CRITERION COLLECTION REVIEWS VOL. 6 (Nashville, Ratcatcher, Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!)

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NASHVILLE (1975 / dir. Robert Altman / USA) – On the surface Robert Altman’s ambitious ensemble drama is about country music in Nashville, but it’s really about keeping up appearances. Beneath the clean, optimistic Christian song lyrics lies anger, jealousy, desperation and a bunch of pettiness. However, beneath all the bullshit there is some room for tender moments. There’s a beautiful scene featuring Keith Carradine singing to and about Lily Tomlin.  With a runtime of 160 minutes, Nashville lets some of it’s scenes run on a tad too long and features a completely unnecessary subplot involving Elliot Gould playing himself. Criterion gives this a beautiful 2K digital film restoration making it worth every penny. Grade: A- 

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RATCATCHER (1999 / dir. Lynn Ramsay / UK) – Lynn Ramsay’s  directorial debut about life in the Glasgow slums is cripplingly depressing. Nothing is particularly impressive or profound about the way it’s shot or the writing, but it does feature some very raw and powerful performances, especially from young William Edie. His scenes with the neighborhood girl are oddly touching and without a doubt the strongest aspect of the film. Extremely realistic in it’s depiction of poverty, Ratcatcher ends up just being a painful film with nothing to say that hasn’t been said before in better films. The “ambiguous” ending is fairly trite as well. Available for Streaming on HuluPlus Grade: C+ 

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TIE ME UP! TIE ME DOWN! (1990 / dir. Pedro Almodovar / Spain) – Truly one of the greatest and most unique filmmakers around, Pedro Almodovar has a way of merging soap and realism into a wonderfully potent brew of human emotion. Antonio Banderas stars as a mental patient recently released from an institution. He kidnaps an ex-porn star and junkie trying to be a legitimate actress (Victoria Abril) in an attempt to make her fall in love with him. It’s a dark comedy that is incredibly funny and sexy, but fails to be thrilling or intense. Banderas and Abril give fantastic performances but their characters aren’t as fleshed out as Almodovar’s best characters and for that matter the plot is not as complex or as compelling as Almodovar’s best work. Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! is  a really good movie, just not as good as you’d expect from Almodovar. Available for Streaming on HuluPlus Grade: B+ 

FILM REVIEW – CREED

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I’ve never been a fan of the Rocky movies. The 1976 original was a good film with solid performances, but it was far too sentimental for my tastes. It also beat out three of the best films ever made (Taxi Driver, Network, All the President’s Men) for the Best Picture Oscar trophy. The sequels I saw (the one with Mr. T and the one with Dolph Lungren) were flat out terrible with cheesy 80s editing and writing so infantile and stupid it could induce migraines. However, I’m a fan of actor Michael B. Jordan and filmmaker Ryan Coogler, who’s Fruitvale Station was one of the more impressive debut films I’ve seen. I thought if any fresh young filmmaker could breath life back into this increasingly pathetic film series, Coogler could be the one to do it. While not perfect and certainly not one of the best films of the year, Coogler succeeds in losing the over-the-top ridiculousness of the sequels while still honoring the roots of the 1976 original.

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The story structure of Creed is incredibly formulaic in a Hollywood-has-tampered-with-this kind of way. Every beat of the movie is predictable and some moments are so saccharine it will make you want to grind your teeth off. However, Coogler fills this familiar structure with interesting characters and sharp dialogue, and the actors endow their characters with fine performances. Far and away the best part of Creed is the performance of Michael B. Jordan. It’s an incredibly restrained and quietly powerful performance one would never expect to find in a Rocky movie. Sylvester Stallone is better here than he has been in years, showing a vulnerability to Rocky Balboa we haven’t seen. Stallone is getting a lot of Oscar buzz, and while he is solid in the role, I don’t think it’s completely deserved. I’ve seen over a dozen supporting male performances this year that are infinitely more complex than what Stallone does here. Stallone’s Rocky Balboa strikes a strong emotional cord with the audience, but I think it has more to do with how the character is written than the performance given by the actor.

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Coogler’s direction is top-notch, with impressively choreographed fight sequences that create more tension and suspense than most boxing films out there. He also does a great job in capturing the city of Philadelphia and handling the actors. The story structure might be annoyingly straightforward but all the characters’ dialogue rings true. I don’t want to end my review by saying “Creed isn’t a knockout, but it holds it’s own for all twelve rounds”, but I don’t think I have a choice. Creed isn’t a knockout, but it holds it’s own for all twelve rounds. Fuck, I hate myself. Grade: B 

 

What the Hell Have I

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So, I’ve been writing recently on my friend Brad Decker’s Medium publication Panel & FrameMost of the shit I give him is short stories and unsophisticated literary work, but I’ve just put down one of my first movie-related articles there where I elaborate on why I believe John McTiernan and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s massive disasterpiece Last Action Hero is one of the most unfinished movies ever released (alongside Eyes Wide Shut and The Wolf of Wall Street).

Check it out here, yo.

Con Hardly Believe It

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There are two movies going on in Focus. But thankfully it’s not at all the kind of movie where those two movies are going on simultaneously. Focus has a very clear divide on the two halves of its story, right down to being separated by both time and location. The unfortunate thing is that one of these is a pretty brisk and enjoyable if not revelatory caper and the other is a pretty underwhelming romance.

But that’s still better than my expectations from a very confusing trailer: for one, it really knows how to make itself feel a lot more shimmering and glossy to the point that it even compliments the whole con artistry subject of the movie by having cinematographer Xavier Perez Grobet feel more and more in on the game than the audiences. It’s at once a way to let us in on the mind of lead Nicky Spurgeon (Will Smith) and a way to show how obtuse it is to figure out what’s going on in his mind.

For another, Jon Kovac’s editing within the first half of the film is nicely quick and catchy like the wit of Margot Robbie’s sizzling and sassy performance as Nicky’s protege Jess Barrett. The combined lead of Smith, Kovac, and directors Glenn Ficara & John Requa don’t make us feel to thrust around in the con and it doesn’t give off half the attitude of a trickster that it thinks it gives us, but it totally grants momentum and poppy rhythm to the con, especially when Nicky is showing Jess (and through Jess, the audience) the rules and ropes of their game.

That sort of educational guide to Zen or the Art of the Con is more or less what entails of the first half of the movie – we see Nicky and Jess meet on account of the former tagging the latter as inexperienced when she tries to pull a grift on him. Jess follows Nicky to New Orleans and gets involved in his network of con artists while they all team up to pull off a giant heist at the Superbowl. In the meantime, as would be expected, the script demands that Nicky and Jess begin to become interested in each other, something Nicky specifically sermons against – personal involvement in the con. This would probably be the best entry position for a retro-screwball comedy in the vein of the 30s (which I would absolutely die for), but alas that’s not the case. This romance ends with a surprising tragedy at hand, especially for Jess. And thus ends the really enjoyable and well-crafted first half. It’s no Ocean’s Eleven, but at least it’s not Ocean’s 11.

 

The editing in the second half, though, is really not as enjoyable. It’s more relaxed, more calm, and… I hate to say it, boring simply because it is slower. Normally, I’m glad to give shots a chance to breathe, but when the movie is trying to be so convinced that it is raising the stakes this time around and making them more personal… the whole second half just ends feels less palatable because it doesn’t giving such sobriety any real weight or momentum. This is also because Smith, by this point, clearly isn’t as invested in Nicky and Jess’ chemistry as Robbie is (I wish this movie had more of an audience simply for her performance. She is the only thing I look forward to in the very unappealing Suicide Squad). I mean, they still work wonders with what they’re given and have more chemistry than Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan, but it’s simply not enough to cover for the fact that the Buenos Aires race car drift at the center of the second half is less complex than the Super Bowl supercon and, as a result, extremely uninteresting. And before very long, the movie just starts to fizzle out slowly rather than feel like it’s coming to any true climax.

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Hell, they don’t even get to have the wide-range backdrop of characters the first half had to catapult off of: from B.D. Wong’s bug-eyed wild glee, to Adrian Martinez’s lax vulgarity (ok… he gets a teensy appearance in the second half, but he was much more lovable and involved in the first), to an always-welcome Thomas Lennon keeping it ordered and professional and only shifting eyes to keep checking out other angles. No, in the second half, we have Rodrigo Santoro being the most uncompelling antagonist ever in existence (he’s more inconsequential than he is in the 300 films – at least that was visually off-kilter) and Gerald McRainey being standard gruff guy and the one moment where he can actually give revelation to the film, he just dumps last-second exposition to the film and peaces out.

There’s really not much more I feel I can say about the film: the two parallels and the distinct decline in quality once the movie changes locations is really jarring enough to make me just wait it out in the theater and that’s unfortunate, because the things that work in Focus are truly a lot of fun. One feels another good draft of the script (also written by Ficara & Requa) could have answered for this and maybe having two separate editors for each half as well, because the leads and Grobet’s good ol’ glazy and glassy-eyed lenswork are just really working to keep the film afloat until the end and their heroic heavy lifting at least keeps the film toeing the line of boredom rather than letting it go to mediocrity in the end. It probably could have built their career (or in the case of Smith, rebooted it) if the film had made a bigger splash.

Like I said, it’s no Ocean’s Eleven, but at least it’s no Ocean’s 11.

(and a bit of unnecessary anecdote, but one of my classmates in ASU also had a thesis short film called Focus that I just had so much time trying to keep out of my mind every time I heard this movie’s title or even saw a poster).

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They’re All Grey, Sir

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Something I’ve got to accept that you’ve got to accept is that this is not going to be the perfect review to Fifty Shades of Grey. I encountered the perfect review to Fifty Shades of Grey on letterboxd. I’m gonna have to close with a direct quote of it because it is the perfect review to Fifty Shades of Grey.

But in the meantime, we have to stare at this BIG MOVIE EVENT in a year that’s kind of been up to its neck in BIG MOVIE EVENTS.

Which means having to stare at the fact that Fifty Shades of Grey had provoked a sort of moral uprise in the literary and movie-viewing public based on its alleged glass darkly in the practice of BDSM. And these conversations are completely interesting and the arguments for and against it are totally necessary to hear out and they are made by people a hell of a lot more qualified than I. I wouldn’t be surprised if I myself incidentally get into my own thoughts about how it misrepresents the BDSM culture (it is to BDSM what Hungry Hungry Hippos is to BDSM) or what it means that people are willing to accept this portrayal of sexuality based on superiority based on class or cruelty of a sort that doesn’t imply any truly healthy sharing of trust between two partners. But most of these conversations and applications of ideas on what sex means to different groups of people means nothing in the context of this fucking movie for a reason obvious to anybody who watches it.

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Fifty Shades of Grey is mindnumbingly boring. The factor about the movie that made me realize what a mistake it was to step into the theater, the most arresting thing I noticed about this movie, that left me with the emptiest of feelings, is how absolutely boring the movie is. It is one of the longest times I’ve ever spent in a cinema and I have seen Shoah and a single sitting of The Apu Trilogy.

Something tells me if I had gone through with stomaching the absolute literacy desert in the first few chapters of the original source novel by E.L. James (who wrote it as Twilight fanfiction, so oh fucking joy!), I could have seen this coming but, from what I understand, the pornographic element of the movie was stripped out of the book and I’d believe it based on how little of the movie is dedicated to portraying the act of sex so much as it is between two people making the world’s least compelling tug-o’-war of where to go with their relationship in a completely sterile manner: a scene features the two leads discussing contract terms for their sexual activities and “butt plugs” and “nipple clamps” are discussed with an inhuman lack of humor. It’s that neutral on the stance of even the most ridiculous and curious facets of sex, which leaves it not even trying to be erotic.

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Isn’t that the reason this whole thing exists to begin with? Wasn’t the plan to try to portray erotica as vividly as possible? You know, even if you stripped most of the material of its sexual content, you can still be extremely sexy, we have several movies capable of doing this. Anyway, it seems like somehow either James or director Sam Taylor-Johnson couldn’t agree on making the film this way (I’m guessing that James was against watering down the sex scenes, but this IS the sex-phobic MPAA) and so that negates a lot of possibility of the movie having personality. So direction is out, it’s a non-entity practically when the two brains behind it can’t agree.

This act on the part of screenwriter Kelly Marcel means that she heroically takes on the task instead of carrying the unpromising plot and characters and villainously decides to just leave shit exactly where it is without any interest in making the movie anywhere near interested in telling us why we should be attracted to the successful business prodigy Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) or the Lost Girl Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and holy shit, in a year where I watched iZombie and Fifty Shades of Grey, I can’t figure if Anastasia Steele or Major Lilywhite is the more bullshit name I’ve encountered. From the very unbelievable screw-up of the opening interview between them – Steele acting like a Nolan remake of a Howard Hawks comedy and Grey turning his “I’m tormented” zone to 11 almost immediately by sharing personal information that I don’t think any businessman would allow to escape – we have to leap to the idea that these two beings with no chemistry between them would suddenly be attracted to each other while Grey showcases exactly what James lifted from Twilight‘s Edward Cullen by having the character stalk the hell out of Steele (but that’s ok because he’s handsome AND rich… did we mention he has the money, Lebowski?) for the first 30 minutes before having them discuss the possibility of her partaking in his fetishes and her wanting more romantic emotion within their relationship and that. just. shuts the fucking brakes on this.

Like, the movie isn’t screeching to a halt for two hours, it’s not going fucking anywhere. We have two characters in a stalemate that do not want to change and even spend the movie unchanged, since the movie just about decides it is done rather than feeling like it’s leading up to a conclusion towards Grey and Steele’s push-pull.

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It probably wouldn’t be as tedious as it is if it had the two leads were actually willing for a moment to stomach their way through this premise, but both of them have a huge amount of regret to themselves that leaks through their performances – Johnson has decided that her best way to play a character who doesn’t seem to have both feet on the ground (probably because the writing keeps sweeping her around) by downplaying the “intelligence” that we have to be fed about the character by her GPA and education and upping the wide-eyed enlightened naivete of Steele to the point that I can’t tell if she’s attempting satire or parody (thankfully, it doesn’t get in the way of the fact that Steele as a character has more autonomy in this relationship than I expected – I can’t tell if that’s a deviation from the book or not), while Dornan just has such a fixed scowl on his face that makes it clear he’s having a hard spitting out the bone-headed dialogue or finding a character that could actually build to the point of thinking “I’m fifty shades of fucked up” is anywhere near a thing any human would say.

When your two ostensibly human elements feel like they want a continent between them (which editors Anne Coates, Lisa Gunning, and Debra Neil-Fisher grant by keeping them as separated in the frame avoiding sharing screentime with the two of them so we could have a twisted Kuleshov effect), much less a sexual relationship, your movie is not going to be erotic on the basis of itself.

I don’t anyone told cinematographer Seamus McGarvey, though, that nobody else involved in the movie is interested in making it work, because that man is the sole light that movie has and I’m not just saying that because lighting is his job. His presentation of Grey’s world is something like a restrained Bond villain, sleek and icy greys and chrome structuring the headquarters of Grey’s company or his home, giving just slightly the idea that this whole fuck-up may have a touch of preciseness to it. The clean sterility of the shots might actually say more about Grey than Dornan or Kelly could try and more than James thought to prepare about the character, but it’s just not enough to keep me awake.

But, yeah, I really am just stretching at this point how many times I can say this movie put me the hell to sleep and I am sure fans of the book (assuming they exist) have just as much a problem with its emptiness as I do. One day we will have a picture that incites discussion about the sexual acts, how healthy they are, and cinematic portrayals of female sexuality, but it’s not this one. Hell, even a movie that would be a catastrophe of gender politics would have entertained me at least, but not here either. This one just wants to be through and done with itself, like the most awkward sexual encounter you probably have in the back of your mind. This whole review was me trying to find a way to express more fully the main idea of what IS the most perfect review of Fifty Shades of Grey that I’ve ever encountered and I’m going to have to end by quoting it directly, since there’s no other way to button this:

I’m not sure anyone has ever had sex as boring as this movie.

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Ballad of Some Soldier

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I’m not at all a guy hides his politics. I’m extremely nonchalant about them and I’m even able to usually circumvent them when I’m enjoying movies (though I do point out when I disagree with a picture). But no, it doesn’t take much to cover up the fact that I lean a little bit more liberal than conservative most times. It’s no shock that I am against the Iraqi War or the aggressive militarization of the U.S. It’s a little bit of a shock maybe that I’m not fond of the automatic hero worship of US soldiers – I don’t think the act of going to a war immediately qualifies you as a shining white morally upstanding person, but the actions you perform under that pressure are it. It’s not the uniform, it’s the character within it.

And of course, I read Chris Kyle’s American Sniper autobiography prior to the movie’s release and fought not to ragequit it. The idea that a guy is going to brag about taking lives – not the ones that actually threatened American Soldier Lives, but uncorroborated accounts of killing car thieves and getting off because of his Veteran status or picking off looters on the SuperDome during Katrina – that’s kind of reprehensible. There’s a really violent mentality fueled by Hoo-rah the entire book that felt like the type of bro-ish attitude I simply don’t have any stomach for. As well as the undercurrent of xenophobia and racism that was really transparent. The world is not black and white and I don’t think Kyle is an out-and-out bad person, considering his work with FITCO Cares helping veterans and their families. But I don’t think he’s a man I would have enjoyed being in the company of. And I wouldn’t call him a hero.

Getting a movie about him is a pretty tough thing, because I’m pretty dismissive towards my biases, but most people aren’t. American Sniper is a movie which I can’t really take most people’s opinions about seriously because half of us walked in with the pre-conception that Kyle is a GODDAMN ‘MURIKAHN HIRO and the movie better celebrate that! And others with the baggage of Kyle’s book being pretty unreadable and expecting the movie to be propaganda from the crotchety old white man, Clint Eastwood. Politics turn people into gargoyles, most people don’t want to entertain any thought outside their own.

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You know who else was against the Iraqi War?

Clint Eastwood. I know it’s hard to remember because Eastwood talked to a chair, but he’s anti-Iraqi War (and pretty much every war since Korea), anti-militarization, and pro-gun control. And a man as easily pissed off as he is is not going to make propaganda simply because its subject died in the middle of the movie’s development or Kyle’s father – the poor shmuck – threatened Eastwood.

I didn’t see American Sniper as a gleaming portrait of an American hero, the self-proclaimed “Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. History”. I saw it as, frankly, Frankenstein. Not an overt, obvious Frankenstein tale, but one of the many other movies that portrays a man as having to eschew his humanity to do the things he does.

Think about how we first meet Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) as a child remembering only two primary things from his dad – how to fire a gun and that “if you’re not a hero I’m gonna beat the shit out of you” (or something along those lines, they’re muddled by dad blatantly pulling out his belt ready to kick his son’s ass for giving the wrong answer). It’s easy to see that these are things Kyle takes to heart as principal and before long we see Kyle become a Navy SEAL and the movie follows his four tours in Iraq.

And for the entire length of his military career, he has tunnel vision for three values: God, Country, and Family. Cooper, in a career-best performance, lets that be the only window to how Kyle more and more crafts himself into a macho machine when in the presence of anyone other than himself, but when he is by himself with his own thoughts – it’s a lot more emptier, trying to break off the haunted voices and noise in his head (it’s always a waiting game for him to go back on tour with the troops, he cannot stick around in his house, and we see that coiled tension with every homelife scene – added by the weight Sienna Miller is able to give those scenes despite how thankless her role as Army Wife is). I’m very disappointed in the Academy not giving Sniper that Sound Mixing Award when this movie has warped my idea of a powertool hearing it intermingled with a child’s scream.

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Don’t get me wrong: the movie isn’t bleeding its heart out for Kyle. In spite of settling itself exclusively in Kyle’s broken point of view (without agreeing with it – y’know, like movies can and often do), the movie is ready to indict him of living his life this way whenever it can: three weighty scenes of characters questioning how bottlenecked his values are (one of which is his wife and another is his son) and threatening to break his fantasy and he’s only able to stonewall them or become extremely perplexed that people could possibly have a different idea about the war being for freedom and everything. Even once he’s actually being given random praise by folks as though war was a game, he just becomes uncomfortable – seeing himself given the nickname “Legend” feels like something he doesn’t think he earned. I think this attitude of the character is the primary deviation from Kyle’s autobiography – there’s no way a guy as uneasy by people approaching him to tell him how he’s a hero would possibly be ok with publishing his own exploits in such a bragging fashion (for the record, most of the similarities between the film and the book are the basics of the content – peoples’ names, that dude was sniper, etc., and one scene where he is accused of killing a man holding a Qur’an. There is one scene I was kind of disappointed to see omitted where Kyle pops inflatable balls that Taliban float on water on, but no way a movie this grim would allow that humor). The most damning moment is where Kyle is shown nearly beating his pet dog in front of his kids and friends, one that clearly show mental scarring to the point of violent impulses. I don’t even get how that scene rarely comes up in conversations about the movie.

Not only that, but the movie’s whole climactic finale is based on a blind rage on Kyle’s part where his “slaying the dragon” ends up nearly costing more U.S. lives than would have been necessary and seconds later he’s hyperventilating realizing he’s about to die. It’s the only breaking point the movie gives Kyle.

It’s not about a guy who’s an American hero. It’s about a guy who does dubious things that he believes are right and suffers from PTSD but refuses to accept that because it’s not something manly for him to go through. It’s practically a tragedy in all the ways people don’t seem to realize.

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But it’s also still got some big flaws. The most obvious ones being the production quality of it – the film editing and sound work is a surrounding scape of the dried-out tired atmosphere of a war zone that’s on the verge of collapse by the time Kyle joins, but the rest of it is… well, we’ve all by now heard every joke possible about the most obviously fake baby in US history. And that’s not all – we can call out the fake CGI, the fake background explosions, fake choppers, fake bullets (in very damning slo-mo), fake blood splatters… all looking like a production from 1991 rather than 2014. It is maybe the finest Wal-Mart movie I’ve ever seen, but I mean Wal-Mart as a really pointed barb.

There’s also the obvious question of whether or not the movie is racist, which… yeah, it kind of is. Being a movie that dedicates itself to the perspective of somebody who spends the movie killing Iraqis obviously means one has to hold them at a distance, but that doesn’t dig its grave so much as a necessity. What inarguably does is how the movie goes out of its way to establish an Iraqi character as genial and amicable to the SEALs before revealing he was hiding a cache of weapons and that he’s in fact another one of dem dadgum eevil turrists, implying such immediate distrust is well-founded and that even the best meaning of any Iraqi is undoubtedly someone who means you harm. Hell, there’s a scene that feels straight out of Stephen Sommers’ The Mummy where the Iraqi citizens go after the retreating SEALs yelling indiscernable nonsense (and this is coming from a guy who speaks Arabic) and waltzing towards them like a fucking zombie movie. Then there’s the whole thing about The Butcher (Mido Hamada), a caricature of Islamophobic stereotypes practically made into some sort of laughable supervillain/horror movie slasher without any real-world basis. It’s like having the Mandarin in Iron Man and claiming “Oh, we’re not being that reductive of the Asian-Americans”.

“Moustafa” (Sammy Sheik), a rival sniper from Syria who Kyle spends most of the movie chasing after, is kind of another story. Moustafa essentially feels like a remnant back when Steven Spielberg was signed on to make the movie – his version of American Sniper would have been one with a duel perspective between Moustafa and Kyle (Kyle never engaged in combat with Moustafa in real life) in a cat-and-mouse game. I honestly would have liked to see that movie, but in Eastwood’s version of American Sniper, Moustafa is just another video game boss for Kyle to encounter often. It’s not exactly the source of the movie’s racism, but it sucks to see a character intended to be a rich source of the moral grey this story yearns for, cut down to another background Muslim baddie.

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But of course, the biggest fault out of this movie is the fact that it’s clear Eastwood’s motivations and the motivations of the producers of American Sniper (who actually were friends with Kyle and must have had his death fresh in their mind) are like oil and water at points – Eastwood has to please the Kyle estate by letting movie version Kyle play out as an American fantasy yet is not going to let his work in Flags of Our Fathers/Letters to Iwo Jima be undone by a lack of moral questions in this picture. The most jarring event in the whole movie’s runtime is its end where it telegraphs in the most obvious fashion that Kyle is going to have a shocking and tragic death (shady guy with hat hiding his face in an ominous zoom in, uncharacteristically happy family time before meeting with a veteran, etc.) and then follows up with undoing most of the movie’s discomfort with the labels of “hero” or “legend” by having footage of his funeral interspersed with family photos. It felt slapdashed in the worst way, like I was attending the funeral of a barfly I barely knew, and I’m certain it was more of Kyle’s widow Taya’s idea than Eastwood’s. Which isn’t a very bad thing to want to honor your friend/husband/son (didn’t we just praise a similar ending earlier this year with Furious 7? And last I checked, Paul Walker didn’t serve) but it is winking and an anti-thesis to everything Eastwood’s work had been leaning towards.

I can’t blame anybody for missing the point when a movie is so at conflict with itself like that: it means most audiences who come in with bias are going to leave unchanged. You might even think them validated. If you’re walking in thinking “Oh, this is going to be propaganda 101”, you’re going to walk out still thinking so from Kyle’s persona and the Arab stereotypes. If you’re going to walk in thinking “yeah, we get a real perspective from the war”, you’re gonna walk out thinking it again. Islamophobe? In and out. Hate American jingoism? In and out.

But I still feel the point was missed by both detractors and apologists for the movie. And I still think it’s dumb that there was a whole “Us vs. Them” Oscar race at the time between American Sniper and Selma (for the record, I was leaning towards Selma, but I loved both movies). And I can’t help thinking the movie they saw wasn’t the movie on the screen.

Talking with anyone about American Sniper is an unwelcome feeling and I’d certainly be ok when people are open to the conversation in maybe 5 or 10 years, but nobody’s ready to listen now. We’re kind of thirsty for blood ourselves.

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