy day at AFF but only two movies. It started out with a morning "conversation" (read: extended Q&A) with Oliver Stone that was packed and for the most part interesting and awesome, followed by an afternoon "conversation" with John Milius (equally interesting and awesome but less people) followed by the mega "Writing the War Film" panel with Oliver Stone AND John Milius (even more people, even more interesting and awesome even though I've now heard a couple of Stone and Milius' answers to more common questions three times). Finally, Stone stuck around to screen Born on the Fourth of July and do one more Q&A. whew!
So, I remember watching this movie when it first came out on video and my parents rented it. I remember thinking it was like three hours long and mostly about Tom Cruise whining about being in a wheelchair and yelling the word Penis at his mom. It's funny how my memory has distorted over the years with some things but remains the same with others. Willem Dafoe slurping up the tequila worm? exactly the same. All the stuff with Cruise as a kid doing push-ups rather than kissing the girl and the 4th of July parades and him growing up that I thought took up like 25 minutes? All wrapped up in the beginning titles.
...And there's still a heck of a lot of Tom Cruise whining about being in a wheelchair and yelling Penis. But I noticed other stuff this time around too. Like I don't know if this was just when steadicams became available or what but it felt like 95% of this movie was either shot handheld or steadi. It's increadibly mobile. It must've settled down for the more dramatic parts (There was also a lot of use of close up) but it mostly felt on the move. I think it's great how clear Bob Richardson's evolution as a DP is through Stone's films. Here it feels right on the cusp. They're clearly trying some radical things with color and movement and a little with lighting (you see the burned out surfaces a little but he hasn't moved on to the JFK/NBK extreme yet) but there's still plenty of standard set-ups. I really wonder when his hair turned gray and if working for Oliver Stone had anything to do with it.
From his films and reading that Killer Instinct book, I really expected Stone to be an aloof, philosophical, poker-faced guy in person but in hearing him speak today I found him to be much the opposite. He's warm, polite, concise and expressive. He definitely has his opinions but he communicates them very well and - this it the part that really impressed me - it sounds like he still loves movies. He still watches movies and his trivia brain seemed a pretty deep well. When he and Milius spoke about favorite war films both were quick to mention a handful I'd never heard of before and Stone was right there with actors, plot synopses, and in some cases exact running times (I'm too lazy to check if Lawrence of Arabia is actually 3 hours 48 minutes but he seemed pretty sure). It always bothers me when directors act like they're too good to like movies anymore or they never liked them to begin with. I always kind of suspected that was the case with Stone because he seemed to fall into filmmaking after returning from the war just because it was there and most of his movies carry a very blatant agenda and never really settle for just being an entertaining movie. I don't think that's the case anymore though. When someone asked them how they feel about Sam Fuller, Milius immediately responded with "Oh I LOVE Fuller. Love him!" and Stone looks at the stage and says "He's loved by critics and that's good" then after much prodding admits that "he's a pulp director that always seemed of the Roger Corman/Sam Arkoff variety to me, but The Steel Helmet is one of my favorites." After hearing that, I can buy how his outlook on cinema is for more than pure entertainment which probably points to a deeper love of the medium than those who indulge in simple genre execution.
So... I should also mention that Milius was not without his fair share of opinions. After explaining how he's been blacklisted by the liberal majority of Hollywood after making Red Dawn, he also casually mentioned how the Mexicans are slowly invading our country, using the old German WWII plan of coming up through our midwest and dividing the country in half. "They're doing it now and they don't even need a war. And they're gonna win by the way... but that's ok. Change is good." Sounds like it's time to get the Wolverines back together!
He also mentioned how he liked the draft and think it should be re-instituted but that's a whole other discussion.
So they were both great to hear speak. They also both seem like perfect guys to sit down with for a few hours and just talk over cigars or something. Several times during the various panels I had urges to ask small follow-up questions to keep them talking because I could tell there's a lot more there, but had to remind myself that this was a Q&A and not him hanging out at my house. That's a shame though. More bigshot directors should hang out at my house, and they should do it more often.
Anyway, Good times with hearing what these two have to say, and I'm glad I saw this movie again. I still can't say it's my favorite of Stone's but I'm glad I've refreshed it in my mind.