Saturday, October 1, 2016


Early in my Hollywood years I was hanging with Ralph Bakshi, writing a screenplay for his first live action flick that never got made. We would talk favorite jazz musicians and movies and directors and writers and usually agree, including when a guy we never heard of made the movie, PLATOON. We both said he was the real deal. Oliver Stone came on the scene with his own powerful slant on the truth, and proved how great he was with that movie and some that followed, like SALVADOR.

But after a while Stone seemed to lose control of the movie making process, overwhelming it with his paranoid indulgences that unreeled like wannabe great movies gone awry. Since then his output has been hit and miss, and usually some of both. For my taste, despite some dramatic contrivances and a dab of preaching to the choir, I found SNOWDEN, Stone's newest entry in his movies-based-on-real (and too often surreal) history, a return to the classic Stone artistry.

Others think SNOWDEN is marred by Stone's politics and conspiracy theories, but for my taste, it's a terrific movie ride from start to finish, including the depictions of computer stuff that is often undramatizable but in SNOWDEN Stone manages to make dramatic or at least visually compelling.

The casting is impeccable (except maybe for Clint Eastwood's son as a super nerd manager), especially Joseph Gordeon-Levitt who gets the real Snowden's physicality, from voice to posture and more, so perfectly that any real comparison of the two seems seamless.

And others shine through as well. Shaliene Woodley as Snowden's girlfriend does a great job, and Timothy Olyphant (a good guy I got to know some on the DEADWOOD set) is outstanding as a slimy career spy, as well as Nicolas Cage (another friend in my early Hollywood days—we both were in the same acting class—before he was Nicolas Cage) as an aging CIA computer expert reduced to teaching for questioning his bosses' bad (but politically prudent) decisions...

A lot of great acting work for my taste, and some nice writing, partly from Stone, and a rewarding supplement to the documentary about Snowden, CITIZENFOUR, (the director of which, Luara Poitras, is played with just the right touch of strength and behind-the-camera-self-effacement by Melissa Leo (an actress I've met and read some poetry with (other people's poetry) )...

SNOWDEN, a movie well worth seeing.

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