Heaven & Earth [1993]

While this monumental retrospective of Oliver Stone's directorial career doesn't include Salvador or Platoon--Stone's early, acknowledged masterpieces of history and remembrance--it certainly sheds light on the more controversial arc of his work ever since. Beginning with 1987's Wall Street, Stone's barbed tragedy about corporate raiders and blinding greed during the Reagan years, this cinematic 10-pack represents a curious odyssey of generational touchstones, outright obsessions, and feverish experimentation. The minor, 1988 Talk Radio, for instance, introduced Stone's then-evolving critique of inflamed media in a society of hapless onlookers. But it was 1994's Natural Born Killers that exploded the theme in a wildly ambitious farce concerning two lovers who defy manufactured perceptions by becoming notorious murderers. Killers pushes the limits of screen violence, visual literacy, and the mixed-media technique (juggling film stocks, incorporating video, etc.) that Stone introduced in JFK. If the result is cold and forced, it's also brazen. Most significant is the way this collection underscores Stone's drive to fuse historical drama with lingering emotions about the past. Stone, a Vietnam War veteran, revisits that haunting debacle here in the masterful Born on the Fourth of July and the moving Heaven & Earth. Yet some of his most famous efforts still draw heaps of scorn for narrative hubris and factual recklessness. (Does anyone really believe John F. Kennedy was assassinated during a Lyndon Johnson coup d'├ętat?) But time is on Stone's side. Eventually, JFK, The Doors, and Nixon will be seen not as a failed objective history, but as the experience of a tumultuous era in the imagination of a man who lived through it all and can't shake it off. The collection concludes with the flawed contemporary noir U Turn and the unexpectedly entertaining football saga Any Given Sunday. Stone bided his time following this extraordinary body of work, until the humanitarian relief drama Beyond Borders (not included) found the director on familiar footing. As Stone's legacy continues to grow, there is a remarkable career here to revisit with these 10 films. --Tom Keogh

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