Target Practice: Media Takes Aim at Conservatives in Culture

 

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When the Academy Award nominations last week were announced, Selma‘s name was only called twice. The collective sound of everyone who works at MSNBC fainting on the floor could be heard all over social media. The only person left standing was Sony Pictures new executive board member Al Sharpton who loudly declared he would take action. Barack Obama has very subtly taken steps to bully the academy into making sure Selma receives both Oscars it is nominated for. The problem is Selma just isn’t that compelling of a film beyond something made for cable. The progressive left believes it to be a moral injustice that it did not receive Oscar attention, simply because the film exists and not on its merits.

It would be easy for those on the right to point out the hypocrisy of this situation as usual except that it’s also happening on that side of the aisle as well.

I was able to see the film American Sniper while it was still in limited release and there was very little reaction to the film. There was no sold out theater or long lines. There was sparse applause after the film (Again I viewed it in the progressive artistic utopia of New York City) and I myself walked away from it somewhat nonplussed. It was certainly not a disappointing film per se. It was made honestly and extraordinarily acted but seemed repetitive (Four tours in Iraq will do that) and in cruise control mode for much of the film. I am certainly surprised by the box office and the passion the film has stirred, much the same way I was with Selma. Both the story of Selma and Chris Kyle deserve to be told, but in both instances better films could have been made.

My complaints with the film itself rest in the amazing lack of suspense revolving around scenes where Kyle is forced to make a decision that could alter his life and end another. The shots are framed with very little tension, save for one scene when Kyle spots a young child picking up an RPG launcher after a kill. Another complaint was the steady resolve of the Kyle character. He floats through the film never unsure of who he is or why he is doing what he is doing, even as other characters around him meltdown. He was a rock that every character around him broke themselves against. This is not a criticism on Kyle the man, rather the necessities of dramatic storytelling. These are exactly the kind of people I want fighting for this country, but not necessarily starring in film drama.

The Kyle character is exactly the same person at the end of the film as he was at the beginning, similar to a super hero. More of the film could have combated that by exploring Kyle’s service to wounded veterans over the need to create Bond style, action movie villains and combat chase scenes. In researching Kyle, one gets the sense helping veterans gave him the purpose he was missing after he could no longer kill, a purpose he ultimately died for. Bradley Cooper is transformational in a similar way that Will Smith was in Ali. The actor’s face is right in front of you with without makeup or prosthetics, yet you completely believe you are watching someone else. Sienna Miller, much the same way she did playing Eddie Sedgwick, accomplishes this as well, starring as Kyle’s wife.

However there was nothing in American Sniper that was more dramatic than the end credits and Eastwood’s trumpet solo. It was only after that final montage I truly asked myself for the first time why Kyle, whose coffin is shown decorated with multiple Navy Tridents (A ritual shown in the film), was snubbed of even a Presidential mention. I have nothing invested in Chris Kyle. I haven’t read his book and beyond interviews I searched out I know nothing personally about the man. And neither do you. He could have been a soulless blood thirsty glory hound and unrepentant killer who drank baby blood and pounded his chest in the nude. However, I as an American, have everything invested in his service.

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That is why progressive media like Rolling Stone, Gawker, Vox, Salon, MSNBC and Michael Moore all feel betrayed by the massive and passionate reaction American Sniper is receiving beyond the Academy awarding four more nominations to American Sniper than they bestowed upon Selma.

They feel betrayed that in just three short weeks American Sniper has out grossed the rash of anti-Iraq war films like Green Zone and In the Valley of Elah or anti Bush war films Rendition and Lions For Lambs. But this isn’t just about a movie or box office receipts. They see American Sniper giving conservatives a fighting chance of punching their way back into mainstream culture. This is something they cannot tolerate. Non-activist conservatives were fine with paying their money to watch American Sniper, but once again, because of a progressive network media complex, they are now compelled to push back to the point where the film has no original meaning anymore. They are forced to fight over our political beliefs while simply enjoying recreational movie going.

Progressive media including network media has spent seven hard long years banishing conservatives out of the mainstream of cultural debate. This job has become ever increasingly easy for them when prospective national candidates and media personalities on the right like pop off about the first daughters and Beyonce. They view things like that as just another nail in the coffin of conservative cultural relevancy. This is the celebrity pop culture they have encased Barack Obama in. He’s the cool guy who goes on Funny or Die. He’s the smooth guy who smack talks at the State of the Union. He’s not some war happy ye-ha cowboy eager to rush off to war and kill everyone.

To media, Barack Obama is Denzel Washington in Crimson Tide while Chris Kyle is Gene Hackman.  There is no separation of art and reality with them. American Sniper, which isn’t really a political movie or a traditional war movie must now be judged by the standards of progressive media. Because they have declared it a conservative political movie, conservatives believe they must now defend the film on political merits.

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Film as an art form should not exist as simple confirmation bias but that’s exactly what the progressive left expects and desires. They’ve done it with American Sniper just as they did it with a black stormtrooper in Star Wars. Conservatives can no longer participate in culture leftists believe they own. American Sniper doesn’t feel like a trumped up Lifetime drama like Heaven is For Real that Rick Santorum can’t stop raving about. It’s a real film. It features one of Hollywood’s most bankable actors and directed by one of its aging icons. But more to the point, they view the film itself as just an extension of Clint Eastwood’s empty chair gag at the 2012 Republican convention.

But the vicious media sniping over the film has nothing to do with the actual movie itself. If it did progressive media personalities and outlets would have seen the movie before actually reviewing it. They wouldn’t be talking about what American Sniper isn’t or focusing on trolling tactics over robotic babies.

The film is simply acting as a vessel to channel political rage at ideological opponents. This is where conservative audiences fall into the trap and media is allowed to act the cool kids shooting spit wads from the back of the room. Conservatives are going to the mat for the film because of what they believe and because Hollywood symbols that represent their beliefs don’t come around often. Because we believe the very core of our beliefs in liberty is being attacked, we get overboard reactions as if it was a religious experience. It’s not. It’s just a movie but progressive media uses this as an opportunity to drive an ideological wedge and refer to conservatives as typical blood thirsty warmongers just as they did with Lone Survivor (not a particularly good film either).

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The question we should be asking is why Hollywood won’t make more movies that appeal to audiences such as American Sniper. If a Michael Bay makes a Turdformers film that grosses hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide, we can expect four to five equally bad sequels. That should be the larger focus and not accolades from Hollywood. Conservatives will no doubt watch the Oscars now with baited breath every time American Sniper is called or not called and for every award it does not win there will be complaints of liberal Hollywood snubbing that as well. But once conservatives start measuring the worth of its principles by how many little golden statues Hollywood gives them, the game is over and we should all just go home.

A better representation of conservative principles is how Bradley Cooper, an ardent supporter of Barack Obama can be moved by Kyle’s book to the point of securing the rights for his book and producing as well as starring in a film. Progressive media in Hollywood believes films are to be made and awarded simply because they exist to agree with them. This is the driving complaint behind the perceived snubbing of Selma. ‘How can the Academy snub a film like Selma after we’ve been pushing protests in Ferguson and New York for the past 6 months?”

Conservative focus should be on how Cooper and Eastwood can put their politics aside in a creative and compelling effort to tell the story of a remarkable warrior.

 

– SM –

 

 

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  1. Peter Johnston Reply

    Great post. The pursuit for a true  conservative is
    not primarily political power, as it is for the
    transcendently-blind liberal machine, but for
    truth, goodness and beauty.

  2. Kim Reply

    Excellent, measured response to the film and its reaction. You’re right. We can’t measure ourselves by Hollywood’s praise or derision. We too easily feel something like this movie means we’re finally accepted. 

  3. West Reply

    You must not have seen the same movie I did, or:
    1. You mistook simplicity in storytelling for a lack of sophistication.
    2. You expect overly dramatic silent movie style acting so that the plebes (or yourself, maybe) can figure out what emotions the actors are supposed to be portraying.
    3. You also mistook the lack of applause for lack of appreciation. Every single person in the theater I saw the movie in watched the end, and then filed out silently.
    It was not because we dd not like the film, it was because we were all sad to see the loss of an American hero, and humbled by the experience of seeing this portrayal of his life.
     I could easily add in points 4,5, and 6, maybe 7 or 8, but I am sure anyone else reading this comment who also saw the film can figger them out for themselves.

    Whether it is Oscar material is not my call to make, but a poorly conceived or made film it was not.

    • S. Miller Reply

      I never called it a poorly conceived film. You’re also making assumptions about every person in the theater who viewed the movie with you when you have no basis to prove how they felt about the film. I was stating a fact that there was “sparse applause” I never stated why or why that was. I called the acting extraordinary so I’m not sure what the problem there is.

  4. West Reply

    “(not a particularly good film either)” , so,  not “particularly good”, which anyone of normal comprehension would interpret as “Not particularly well conceived or executed”,
    despite your caveat that you thought the acting was extraordinary, if the acting was extraordinary, there would have to be some other massive failure that would end up
     making it “Not particularly good”. In, say conception or execution.
    I think you should have left a little more room for others to feel differently about the product than you did, this not actually being a review & all.
    In any case, your other points about the cultural reactions to the movie are insightful, I’m not just being contrary for the fun of it.
    P.S. About 1/2 of the people leaving the theater had tears in their eyes, that was enough evidence for me to make some guesses as to their mental state. Maybe not for you, mileage may vary.

     
     

    • S. Miller Reply

      – (Not a particularly good film either) was in reference to Lone Survivor, which I clearly state by using the title of the movie, Lone Survivor.
      – No there doesn’t have to be a massive failure for acting to be extraordinary nor do I suggest that. The acting was extraordinary.
      – People are allowed to feel about the film however they want on their website. This is my however my website and my feelings about the film.

      Thanks for reading.

      • blake Reply

        I’d probably put “Lone Survivor” in my top 10 for 2013. It’s easily in my top 10 for 2014. (It was made in 2013, but I didn’t see it until early last year.)

        I’m assuming when you say “not a particularly good film”, you’re not referring to technical execution, but to narrative.

  5. wodun Reply

    I mostly agree but not with everything. The movie was good but not great. The real footage at the end was very moving.

    I think people view this movie superficially as an jingoistic action movie that neither requires nor deserves deep thought. IMO, that is the wrong way to view the movie. It is deeper and more subtle than people realize.

    “The Kyle character is exactly the same person at the end of the film as he was at the beginning, similar to a super hero. ”

    No, he wasn’t. The movie was tragic because the protagonist died just when they changed their life for the better by dealing with his inner demons. The movie was all about how Kyle struggled with those demons but we saw it from the outside not from inside his mind, the audience didn’t have access to that directly. We had to infer what was going on from Coopers acting.

    “Another complaint was the steady resolve of the Kyle character. He floats through the film never unsure of who he is or why he is doing what he is doing, even as other characters around him meltdown.”

    Again, this isn’t the case. The character says things that imply he has a steady resolve but the actor’s body language shows that the character struggled a lot. It showed the struggle and did not say it. Kyle was the type of person who would say he wasn’t having problems even though the audience knew he was. You can’t trust the character’s words on this one. I don’t know what the literary term is, dishonest protagonist or something. You have to understand the character in order to see through words and actions to what is really going on. I think the movie did a good job of this but was so subtle at it that the audience didn’t realize what was going on. Eastwood didn’t talk down to his audience, he expected them to engage their brains and look beyond the superficial. The man is a master of his craft and this movie showed a depth of craft that most movies do not engage in.

    Kyle wasn’t the type of guy who would get all mushy and talk about his feelings and complain about things. Why expect the character in the movie to do that? Kyle was the type of person, typical of many males, that internalize their feelings and present a public face of everything being great.  If Kyle had a knife sticking out of his leg and you asked him how he was doing, he would say, “I’m doing great.” Obviously he isn’t because there is a knife in his leg but he says he is because that is his character. This used to be common of men in America, even those on the left. It is why doctors have such a hard time treating men.

    “The shots are framed with very little tension, save for one scene when Kyle spots a young child picking up an RPG launcher after a kill.”

    And the sniper vs sniper scenes.  Every situation didn’t have dramatic tension because Eastwood was building up to the sniper vs sniper confrontation. I think this was intentional.

    “seemed repetitive (Four tours in Iraq will do that) and in cruise control mode for much of the film.”

    So, four tours in Iraq seemed repetitive and to all blur together. Did you ask yourself if this was intentional? To me, it seemed like Eastwood was trying to show the strain of deployment, the thrill of always being in danger, and how the stress causes PTSD to set in. You have to ask yourself if the way you felt watching the movie was because of the intentional choices of the director in order to get you to feel a certain way. I think the blurring and feeling of repetition of the deployments was intentional.

    It is a bit like hating Jofferry on Game of Thrones. You are supposed to hate him. He is written to be hated. The actor acts so that you hate him. It is all intentional yet slips through our conscious minds so that we don’t recognize it as being manipulated. I think something similar is happening here where Eastwood is doing things intentionally to manipulate people’s emotions and is doing it so well that people don’t even realize what is happening.

    At one point, I thought the movie wasn’t good because there was shitty chemistry between Kyle and his wife. Then it dawned on me that it was intentional because the characters, not the actors, did not have good chemistry at that point in the movie. 

    This movie is more subtle than people give it credit. It requires a thoughtful viewing and people shouldn’t come out with superficial views of it, especially when it comes to the craft aspects of Eastwood’s contribution.

    I agree with your cultural commentary though.

  6. Jim Reply

    Agree with just about every word you wrote. Thanks. One minor nit – the medals pounded into Chris Kyle’s coffin were SEAL tridents, not Navy Cross tridents (no such animal – the Navy Cross is, well, a cross.) It’s a tradition at funerals of SEALs for fellow seals to pound a SEAL trident into the coffin. Chris Kyle earned numerous medals, including two Silver Stars and I think five Bronze Stars, but not the Navy Cross.

    • S. Miller Reply

      Thanks for the clarification on the medal name. Will correct that.

  7. News of the Week (January 25th, 2015) | The Political Hat Reply

    […] Target Practice: Media Takes Aim at Conservatives in Culture When the Academy Award nominations last week were announced, Selma‘s name was only called twice. The collective sound of everyone who works at MSNBC fainting on the floor could be heard all over social media. The only person left standing was Sony Pictures new executive board member Al Sharpton who loudly declared he would take action. Barack Obama has very subtly taken steps to bully the academy into making sure Selma receives both Oscars it is nominated for. The problem is Selma just isn’t that compelling of a film beyond something made for cable. The progressive left believes it to be a moral injustice that it did not receive Oscar attention, simply because the film exists and not on its merits. […]

  8. R Daneel Reply

    “The progressive left believes it to be a moral injustice that it did not receive Oscar attention, simply because the film exists and not on its merits.”

    Sounds like a meme for Social Justice Warriors and Obama.

    “He was a rock that every character around him broke themselves against.”

    You stole that from “Legends of The Fall”. +1 for a good steal, -1k for stealing. Hack.

    “American Sniper, which isn’t really a political movie or a traditional war movie must now be judged by the standards of progressive media.”

    Why? Why do we have to play their game? That is a losers path. It is a movie about the best of our servicemen. Read Kyle’s book. The voice in it is real.
    And shows a picture of those of us in the heartland, not the coastal elites who think they have the right to rule.

  9. @douglasprogers Reply

    I’m late to this, going through your archives. Great post. I thought the film a masterpiece, but I saw it after all the
    hooplah so maybe was scoring one for the team. This, though, is spot on: “Conservative focus should be on how Cooper
    and Eastwood can put their politics aside in a creative and compelling effort to tell the story of a remarkable warrior.”

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