What ‘American Sniper’ Got Right and Wrong, According to SEAL Who Helped …

23 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Hollywood uses ‘American Sniper’ to destroy history & create myth.

A handful of legislators in Mississippi have introduced two different bills that would make the Bible Mississippi’s state book. On Feb. 2, 2013, former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle was killed at a shooting range near Chalk Mountain, Texas while attempting to help fellow veteran Eddie Ray Routh.Hollywood was shocked when last weekend ended and Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, a film about Chris Kyle — described everywhere as “the most lethal sniper in American military history” — not only was the top-grossing film in the country but took in over $100 million, the kind of number we ordinarily associate with superheroes or teenage girls fighting for their lives.The moral depravity into which the US is sinking is shown by the movie American Sniper glorifying the exploits of a racist killer receiving six Oscar nominations, whereas ‘Selma’ depicting Martin Luther King’s struggle against racism has received none.

The new biopic starring Bradley Cooper about a late Navy SEAL sniper named Chris Kyle is a huge box office hit, and funnyman Seth watched the picture like millions of other fans.Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi took shots at “American Sniper,” the blockbuster movie about U.S. sniper Chris Kyle, saying director Clint Eastwood filled the screen with “crass stupidities” and “meaningless” drivel, and that the film’s politics were slightly left of ridiculous. Gary Pettus, a columnist for The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, suggests that if the state wants to dabble in symbolic bills, some other states have better ideas. As “The Best Years of Our Lives” was to World War II and “Platoon” was to the Vietnam War, so Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” may be shaping up as the catharsis many Americans have been hoping would give voice to (or reflect, or justify, or lie further about) our involvements in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. He had gained notoriety during the Iraq War—with 160 confirmed kills out of a possible 255, Kyle remains the deadliest sniper in U.S. military history.

In a Twitter message he posted on January 18, Seth made the following observation about the feature: “American Sniper kind of reminds me of the movie that’s showing in the third act of Inglorious Basterds”. “It appears I need to further clarify a tweet I send a few days ago; I said a sniper movie kind of reminded me of a scene in another movie that involved a sniper movie. He called it a “simple, well-lit little fairy tale with the nutritional value of a fortune cookie that serves us a neatly arranged helping of cheers and tears for target audiences. … It’s usually silly to get upset about the self-righteous way Hollywood moviemakers routinely turn serious subjects into baby food.” He went on: “But even by the low standards of this business, [this film] manages to sink to a new depth or two … [T]o turn the Iraq war into a saccharine, almost PG-rated two-hour cinematic diversion about a killing machine with a heart of gold … who slowly, very slowly starts to feel bad after shooting enough women and children — Gump notwithstanding, that was a hard one to see coming.” Mr. Controversy over Kyle’s credibility casts doubts on the film, however—claims that he engaged in a bar fight with former Minnesota governor and pro wrestler Jesse Ventura, sniped looters in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and killed two carjackers all remain unsubstantiated. (The first was the subject of a $1.845 million defamation lawsuit Ventura brought and won against Kyle.) This, coupled with a New Yorker piece exploring Kyle’s tendency for embellishment, may make audiences ask: Does Eastwood’s American Sniper stick to the narrative as presented by Chris Kyle or to the known facts—or does it blend the two?

I haven’t seen the film, so I don’t have any opinion about its content (though this lengthy IMDB summary explains the plot scene-by-scene if you’re interested). The only thing that forces us to take it seriously is the extraordinary fact that an almost exactly similar worldview consumed the walnut-sized mind of the president who got us into the war in question.” And of Mr. But let’s accept that at least some of people who went to see American Sniper over the weekend chose that film because they perceived it as a patriotic act.

Any political meaning was ascribed to my comment by news commentary,” he said. “I’m sorry if this somehow offended anyone, but that was not my intention. Eastwood, he wrote: “Eastwood, who surely knows better, indulges in countless crass stupidities in the movie,” like the scene of the “shirtless, buffed-up SEAL Kyle and his heartthrob wife.” “Eastwood plays for cheap applause and goes super-dumb even by Hollywood standards,” he wrote. “Sometimes there’s no such thing as ‘just a human story.’ Sometimes a story is meaningless or worse without real context and this is one of them.”

As sympathetic as it is to the film’s title character, the late Chris Kyle, it’s a hero’s tale that questions what heroism means and that finds the usual definitions painfully lacking. What we can say for sure is that professional conservatives are now very excited about American Sniper, and their analysis of it (see here or here) tends to be mostly about liberals — why they allegedly hate the movie, why they dishonor Chris Kyle, and why going to see it would be a great way for right-thinking Americans to tick them off.

If American Sniper wins one Oscar, never mind the six it’s been nominated for, when this annual extravaganza of movie pomp and ceremony unfolds in Hollywood on February 22, it will not only represent an endorsement of US exceptionalism, but worse it will be an insult to the Iraqi people. This weekend, The Oregonian/OregonLive editorial board will publish an editorial on some of the wackiest bills filed in advance of the 2015 session, and over the next several weeks we will ask you to vote on them. But because the movie has landed in the midst of a polarized cultural landscape, its message has been simplified and misunderstood on both sides of the divide. Meanwhile, Mike Huckabee, who it seems will be basing his presidential campaign on making himself the tribune of those burning with conservative cultural resentment, is out criticizing Beyoncé for dancing suggestively and singing lyrics that amount to “mental poison.” Few things are more edifying than politicians telling us what music we should be listening to or movies we should see.

In the movie they are depicted as a dehumanized mass of savages – occupying the same role as the Indians in John Wayne Western movies of old – responsible for their own suffering and the devastation of their country, which the white man is in the process of civilizing. Anything resembling balance and perspective is sacrificed in American Sniper to the more pressing needs of US propaganda, which holds that the guys who served in Iraq were the very best of America, men who went through hell in order to protect the freedoms and way of life of their fellow countrymen at home.

Great [expletive] movie and now I really want to kill some [expletive] ragheads.” From @dezmondharmon (since deleted), “American sniper makes me wanna go shoot some [expletive] Arabs,” with three cute little handgun emojis. The editorial doesn’t mention filmmaker Michael Moore, but he has been a critic and he shouldn’t need to be reminded that films often stray from reality. This is the possible tip of an iceberg of a sizable percentage of “American Sniper” viewers who, confronted with the film’s intentionally conflicting signals — the fellow soldier whose letter home mourns a country that has lost its way, the mounting distress of Kyle’s wife and brother, the abject pain and anger reflected in Bradley Cooper’s body language and eyes as his tours grind on — retreat into the comfort of simpler pieties.

Groused one commenter on Metacritic.com, “I watched this in amazement, was he supposed to be a hero?” No and yes; yes and no — you’re supposed to figure it out for yourself, fella. For instance, there’s almost an entire subgenre of country music devoted to singing the praises of country life and telling city folk where they can stick it. Merle Haggard’s 1969 song “Okie From Muskogee” (“We don’t let our hair grow long and shaggy/like the hippies out in San Francisco do”) is the urtext of the genre.

Or the clueless snobbery of The New York Times box office analyst who dismissed the film as “patriotic” “pro-family” fluff that only played well in the heartland. (A. Over many decades the US movie industry has proved itself one of the most potent weapons in the armory of US imperialism, helping to project a myth of an America, defined by lofty attributes of courage, freedom, and democracy. While Chris Kyle participated in “saddle bronco bustin’” from high school into college, his rodeo career ended when a bronco flipped and left him with pins in his wrists, broken ribs, and other injuries. As the myth has it, these values, and with them America itself, are continually under threat from the forces of evil and darkness that lurk outwith and often times within. It sounds like he didn’t see the movie.) Worse was a writer for The New Republic, Dennis Jett, who spent four paragraphs trashing the movie before getting to this: “I have not seen ‘American Sniper.’ But if the trailer is any indication. . . .” To any responsible journalist, that’s grounds for dismissal.

Neither his brother nor an unfaithful girlfriend are mentioned in the book, but he did become a ranch hand to pay the bills after partying with rodeo groupies drained his income. The mountain of lies told in service to this myth has only been exceeded by the mountain of dead bodies on the basis of it – victims of the carnage and mayhem unleashed around the world by Washington. Jay Inslee effectively ended the death penalty, at least while he is in office, by refusing to sign any death warrants,” The Times writes. “He and the Legislature should go further and end capital punishment altogether, hopefully before King County jurors add more to death row.” The Daily Astorian praised President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address. “Does his wide-ranging optimism — “the shadow of crisis has passed” — reflect the reality of America in 2015?” The Astorian asks in an editorial. “We believe it does. During this time, he approached the recruitment office to enlist—not, as the movie suggests, because he witnessed American lives lost on the news, but because he had always intended to join the military following school.

But the real question is whether partisan bickering in Congress will stymie true progress during Obama’s final two years.” The editorial board offers its support to Lake Oswego’s fledgling efforts to create a bike and pedestrian path along the Willamette Shore Trolley right of way. On the other hand, an advocate of unfettered gun rights couldn’t be happier with how often Hollywood sends the message that serious problems always have solutions that involve the righteous use of firearms. Memo to all those patriotic online thugs: Threatening to put a cap in someone you disagree with actually makes you one of “the bad guys.” ‘Sniper’ is a story told strictly from an American soldier’s point of view, with the relevant honesty, blind spots, dissonances, defensiveness, pride, professionalism, and self-loathing put out there for all to see.

In most cases, those decisions are made not to make a point but because of more mundane considerations, like how to maximize the audiences advertisers want to reach. In a guest opinion, Mark David Hall, a George Fox University politics professor, writes about a recent Supreme Court decision on religious liberty and how it should be applied to the Oregon case involving Sweet Cakes by Melissa bakery. This puts the movie in a box with “Rambo: First Blood II” and other revisionist pop artifacts that seem specifically engineered to banish doubt and let us feel good about ourselves again. (And if there’s one thing that makes American audiences uncomfortable, it’s not feeling good about ourselves.) I disagree, even as I don’t dispute parts of this countervailing long view. But if you live in a small town in what you consider the heartland, you can take comfort in the fact that even if Hollywood doesn’t set too many dramas in towns like yours, everyone in politics will rush to exalt you, your superior values, and the place you live. True, “Sniper” never questions the assumptions and faulty information that put us in Iraq in the first place, and for some that is reason enough to ignore or scorn the film.

Beyond that, there’s an innate understanding that anyone who wasn’t there — be they a filmmaker or a movie critic or an audience member or a bloviator on the right or the left — can never comprehend the experience, and that those who were there share an unbreakable, inexpressible bond. Which hasn’t stopped us from using “American Sniper” as a hankie to weep uncomplicatedly in or a stick with which to bludgeon others, both responses at the expense of the mixed messages its maker intuitively and (I believe) consciously put there.

So many audiences are coming to this movie to have their beliefs mirrored and reconfirmed, holding on to the parts that jibe with what they want to see and tossing out the rest. And yet, while in the film Kyle decides after killing Mustafa that he is too depressed to continue fighting, according to his memoir he told Taya he wouldn’t reenlist because their marriage was nearing divorce. Whether you’re listening to a neo-punk band you insist no one’s ever heard of or blasting the same Tim McGraw song coming out of every other pickup truck in a hundred-mile radius, you’re making a statement of identity you want others to hear. At the end of the film, Taya speaks with Kyle the day he travels to the shooting range with Routh, letting him know how grateful she is that he’s returned. And if you feel that the dominant pop culture isn’t about you, you’ll be particularly interested in whatever you can find that is, or makes a statement you’d like to support.

This is not in Kyle’s memoir, for obvious reasons, but screenwriter Jason Hall writes in an addendum to the new edition of the book that Taya told him she had this conversation with Kyle a month before his death. Film and memoir begin with near-identical opening sequences: Kyle sees a woman and a few children on the otherwise-empty street of an Iraqi town through his sniper scope. However, according to the memoir, Kyle shot only a woman that day, not a child, and he felt no guilt about it: “It was my duty to shoot, and I don’t regret it.” It was his first kill with a sniper rifle, though he had not yet completed his sniper training.

However, when Kyle inspects the house more carefully, he finds WMDs hidden beneath the floorboards, and outs the family as pro-insurgency, beginning a firefight. Kyle believes this lack of faith in the war caused his death; Taya disagrees and they debate that point, focusing on a letter Lee wrote his mother, at the memorial service.

In truth, these three milestones—defeating his sniper adversary, avenging Biggles, and achieving his longest successful shot—did not align in one moment. Mustafa existed but only merits this brief mention in Kyle’s memoir: While we were on the berm watching the city, we were also watching warily for an Iraqi sniper known as Mustafa. No $180,000 bounty was placed on his head or posters circulated bearing illustrations of his tattoos, as in the film—instead, $20,000 to $80,000 was the reward for killing any American sniper.

This horrible anecdote is absent from Kyle’s memoir, and “The Butcher” is not mentioned at all, though some suggest his origins lie in real-life Shia warlord Abu Deraa. “The Butcher” and Mustafa’s roles seem exaggerated primarily to heighten Chris Kyle’s sense of purpose in combat: Every kill becomes justified when the murdered possess supernatural evil.

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