We’ve had some time to process the news of Leonard Nimoy’s death. The character which Nimoy helped create inspired generations to seek balance between discipline and feeling. Let’s take a look back through Spock’s trek through the stars in these 10 clips from the franchise.
What It Means to Be Vulcan
In one of the most definitive moments from the original series, Spock finds himself torn between his dual natures when a debilitating attack upon Captain Kirk leaves Spock in command of the Enterprise during a critical diplomatic mission.
The wrinkle is that Spock’s father lays sick among the delegation, succumbing to a malady that only a transfusion from Spock can resolve. But yielding to the procedure would compromise Spock’s capacity to command while the ship is under threat, and so logic dictates that he mind his Starfleet duty and allow his father to die.
Spock’s human mother pleads for him to reconsider in this heated confrontation.
It seems that the former Disney Channel star of Even Stevens and of my movie (co-written with the great Gail Parent), Cadet Kelly, recently lost a bet over Fifty Shades of Grey with her husband and wound up… well, see for yourself:
Christy Carlson Romano, aka Ren from “Even Stevens,” has a problem with the #Consent issue in “Fifty Shades of Grey.” In fact, she had so much disdain for the movie that she bet her husband it wouldn’t win the box office in its second weekend, and the loser would have to stand outside in the freezing New York weather in their underwear.
From the title of this article, you can pretty much guess what happened. Unfortunately for Romano, the historic plummet at the box office for “Fifty Shades” wasn’t enough to take it out of first place, so she had to strip down to some lingerie and head outside in the freezing cold. And to make matters worse, she also had a little trouble staying on her feet when she came back indoors.
Even with the fall, Romano was a good sport about the whole thing and later tweeted encouraging people to discuss #Consent with their loved ones.
Or, as I like to call her, Cadet Captain Jennifer Stone. Somewhere, Hilary Duff, who played our tormented cadet to Christy’s hard-ass officer, is laughing:
What is the Future of Fiction? You’ll Be Shocked Who’s Fighting the New Conservative Counter-Culture
Many conservatives are upset that American Sniper and director Clint Eastwood were (predictably) snubbed at the Oscars; but they shouldn’t be. The fact that a film with an overtly conservative message, directed by an openly conservative pop-culture icon, has grossed more than $400 million is a sign that conservative messages hold a powerful resonance with the American public.
American Sniper is hardly an aberration.
When high-quality entertainment that reflects conservative and/or libertarian ideals is presented to the public, it finds a broad and enthusiastic audience. From the various Marvel Films superhero barn-burners to novels by authors such as James Patterson, Brad Thor, and the late Vince Flynn; from graphic novels like Frank Miller’s 300 to TV shows like Downton Abbey, great stories with conservative sensibilities have proven to be commercial winners.
Note what all of these examples have in common, though: none of them are political polemics. Rather, they are well-crafted pieces of middle-brow entertainment, aimed first and foremost at telling a compelling story that (as any great story does) reveal truths about the human condition. Any specific political or ideological message is, thankfully, secondary.
It’s exciting (and rare) when a surge of creativity jibes with consumer preferences. In fact, I believe we are witnessing the start of a great renaissance in conservative creative culture. As the Publisher of Liberty Island, I’m continually impressed at the quality of the short fiction and novels that come across my desk from self-described conservatives and libertarians. These are not folks who can get their scripts produced in Hollywood or on Broadway, nor can they expect mainstream publishing houses to take a chance on their novels. However, they are the farm team, the next generation of conservative creators who will replace the Eastwoods and the Flynns.
Like any renaissance, this one requires nurturing and encouragement of nascent creators and that is a job we take very seriously. All of this has come with a surprising finding: we’ve found that the greatest enemy of creative conservatives isn’t the liberal cultural establishment; after all, it’s easy to bypass gatekeepers in the age of digital distribution.
Rather, the real enemy is a DC-based conservative establishment that is indifferent or outright hostile to cultural pursuits. They argue that building a conservative counterculture is a waste of time, and will make no difference. Some even go so far as to argue that middlebrow culture is inherently liberal or corrupting.
It’s as if the right side of the conservative brain has atrophied to such a degree that the people who claim to speak for us can’t see beyond the next election cycle or next Sunday’s news shows.
The very people who claim the legacy of Ronald Reagan denigrate the medium that made his career, and made him the extraordinary leader that he was. Reagan understood the power of the narrative; and he further understood that the story of the average man doing extraordinary deeds defined both conservatism and American exceptionalism.
That, more than any policy choices, is the legacy Reagan left to conservatives. And I firmly believe that the next Reagan will be found not among politicians and lawyers and investment bankers but among writers and directors and actors.
The essay above is the fourth in volume 2 of the cultural discussions between the writers of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island exploring the history of counter-cultures, the future of conservatism and the role of new, emerging counter-cultures in restoring American exceptionalism.
- Frank J. Fleming on February 26, 2015: What Is the Future of Government? Why It Won’t Look Like Star Trek
- Aaron C. Smith on February 26, 2015: What Is the Future of Superheroes? Why They Need To Start Killing Super-Villains
- Mark Ellis on February 26, 2016: What Is the Future of Gen-X Manhood? Adam Carolla Vs Chuck Palahniuk?
See the first volume of articles from 2014 and January and February 2015 below:
2014 – Starting the Discussion
- Sarah Hoyt, March 22 2014: Interview: Adam Bellow Unveils New Media Publishing Platform Liberty Island
- David S. Bernstein, June 20 2014: What Is Liberty Island?
- Adam Bellow at National Review, June 30 2014 kicking off the discussion: Let Your Right Brain Run Free
- Dave Swindle on September 7, 2014: Why Culture Warriors Should Understand the 10 Astounding Eras of Disney Animation’s Evolution
- Dave Swindle on September 9, 2014: The 50 Greatest Counter-Culture Films of All Time, Part I
- Dave Swindle on September 19, 2014: The 50 Greatest Counter-Culture Films of All Time, Part II
- David S. Bernstein on November 19, 2014: 5 Leaders of the New Conservative Counter-Culture
- Dave Swindle on November 25, 2014: 7 Reasons Why Thanksgiving Will Be My Last Day on Facebook
- Kathy Shaidle on November 25, 2014: Is America Overdue for a Satanic Revival? (Part One)
- Dave Swindle on December 2, 2014: My Growing List of 65 Read-ALL-Their-Books Authors
- Kathy Shaidle on December 3, 2014: Is America Overdue for a Satanic Revival? (Part Two)
- Mark Elllis on December 9, 2014: Ozzy Osbourne and the Conservative Tent: Is He In?
- Aaron C. Smith on December 22, 2014: The Villains You Choose
January 2015 – Volume I
- Paula Bolyard on January 1, 2015: 7 New Year’s Resolutions for Conservatives
- Susan L.M. Goldberg on January 1, 2015: The Plan to Take Back Feminism in 2015
- Kathy Shaidle on January 4, 2015: Did the 1960s Really Happen? (Part One)
- Andrew Klavan on January 5, 2015: In 2015 The New Counter-Culture Needs to Be Offensive!
- Clay Waters on January 5, 2015: The Decline and Fall of Russell Brand
- Mark Ellis on January 5, 2015: How Conservatives Can Counter the Likable Liberal
- Audie Cockings on January 5, 2015: Entertainers Have Shorter Lifespans
- Aaron C. Smith on January 6, 2015: How Mario Cuomo Honestly Defined Zero-Sum Liberalism
- Stephen McDonald on January 10, 2015: Why the New Counter-Culture Should Make Strength Central to Its Identity
- Stephen McDonald on January 16, 2015: The Metaphorical War
- Kathy Shaidle on January 19, 2015: Did the 1960s Really Happen? (Part Two)
- Frank J. Fleming on January 20, 2015: What if Red Dawn Happened, But It Was Islamic Terrorists Instead of Communists?
- Mark Ellis on January 21, 2015: Adam Carolla: The Quintessential Counterculture Conservative?
- Aaron C. Smith on January 29, 2015: Objection! Why TV’s The Good Wife Isn’t Good Law
- David Solway on February 2, 2015: For a Song To Be Good, Must It Tell The Truth?
- Mark Ellis on February 6, 2015: President Me: Adam Carolla Vs. the Scourge of Narcissism
- David Solway on February 6, 2015: ‘Imagine’ a World Without the Brotherhood
- Kathy Shaidle on February 9, 2015: Was Rod McKuen the Secret Godfather of Punk Rock?
- Aaron C. Smith on February 10, 2015: Kick NBC While It’s Down: Use The Williams Scandal to Set the Terms of the 2016 Debates
- Spencer Klavan on February 12, 2015: How to Apologize for Your Thought Crimes
- Kathy Shaidle on February 16, 2015: David Byrne: Creepy Liberal Hypocrite
- David P. Goldman on February 18, 2015: Understanding This Bloody Truth About the Bible Will Save Your Life
- Lisa De Pasquale on February 20, 2015: Why American Sniper Is a Much Better Love Story Than Fifty Shades of Grey
- Spencer Klavan on February 24, 2015: How Bad Ideology Destroys Good TV: Why Glee Crashed and Burned
You’re reading the concluding post for Preparedness Week, a weeklong series of blogs about disaster and emergency preparation inspired by the launch of Freedom Academy’s newest e-book, Surviving the End: A Practical Guide for Everyday Americans in the Age of Terrorby James Jay Carafano, Ph.D. You can download the e-book exclusively at the PJ Store here.
5. Mortal Kombat
If the apocalypse means having my skull smashed open on the rocks by Goro while Napalm Death plays then count me in. After all, Reptile is just Shang Tsung’s humble bodyguard for swatting down mortal weaklings in this film. The Reptile can take a few body slams with no problem.
Anyway, if you’re unfamiliar with the Mortal Kombat video games’ plot it shouldn’t matter. The movie involves a brutal tournament between the mortals of Earthrealm and Shang Tsung’s flunkies of Outworld. If Earth’s warriors lose the 10th tournament, the emperor Shao Khan becomes the ruler of Earthrealm.
I’m not going to spoil the ending but it should be fairly obvious that a certain Shaolin monk by the name of Louis Kang lays the smack down on the evil sorcerer and reappears for the sequel, Annihilation. This is the only proper MK film. Don’t bother with any others.
Mortal Kombat is a fine apocalyptic movie for parties or any situation.
For the last several weeks the mainstream media has been promoting the movie Fifty Shades of Grey as if their life depended on it. For NBC Universal, perhaps it does. As Roger Sterling on Mad Men said, “Hollywood isn’t happy unless things are extreme.”
After the Today show on NBC spent weeks building up the movie with exclusive clips, interviews and insight on its presumptive popularity, it’s no surprise that millions of women flocked to theaters over the three-day weekend.
However, I’m worried that men may think that Christian Grey is what women want.
A male friend emailed me:
The majority of women have spoken as to what they want out of a man. I’m not interested in competing with the character in 50 Shades because I actually have a conscience. Do the majority of women who are fans have a conscience? At this point I’m not convinced they do.
The worst lesson men could take from the movie’s temporary and forced success is to think it represents the real desires of women.
All of the attention the media is giving to Fifty Shades of Grey reminds me of the fervor for Sex and the City. For years women have been told by the media that it is cosmopolitan to consume sex-obsessed entertainment and pursue casual, and physically and emotionally dangerous sex.
Now that Fifty Shades of Grey has surpassed The Passion of the Christ’s opening weekend the media is drooling. Have women finally embraced the message Hollywood and the mainstream media have been feeding them?
Ultimately, I’m not worried about what women take away from Fifty Shades of Grey because it’s fantasy. Also, the media seem to leave out of their reporting on casual sex as entertainment and “mommy porn” that the endings [SPOILER] usually portray a traditional relationship. The women of Sex and the City ended up with significant others and all but one married. Would Fifty Shades of Grey be as popular if the female character lived the rest of her days as a sex slave? Women might imagine life with a billionaire in a helicopter, but not life in a dungeon as a kept woman.
There is one movie in theaters that tells an amazing love story. Speaking of Fifty, this movie recently became one of only 50 movies in history to surpass over $300 million in domestic ticket sales. This feat was done without the mainstream media begging the public to see it. That love story is American Sniper.
Though you wouldn’t know it by the coverage, American Sniper had far less blood-thirst than Fifty Shades of Grey and a much more realistic depiction of a romantic relationship that women and men should want to emulate. Though a majority of the movie is devoted to Chris Kyle’s four tours in Iraq, the story of Chris and Taya’s relationship is significant.
Chris ultimately decided to retire and focus on strengthening their marriage and raising their children. While Fifty Shades of Grey is about a transactional relationship, American Sniper is one of a love greater than oneself. It shows love for another person, love for country, and love for family.
In a recent interview with People, Taya Kyle said,
I miss him so much. I loved being in his arms. I loved holding his hand. But what I miss most about Chris is the feeling when he was in the room. He just changed the feeling whenever he walked in. I missed him even when he was just gone from the room.
Taya went on to say of Chris, “He was a man with a huge heart and charisma and kindness.”
You’re reading a post for Preparedness Week, a weeklong series of blogs about disaster and emergency preparation inspired by the launch of Freedom Academy’s newest e-book, Surviving the End: A Practical Guide for Everyday Americans in the Age of Terror by James Jay Carafano, Ph.D. You can download the e-book exclusively at the PJ Store here.
Who hasn’t fantasized about being the last man on Earth? The notion of having the whole world as your personal playground with unlimited resources and all the time you need to do whatever you want is a pretty enticing one.
At first glance anyway.
But then, as your imagination continued to explore the scenario, loneliness would enter the picture and then wild animals and pets gone feral, and physical injury that you might not be qualified to handle.
So your imaginings become broadened to include finding the last woman on Earth (beautiful naturally) and training yourself to handle weapons against both the beasts and other humans who’ve allowed their base instincts to overcome their civilized veneer.
From there, it’s a short step to fending off packs of other people eager to kill you and steal your supplies (not to mention that last beautiful woman).
Books such as M. P. Shiel’s classic Purple Cloud, movies like The World, the Flesh, and the Devil, and television episodes like the Twilight Zone‘s “Time Enough at Last” have all explored the theme of last survivors following some disaster that wipes out the human race, but few have dealt with a realistic approach to the theme: what would it be like to really live and survive in a post-disaster world?
That question is raised by terrorism expert and former Army Lt. Colonel James Jay Carafano in his new e-book Surviving the End: A Practical Guide for Everyday Americans in the Age of Terror.
In his book, Carafano provides a to-do list of items that any ordinary person can accomplish in preparation for not-too-unlikely end-times-type scenarios from cyber warfare and EMP events to terrorist-caused bio-warfare and natural disaster.
In his introduction, Carafano gets to the heart of the matter, making an argument that a logical approach based on traditional American self-reliance could go a long way in ensuring a person’s survival in a post-holocaust world, and that the shattered society can avoid the bloodletting that’s often depicted in Hollywood-style end of days epics:
The most useful steps for protecting everyday Americans against the very worst life has to has offer are about cultivating the kinds of commonsense skills, knowledge, and attributes that make for more productive, resilient and self-confident citizens…. They strengthen our faith in God, caring in our community, and love of family. They reduce stress, build confidence and inspire creativity. Every right-thinking American ought to be doing them anyway.
The author goes on to note how decades of Hollywood disaster films haven’t helped, conditioning people to think there will be no hope for the average person and that the only ones that will have a chance of surviving are the Rambo types who dispense with accepted moral conventions:
Hollywood’s message is there is no middle ground–no place for sensible, rational precautions or actions.
In general, the author’s estimation of how popular entertainment addresses post-disaster scenarios is pretty accurate — just take a look at any episode of TV’s The Walking Dead for instance. But there’s at least one exception I’d suggest: Panic in Year Zero!, a low-budget film released in 1962 that follows an average American family as they try to stay alive in the wake of a nuclear bomb falling on Los Angeles.
If Carafano’s advice on how to prepare for such a disaster is on the money, then Panic in Year Zero!, if not a perfect film, comes the closest to a realistic depiction of how an ordinary family can survive by “cultivating commonsense skills, knowledge, and attributes” that in turn allow its members to become “productive, resilient and self-confident.”
The movie, scripted by John Morton and Jay Simms, was directed by Ray Milland, who also doubled as the head of the family. In the cast, too, were Jean Hagen as his wife, and Frankie Avalon and Mary Mitchel as his teenage children.
Throughout the course of the film, as the family makes its way to a vacation cabin in the hills, the Milland character retains a cool head and his actions in protecting his family are always relentlessly logical, from his decision to head for the hills to gathering just the right kinds of supplies at stores along their route — which they reach just ahead of the fleeing multitudes — to instructing his son how and when to use a gun when encountering strangers.
And though the film’s focus is on the little things that the family does in order to survive (such as having each family member hide their food in different places without the others knowing where in order to prevent it all being taken should any one of them be forced to tell), there are dramatic exceptions such as when the family encounters a group of hoodlums intent on taking advantage of the breakdown of order. In an initial encounter, Milland and Avalon scare them off with guns but later, they discover them squatting in a farmhouse where they’ve killed the owner and are holding the daughter for their own pleasure.
At first, Milland restrains his son’s impulse to rush in and deal with the thugs. Keeping his family safe and hidden is his overriding concern. But when his own daughter is raped by one the hoodlums, he changes his tune and seeks retribution.
The sequence is necessary in order to keep the Milland character from becoming too unemotional and to suggest that there can be real danger in a post-apocalyptic world.
As the movie progresses, Milland’s stern but clear-eyed precautions and Hagan’s brave and caring example keep the family together. Praying before their first meal in the cave where they’ve decided to hole up, they struggle to preserve a sense of order in their lives while expressing the belief that civilization will soon reassert itself and allow them to come out of hiding.
The movie ends with their faith justified as the family comes into contact with military outliers of a resurgent civilization.
An American International release made with a budget of only $225,000, Panic in Year Zero! surprises in its realistic take on one family’s struggle in a post-apocalyptic environment, an exception to the Hollywood rule that one suspects might earn a thumbs up from Carafano!
Editor’s Note: This is the last list in Kyle Smith’s series ranking films by decade, an expansion of his top 10 films of the 1930s list from July of 2014 here. Previously he expanded his ’00s list to a top 20 here, his ’90s list here, his ’80s list here, his ’70s list here, his ’60s list here, his ’50s list here, and his ’40s list here. Also see his list of the Click here to read “What Makes a Great Movie?,” Kyle’s essay explaining his criteria for these lists.
20. Duck Soup (1933)
The Marx Brothers’ freewheeling word association, irreverence and physical comedy were all in high gear in their funniest film, in which Groucho plays Rufus T. Firefly, the appointed ruler of the fictional land of Freedonia. The much-imitated mirror scene is a tour de force of precision physical comedy.
It may seem like hubris when AMC Movie News editor-in-chief John Campea intros his daily online webcast as “the best damn movie-related show on the planet.” But watch and compare. You’ll soon conclude that AMC Movie Talk and its associated programs stand head and shoulders above their competition.
There’s no shortage of movie reviews and movie news commentary, both online and broadcast traditionally. What makes AMC’s programming special is the quality of their commentators and the savvy with which Campea employs them.
These aren’t amateurs shooting with webcams against a green screen in their mom’s basement. These are industry professionals with insight into the art and business of film. While Campea frequently reminds viewers that “all film is subjective,” the opinions and analysis offered by the AMC crew are always backed by a credible rationale.
For example, when news hit the web that Ben Affleck had been cast to play Batman in the forthcoming follow-up to Man of Steel, the choice was widely condemned by just about everyone. Campea stood alone as a dissenting voice in support of the decision. He wasn’t just being a fanboy. Campea explained that Affleck has emerged as a tremendous asset for Warner Bros. This is an Academy Award-winning actor who has won other industry prizes for his writing and directing. Affleck has come a long way from the days of Daredevil and Gigli. The smart money rides on Affleck directing one or more films in the burgeoning DC Cinematic Universe. Why wouldn’t you want the director of Argo helping you catch up to Marvel Studios?
If you haven’t found AMC Movie Talk yet, now is the time to get on board. Campea took to social media on Monday to announce the launch of a new phase for the organization. In addition to the daily AMC Movie Talk and frequent AMC Mailbag shows, March will see three new weekly additions. As a new age of Star Wars films dawns with this year’s The Force Awakens, AMC Jedi Council will go in depth with news, rumors, and analysis. AMC Heroes will focus on the increasing number of comic book films slated in the coming years. Finally, AMC Rewind will hearken back to films at least 20 years old and introduce viewers to classics they may have missed.
Oh, and if independent film is your thing, check out AMC Indie Spotlight. Housed on a YouTube channel all its own, the show deals exclusively with independent film. There’s something for everyone.
The erotic bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey has hit the screen with some sizzling bedroom (and dungeon) action featuring leads Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as a naive college student and a zillionaire with peculiar bedroom demands. Let’s take a look back at the sexiest mainstream movies (not counting outright porn) ever made.
10. Body Double (1984)
Brian De Palma’s fixation on Alfred Hitchcock drove his sexy 1980 thriller Dressed to Kill, which was obviously inspired by Psycho, and also this even more erotically charged thriller, which was an homage to both Rear Window and Vertigo. Deborah Shelton plays the dancing neighbor whose nightly routine attracts the voyeuristic attention of a journeyman actor (Craig Wasson) who discovers a strange link between the girl he watches through the telescope and a porn star (Melanie Griffith, then a red-hot ingenue).
This year you could spend your Valentine’s Day in a theater full of middle-aged women oozing over a hot-bodied twenty-something whipping his blindfolded secretary to the point of striking blood in the name of “love.” Daytime television loves to play up to the Soccer Mom demographic (a title first dubbed to describe Clinton fans, ironically) seeking fantasy fulfillment in the form of sexual fiction. It was corny enough when shirtless Fabios graced the covers. Now that the most popular sex trilogy focuses on a woman who willingly allows herself to be sexually abused, is pop culture humoring those bored housewives too much?
While the majority of Fifty Shades fans are typical middle-aged marrieds dissatisfied with their partners (or even themselves), anywhere from 5-25% of Americans “show affinity” for BDSM (Bondage/Domination-Discipline/Sadism/Masochism) in the bedroom. On an issue that poses a particular sexual threat to women, feminists are split 50-50 between being against sexual abuse and for a narcissistic “if it feels good, do it” sexual ethos. Hence, a pervert who trolls Fanfiction.net (the original home of Hobbit-inspired Elvish/Dwarf porn) can turn her twisted sexual fantasies into an overnight sensation. After all, it’s all about love in the end. Or is it?
One of the most intriguing stories to come out of the Sony hack last year was the revelation that Marvel Studios had been engaged in secret talks to include Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sony holds the license to produce Spider-Man films, and has shepherded the character through a rebooted franchise starring Andrew Garfield in the title role.
All that may be about to change. Straight from the horse’s mouth at Marvel.com:
Sony Pictures Entertainment and Marvel Studios announced today that Sony is bringing Marvel into the amazing world of Spider-Man.
Under the deal, the new Spider-Man will first appear in a Marvel film from Marvel’s Cinematic Universe (MCU). Sony Pictures will thereafter release the next installment of its $4 billion Spider-Man franchise, on July 28, 2017, in a film that will be co-produced by Kevin Feige and his expert team at Marvel and Amy Pascal, who oversaw the franchise launch for the studio 13 years ago. Together, they will collaborate on a new creative direction for the web slinger. Sony Pictures will continue to finance, distribute, own and have final creative control of the Spider-Man films.
Marvel and Sony Pictures are also exploring opportunities to integrate characters from the MCU into future Spider-Man films.
The news raises several questions. Will the “new direction” for Spider-Man take the form of another reboot? Or will the world of The Amazing Spider-Man films be integrated into the existing MCU? How will Marvel Studios ensure the continuity of their cinematic universe if Sony retains “final creative control” of Spider-Man’s adventures? It all seems very risky, at least without additional details spelling out how it will work.
Might Marvel pursue a similar arrangement with Twentieth Century Fox to bring the X-Men and Fantastic Four into the MCU? It certainly seems more likely after this news, but would depend on a lot of unknowns. Will the new Fantastic Four reboot be a hit? Will the forthcoming X-Men Apocalypse prove as successful as last year’s Days of Future Past? Will this arrangement with Sony pan out successfully? If the answers to all those questions are yes, then a broader collaboration may make sense.
The downside to bringing all these characters into the same universe is that it crowds out less popular ones. There’s an argument that the MCU as we know it never would have been made if Marvel retained the rights to make Spider-Man and X-Men films. Would something like Guardians of the Galaxy have been made if Marvel could have fallen back on a better known property? Will the inclusion of Spider-Man in the MCU actually stagnate its creative development?
No matter how it pans out, it’s probably safe to say that all studios concerned are about to make a ton of money.
If the new all-female cast of Ghostbusters has taught us anything, it’s that radical progressives are locked in a tense battle with the scary monsters under their beds. Seriously: at this point, the main cultural enemies of extreme liberals are made-up boogeymen from the feverish imagination of progressivism itself.
This was never more clear than last week, when Jezebel (an intellectual black hole masquerading as a news website) published a satirical blog post under the fabricated authorship of “A Hysterical Man.” The article was called “New All-Feminist Ghostbusters Is A Punch in the Dick to All of Mankind.” It was an imaginary response to Paul Feig’s announcement that his Ghostbusters reboot will star four women. What we were all supposed to believe was that Jezebel’s post was a cleverly exaggerated send-up of the misogynist hysterics that had actually erupted among the stunted ogres and half-men who supposedly infest the blogosphere.
Jezebel’s cardboard cut-out man is a sniveling mess of pent-up rage and mommy issues. He alternates between bigoted venom (he refers to the new cast as “four angry dykes”) and sudden outbursts of the repressed Freudian hang-ups that fuel his hatred of women (“I HATE MY MOM, A LOT”). The article is peppered with links to actual posts from actual men having actual opinions about the movie, so you know Jezebel isn’t being unfair. There really is an army of knuckle-dragging trolls out there in the “manosphere,” clamoring to deny women their rights. And Jezebel really does have them pegged.
Except it’s all a complete fairytale. For one thing, barely any of the links in the Jezebel article say what Jezebel implies they do. Just a couple of examples: Jezebel’s imaginary man squeals that the film is a “betrayal.” The word is suggestively hyperlinked to what turns out to be an introspective and even-handed reflection from a man who feels ambivalent about the film, but “not because it’s an all female cast.” Another link leads to commenters who predict that the movie will suck “for at least 10 reasons, all which [sic] have nothing to do with the fact that the leads are women.” There’s the usual online trash-talk, but the slavering histrionics that Jezebel satirizes are nowhere to be found. The one lonely little nugget of truth among Jezebel’s fantasy citations is that someone did, in fact, rename the movie Ballbusters. Which, like, let’s be honest, is pretty hilarious.
And another thing. You could scour the internet for days and you still wouldn’t find a single reputable writer who even remotely resembles “Hysterical Man.” That’s even if, unlike Jezebel’s fact-checking team, you spent more than half an hour on research and you didn’t have this week’s episode of Girls playing in another tab.
Look, rebooting the movie with an all-female cast is a dumb idea. I imagine it’ll be terrible. It’ll probably flop like a rubber chicken at the box office. Whatever. But no one — as in, no one — is cursing the heavens because it stars women. Of course you’ll find a troglodyte or two mouthing off in his mom’s basement — you’ll find those in ample measure on the Left and the Right. But among the vast majority of sentient beings, the worst you’ll find is some mild annoyance about the incessant lip service that Hollywood pays to the delusional far-Left. Jezebel’s bloodthirsty internet trolls are about as real as the ones Hans Christian Andersen warned you about.
This isn’t the first time progressives have made up a big bad super-villain and done valiant, imaginary battle with him. Remember when Emma Watson delivered that big feminist call to arms on the floor of the UN? Remember when we heard about those backwards, disgusting, cowardly orcs threatening to teach Watson a lesson by leaking nude pictures of her? Remember when that turned out to be a barefaced lie invented to condemn the website 4Chan for an act of blackmail that it didn’t commit? Probably not, because the second the hoax was revealed, the story got buried by the mainstream press.
The goal of all this is to cast the Left as embattled heroes, shuddering but never breaking under the slings and arrows of their monstrous persecutors on the Right. The trick works by sleight-of-hand, highlighting and magnifying the lowest of the low. Progressive bloggers strategically take the schoolyard taunts of poorly behaved teenagers and the violent outbursts of the mentally ill as representative of the entire philosophy of conservatism. If an unhinged sociopath goes on a murderous rampage, well, we need to talk about the evils of masculinity “before boys and men commit more mass shootings.” And if that sociopath plastered vile ravings across the gutters of the internet, then his massacre was the fault of “misogyny and gun culture” in our “sexist society.” By shining a spotlight on disturbed extremists, progressives can effectively claim that the entire world is against them.
It would all just be ridiculous if credulous do-gooders didn’t gulp this narrative down like candy. Jezebel’s fabricated misogynist is making the rounds, and he’s doing exactly what he was created to do — tricking people into thinking that he’s real. There are university newspaper articles out there right now that cite Jezebel’s article — and nothing else — as proof that the asinine forces of masculinity are waging a war on women. Some people are even convinced the post is real.
This is more than a straw man argument. In a straw man argument, there actually has to be an opposing view to misinterpret. This is intellectual shadow-boxing, a mythological Orwellian hate-magnet conjured out of thin air to unite adherents under the banner of an ideology that otherwise has absolutely nothing going for it. Progressives have made a science out of whipping themselves into a froth of righteous indignation over nothing to win followers and votes. If we’re not careful, it’ll work.
I finally watched The Interview the other night — the picture all the Sony Hacking fuss was about, now available on Netflix. A couple of laughs, mostly from self-mocking celebrities like Eminem, Rob Lowe and Katy Perry. Other than that, a big disappointment after the delightful This Is The End by the same gang. (But then This Is The End was all self-mocking celebrities, so maybe that tells us something!)
I couldn’t help but notice that this might be the first Hollywood movie in which the character of Barack Obama makes a veiled appearance. Remember how during the Bill Clinton years, the Hollywood left was always rewriting Clinton into the man they wished he was? Instead of the draft dodger of real life, Clinton became the former fighter pilot of Independence Day. Instead of a cheap and abusive adulterer, he was the misunderstood lover of American President. And so on. It was as if Hollywood was trying to auto-correct reality.
Well, this is sort of like that. James Franco plays Dave Skylark, a shallow and self-absorbed man who strikes a lot of pseudo-intellectual poses and, for some unknown reason, has a large public following. He is more interested in movie stars than real life, lives a life of luxury on other people’s dime and has no understanding whatsoever of the world situation he is tasked to deal with. Whenever he gets in trouble, he suggests that his friends sacrifice themselves in various ways to save him.
Sent to get rid of the tyrannical head of the North Korean slave state, Skylark abandons his mission when the tyrant easily cons him with fake shows of friendship. When Skylark attempts to confront the murderous thug with his crimes against humanity, the Dear Leader wrong-foots him by pointing out that America has a lot of people in prison. Hearing that, Skylark gets a frowny face because he’s shallow and stupid enough to think there’s some moral equivalence between the U.S. imprisoning its criminals and North Korea enslaving its entire citizenry!
It doesn’t take any great insight to see that Dave Skylark is based very closely on President Obama. The fantasy element comes in when Skylark rallies himself and saves the day.
But then, like Independence Day and American President, The Interview is only a movie. The left can dream, can’t it?
#9. SpongeBob Square Pants: Sponge Out of Water
It’s SpongeBob. He wears square pants. This time, he’s coming out of the water.
Have fun kids. Daddy will be next door watching Ted 2.
Editor’s Note: This is one of the last lists in Kyle Smith’s series ranking films by decade. Recently he expanded his ’00s list to a top 20 here, his ’90s list here, his ’80s list here, his ’70s list here, his ’60s list here, his ’50s list here, and his ’40s list here. Do you disagree with Kyle’s choices? Do you have your own ideas for lists of movies or other cultural subjects? Which years and what subjects would you most like to see covered at PJ Lifestyle? Email: DaveSwindlePJM [@] gmail.com. Also check out Kyle’s top 10 movie picks for the ‘30s before he expands them to a top 20 too, completing the series. Click here to read “What Makes a Great Movie?,” Kyle’s essay explaining his criteria for these lists.
The second decade of the century has seen a surge in effects-driven, superhero-centric movies. But that’s okay, because there is so much money floating around the system that talented independent filmmakers seem to have little difficulty evading the strictures of the popularity-chasing studio system and producing personal artistic statements. Moreover, the blockbusters are pretty good too: they’ve gotten increasingly sophisticated and now attract some of the best writers and directors. Here’s one critic’s look at the best films of the first half of the 2010s:
10. War Horse (2011)
Looking at WW I’s madness, evil and destruction through the eyes of an innocent beast, Steven Spielberg’s best film since Catch Me If You Can resonated like a parable. Only rarely does a war film take in such a broad panorama.
The week, when Hanoi Jane gave her strongest apology yet for her infamous expressions of collaboration with the enemy during the Vietnam War, was also the week in which Fallujah Mike doubled down on his.
In his little-noticed follow-up to his well-covered “snipers were cowards” tweets, Michael Moore painted the Saddam loyalists and al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists as the heroes — and U.S. forces as the invading marauders.
Cable news, talk radio, the blogosphere and the Twitterverse have adequately covered Michael Moore’s tweet calling snipers “cowards”:
My uncle killed by sniper in WW2. We were taught snipers were cowards. Will shoot u in the back. Snipers aren’t heroes. And invaders r worse
Despite Moore’s hilarious disclaimer that he did not mean Chris Kyle and the requisite implication that it was just a coincidence of timing that he tweeted this out on American Sniper’s opening weekend, he has received the blowback he deserves. (By the way, is no one going to ask Michael Moore if his uncle braced every German soldier he encountered face to face like in a B-western, or gave them all a chance to surrender?)
Chris Kyle—deservedly—is America’s hero of the moment, and jumping on his bandwagon is an easy way to get airtime and demonstrate one’s rhetorical prowess.
But the “coward” tweet was not by any means the worst thing Moore said that day. He also called Chris Kyle a man who murdered good neighbors who were protecting each other, and every American serviceman a marauding invader:
But if you’re on the roof of your home defending it from invaders who’ve come 7K miles, you are not a sniper, u are brave, u are a neighbor.
The response? Crickets.
The lack of attention to his follow-up tweet is a mystery to me. Is defending our troops too difficult? Does it feel to commentators like they will have to defend the whole Iraq war all over again if they go there?
This is not a hard argument to have. If you think that personalizing this issue to the person of Chris Kyle gets you more internet hits or viewers, just frame it as I did above.
Or maybe just point out that last week, those “good neighbors” executed a batch of little kids for watching a soccer game on television.
If you doubt that Michael Moore has always been on the side of the people Chris Kyle rightly called “f**cking savages,” here is one of his website postings from April of 2004:
The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not “insurgents” or “terrorists” or “The Enemy.” They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow — and they will win….I oppose the U.N. or anyone else risking the lives of their citizens to extract us from our debacle…the majority of Americans supported this war once it began and, sadly, that majority must now sacrifice their children until enough blood has been let that maybe — just maybe — God and the Iraqi people will forgive us in the end.
Like that guy using the power drill on a child’s head? The farmers who marched on Lexington and Concord in the cause of liberty would certainly have welcomed him into their ranks.
But Michael Moore and Jane Fonda are only the most clumsy of those who root for the defeat of U.S. forces. When Harry Reid, with the regularity of Baghdad Bob, declares the defeat of American efforts no matter the news of the day (and especially after the success of the surge), that’s a deliberate effort to undermine the war effort.
And the commander-in-chief who later claimed victory and went home, leaving the country to ISIS, has been doing the same thing.
When Ron Paul claims we are meddling in the civil war of another country or invading a “sovereign nation,” the biggest difference between that and Michael Moore is he doesn’t go as far in his praise of the f**king savages.
But maybe that’s what commentators on the right, who see an opportunity to rile up patriotic Americans with the low-hanging fruit of pitting the singularly un-appetizing Michael Moore vs. a guy played by Bradley Cooper in a movie, are afraid the debate will expand to—a war they don’t want to fight anymore.
Ironically, however, protecting Chris Kyle’s reputation without protecting the reputations of our troops in general is the exact opposite of the legacy of Chris Kyle.
Here is how Chris Kyle reacted to the notion of personal fame, notoriety and being labeled Number One:
The number is not important to me. I only wish I had killed more. Not for bragging rights, [emphasis mine] but because I believe the world is a better place without savages out there taking American lives. Everyone I shot in Iraq was trying to harm Americans or Iraqis loyal to the new government. I had a job to do as a SEAL. I killed the enemy — an enemy I saw day in and day out plotting to kill my fellow Americans. I’m haunted by the enemy’s successes. They were few, but even a single American life is one too many lost.
The outpouring of support for American Sniper shows that even in death, Chris Kyle can take care of himself. By all means, come to his defense, but make room on the bandwagon for the other soldiers he dedicated his career—and his life—to defending.
Last week, I went to see American Sniper with my son-in-law. I wasn’t sure what to expect. My daughter is an actress, and I have spent a lot of time over the past decade working with folks in Hollywood. I was concerned that the movie would be a Hollywood rendition of operations in Iraq. That was not the case.
I found the movie to be an accurate reflection of what we went thru as we tried to give the people of Iraq the opportunity to pursue freedom from fear. There are over 16 million Iraqi people. They want what we want: to be able to send their kids to school, have medical care, be able to provide for their Family, etc. We tried to provide that for them.
I want all of America to go see the movie. I am not interested in how much money the movie makes, but I am interested in ensuring the American public is aware of what happened over there. Less than 1% of the American public serve our Nation in uniform, but we all enjoy the freedoms provided by that select few. 76% of the American public say they have no idea what our Veterans are going thru. Seeing the movie will help with that.
I don’t consider the movie to be about a single individual, Chris Kyle. It is bigger than that. Folks are debating about the accuracy of the movie and comparing it to the book. Other folks are arguing about the role of snipers, and revisiting the idea that in their opinion we should never have been in Iraq in the first place. Let’s focus on more important issues, and determine what the movie could provide the American public.
1. The movie is about the horror of war in a counterinsurgency environment. It is about being in a situation where it is impossible to determine the good guys from the bad. We as a Nation sent American troops into Iraq. The movie shows those who sent us what it was like over there.
2. The movie is about the impact on the individual psyche of having to make life and death decisions to protect ourselves and our friends. Over 2.3 million Americans have volunteered to serve our Nation in uniform since 9/11. We have not had a draft since 1973. Those volunteers patrolled the streets of Iraq and Afghanistan. The normal day included oppressive heat, long patrols wearing 70 pounds of body armor, and constant fear. Where are the enemy snipers? Who is the enemy? Where is the roadside bomb? Unfortunately, we as a Nation compensate those true American heroes an average of $1800 per month.
Since 9/11 over 50,000 American have returned from combat with visible wounds. In addition to that over 150,000 have come back with invisible wounds, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TB), or both. The movie give the viewer a sense as to why that is. I hope the viewer places himself in the situations depicted in the movie and tries to imagine what they would be like having experienced something like that.
3. The movie is about what our troops did in Iraq in that difficult situation. Snipers were important. They provided over watch on our operations and tried to stop the enemy from killing our troops. In many cases our snipers saved the lives of my Soldiers. But they were not any more important than the infantryman patrolling the streets and entering homes, the engineer clearing roadside bombs, the logistician ensuring needed parts and supplies were on hand. Everyone had a role.
The movie is also about the effects of multiple deployments on the trooper’s Family. The trooper marched to the sounds of the guns. In actuality, most of us would prefer to be back on the streets in Iraq supporting our friends rather than in the comfort of our own homes. That’s what we were trained to do. That came across loud and clear in the movie. We must remember that the Families left behind are also sacrificing. Marriages are strained. Kids are struggling in school.
I was concerned about the reaction of the crowd when I left the theater. I was emotionally drained, having spent the last 2 hours reliving some of my own experiences in Iraq. I expected there to be a moment of silence at the conclusion of the movie, especially when pictures of Chris Kyle and his Family were shown. The audience applauded at the end of the movie. I am not sure why. I can only hope they were applauding the bravery of the American Soldier.
I am equally concerned about the silliness that is going on across the Nation now in reaction to the movie. Where is the substantive conversation about what was portrayed in the movie? Where is the detailed analysis of PTSD as a result of what was portrayed? Where is the commitment to help military Families?
So, go see the movie. After the movie, take some time to contemplate on what you saw, and then dedicate yourself to helping our troopers and their Families. We will be at war with terrorists, both foreign and domestic, for many years to come. They are going to need our help.
“A family man begins to question the ethics of his job as a drone pilot.” So reads the synopsis of the upcoming film Good Kill starring Ethan Hawke and Mad Men’s January Jones.
Hawke plays Tom Egan, the drone pilot in question, offering a brooding portrait of self-loathing. Such is the proper attitude of a man toward killing while facing no personal danger. The film’s tagline reads: “If you never face your enemy, how can you face yourself?”
“Don’t ask me if this is a just war. It’s not up to us,” Bruce Greenwood advises as Hawke’s grizzled commanding officer. “To us, it’s just war.”
“I am a pilot, and I’m not flying,” Hawke bemoans. “I don’t know what it is that I am doing. But it’s not flying.”
Evoking recent comments directed at the late Chris Kyle, Hawke continues, “Everyday, I feel like a coward, taking potshots at somebody halfway around the world.”
While overt characterizations of American military action as cowardice may be confined to Hollywood and the halls of academia, they proceed from a theory of war which has dominated American foreign policy since World War II.
So-called just war theory emerges from a bastardization of Christian doctrine which prescribes sacrificial combat. According to the doctrine, war should not be fought strictly in self-defense, but in service of some “higher” goal – like the freedom or relief of others. Shedding American blood for something like “Iraqi freedom” is considered a superior motive to fighting strictly for American sovereignty or American lives.
A critical component of just war theory is “proportionality,” the idea that a retaliatory response should be restrained and remain comparable to the threat faced. The tenet of proportionality would have rejected the dropping of two atomic bombs on Imperial Japan, for instance.
From such a perspective, it’s easy to see how one might judge a role like sniper or drone pilot to be cowardly. After all, the explicit purpose of such roles is to engage in highly disproportionate combat, to maximize lethality while minimizing risk. That doesn’t jive with a sacrificial agenda. To be “just,” combat must present similar risk to all combatants. You must “face your enemy.” On a larger scale, “just war” must be fought not to win with overwhelming force, but to save an enemy population from themselves.
Just war theory is anything but moral. A truly moral war policy, which you can find articulated here, would not derive its righteousness from sacrificial risk-taking. Rather, the morality of military force would be judged solely on whether it was retaliatory in nature. The objective would not be to “fight fair,” but to achieve unquestioned victory through the utter destruction or unconditional surrender of the enemy.
“Black” has become an idol. Oddly enough we learned that lesson through the making of Selma, a film focused on the accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who boldly declared, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
Director Ava DuVernay defended the rewriting of history into what amounts to a black power narrative (mythical kneeling blacks before white cops and all), stating, “This is art; this is a movie; this is a film. I’m not a historian. I’m not a documentarian.” The mainstream media jumped on the bait thrown out by the film’s star David Oyelowo, who declared that ”parallels between Selma and Ferguson are indisputable.” The fact that neither the Academy nor filmgoers fell march-step in line only acted as further proof of the conspiracy against “black and brown people” in Hollywood.
— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) December 7, 2014
The race war fomented in the rise of the Black Power movement (the nasty “alternative” to King’s civil rights movement) continues unabated. In fact, it has opened on a new front, one that ties racial strife with national security and even international relations. Playing on strong ties to the Nation of Islam, Black Power now has its eye set on the Palestinian territories and places like Ferguson, Missouri, and the like are set to become the next battleground in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, making way for the planting of hotbeds of radical Islamic terror.
But, to tell the story of Ferguson and Florida’s black activists traveling on solidarity missions to the Palestinian territories is to exact the same kind of indecent omissions as DuVernay. There are blacks out there who support Israel and who, in fact, draw inspiration from the civil rights movement in doing so. The primary difference between these black Zionists and their Black Power counterparts: They are motivated by Jesus, not Islam.
…in 2006, Cornetta Lane an African American at Wayne State University, even went as far as expressing this support by singing Hatikvah in front of an anti-Israel protester who claimed that Israel was a racist state.When Jewish students asked at the time why she sang Hatikvah, Cornetta replied that her pastor, Glen Plummer, explained that Jews significantly helped out African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement, and that Jews contributed significantly to both the NAACP and the Urban League, and were advisers to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Thus, when she saw that there was going to be an anti-Israel rally, Cornetta decided to take this step.
Much like Cornetta Lane, Chloe Valdary has drawn on her uniquely Biblical Christian upbringing and study of the civil rights movement to develop her own brand of Zionist activism. Dubbed “the Lioness of Zion,” Valdary started a pro-Israel student group on her college campus that garnered national attention, turning the college student into a speaker for a variety of Zionist organizations, including CAMERA and CUFI:
The parallels’ between the black struggle during the civil rights movement and the Jewish people today insofar as the legitimacy of Zionism is concerned is staggering. Martin Luther King Jr. [was] a Zionist but more importantly he realized that we must advance our duty when advancing the cause of human rights today. If he were alive today, he would surely be pro-Israel. This is one of the reasons why I am such a staunch Zionist.
Valdary is not alone. Dumisani Washington, a pastor and music teacher in Northern California, has formed the Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel, an organization “dedicated to strengthening the relationship between Israel and the Jewish people, and people of African descent through education and advocacy.” Raised a Christian, Washington had a strong interest in the Old Testament and Hebrew history at a young age. Growing up in the segregated south, he drew inspiration from the Exodus as well as Martin Luther King:
Dr. King was a staunch supporter of the State of Israel and a friend of the Jewish people. Many who know of his legacy know of his close relationship with Rabbi [Avraham] Joshua Heschel as well as the Jewish support for the Black civil rights struggle. Many are unaware, however, of the negative push back Dr. King got from some people. Particularly after the 1967 war in Israel, international criticism against the Jewish State began to rise. Dr. King remained a loyal friend, and made his most powerful case for Israel almost 1 year after the Six Day War – and 10 days before his death.
Both Valdary and Washington have raised the ire of pro-Palestinian organizations like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), an organization that misappropriates black history and depicts black supporters of Israel as the Uncle Toms of the 21st century. Contrary to the Black Power impetus forging the Ferguson-Palestine relationship, Washington has outlined the differences between the Palestinian liberation and civil rights movements, and in an open letter to SJP, Valdary condemned the organization, writing:
You do not have the right to invoke my people’s struggle for your shoddy purposes and you do not get to feign victimhood in our name. You do not have the right to slander my people’s good name and link your cause to that of Dr. King’s. Our two causes are diametrically opposed to each other.
Americans remain blind to these modern day civil rights/Zionist activists because, contrary to the preaching of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we have been made into a color-centric society by the Black Power movement and its contemporary descendants. Race has become an idol. Black Power has created the mythical “black and brown faces” to be honored through tokens of affirmative action while sacrificing living human beings on the altar of ghetto culture because of the color of their skin. To remain blind to the idolatry of race is to remain blind to the real struggle for civil rights in America, the struggle to be viewed as a human being instead of a race-based demographic or a color-based “minority.” This is the struggle that unites rather than divides us on issues of economy, quality of life, and yes, even national security and the threat of terrorism.
George Lucas told Cinema Blend in an interview posted yesterday that when he sold Lucasfilm to Disney in 2012, along with the company came some of his ideas for a new Star Wars trilogy. But it sounds like none of them will be part of the new Star Wars universe of movies that Disney will roll out beginning with the seventh installment, the JJ Abrams-directed Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which is set to hit theaters December 18.
When Cinema Blend asked about some of those ideas, he responded: “Well, the ones that I sold to Disney and everything, they came up to the decision that they didn’t really want to do those. So they made up their own. It’s not the ones that I originally wrote.”
American Sniper isn’t just a huge box office success. It’s in a category of its own. It’s set to be (at least) one of the three highest-grossing films released in 2014 (it opened on Christmas Day on four screens, before going nationwide on Jan. 16). It’s the only one that will make last year’s top 15 that isn’t a fantasy or a comedy. It’s on track to become perhaps the second highest-grossing R-rated film of all time and the second highest-grossing film about a real person. Number one in both those categories is The Passion of the Christ, meaning a Navy SEAL is giving Jesus a run for his money.
When comedian Seth Rogen in a tweet said American Sniper reminded him of a Nazi propaganda film, he showcased how utterly out of touch Hollywood is about the military. Not only did this thought occur to Rogen, which tells you a lot, but he actually thought it was innocuous enough to publish on Twitter. Instead it seems likely to cost him millions of ticket sales because Rogen, never previously identified as particularly anti-American, is now as popular in military-loving communities as he is in North Korea.
American Sniper is a hit for several reasons: It’s a great movie, with a riveting set of TV commercials. The audience-survey firm CinemaScore says it is getting a rare A+ rating from viewers. Clint Eastwood’s name on the marquee also means something — but Eastwood’s movies have never made huge amounts of money. His biggest-ever hit, Gran Torino, earned $148 million in North America. American Sniper will nearly double that.
What American Sniper has going for it is that it’s unabashedly patriotic and pro-military. That matters, because the military is by far the most beloved institution in American life.
I can hear Hollywood, the land where saying U.S. troops remind you of Nazis isn’t even considered controversial, spitting out its arugula-and-endive salad at that. That can’t be. Can it?
For nearly half a century, American culture has been a story of gradual destruction of trust in everything. Banks, in a June Gallup survey, had a 26 percent trust rating. The presidency was at 29 percent. Newspaper journalists were at 22, with Internet and TV news lagging behind even that. Congress? Seven percent.
Confidence in the military, though, was at 74 percent. After decades of anti-military and antiwar propaganda from Hollywood, that’s astonishing. The only other institutions that commanded majority support were small business (62 percent) and the police (53). The trend is consistent: The military’s approval rating hasn’t dipped below 60 percent since 1988.
The American public is saying something very simple: We love our military. Give us more films that show our troops as heroes, and we’ll turn up for them.
Some liberal Hollywood types have been scratching their heads and saying, “Wait a minute, though. American Sniper is a very downbeat film. Its central figure is shown being tormented by survivor’s guilt and PTSD. It isn’t ‘rah-rah.’ So why do those rubes in the heartland love it so much?”
This is sheer projection, because it’s liberal sophisticates who have an amazingly simplistic, indeed kindergarten-level, view of war: Killing is wrong, so we should loathe all troops on an equal basis, regardless of whether they’re fighting for, say, the Fuehrer or liberal democracy. “The real American Sniper was a hate-filled killer,” ran the headline of an especially infantile piece in The Guardian, by American liberal Lindy West.
Was Chris Kyle supposed to be full of love as he shot to death cowards who disguised themselves as civilians as they planted deadly remote-controlled booby traps, or hurled grenades at Americans attempting to build a democracy? Was he supposed to feel benevolent toward jihadis trying to establish a medieval theocracy in which women would be stoned to death for adultery, and even belonging to the wrong sect of Islam would be a crime punishable by death?
The patriots who are lining up to buy tickets to American Sniper are aware that war takes an enormous toll and can be agonizing even to those without visible wounds. That’s precisely the appeal of the film: By showing the price our troops pay to fight for our values, it reminds us just how much respect we owe them.
Illustrating the point I made in these pages three weeks ago — that movies with conservative or libertarian themes did amazingly well at the box office in 2014 - American Sniper has made over $110 million this month, shattering January box office records, and is well on its way to becoming Clint Eastwood’s most successful movie.
For many on the left, this cannot stand. So while positive reviews pour in and moviegoers sell out theaters all across the country, criticism of the film — and the Iraq War — is growing.
Steve Pond, at TheWrap, writes “multiple Academy members told TheWrap that they had been passing around a recent article by Dennis Jett in The New Republic that attacks the film for making a hero out of [Chris] Kyle.” One Academy member was quoted as saying that Kyle “seems like he may be a sociopath” before admitting that “he had not yet seen the film.”
That didn’t stop The New Republic, which published Jett’s hit piece on the film before he’d seen it as well, basing the review on the film’s trailer and the book upon which it was based. If you’ve read that book, Jett writes, then you know that, “[Kyle’s] bravado left no room for doubt. For him, the enemy are savages and despicably evil. His only regret is that he didn’t kill more.”
Lindy West at The Guardian struck a similar chord, writing that Kyle “bare minimum, was a racist who took pleasure in dehumanising and killing brown people.” It is unclear whether or not West saw the film before publishing the piece, which is more about the film’s backstory.
Alex Horton, also writing for The Guardian and a veteran of the Iraq War, did see the film and gets to the heart of Kyle’s guilt, “not the guilt of taking lives, but the agony of not saving enough. It’s a vital part of countless veterans that civilians must understand.”
Chris Kyle is confirmed to have killed 160 people, and he claimed to have killed 255. In a 2012 interview with Time he appeared to confirm the fears of Jett and West, saying
I’m not over there looking at these people as people. I’m not wondering if he has a family. I’m just trying to keep my guys safe.
These three sentences perfectly capture the controversy surrounding the film and the moral ambiguity surrounding the Iraq War itself.
Chris Kyle killed a lot of brown people. Liberals will focus on this fact almost to the exclusion of all others. It doesn’t matter what those brown people were doing, or would have done. America invaded Iraq under false pretenses and it follows, in Jett’s analysis, that every “excess” death in Iraq can be laid at the feet of not only George W. Bush, but every single American.
Seven-hundred-ninety-six of those “excess” deaths occurred on August 14, 2007, near Mosul, Iraq, in what is second only to 9/11 as the deadliest terrorist attack in history. Four near-simultaneous suicide car bombs, targeting the Yazidi community in Kahtaniya and Jazeera, “crumbled buildings, trapping entire families beneath mud bricks and other wreckage as entire neighborhoods were flattened.”
I would characterize this as “despicably evil.” I can think of few things more evil than slaughtering innocent men, women, and children, but liberals like Jett must find a way to rationalize evil to place the blame on the American people. If we hadn’t invaded Iraq, according to the theory, then this wouldn’t have happened. The American invaders, therefore, are responsible for creating this evil.
But are we? The same Yazidi community targeted in 2007 was persecuted and massacred again by ISIS just last year. America famously left Iraq in 2011, but the killing hasn’t stopped.
I lived in a small outpost in central Baghdad for months during the surge in 2007 — we were attacked only once by harassing small-arms fire. The gas station less than a mile away from our outpost was blown up by a car bomb that summer, killing scores of innocent civilians. The murderers didn’t target my team, they targeted innocent civilians. Am I responsible for that massacre?
There is an insidiously racist strain in much of the commentary surrounding American Sniper and the Iraq War. Calling Chris Kyle a racist because he killed a lot of brown people dehumanizes the people he killed. They weren’t marionettes forced to dance by the hand of American foreign policy. The people who ordered the suicide attacks which killed nearly 800 Yazidi in 2007 were living, breathing sentient human beings making their own decisions.
They were brown people capable of and enthusiastic about murdering hundreds of people.
That sentence may strike many on the Left as irredeemably racist, but it is precisely the opposite. All humans are capable of evil. White people in the U.S. military are capable of evil, former SSG Robert Bales being just one example. Evil is not the defining characteristic of white military members, and it is not the defining characteristic of brown Iraqis.
Chris Kyle had to clearly delineate between good and evil. In the film’s opening sequence he is confronted with a woman and a young boy moving toward a group of Marines with a grenade. That woman was not in a military uniform and was not carrying arms openly, unlawful under the Geneva Convention. She was hoping that her gender — and the fact that she was with a child — would prevent decent American troops from identifying her as a threat before she could kill a few of them.
In Kyle’s judgment she was “already dead,” the only question was how many soldiers she would take with her. His answer? Zero.
Many of the people we fought in Iraq wouldn’t bother with this type of moral calculation. Sunni suicide bombers and Shiite death squads did quite the opposite of Kyle, killing as many innocent men, women and children they could.
When we find evil in our military ranks — like we did at Abu Ghraib — we punish those responsible. We can argue about whether the right people were punished, or whether they were punished severely enough, but compare that process to the Al Qaeda or ISIS process to prosecute members of their organizations who kill innocent civilians.
Except you can’t. Killing a massive number of innocent civilians is their preferred tactic. That’s evil.
Murdering someone because of their religion is evil. Murdering someone for a cartoon they published is evil. Murdering someone because of their sexual orientation is evil. Are any of these things made less evil when they are perpetrated by brown people?
No. And to suggest as much is racist and dehumanizing.
Well folks, it’s Oscar season — or would be, if anybody cared. The nominees for the year came out last week, presumably after the traditional kerfuffle among academy members over which soporific art film to shower with unctuous praise this year. Basically it’s like, whatever.
But where there’s an irrelevant non-issue, you can always count on the forces of online progressivism to fabricate a meaningless scandal. You know, just in case anyone was thinking about paying attention to the ceaseless parade of actual injustice that is the actual news. Currently, outraged progressives are valiantly complaining that the Academy is honoring too many white males. It’s the whitest oscars since 1998! Al Sharpton is calling an “emergency meeting!” In fact, of the nominees for best actor, one hundred percent are men! Facts.
Naturally, we at PJ Media take these issues very seriously. So I’ve taken it upon myself to rewrite this year’s best picture nominees to make them more politically correct. I know, I know — it’s a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it. And let’s face it, I’m the most virtuous person I know. Plus luckily I haven’t seen most of these movies, which makes it easier.
So without further ado, I bring you: The Progressive Oscars! Here are three of the nominees, rewritten for a better tomorrow.