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Pulp Without Politics

Can Oliver Stone leave his obsessions behind?

No director in the world has received the sustained media attention of Stone, and yet the current spin on all this is that he is somehow an innocent party in the hoopla. The New York Times Magazine recently ran a Stone profile that quoted an associate as saying, "The media make you into a god, and then they kill you. And Oliver has been experiencing a difficult death." Is anybody buying this self-serving, bullying masochism? I'm not aware that, outside his own circle, Stone has ever been deified. As for the "killing," it can't match the stroking, which lately includes not only the Times profile but a recent Atlantic essay by Garry Wills comparing Stone to Dostoevsky.

Stone not only receives sustained media attention, he covets it. That attention is what gives his movies the force of manifestoes even when they're little more than screeds. It's understandable that, in U-Turn, he would want to make a movie that for once is not hashed out on the op-ed pages. But one shouldn't overvalue the film's smallness just because it's not trying to grab headlines. Actually, the film is getting the headlines anyway -- for being small. That's the stamp of a true media-manipulator champ.

U-Turn.
Directed by Oliver Stone.
With Sean Penn, Jennifer Lopez, Nick Nolte, Claire Danes and Billy Bob Thornton.

Rated R.
125 minutes.

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