Oliver Stone, Historian?! So Says Newsweek

screen capture of Newsweek | NewsBusters.orgLiberal director and conspiracy theory-loving Oliver Stone was actually "fair" to President George W. Bush in his new film "W." Indeed, Stone is practically a "historian" when it comes to chronicling the life of the nation's 43rd president, that is if you ask Newsweek's Alan Brinkley. Of course when measured up against his prior films about American presidents, it's probably not that high a bar to clear.

From his October 11 movie review, "From Man to Mockery, and Back Again":

Through most of the undistinguished history of films about American presidents, concern for truth has been in short supply.

[...]

Oliver Stone, whose new film, "W.," is his third examination of a modern president, has aspired to be different.

Oh, it gets better. You see, "W." is "sunny and sympathetic":

Almost all of Stone's important movies are dark and pessimistic, reflections of his own (and much of his generation's) disillusionment with American politics and power. So it is somewhat surprising to see in his portrait of George W. Bush a relatively sunny and sympathetic picture of perhaps the most reviled president in American history.

So why does Brinkley see "W." as a relatively fair and balanced rendering of history? For one, because leftists suffering from Bush Derangement Syndrome will not find a throughly HuffPo/Daily Kos-like portrait of administration principals:

Opponents and supporters of Bush alike will find things to complain about in "W." Bush haters will be startled, and perhaps irritated, by Stone's sympathetic portrait of the young Bush—convincingly portrayed by Josh Brolin—who struggles with (and sometimes bravely stands up to) the intimidating example of his father. (In the film, Bush Sr. continually belittles his son and at one point almost engages him in a fistfight.) Viewers may be annoyed as well by Stone's uncensorious and even admiring chronicle of Bush's struggle to overcome alcoholism and his embrace of Christianity, and by the director's portrayal of Bush's 1994 campaign for governor as a skillful and charismatic effort (albeit carefully orchestrated by Karl Rove). Stone's portrayal of earnest, idealistic conviction among Bush and his advisers about the wisdom of the Iraq War is also inconsistent with the widespread belief that zealotry, deception and ambition were the real drivers of the conflict.

Of course, Brinkley fails to note any convincing evidence that George H.W. Bush was or remains a harsh, pugilistic patriarch, but the accuracy or lack thereof doesn't seem to bother him, perhaps because he chalks it up to being an "educated guess" made within the parameters of Stone's artistic license (emphasis mine):

Stone, like most others trying to chronicle their own time, has undoubtedly made educated guesses about Bush that will turn out to be wrong. But "W." is, nevertheless, different from most earlier movies about presidents (including Stone's own). Whatever its qualities as a dramatic film may be, however its portrayal of Bush may fare in the light of history, it is on the whole an honest effort to find some truth in the blizzard of partisan battles over almost everything associated with this presidency. There are no conspiracy theories, no wild speculations, no paranoia. Stone's film is not hagiography. It is not propaganda. It is, surprisingly, more or less fair.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters