A workmanlike summary of the films and critical reception of one of America's hardest-working and most controversial directors. Stone, who, as Pauline Kael once said, ""directs as if someone had put a gun to the back of his head,"" is a strange hybrid of propagandist and stylist. He has a formidable, even extraordinary, command of the visual language of film but wouldn't know subtlety if it hit him on the head. But in contrast with Stone's habitual bombast and excess, his exquisite visual sense has tended to be slighted. This book is no exception. Mostly it consists of plot synopses of the 16 films Stone has written and/or directed, as well as excerpts from reviews; although Kagan (The Cinema of Stanley Kubrick, 1972, etc.) does make a few timid, prosaic attempts to detail overarching themes and threads in these films. But unlike his subject, Kagan seems reluctant to engage in any sustained and in-depth analysis or to even maintain a particular point of view. His on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand approach turns fairness into mere equivocation. There is little on Stone's mythographic tendencies, his paranoid stylings, his seeming debt to Nietzsche and Ayn Rand, and his innovative narrative structuring. Kagan does demonstrate convincingly that Stone's protagonists, from Jim Morrison to Jim Garrison, are almost invariably solitary isolates, emotionally cut off from the society around them: ""People, people, everywhere, but never a friendly voice."" He also draws interesting connections between Stone's early, surrealistically informed films, such as Seizure and The Hand, in which reality and fantasy weave insistently together, and later, ostensibly factual films such as JFK and The Doors. A useful resource, especially as a filmography, but the definitive book on Oliver Stone has yet to be written.