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Oliver Stone Talks Strong Women Characters

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by Kerensa Cadenas
July 10, 2012 1:51 PM
4 Comments
  • |

In a recent interview with the Associated Press to promote his new film Savages, Oliver Stone was asked to pick his favorite 5 films featuring strong women.  For a man, who primarily focuses on hyper violent male characters or our former Presidents, his new film Savages has been seen as a departure for Stone with a primary focus on the film's female characters, O (Blake Lively) and Elena (Salma Hayek). Having Stone discuss strong women is laughable, considering his usual construction of male dominated worlds in which the female characters exist solely (if at all) in definition to their male counterparts.

Stone's choices include Marlene Dietrich in both Josef von Sternberg's Dishonored (1931) and The Scarlet Empress (1934), where Dietrich portrays Mata Hari and Catherine the Great in the former. He also picks Faye Dunaway in Network (1976) and Mommie Dearest (1981), Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce (1945) and Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit (2010). Stone also gives honorable mention to Barbara Stanwyck in Stella Dallas (1937) and Double Indemnity (1944).

Stone's choices cannot be argued against. However, in his discussion of Dunaway in Mommie Dearest, his condescension oozes through.

Dunaway was priceless because she was not looking to gain the audience's love or sympathy in any way. Actually, it works that way better. I don't think that a lot of actresses today have the guts to approach what she did, except for [Charlize] Theron in some of her recent efforts.

In the last year alone, I can name some incredible performances by women in both film and television that encompass what Stone claims they don't have. Watch Lena Dunham in Girls, Tilda Swinton in We Need to Talk About Kevin, Rooney Mara in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Elizabeth Olsen in Martha Marcy May Marlene, Claire Danes in Homeland—all roles that don't expect the audience to completely love or sympathize with them.

And if Oliver Stone doesn't think that actresses have the guts, maybe he should write some parts that do.

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4 Comments

  • HIP OP | December 9, 2012 1:04 AMReply

    BE NOT DECEIVED by the 'women's angle'.

    What's actually at work is the deeper agenda to
    ---a la the classic takedown formulas of Roman slave manuals---
    is the takedown, neutralization and sterilization of the
    male everywhere and the culture he epitomizes.

    Stone, in 2012, has zero cred as a fearless and daring truthteller.

    He botched BOTH his 'W' and 9/11 flicks.
    He continues to deliver decades STALE doper
    'decadence' and demoralization and retreads.

    He's remains -----UTTERLY SILENT------ on the
    massively unfolding anc consolidating Globalist
    --------------------RED China----------------------
    handover op, and has said NOTHING about conditions
    and practices and wage scales within that EUGENICS
    'very, very friendly' Globalist borg.

    He's even delivered a celebration of 'M' pyre with 'Alexander'.

    AGAIN ---son of Wall Street ---former Yalie ----once a soldier Stone,
    in 2012, is worse than AWOL. ---Apparently ----he's 'on board'. . .

  • Bes | July 11, 2012 5:19 PMReply

    "But I disagree with Stone's other point. It's not the actresses who lack the courage to be unsympathetic, but rather the male studio executives as well as general audiences (often female, sadly)"

    Seriously! female audiences are responsible for the vapid contrived depiction of female characters by male story writers, male script writers, male studio executives, male casting agents, male costumers, male directors, male editors, etc? Yes female audiences regularly reject your male depictions of female characters, that is because they are BS. Just allow women to make movies and get them to the market place. Tweaking your male designed crap is not going to please anyone.

  • Scott Mendelson | July 10, 2012 3:34 PMReply

    I wasn't a fan of Savages (way too long, while the older characters were more entertaining than the younger characters), but I agree with Stone here. I think you're confusing two different issues (?). Charlize Theron's character in Young Adult is genuinely a ground-breaker in that she is an openly unsympathetic lead character in the kind of character-drama/comedy usually reserved for male actors. The examples you listed above are not supposed to be unsympathetic characters. We damn-sure are supposed to root for Salander in Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, empathize with Tilda Swinton in We Need To Talk About Kevin, and want Olsen to find peace/freedom in Martha Marcy May Marlene (I'm waiting for the DVD on Homeland and Girls). The issue is that these characters are held to a different standard of 'sympathy' on the basis of their gender. Point being, in today's media, any remotely flawed female character and/or one who isn't 100% supportive of the male lead's goals at any given moment is written off as a 'bitch' or a 'shrew' (why do we root for Don Draper but boo Betty Draper?). I would argue that Diablo Cody and Charlize Theron did with Young Adult *is* somewhat groundbreaking in that she was the lead character in her own story yet was allowed to be as flawed/villainous/anti-hero-ish as any number of male characters in the likes of Sideways, Michael Clayton, etc.

    But I disagree with Stone's other point. It's not the actresses who lack the courage to be unsympathetic, but rather the male studio executives as well as general audiences (often female, sadly) who are so quick to condemn any woman onscreen who isn't presented as mostly wholesome and pure (see - Rock of Ages's post-production tinkering to make Sherrie a more wholesome role model - http://movieline.com/2012/06/13/lapdance-rock-of-ages-story-changes-tom-cruise-julianne-hough-stacee-jaxx/).

  • Yankee Doodle | July 10, 2012 11:40 PM

    Genuinely confused why Stone picked Theron's Evil Queen as an example over Mavis Gary a la Young Adult.

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