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American Sniper (2014)
American Sniper - propaganda or not?
There seems to be an unwarranted amount of controversy surrounding Clint Eastwood's latest directorial effort, American Sniper. Many left-wing celebrities, feminists, and other liberals are crying "propaganda!" All art forms have the possibility to serve a political or religious agenda and many are meant to do so. From anti-war protest songs to Michael Moore documentaries to religious texts. I guess it's easy to forget that the main goal of art is to entertain. Two things about me: 1. When it comes to most political topics, I consider myself a liberal, 2. I am a huge Clint Eastwood fan. I am also, for the most part, anti-war. Most films about war can be considered anti-war films, but there are a few pro-war films. Those films might be considered propaganda, but at the same time might be considered enjoyable and even great works of art. Three movies off the top of my head that take a seemingly pro-war stance: Sergeant York, 300, and the latest installment in the Rambo franchise. The best of those, Sergeant York, is the one most blatantly a propaganda film. Yet, I still enjoy the film. So I believe that when you watch a movie, especially by a master such as Clint Eastwood, you should put your political beliefs aside as well as the political beliefs of the artist(s). It's perfectly possible to love the works of Ted Nugent and Sean Penn at the same time.
I've never read Chris Kyle's book. I don't know how closely Eastwood's film followed the book and I don't know how honest and true the book was. For all I know Chris Kyle was a great and kind man or Chris Kyle was a complete and total douche bag. Maybe he's a xenophobic, jingoistic, warmongering asshole. Maybe Clint Eastwood is one of those too. I don't know, and frankly I don't care because it is completely irrelevant to the point of this review or the point of American Sniper.
As I watched it, I was unable to put aside all the politics and pro-war sentiment stuff because I was searching for it. As it turns out, I was searching in vain. I could find no war mongering. I could only find a little of the flag-waving pseudo-Patriotism. The fact is, I found plenty of anti-war sentiment. It did not show me, in any way, that this war Chris Kyle and the others were fighting was just. It did, however, show the "War is Hell" theme common in almost all war movies, whatever their political leanings. Many of the negative reviews point out how all the Iraqis were called "savages." Yet, Clint Eastwood was not trying to say that all Iraqis are savages any more than Quentin Tarantino tries to say that all black people are n*ggers in Django Unchained. The characters in the movie use the word savages. I would guess that this is authentic language and an accurate portrayal of the folks fighting over there. I just can't find any basis for these negative reviews, that seem to judge the politics of Kyle and Eastwood more than they judge the film. Let's not forget that Eastwood directed Letters from Iwo Jima, a highly anti-war picture.
American Sniper is a solid film. Bradley Cooper gives a strong performance and Clint gives us another competently directed film. I did expect to see a little bit more snipering, as it were. There was some in the beginning and then not anymore until the climactic scene. Chris Kyle kept going back to war partially because he felt like he had unfinished business, and mostly because he couldn't cope with his regular life in the states anymore. This shows the negative psychological impact that war has on folks and how, much like someone who has been released from prison after years, they are unable to adapt to normal life. Kyle's inability to cope is similar to the main character in The Hurt Locker (a movie that was not branded as propagandist garbage or given bad reviews). This difficulty to conform to stateside life after being in war is further studied in films like The Best Years of Our Lives.
At first, when I saw Chris Kyle and his wife watching the tragic events of September 11th on TV, I sort of rolled my eyes and felt like that could have been left out. Looking back, I don't think it was used as a propaganda device, but rather shown as a motivational device to Mr. Kyle or just shown as an important event in their lives, as it was in all American lives. So is American Sniper patriotic? To be sure. Is it sentimental? At times it is, but great art often is sentimental (see Norman Rockwell or Charles Dickens) because it invokes those warm fuzzy emotions in all of us. I actually think that American Sniper was able to accomplish something remarkable, and that is it was able to tackle the subject of the second Iraq war without judging it either way, good or bad, just or unjust.
Bottom line, American Sniper is a good film, but it's not a great film. It can't touch Unforgiven or The Outlaw Josey Wales or Million Dollar Baby. I came into it curious about it's politics, but not obsessing over them. It was entertaining, and that is the first and most important thing one should consider when reviewing a film. Then you think about how it made you feel and then you think of how it looked and sounded and how well the performers performed and maybe lastly you can think about it's politics.
American Sniper is not as good as Sergeant York. It's not as good as Letters from Iwo Jima. It's not as good as The Best Years of Our Lives. American Sniper is as good as American Sniper and that's good enough for me. 7.5 out of 10
Gone Girl (2014)
Please watch this movie if you are a moron.
Oh... Gone Girl... where to start? The movie starts off pretty good. There is a mystery and it is interesting. There are some holes, but you can ignore them and keep watching to see what happens. The mood is somewhat eerie, thanks to the directing, cinematography, and music. Then, the answer to the mystery is revealed and it all goes downhill from there. It spikes slightly after a bit, but then the last 20 minutes or so are so bafflingly stupid, embarrassingly idiotic, and difficult to watch... like Lifetime movie psychotic. None of the characters are likable. None of the characters are intelligent. I cannot think of a single movie with more plot holes. I will not list any of them so as not to spoil the film for those of you brave enough to watch it, and also because so many previous reviewers have eloquently laid them out.
I am not going to give this movie a 1, because I can't say there were no positives. It looked nice throughout. Ben Affleck's performance was solid. Rosamund Pike definitely did not deserve an Oscar nomination. I enjoyed the scene involving a box-cutter, because I am a sick and morbid f*@k. The beginning of the film was enjoyable enough... but that's about it. So I gave it a 5. But the more I think about Gone Girl, the worse I think about it. So that 5 may become a 4.
Please, don't watch this movie. Instead watch an Ernest movie, it will be equally stupid but an hour shorter.
The Artist (2011)
Why won't you talk, George?
The Artist 2011 Michael Hazanavicius
In 1927, The Jazz Singer became the first film with synchronized dialogue. A few years later, "talkies" became popular and silent films died. Not too many actors made a successful transition from silents to talkies, and often those were comedic actors like Laurel and Hardy or Charlie Chaplin. Silent film acting was a different style. With no audible dialogue and no way to convey tone of voice and subtlety, actors had to rely on facial expressions, hand gestures, and overacting. Some actors didn't simply struggle to make the transition, but rather refused to do so. Such is the case of actor George Valentin in The Artist. The film opens, not coincidentally, in 1927. George (Jean Dujardin) is a nice guy, but proud and somewhat egotistical and cocky. He helps out an attractive young actress, Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo). Peppy's star gradually climbs while George's fame suddenly crashes at the advent of the talkies. Meanwhile, George's unhappy and bored housewife (Penelope Ann Miller) leaves him and he goes broke. He becomes suicidal, and Peppy tries to save him. There is almost no audible dialogue in this movie and very little sound save the accompanying orchestra music. It is shot perfectly like the silent films of old. There is one wonderful scene in which the music stops and George is attacked by the ordinary sounds of setting a glass on a table, his dog barking, laughter, the wind. He is overwhelmed by this. It's the best scene in the picture. The cast is wonderful and includes character actor James Cromwell (L.A. Confidential, The Green Mile, and dozens of others you've surely seen) and John Goodman (the most underrated actor in Hollywood). Not sure why Malcolm McDowell was put in a 30 second role. There isn't really anything wrong with this movie except for there really is no time and place to enjoy it. It may have been best enjoyed in the theater. If you have a very short attention span, you might have trouble watching it. There are a few humorous moments, but nothing that will make you laugh out loudly. It's a highly original movie and I think that's why it won so many awards. It is so different from anything else that Hollywood is pumping out nowadays. But despite practically no flaws in this movie, it's hard to give it a super high rating and that's mainly due to the pure entertainment factor. It would make a great companion film with Sunset Boulevard (1950), Mel Brook's Silent Movie (1976), or any actual silent movie. I give it 7 out of 10.
The Babe (1992)
an underrated gem
This is probably my favorite movie involving sports. John Goodman gives a stellar performance. Babe Ruth is definitely one of the greatest characters our country has ever known and I wish I could've been alive to see him play. I think this film, although at times historically inaccurate, gives a good picture of both the complexity and the simpleness of Babe Ruth. As Braveheart has shown us, a movie doesn't have to be historically correct to be good and entertaining.
Another comment mentioned how the dying child in the hospital and Babe promising to hit two homeruns was cliche, but that actually happened and all other times that has been portrayed in films and stories it was taken from the actual event. I think that scene is important to the film to show more about the character of Ruth. As for the child living and showing up years later to give Ruth the ball back, I do not know whether that actually occured.
As in Raising Arizona, The Big Lebowski, Bringing Out the Dead, and Fallen, John Goodman shines in this film, one of the most underrated actors out there. I really enjoyed the shot where Babe was yelling on top of the dugout and the crowd was screaming behind him and throwing lemons. My one complaint is that maybe they could've shown more about Babe's death, what happened to him after he retired from baseball...I think he had another coaching job and he made a few post-career appearances at Yankee Stadium before his death. The life of Babe Ruth is really an epic and the filmmakers could've stretched the running time of the film even a little more. Overall great film, whether you like baseball or not. 9 outta 10.
Looney Bin or Brewery?
This is one of those classic comedies that everyone has to love. Right? Well, not everyone loves this movie, but I do. I have three roommates, two of which had never even heard of, let alone seen, Strange Brew. About a month ago I popped it in for them, thinking they would think it was a stupid movie. They loved it, they said it was maybe the funniest movie they'd ever seen. Although, I disagree with that, I must certainly say it is funny.
The plot of the movie is stupid...an evil brewmaster plans on taking over the world by putting something in the beer that will allow him to control those who drink it. It's up to Bob & Doug and friends to stop him. If the movie had a better plot and more funny characters other than Bob & Doug, it would've been an easy 10 out of 10. However, I had no reason to like any of the other characters or the plot. I was just left yearning for Bob & Doug to be back on the screen whenever they were off.
Like so much comedy, their comedy is stupid yet brilliant at the same time. Just the little things they do and say are hilarious. "Give 'em a jelly, he likes jelly. Hey, jelly donut comin'." "In case she sues for whiplash, I don't know you I'm just a hitchiker." 8 outta 10
This movie is downright creepy. The first time I seen this movie I thought it was ok...but I recently saw it again and I liked it better this time...The cannibals in this movie are almost vampire like in that they, after eating human meat, become like monsters and crave it even more. I thought Robert Carlyle did a bang-up job. I do think the script has some holes in it but it is an overall good flick...why? Mostly because it is original....there aren't too many movies that take an indepth look at cannibalism. The music was good too, I didn't like it at first and didn't think it belonged, however, towards the end the same song that they kept playing again and again became almost scary and really very creepy. This one ranks up there with "Alive" as one of the best movies about cannibalism.
The Mountain Men (1980)
Brian Keith is great!
I bought this movie for $5 before I even seen it...I like westerns so it wasn't that big of a risk for me. Although this movie has a few lame parts here and there, it is a quite entertaining story about furtrapping, friendship, and even a little romance. There aren't enough movies out there about furtrappers or this extremely adventurous era of our country's history.
Brian Keith's character(Frapp)in the movie was the best part. He is a rough and tough "Injun" fighter who loves whiskey and cuss words. He provides some comic relief and is the most memorable character in the movie. Heston does an okay job as well. My favorite line in the movie is after the Crow Indian says "You give us gifts and we go in peace." and Frapp says "You can go in dog s***!"
Easy Rider (1969)
Hippies Use Side Door
I think this film is an American masterpiece...to me it's actually not overly entertaining, it just says so much and so little at the same time. I never liked hippies, but this movie emphasizes how poorly America treats people who are different and it made me appreciate the counterculture movement much more. The really ironic part of the movie is how Wyatt was nicknamed Captain America and had his chopper all decked out in red, white, and blue. While watching this film, I really wanted them to retaliate and kick some redneck butt, but that wouldn't have made the film as strong as it is. I really liked Jack Nicholson in this film...he added some comic relief and he drinks Jim Beam in a pint bottle just like I always do. Combine all of that with a mean soundtrack and excellent photography direction and you get a film that everyone should see, especially young people. The documentary on the making of the film is very interesting...if you like this movie and don't own it yet, go buy the DVD, the documentary is on there.
Watch it twice!
Frailty is a very good and pretty well thought out film. You may need to watch it twice to take it all in and understand it 100%, but even if you do understand it the first time watch it again anyhow. Question everything when you watch this movie, there is no clear cut case of right and wrong within. Even though the two films are really nothing alike, I couldn't help but be slightly reminded of the Usual Suspects.
American History X (1998)
This movie reminded me so much of a short story that I read in high school. It's about a homeless man who wanted a place to stay for the winter so he decided he would go to jail. Warm home, free meals. So he went around doing all these crimes and turning himself in. But the cops would never buy it or throw him in jail...Finally at the end he goes into a church and he decides he's going to change his life. Tomorrow he would make himself presentable and try to get a job and everything...and then the cops come in the church and arrest him for loitering! Furlong's character is a lot like the bum in that story in that in the end he decides to change his life and he gets it anyway. I could some up the end of the movie in two words: "too late" Anyways it's an excellent movie. It shows true tragedy in American youths.