Much ado has been made of American Sniper, Clint Eastwood’s latest biopic about America’s deadliest sniper, Chris Kyle, played by Bradley Cooper.
(Beware of spoilers.)
As the Washington Free Beacon’s Sonny Bunch notes (with a heavy sigh) “American Sniper has devolved from a well-reviewed, Oscar-nominated film into the frontline of said war, with lefty outlets slamming its failure to apologize for American “misdeeds” in Iraq and righty outlets crowing about the picture’s success and praising it for showing a side of military life that Hollywood doesn’t usually go in for. The fault lines here are all terribly predictable.”
Take Amanda Taub of Vox, who goes on at painful lengthabout the horrors of the film, which she likens to a pro-war recruitment film. In Eastwood’s film, she complains, there is no room for anything but good vs evil, where Americans are “good” and the Muslim world “evil.”
American Sniper “feeds the narrative that the civilized world is at war with Muslims, that the only solution is to respond with crushing violence, and that people who refuse to believe that are naïfs” she writes.
“That’s its own form of dangerous extremism. Its premises are wrong, and its results are dangerous. By feeding that narrative, American Sniper is part of the problem.”
Taub must have missed the scenes where a broken-up relative reads a letter from a dead Navy Seal questioning the validity of the Iraq War. Or the heart-breaking glimpse at wounded veterans.
Vox’s Zack Beauchamp actually mentions some of the scenes that challenge Kyle’s perspective, including a moment when his brother tells him “fuck this place” much to Kyle’s surprise and bafflement, but still misses how these scenes might indicate that while the film is told from Kyle’s point of view, it isn’t trying to simply paint that view as the only valid one.
Beauchamp argues that “viewers of American Sniper are given a highly political re-telling of the Iraq War — and one that so wildly misrepresents the truth of the war that it is practically tantamount to whitewashing history.” I disagree. As an opponent of the Iraq war, even I find this interpretation biased and unfair.
Many on the left argue that the film white-washes the Iraq War, that it doesn’t do enough to show the “true” reasons we invaded that country, or that it makes it seem like a direct response to 9/11 and Al-qaeda. What they fail to understand, or what they choose to ignore in order to score political points, is that this is a film told from a very specific perspective—that of a soldier on the ground, who believes it is his patriotic duty to protect his country and fellow soldiers.
Kyle isn’t interested at all in the politics. He’s so gung-ho in his conviction he very nearly destroys his marriage. He’s also very nearly overwhelmed by PTSD, until he finds a new purpose after the war in assisting other veterans. This is a film that doesn’t bother much with the big-picture stuff. It zeroes in one one man, one soldier, and his struggles.
And for all the time it spends making Kyle an admirable and heroic figure, it also shows his flaws—stubbornness, a lack of thoughtfulness about the war (that other soldiers display) and, as the war gets to him more and more, outbursts of anger and paranoia.
At Breitbart, John Nolte is perhaps a little less breathless in his praise of American Sniper as validation of the war on terror and confirmation that the Americans are the “good guys.”
“War is ugly and it’s not pretty watching our guys kick in doors,” he writes. “But there are bad guys behind those doors, and no matter how bad those guys might be, Eastwood makes sure the audience knows Americans don’t carry power drills or take lives out of any motive other than self-defense.
“There is nothing even close to moral equivalence in “America Sniper,” only the truth: that there is no equivalence between the barbarians who target the innocent and the American heroes who target those who target the innocent.”
Don’t listen to any of it. American Sniper isn’t about validating the war on terror any more than it’s about recruiting soldiers. It’s the story of one man told from his perspective and the perspective of those who shared his experiences. It portrays an ugly and frightening war from the perspective of someone who believed deeply that what he was doing there was just and right. Whether you think the Iraq war was just and right is another question entirely and one that this film only brushes up against, but never faces head on. There are other films that tackle that question. American Sniper is not one of them.
There are also better reviews. Read Ed Morrisey’s sober take on the film over at Hot Air. Or our own Mark Hughes who notes that the “film’s politics aren’t quite as clear-cut as a lot of critics and viewers seem to think.”
Hughes continues, “Eastwood himself isn’t — contrary to apparent popular belief — highly enthusiastic about the U.S. war in Iraq, and nor did he approach Chris Kyle’s story with a simplistic jingoism or patriotism that unfortunately has been wrongly attributed to the film.”
Indeed, Eastwood has made that clear in interviews about the film.
American Sniper “certainly has nothing to do with any [political] parties or anything,” director Clint Eastwood told the Toronto Star. “These fellows who are professional soldiers, Navy personnel or what have you, go in for a certain reason … and there’s no political aspect there other than the fact that a lot of things happen in war zones.”
Bradley Cooper, the show’s star and producer, told Huffington Post that “For me, and for Clint, this movie was always a character study about what the plight is for a soldier.”
And this is what American Sniper, ultimately, is about. In the end, it’s not about whether Iraq was justified or not. It isn’t about our foreign policy at all.
Isn’t war always hell? Even the so-called “good” wars like World War II were hell.
And when they’re over, the troops come home and many of them are broken mentally and physically and countless times throughout this country’s history we have failed to properly care for them.
“If it’s not this movie, I hope to god another movie will come out where it will shed light on the fact of what servicemen and women have to go through, and that we need to pay attention to our vets,” Cooper told the Huffington Post. “It doesn’t go any farther than that. It’s not a political discussion about war, even…It’s a discussion about the reality. And the reality is that people are coming home, and we have to take care of them.”
American Sniper is a film about soldiers. It’s told from a soldier’s perspective. He’s fighting what he sees as the good fight. He witnesses horrible atrocities committed by the enemies, but that doesn’t mean the film is white-washing any of America’s own mistakes away. It just isn’t forcing those things into a film where they have no place. We are clearly shown the toll this takes on Kyle—not because he questions his job or thinks he shouldn’t kill the enemy, but because even for someone like him war can you tear you apart.
It’s not a perfect film. The enemy sniper is too perfect as the antagonist, too much the Yin to Kyle’s Yang. The Butcher is a cartoon villain (though the torture scene was stomach-churning and hardly cartoonish.) I wish the movie spent a little more time with Kyle after the war instead of ending so abruptly.
But by and large, as a character study and a glimpse at what soldiers go through during and after a war, this is Eastwood at his finest. And Bradley Cooper is nothing less than outstanding as Chris Kyle.
I was (and remain) a critic of our foreign policy in the Middle East. I was highly skeptical of our reasons for invading Iraq and believe much of that war and our withdrawal from Iraq was horribly botched. But I didn’t come out of American Sniper thinking this was some elaborate justification for that cause. The only reason that occurred to me at all while watching were the numerous articles praising or damning the film for its politics.
Nor is it the first big movie to portray a controversial war without delving into its controversy. Even a critical darling like Forrest Gump portrays Vietnam in a fairly apolitical way. Forrest is there simply to protect his friends, which he does valiantly. After the war, he’s not interested in being a mouthpiece for the protesters, who are hardly portrayed as heroes themselves. And in both films, we glimpse a bit of the struggle veterans go through—that becoming more of a politically charged focal point than the wars themselves. Yet Forrest Gump was not roundly criticized as pro-war propaganda.
Ultimately, our interpretation of a film can and will vary from one person to the next. Whether the director or writer intended something only matters to a degree. Eastwood may not have intended American Sniper to be a pro-war flick, but that doesn’t preclude viewers from seeing it that way. The problem I see is the politicization of criticism. Rather than view the movie on its own merits, many are using it as a tool to further their own political causes—or to signal their approval/disapproval of certain politics to their chosen tribe.
But good art transcends politics. We can, or should be able to view even a film that has truly hideous politics as a great work of art. This is likely why so many great filmmakers include Birth of a Nation in their most-influential-movies list. The 1915 masterpiece is easily one of the most important films of all time despite its glorification of the KKK.
This isn’t to say that politics have no place in art criticism. It would be unfair to review Birth of a Nation only on its technical achievements and avoid mention of its deep-seated racism, for instance. But there needs to be a balance. It’s traditionally been the right that’s most viciously crucified film and games and other entertainment media for violence and sex and so forth. But that tendency is increasingly common on the left now as well, though not always over the exact same issues.
Unless we want all of our art to be morality plays or to only ever view art that confirms our own biases, we need to be able to look past our political disagreements and judge art based on its quality. I don’t believe art has no impact on the world around us. Games, movies, books—these are powerful, transformative things that can and do influence people. But I don’t believe they are dangerous. American Sniper is not a “dangerous” film, as many on the left suggest. It is a film about a soldier, and one that forces us to view war through a soldier’s eyes. To hear critics describe a film as “dangerous” strikes me as dangerous in and of itself. It’s the first word on the lips of every censor in history.
In any case, the film ends shortly after Kyle’s children ask to play with their father. The boy, much like my own son, asks Kyle to play Skylanders with him. Kyle says next time, and then walks away never to return. It’s horrifically sad, to see this man return from war, return from the dead almost, only to be killed on American soil.
And in the end, Kyle wasn’t killed by an Iraqi or a terrorist. He wasn’t killed in battle. He was killed trying to help other broken soldiers, shot not by an Iraqi, but by a mentally unstable American veteran. That anyone could walk away from this film imagining it to be a glorification of war is simply mind-boggling. Chris Kyle may have been a hero, and he may not have been, but he wouldn’t have died the way he did if not for the Iraq War. That doesn’t make it a subversive anti-war film either.
It just means it’s a lot more complicated than our political punditry would like it to be.
Supreme Court Sides With Death Row Inmate Over Racist Juror Claim
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday paved the way for a black Georgia inmate to challenge his 1991 death sentence for killing his sister-in-law after he argued the case was tainted by a racist white juror who questioned whether black people have souls.
The justices, in a 6-3 unsigned decision, threw out a lower court’s decision that had rejected his biased jury assertion. Keith Tharpe was found guilty and sentenced to death by a jury of 10 white people and two black people in Georgia’s Jones County. The allegations of racial bias arose from an interview with one of the jurors years later, not comments made during the trial.
Monday’s ruling means the case will return to lower courts and gives Tharpe a chance to avoid execution.
Tharpe had been scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection in a Georgia state prison on Sept. 26 but the Supreme Court granted his last-minute stay application so it could have more time to decide whether to hear his appeal.
Tharpe, 59, kidnapped and raped his estranged wife, Migrisus Tharpe, and used a shotgun to kill Jaquelin Freeman, her sister, in September 1990, according to court records.
Three of the court’s conservatives, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, dissented from Monday’s decision.
Thomas, the court’s only black justice, is also from Georgia. He pointed out in his dissenting opinion that the court’s decision will “delay justice” for the victim, who was also black.
“The court’s decision is no profile in moral courage,” Thomas said.
In 1998 Tharpe’s lawyers, as they were preparing an appeal in the case, spoke with the trial jurors including a man named Barney Gattie, who has since died.
“After studying the Bible, I have wondered if black people even have souls,” Gattie told Tharpe’s lawyers in an affidavit, according to court papers.
Gattie also told the defense lawyers that there are two kinds of black people, one who he called “regular black folks” and another group he referred to using a racial slur.
“Because I knew the victim and her husband’s family and knew them all to be good black folks, I felt Tharpe, who wasn’t in the good black folks category in my book, should get the electric chair for what he did,” Gattie added.
The 12-person jury, including its two black members, voted unanimously to sentence Tharpe to death.
Hints Kylie Jenner Is Pregnant Have Come From Her Family This Whole Time
I’m going to be real with you guys. Kylie Jenner hasn’t confirmed her pregnancy, so technically we can’t say for certain if it’s real or fake news. But, if it turns out this woman does not have a bun in the oven, everything I know is a lie and I’m moving to an island to live amongst tropical flora and fauna. Hints Kylie Jenner is pregnant have been running rampant since September, and most of them are coming straight from her family. The evidence is overwhelming, and I’m going to break it all down for you. Let’s settle this thing once and for all.
The internet has been going wild these past few months gathering clues and facts from those closest to the makeup mogul, and the media has been doing its best to trick her family into confessing literally ANYTHING. So, where would you guys like to begin? The lack of commentary from Kris Jenner? The family Christmas card? Or the fact that whenever any family member is directly asked about Jenner’s pregnancy, they all turn into weird robot people who don’t know how to use words?
Here are a few of my favorite pregnancy hints that have come directly from Kylie’s family.
1. Kris Jenner’s Initial Response
If there is one thing Kris Jenner hates, it’s false rumors about her kids. When reports about Kylie’s pregnancy first surfaced, I thought it would be a matter of minutes before Kris shut them down, but that never happened. In fact, a whole day went by before we heard anything from the family matriarch, and when we did, it was weird AF.
When Kris was asked about Kylie during an interview with The Cut, she responded, “I just woke up this morning. She’s not confirmed anything. I think it’s kind of wild that everyone is just assuming that that’s just happening.”
Kris, we’re not idiots.
2. Kim Kardashian Drinking A Sardine Smoothie
The Late Late Show with James Corden on YouTube
There are a lot of things I would do for my sibling, but drinking a sardine smoothie to keep a secret is not one of them. During an appearance on The Late Late Show with James Corden, Kim participated in one of Corden’s famous games called “Spill Your Guts Or Fill Your Guts.”
Corden and Kim took turns asking provoking questions. If one of them refused to answer, they had to eat something disgusting. When Corden asked Kim if Kylie was pregnant, the 37-year-old mother swallowed a big gulp of a sardine smoothie instead of answering the question.
That’s loyalty, and also proof.
3. The Famous Family Christmas Card
This freaking Christmas card. For their 2017 Christmas photo, the family participated in an epic 25-day picture extravaganza. Every day in December, a new image of one or several family members hanging out by a Christmas tree was released.
As the days went on, there was no sign of Kylie. Naturally, the public assumed she would appear on Christmas Day in all of her pregnant glory. Alas, this was not the case.
Coincidence? NO, OBVIOUSLY. GOD.
4. Khloé’s Awkward Interview With Ellen
TheEllenShow on YouTube
Now that Khloé has officially confirmed her pregnancy, she’s been running the press circuit. This included interviewing with family friend Ellen DeGeneres.
After discussing Khloé’s pregnancy cravings, DeGeneres asked the star if her sister Kylie was having any cravings of her own. Khloé coyly responded, “What do you mean?” DeGeneres pushed, “She’s pregnant.” Khloé, not giving in, responded, “Oh, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
YEAH, GIRL. YA DO.
5. Kim’s Mysterious “3 Of Us” Instagram
Before we even heard about anyone’s pregnancies, Kim posted this mysterious Instagram photo of Kylie, Khloé, and herself. She captioned it, “The 3 of us…” I mean, HELLO! It would make so much sense if this was our first hint at the three pregnancies!
Even though the family is doing their best to protect Kylie, the proof is in the Kardashian pudding.
Kylie, we’re pumped. Blink twice if you’re actually pregnant.
CDC To Teach The Public How To Prepare For A Nuclear Explosion
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced this week ― days after President Donald Trump bragged about the size and effectiveness of his “Nuclear Button” (which doesn’t exist) ― that the agency will hold a public session on how to prepare for a nuclear explosion.
The CDC said its briefing, which is scheduled for the afternoon of Jan. 16, will address “planning and preparation efforts” for such a strike.
“While a nuclear detonation is unlikely, it would have devastating results and there would be limited time to take critical protection steps,” the CDC explained in its description of the event. “Despite the fear surrounding such an event, planning and preparation can lessen deaths and illness.”
The agency said most people “don’t realize that sheltering in place for at least 24 hours is crucial to saving lives and reducing exposure to radiation.”
Good to know.
Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un have been engaged in an escalating battle of threats and taunts over their respective nuclear arsenals. A defiant Pyongyang has made major advances to its nuclear program over the past year, and has directly threatened Americans. Trump has responded by saying the U.S. would “totally destroy” the hermit kingdom, a nation of 25 million people, if provoked.
In the event of an actual nuclear war, “there would be survivors for days trying to make their way out of the rubble and back home, dying of radiation poisoning,” Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear policy expert at Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, previously told HuffPost. You can read more about that hypothetical scenario here.
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