The modern art section of my DVR recorder

natural_born_killers_posterNatural Born Killers (1994)
Dir: Oliver Stone
Stars: Woody Harrelson, Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore, Rodney Dangerfield and Robert Downey, Jr.
I don’t know about you, but this happens to me a lot when I’m browsing through my Cable guide: I see a film I haven’t seen in years, and I think to myself, “Now, what was my beef with that one?  Why haven’t I seen that except once?  There’s been a lot of good reviews and audience buzz about it, right?  Hmmm… gonna DVR that shit.  That’s what I’m gonna do…. the weekend is a-coming, and I will watch.. this.. then!”  Case in point: Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers.  I know I saw this way back when, but I honestly couldn’t remember having seen it but that one time.  And actually, now, having had it on in the background for much of the night, you can probably tell where this post is headed…

Watching this title honestly reminds me of going to the modern art section of the museum.  Come on, you know the experience I’m talking about!  You’ve taken a Saturday, you’ve gone to the museum, you’ve seen some interesting sculpture, beautiful paintings – maybe even a thought provoking piece or two that you spent more time on than you anticipated?  You’re really kind of enjoying yourself.  Then, on your way out, you say to yourself – look!  There’s the modern art section… why not head through that area on our way out, right?  And that’s when the whole experience goes south and you remind yourself, ‘That’s riiiiiight – that’s why I only come to the museum once a year!”  An example, just so you can see where I’m coming from: when I had some guests in town last August and we went to the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, we came upon an area of the modern art section that had an orange cone and a tarp and some rope and stuff and we said to each other, “Oh, this area’s under construction!”  And the kind guard stepped up to us and said, “Actually, I don’t want you folks to be confused – that’s a piece of our current exhibit.”  Deadpan glances were then exchanged.

Watching Mr. Stone’s film is much the same experience, at least for me.  Sure, JFK was a splendid picture, which Nbk-M&M_Gunsopened my eyes to what “editing” meant, exactly.  Platoon was intense, genuine and overwhelming.  Mr. Stone penned Scarface.  He rocked me with the drama of Wall Street – he’s got a resume, OK?  He’s got a style and a way of telling a story.  Which makes NBK such a waste of bloody time, in my humble opinion.  See why I started all this with the analogy of the modern art section?  I have pals that LOVE modern art.  I agree, it’s art – at least sometimes I agree.  My point is that A) we have to agree to disagree when it comes to art – whether it’s a painting or a movie – and B) it’s aggravating for me to watch NBK when I know Mr. Stone has the kind of resume I just detailed above.
What I’m asking is this: is violence a consistent thread through movie history?  Absolutely.  Is the intention of making a film with a commentary, a theme surrounding how violence permeates U.S. culture – and how the media has given us an IV into our homes with any variety of violence ready to be viewed at any time – is that film worth producing?  You bet your ass, that’s a great idea!  Did the film possess all of the elements of great cinema?  Acting?  Check.  Cinematography, Sound, Art Direction, Editing – all things technical were done very well indeed.
NBK Downey JR
It’s just not for me, I guess that’s what I’m saying.  Put another way, is the finished product of NBK, is that the way I would’ve made that commentary on violence and media?  Nope.  But I can agree to disagree with you if you do dig NBK.  Me, I’d rather help you out by saying this – watch any of these titles surrounding violence and the media, in no particular order:
Ace in the Hole
Ides of March
All the Presidents Men
Broadcast News
The Paper
The Killing Fields
The Public Eye
Tomorrow Never Dies (seriously!)
The Year of Living Dangerously
City of God
Sweet Smell of Success
Good Morning, Vietnam
The Insider
Or, I don’t know… Citizen Kane!?!
Have you seen any of these?  Because I would recommend you watch all of them eight times before you round your way around to Natural Born Killers.  Come to think of it, why isn’t NBK just looped, playing in the modern art section of a museum somewhere?  Thanks for reading, and sorry for the strong sentiment, but I just can’t help it sometimes…
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