10 movies which have assessed the impact of key facets of American Culture.

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The Ultimate Oliver Stone Collection
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No film maker has scrutinised America with the unflinching determination of Oliver Stone. Collected here are 10 movies which have assessed the impact of key facets of its culture – from the nation at war (Salvador, the Vietnam trilogy), to the media (Natural Born Killers), politics (JFK), sport (Any Given Sunday), music (The Doors) and capitalism (Wall Street) – on American society. And then there’s U-Turn, which alone concerns murder, betrayal, jealousy, sex – the American Dream turned sour; the American Scream, if you like.

Watching these films, you’re struck by the ferocity of Stone’s vision and the exhaustive energy he brings to bear realising it, whether it be the freewheeling chaos of Salvador, the dizzying dynamics of JFK or the sport-as-war “combat” scenes of Any Given Sunday. A master of spectacle, the riotous, sensory-overload of his movies (realised with long-term cinematographer Bob Richardson) captures the accelerated, fragmented nature of America itself. And perhaps no other director has had such an incredible array of talent to help bring that vision to the screen – Al Pacino, Sean Penn, Jimmy Woods, Tom Cruise, Willem Dafoe, Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones.

Each movie here is worth rigorous analysis, but two personal favourites stand out. There’s the frequently overlooked U-Turn – fierce desert noir with one of the finest ensemble casts ever (Penn, Nolte, Voight, Billy Bob Thornton, Powers Boothe, Joaquim Phoenix, J-Lo) – and Any Given Sunday, as much a metaphor for Stone’s (then) beleagured film making career as a movie about American football, with Pacino-as-Stone facing down Cameron Diaz’ ruthless exec.

Up there with Mailer, Roth, Updike: a great American artist.

Michael Bonner