House Logo
Explore categories +

Sean Burns (#110 of 6)

Manageable Tension: An Interview with Oliver Stone

Comments Comments (...)

Manageable Tension: An Interview with Oliver Stone
Manageable Tension: An Interview with Oliver Stone

In person, Oliver Stone turns out to be a lot like you’d expect from watching his movies. A big, swarthy guy with a 5 o’clock shadow at nine-thirty in the morning, Stone burns with intensity, frequently bursting into a gap-toothed, devilish grin.

He speaks purposefully, and fast. But even though the director of JFK and Nixon has a hard-earned reputation as a troublemaker, fond of rooting around old Washington cover-ups, don’t ask him about any of those 9/11 conspiracy theories percolating all over the Internet.

“So fucking what?” an exasperated Stone replies. “If you look at the forest instead of the trees, what’s happened since is far worse than what happened that day. Any conspiracy, whatever it may be, is not nearly as relevant as where we are now. We have more deaths, more terror, more fear, more debt…constitutional breakdowns—we’ve got everything going on!”

Another journalist tries to ask a question, but Stone is on a roll: “Give me one and a half, brother—I want to say more about this. There is a conspiracy that everybody seems to be missing, and it’s pretty overt. Richard Clarke got it, and so did several other books. There are a bunch of people running the White House who ignored all the normal traditions of the State Department and C.I.A. input, and they simply went their own way with their own information inside the Defense Department—and then they went to war.”

Now there’s the Oliver Stone we all know and love!

But don’t expect any of this in World Trade Center—his resolutely apolitical, surprisingly “Hollywood” movie…

To continue reading the Philadelphia Weekly interview, click here. For a review of World Trade Center, click here.

Superman Returns, Times Three

Comments Comments (...)

<em>Superman Returns</em>, Times Three
<em>Superman Returns</em>, Times Three

Bryan Singer’s “Superman Returns, which opened yesterday, is getting wildly mixed reviews (including pans from Roger Ebert and Manohla Dargis). Three House contributors wrote about the movie for their respective publications this week; excerpts and links follow.

I adored the movie—despite a first act slog that leaves a lot to forgive—because of its mythic spectacle. The movie is visionary bubblegum, unabashedly in love with its source material.

“In scene after scene,” I wrote in New York Press, “Superman Returns implicitly asks what it might feel like to be Superman and to live in a world that has the Man of Steel in it…Where most comic book movies are paradoxically inclined to make their points verbally—bulldozing heaps of raw data in our faces, a la the Matrix movies, Batman Begins and Singer’s own X-Men films—Superman Returns is conceived as a visionary spectacle, a series of mythic tableaus that brazenly liken Superman to Mercury, Jesus, Atlas and Prometheus. It’s a sensory—at times sensuous—experience, modeled not just on great comic book art, but on the crème-de-la-crème of machine-age spectacles: 2001:A Space Odyssey and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

The Sopranos Recap: Season 6, Episode 6, “Live Free or Die”

Comments Comments (...)

<em>The Sopranos</em> Recap: Season 6, Episode 6, “Live Free or Die”
<em>The Sopranos</em> Recap: Season 6, Episode 6, “Live Free or Die”

In the comments section of Odienator’s recent article on parting shots, House regular Wagstaff speculated that “if [a] movie has a philosophy, then that philosophy is most directly expressed in the final shot.” I countered that if you considered the first and last shot of any halfway decent movie, “you get a snapshot of the filmmaker’s worldview so accurate that nothing in between can deny it. Sort of polygraph-by-cinema.” If you subject Sunday night’s Sopranos episode to the polygraph test, the statement seems crystal-clear, and consistent with every episode that’s aired during this exceptional season: it was about the difficulty of envisioning a life different from the one you’re living—and the greater difficulty, even impossibility, of making it happen.

The hour opened with a wide shot of the still-recovering Tony Soprano shambling around the backyard of his palatial McMansion in his bathrobe and having his reading interrupted by the grinding whine of a defective ventilation unit. He walked over to the unit, futzed with it, ripped off the top and hurled it away in disgust, then resumed reading. Moments later, the grinding noise returned, and rather than attack the problem again, Tony ignored it. The episode’s finale showed forcibly-outed mobster Vito, who’d fled to a small town in New Hampshire that seemed to be filled with handsome young bourgeois gay men (my brother Richard remarked, “He could be dead already; maybe this is heaven”), strolling down main street and then ducking into an antiques shop. When he asked the clerk about a particular vase, the clerk complimented Vito’s taste. “You’re a natural,” he said. As the clerk walked away, director Tim Van Patten’s camera dollied in slowly on Vito as he continued to regard the vase. What made this shot so potent was Vito’s unselfconsciousness. For the first time in his history on the series, he seemed completely at ease. (Actor Joseph Gannascoli, who’s seemed out of his depth in other episodes, underplayed this and other moments exquisitely).

A Stain on the Mind

Comments Comments (...)

A Stain on the Mind
A Stain on the Mind

Cinemarati is talking about Munich again. Much of the discussion seems to be zeroing in on the third-act tryst between Mr. and Mrs. Avner, a sequence that cuts between the most explicit sex Steven Spielberg has ever directed and the morally conflicted counterrorist Avner’s imaginings of death in Munich, pictures that have plagued him ever since he watched the hostage crisis play out on TV. Other significant conversational threads have to do with Spielberg’s invocation of the Twin Towers in the final shot, and the flagging, even spasmodic rhythm during the 2 hour, 40 minute film’s final leg.

The reactions of the Cinemarati gang are too varied and complicated to summarize here, so I think you’re better off perusing them yourselves. My own take on the issue is that it’s impossible to really engage with and appreciate Munich without at least considering the possibility that all three of those flashpoints—the sex scene, the Twin Towers shot and the entropic third act—are connected. I explain why in my own Cinemarati post, excerpts of which are below.

One “World”

Comments Comments (...)

One “World”
One “World”

I’m going to take a chance here and guess that if you’re reading this blog, you’re either not totally sick of hearing about The New World or else you’re visiting for the first time and have yet to realize that you’ve stumbled into a hotbed of Terrence Malick fanaticism (and a fair amount of heated dissent, let’s not forget). I haven’t posted anything new on this masterpiece in ages—five whole days, as a matter of fact!—but this gigantic sailing ship of a movie just keeps gathering wind speed as more and more people discover or rediscover its majesty. For now I urge you to check out Friday’s posting on the Reverse Shot blog, where Robbiefreeling beats the drum for Malick one more time. This particular cause has maunevered them, me, Philadelphia Weekly critic Sean Burns, Philadelphia City Paper critic Sam Adams, New York Magazine’s Bilge Ebiri, Los Angeles Times critic Corina Chocano, New York Times critic Manohla Dargis, Armond White, much of Slant Magazine, most of the critics who post on The House Next Door, much of the Cinemarati circle, and many other critical sources who almost never agree on anything into the same camp, where they now find themselves speaking with a more or less united voice—an urgent, idealistic voice, the likes of which has not been heard in America for some time.

Malick awakened this goodhearted beast. As I keep saying, The New World is not merely a movie, but a generation-defining event, and perhaps a decisive moment for Hollywood cinema. To continue to praise it (or knock it, or just talk about it) is to pour more fuel on pop art’s long-smoldering fire. To buy a ticket is to express faith in the notion that the phrase “blockbuster art” need not be an oxymoron. Go see it; and if you’ve seen it, see it again. It’s money well-spent.

Matt Zoller Seitz is the founder of The House Next Door.