The Short List: Why some in Hollywood think ‘American Sniper’ is pro-war

20 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘American Sniper’ smashes records with $90M weekend.

There seems to be little middle ground in public opinion about the ruthless Navy Seal shooter who accumulated 160 confirmed kills out of 255 probable kills. The history-making wide opening of “American Sniper’’ throws a hand grenade into what was shaping up as a fairly dull Oscar competition between a group of little-seen art movies.Clint Eastwood’s R-rated Iraq War drama American Sniper has us talking, and not just about its box-office shattering weekend, or its six Academy Award nominations, or Bradley Cooper’s impressive physical transformation into Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, the most lethal sharpshooter in U.S. military history.

Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” ignited the holiday weekend box office, leaving January records behind as it made a stunning $90.2 million in three days.In a later that day, the director, 60, defended his statements about snipers – but also attempted to distance the Tweets from the the about real-life Navy SEAL . “Lots of talk about snipers this weekend (the holiday weekend of a great man, killed by a sniper), so I thought I’d weigh in with what I was raised to believe about snipers,” Moore wrote in his post. “My dad was in the First Marine Division in the South Pacific in World War II. Granted, it stars Bradley Cooper in the title role, but it’s also clear that Eastwood knows how to stage scenes with firearms better than anyone else, with the possible exception of John Woo. “You know this isn’t necessary,” Eastwood says, trying to postpone the inevitable.

With an estimated $90.2 million three-day weekend and $105 million in ticket sales projected by the close of business on Monday’s holiday, the biggest hit of director Clint Eastwood’s career (among many other smashed records) could well surpass the combined take of the seven other Best Picture nominees combined by the time polls close on Feb. 17. The total easily topped the previous January high, James Cameron’s “Avatar” at $68 million in 2010.Warner Bros. estimates that “American Sniper” will make $105 million over the four-day Martin Luther King weekend, which would be another record. “This is staggering.

In the memoir, Kyle writes that killing can be fun and refers to ‘savages’ Kyle was just told to go and do his job; to aim his expert eye through the eye of a high-powered rifle barrel and shoot people – before they shot him or his fellow soldiers. When he’s forced to pull out his gun, he’s not gleeful about it, unlike too many of our unconscionable modern “heroes” — he just does what needs to be done. “Go ahead, make my day” remains Eastwood’s single most famous line. Filmmaker Michael Moore, who famously criticized the Iraq War in his 2003 Oscar acceptance speech, took to Twitter, calling snipers “cowards.” He went on to claim that his tweets weren’t about the film; he then linked off to a lengthy Facebook post criticizing the media and offered up quite a few words about the film.

It’s blockbuster numbers in January, the sort of numbers usually reserved for summer films and superhero movies,” says Paul Dergarabedian, senior analyst for Rentrak. “No one saw this coming. Many reasons for the walloping success of “American Sniper” are right there, floating on the surface, beginning with the poster’s stars and stripes enveloping the film’s star, Bradley Cooper. Pictures/Associated Press Steve Smith, an Army veteran and schoolteacher, walked out of a movie theater in Plano, Texas, on Saturday with tears in his eyes.

But the best part is actually the way he paced the scene, going from 0 to 60 in seconds, only to downshift for the iconic tau One reason Eastwood staged sniper scenes so well in his new movie is that he had basically rehearsed them in this classic set piece from his Oscar-winning Western. Over the past 25 years, both “Titanic’’ and “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’’ won the Best Picture Oscar after rolling up megagrosses while academy members were filling out their ballots (“Avatar’’ notably didn’t).

The film has been building an audience and blasting any projections all weekend.” The $105 million tally is more than double what analysts were expecting,Dergarabedian says. After years of movie studios getting the military experience wrong with films like “The Hurt Locker,” the 33-year-old said, “American Sniper” had nailed it. So I need no lectures on the horrors of battle, nor on the courage of those who serve their country.) The only thing that matters in war is winning, and fighting within the rules including the Geneva convention.

It marks director Eastwood’s biggest debut, surpassing “Gran Torino,” which earned $29.5 million in 2008. “American Sniper” topped that with Friday’s $30.5 million opening. The estimated IMAX total on 332 screens for the four-day weekend is $11.5 million (yet another record). “American Sniper,” with Bradley Cooper starring as Navy SEAL sharpshooter Chris Kyle, initially opened in December to packed theaters in limited release — making nearly $3.4 million on a handful of screens in Los Angeles, New York and Dallas.

His book, on which the movie is based, is not for the faint-hearted and makes no attempt to pacify those who worship at the altar of political correctness. Only a coward will shoot someone who can’t shoot back.’ ” Despite his critical take on the topic, Moore did have some positive things to say about Bradley Cooper’s film, which broke box office records this weekend. “Too bad Clint gets Vietnam and Iraq confused in his storytelling,” said Moore. “And that he has his characters calling Iraqis ‘savages’ throughout the film.” “There is also anti-war sentiment expressed in the movie. But we are in a more comfortable place now to celebrate the valor of our armed forces, no matter what we thought of the political rationale for the occupation, or what we think of the aftermath, and what it has done to the world’s security. Movies often receive a boost in business after they receive nominations, but the “Oscar bump’’ scored by “American Sniper’’ was one for the record books — an unbelievable 15,465 percent.

The film, based on the beloved bear star of the children’s books, scored well with critics (98% approval on Rotten Tomatoes) and audiences (87%) alike. All five of the top theaters for “Lone Survivor” were in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico, while “Unbroken” performed extremely well in small cities such as Mesa, Ariz., and Lehi, Utah.

The fabled Project Blue Book, the Air Force’s files on UFO sightings and investigations that have tantalized and frustrated extraterrestrial enthusiasts for decades, have entered a new dimension: they’ve gone digital. If the narrative in question has any meaningful emotional impact — and I’ve heard from many fans of the film who report bursts of applause at the climactic “kill,” followed by solemn silence during the end credits — the ideological content becomes secondary. Instead, it shows the harsh, stark reality of war, both in the field and at home where so many relationships, marriages and states of mind are ruined by the hidden impact of combat.

To reach more conservative audiences, Warner Bros. advertised and arranged publicity on Fox News, military blogs, and in “Soldier of Fortune” magazine, along with more traditional outlets like NFL playoff games, said the studio’s president of world-wide marketing, Sue Kroll. There’s a ton of fascinating bits in the trove, but, alas, you won’t find records related to that alleged 1947 Roswell, New Mexico, incident, where conspiracy theorists maintain the military recovered a crashed alien spacecraft and its occupants. Particularly important, she said, were screenings that began before Thanksgiving for veterans’ groups and on military bases to build buzz that the movie wasn’t just good, but authentic. I thought at the time that would be “Birdman,’’ but “American Sniper’’ may now be in a perfect position to exploit a Best Picture/Best Director split, once fairly rare, but which has occurred the past two years.

This is about patriotism and all the things people say the country is lacking these days.” In its first four days of wide release “American Sniper” grossed an estimated $105.3 million, for a cumulative $108 million tally so far. The difference between Affleck and Eastwood is that Eastwood already has two Best Director Oscars on his mantelpiece for “Unforgiven’’ and “Million Dollar Baby’’ (as well as Best Picture Oscars for producing those films).

And in 1950, airmen there spotted a circular object 10 feet in diameter with a bluish-white color going fast at 8,000 feet and taking a sharp turn to the right. Perhaps the weekend’s only disappointment was the debut of the Chris Hemsworth-starring “Blackhat,” which earned $4 million for the weekend ($4.6 million for the four-day). Both pictures blend reverence and violence in ways that leave audiences feeling drained, their collective blood pumping, their hunger for an affirmation of their values and beliefs satisfied.

Fellman of Warner Bros. told Todd Cunningham of The Wrap: “If you look at the top 20 locales, you see places like Texas, Oklahoma, Albuquerque, which don’t normally turn out for R-rated films. Brittany Packnett was sitting anxiously in the Oval Office, weighing whether or not to tell President Obama about her first taste of tear gas. “I was afraid of sounding like an angry black woman at the White House,” said Packnett, one of several young civil rights activists invited to a meeting with the president last month. It played like a superhero movies in places like Dallas, but this time the superhero was real.” Here is where “American Sniper” gets a little complicated, more so than Eastwood’s version of the real-life protagonist. Repeating the success of “American Sniper” won’t be as easy as pumping out multiple “Iron Man” sequels. “This is a very specific film at a very specific point in time with all the right elements,” said Ms.

With lightning speed, many who criticized the film (having seen it or, in some specious cases, not) were subjected to rivers of Twitter venom from its most extreme admirers. However the Michael Mann-directed thriller “Blackhat,” financed by Legendary Pictures LLC and released by Universal, flopped with a dismal $4.4 million. By now more than a few critics and pundits and civilians and veterans have questioned the veracity of the movie edition of Chris Kyle, or responded to Eastwood’s depiction of the Iraqis and the insurgents as one-dimensional at best, sub-human at worst. Reacting to journalist and commentator Rania Khalek’s anti-“Sniper” thoughts, one tweeter, since suspended from the social media platform, wrote: “…It is a DAMN SHAME (Kyle) never had the chance to target YOU.

The nation is celebrating King’s birthday as a national holiday for the 30th year, and it comes as hundreds of thousands of young African Americans and others have taken to the streets in cities around the country in protest of the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in New York, who were killed by police. Anti-poverty charity Oxfam dropped this bomb today: Unless something drastically changes, by 2016 the world’s richest 1% will have more money than everyone else on the planet combined.

And it wouldn’t be a report about wealth without some gender inequality: Turns out 90% of the world’s billionaires are men. “Do we really want to live in a world where the 1% own more than the rest of us combined?” Oxfam’s Executive Director Winnie Byanyima asked. The film, he wrote, “offers a heartfelt salute to U.S. muscle, a ‘Green Berets’ for the war in Iraq, ringing with patriotic fervour and bullish male bonding…In one early scene, Kyle’s father tells him that the world is divided into three types: sheep, wolves and sheepdogs. But before that, there’s this: the NFL is investigating whether New England used deflated balls (to get better grip in the rain) in their statement win over the Colts in the AFC Championship Game.

A different film (a better film) might have asked the wolves what they think, or at least wondered why the sheep behave as they do.” Plenty of critics disagree. I wish I was one of those critics, because when Eastwood wrestles with questions of violence and revenge and the cost of bloodshed, as he has to varying degrees in “Unforgiven” and “Flags of Our Fathers” and “Letters from Iwo Jima,” he challenges all comers, regardless of political persuasion or ideology. One reader, from Columbus, Ohio, emailed with a lengthy and eloquent counter-review to my own. “You seem to want a deeper look at Kyle and his flaws,” Eric wrote (he asked we not use his last name). “Would this have made the movie better?

I have never witnessed a film so quiet after the credits rolled, the audience still exhaling after such a dramatic finish.” In that regard, “American Sniper” hearkens back to the final scene of director Michael Cimino’s “The Deer Hunter,” which was pure fiction and, in many scenes, utter fantasy. Same with “American Sniper,” coming as it has a few crucial years after such mournful, left-leaning box office failures tied to the Iraq invasion as “In the Valley of Elah” and “Lions for Lambs.” Nobody went to those, even the good ones.

The notable exceptions were “The Hurt Locker” and, more recently, and with astonishingly rich perspective, “Zero Dark Thirty,” both directed by Kathryn Bigelow. They weren’t screeds, or painted in black and white, or guided by the audience’s blood lust; they were gray, but they were also gripping, kinetic, rattling experiences. David Eberhardt of Baltimore wrote me the other day. “A movie about a sniper that does not address the issues of ‘live by the sword, die by the sword,’ or the circumstances of Kyle’s death, or American gun worship — and reviews not addressing the same are, to we Christians, pure filth.” I’m glad Eastwood’s film stirs such arguments. As for the worst of the Twitter rageaholics who threaten people with rape and murder if they don’t like a movie, well, they probably ought to tone down the jihadist rhetoric a tad, lest they drown in a vat of unintended irony. It played to all sorts of audiences and made $150 million worldwide on a modest $40 million budget. “American Sniper” may make three or four times as much, on a $60 million budget.

Steven Spielberg, originally slated to direct, left the project because he felt it needed a larger canvas and the budget to match; one wonders what sort of movie we’d have if he’d stuck with it. Eastwood’s film speaks directly to many in America who have waited a long, long time to hear it: that the “American” in a title such as “American Sniper” is the highest point of pride; that we look after our own; and that we aren’t invincible, in the end. Others, by temperament or political persuasion, are more compelled by the third, because they feel America’s exceptionalism, implicitly endorsed by Eastwood, can be a source of tragedy as well as triumph. If Eastwood and company had dwelled on that cost, or taken a tougher-minded look at its own hero, I suspect we wouldn’t have a movie that just enjoyed a $105 million opening weekend.

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