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Oliver Stone, Steven Spielberg, and the Theater of Terror


There's a lot of hubbub in the blogosphere about the news that Oliver Stone is directing a film about 9/11. Mickey Kaus thinks it's a terrible idea because of Stone's far-left politics; James Wolcott defends Stone.

I'm with Wolcott on this one.

Yes, Oliver Stone's politics are out there. Yes, if you give him a microphone, he'll be sure to make remarks that shock and awe. But he's a hell of a filmmaker. How many directors could list Salvador, Platoon, Wall Street, JFK, Any Given Sunday (an underappreciated classic), The People vs. Larry Flynt, Nixon, The Doors, and Born on the 4th of July in their credits? That's a pretty impressive list.

Sure, there've been some flops along the way. But even Stone's failures are interesting.

More to the point, when have we become so scared of politics in our art? Let's assume that the worst happens and Stone makes the 9/11 equivalent of JFK—a brilliant piece of filmmaking with a crackpot political premise. Well, the loopiness will be argued about, debated, dissected. The country will survive. And there'll be more serious conversations about the relationship between art, politics and history than there otherwise would have been....

That's why I'm so pleased that Steven Spielberg is making a movie about the terrorism at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Spielberg has shown that he's capable of dealing with serious issues—the most serious—when he sets his mind to it. Now there's controversy about the fact that he's making this movie. Some of that is political paranoia; we're constantly on the lookout now for people who are soft on terror. But much of it—too much—is because the right wing hates directors who engage seriously with politics; they don't trust Hollywood, and they don't trust historiography that forces people to ask questions.