On Selma, Sniper, and Our Misguided Hero Worship

22 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘I hope both of you catch a fist to the face': Kid Rock blasts American Sniper critics Seth Rogen and Michael Moore in profane blog post.

Imagine a world in which We the People starred in a tent-pole summer blockbuster. WASHINGTON—Clint Eastwood’s hit film “American Sniper” has reignited a bitter debate about the US invasion of Iraq and one of its most famous warriors, with conservatives hailing the movie as a long overdue tribute to veterans.Kid Rock is making sure his fans know exactly where he stands on the controversy surrounding box office champ ‘American Sniper’ with a profanity-laden tirade aimed at the film’s critics.

My typical routine for viewing a movie I’ll be reviewing is to do my best to avoid any pre-release discussion, trailers or articles, in an attempt to keep the experience pure, cluttered with as little baggage as possible. While critical reviews have been generally positive and the movie has been nominated for Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Actor, it has also drawn fire for being jingoistic or propaganda for the U.S. military.

Directed by Eastwood and starring Bradley Cooper, the film has broken box office records and is based on Kyle’s best-selling memoir, in which he expressed no regrets for the lives he extinguished as a sharpshooter in the war. “The movie gives America something it’s lacked since the start of the war — a war hero on a truly national, cultural scale,” David French wrote. We are either papering over Chris Kyle’s shameful complicity in a bloody and unjust war, or we are disgracing ourselves by denouncing his valorous patriotism (Kyle, a Navy SEAL with 160 confirmed kills in Iraq who died in 2013, is the basis for the hero of Sniper). Actor Seth Rogen, whose recent movie “The Interview” provoked fury from North Korea and a cyberattack on Sony Pictures, said “American Sniper” reminded him of the Nazi propaganda movie that appears at the end of Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds.” Conservatives and a slew of celebrities quickly shot back at Moore and Rogen on social media, with former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin castigating “Hollywood leftists.” “It presents a very sanitized picture of what the occupation of Iraq was like and the nature of the Iraqi resistance,” he told Agence France-Presse. Rogen, the star and director of the almost-banned comedy The Interview issued a statement about this weekend’s blockbuster hit American Sniper, comparing the Clint Eastwood-directed film to Nazi propaganda.

The unavoidable baggage: I tend to like Eastwood’s directorial efforts (“Unforgiven” is a classic), and Cooper has established himself as a considerable talent (“Silver Linings Playbook” is his best). Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorius Basterds culminates with an assassination attempt on Adolph Hitler at the premiere of a fictional propaganda film called ‘Stolz der Nation’ which translates to Nation’s Pride. My review of the film – “not quite on target” read the newspaper headline; “Cooper wrangles moral ambiguity in uneven portrait of U.S. soldier” the headline on the web reads – was middling to positive.

Paul Rieckhoff, an Iraq war veteran and head of the Iraq Afghanistan Veterans of America, said the movie reflected how many soldiers thought about the war. “Kyle, much like many I served with, and our president himself during most of the Iraq War, held a very black-and-white view of the conflict. But if we pretend that our heroes are superheroes—creatures without the characteristics that make us truly human—we find ourselves starved for real-life inspiration. American Sniper on the other hand stars Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle, the real-life man who became the deadliest sniper in U.S. military history, saving hundreds of American lives with at least 160 kills. I kept thinking about “The Hurt Locker” while I watched “Sniper,” and I liked the 2009 film better (it went on to win the best picture Oscar). Rogen has since elaborated that just because he was reminded of the Tarantino scene does not mean that he was drawing any comparison between Kyle and Nazi, and that he even enjoyed the film. ‘But if you were having a slow news day, you’re welcome for me giving you the opportunity to blow something completely out of proportion,’ he added, on Twitter.

Prior to seeing the movie, I didn’t know Kyle was murdered in 2013, and thought Eastwood’s handling of his death as a postscript, not something to be dramatized with actors, as curious. Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore caused an online debate when he tweeted about how he was raised to believe snipers were ‘cowards’ since his uncle died by a Japanese sniper shot in World War II. I only retroactively understood the last goodbyes Kyle said to his family, not comprehending it in the moment. (Maybe not knowing Kyle’s fate beforehand is my failing, but letting the film surprise me was my choice.) I chose not to discuss this point in the review, fearing I would spoil the ending of the movie for others like myself. Just like the war has for us.” Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of INQUIRER.net.

Even in the past, when death was a much more accepted (and common) part of life than it is today, heroes were known and celebrated for the way their remarkable deeds were carried out in the face of bodily destruction. To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here. That can be problematic when reviewing a film that’s “based on a true story.” So many will draw comparison to the source material and point out a movie’s flaws – a valid perspective, but one I most often choose not to engage in. I treat movies such as “Sniper,” “Foxcatcher” and “Unbroken” as historical fiction, because the artifice of moviemaking is unavoidable: actors do their own interpretation of a character. Rogen’s other film The Interview, nearly banned for fear that screenings of the North Korean-set comedy would be targeted by terrorists, was not eligible for the Oscars since it was released online a day before it premiered in theaters.

Cooper’s movie version of Kyle is, through my personal lens, conflicted, and likely wearing his game face to deal with the traumatic experiences of war combat. Some have criticized Eastwood and Cooper for not discussing politics in the wake of the film’s success – six Oscar nods, more than $100 million at the box office in the first few days of release – or for whitewashing Kyle by selectively ignoring his more troublesome personal traits.

Sure, film criticism sometimes leads to discussions larger than just plot holes and character arcs; the best films engage our intellect or our emotions, or have something to say about the human condition. Film – and storytelling in general – is necessarily larger than reality, something that delivers the extraordinary to us, whose lives are comparatively ordinary.

Although both these propositions are a poor fit for most Americans, they don’t undo King’s or Kyle’s heroism—a point plenty of Americans do seem to grasp. When it comes to their claim to heroism, King’s and Kyle’s religious faith matters because it reminds us to curb our political enthusiasm for hero-worship.

Their Christianity fueled their respective types of greatness—but, even more, it restrained them in ways that are hard to detect from the standpoint of politics. They placed themselves at the mercy of public opinion, King on a daily basis and Kyle through the cocky and provocative memoir he published after his years of service. In the opening scenes of another movie about death and heroism—The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance—a newspaperman confronts Senator Ransom Stoddard, renowned as the killer of the outlaw Valance.

Here you can write a commentary on the recording "On Selma, Sniper, and Our Misguided Hero Worship".

* Required fields
Twitter-news
Our partners
Follow us
Contact us
Our contacts

About this site