Stone. I’ve thought for years that Stone is underrated for two reasons: 1. His subjects are controversial (Lars von Trier is polarizing on metacritic but has managed to be adored by TSPDT) 2. He’s a very American director (regardless of his politics I feel like the subject and content of most of his films are very American-centric) and I feel like this hurts him on lists like TSPDT. Basically too much of the conversation is on the subject of the films which isn’t something I think matters when we’re talking about film art. Stone should be ranked higher. I have JFK as a top 100 film and one of the 4-5 greatest examples of film editing…period…. Stone has really faded in recent years but his run from 1986-1997 (all 9 archiveable-grade films I have from him fall into this time period) has to be one of the greatest stretches in contemporary (non-studio era, post-Godard) cinema.

Best film:  JFK. Sort of an oddity here but sometimes I feel like even I’m underrating this film or film editing in general. Hear me out… if it have it as one of the best edited films of all-time and yet it’s still only at #91 on my top 100. How could that be? I’ve also said this before but beyond the editing, it’s gloriously shot by Robert Richardson, the acting is superb, and it’s one of John Williams’ better scores. I find the film to be one of the genuinely scary non-horror films (All the President’s Men) as well. Stone can do paranoia nearly as well as Pakula and Polanski. Still, the story is the editing. We combine black and white flashbacks, the color narrative, the documentary footage. It’s all mashes together for a marvelous blend.

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even in conversational scenes in JFK Stone directs the hell out of it– look at the use of lighting here
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and here– beautiful work
Stone’s masterpiece and a key film in this history of film montage and the use of editing in cinema

total archiveable films: 9

all 9 of Stone’s archiveable films were shot by DP Robert Richardson

top 100 films:  1 (JFK)

top 500 films: 1 (JFK)

top 100 films of the decade: 4 (JFK, Platoon, Natural Born Killers, Nixon)

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Natural Born Killers– a kaleidoscopic nightmare. Extremely ambitious filmmaking from Stone

most overrated:  none… TSPDT only has JFK in the top 1000 from Oliver Stone and even that is heavily underrated at slot #661.

most underrated:    Everything… literally all 9 films below are underrated. Nixon, U-turn, Wall Street all have poor mc scores…but, if forced, I’ll go with Platoon here for my singular choice as his most underrated. It doesn’t have Stone’s trademark montage editing style (he would really hone it in 1991 with JFK) but it’s still worthy of praise. Yes, it won best picture in 1986 but for overrated and underrated categories I use TSPDT.  I have no idea how this isn’t in the top 1000 of all-time. It’s an underrated Oscar winner. It’s not a masterpiece (and it’s not Apocalypse Now or The Thin Red Line ) but it’s an excellent film. TSPDT has it at #1172 right now and that’s preposterous. Natural Born Killers at #1349 is stupid, too.

a perfect shot– slow motion photography capturing Stone’s Christ here in Platoon

gem I want to spotlight:     Nixon. If you love the editing in JFK and Natural Born Killers half as much as I do you’ll love this film as it’s edited in the same mode (so is U-turn for that matter).

stylistic innovations/traits:  I don’t think of Stone as a political filmmaker first I think of him as a great montagist and editor. That is his aesthetic. Stone really evolved (his 80’s films aren’t edited in the same way with the trademark short average shot length- ASL) so though he has been consistent on his passions from a content/narrative standpoint he has grown and morphed as a stylist (and then regressed since U-Turn). He’s an issue-oriented auteur but also makes deceptively beautiful films. Through his heyday he consistently worked with Ralph Richardson as his DP (all 9 archiveable films) who would go on to work with Tarantino and Scorsese of course. And when his films weren’t known for the great soundtracks he worked with John Williams (3 times)….not bad.

impeccable (and expressionistic) use of the frame and lighting in Natural Born Killers

top 10

  1. JFK
  2. Platoon
  3. Natural Born Killers
  4. Nixon
  5. Salvador
  6. U-Turn
  7. Wall Street
  8. Born on the Fourth of July
  9. Talk Radio
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rear-projection use in Natural Born Killerstrue expressionism

By year and grades

1986- Platoon MS
1986- Salvador HR
1987- Wall Street R
1988- Talk Radio R
1989- Born on the Fourth of July R
1991- JFK MP
1994- Natural Born Killers HR/MS
1995- Nixon HR
1997- U-Turn R

*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film

MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film

HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film

R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives