In the classic horror film Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, we enter the world of a childhood star long after the lights have dimmed and the applause has faded. Played by Bette Davis, Baby Jane is angry, callous, calculating, and cruel. Davis' masterful portrayal personifies the scars of lost fame and the fetid stench of regret. She cackles with delight as she famously abuses her sister time and time again. Baby Jane is no longer a star but rather a lampoon of the worst of what even Hollywood's glitz and make-up cannot hide. She's a star who has faded and she's damned angry. With his latest film South of the Border, Oliver Stone wears the cynicism of a man looking for relevance just as overtly as Baby Jane Hudson wears her grotesque makeup on her vengeful face.
From the moment South of the Border opens we're confronted with sound bites from Fox news lambasting Chavez. Stone is setting us up for his canonization of the highly controversial, and anti-semetic leader. It's unfathomable that the same filmmaker who made Platoon could rub elbows with the tyrant Hugo Chavez but miss the responsibility to turn the camera on the poor and oppressed of Venezuela.
Stone's one-sided Chavez infomercial is selling us negativity. Never mind Venezuela -- with the highest homicide rates in the world, increasing gap between the rich and poor, the food shortages, the unemployment, and the highest inflation rate in South America -- here Stone tells us America is the problem and the our media is to blame.
As a democrat, I get it. Chavez called Bush El Diablo (the devil) at the time when Americans were fed up with the President's shock-and-awe fear mongering against Americans. We watched as the lunatic Pat Robertson announced that the Venezuelan leader should be assassinated. Clearly the enemy of these guys deserved a closer look.
Had Stone gone to South America to expose the regression of Venezuela instead of making a buddy-buddy road show with megalomaniacs, he could have made a few salient points against U.S. media in his favor. Yes, the American media cannot be trusted. You'd be a fool to believe everything you hear read or see. Still too, you'd be an equal fool not to trust the trail that history has left in the wake of all-too-many powerful dictators.
With his entrée, Stone had a great opportunity to turn the cameras on Venezuela -- its decaying infrastructure, human rights abuse, poverty, and skyrocketing crime rate. Instead we are spoon-fed propaganda under the guise of a documentary. The question is why? Is Stone looking to remain relevant? Like Baby Jane does he lament for days gone by, or grown bitter with time -- or has Oliver Stone simply been blindsided by Hugo's political power and private jets? This film is as sour a dish as the rat Baby Jane serves her sister in the 1962 flick. Joan Crawford screamed in anguish as she threw that rat to the side. No one who cares about humanity's progress should take a nibble from the twisted man Stone is trying to sell us in his latest effort -- but don't take my word for it.
Look at Venezuela and judge for yourself.
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