Oliver Stone's tirade at moralists (Incredibles III)

OK, the British news story wasn't that long to begin with. But people keep sending it to me and, after days of the barrage, I have decided to (a) relent and (b) link it to another subject we have been dealing with for some time now. So with that said, it is time to listen to Oliver Stone vent his wrath at all of the stupid people in red zip codes in America who did not have the courage or taste to purchase tickets to see "Alexander." Consider this my follow-up on Doug's earlier look at Stone.

The stunning part of this little story is that he did not out-and-out accuse anyone of censoring him, through some sort of back-door religious right plot to hurt his career. Wait! That conspiracy theory might provide a great plot for a new Oliver Stone movie!

So here we go again, from the Guardian, with the urgent headline, "Stone blames 'moral fundamentalism' for US box office flop."

"Sexuality is a large issue in America right now, but it isn't so much in other countries," the Oscar-winning director explained yesterday. "There's a raging fundamentalism in morality in the United States. From day one audiences didn't show up. They didn't even read the reviews in the [American] south because the media was using the words: 'Alex is Gay'." . . .

The £80m epic has so far cashed in around £18m at the US box office. The Platoon director previously defended his epic of the Macedonian conqueror, saying that it was too complex for "conventional minds". "The script was just too ambiguous, too questioning about an action-hero who was masculine/feminine. These are tough qualities in Hollywood," the Platoon director said last month. "It's just too big a life. It doesn't fit in into the Hollywood formula."

On second glance, there is a valid news story hiding in this funny little item. This is the flip side of "Incredibles" paranoia.

Meanwhile, it does seem that well-made movies that have decent, even thrilling, plots and are not buried in sex and profanity -- think "Pirates" or "National Treasures" -- do tend to sell lots of tickets out there in normal America. The money is not blue or red. It's green.

But let's face it, in the current climate -- gay cartoon sharks? -- all kinds of questions are going to be asked about popular culture as well as politics. All kinds of people are going to read between all kinds of lines.

The bottom line is the bottom line: People do not have to shell out money for movies that they do not want to see. In the age of the Internet, word-of-mouth reviews turn into waves of digital feedback -- for better or for worse. It really helps to make solid, broad-appeal movies. Here's Charles Taylor in Salon:

The movies that have been great communal experiences -- as opposed to merely big moneymakers -- are the ones that try to reach a wide audience through a combination of instinct, smarts, showmanship and luck, the opposite of the market-researched, test-driven, focus-grouped process by which most movies are now made and sold. Today, most of the big hits feel like a triumph of marketing rather than moviemaking. It's the difference between entering into a partnership with an audience and pulling it by the ring in its collective nose.

The best popular movies, the ones that become legitimate phenomenons -- pictures like "Gone With the Wind," "From Here to Eternity," "On the Waterfront," the first two "Godfather" films, "Jaws," "E.T." and perhaps "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy -- cut across audience barriers. That may be why, in contrast to the cut-and-dried approach that leaves no meaning, no potential audience reaction to chance, the meanings of good popular movies are often contradictory, maybe even ambiguous. "The Incredibles," an example of a big popular hit that trusts in the brains of its audience, is one such paradox.

Here is another good story hiding in this red theater, blue theater showdown.

When are the people who call themselves cultural conservatives going to learn how to make their share of decent movies? How many Christian colleges and universities, for example, operate solid programs in screenwriting? Answer that question and you have another good news story.

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