‘Sniper’ success reveals power of conservative audience

21 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Sniper’ Success Reveals Power of Conservative Audience.

Empty seats were hard to come by at Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” over the holiday weekend, where the R-rated Iraq War drama — all words seldom attached to “blockbuster” — rolled to the kind of runaway success that makes Hollywood sit up and take notice. Seth Rogen has moved to clarify his controversial comments about Bradley Cooper’s acclaimed movie “American Sniper,” insisting his remarks have been “blown out of proportion.” The star hit headlines on Monday after he tweeted about the Oscar-nominated drama and appeared to compare it to Nazi propaganda footage shown in Quentin Tarantino’s acclaimed World War II film “Inglourious Basterds.” The post sparked a wave of online outrage, prompting Rogen to return to the site to clarify his comment, writing, “I just said something ‘kinda reminded’ me of something else.Though America can’t seem to make up its mind about what to think of American Sniper’s loose handling of the facts and arguably “jingoistic” message, there’s one thing everyone seems to agree on: The surprise Oscar contender has one embarrassingly fake-looking baby.Fans and critics of the controversial movie – which had a budget of $60 million – have now taken to Twitter to slam its obvious use of a mechanical dummy. “I don’t get all the American Sniper love,” wrote another on Twitter. “But I do understand Bradley Cooper’s [Oscar] nom.

The film, which blew away box-office expectations with a superhero-sized $107 million over the four-day weekend, was in many ways an old-fashioned kind of Hollywood hit: It was built on star-power (Bradley Cooper and Eastwood), Oscar buzz (6 nominations including best picture) and a largely adult audience (63 percent over 25 years old). As the film broke box office records in its nation-wide expansion in theaters over the weekend, many moviegoers could not believe just how obvious it was that the baby—which Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller must pretend is their own flesh-and-blood child—was really just a plastic doll. On the one hand, there are folks who wonder whether the biographical depiction of slain Navy SEAL shooter Chris Kyle is too dismissive of Iraqi humanity, too casual in its killing, and ultimately too pro-Iraq War. The success has made the latest film from the 84-year-old director — his second in half a year — a flashpoint in Hollywood, Washington D.C. and everywhere in between, sweeping “American Sniper” into the culture wars Eastwood has sometimes engaged. Some reviewers came to these conclusions, but Oscar-winning filmmaker Michael Moore and actor/producer Seth Rogen have become the faces of this point of view, fairly or not.

As the Hollywood Reporter has noted, film journalist Mark Harris started mocking the doll a few weeks ago, and in a since-deleted tweet, the screenwriter, Jason Hall, replied succinctly: “Hate to ruin the fun but real baby #1 showed up with a fever. But on Tuesday, following American Sniper’s record-breaking opening weekend and six Academy Award nominations, Time published the interview in its entirety. Dan Fellman, head of domestic distribution for Warner Bros., called conservatives’ embrace of the film “huge,” noting it’s an audience difficult to court. “The audience watched this movie not as a war movie but as a movie about patriotism, a movie about a hero, a movie about family, a movie about serving our country,” said Fellman. “And it struck a chord right across the board.” Most Hollywood heartland hits (like the recent “Unbroken,” or one of films “American Sniper” surpassed to become the biggest R-rated drama debut, “The Last Temptation of the Christ”) have capitalized on faith-based audiences.

Real baby #2 was no show. (Clint voice) Gimme the doll, kid.” This may seem rather mortifying to Eastwood and co., but maybe the veteran director did Cooper a favor: When the Best Actor nominee proves his ability to act even when handed a hunk of plastic this fake, Cooper might as well be saying, “Gimme the Oscar, academy.” Gitesh Pandya, editor of BoxOfficeGuru.com, credited the film’s triumph to a “perfect storm” of factors, including the savvy marketing of Warner Bros., which stoked interest in the film by holding it in very limited release for two weeks. “It was always expected to have a large conservative base come out for this film, as most military dramas do,” said Pandya. “But you can’t sell a movie to only a conservative audience and reach $107 million in a four-day weekend. You’re reaching everybody with those kind of numbers.” Eastwood has held that “American Sniper” is an apolitical character study about Kyle, who with 160 confirmed kills, is considered the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history. Other defenders of the flick simply said it depicted an American hero and that criticism of its politics was a thinly veiled attack on Oscar-winning director Eastwood, who spoke at the 2012 Republican National Convention. White and Wariner also co-founded the Frisco-based charity Kilroy’s Legacy, which holds events that are focused on helping veterans such as the movie showing.

Documentarian Michael Moore sparked more uproar when he tweeted unrelatedly about snipers not being heroes, before adding that he thought Eastwood confused Iraq for Vietnam. I am proud of our defenders.” “Hollywood leftists: while caressing shiny plastic trophies you exchange among one another while spitting on the graves of freedom fighters who allow you to do what you do, just realize the rest of America knows you’re not fit to shine Chris Kyle’s combat boots,” the post read, in part. Despite this back-and-forth, there’s other evidence that a broad US audience is reacting to the movie as a work of art, seeing in it multiple messages that speak to multiple points of view.

If there are quality films aimed at that audience, they’re doing gangbusters left and right.” Few expect the rise of “American Sniper” to push it to Oscar victory. The movie may have benefited from good timing, in the sense that the US appears ready for a movie that grapples seriously with the after effects of the Iraq War on the US military, and in general on the corrosive effects of combat service on the ability of soldiers to reintegrate into normal life. I won’t give away any spoilers about the movie, but there was something special about getting to watch the movie with some of the family members and several military members.

In some senses the movie is all things to all people, in an ideological sense: “both a devastating war movie and a devastating antiwar movie,” in the words of the New Yorker critic David Denby.

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