The Unz Review Staff
Based on a few clips, I was certain that Alt-Right: Age of Rage (2018) would lead to permanent physical damage from sheer cringiness. But I was delighted to have been proven wrong. This is a remarkably fair-minded documentary. On balance, though, I think it will be good for white identity politics. Age of Rage was...
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American Renaissance
(”America First” is briefly mentioned in this.)

"For decades, she relentlessly lambasted globalism, unfair trade deals and border anarchy."

The post Phyllis Schlafly: Godmother of America First appeared first on American Renaissance.

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Taki Mag Staff
(”American Sniper” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Richard Jewell is director Clint Eastwood’s well-acted, solidly scripted biopic about the racial-profiling fiasco that undermined the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing investigation. The FBI monomaniacally targeted an innocent rent-a-cop for being a Frustrated White Man, and then leaked his name to the press despite never having any actual evidence against him. Much of the media […]
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The American Conservative Staff

American Sniper’s Myths and Misrepresentations ... It is more a movie review than this piece. I thought the movie was excellent and most on the right ...

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Steve Sailer


The key moment in the self-destruction of the once great American city of Detroit...

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The American Conservative Staff
(”American Sniper” is briefly mentioned in this.)
I’m going to start with an overarching statement about this year’s contest: the most important category this year is Best Editing. Why? Because the two most interesting films nominated this year are “Boyhood” and “Birdman,” and both are overwhelmingly editing-dependent films. With “Boyhood,” you have footage compiled over the course of a dozen years, and a story which, presumably, was structured initially to hedge against the possibility that something might happen over the course of time that would necessitate massive changes. What if Patricia Arquette got hit by a bus? What if Ethan Hawke got really fat? What if one or both of the kids grew into lousy actors? What if Richard Linklater went through a messy divorce, and it changed his view of the kind of story he wanted to tell? No chance for re-shoots here; you’ve got to take the footage compiled over this long period, and assemble it into a story that is tonally consistent and narratively compelling. However much one feels that Sandra Adair succeeded in this effort, the challenge itself is honor-worthy. Meanwhile: with “Birdman” you have a story that depends, substantially, on constant, consistent forward motion, on the sense that we are stumbling down a flight of stairs, trying not to trip and fall and break our skulls, but unable to stop to regain our balance. Now add that the entire film is supposed to feel like a single shot. The unqualified success on the technical side was absolutely instrumental in the success of the film as a whole. But there was no margin for error. Both “Boyhood” and “Birdman” deserve nominations for Best Original Screenplay and for various acting slots. But in each case, the real stars of the show were in the editing room. So: my overarching prediction is that the winner of Best Picture will also win Best Editing. Predictions listed in descending order of personal confidence. That confidence is based on very little; it’s not like I’m a Hollywood hairstylist, who might actually know something. BEST PICTURE: “Boyhood” “Birdman” “The Imitation Game” “The Theory of Everything” “Gone Girl” “The Grand Budapest Hotel” “Selma” “American Sniper” “Nightcrawler” “Foxcatcher” Everybody expects “Boyhood,” “Birdman” and “The Imitation Game” to be nominated, and for one of them to win, and I agree with the consensus. Behind them come four films that have obvious Oscar cachet, none of which I really see being snubbed. After that it gets tougher. I think “Nightcrawler” has enough enthusiastic support to get through (though I didn’t love it); that “Foxcatcher” will get a nomination because of the trio of really interesting performances (even though many people didn’t exactly like the film); and that “American Sniper” was directed by Clint Eastwood (and will do great box office). But I could be wildly off – it could turn out that this year we have only six or seven nominees. My understanding is that to get onto the list of nominees you need a certain percentage of voters to place you first or close to it on their ballots. So the more consensus there is at the top in the initial balloting, the shorter the list of nominees will be. And this feels like a year where there could be a lot of consensus at the top. Or perhaps I’m right, and the people who like “Birdman” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” hated “Nightcrawler” and “Gone Girl” and vice versa, so that we have ten nominees. In which case my list above feels about right to me. BEST DIRECTOR Richard Linklater – “Boyhood” Alejandro González Iñárritu – “Birdman” Wes Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” Ava DuVernay, “Selma” Morten Tyldum, “The Imitation Game” I haven’t seen “The Imitation Game” yet, hence my low level of confidence in that final slot. I’m also aware that “Selma” has not set the world on fire, though I still think it has a constituency solid enough to get nominated. In any event, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a perennial like David Fincher or a young upstart like Damien Chazelle take one of those two slots. BEST ACTOR Michael Keaton – “Birdman” Eddie Redmayne – “Theory of Everything” Benedict Cumberbatch – “The Imitation Game” Steve Carell – “Foxcatcher” David Oyelowo – “Selma” Again, I haven’t seen three of these films (I only saw “Birdman” and “Foxcatcher”), so take that list with a grain of salt. There are a lot of other plausible contenders. But I think the Academy will want to reward Carell for doing excellent work way outside his usual box, and the Academy frequently likes actors who play historical figures. From the films I have seen that have an actual shot, I’d be very happy for Ralph Fiennes to get a nomination. I thought Jake Gyllenhaal did a fine job in “Nightcrawler” but I have some kind of grudge against that movie so I didn’t put him on the list, though he’s probably got at least as good a shot as Fiennes. BEST ACTRESS Julianne Moore – “Still Alice” Rosamund Pike – “Gone Girl” Reese Witherspoon – “Wild” Amy Adams – “Big Eyes” Jennifer Aniston – “Cake” I haven’t seen and don’t plan to see “Cake,” but people seem very eager to show how pleased they are with Aniston’s stretch. As for the win, everyone is saying Moore has this in the bag. BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR J. K. Simmons – “Whiplash” Ethan Hawke – “Boyhood” Ed Norton – “Birdman” Mark Ruffalo – “Foxcatcher” Josh Brolin – “Inherent Vice” I’ll be truly surprised if Simmons doesn’t win this – so many people seem to want him to. Josh Brolin is my wild card pick here; there’s not an obvious contender for the fourth slot. BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS Patricia Arquette – “Boyhood” Emma Stone – “Birdman” Keira Knightley – “The Imitation Game” Meryl Streep – “Into the Woods” Jessica Chastain – “A Most Violent Year” Patricia Arquette may have been my favorite thing in “Boyhood” – I hope she wins this. The others I’m all quite uncertain about. I’m basically assuming you have to nominate Meryl Streep and Jessica Chastain if you are presented with a remotely plausible reason to do so. BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo – “Birdman” Richard Linklater – “Boyhood” Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness – “The Grand Budapest Hotel” Mike Leigh – “Mr. Turner” JC Chandor – “A Most Violent Year” If I’m completely honest, I have to assume that “Nightcrawler” has a better shot than “Mr. Turner” or “A Most Violent Year.” But I did not much like that script, and I have great admiration for both Leigh and Chandor. So I’m voting my heart here rather than my head. BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY Graham Moore – “The Imitation Game” Anthony McCarten – “The Theory of Everything” Gillian Flynn – “Gone Girl” Damien Chazelle – “Whiplash” Nick Hornby – “Wild” I’m really hoping I got this one completely right. I think I might have. Not sure going further down the list will be all that meaningful – I’m assuming “Citizenfour” is the most-likely winner in the Best Documentary category, that “The Lego Movie” is the most-likely winner in the Best Animated Feature category, that “Birdman” is the most-likely winner for Cinematography, and that “Force Majeure” is the leader in the Best Foreign Language Film category. But the main category to watch this year is Best Editing. ]]>
(Review Source)
The American Conservative Staff
“[I]t may be said that the weary melancholy underlying Lawrence of Arabia stems from the stupefying apprehension that, whereas England may have been doomed to civilize the world, no power under heaven can civilize England.” —James Baldwin “I don’t really care what people think of me.” —Chris Kyle The New York Times review of “Lawrence of Arabia” from 1962 complains that we don’t really get to know the titular character, a fault Bosley Crowther blames on “the concept of telling the story of this self-tortured man against a background of action that has the characteristic of a mammoth Western film.” “American Sniper” feels the same way, both in character and background. For most people, consideration of the similarities between Western expansion and America’s permanent presence in the Middle East starts and ends with how one feels about “cowboy president” jokes. But in less self-conscious times, no less than the venerable Robert Kaplan once referred to Little Bighorn as “the 9/11 of its day.” In a 2004 Wall Street Journal article titled “Indian Country,” he referred to a new kind of small-scale independent warfare: An overlooked truth about the war on terrorism, and the war in Iraq in particular, is that they both arrived too soon for the American military: before it had adequately transformed itself from a dinosauric, Industrial Age beast to a light and lethal instrument skilled in guerrilla warfare, attuned to the local environment in the way of the 19th-century Apaches. My mention of the Apaches is deliberate. For in a world where mass infantry invasions are becoming politically and diplomatically prohibitive … the American military is back to the days of fighting the Indians. Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) represents something like this aspiration. He’s learned the Apache ways, you might say. Snipers operate in a fairly independent way, which fits his personality. Nicknamed “The Legend,” the deadliest sniper in American history, Kyle was on his first of four tours when President George W. Bush declared Iraq a free country, which, if you’re feeling cheeky, makes this a kind of cop movie. In his comments on “Lawrence of Arabia” in The Devil Finds Work, James Baldwin describes how the movie makes barbaric acts comprehensible. The famous “No prisoners!” moment of mass slaughter, he says, makes sense in the context of Lawrence being raped at the hands of the Turks. But there is no analogous moment in “American Sniper.” Chris Kyle’s humiliations are all vicarious—he joined up after the 1998 embassy bombings. The “No prisoners!” moment—the moment the audience is supposed to understand the rules are different—is the very first scene. It’s the one depicted in the trailer which (it isn’t giving too much away to say) ends in him shooting a child, then a woman, who threaten a convoy Kyle is protecting. But the fact remains that T.E. Lawrence probably wasn’t raped, Iraq didn’t have nuclear weapons, Chris Kyle probably lied about a lot of stuff, and he doesn’t actually shoot a kid in the semi-autobiography on which the movie is based. Towards the end of the movie, Kyle returns home and visits a psychiatrist, who says “the Navy has credited you with over 160 kills.” Actually, the Navy has credited him with 160 kills, with 255 claimed. “The thing that haunts me is all the guys I couldn’t save,” Cooper’s Kyle tells the doctor. Real Kyle, in the book, replies, “I only wish I had killed more.” It’s hard not to notice that these are opposites. Does this sort of thing matter? Be careful what you answer, because one’s opinion on “American Sniper” can be controversial. The usual suspects have dusted off a word they only use for things they don’t like, “glorify,” to describe how the film treats violence. The other usual suspects, happy to have Hollywood in their corner for once, have been celebrating the record-breaking opening weekend take of $90 million and six Oscar nominations. The savagery of the Iraqis is mostly taken for granted to have happened off-screen—we see what looks like a captured soldier, clearly tortured, hanging from the ceiling—except for a cartoonishly sadistic villain who tortures a child to death with a power drill. Understand, the terrorists do worse than waterboarding. Some reactions to “American Sniper” have cut across expected political loyalties. Jane Fonda, for example, seemed to sympathize with the movie’s portrayal of PTSD sufferers. And to be sure, the impacts of war on the warriors are not something the movie shies away from—another late scene shows Kyle taking disabled veterans shooting, which, if you know what happened to him, is somewhat tense. More interestingly, Bradley Cooper was listed as one of Politico’s “50 Politicos to Watch” in 2013. He’s appeared at a Center for American Progress event and seems to be quite close with the vice president. This is the star of a movie whose detractors our vigilant right-wing press has been keeping a running tally on. How about that? But the same incuriosity about causes and alternatives its critics condemn is what saves this film from a heavy-handed pro- or anti-war message. Alyssa Rosenberg at the Washington Post wrote that the movie is an object lesson in how the “fear of being seen as political can deaden a story.” There is an inevitability to Chris Kyle. It’s similar to other Clint Eastwood characters who are motivated by revenge, and on whom violence ends up taking a personal toll. “The woman was already dead,” Kyle writes of the encounter depicted in the first scene. “I was just making sure she didn’t take any Marines with her.” We were already in Iraq, I was just making sure we won. This makes for good, heroic—and unifying, if we can take box office numbers as proof of that—filmmaking. “American Sniper” is the first War on Terror film I can think of with a larger-than-life hero at the center of it. It’s much more fun to watch than, say, “Lone Survivor” or “The Hurt Locker.” The climactic fight takes place as a massive sandstorm rolls in; Kyle takes an impossibly long shot, killing his nemesis, a fellow sniper with Olympic shooting credentials, then his squad has to fight off baddies until the timed relief arrives. He calls his wife from the roof of the besieged building, in one of the movie’s less believable moments, to tell her he’s ready to go home. Kyle leaves his rifle in the dirt as he tries to catch a speeding MRAP, bringing a line at the beginning where his father tells him not to leave his rifle in the dirt full-circle. A timer, a villain, family-related moments of realization for the hero—in case you haven’t noticed, these are superhero boss battle tropes. Dramatizations and strategic editing are par for the course in filmmaking; it’s hard to blame Eastwood or screenwriter Jason Hall for these things. They chose to “print the legend,” or The Legend, as many writers have put it. Judgment calls were clearly necessary, because Chris Kyle himself was guilty of spinning some tall tales about how he employed his skills back home. He claimed to have picked off looters during Hurricane Katrina, as reported by the New Yorker, and to have shot two men in Texas who tried to carjack him. Neither of these stories has ever been substantiated. More definitively, a court found that a scene in the book where he punches out a man named “Scruff Face”—who he claimed later in an interview was Jesse Ventura, didn’t happen and constituted defamation. It’s easy to understand why a person would lie about having killed someone. It’s harder to understand why someone would claim to have killed more people than they actually did. To give Kyle the benefit of the doubt, the first two tales read like gung-ho one-upmanship taken too far, but the Ventura story is more complicated. Using a nickname in the book, only then to name the guy he claims to have punched in a televised interview suggests an ill-considered PR move to goose book sales. At the very least, Kyle’s fibs paint a less humble and more media-savvy picture than the one shown in the movie. Do they make him any less of a hero? Probably not. Should we fault “American Sniper” for not dealing with them? Perhaps, but the movie’s boosters would probably say that would have “politicized” it. Unfortunately, humans are political animals, and that’s inevitable: “[American Sniper] may inadvertently be the best argument most Americans will see for the premise of the Iraq war, because it has one small scene where a guy prepping Chris Kyle for his first mission points out … you’re facing basically the A list of the jihadists. … You go, ‘oh my gosh,’ this is fantastic, we’re sending the best of the best Americans to wipe out these bad guys who would, a la Paris today, be somewhere else …  I remember watching the movie thinking, ‘if only the Bush administration had made this case as well as Clint Eastwood just made it on the movie screen.’” —Michael Graham, Weekly Standard podcast, January 19, 2015 [emphasis added] Graham’s substantive point is complete horse-pucky. The years-long insurgency is proof that ordinary Iraqis were a lot more resistant to occupation than we expected them to be. Moreover, nobody who uses “American Sniper” to regurgitate decade-old Bush administration talking points should be allowed to complain about people who “politicize” stuff. To Graham’s editor Bill Kristol, Kyle’s widow is useful only as a prop to beat the administration over the head with. Maybe he thinks more reverent movies about Navy SEALs will give us the gumption to finally put “an end to evil.” But thrusting Taya Kyle onto the national stage to score cheap political points is small consolation for a dead husband, lost to the aftershocks of a war he never stopped defending. Whether or not you see this endless cowboys-and-Indians game as fated—Kaplan calls it “thankless”—there’s a certain self-fulfilling logic to it. To quote Kaplan from 2004: Indian Country has been expanding in recent years because of the security vacuum created by the collapse of traditional dictatorships and the emergence of new democracies—whose short-term institutional weaknesses provide whole new oxygen systems for terrorists. This is exactly the process American foreign policy has been speeding along, in both the Bush and Obama administrations. Then stories come along to help make the things we do comprehensible, and in that sense “American Sniper” is a successful movie. The Crockett Almanacs helped us conquer the frontier, never mind that Davy Crockett didn’t do most of that stuff. Little Bighorn convinced us Indians were savages. It’s pretty clear what role “American Sniper” is playing for some. J. Arthur Bloom is opinion editor at the Daily Caller and managing editor at Front Porch Republic. ]]>
(Review Source)
The American Conservative Staff
Art & Architecture Pop Culture I saw American Sniper today. Good movie. Not a great movie, but a good one. I deliberately avoided reading anything substantive about it prior to seeing the movie, because I didn’t want to be swayed by the controversy. The only thing I knew about it was that the New Yorker film critic David Denby called it both a pro-war and an anti-war film. And you know, that’s exactly what I thought coming out of the picture. I don’t get why so many people on my Facebook feed see it as a rah-rah patriotic movie. It’s not. There are a couple of moments in the film, towards the end, when characters close to Chris Kyle (the excellent Bradley Cooper) express doubt to him about his mission. His wife says that she and their children need him at home. A fellow soldier in Iraq admits to losing heart in their purpose there. Kyle reacts with empty slogans that he clearly believes because he can’t bear to think otherwise. But it’s not a standard left-wing movie by any means. These soldiers really are going up against some evil SOBs, people who need to be killed. Evil is real in this movie, and it can’t be explained away. In fact, I don’t know that the movie has much of a politics. The main takeaway for me was the cost of war on a soldier. It made me angrier at Bush, Rumsfeld, and the lot for putting true-believing, faithful soldiers like Chris Kyle into Iraq under false or foolish pretenses. What was that for, anyway? The movie says that you can go to war and kill evil people who need killing, and become an all-time legend as a warrior, and still end up a mess inside. I would say the film is pro-war in that it shows that sometimes evil must be confronted with nothing short of lethal force, and that soldiers often put themselves at great risk for each other. The film is anti-war in that it shows simplistic good-vs-evil narratives do not account for the emotional complexities of war, and that even the winners in a war are losers — and so are their families. Here is the last letter home from Navy SEAL Marc Lee, who was one of Kyle’s comrades. In the film, Kyle and his wife attend Lee’s funeral, where their hear Lee’s mother read part of his last letter home. In real life, the Kyles didn’t go to the funeral, but the letter is genuine. Here’s the full text. This letter is the real spirit of American Sniper — the film, I mean, not Chris Kyle. Marc Lee’s letter: Glory is something that some men chase and others find themselves stumbling upon, not expecting it to find them.  Either way it is a noble gesture that one finds bestowed upon them. My question is when does glory fade away and become a wrongful crusade, or an unjustified means by which consumes one completely? I have seen war. I have seen death, the sorrow that encompasses your entire being as a man breathes his last. I can only pray and hope that none of you will ever have to experience some of these things I have seen and felt here. I have felt fear and have felt adrenaline pump through my veins making me seem invincible. I will be honest and say that some of the things I have seen here are unjustified and uncalled for. However for the most part we are helping this country. It will take more years than most expect, but we will get Iraq to stand on its own feet. Most of what I have seen here I will never really mention or speak of, only due to the nature of those involved. I have seen a man give his food to a hungry child and family. Today I saw a hospital that most of us would refuse to receive treatment from. The filth and smell would allow most of us to not be able to stand to enter, let alone get medicine from.  However you will be relieved to know that coalition forces have started to provide security for and supply medicine and equipment to help aid in the cause. I have seen amazing things happen here; however I have seen the sad part of war too. I have seen the morals of a man who cares nothing of human life…I have seen hate towards a nation’s people who has never committed a wrong, except being born of a third world, ill educated and ignorant to western civilization. It is not everybody who feels this way only a select few but it brings questions to mind. Is it ok for one to consider themselves superior to another race? Surprising we are not a stranger to this sort of attitude. Meaning that in our own country we discriminate against someone for what nationality they are, their education level, their social status. We distinguish our role models as multimillion dollar sports heroes or talented actors and actress who complain about not getting millions of dollars more then they are currently getting paid. Our country is a great country, don’t get me wrong on this, otherwise none of us would be living there. My point of this is how can we come over here and help a less than fortunate country without holding contempt or hate towards them if we can’t do it in our country. I try to do my part over here, but the truth is over there, United States, I do nothing but take. Ask yourself when was the last time you donated clothes that you hadn’t worn out. When was the last time you paid for a random stranger’s cup of coffee, meal or maybe even a tank of gas? When was the last time you helped a person with the groceries into or out of their car? Think to yourself and wonder what it would feel like if when the bill for the meal came and you were told it was already paid for. More random acts of kindness like this would change our country and our reputation as a country. It is not unknown to most of us that the rest of the world looks at us with doubt towards our humanity and morals. I am not here to preach or to say look at me, because I am just as at fault as the next person. I find that being here makes me realize the great country we have and the obligation we have to keep it that way. The 4th has just come and gone and I received many emails thanking me for helping keep America great and free. I take no credit for the career path I have chosen; I can only give it to those of you who are reading this, because each one of you has contributed to me and who I am. However what I do over here is only a small percent of what keeps our country great. I think the truth to our greatness is each other. Purity, morals and kindness, passed down to each generation through example. So to all my family and friends, do me a favor and pass on the kindness, the love, the precious gift of human life to each other so that when your children come into contact with a great conflict that we are now faced with here in Iraq, that they are people of humanity, of pure motives, of compassion. This is our real part to keep America free! HAPPY 4th Love Ya Marc Lee P.S. Half way through the deployment can’t wait to see all of your faces Did you see the film? What did you think? ]]>
(Review Source)
The American Conservative Staff
War Pop Culture John Podhoretz has a very fine review of American Sniper. I think he’s hit on why the film has been so successful. I hadn’t thought of it this way. Excerpt: American Sniper bowls you over because it succeeds dramatically in making Chris Kyle’s story a parallel of the American experience in Iraq. The mission we see Chris embark upon is both practical and idealistic. The insurgents and their leaders are dreadful and monstrous and deserve their fates. The men on the front lines show resiliency and fortitude and immense seriousness of purpose. But the cause runs afoul of realities far above the pay grades of Kyle and his brethren. They did everything they were asked to do and more. Yet they would never taste victory. This is the bitter truth about Iraq for all of us—whether you believe fighting the war was a mistake in the first place or you view the ultimate failure to have come about as a result of the political mishandling of the turnaround in the war’s fortunes after the 2007-08 surge. In this way, American Sniper is not only apolitical, but also antipolitical. It is the story of the effect of the war on the people who fought itand those they love—not on the country, not on Iraq, and not on America’s position in the world. And that is one of the key reasons for the film’s astonishing and unprecedented success. Read the whole thing. I dissent from its final line, not quoted here — and fair warning, readers: I’m not going to let the comments section on this post become another familiar argument about the Iraq War, neocons, etc. — but this review really does say something important about this movie — a film that both liberals and conservatives should see. There’s something in it to discomfit everyone, in the right way. ]]>
(Review Source)
The American Conservative Staff
“I hated the damn savages… I could give a flying f*** about the Iraqis,” wrote the late Chris Kyle in his 2013 memoir, American Sniper. As the Clint Eastwood-directed biopic about Kyle continues to do big box office, The Guardian’s Lindy West asked why so many were celebrating a “hate filled killer.” West wasn’t the only one who wondered why so many were proud of this “psychopath.” National Review’s Ian Tuttle notes how some of Kyle’s controversial comments may have been taken out of context. For example, Kyle actually wrote, “I hated the damn savages I’d been fighting,” (emphasis added) which is significantly different from how West’s edit portrays him. As for not giving a “flying f***” about Iraqis, here is the entire quote: I didn’t risk my life to bring democracy to Iraq. I risked my life for my buddies, to protect my friends and fellow countrymen. I went to war for my country, not Iraq. My country sent me out there so that bullsh*t wouldn’t make its way back to our shores. I never once fought for the Iraqis. I could give a flying f*** about them. I have long believed the Iraq War was one of the worst foreign-policy blunders in U.S. history. Watching “American Sniper,” Kyle seemed to me as much a victim of the horrible decision to invade Iraq as the Iraqis. Rod Dreher is right: “The main takeaway for me was the cost of war on a soldier. It made me angrier at Bush, Rumsfeld, and the lot for putting true-believing, faithful soldiers like Chris Kyle into Iraq under false or foolish pretenses.” In the film, Kyle is not a knuckle-dragging murderer who gets off on killing “brown” Arabs, as some have alleged, but a soldier who wrestles tremendously with his military duties and is never really comfortable with his fame as America’s “most lethal sniper.” Kyle seems sure in his rhetoric about fighting for his country and getting the “bad guys,” but his everyday environment, both in Iraq and stateside, is morally complex. Kyle and his fellow soldiers do wonder about the point of their mission, particularly as the years wear on. Why are they there? What are they trying to accomplish? “What was that for, anyway?” Rod Dreher asks. Kyle didn’t give a “flying f***” about Iraqis because his first concern was his “buddies” and his countrymen. Likewise, many Iraqis didn’t care for the U.S. soldiers in their midst because of what the war had done to their families and country. Both of these different, yet same, perspectives are healthy and normal patriotic sentiments. Both emanate from people who are culturally removed from each other, if not for war. It is this detachment that makes it easier to villainize the other side. In the movie and probably in real life, this becomes harder to do as U.S. soldiers and Iraqis see each other face-to-face daily. Demonizing either U.S. soldiers or ordinary Iraqis is much easier for those who didn’t have to live the war up close, or at all, but only experience it through Fox News pundits or op-eds in The Guardian. Every Arab or Muslim is not a terrorist, though for many hawks there is a certain moral comfort in subscribing to this kind of bigotry. Every U.S. soldier is not a “murderer,” “psychopath” or “baby killer” (going back to the Vietnam-era), though antiwar critics get a certain satisfaction with these blanket slanders. The truth is more complex. It almost always is. Simplifying it often only compounds the tragedy for those who’ve suffered, but strengthens attitudes that can lead to policies that result in more suffering. Many Americans, perhaps many fans of Chris Kyle and “American Sniper,” really do think of Iraqis or Muslims in general not as people, but as terrorists or terrorist sympathizers. Yet many innocents Muslims and Arabs are as much victims, of both American foreign policy and Islamic extremists in their midst, as the innocent people murdered on 9/11. They didn’t ask for this chaos and tragedy in their lives, but they find themselves damaged by it, nonetheless. Most U.S. military members are regular, morally upstanding people who are thrust into extreme circumstances due to their government’s unwise foreign policy decisions. Yes, they voluntarily signed up, whether out of patriotic duty or economic necessity. Still, it wasn’t Americans soldiers’ decision to invade Iraq. It wasn’t Chris Kyle who sneakily tried to connect the 9/11 attacks with Saddam Hussein, as Dreher notes. Kyle was a victim of this deception as were his brothers and sisters in arms. Those who constantly argue against a habitually aggressive and mindless U.S. foreign policy insist that we must consider what war does to those living in the Middle East on a personal, emotional level, and also how this affects the long term security interests of the United States. “Blowback” is real, and yet it is a hard sell for many Americans, particularly because Middle Eastern culture is still something remote for most living in the United States. Many in the U.S. more often see that region and the people in it as an inconsequential blip on CNN, not as individuals with families who share the same life concerns as Americans. Chris Kyle, on the other hand, was all-American. Those who admire Kyle probably know people like him. Culturally, Kyle reminded me of me. I was born the same year as Kyle, come from a middle-class background, spent the better part of my life in bars chasing girls, have a distinct Southern drawl, and my rhetoric can be rough and undisciplined. Watching “American Sniper,” I imagined what I would have done if I found myself in the same situation. I really don’t know. My current political beliefs aside—senator and Vietnam veteran Jim Webb once called the battlefield the most apolitical environment he’s ever experienced—I am not confident my behavior or attitude would have been different from Kyle’s. Kyle, like many Americans, wants to believe his government is right but becomes more confused as the war wears on. He joined the military to do his duty and serve his country. His certainty dampens and then deteriorates, as does his mental state while his family life lies in tatters. Chris Kyle wasn’t alone. The following is a private discussion with a woman who generally holds antiwar views that helps shed light on what many military members and their families have gone through post 9/11. She wished to remain anonymous and this is used with her permission: My brother did five tours between Iraq and Afghanistan. He says he did a lot of things we know he didn’t do, and suffers from insane PTSD to the point that he and I hardly speak and when we do he’s irrational to the point of distraction. But he’ll tell you some crazy stories, has some serious violence issues, and probably could be classified as the same type of “jerk, liar, and murderer” that Chris Kyle is accused of being. These guys come back messed the hell up. Some figure s**t out, others don’t. Sometimes the bragging is their way of dealing or staying numb or hiding. I’ll pass on making judgment because I sure as hell wouldn’t be able to handle what they went through and I hope one day my brother returns to a piece of who he was before. How many U.S. military members and their families see their own struggles reflected in the saga of Chris Kyle? War critics who now attack Kyle and arguably, by extension, the U.S. military, don’t sound much different than hawks who revel in casting all Middle Easterners in the worst possible light. There is an ugly crudeness to being anti-Muslim. The same can be true of being anti-military too. Many war critics are careful to explain the context of anti-American sentiment made by some in the Arab world, that certain U.S. policies naturally provoke emotion and extreme rhetoric. These critics should approach Kyle and some of his controversial statements with the same depth, consideration, and judgment. Being antiwar can, and should, also mean being pro-soldier. “American Sniper” should be instructive in this regard, despite attempts by left and right to see only what suits their ideological purposes. Director Clint Eastwood says his movie makes “the biggest antiwar statement any film can.” Ultimately, “American Sniper” is about what the Iraq War did to Chris Kyle and his family. He wasn’t just some cocksure cartoon. He was a man. And he was a mess. Jack Hunter is the editor of Rare.us and the former new media director for Sen. Rand Paul. ]]>
(Review Source)
The American Conservative Staff
(”American Sniper” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Culture war Decline and Fall Liberalism Pop Culture The Body The left-wing writer Chris Hedges lays into Fifty Shades of Grey. Excerpts: “Fifty Shades of Grey,” the book and the movie, is a celebration of the sadism that dominates nearly every aspect of American culture and lies at the core of pornography and global capitalism. It glorifies our dehumanization of women. It champions a world devoid of compassion, empathy and love. It eroticizes hypermasculine power that carries out the abuse, degradation, humiliation and torture of women whose personalities have been removed, whose only desire is to debase themselves in the service of male lust. The film, like “American Sniper,” unquestioningly accepts a predatory world where the weak and the vulnerable are objects to exploit while the powerful are narcissistic and violent demigods. It blesses this capitalist hell as natural and good. “Pornography,” Robert Jensen writes, “is what the end of the world looks like.” We are blinded by self-destructive fantasy. An array of amusements and spectacles, including TV “reality” shows, huge sporting events, social media, porn (which earns at least twice what Hollywood movies generate), alluring luxury products, drugs, alcohol and magic Jesus, offers enticing exit doors from reality. We yearn to be rich, powerful and celebrities. And those we must trample to build our pathetic little empires are seen as deserving their fate. That nearly all of us will never attain these ambitions is emblematic of our collective self-delusion and the effectiveness of a culture awash in manipulation and lies. Porn seeks to eroticize this sadism. … In porn, human imperfections do not exist. The oversized silicone breasts, the pouting, gel-inflated lips, the bodies sculpted by plastic surgeons, the drug-induced erections that never subside and the shaved pubic regions—which cater to porn’s pedophilia—turn performers into pieces of plastic. Smell, sweat, breath, heartbeats and touch are erased along with tenderness. Women in porn are packaged commodities. They are pleasure dolls and sexual puppets. They are stripped of true emotions. Porn is not about sex, if one defines sex as a mutual act between two partners, but about masturbation, a solitary auto-arousal devoid of intimacy and love. The cult of the self—that is the essence of porn—lies at the core of corporate culture. Porn, like global capitalism, is where human beings are sent to die. More: There are few people on the left who grasp the immense danger of allowing pornography to replace intimacy, sex and love. [Emphasis mine. — RD] Much of the left believes that pornography is about free speech, as if it is unacceptable to financially exploit and physically abuse a woman in a sweatshop in China but acceptable to do so on the set of a porn film, as if torture is wrong in Abu Ghraib, where prisoners were sexually humiliated and abused as if they were on a porn set, but permissible on commercial porn sites. Hedges says that today’s feminists have betrayed feminism. Contemporary feminism, he says, is defined by culturally influential female sellouts: A new wave of feminists, who have betrayed the iconic work of radicals such as Andrea Dworkin, defends porn as a form of sexual liberation and self-empowerment. These “feminists,” grounded in Michel Foucault and Judith Butler, are stunted products of neoliberalism and postmodernism. Feminism, for them, is no longer about the liberation of women who are oppressed; it is defined by a handful of women who are successful, powerful and wealthy—or, as in the case of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” able to snag a rich and powerful man. A woman wrote the “Fifty Shades” book, as well as the screenplay. A woman directed the film. A woman studio head bought the movie. This collusion by women is part of the internalization of oppression and sexual violence that have their roots in porn. Dworkin understood. She wrote that “the new pornography is a vast graveyard where the Left has gone to die. The Left cannot have its whores and its politics too.” I met Gail Dines, one of the most important radicals in the country, in a small cafe in Boston on Tuesday. She is the author of “Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality” and a professor of sociology and women’s studies at Wheelock College. Dines, along with a handful of others including Jensen, fearlessly decry a culture that is as depraved as Caligula’s Rome. “The porn industry has hijacked the sexuality of an entire culture and is laying waste to a whole generation of boys,” she warned. “And when you lay waste to a generation of boys, you lay waste to a generation of girls.” Read the whole thing. It’s a harsh column, with some sick-making details. I am quite sure that I am the polar opposite of Chris Hedges and Gail Dines on many issues, but on this one, I’m right with them — and I applaud these voices from the Left, which, as Hedges laments, are distressingly rare. Dines says that the mainstreaming of sadomasochism via Fifty Shades of Grey, as well as the ubiquity of pornography online, and its increasingly violent and perverted nature, is initiating an entire generation of boys into seeing sexual torture not as perversion, but as just one more way to experience pleasure. ]]>
(Review Source)
The American Conservative Staff
In the age of the all-volunteer military and an endless stream of war zone losses and ties, it can be hard to keep Homeland enthusiasm up for perpetual war. After all, you don’t get a 9/11 every year to refresh those images of the barbarians at the airport departure gates. In the meantime, Americans are clearly finding it difficult to remain emotionally roiled up about our confusing wars in Syria and Iraq, the sputtering one in Afghanistan, and various raids, drone attacks, and minor conflicts elsewhere. Fortunately, we have just the ticket, one that has been punched again and again for close to a century: Hollywood war movies (to which the Pentagon is always eager to lend a helping hand). “American Sniper”, which started out with the celebratory tagline “the most lethal sniper in U.S. history” and now has the tagline “the most successful war movie of all time,” is just the latest in a long line of films that have kept Americans on their war game. Think of them as war porn, meant to leave us perpetually hyped up. Now, grab some popcorn and settle back to enjoy the show. There’s Only One War Movie Wandering around YouTube recently, I stumbled across some good old government-issue propaganda. It was a video clearly meant to stir American emotions and prepare us for a long struggle against a determined, brutal, and barbaric enemy whose way of life is a challenge to the most basic American values. Here’s some of what I learned: our enemy is engaged in a crusade against the West; wants to establish a world government and make all of us bow down before it; fights fanatically, beheads prisoners, and is willing to sacrifice the lives of its followers in inhuman suicide attacks. Though its weapons are modern, its thinking and beliefs are 2,000 years out of date and inscrutable to us. Of course, you knew there was a trick coming, right? This little U.S. government-produced film wasn’t about the militants of the Islamic State. Made by the U.S. Navy in 1943, its subject was “Our Enemy the Japanese.” Substitute “radical Islam” for “emperor worship,” though, and it still makes a certain propagandistic sense. While the basics may be largely the same (us versus them, good versus evil), modern times do demand something slicker than the video equivalent of an old newsreel. The age of the Internet, with its short attention spans and heightened expectations of cheap thrills, calls for a higher class of war porn, but as with that 1943 film, it remains remarkable how familiar what’s being produced remains. Like propaganda films and sexual pornography, Hollywood movies about America at war have changed remarkably little over the years. Here’s the basic formula, from John Wayne in the World War II-era “Sands of Iwo Jima“ to today’s “American Sniper“: American soldiers are good, the enemy bad. Nearly every war movie is going to have a scene in which Americans label the enemy as “savages,” “barbarians,” or “bloodthirsty fanatics,” typically following a “sneak attack” or a suicide bombing. Our country’s goal is to liberate; the enemy’s, to conquer. Such a framework prepares us to accept things that wouldn’t otherwise pass muster. Racism naturally gets a bye; as they once were “Japs” (not Japanese), they are now “hajjis” and “ragheads” (not Muslims or Iraqis). It’s beyond question that the ends justify just about any means we might use, from the nuclear obliteration of two cities of almost no military significance to the grimmest sort of torture. In this way, the war film long ago became a moral free-fire zone for its American characters. American soldiers believe in God and Country, in “something bigger than themselves,” in something “worth dying for,” but without ever becoming blindly attached to it. The enemy, on the other hand, is blindly devoted to a religion, political faith, or dictator, and it goes without saying (though it’s said) that his God—whether an emperor, communism, or Allah—is evil. As one critic put it back in 2007 with just a tad of hyperbole, “In every movie Hollywood makes, every time an Arab utters the word Allah … something blows up.” War films spend no significant time on why those savages might be so intent on going after us. The purpose of American killing, however, is nearly always clearly defined. It’s to “save American lives,” those over there and those who won’t die because we don’t have to fight them over here. Saving such lives explains American war: in Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker“, for example, the main character defuses roadside bombs to make Iraq safer for other American soldiers. In the recent World War II-themed “Fury“, Brad Pitt similarly mows down ranks of Germans to save his comrades. Even torture is justified, as in “Zero Dark Thirty“, in the cause of saving our lives from their nightmarish schemes. In “American Sniper”, shooter Chris Kyle focuses on the many American lives he’s saved by shooting Iraqis; his PTSD is, in fact, caused by his having “failed” to have saved even more. Hey, when an American kills in war, he’s the one who suffers the most, not that mutilated kid or his grieving mother—I got nightmares, man! I still see their faces! Our soldiers are human beings with emotionally engaging backstories, sweet gals waiting at home, and promising lives ahead of them that might be cut tragically short by an enemy from the gates of hell. The bad guys lack such backstories. They are anonymous fanatics with neither a past worth mentioning nor a future worth imagining. This is usually pretty blunt stuff. Kyle’s nemesis in “American Sniper”, for instance, wears all black. Thanks to that, you know he’s an insta-villain without the need for further information. And speaking of lack of a backstory, he improbably appears in the film both in the Sunni city of Fallujah and in Sadr City, a Shia neighborhood in Baghdad, apparently so super-bad that his desire to kill Americans overcomes even Iraq’s mad sectarianism. It is fashionable for our soldiers, having a kind of depth the enemy lacks, to express some regrets, a dollop of introspection, before (or after) they kill. In “American Sniper”, while back in the U.S. on leave, the protagonist expresses doubts about what he calls his “work.” (No such thoughts are in the book on which the film is based.) Of course, he then goes back to Iraq for three more tours and over two more hours of screen time to amass his 160 “confirmed kills.” Another staple of such films is the training montage. Can a young recruit make it? Often he is the Fat Kid who trims down to his killing weight, or the Skinny Kid who muscles up, or the Quiet Kid who emerges bloodthirsty. (This has been a trope of sexual porn films, too: the geeky looking guy, mocked by beautiful women, who turns out to be a superstar in bed.) The link, up front or implied, between sexuality, manhood, and war is a staple of the form. As part of the curious PTSD recovery plan he develops, for example, Kyle volunteers to teach a paraplegic vet in a wheelchair to snipe. After his first decent shot rings home, the man shouts, “I feel like I got my balls back!” Our soldiers, anguished souls that they are, have no responsibility for what they do once they’ve been thrown into our wars. No baby-killers need apply in support of America’s post-Vietnam, guilt-free mantra, “Hate the war, love the warrior.” In the film “First Blood“, for example, John Rambo is a Vietnam veteran who returns home a broken man. He finds his war buddy dead from Agent Orange-induced cancer and is persecuted by the very Americans whose freedom he believed he had fought for. Because he was screwed over in The ‘Nam, the film gives him a free pass for his homicidal acts, including a two-hour murderous rampage through a Washington State town. The audience is meant to see Rambo as a noble, sympathetic character. He returns for more personal redemption in later films to rescue American prisoners of war left behind in Southeast Asia. For war films, ambiguity is a dirty word. Americans always win, even when they lose in an era in which, out in the world, the losses are piling up. And a win is a win, even when its essence is one-sided bullying as in “Heartbreak Ridge“, the only movie to come out of the ludicrous invasion of Grenada. And a loss is still a win in “Black Hawk Down“, set amid the disaster of Somalia, which ends with scenes of tired warriors who did the right thing. “Argo“—consider it honorary war porn—reduces the debacle of years of U.S. meddling in Iran to a high-fiving hostage rescue. All it takes these days to turn a loss into a win is to zoom in tight enough to ignore defeat. In “American Sniper”, the disastrous occupation of Iraq is shoved offstage so that more Iraqis can die in Kyle’s sniper scope. In “Lone Survivor“, a small American “victory” is somehow dredged out of hopeless Afghanistan because an Afghan man takes a break from being droned to save the life of a SEAL. In sum: gritty, brave, selfless men, stoic women waiting at home, noble wounded warriors, just causes, and the necessity of saving American lives. Against such a lineup, the savage enemy is a crew of sitting ducks who deserve to die. Everything else is just music, narration, and special effects. War pornos, like their oversexed cousins, are all the same movie. A Fantasy That Can Change Reality But it’s just a movie, right? Your favorite shoot-em-up makes no claims to being a documentary. We all know one American can’t gun down 50 bad guys and walk away unscathed, in the same way he can’t bed 50 partners without getting an STD. It’s just entertainment. So what? So what do you, or the typical 18-year-old considering military service, actually know about war on entering that movie theater? Don’t underestimate the degree to which such films can help create broad perceptions of what war’s all about and what kind of people fight it. Those lurid on-screen images, updated and reused so repetitively for so many decades, do help create a self-reinforcing, common understanding of what happens “over there,” particularly since what we are shown mirrors what most of us want to believe anyway. No form of porn is about reality, of course, but that doesn’t mean it can’t create realities all its own. War films have the ability to bring home emotionally a glorious fantasy of America at war, no matter how grim or gritty any of these films may look. War porn can make a young man willing to die before he’s 20. Take my word for it: as a diplomat in Iraq I met young people in uniform suffering from the effects of all this. Such films also make it easier for politicians to sweet-talk the public into supporting conflict after conflict, even as sons and daughters continue to return home damaged or dead and despite the country’s near-complete record of geopolitical failures since September 2001. Funny thing: “American Sniper” was nominated for an Academy Award for best picture as Washington went back to war in Iraq in what you’d have thought would be an unpopular struggle. Learning From the Exceptions You can see a lot of war porn and stop with just your toes in the water, thinking you’ve gone swimming. But eventually you should go into the deep water of the “exceptions,” because only there can you confront the real monsters. There are indeed exceptions to war porn, but don’t fool yourself, size matters. How many people have seen “American Sniper”, “The Hurt Locker”, or “Zero Dark Thirty”? By comparison, how many saw the antiwar Iraq War film “Battle for Haditha“, a lightly fictionalized, deeply unsettling drama about an American massacre of innocent men, women, and children in retaliation for a roadside bomb blast? Timing matters, too, when it comes to the few mainstream exceptions. John Wayne’s “The Green Berets“, a pro-Vietnam War film, came out in 1968 as that conflict was nearing its bloody peak and resistance at home was growing. (“The Green Berets” gets a porn bonus star, as the grizzled Wayne persuades a lefty journalist to alter his negative views on the war.) “Platoon“, with its message of waste and absurdity, had to wait until 1986, more than a decade after the war ended. In propaganda terms, think of this as controlling the narrative. One version of events dominates all others and creates a reality others can only scramble to refute. The exceptions do, however, reveal much about what we don’t normally see of the true nature of American war. They are uncomfortable for any of us to watch, as well as for military recruiters, parents sending a child off to war, and politicians trolling for public support for the next crusade. War is not a two-hour-and-12-minute hard-on. War is what happens when the rules break down and, as fear displaces reason, nothing too terrible is a surprise. The real secret of war for those who experience it isn’t the visceral knowledge that people can be filthy and horrible, but that you, too, can be filthy and horrible. You don’t see much of that on the big screen. The Long Con Of course, there are elements of “nothing new” here. The Romans undoubtedly had their version of war porn that involved mocking the Gauls as subhumans. Yet in 21st-century America, where wars are undeclared and Washington is dependent on volunteers for its new foreign legion, the need to keep the public engaged and filled with fear over our enemies is perhaps more acute than ever. So here’s a question: if the core propaganda messages the U.S. government promoted during World War II are nearly identical to those pushed out today about the Islamic State, and if Hollywood’s war films, themselves a particularly high-class form of propaganda, have promoted the same false images of Americans in conflict from 1941 to the present day, what does that tell us? Is it that our varied enemies across nearly three-quarters of a century of conflict are always unbelievably alike, or is it that when America needs a villain, it always goes to the same script? Peter Van Buren blew the whistle on State Department waste and mismanagement during the Iraqi reconstruction in his first book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. A Tom Dispatch regular, he writes about current events at his blog, We Meant Well. His latest book is Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99Percent. Copyright 2015 Peter Van Buren ]]>
(Review Source)
The American Conservative Staff
(”American Sniper” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Nations should only go to war when necessary. If only that were as obvious to everyone as it sounds. Yet history, including American history, has few examples of “necessary” wars. It always seems so easy and exciting at first; so much to gain and so little to lose. Nothing has changed that dynamic; indeed, Hollywood pushes in the opposite direction as it’s doing even now with “American Sniper.” But if there’s one countermeasure you can almost always count on it’s this: real war correspondence. The kind that describes or visually depicts the awful brutality, the pain, the waste of war. All war. Which is why, especially when the U.S. media are cutting budgets for overseas reporting of any kind, Bill O’Reilly’s “faux pas” really matters. The only real “pay” in war correspondence is the reporter’s gratification. That increases correspondingly with the importance and danger of the job. It kept poor depressed reluctant Ernie Pyle going right until a Japanese machine gun blew his head open. He never wanted to go to Japan; he wanted to go home. I know whereof I speak. I’ve been embedded three times in Iraq, once in Afghanistan. No combat injuries, but I suffered a horrible war-related injury in Fallujah leading to seven surgeries, plus acquired two partially paralyzed toes in Afghanistan. But I chose the most dangerous assignments I could get. My first firefight was with Seal Team Three of “American Sniper” fame during the Battle of Ramadi in 2006, viewable on YouTube. My two journalist predecessors with Task Force Currahee in Ramadi were shot by snipers, though both survived, and my Marine public affairs contact and the executive officer of the task force were both blown up. Which is why it was worth it to me to tell their stories. I still get thankful emails from those who fought there and their families, including one last week from some ex-SEALs; I’ve given solace to parents of the fallen; and I’ve conveyed the sadness and waste of war. See if you can get through my article on SEAL Michael Monsoor, who won the Medal of Honor by throwing himself on a grenade when he was the only person in position to save himself, without weeping. I can’t. That’s what war is about. It’s what war reporting is about. Or supposed to be. That was the problem with Brian Williams’s claim to have been fired at, though he truly did enter a war zone. And all the more with Bill O’Reilly, who never got closer than 1,200 miles away. Over and over, as the instigating Mother Jones article showed often in videos, O’Reilly made such claims as “I’ve reported on the ground in active war zones from El Salvador to the Falklands,” and “I’ve covered wars, okay? I’ve been there. The Falklands, Northern Ireland, the Middle East. I’ve almost been killed three times, okay.” (Emphasis added.) On his own Fox News program in 2013, as this video clip shows, O’Reilly declares, “I was in a situation one time in a war zone in Argentina in the Falklands where my photographer got run down and hit his head and was bleeding from the ear on the concrete and the army was chasing us and I had to make a decision and I dragged him off…” (Emphasis added.) Regarding his near-death experiences, it sounds like a little kid demanding everyone look at him as he rides his bicycle with no hands. I was sniped at, machine-gunned, mortared, and came within inches of stepping on a pressure-plate IED invisible under filthy water. But I don’t talk about it except in reference to those I reported on, and this is my first mention ever of the IED. Real combat reporters don’t make such boasts. The closest O’Reilly ever got to the Falklands was Buenos Aires, about 1,200 miles away. Now, ignoring all of the above, he boldly claims, “I was not on the Falkland Islands and I never said I was.” Okey-doke. Then rather than trying to put himself into the war, O’Reilly made an incredible effort to bring the war to him—to convert Buenos Aires into an “active war zone” and “combat situation.” Sorry, but a violent protest that concerns a war doesn’t qualify for either of the above assertions. The Kent State riot had considerable shooting and deaths. But a war zone? Yet even the Buenos Aires violence he describes can neither be verified by people today nor by reports at the time. In his 2003 book The No Spin Zone he declares, “A major riot ensued and many were killed. I was right in the middle of it and nearly died of a heart attack when a soldier, standing about ten feet away, pointed his automatic weapon directly at my head.” Apparently that was one of his three near-deaths. In another video clip at Mother Jones, O’Reilly declared, “I was out there pretty much by myself because the other CBS news correspondents were hiding in the hotel.” He said soldiers “were just gunning these people down, shooting them down in the streets” with “real bullets.” But lots of reporters were there, and as one former fellow CBS staffer of O’Reilly put it, “Not only didn’t I hear any shots, I didn’t see any ambulances … . All of the things you’d expect to see if anybody had been shot.” O’Reilly countered that by posting what he called “the video.” But it depicted no shootings, nor was there any mention in the voiceover. Not even references to “fake bullets.” That’s the best he could do. Now the Web is now flooded with footage from that night from correspondents whom O’Reilly claims “were hiding.” None shows shooting or deaths or had voiceovers indicating as much. Finally, of course, the cameraman rescue was fabricated. That individual won’t talk, but other CBS staffers told CNN they remembered no injury, and no injury claim was filed. So 1) O’Reilly repeatedly claimed he was in the Falklands; 2) He now claims he never said that; 3) He was not in a combat situation or zone or anything resembling it; and 4) Nobody remembers his rescuing anybody. But besides all that… It’s now been exposed that O’Reilly falsely claimed to have been at the Florida house of a CIA informant related to the Kennedy assassination when the informant committed suicide, and that he was not attacked during the 1992 L.A. riots as asserted. Bad, but not war-related. Not so for the more recent revelation that, even by his own words, the four Salvadoran nuns he said he witnessed being shot point blank in the head were killed the year before he arrived, and his false claim to have seen “Irish terrorists kill” people in Northern Ireland. (He did see photos.) Bill O’Reilly surely believes this is all about him. It’s not. It’s bad enough that more and more of our war “reporting” is coming from writers at desks in Washington and New York but all the worse to have what remains diluted by falsehoods by bloviating braggarts. And no, it’s not a “bye” that he’s an opinion commentator. People expect facts to underlie opinion. You’re reading an opinion piece. Such misrepresentations do “severe damage” to journalistic credibility, Amy McCullough, president of Military Reporters and Editors, told the left-wing site Media Matters. Sig Christenson, a founding member of Military Reporters and Editors who has covered Iraq and Afghanistan warfare for the San Antonio Express-News, told the same site, “I’m concerned about the damage this is doing to journalists everywhere.” Said Christenson, “When people see these stories and then they are called into question it makes the rest of us look bad … . If I am introduced as someone who was in combat will people even believe it?” (Hint: Upload your video to YouTube and have a famous general praise it, as David Petraeus did mine.) We desperately need more people willing to risk head loppings, bullets, and IEDs, plus the diseases and accidents that have always plagued war zones. (The highly-respected Atlantic editor Michael Kelly died when his Humvee flipped into a canal; he’s just as dead as if he took a bullet.) We desperately need their perspectives to counter every “American Sniper” book and movie, every new shoot-em-up video game. If we end up deciding to go back to a full-fledged ground war in the Middle East, probably the only way to defeat ISIS, let it be in the full knowledge of what that will entail. To allow war correspondence to be devalued like Venezuelan currency is a disservice to all war reporters, and a disaster for all of us. Michael Fumento is a veteran of the 27th Engineer Battalion (Combat)(Airborne) and embedded three times in Iraq and once in Afghanistan. He is a journalist, author, and attorney. ]]>
(Review Source)
The American Conservative Staff
Few these days will admit to supporting the 2003 Iraq invasion, especially given that we now know that it helped give rise to ISIS. But the forerunner and current ally of ISIS was al-Qaeda in Iraq [AQI], bad people defeated by sometimes reluctant heroes in places the Baghdad-centric media avoided. I know; I have both celebrated and suffered with them. And I now suffer disgust at how Clint Eastwood used one of them—deeply troubled and flawed—and denigrated the others for a box-office and Oscar bonanza. I was embedded twice with SEAL Team Three, American Sniper author Chris Kyle’s unit, as a photo-journalist in Task Force Currahee. At that time it was deployed to what was the headquarters of AQI and perhaps the most violent part of most dangerous city in the world, during what’s now known as The Battle of Ramadi. My first firefight was with ST3; like everything else these days you can watch it on YouTube. Ramadi claimed the lives of the first four SEALs to die in Iraq; my two journalist predecessors were both shot by snipers; an IED claimed my own public affairs “handler,” Marine Maj. Megan McClung. I escaped injury during both embeds, but my previous one in Fallujah led to a horrific noncombat injury and seven surgeries. All of which is to say that I’ve got a stake in making sure that the story of the warriors I knew is told the right way—the truthful way. Which brings me to “American Sniper.” The most financially successful war movie ever made, and nominated for six Oscars including Best Picture (it won one), “American Sniper” is a spectacular, wonderfully-scripted, well-acted film. And an awful one. Allegedly based on Chris Kyle’s best-selling book, almost all of the movie’s overlap is with the nonmilitary aspects of the text, such as his relationship with his wife. When it comes to Kyle’s Iraq experience, the film directly contradicts the book in important ways, most notably in turning a psychopathic killer and liar into an uber-patriotic warrior with superhuman abilities. In the movie Kyle is clearly distressed by the need to kill, especially when the victims include civilians and you can see them close enough to count missing teeth. But here’s what Kyle wrote in his book: “I loved what I did, I still do … I’m not lying or exaggerating to say it was fun.” You could accept the movie portrayal that he loved protecting his fellow soldiers until that very last word. But killing people as part of your job—as it was part of mine as a paratrooper—doesn’t allow you to consider it a thrill ride. Taking a human life is so against our nature that some scholars believe the vast majority of trained American soldiers in past wars have been unable to do it, rather only providing suppressive fire, at best. One of my friends from Ramadi is so haunted by the four men he killed—three while I was with him—that he tattooed their skulls onto his arms and still has nightmares. Elite training and experience enable you to kill; they don’t make it a carnival ride. When I saw the SEALs kill, there was nothing but a grunt acknowledging that the target was eliminated. With the 101st Airborne, it was “Way to go!” as in, “Job well done in stopping people trying to eliminate us.” There was lots of joking around during lulls, but never about the nasty business of trying to kill. Leave that fantasy with Rambo and Arnaud movies. The only whoop of joy I heard, I recorded, the narrow escape of 101st Specialist Robert Killion from being sniped (with myself right behind him). I’ve got that on YouTube, too. Indeed the conversation just preceding, though a bit humorous, consists of him wanting it made clear that the man he’d just shot was clearly armed. Given the plethora of Iraq and Afghanistan autobiographies, biographies, and other books that appeared before Kyle’s, it’s doubtful you’d ever have heard of him but for that claim on the original jacket cover, “The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History.” That assertion in turn is based on Kyle’s claim of 160 “confirmed kills,” out of what he says to have been about 255 total. Virtually every article on Kyle repeats the 160 assertion, including even one labeling him a “fabulist.” So does his Wikipedia entry. The source is always the same: Chris Kyle. The Army “does not keep any official, or unofficial for that matter, record of confirmed kills,” as Wayne V. Hall, an Army spokesman, told NBC News. Nor does U.S. Special Operations Command, under which the SEALs operate, according to SOCOM spokesman Ken McGraw. “If anything, we shy away from reporting numbers like that,” McGraw said. “It’s so difficult to prove. And what does it mean?” Further, if you go by “claimed kills,” Kyle’s 255 are bested by those of Vietnam Marine Carlos Norman Hathcock II, who asserted 300 or more. Kyle says Hathcock was his personal hero, and he fit the bill, having sustained terrible burns while rescuing other Marines from a vehicle that struck a mine. So if we assume both Kyle and Hathcock were telling the truth, there goes the sine qua non of Kyle’s book. There’s also more make-believe in the book concerning Kyle’s sniping prowess. He claims it earned him the moniker “The Devil of Ramadi,” with a massive bounty on his head. In fact, snipers routinely had bounties on them, but for $20,000. That for Kyle the prize went up to $80,000, or even six figures, is just another part of Kyle’s self-created mythos. The other make-believe in the book concerns Kyle’s sniping prowess. He claims to have pegged a man with an RPG from 1,920 meters (in the movie the guy becomes a sniper). Who knows? Like the body count, it remains unverified. Supposedly the shot was witnessed by a lieutenant. This doesn’t mean Kyle wasn’t an outstanding sniper. “Dude was very effective and rarely went more than three days without punching some guy’s clock,” a SEAL associate told me, saying he’d seen Kyle’s online record books while visiting Ramadi. D**k Couch, in his 2009 The Sheriff of Ramadi wrote that when he asked whom was “the best of the SEAL snipers,” it was Kyle (identified by a pseudonym because he was still in the service) who kept coming up. But there’s no evidence for anything else Couch wrote of Kyle, including the “Devil of Ramadi” moniker. Aside from the numbers and the Devil stuff, Kyle’s book seems fairly accurate. What came after is a different matter. Shortly after his book’s publication in 2012, Kyle began telling lies that were outrageous, easily falsifiable, and contradictory. You’ll see some reprinted tens of thousands of times because journalists are just repeating each other. But the ultimate source is always the same: Chris Kyle. Thus there was the attempted carjacking by two men at a Texas gas station in which he allegedly killed both assailants, but no medical examiner or police or sheriff’s department could confirm the incident. Two bodies with gunshot wounds just disappeared. Kyle allegedly went to New Orleans with a friend following Hurricane Katrina and picked off looters. But this time it wasn’t just two bullet-ridden bodies that disappeared, but as many as 30. Dallas journalist Michael J. Mooney, who has done as much as anyone to perpetuate the Kyle mythology, including writing a short book, stated “He survived six IED attacks, three gunshot wounds, two helicopter crashes, and more surgeries than he could remember.” Others claim Kyle suffered two gunshot wounds. Couch says that in Ramadi Kyle “was still being treated for a gunshot wound he received in Fallujah two years earlier.” Serious stuff. Yet the man’s own book mentions no wounds, nor was Kyle awarded the Purple Heart. Then there’s the incredible betrayal of trust of the claim that he was donating his proceeds from the book to families of deceased war vets, which Kyle either invented or at least went along with while still alive. Even a New Yorker article often cited to show Kyle’s fibbing fell for it. Kyle’s publisher still maintains the story, and possibly invented it. In fact, as National Review reported, “Out of the staggering $3 million that American Sniper collected in royalties for Kyle [now estimated at about $6 million for the franchise], only $52,000 actually went to the families of fallen servicemen.” Finally, there’s the infamous alleged Jesse Ventura punch-out, in a crowded bar. With police present. For a public figure in the U.S. to win a defamation suit is nigh impossible because the threshold is placed so high, demanding proof that the defendant knew the statement was false or exercised reckless disregard for the truth. In lay terms: “a super bald-faced lie.” Yet Ventura did win. And while the jury could have made a nominal award of just one dollar, it handed Ventura a whopping $1.8 million. This finding was made for a widely-loathed plaintiff against the estate of a highly sympathetic widow. Finally, a federal judge denied Mrs. Kyle’s appeal, finding that “substantial evidence” supported the verdict. Add to all of this that Ventura himself is a former SEAL, although qualifications have changed since; Ventura was 60 at the time of the alleged assault; it was a sucker punch. Even were the story true, why tell it? That’s why it’s called pathological lying. What was behind Kyle’s fables? We could write them off as simple self-promotion, and maybe they were just that. But that explanation may be too facile. I believe Kyle suffered a form of PTSD civilians never hear about, a form of separation anxiety that I suspect almost all combat vets suffer—myself included. Combat feels like the most real, the most meaningful thing in the world. Then suddenly you’re among civilians who wail if they can’t get the latest iPad the day it comes out. You feel like an extraterrestrial and for the rest of your life nothing can ever match those awful thrills. (Just being a paratrooper killed amusement parks for me.) In one of many ways in which the book contradicts the movie, Kyle didn’t leave the SEALs because he was fed up with the violence and killing. He loved the SEALs and he loved snuffing people. He quit to save his marriage. The tall tales may have been his way of dealing with that. Whatever Kyle’s demons, though, those who’ve exploited him—like Clint Eastwood—don’t have an excuse. Eastwood’s SEAL Slanders Enter now Eastwood’s “embellishments.” We’ve covered one, Kyle’s ambivalence towards killing. Another creation was normal for Hollywood, the massive pyrotechnics that movie-goers love, and the battles and villains that didn’t exist. But Eastwood’s third falsehood was his systematic denigration of Kyle’s comrades in order to elevate Kyle himself, to make the jocular label “legend” into The Legend. The standard Hollywood stuff is pretty harmless. In the film AQI places bounty signs around the sector town bearing Kyle’s Crusader tattoo and referring to “The Devil.” Various articles make references to similar signs. But in the book Kyle says they were supposed to be of him but AQI used the face of a fellow SEAL sniper by accident. (Yes, I do know how strange that sounds.) In any case, I saw no signs, nor did the aforementioned soldier. Neither version makes sense if you know that when we left the relatively-secure camp (albeit regularly hit by mortars) we had literally only inches of skin exposed. Nobody could have seen a tattoo, and for nonfriendlies it would have been virtually impossible even to recognize a face. Kyle’s one reference in the book to being called a legend said that it was a joke of some other SEALs. I never heard it while I was there; nor did others from Task Force Currahee whom I consulted. It would be like living in Gotham City without having heard of Batman. Likewise, Kyle is given an antagonist in an Olympic-medal winning enemy sniper, who in the book was the RPG gunner. Another Kyle target, called “The Butcher,” enjoys aerating little kids’ heads with a power drill. Both appear to be based on real people, but Kyle writes that he never saw the alleged sniper, nor does he make any reference to The Butcher. Yet it’s the diminution of other Americans, especially those with whom I served, that boils my blood. In the book, Kyle says that at one point in the Fallujah fighting he thought he could be of more use to the Marines on the ground, and joined them—an implausible claim but not an immodest one. In Eastwood’s version, though, Kyle practically whips off his Clark Kent glasses to save an otherwise doomed unit. Instead of “Send in the Marines!” it was “Send in the SEAL to SAVE the Marines!” The members of Seal Team Three don’t come off much better. While they’re eating and joking with a local, Kyle dismisses himself to “wash his hands” and quickly discovers a major weapons cache, evidence that their host is in league with The Butcher. Kyle also comes across as the unofficial leader of the SEALs, constantly grabbing the initiative when they seem hesitant or even afraid. In the movie’s final battle, they even curse him for making them a magnet for an overwhelming number of attackers, sarcastically calling him, yes, “The Legend.” All members of ST3 were heroes on a Hollywood level. “Those SEALs fight like machines,” I later wrote. It was the most decorated SEAL team since Vietnam. But the two standouts were Michael Monsoor and Marc Allen Lee. Monsoor somehow appears in about half my photos of the SEALs and “Mikey” is the only name uttered in my full video. A few days before my second Ramadi embed, Monsoor was the lookout man in a parapet. He remained standing while the others, SEALs and Iraqis, were prone. With a lucky toss, a grenade entered a small portal above them. It bounced off Mikey’s armor and rolled. Only Monsoor could have avoided the blast; instead he threw himself atop it. He was 25. For this action Monsoor was awarded the Medal of Honor. Over a year later I watched President Bush give it to his shell-shocked parents. They died the day he did. I still get weepy when I rewrite his story. But our Mikey is never even mentioned in the movie. No competition is allowed for “The Legend.” Eastwood’s ultimate victim, however, was SEAL Marc Allen Lee. Lee’s death at age 28 hit me particularly hard: he was the first of many I served with to die in combat. Like Monsoor he was watching my back. Lee was shot in the mouth during the evacuation of another SEAL who was initially blinded and later die of his injuries, Ryan Job. But in the movie, guess who basically single-handedly rescues Job? You got it, “The Legend!” And it just gets worse. In the movie, Lee’s mother Debbie, playing herself, reads a profound letter that Marc sent shortly before his death. “When does glory fade away and become a wrongful crusade, or an unjustified means by which consumes one completely?” he wrote. He criticized the rising level of hate in America and much of Americans’ attitudes’ generally. “My point of this is how can we come over here and help a less than fortunate country without holding contempt or hate towards them if we can’t do it in our country?” Lee was a complex person who didn’t fit the simple “sheep, wolf, sheepherder” paradigm that Eastwood established early in the film. (Which, again, appears nowhere in the book.) Lee was the ambivalent killer that Eastwood wanted Kyle to be, and also appears to have questioned the U.S. military presence in Iraq. So Eastwood made Lee into a hybrid of a sheep who carried a machine gun. On the way back from the funeral in the movie Kyle’s wife asks what he thinks of the letter. “That letter killed Marc,” responds Movie Kyle. “He let go [gave up], and he paid the price for it.” Yet in the book Kyle called Lee a “gung-ho warrior.” Lee’s wife finally went public just before the Oscars, telling Fox News “The movie was completely inaccurate in portraying who Marc was” and asking people to actually read the whole letter. She added that she wished he’d been omitted from the film. “None of the guys (besides the one who was in the movie) were pleased about how American Sniper portrayed our combat ops and particularly Marc Lee,” a member of ST3 who’d been in Ramadi with me said via e-mail. “The screen writer, Jason Hall, may get himself choked out for that if he ever decides to show his face in Coronado again. Disgraceful.” (Coronado, California is home to ST3 and other SEAL teams.) Writing off the record, he said it was “tricky” trying to criticize the movie without embarrassing Kyle. The SEALs do protect their own. What Eastwood did was as cynical a twist as you can find in Hollywood. He’s the older man who deserves to be decked. (Besides, wouldn’t you suffer a broken jaw for more than $300 million in box office receipts?) “Glory is something that some men chase and others find themselves stumbling upon, not expecting it to find them,” wrote Lee in that letter. Sadly, for whatever reason Kyle came to chase it obsessively. As to the other SEALs with whom I had the honor to share the terrors and thrills of combat, or a drink after Monsoor’s Medal of Honor ceremony? They stumbled upon it, courtesy of orders from their Commander-in-Chief and AQI’s decisions. But be there any glory in war, they deserve it. None of them deserved to be shredded by Clint Eastwood’s box office IED. Michael Fumento is a journalist, author, attorney, and veteran of the 27th Engineer Battalion (Combat)(Airborne). He embedded three times in Iraq and once in Afghanistan. ]]>
(Review Source)
The Unz Review Staff
(”American Sniper” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Back in the 1940s, psychologist William H. Sheldon developed a theory that there were three general body types — skinny ectomorphs, strong mesomorphs, and fat endomorphs — and associated personalities. It was highly popular for awhile. As part of a research project involving, among other concerns, body type, huge numbers of Yale students were photographed naked. This later came to be considered scandalous and the pictures were shredded (so Hillary has nothing to worry about.) (As I’ve mentioned before, recent generations are less likely to put up with official demands for public nakedness that were common for those growing up in the middle of the 20th Century — high school students, for example, don’t much shower after gym classes anymore.) Nowadays, nobody believes in Sheldon’s pseudo-scientific stereotypes. They are totally discredited! Except maybe among movie casting directors, directors, and actors (who, at least since Raging Bull in 1980, routinely change their shape to get into their roles), but they’re not talking. For example, Bradley Cooper switched from David O. Russell’s blue state movies, where he’s thin and twitchy, to Clint Eastwood’s red state American Sniper by adding 40 pounds. And some social scientists who recently found that muscularity correlates with political self-interestedness. On the question of wealth redistribution, strong rich men tend to be against it and strong poor men tend to be for it. The latter Jimmy Hoffaesque kind of leftist ideology has long been out of style, but Bernie Sanders has managed to revive it in a certain form, perhaps because he looks like an ectomorphic distance runner and thus doesn’t set off as many alarms. However, the phenomenon of Bernie Bros has worried Hillary supporters, who complain that young college girls are supporting Bernie because good looking college boys with lots of education debt prefer him to Hillary. (It’s almost as if girls and boys aren’t truly natural enemies, the way feminist doctrine has revealed.) Donald Trump’s shape, however, sets off alarms even though his policy ideas tend to be centrist, perhaps because he’s mesomorphic. (Is he wearing a bulletproof vest, which would add to the look of upper body strength? That would be a good Jezebel-type article: Why It’s Unfair that Hillary Can’t Wear a Bulletproof Vest and Conform to Society’s Lookist Gender Stereotypes.) My impression is that distance runners tend to be liberal, weightlifters conservative or libertarian. This would fit with my separate impression that conservatives tend to have concentric loyalties and liberals have leapfrogging loyalties. One obvious question is: how much of this connection between muscularity and ideology, assuming it replicates, is nature and how much is nurture. Can you socially construct an electorate with a body shape more conducive to agreeing with your ideas? But what’s cause and what’s effect? Back in 2012, I proposed: My point, though, is that the proposition that different types of exercise could drive political views could be ethically tested on college students by offering free personal trainers. Randomly assign some volunteers to the weightlifting trainer, others to the running trainer, and measure if their attitudes change along with their shapes. As Obama’s calculatedly divisive 2012 campaign demonstrates, the future of politics may look much stranger than what we’re familiar with. The parties will likely want to research how they can mold their own voters. ]]>
(Review Source)
The Unz Review Staff
The Oscar nominations are out. Four movies were nominated for both Best Picture and Best Director, so those are the presumed frontrunners among the BP nominees: “American Sniper” “Birdman” – Best Director “Boyhood” – Best Director “The Grand Budapest Hotel” – Best Director “The Imitation Game” – Best Director “Selma” “The Theory of Everything” “Whiplash” I saw “Birdman” a couple of months ago, but have never thought of anything very interesting to write about it. In brief, Michael Keaton, who played Batman for Tim Burton a quarter of a century ago, plays a washed-up movie star of three “Birdman” superhero blockbusters who is trying to regain credibility by mounting a worthy Broadway drama based on that Raymond Carver short story that everybody studies in creative writing class. We peek in on backstage drama and comedy as Keaton tries to keep his sanity together on the rocky road to opening night. It’s pretty good but repeatedly fails to be brilliant. It’s worthy of one of the eight Best Picture nods, but it’s kind of disappointing. One problem is that the bravura bar is awfully high for backstage plays and movies, such as “All About Eve,” “Kiss Me, Kate,” “All That Jazz,” “Show Boat,” “Cabaret,” “The Producers,” “Noises Off,” “Moulin Rouge,” “The Real Thing,” and “The Real Inspector Hound.” A movie about putting on a show isn’t like a movie about baseball statistics where you get a degree of difficulty bonus. Putting on a show is what people who make movies do, so you need to standout in some fashion, such as in witty dialogue or song and dance numbers. The main gimmick in “Birdman” is that super cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (“Gravity,” “Tree of Life,” “Children of Men”) shoots each scene in one long handheld take. (There are claims that the entire movie is in one long take, but the screenplay drags out over a week or so, so what’s the point of that?) Enormous amounts of effort must have been devoted to planning each long take, but at what opportunity cost? What if some of that effort had instead been devoted to the story, characters, dialogue, acting, and look of the movie? D.W. Griffith invented the modern system of cuts a century ago and, you know, it probably doesn’t really need to be dis-invented. And to the extent that the long takes succeed, which they largely do (this is not at all a bad movie), you end up thinking this material might work better as a play. “Boyhood” — Another film with a gimmick, this one was shot intermittently over 12 years as a boy grows up in Texas. It’s an autobiographical mash-up of the boyhoods of director Richard Linklater and actor Ethan Hawke (very good as the father) in the kind of Artsy Texan families I was familiar with from having attended Rice U. A very nice little movie, but one better suited to be a sleeper hit that you stumble upon on cable with no expectations rather than being The Frontrunner for Best Picture. It’s kind of like that little silent comedy “The Artist” a few years ago that got immediately swept up in Best Picture hype so nobody had a chance to see it with low expectations. I wrote about “Boyhood” here and then again here when The Atlantic denounced the movie for White Male Privilege because it’s about a boy much like the boys Linklater and Hawke were instead of Michael Brown. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” — A crypto-gimmick movie: practically every set appears to be made out of frosting in this tribute to the baked goods of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. I enjoyed this movie more than anything this year other than “Guardians of the Galaxy,” but that’s partly because of my low expectations: I can’t stand Wes Anderson movies because they look like they are going to be funny but then they’re not. But this one won even me over, and Anderson did it without listening to criticisms like mine. He doubled down on everything that drove me crazy about his films, making this the Wes Andersoniest Wes Anderson movie. I wrote about it here. “The Imitation Game” would be an okay Placeholder Best Picture winner. The theory of the Placeholder winner is that nobody really knows what the future will think of which movie ought to have won, so in the meantime you might as well give it to something respectable, most often a biopic about how some classy Englishman singlehandedly defeated Hitler. This Alan Turing biopic isn’t as entertaining as The King’s Speech, but it’s not bad. I wrote about it here. By the way, that Timothy Spall didn’t get a Best Actor nomination for playing grumpy early Victorian painter J.M.W. Turner in “Mr. Turner” I can only attribute to Mike Leigh’s failure to do a rewrite adding in how, when you stop and think about it, Turner’s watercolors are what beat the Nazis. “Whiplash” is a small movie in the Happy Just to Be Nominated group. It’s about a student at Juilliard who will do whatever it takes to be the drummer in the school’s top jazz band, including putting up with the tyrannical, manipulative conductor played by J.K. Simmons, who finally gets an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting actor. Simmons came to attention as editor J. Jonah Jameson in “Spider-Man” back in 2002 and has worked nonstop since then as the Witty White Male Authority Figure. (I don’t know why “Saturday Night Live” doesn’t routinely employ somebody who can play this role — Phil Hartmann could, and he made funny scores of otherwise excessively whimsical sketches just because all the zaniness was played out in front of somebody who looked like he was responsible for getting things done). About a decade ago I observed that Simmons appeared to be in about a quarter of the movies I went to and I wouldn’t mind if he were in the rest of them. (Here’s Simmons in “Burn After Reading” as the CIA boss.) “Whiplash” is a pretty good movie up until the Awful Ending — a lengthy drum solo — takes all the energy out of the theater. Drum solos stopped being cool when The Ramones came along and “Whiplash’s” drum solo reminds you why. “Whiplash” called to mind two theories: that success in the arts depends upon having a sense of rhythm (something I completely lack), and that a sense of rhythm is one of the few positive traits that doesn’t correlate with IQ. I haven’t seen “American Sniper,” “Selma,” or “Theory of Everything.” ]]>
(Review Source)
The American Conservative Staff
(”American Sniper” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Pop Culture All Things Trump You might want to read Todd Purdum’s long, well-reported story from Politico, about how Hollywood is freaking out over Trump, just for the big fat gob of Schadenfreude at the top. Here’s a glistening, savory morsel: There has also been denial and cocooning, More than a few liberals report that they have faced the rise of the alt-right movement by just retreating and binge-watching the idealistic alt-reality of all seven seasons of “The West Wing.” “My sense, in psychiatric terms, is that everybody is still ‘splitting,’” says a longtime political consultant to major entertainment figures, speaking on condition of anonymity so as not to offend clients. “They’re putting the election result on the shelf and are in some kind of denial, so they can just keep putting one foot in front of the other. It came as such a huge shock. People believed, understandably enough, that everything that could be done was being done and it was being done well.” But read on, because there’s some genuinely interesting stuff here about why the entertainment industry is the way it is — that is, why the same junk gets made over and over again. Excerpt: A prominent network executive summed up the sense of shock in the industry to me. “One thing interesting is that people in L.A. and Hollywood, we supposedly have our finger on the pulse of the American people,” he said. “And one of the things that people feel truly rocked by now—truly rocked—is that those of us who spend our lives anticipating and understanding the tastes and the preferences of the American people suddenly have to wonder whether what we’re feeling is causing us to make, for a large part of the audience, the wrong thing. And that the agenda a lot of our creators have is a reinforcing loop of a lot of things that people have just rejected. “Because,” the executive added, “people here exist in a closed feedback loop and writers’ rooms that are similarly liberal, where nobody voted for Donald Trump. So their feedback is completely distorted on the meaning of this, and what to do about it.” Hollywood is always a bit surprised when a Christian-themed movie or a red-meat patriotic film like “American Sniper” becomes a hit, because such works embody a basic conservative value set that most of the industry doesn’t share. “Everyone sits around the writers’ rooms or on a notes call and nods in agreement and that’s how we get shows like ‘Transparent’ and ‘American Crime Story,’” says Quinton Peeples, a writer and the producer of shows like Hulu’s recent Stephen King adaptation “11-22-63” and TNT’s “The Last Ship,” who also happens to be that rarity in Hollywood, a practicing Christian. “Now, I’m not arguing that’s a bad thing. I’m just pointing out how it works. Then we have a bunch of awards shows to pat each other on the back and talk about what a challenge it has been to bring the ‘truth’ to television.” “I can’t count the times I have gone out with pitches that represent the point of view I grew up with in small-town Texas, only to find there is no appetite for something that is derisively referred to as a red state show,” Peeples adds. “Because no one can go to a kids’ birthday party over the weekend and brag about the great numbers they are getting with their ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ reboot. And at the end of the day, that’s what they want on a personal level: to have someone whisper as they pass, ‘That’s the “Black Mirror” guy.’ ” Some people like to say that money rules the creative industry, that Hollywood will cold-bloodedly make what sells. That’s just not true. There’s a lot of status involved. I remember seeing a trailer last year for “Miss Sloane,” the political thriller starring Jessica Chastain as a heroic Washington lobbyist who advocates for universal background checks on gun buyers. Along with her scrappy band of diverse helpers, she outsmarts the wicked gun industry lobbyists. Honestly, who the heck wants to see that kind of movie? Needless to say, it bombed. But Jessica Chastain got a Golden Globe nomination, and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists nominated her for, ahem, “bravest performance.” (As opposed to all those cowardly performances?) ]]>
(Review Source)
The American Conservative Staff
(”An American in Paris” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Pop Culture This summer’s big-budget flops represent a day of reckoning that had to come before any possibility of the studios reinventing themselves. — Joe Morgenstern (@JoeMorgenstern) July 25, 2013 I certainly hope so, though Morgenstern’s WSJ colleague reports that despite some massive failures, 2013 overall box office is ahead of last year’s. But man, have the failures been huge. Think about all the wonderful little movies Disney could have made with the $170 million it lost on The Lone Ranger, a movie that any idiot could have told you would have been a flop. Who the hell cares about that character? How many potential My Big Fat Greek Weddings could have been made with that cash? Nia Vardalos’s charming little movie cost $5 million to make. Know how much it’s pulled in over the past 11 years? Almost $370 million. I watched the second episode of the first season of House Of Cards tonight, on my iPad as I worked out. It’s very dark, and I’m not all that into it, frankly, but I can’t think of the last movie I saw in the theater that gave me as much to relish. Had I seen Argo on the big screen, that certainly would have qualified. I enjoyed the hell out of that movie, but I’ve been burned so many times by the cost and bother of going to a theater to see what turned out to be a big piece of nothing that I wasn’t willing to take the chance. I caught it on an iTunes download. Can’t say I regret waiting to see it in that format, but I do hate that I’ve gotten out of the habit of seeing movies on the big screen. On the other hand, all of us in my family had a terrific time watching an HD version of An American In Paris together, via an iTunes download to our Apple TV. For us, it was an event, and it only cost four dollars. Still, I would like to be able to take my wife out for a date to a real movie and a real dinner, and make it worth paying the babysitter. I know we’ve been over this a couple of times recently on this blog, but I still can’t stop wondering why it’s so hard to make movies for the big screen that make people over the age of 22 say, “You’ve got to go see this!” ]]>
(Review Source)
The American Conservative Staff
(”An American in Paris” is briefly mentioned in this.)
A couple of weeks ago, we watched An American In Paris as a family. Tonight the boys and I watched On The Town tonight. After it was over, Lucas, who is nine, said, “I want to see every movie Gene Kelly ever made!” I told him that sometime this weekend, we would watch Singin’ In The Rain, which is Gene Kelly’s most famous movie. “I think I’ve heard of that,” he said. “Come see this,” I said, and showed him the clip above. It dazzled him. Lucas said, “It’s hard to believe somebody like that died.” Which, after a second or two, I realized might be just about the best thing that anybody could say about Gene Kelly, or anybody: that you were so full of life that it seemed only right that you should live forever. Look what I found just now. Gene Kelly, the quintessential American, was a Francophile who spoke French. Good man!: UPDATE.2: Look what just came in the e-mail: Dear Mr. Dreher, A Google Alert this morning directed me to your lovely piece about my late husband Gene Kelly. I smiled when I read your son’s comment about Gene’s death. I feel the same way. I am often on panels with filmmakers who say that young people don’t have any attention span and that you need to dumb things down – hype them up – in order to make them appealing to kids. I disagree completely and your son’s response to the films is a good example of why. Instead, I think you have to do what Gene did – make something of quality that is both contemporary and timeless. By the way, Gene also spoke Yiddish and pretty fair Italian. He read Latin, wrote poetry and often read a book a day. Good man is right! Warm regards, Patricia Kelly Isn’t that marvelous? I can’t tell my children what to like, but what I can do is expose them to the greats, and hope that their imagination is captured. My son Lucas is athletically and musically inclined, so I’m not surprised that he is fascinated by Gene Kelly … but I am delighted. Thanks to Mrs. Kelly for this generous note. He read Latin and spoke Yiddish! Can you imagine? How great it would have been to have known him. ]]>
(Review Source)