Battle of the biopics: Eight rival pairings of movies about the same person.

Battle of the biopics: Eight rival pairings of movies about the same person. (photo)

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Sometimes, be it chance, convergence or studio groupthink, interest in making a movie about the life of a public figure re-explodes, and multiple biopics about him/her go into development to capitalize on that interest. Most of the time, one of the parties involved backs down and the victor emerges with no competition. But occasionally, two films emerge in close proximity to another.

Lately, this has been happening a lot: there are rival Marilyn Monroe movies slated for production, with Naomi Watts and Michelle Williams slated as leads, double Miles Davis biopics, three-deep DeLoreans. Most of these movies will never actually be made. Here’s a look at seven such notable cinematic point-counterpoints that actually hit theaters:

06072010_chanel2.jpg“Coco Before Chanel”/”Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky” (2009)

There have been four films about fashion designer/legend Coco Chanel so far, and not a single one has yet had the guts to delve into World War II and try to reconcile her status as a fashion icon with her years as a Nazi collaborator, SS contacts and all. 1981’s “Chanel Solitaire” is noted (if at all) as Rutger Hauer’s first English-language movie; the 2008 TV movie with Shirley MacLaine was chided by the New York Times‘ Gina Bellafante for how it “hopscotches right over Chanel’s unsavory wartime affiliations.” So, too, does last year’s “Coco Before Chanel” (how could adorable Audrey Tautou be up to anything so awful?) and, by default (their affair ended long before World War II), “Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky,” which opens this week. And they might as well keep making Chanel biopics until someone works up the nerve to include that particular factoid.

06072010_bathory2.jpg“Bathory” (2008)/”The Countess” (2009)

It’s entirely unsurprising that Erzsébet Báthory, a Hungarian countess who supposedly had hundreds of young girls tortured and killed in order to bathe in their blood (believing it would restore her youth), has been a popular figure in films over the years. Is there a handier, gothier metaphor for our aging-averse, product-obsessed culture? Anna Friel vamps as the titular aristocrat in the 2008 “Bathory,” the most expensive Slovak and Czech production of all time. A revisionist take on the legend from director Juraj Jakubisko, the film drops a historically inaccurate Caravaggio into the mix and suggests Báthory was actually a tragic victim who was framed by the power-hungry men in her life. She only killed a few people, y’all, not hundreds! And she was on drugs at the time! The following year’s “The Countess” was written, directed by and stars Julie Delpy — a dream project of the hers for years, it by all accounts offers a feminist spin on the Bathory legend, delving into the woman’s psychology while leaving the verity of her many murders up in the air. “Bathory” remains without U.S. distribution, while “The Countess” was picked up by Empire Film Group last year for an announced Oscar push that never happened.

06072010_capote2.jpg“Capote” (2005)/”Infamous” (2006)

The Truman show shoot-out of “Capote” and “Infamous” was not the first time Douglas McGrath’s work had run into unflattering comparisons with a similar movie preceding it. His 1996 adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Emma” was considered wan and lacking when juxtaposed with the clever updating of the same novel in “Clueless.” “Infamous” didn’t perform as well as “Capote,” although probably because seeing Toby Jones (best known as, well, the voice of Dobby the House Elf in the “Harry Potter” movies) slink into the famous Truman Capote voice didn’t have quite the same sense of showmanship as seeing Philip Seymour Hoffman do the same. In fact, most reviews agreed that the two films were basically worthy of each other, just covering the same material from different sides; I particularly like Kenji Fujishima’s suggestion that watching the two is like “differentiating between two conductors’ interpretations of one particular work.”

06072010_prefontaine2.jpg“Prefontaine” (1997)/”Without Limits” (1998)

Two movies about Olympic runner Steve Prefontaine that bombed independently of one another, both “Prefontaine” and “Without Limits” represented big ventures for their directors. “Prefontaine” was the first post-“Hoop Dreams” project for director Steve James, and its failure didn’t discourage him: he made two more sports-based TV movies (1999’s “Passing Glory” — black vs. white high basketball teams in the ’60s — and 2002’s “Joe and Max” — Louis and Schmeling, respectively) before getting back to what he does best. 1998’s “Without Limits” was only the third film legendary screenwriter (and highly paid script doctor) Robert Towne (“Chinatown”) had managed to get made, and it too flopped — as would the careers of their two respective stars, Jared Leto and Billy Crudup, neither of whom ballooned up into the acting A-list as promised. Both movies were admirably focused on pointing out what a difficult, uncoachable jerk Prefontaine could be, and both received respectful if lukewarm reviews. There’s a great moment in “Limits” when Crudup is interrupted mid-first-time coitus, is asked if he has “blue balls” and answers “yes,” as human a moment as any sports bio has ever achieved. Still, Prefontaine was simply too difficult and heroically unheroic to qualify for the standard Biopic of Sports Greatness treatment.

06072010_nixon2.jpg“Kissinger and Nixon”/”Nixon” (1995)

Cable television was nowhere near the level of commercial ubiquity it is now in 1995, which makes it somewhat odd to recall that TNT’s “Kissinger and Nixon” airing ten days before the release of Oliver Stone’s “Nixon” was viewed as something that could credibly disturb the latter’s commercial prospects. The reason had less to do with common sense than with a dubious sense of causality — two years earlier, a TNT biopic about Geronimo had aired before Walter Hill’s own version and the latter underperformed, therefore people were wondering if basic cable could ruin movies. But both films were dubious commercial prospects from the start: “Nixon,” unlike “JFK,” didn’t really have any controversial bait to offer the public, yet was still three hours long and beyond hallucinatory. The victor in the long run is probably Stone’s movie (which didn’t come close to recouping its budget in release, but became something of a cult movie for Stone fans), though the cable film is by all accounts really more about Kissinger — in the role, Ron Silver received excellent notices. Kissinger himself sent in a 42-page list of objections to how he was portrayed; Silver would later become a post-9/11 Republican, making his performance here prescient. As you can see in the clip here, at least he’s less inadvertently hilarious than Paul Sorvino’s distractingly dead-on, hyper-caricatured Kissinger in “Nixon.”

06072010_earp2.jpg“Tombstone” (1993)/”Wyatt Earp” (1994)

Hardly the first but, to date, the last movies made about the enduring Western figure of Wyatt Earp, neither “Tombstone” nor “Wyatt Earp” made any grand aspirations towards historical accuracy. Both, however, grasped for magisterial grandeur. According to “Tombstone” star Kurt Russell (who claims to have secretly directed the film), before it was recut by the studio it was “a Western ‘Godfather.'” “Wyatt Earp,” meanwhile, also reached for myth (Jonathan Rosenbaum also noted naked ambitions towards “Godfather” status), but mostly through sheer length (expanded from 191 minutes to 212 in its director’s recut). It’s best remember as the first moment at which Costner’s carefully honed star status began to crash under the sheer weight of his hubris. “Wyatt Earp” emerged only because Costner thought the “Tombstone” screenplay should focus on Earp (which says nothing about his ego, natch) but was far less profitable. In any case, it was an inglorious end to Wyatt Earp’s on-screen mythology, one of the great continuities of the genre, which gave us “My Darling Clementine” and other lesser lights still beloved by connoisseurs, like “Doc” and “Gunfight At The OK Corral.”

06072010_liberace2.jpg“Liberace”/”Liberace: Behind The Music” (1988)

In a crass display of naked ambition entirely befitting the subject, Liberace’s death in 1987 prompted two dueling made-for-TV movies that aired a week apart in 1988. The main difference was that the first was authorized (or, as one “Snicks” writes, “whitewashed”), the second unauthorized. The main issue of contention, of course, was Liberace’s sexuality, which remains such a contentious issue (one apparently vigilantly monitored by his estate) that even the Wikipedia entry dances around it, merely noting that he was sued for palimony by chauffeur/alleged live-in boyfriend Scott Thorson, who’d apparently received plastic surgery to look more like the star. Regardless of the truth, Liberace’s image (down to a museum he built himself including the world’s largest Austrian rhinestone) is certainly gay enough to make him an easy punchline in “Good Night, And Good Luck,” where archival footage of him mentioning his heterosexuality conspicuously is an easy audience laugh-getter. The first film danced around the issue; the second, judging by the clip below, made it the main point of focus. (Worth noting: the first film’s Liberace was Andy Robinson, the serial killer from “Dirty Harry.”)

06072010_harlow2.jpg“Harlow”/”Harlow” (1965)

There were two competing Jean Harlow biopics in 1965: the cheaper one opened May 14 in New York, Paramount’s more expensive version on June 23. Paramount had Irving Shulberg’s “controversial” (read: lurid) biography to their name and the overqualified services of Hitchcock screenwriter John Michael Hayes (“Rear Window,” 1956’s “The Man Who Knew Too Much”); the Magna Pictures cheapie had Ginger Rogers’ last performance. Neither film was overly commended for accuracy (though at least the cheap version mentioned her likely affair with William Powell, which Paramount scrupulously overlooked) or for an overload of good taste, but perhaps the Paramount version has the edge, if only because it was actually shot on film. The Magna Pictures version was shot on Electronivision (i.e., a glorified ’60s TV process) in eight days, and boy does it look it.

[Photos: Naomi Watts in “Mulholland Dr.,” Universal Pictures, 2001; “Shutter Island,” Paramount Pictures, 2010; “Coco Before Chanel,” Sony Classics, 2009; “Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky,” Sony Classics, 2009; “Bathory,” Eurofilm Stúdió, 2008; “The Countess,” Empire, 2009; “Capote,” Sony Classics, 2005; “Infamous,” Warner Independent, 2006; “Prefontaine,” Buena Vista, 1997; “Without Limits,” Warner Bros., 1998; “Kissinger and Nixon,” TNT, 1995; “Nixon,” Buena Vista, 1995; “Tombstone,” Buena Vista, 1993; “Wyatt Earp,” Warner Bros., 1994; “Liberace,” ABC, 1988; “Liberace: Behind The Music,” CBS, 1988; “Harlow,” Magna, 1965; “Harlow,” Paramount, 1965]

Soap tv show

As the Spoof Turns

15 Hilarious Soap Opera Parodies

Catch the classic sitcom Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures Television

The soap opera is the indestructible core of television fandom. We celebrate modern series like The Wire and Breaking Bad with their ongoing storylines, but soap operas have been tangling more plot threads than a quilt for decades. Which is why pop culture enjoys parodying them so much.

Check out some of the funniest soap opera parodies below, and be sure to catch Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

1. Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman


Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was a cult hit soap parody from the mind of Norman Lear that poked daily fun at the genre with epic twists and WTF moments. The first season culminated in a perfect satire of ratings stunts, with Mary being both confined to a psychiatric facility and chosen to be part of a Nielsen ratings family.

2. IKEA Heights

ikea heights

IKEA Heights proves that the soap opera is alive and well, even if it has to be filmed undercover at a ready-to-assemble furniture store totally unaware of what’s happening. This unique webseries brought the classic formula to a new medium. Even IKEA saw the funny side — but has asked that future filmmakers apply through proper channels.

3. Fresno


When you’re parodying ’80s nighttime soaps like Dallas and Dynasty , everything about your show has to equally sumptuous. The 1986 CBS miniseries Fresno delivered with a high-powered cast (Carol Burnett, Teri Garr and more in haute couture clothes!) locked in the struggle for the survival of a raisin cartel.

4. Soap


Soap was the nighttime response to daytime soap operas: a primetime skewering of everything both silly and satisfying about the source material. Plots including demonic possession and alien abduction made it a cult favorite, and necessitated the first televised “viewer discretion” disclaimer. It also broke ground for featuring one of the first gay characters on television in the form of Billy Crystal’s Jodie Dallas. Revisit (or discover for the first time) this classic sitcom every Saturday morning on IFC.

5. Too Many Cooks


Possibly the most perfect viral video ever made, Too Many Cooks distilled almost every style of television in a single intro sequence. The soap opera elements are maybe the most hilarious, with more characters and sudden shocking twists in an intro than most TV scribes manage in an entire season.

6. Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace


Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace was more mockery than any one medium could handle. The endless complications of Darkplace Hospital are presented as an ongoing horror soap opera with behind-the-scenes anecdotes from writer, director, star, and self-described “dreamweaver visionary” Garth Marenghi and astoundingly incompetent actor/producer Dean Learner.

7. “Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive,” MadTV


Soap opera connoisseurs know that the most melodramatic plots are found in Korea. MADtv‘s parody Tae Do  (translation: Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive) features the struggles of mild-mannered characters with far more feelings than their souls, or subtitles, could ever cope with.

8. Twin Peaks


Twin Peaks, the twisted parody of small town soaps like Peyton Place whose own creator repeatedly insists is not a parody, has endured through pop culture since it changed television forever when it debuted in 1990. The show even had it’s own soap within in a soap called…

9. “Invitation to Love,” Twin Peaks


Twin Peaks didn’t just parody soap operas — it parodied itself parodying soap operas with the in-universe show Invitation to Love. That’s more layers of deceit and drama than most televised love triangles.

10. “As The Stomach Turns,” The Carol Burnett Show


The Carol Burnett Show poked fun at soaps with this enduring take on As The World Turns. In a case of life imitating art, one story involving demonic possession would go on to happen for “real” on Days of Our Lives.

11. Days of our Lives (Friends Edition)


Still airing today, Days of Our Lives is one of the most famous soap operas of all time. They’re also excellent sports, as they allowed Friends star Joey Tribbiani to star as Dr Drake Ramoray, the only doctor to date his own stalker (while pretending to be his own evil twin). And then return after a brain-transplant.

And let’s not forget the greatest soap opera parody line ever written: “Come on Joey, you’re going up against a guy who survived his own cremation!”

12. Acorn Antiques


First appearing on the BBC sketch comedy series Victoria Wood As Seen on TV, Acorn Antiques combines almost every low-budget soap opera trope into one amazing whole. The staff of a small town antique store suffer a disproportional number of amnesiac love-triangles, while entire storylines suddenly appear and disappear without warning or resolution. Acorn Antiques was so popular, it went on to become a hit West End musical.

13. “Point Place,” That 70s Show


In a memorable That ’70s Show episode, an unemployed Red is reduced to watching soaps all day. He becomes obsessed despite the usual Red common-sense objections (like complaining that it’s impossible to fall in love with someone in a coma). His dreams render his own life as Point Place, a melodramatic nightmare where Kitty leaves him because he’s unemployed. (Click here to see all airings of That ’70s Show on IFC.)

14. The Spoils of Babylon


Bursting from the minds of Will Ferrell and creators Andrew Steele and Matt Piedmont, The Spoils of Babylon was a spectacular parody of soap operas and epic mini-series like The Thorn Birds. Taking the parody even further, Ferrell himself played Eric Jonrosh, the author of the book on which the series was based. Jonrosh returned in The Spoils Before Dying, a jazzy murder mystery with its own share of soapy twists and turns.


15. All My Children Finale, SNL


SNL‘s final celebration of one of the biggest soaps of all time is interrupted by a relentless series of revelations from stage managers, lighting designers, make-up artists, and more. All of whom seem to have been married to or murdered by (or both) each other.

A selected history of Larry King cameos.

A selected history of Larry King cameos. (photo)

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Larry King has been in the news (well, “the news”) lately because of speculation his CNN contract won’t be renewed next year, taking him off the air at age 77.

Even if King — whose famously non-confrontational, no-preparation approach to interviewing has inexplicably given him a lengthy career — will no longer be gracing the small screen, his legacy on the big screen will live on. King is a well-known film buff of sorts, whose place as the king of cameos is undeniable. Here are seven of his appearances throughout the year as King’s societal prominence kept changing.

0531_2010_ghost.jpg“Ghost Busters” (1984)

King’s cinematic debut came pre-CNN, back when he was the New York-based host of talk radio about everything and nothing in particular. In “Ghost Busters,” he’s part of a montage of media coverage for crew, who are fodder for everything from the Atlantic to USA Today. King, as it happened, was part of the Today empire: from 1982 to 2001, he had a regular column, described by the New York Times’ Felicity Barringer as “a weekly offering studded with plugs, superlatives and dropped names — all usually in close proximity to one another.” Here’s King vs. the Ghostbusters, sitting in a radio station, smoking up a storm the old-fashioned way.

05312010_dave.jpg“Dave” (1993)

The late ’80s/early ’90s were a lean time for King, cameo-wise: despite his increasing prominence as the face of CNN, he was relegated to forgettable fare like Dudley Moore’s “Crazy People” and “The Exorcist III.” “Dave,” then, represented a breakthrough for King’s career, and quite possibly its peak. Reunited with “Ghostbusters” director Ivan Reitman, King brings Oliver Stone onto the show to discuss whether or not the “president” is an imposter — which he is, since regular joe Kevin Kline has temporarily taken over from president Kevin Kline for complicated reasons. This is a bit of meta-genius: Stone’s appearing in a Warner Bros. movie (which also made “JFK,” the peak of his conspiratorial worldview) mocking his image as a paranoiac — but he’s right!

05312010_long.jpg“The Long Kiss Goodnight” (1996)

Shane Black’s screenplay for “The Long Kiss Goodnight” was mild commercial redemption for Renny Harlin after the “Cutthroat Island” debacle, though it only made $89 million worldwide. King shows up at the very end, after the plots wound down and everyone’s safe. Samuel L. Jackson is in the studio to talk about his role in saving the free world and explains to King that initially CNN’s reporter Carla didn’t believe the story because she “failed to realize that I’m always frank and earnest with women. In New York I’m Frank, in Chicago I’m Ernest.” Jackson proceeds to laugh like a maniac and King (who’s been married seven times to eight women) creepily joins in. It’s kind of an indelible moment (jump to about 8:50).

05312010_burn.jpg“An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn” (1997)

Joe Esterzhas’ forgotten all-star fiasco of the ’90s, “An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn” was arguably a more entertaining trainwreck than, say, “Waterworld” in terms of pure production chaos. With only the finest cameos 1997 could offer (Whoopi Goldberg! Shane Black!), this would-be satire about Hollywood idiocy and a director wanting to take his name off a film was a prophecy of its own production: Arthur HIller was dissatisfied, tried to take his own name off, and the whole mess eventually discontinued the Alan Smithee psuedonym. Here King’s at the center of the entertainment world as he always wanted to be: his interview with frustrated screenwriter Eric Idle (who’s taken his movie hostage) turns him into a cult hero, thereby confirming what an important player in the film world Larry King thinks he is.

05312010_madcity.jpg“Mad City” (1997)

Bearing the important message that sometimes the news media is exploitative and irresponsible, “Mad City” is a toothless “indictment” of the obvious, nearly 50 years after “Ace In The Hole” did it better. As helmed by a long-past-his-prime Costa-Gavras (this is no “Z”), this is flabby rage: when John Travolta takes hostages and loses his blue collar cool, reporter Dustin Hoffman is in the building and runs with the story. One of the things he does is sell interview rights to Larry King so he can screw over his rival Alan Alda. I’m not entirely sure why King consented to be in a movie in which he’s essentially shown to be an easily manipulated, ratings-crazed journalist who doesn’t really care about the ethics of what he’s doing, but that’s essentially what ends up happening. Also in the movie: Jay Leno, who — like King — has a small cottage industry of cameos.

05312010_bulworth.jpg“Bulworth” (1998)

In the middle of Warren Beatty’s satire — a frustrating mix of brilliant material surrounded by sludge — his Bulworth (a career politician turned unlikely rapping truth-teller) is going crazy on the debate stage, muttering to himself while the lights are out. Coked-up adviser Oliver Platt — at rock bottom, convinced he’s wasted his career on Bulworth — runs into King, who says he has to have Bulworth on his show. At that moment Platt realizes what should’ve been obvious from the beginning: in a country where 20% of the electorate voted for Ross Perot in 1992, eccentric and bold pronouncements are valued for their own sake. Bulworth is going on Larry King? Fantastic! Can they do it tonight? No, Clinton’s on. “Bump him!” he barks.

05312010_johnq.jpg“John Q” (2002

At the end of Nick Cassavetes’ bizarre call to arms for health care reform, John Quincy Alexander — having saved his boy’s life — goes on trial, prompting a montage of news reaction both real and staged. The staged bits include King (and, yes, Leno again). “Hero or vigilante?” muses King. “You decide!” — which is a perfect summation of King’s no-stakes, no-commitments approach to his job. Controversial issue? Don’t think about it! Smile and the world smiles with you. As a Memorial Day bonus, below the “John Q” video (relevant footage starts at 0:15), here’s David Letterman’s proposed cameo for “Iron Man 2,” which really should’ve been in the movie.

[Photos: Larry King photo via Wikimedia Commons, photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley, 2006; “Ghost Busters,” Sony, 1984; “Dave,” Warner Bros., 1993; “The Long Kiss Goodnight,” New Line Cinema, 1996; “An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn,” Disney, 1997; “Mad City,” Warner Bros., 1997; “Bulworth,” 20th Century Fox, 1998; “John Q,” New Line Cinema, 2002]

Oliver Stone: talking points vs. incoherent brilliance.

Oliver Stone: talking points vs. incoherent brilliance. (photo)

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Oliver Stone is making headlines again with the Cannes premiere of “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” which is receiving generally unkind reviews (including this one, from Indie Eye contributor Anthony Kaufman). For fans of “JFK” and (more controversially) “Nixon,” Stone’s long, precipitous decline from unignorable firestarter to HuffPo talking points regurgitator has been rather unpleasant to watch: he’s gone from stirring people up to preaching to the choir. Regardless of how interested you still are in the “Wall Street” sequel — it sounds impressively of the moment if nothing else — there’s no chance that, say, Barack Obama is going to weigh in on it.

Such was not the case in 1991, when Stone dropped “JFK” and the world briefly went crazy. “JFK” was so compelling and attention-demanding that even George Bush briefly felt it necessary to back up the Warren Commission. Stone’s stated intention was to create a “counter-myth,” one that would get at “the true inner spiritual meaning of an event.” In other words, “JFK” isn’t just a spitball PowerPoint presentation of facts, but an attempt to probe and poke at cultural trauma.

05172010_jfk.jpg“JFK” came three years after Don DeLillo’s “Libra,” a novel pivoting around Lee Harvey Oswald that presented its own powerful counter-myth, one in which Oswald isn’t just his own self-proclaimed patsy but a man who constantly envisions himself as a man who intersects with history. In military jail, he thinks of himself in those terms: “He tried to feel history in the cell. This was history out of George Orwell, the territory of no-choice. He could see how he’d been headed here since the day he was born.”

Allegedly, Stone tried to block an adaptation (something he denied), but he needn’t have bothered: the book’s basically unfilmable, and in any case Stone and DeLillo weren’t really worried about the same things. DeLillo builds to the moment of assassination: Stone is always looking back at it, wondering what it did to people of his generation. DeLillo sees history building to a head by men convinced they’re agents of destiny; Stone sees history as entropy and uncontrollable darkness. How it happened is less important than how it lingers.

What both had in common was the willingness to create a counter-myth out of conjecture. The brilliance of “JFK” lies in its ability to engage even when it’s contradicting and doubling in on itself: it doesn’t make any sense except culturally, getting inside the ways in which the events of November 22, 1963 warped the American psyche. You’re right there, struggling alongside Stone.

05172010_nixon.jpg“Nixon,” though more flawed, goes even further in this direction. The ghost of JFK looms heavy here — never clearer in a shot near the end of a now-disgraced Nixon standing in a darkened room while a portrait of JFK glowers behind him — but Nixon is also portrayed as a product of a post-assassination machine of vague, dark forces operating with Pynchonian shadowiness. Nixon is both a man and a tool: “You couldn’t stop it even if you wanted to, could you?” a young protester yells at him, and that’s true to Stone’s vision. He can sometimes go Too Far — it’s hard to swallow the scene where Chairman Mao informs Nixon they’re both motivated by the same sickness — but again, he’s grappling with a political moment whose cultural significance is more in its lasting resonance than the oft-labyrinthine details.

What’s wrong with “W.” — and, by all reliable accounts, “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” — is that Stone’s gone from grappling to asserting. He has the facts and he’s going to fire them at you: it’s a history of flat assertions and statistics, researched and presented in argumentative form. The claim of “W.” is that Stone has Figured It Out, when, in fact, he was bluffing: it’s pop history unfolding inside a vaccuum, disconnected from any sense of public impact. Time and distance is called for, but Stone seems to think he’s ready to explain events in real time. But that’s not where his genius lies (or lay, anyway): it’s in picking apart the events as they metastasize into traumatic myth.

[Photos: “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” 20th Century Fox, 2010; “JFK,” 1991, Warner Bros.; “Nixon,” Buena Vista, 1995.]

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