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page added: 3/15/99



Doogan talks Oliver Stone, NBK, and Common Sense

I know he sort of looks the part, but when did Oliver Stone become the next Jim Jones? I doubt when he made the 1994 film Natural Born Killers, his true purpose was to incite true crime sprees by brain-fried wannabe killers aping Mickey (Woody Harrelson) and Mallory (Juliette Lewis).

For those not in the know, this last Monday (3/8/99), our own United States Supreme Court declined to rule on a suit filed against Oliver Stone and Time-Warner (see A.P. news story). This makes the case worthy of litigation by overturning a lower court's decision to throw the case out, and letting Louisiana's First Circuit Court Of Appeals try the case. The case focuses on the apparent 1995 shooting a Louisiana convenience store clerk by a couple of yahoos who thought they were the next coming of M&M. The store clerk was a woman by the name of Patsy Byers, and although she survived the shooting, finding herself delved into a living nightmare as a quadriplegic -- she died a short time later from cancer.

The shooters were Sarah Edmondson and Benjamin Darrus (both 18 at the time) -- they were convicted and sentenced for 35 years in prison. They both claimed to have watched the Stone directed film Natural Born Killers, not once, not twice, but more than a whopping 20 times -- on video, of all things. They were probably pissed it wasn't on DVD to help them watch it more times quicker -- it's a bitch rewinding it every time, isn't it guys?

I'm not trying to lessen this horrible crime. What I am doing, is wondering what the hell is going on with this world? First off, why are people dying for senseless reasons --like two punk-ass kids running around with guns, thinking it's cool to shoot people 'cause it looks cool on TV? Secondly, why are storytellers being held responsible for their art affecting other people's lives? And lastly, how do cases like this affect the chances for the movies in question to be released in the future, for example, on DVD?

As for my first question, I'm going to leave the answer up to those of you reading this. My opinion is: there are some stupid people out there. They'd have to be to do some of the things I see going on. I find it sickening that some people don't have anything better to do with their lives than replicate what they see in movies and TV -- and not think about any sort of outcome. Guns don't kill people, stupid asses with guns kill people. The second point, I think (and hope) will be cleared up rather quickly, although I'm scared as an artist, what the long term effect is going to be.

It seems that in March of 1996, Ms. Byers' relatives filed the original suit in a Louisiana court against Oliver Stone and the producing studio, Warner Bros (actually the corporate company, Time-Warner). This happens many times, really. The Supreme Court refuses to hear cases all the time, and we shouldn't construe the case has merit just because of this. Joe Simpson, the family's attorney believes that his lawsuit is fortified by a statement Stone made during an interview, where he said, "The most pacifistic people in the world said they came out of this movie and wanted to kill somebody." Simpson claims that, by saying this, Stone outright claims that his point was to actually incite people to murder. I love attorneys. They can find their own meaning in everything, can't they?

What I get from the Stone quote, is that Stone was remarking on how the film made people feel -- even the nicest person was effected. I don't get that he was happy that people felt that way. I see NBK as a anti-violence statement more than anything else. I personally know more people turned off by violent films after watching that movie -- some even refuse to watch any movies that are violent at all now. I found myself wanting to kill after watching The Thin Red Line (actually, I just wanted to kill Terrence Malick, but nonetheless, I wanted to kill). But I wouldn't do such a thing, because I have a brain in my head, and know that it's wrong to kill.

The bright spot in all of this, is that Simpson and his team of lawyers have to prove to a jury that Stone made the film to incite violence. An if this guy does that, I'm putting him on my speed dial -- I shit you not. Then again, it's that "We The People" thing that bothers me. Like I said above, it's in the hands of a jury -- a group of average people (who, as I pointed out are probably stupid -- but I hope to Kubrick they're not). You get the right (or wrong) mix, and this is a huge blow to not only Stone et al, but for the First Amendment and people like you and me. "I think that Hollywood ought to be very concerned," said Los Angeles lawyer Douglas Mirell in the Los Angeles Times recently, regarding this case. "There is no way of knowing what a jury would do if this case goes to trial." I know I'm concerned.

Let's hear what you think. We, here at the Bits, would like to know what your concerns are on this, because it not only effects the First Amendment, it effects your life, your viewing habits and the Internet. I've also got a call in at Pioneer, to see what they think -- if this effects the chances of NBK hitting DVD any time soon. I'll let you know what happens when I hear it.

Until then, keep spinning those discs...

Doogan

Editor's Note: Write Doogan at todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com, if you have any ideas for future inside looks, interviews, or you just want to find out how great / crappy a DVD is. He'll write ya back, and if he doesn't -- he's probably dead.


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