Directed by Oliver Stone) Written by Oliver Stone, Peter Kunznick, Matt Graham)
“Jerry Ford is so dumb he can’t fart and chew gum at the same time.”- Lyndon B. Johnson
I’ve been discussing documentaries this month. At the same time I have been re-watching political films of all kinds, thrillers, dramas, action. My recommendation this week falls firmly into both categories. It’s also a bit a beast in terms of time commitment and sheer volume of information, but with the holidays quickly approaching, you may find yourself with some spare time on your hands. “Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States” (2012) attempts to be as comprehensive as the title suggests, at least in terms of the 20th and early 21st centuries. Created, directed, co-written and narrated by Oliver Stone, the series acts as 12 hour film broken into 12 episodes. Similar in terms of format and quality to the epic Ken Burns dissertations on American culture such as “The Civil War” (1990) “Jazz” (2001), “Baseball” (1994 & 2010) and “The War (2007).
Oliver Stone has made his name with politically infused films. From the war flicks like “Salvador” (1986) and “Platoon” (1986) to Presidential biopics, “Nixon” (1995) and “W.” (2008) to one of his most controversial and factually loose films “JFK” (1991). Several of his other films discuss politics and power in less direct ways. Stone has always been considered a left-wing agitator to say the least. He has been accused of playing fast and loose with the facts in order to serve his own political agenda. Is he guilty of that? sure. I don’t care one bit. The man has a vision of the world and what it could be and never shies away from it. “Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States” (2012) is different from Stone’s previous work in many ways. Here’s the breakdown of episodes.
Chapter 1: World War II
Chapter 2: Roosevelt, Truman & Wallace
Chapter 3: The Bomb
Chapter 4: The Cold War: 1945–1950
Chapter 5: The ’50s: Eisenhower, the Bomb & the Third World.
Chapter 6: JFK: To the Brink
Chapter 7: Johnson, Nixon & Vietnam: Reversal of Fortune
Chapter 8: Reagan, Gorbachev & Third World: Rise of the Right
Chapter 9: Bush & Clinton: Squandered Peace – New World Order
Chapter 10: Bush & Obama: Age of Terror
Episode A: 1900-1920 – World War I, The Russian Revolution & Woodrow Wilson
Episode B: 1920-1940 – Roosevelt, Hitler, Stalin: The Battle of Ideas
With “Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States” (2012), Stone has obviously tried to overwhelm detractors and overcome his image by hammering home his positions and interpretations of history with stone cold facts. The volume of documents, recordings, images etc. is amazing. Stone attempts to follow the history of The Untied States from a protectionist new world economy to the undisputed World Super Power whose tentacles of power enveloped the entire globe. WWII being the catalyst for the change. The Bomb and international finances being the blunt force weapons. He tends to highlight key moments in history and how they could have gone another way. Henry A. Wallace Vice President (1941-45) is held up in particularly high regard as a man who sought to bring about real cultural change in America only to be beaten down by special interests within his own party. What could have been? Stones primary seeks to point out forgotten historical events and to re-interpret the prevailing interpretations of the events that have come to define America in the last 115 years. I’ve watched this thing from start to finish 3 times and I’m consistently amazed by what I learn. An absolute must watch for anyone who gives a shit about world history of the 20th and 21st Centuries, which should be everyone. – LEE
(Lee Ostler is a musician, avid fight fan, man-of-many-words, and huge fan of fine cinema. We think it’s too cute that he has a Minor in Film Studies, and are tickled pink that he now gets a chance to shine. So, each Thursday, he will start our minds rolling for the weekend with another gem of a film we can hunt down. Some will be easier to find than others, but that’s part of the game. Get the home theatre ready, pop the corn, and prepare to see some friggin’ awesome films)