Saturday, November 17, 2012

America's History According to Oliver Stone

Oliver Stone's Untold History 
of the United States 
Written by Peter Kuznick and Oliver Stone 
Showtime Television 
Monday Nights 9 PM
Five Scoops of Bosco

Reviewed by Allen Bacon, The Daily Bosco

Academy Award-winning Producer and Director Oliver Stone has joined forces with Historian Peter Kuznick to produce a 10-part Showtime Television series called "Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States."

Consistent with most of Oliver Stone's work (Platoon, Wall Street, JFK, Born on the Fourth of July), the conspiracy theories, questioning of authority and moralizing abound here but we were expecting that.  We wouldn't expect anything less from Mr. Stone.

Along with those givens, I was also interested in how Stone approaches making a documentary as opposed to making a film on historical subjects.

The series splices together Film Reel footage, re-enactments, and snippets from movies in rapid fire succession with Oliver Stone doing the narrating chores.

I must admit I am more in favor of the Ken Burns approach to Documentary Story Telling and Producing where the stories move along in a methodical way so you can absorb the images and what is being said.

Stone's approach involves Mental Gymnastics.  Your brain is trying to process the image on the screen as he is talking and before you can do that... the next image is there your face. It takes a bit of getting used to but at the end of the day, it keeps you awake through what could have been hours of viewing old and dull film news reels.

From a historical perspective, the series, through archival findings and recently declassified documents examines American history, re-tells American History from the two atomic bombings of Japan all the way through the Obama administration.

In contrast to what is commonly taught in school,  Stone and Kuznick found the atomic bombings in Japan were militarily unnecessary and morally wrong. They also suggest the Soviet Union, not the United States, ultimately defeated the Germans in World War II. And, they assert, the United States, not the Soviet Union, bore the lion’s share of responsibility for perpetuating the Cold War.

The filmmakers also found American Presidents, especially in wartime, have frequently gone around the Constitution and International Law, and they note the United States has brought the world dangerously close to nuclear war by repeatedly threatening Nuclear Strikes.

There is also a companion book with a similar name.

Peter Kuznick, a Professor of History and Director of the Nuclear Studies Institute at American University is the co-writer of the series.

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