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.
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.
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).
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 –