1,000 Followers!

Simply Film has reached 1,000 followers! On behalf of the Simply Film crew, I’d like to express our sincerest gratitude for your continued support. Our followers are our prime motivation to keep posting new and interesting content. We couldn’t do it without you!

With genuine thanks,

Albert Cantu

Joe Holley

Andrew King

Gabe Vogel

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An Evening with Oliver Stone

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(Photo by Scott Cook)

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of hearing Academy Award-winning director Oliver Stone speak at a local college. Stone has recently released his documentary series The Untold History of the United States, and the accompanying book of the same name. According to stone, the series explores the darker side of American politics and policies, specifically during the Cold War era, that were and still are often ignored by conventional historical texts, yet have nevertheless profoundly impacted the world we live in today.

During his presentation at the college, Stone began with a summation of the events which influenced his life’s work and their consequent impact on American society. The second half of the presentation consisted of a Q and A session involving the students and faculty of the college.

Stone, a veteran of the Vietnam War, expressed that his experiences in combat during 1967 and 1968 had a profound impact on his later work, including Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, and the lesser known Heaven and Earth. Likewise, he shared with the audience his belief that when he entered the Army in 1967, he did so under the pretense that he was doing good for his country. “I was a conformist in the 1950s. We were scared.” said Stone, referring to the rampant McCarthyism of the period. After his stint in the military, Stone expressed that he had become enlightened. His eyes, so to speak, were opened to the travesty and hypocrisy of global conflict in the 20th century.

Over the course of the Q and A segment, Stone received questions ranging from his experiences as a screenwriter to the validity of Natural Born Killers as a satirical piece. Stone spoke at length about working with legendary actors like Al Pachino, Michael Douglas, Willem Dafoe, Charlie Sheen, and many more. One question in particular that Stone seemed especially passionate about was on the topic of his critically acclaimed film Wall Street. When asked if he had thought that the phrase “greed is good” would become so culturally iconic, Stone stated that the film was meant to portray the madness and material obsession during that particular point in time. He went on to say that the widespread adoption of the phrase proved his point exactly, and that only in a diseased culture would people come to idolize such crooked characters as Gordon Gekko.

Near the end of the presentation, a student asked if Stone had any advice to give to a young, aspiring filmmaker. “Crash the gate (of the movie studio) in Hollywood and don’t give up. Fight to get noticed. Don’t sell out. Find a way. The path to success is always crooked—never a straight line.”

The striking thing about Oliver Stone is that he is most decidedly from a different era. By that I mean that he is not only an old man, but he seems to be stuck- mentally stuck- in a different time period. One need only talk to the man for a few minutes to realize that the world as it is now- as it is to the younger generation, in all of its subtlety and complexity, is quite lost on him. That being said, I simply don’t see him creating any more sweeping cultural commentaries like Wall Street, simply because he’s from an age where incredible culturally shaping events and concepts, the internet for example, we’re far off dreams.

Nevertheless, Oliver Stone to this day remains one of the seminal American filmmakers. His work has inspired us, shocked us, got us talking, and stirred up controversy; after all, isn’t that the aim of any great artist? The evening ended with rapturous applause, and I can say that it was a pleasure to hear such a talented director speak.

Oblivion: A Poet’s Lament

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In lieu of a Netflix Movie of the Week, please enjoy this lovingly crafted sonnet about Joseph Krosinski’s Oblivion.

 

A wasteland on the edge of time designed

by Howard Roark creates a desperate tone,

and stunning scenes- beautifully streamlined.

Technician Harper, utterly alone,

searches for the meaning behind his dreams.

Repairing drones- his day job- removes him

from his illusory abode. Screams

in the night are evidence of Scavs- grim,

nomadic beings, hurtling through space,

devouring life to keep themselves alive.

Insidious intentions interlace

with Harper’s only wish- just to survive.

Ultimately, a man’s resolve is tried.

Alas! This narrative, I can’t abide!

 

– Albert Cantu

Roger Ebert (1942-2013)

I’m sad to announce that a truly great man has died today, a man who was able to spread the greatness of cinema to so many with his beautiful and insightful words. Yes, Roger Ebert has died. The cancer that he’s been battling for so many years has finally consumed him, and he has passed away.

I can’t even begin to express how much this man has personally influenced me. At least, I can say in all confidence that I wouldn’t be here on this website without him. I may have found him relatively late in his career, as I missed much of his show, which granted him fame in the first place, but through the reviews on his website and his incredible blog posts, he really shaped me as a human being.

I remember growing up watching movies everyday and the first thing I would always do after the credits started rolling was run to my laptop and check what Ebert thought. His writing was accessible to a newcomer like I was at the time but also sharp and thoughtful and always hinting at the larger wonder of film. He really acted as a comfortable and fascinating gateway into this weird and amazing world that we call the movies. I’m so totally grateful that he was there when I was growing up, and now I’m filled with a profound sadness to discover that he won’t be there as I continue on as an adult.

If Ebert effected you even close to as much as he effected me than I think you’ll agree with me when I say this is truly a sad day.