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Looking for Something to Netflix this Weekend? Here Are the 10 Best Films of the 2010s

Friday, January 30th, 2015 - by Kyle Smith

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.

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Why Calling Chris Kyle a Coward Was the Lesser of Michael Moore’s Twitter Sins

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015 - by David Forsmark

BowlingforFallujah

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.

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VIDEO: The 3 Conversations About American Sniper We SHOULD Be Having

Monday, January 26th, 2015 - by Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Rick Lynch

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.

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Pivoting from American Sniper: Are Drone Attacks Immoral?

Monday, January 26th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

“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.

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The Un-Popular Face of Black Activism in America

Sunday, January 25th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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“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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Now, more than ever, we must value each other on the content of our character, lest the idolatry that comes from the obsession with skin color blind us from the true threats unfolding in our midst.

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George Lucas’ Role in Star Wars: Episode VII Should Make You Smile

Saturday, January 24th, 2015 - by Stephen Green

GEORGE

The man who invented the Force has no say in how it awakens:

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.”

Good.

*****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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The Secret Reason for American Sniper‘s Breakout Success

Friday, January 23rd, 2015 - by Kyle Smith

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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.

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Are Brown People Capable of Evil?

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015 - by Tom Weiss

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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.

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The Progressive Oscars: This Year’s Nominees, Re-Written for Social Justice

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015 - by Spencer Klavan

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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.

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Chris Kyle’s Righteous Indignation

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

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Commentators, both on the political Left and within libertarian circles, have been wringing hands over the tremendous commercial success of Clint Eastwood’s Chris Kyle bio-pic American Sniper. From The Wrap:

Over the weekend, 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 Kyle, who said: “The enemy are savages and despicably evil,” and his “only regret is that I didn’t kill more.” Kyle made the statements in his best-selling book, “American Sniper,” on which the film is based…

…Academy members seem to be paying attention to the criticism that Eastwood and star/producer Bradley Cooper shouldn’t be celebrating a man who wrote that killing hundreds of Iraqis was “fun.”

“He seems like he may be a sociopath,” one Academy member told TheWrap, adding he had not yet seen the film but had read the article, which is being passed around.

And Michael Moore, an Oscar voter and former Academy governor from the Documentary Branch, tweeted on Sunday, “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.”

Moore has since walked back his comments, if only just a bit. The Interview star Seth Rogen came under scrutiny for comparing American Sniper to a Nazi propaganda film only to also walk his comments back. In these and many other lower-profile cases, the common denominator is a moral equivalence between America and forces like Nazi Germany, the Taliban, or ISIS.

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American Sniper and the Billion Dollars That Hollywood Leaves on the Table Each Year

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Is it any wonder that American Sniper has dominated the box office? From the Associated Press:

Clint Eastwood’s R-rated Iraq War drama … opened in January like a superhero movie in July, taking in a record $105.3 million over the Martin Luther King Jr. four-day weekend.

The film’s unprecedented success obliterated forecasts and set numerous box-office records. It easily surpassed “Avatar” to become the biggest January weekend ever.

Of course it has. This is a film that gives American audiences what they want. PJM’s David Forsmark swoons:

American Sniper lives up to its title. This is an intensely American film. Everything about Chris Kyle’s background, from hunting with his father, to the little country church, to wanting to be a cowboy, is not just Texas, it’s America.

When America gets what America wants, studios make $100 million in four days.

So why don’t more studios make these kinds of films? Why do we instead get inundated with cynical anti-American garbage with anti-heroes espousing an anti-philosophy?

We need not look far for our answer. From The Wrap:

Academy members seem to be paying attention to the criticism that Eastwood and star/producer Bradley Cooper shouldn’t be celebrating a man who wrote that killing hundreds of Iraqis was “fun.”

“He seems like he may be a sociopath,” one Academy member told TheWrap, adding he had not yet seen the film but had read the article, which is being passed around.

And Michael Moore, an Oscar voter and former Academy governor from the Documentary Branch, tweeted on Sunday, “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.”

Money may be a store of value, but it’s not the standard. For those holding the reins in Hollywood, the social acceptance of their community can often be a higher value than record profits.

We don’t see more films like American Sniper for the same reason we don’t see more G-rated family films. Movies you can take your kids to earn money hand over fist, for obvious reasons. Conversely, R-rated films have a built-in market limitation which translates to a smaller box office take. That’s why Fox’s forthcoming Deadpool starring Ryan Reynolds as a filthy-mouthed mercenary from the X-Men universe is aiming for a PG-13 rating. Gotta get those kids in the seats.

Even so, we see far more R-rated exploitation fare and self-indulgent art house films which critique American culture than we see films like American Sniper. That’s because the former earn kudos from the industry, a currency nearly as good as cash in Hollywood.

Indeed, how many times have you heard it said of a star that he is doing that summer blockbuster to earn a check so he can afford to make an “important” film later? Such importance is not measured by commercial success, but by the accolades of fellow liberal artists.

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Why American Sniper Is One of the Greatest War Movies Ever

Monday, January 19th, 2015 - by David Forsmark

With all due respect to Lone Survivor and Zero Dark Thirty (and I have paid mad respect to both), Clint Eastwood’s amazing American Sniper is the film for the war on terror.

But it’s more than that. It is a timeless American war movie that explores the necessity of having men who are–and bear the burden of being–really really good at killing bad guys.

In fact, this is easily one of the ten best American war movies of all time. (I won’t place it any higher than that until I’ve had the chance to see it again and let the initial emotional impact wear off; but right now, I can’t think of three I would rate above it.)

When I reviewed Chris Kyle’s book American Sniper, I called it the most unapologetic account of war since George S. Patton. But it’s not all swagger.

Eastwood both allows the character of Chris Kyle to speak to that unabashed pride in doing a necessary job — his warts-and-all honesty about how he neglected his family while letting the job consume him — and uses the tragic events that followed the publication of the book to show us how doing that job takes a toll.

The result is a shining example of material finding the perfect director. In many ways, Eastwood’s whole career has been leading up to this statement. It’s what Unforgiven couldn’t quite get to because it was merely about a previously vicious man sliding back into his old ways, even if his cause was just.

The film — like the book — opens as newly minted Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle takes a bead on a small Iraqi boy whose mother has just handed him a grenade and sent him running toward a squad of American Marines.

Then, while Kyle is waiting for that space between breaths, between heartbeats, that still moment of the trigger pull, we flash back to how he got there.

This is a perfectly executed and superbly made bio-pic. Despite the heroism it shows, it never lapses into hagiography or sappy preaching. Eastwood is clear-eyed throughout, and confident at letting his story tell itself.

American Sniper lives up to its title. This is an intensely American film. Everything about Chris Kyle’s background, from hunting with his father, to the little country church, to wanting to be a cowboy, is not just Texas, it’s America.

From Sergeant York, to Audie Murphy, to Dick Bong (WWII’s ace of aces who also left combat only to die serving on the home front), to Chris Kyle, small-town, do-for-yourself America has produced these men for whom taking up arms to protect their country just comes naturally (even, eventually, for the Quaker, York).

The motivation is summed up in a talk Chris Kyle’s father gives at the dinner table — a speech many American fathers have given their sons (and many more should), but rarely with this perfect an analogy.

Chris has had trouble in school for beating up the bully who was picking on his younger brother — but he is not in trouble at home. His father explains there are three kinds of people in the world: Sheep, who can’t protect themselves; wolves; and sheepdogs, who protect the sheep. He expects his son, who has the ability, to be a sheepdog  – and if he ever becomes a wolf, he will get an ass whooping he will never forget.

Later, when drinking away the memory of a cheating girlfriend and the Khobar Towers bombing news story comes up on television news, a hitherto aimless Chris Kyle knows exactly what he is supposed to do.

While American Sniper takes no firm position on the wisdom of the war in Iraq — various characters express varied opinions on that — it is very clear-eyed about the nature of the enemy, or, as Kyle refers to them as, “the f***ing savages.”

Not since The Deer Hunter has the enemy been as accurately portrayed in an American film as the bestial evil that they are, and without over-the-top Hollywood histrionics. The good guys have their flaws, but these bad guys have to be opposed — and killed in as large a number as possible.

There are four great battle-set pieces in American Sniper that are breathtakingly effective — and, thankfully, Eastwood knows how to give immediacy and a you-are-there feel to the scenes without the herky-jerky handheld camera gimmicks and incoherent quick-cut edits that lesser directors use to pull off a complicated scene.

At one point, Kyle’s sheepdog instincts take him off the rooftops — against orders — and down into the streets with the Marines. He knows his SEAL training has prepared him better for house-to-house combat and he can’t sit by without teaching them how to do it better.

Eastwood has been exploring these themes for years, imperfectly in Heartbreak Ridge, much better in The Outlaw Josey Wales, of course in Dirty Harry, and most recently (showing he understands the protective impulse of the American soldier) in Gran Torino, where this really was the under-explored theme.

The performances are all first rate (I’ll rave about Cooper in a minute) and it’s really about time that people realize the beautiful Sienna Miller is an actress of grit and grace.

So in the pantheon of great American war movies, where does American Sniper place? It’s more personal and emotionally shattering than even The Deer Hunter, because that great film spread its emotions around to the effect of the Vietnam War on a whole town.

It does an even better job of portraying the sacrifices and effects of war on the family of a warrior than We Were Soldiers.

And of course it is a more realistic look at a highly decorated soldier who performed at an almost superhuman level than either Sergeant York or To Hell and Back – and not just because of the allowances of modern filmmaking.

It’s hard to explain the greatness of Bradley Cooper’s performance, unless you have seen Chris Kyle’s interviews. But Cooper does not just inhabit his role, or give a great interpretation of a character — he disappears into it.

Sure, the muscle gain helps, because it keeps us from remembering this is svelte Bradley Cooper who has given so many memorable performances the last few years (and was the softer male character way back on TV’s Alias).

But watching American Sniper, you feel as though Chris Kyle was allowed to play himself — maybe better, since this is a more convincing portrayal than even Audie Murphy gave playing… Audie Murphy.

Which makes the tragic ending of this story all the more shattering. Eastwood’s choice at the end of American Sniper is almost as important as the one he makes at the beginning. At the screening I attended, there were gasps as a credit announced what happened to Kyle, muffled sobs during the real footage of his funeral that ran over the credits, and no one — and I mean no one — moved until the credits were done. As people filed out, it was as quiet and somber as if we had attended the funeral ourselves.

Seeing American Sniper is an American experience. Don’t miss it.

Also read: Feminist Mag Complains American Sniper Unfair …to Babies?

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*Yawn* Oscar Nominees Announced Today and Nobody Cares? *Yawn*

Thursday, January 15th, 2015 - by Dave Swindle

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The full list is here, in case anyone’s curious. I haven’t seen any of the films nominated. Any worth streaming once they make it to Netflix streaming or Amazon Prime, the two services that have now replaced our family’s film-going and cable TV-watching?

Wes Anderson should stick to making stop motion animated adaptations of Roald Dahl books. I haven’t seen his new one — which apparently is the favorite to win, this  year — but none of his previous live action films really inspire me to make the effort with this one. The only more overrated Generation X director is, of course, Quentin Tarantino…

But Fantastic Mr. Fox is still cute and fun!

*****

image illustration via shutterstock /

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Why Frozen Is Actually About Gun Control

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015 - by Karina Fabian

One thing about modern Disney princess movies is that they’re so easy to label with a message — any message. Look at Frozen. It’s about accepting yourself. It’s about letting your artistic talents flow. It’s about gay rights. It’s about overcoming oppression. It’s about gun control.

Wait. Gun control? Well, gun suppression, more accurately. Nonetheless, insert guns into the narrative, and you’ll see what I mean. Journey with me on a Magical Message Adventure. Lock and load, people!

Picture a fairytale world where there is a great power — magic. From a very young age, Princess Elsa is adept at using magic. So the parents, apparently too busy being royals, haven’t set any particular rules or set boundaries. It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.

In this day and age, children aren’t always taught to respect guns, and guns aren’t always carefully secured against curious little hands, as witnessed in the tragic shooting of a mother by her toddler who pulled a loaded gun from her purse.

It’s not the magic – or the gun – that is inherently evil, but the misuse, lack of supervision and irresponsibility that lead to the tragedy. No one watching Frozen is thinking how magic should be banished, even though Elsa nearly killed her own sister. But when a tragic shooting occurs, the knee-jerk reaction is get rid of all guns.

Ah, but back to our story…

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Indiana Jones in Reverse

Monday, January 12th, 2015 - by Kathy Shaidle

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Remember after 9/11, when all kinds of bloggers posted that clip from Raiders of the Lost Ark?

You know: The one in which, bored with an Arab swordsman’s show-offy moves, Jones pulls out his pistol and shoots him dead?

Seeing all those posts really cheered me up back then.

“Wow,” I thought. “America is gonna go kick some ass!”

And then those same bloggers and pundits — many of whom I respect mightily — kept repeating the words of some Iraqi guy during the invasion, who was gleefully shouting, “Democracy! Whiskey! Sexy!”

Those bloggers and pundits were certain that this meant millions of Muslims had been dying (literally) for the good guys to rescue them.

They wanted the same things we wanted. George Bush said so in his Second Inaugural.

I wanted to believe. But I wasn’t so sure.

Any more than I was as certain as these bloggers that the future lay in the latest cool gadgets, and how cameras and computers were getting cheaper all the time, and Bush just got reelected and hey, Who’s going to the Rose Bowl this year?

Maybe because I’m Canadian.

Maybe because I’m a girl.

Maybe because I was raised Catholic.

Maybe because I’m naturally contrarian.

For whatever reason, all this boyish bluster, I thought, didn’t bode well.

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The 20 Best Films of the 2000s

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015 - by Kyle Smith

Editor’s Note: This is an expansion of Kyle Smith’s list of the 10 best films of the 2000s published here in July 2014. I’ve asked Kyle to expand his series as PJ Lifestyle begins offering more lists, articles, essays, and blog posts exploring culture, art, technology, and history by decade. Recently he expanded his ’80s list to a top 20 here, his ’70s list here, his ’60s list here, his ’50s list here, his ’90s 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.

20. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

A glorious union of Eastern martial arts and Hollywood production values, Ang Lee’s timeless 18th century story is magical, exciting, romantic and sweeping, one of the most beautiful and bewitching action films ever made. 

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15 Things Back to the Future II Predicted for 2015

Friday, January 2nd, 2015 - by Paul Cooper

Back in 1989, Americans marveled at what the year 2015 might look like in the popular film Back to the Future II.  The second installment in the time-traveling trilogy focused heavily on Marty McFly and his girlfriend being taken by their pal Doc Brown 30 years into the future and seeing what life was going to be like.

Well, 2015 has arrived. What predictions did the filmmakers get right? What did they get wrong? Here are 15 things Back to the Future II predicted would happen by 2015. You’ll find some predictions were eerily accurate while many others were way off.

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How Can It Be That I Wept for Pharaoh at the End of Exodus: Gods and Kings?

Friday, January 2nd, 2015 - by Scott Ott

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When you watch the great Exodus story, the hero is usually the guy who leads his people out of slavery in Egypt by the mighty hand of God. Pharaoh is the antagonistic oppressor who refuses to grant liberty to the slaves.

So, how can it be that at the end of the new movie Exodus: Gods and Kings I wept for Pharaoh, and felt virtually nothing for Moses or “his people”?

Perhaps I should start by saying that it’s actually an entertaining movie with epic battle and chase scenes, convincing special effects and fine acting.

That said, my lovely bride reviewed it (perhaps damned it) in three words: “Better than Noah.”

Christian Bale does deliver a more nuanced and dynamic Moses than Russell Crowe’s ark-maker. It would be difficult to do otherwise.

I’m glad I saw the film, though, as usual, I’m hampered by my knowledge of the underlying historical account. I’ll confess, with pleasure, that Exodus takes fewer liberties with the Biblical text than Noah did. My faint praise will not show up in ads for the movie.

Cleaving closer to the Biblical text is not just better for Bible-believers like me, but for all audience members. The actual Biblical account is more compelling and believable than what most screenwriters can imagine. The Bible itself simply makes for a better movie, because it’s honest about both God and man, enhancing empathy and heightening dramatic tension. The mystery to me is why an adaptive screenwriter or director would squander such excellent source material and supplant it with inferior variations.

Exodus director Ridley Scott seems committed to letting the audience wonder who the villain is — often suggesting, through the mouth of Moses, that it may be God himself. It certainly isn’t Pharaoh Ramses — the loving father, gentle husband, and protective brother to Moses.

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The 10 Most Underrated Movies of 2014

Friday, January 2nd, 2015 - by Kyle Smith

You’ve seen the superhero movies, but what about all the great films that didn’t have $50 million marketing budgets or didn’t attract much of an audience? There were plenty of sleepers in 2014, and many of them are now available on home video or on streaming services such as Netflix. Here are some don’t-miss films.

10. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Chris Pine isn’t much of an actor to play the Tom Clancy take on James Bond, but in this origins story Pine isn’t expected to be Harrison Ford but merely the fresh-faced, slightly nervous young recruit just gaining his footing. A careful, methodical spy thriller that puts story over cheap thrills, Kenneth Branagh’s film features an able supporting cast including Kevin Costner as the mentor, Keira Knightley as a wily girlfriend and Branagh himself as a Russian terrorist with a plan to kneecap the U.S. economy.

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How Progressive Was Hollywood in 2014?

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014 - by Tom Weiss

It has become cliché for conservatives to lament the progressive politics of the writers, directors and actors in Hollywood. Whenever a major star “comes out” as a conservative — Clint Eastwood or James Woods, for example — the right latches on to them and hangs on their every politically relevant word.

But Hollywood is a multi-billion dollar a year industry.  Box office receipts in the U.S. alone were over $9 billion in 2014. Their goal is to produce films that audiences want to see again and again, not necessarily films that adhere to their progressive worldview.  So what kind of movies did famously progressive Hollywood produce that were successful in 2014?

To answer that question I analyzed every movie that made more than $100,000,000 domestically during the year, a total of 29 films. The U.S. box office receipts of these movies totaled over $5.2 billion, or well over half the total revenue generated by the 682 movies released in 2014 and tracked by boxofficemojo.com.

The first thing that struck me about this list is that the top 4 movies, with over $1.1 billion in revenue, were dominated by conservative or libertarian themes. In Guardians of the Galaxy, the highest grossing movie of the year, the villain is a political and religious fanatic hellbent on the annihilation of those who don’t share his views (ISIS anyone?). The government is largely ineffectual and relies on the Guardians to save their society. And while this society is never identified on the political spectrum, they appear to be prosperous so we can assume they are not socialist.

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Why The Interview Is a Deeper Film Than You Might Imagine

Friday, December 26th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson
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Randall Park as Kim Jong-un blubbers his way through The Interview as his daddy’s image hovers

The chairman of the Congressional Entertainment Industries Caucus, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), suggested using satellite television under the control of the Broadcasting Board of Governors to beam a dubbed version of The Interview into North Korea.

On principle, I wholeheartedly agreed. After seeing the film, I now also agree in terms of content. North Koreans would get to see the on-screen version of North Koreans discovering what a blubbering idiot their supreme leader is, and how revolution ultimately comes from within.

It seems some outlets are eager to paint The Interview as nothing more than mindless lowbrow humor — Vox, for example, thinks a dictator explaining that he actually does pee and poo like a mere mortal is the worst thing that could happen to the silver screen — while sort of willfully ignoring the film’s core.

And that is simple: The North Korean regime is cruel and has no place in the modern world, and though James Franco’s character flirts with the idea that this is something the U.S. can comfortably ignore, it’s not.

After watching The Interview twice online, I’ll venture to say the comedy goes even deeper into “messaging” territory about the danger of the regime than the legendary “ronery” Kim Jong-il send-up in Team America: World Police.

Is it Oscar material? Of course not, but it’s well-paced and even funnier if you’re up on current events.

A few observations without spoilers:

  • John Kerry referenced as “that oak tree-looking f**k” — need I say more?
  • Eminem and Rob Lowe have very funny cameos
  • Randall Park as Kim Jong-un is at times more refined than we can ever imagine the young dictator, yet most of the time he’s as silly and off his rocker as we expect him to be. He was all bravado and bluster in one moment, and blubbering the next.
  • Concise foreign policy quote that sums up Kim well: “He says that he’s going to blow up the world just to prove that he’s the s**t”

The Interview may be full of fraternity humor, but that’s not exactly inappropriate considering North Korea is run by a 31-year-old who treats nuclear tests like a night at the beer bong. Yes, I can believe that Kim would say “nuke your mama” to a basketball opponent, insist on umbrellas in his margaritas, and display that well-documented impetuous temperament at will.

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5 Christmas Movies That Will Make You To Want to Be A Dad

Thursday, December 25th, 2014 - by Paul Cooper

Editor’s Note: This article was first published as “The 5 Best Christmas Movie Fathers” in 2012 and is now resurrected and republished as part of the Ghost-Lists of Christmas Past Series.

One of the best parts of the holiday season has to be Christmas movies. There are hundreds of them and a few dozen classics among them. As a father of two, I’m always interested to see how popular films portray dads, so it makes sense to find the best papas in favorite Christmas flicks who can teach us all how to be better parents.

Let’s focus on five who would make Father Christmas proud.

5. Clark Griswold, The Do-Whatever-It-Takes Father

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is the third film in a series following the hilarious Griswolds. The family patriarch is the lovable goof Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase), whose greatest desire is for his family to have the perfect Christmas. How many dads can relate to a guy with Christmas cheer who can’t catch a break in trying to make the season bright? Clark’s frustrations abound as he just tries to give his family a “good old-fashioned family Christmas.” Clark forgets the saw when finding the perfect Christmas tree, he can’t figure out how to get his million lights to light up (been there), he can’t make annoying in-laws happy (won’t say I’ve been there), and he buys a huge gift for his family and then doesn’t receive his Christmas bonus to pay for it. He struggles and fails, but he keeps on fighting for that wonderful family Christmas.

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Time rightfully put Clark in their top ten list of perfect movie dads. They praised him as the ultimate example of “determination.” He was always willing to go the extra mile to provide experiences his family would never forget.

Clark makes our list for doing whatever it takes to bring joy and special memories to his family for Christmas. Yes, he fails and sometimes fails miserably, but his heart is in the right place. While many men may ignore Christmas or leave it to others in the family, Clark takes the lead to bring his family the joys of the holiday. I can relate to that and so can countless other fathers. We are kids at heart and want our families to experience the wonders of the holiday season.

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The 5 Best Christmas Movies for Terrible People

Thursday, December 25th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

Editor’s Note: This article was first published as “Your VodkaPundit Christmas Movie Guide” in 2013 and is now resurrected and republished as part of the Ghost-Lists of Christmas Past Series.

Tis almost the night before Christmas — but there’s still plenty of time to load up the DVD player or stream from Netflix. So make lovely adult beverages for you and yours, and mugs of hot cocoa for the kids.

I should also mention that I’ve never once been able to sit through all of It’s a Wonderful Life, so there’s a good chance I’m a terrible person with retrograde taste in holiday entertainment. So with that out of the way, let’s look at what we do watch every year here at Casa Verde.

1. Love Actually

Apparently there’s some kind of bitter feud amongst the Love Actually-haters and the Love Actually-lovers, but I’m here to resolve those differences by gently reminding you that the Love Actually-haters are possibly less than human, almost certainly dead inside, and at the very least are incapable of simple human emotion.

Here we have every love story crammed into one breezy and perfectly paced gem of a movie. There’s romantic love, new love, young love, lost love, love that bridges the language barrier, brotherly love, lustful love, the love between a sister and her institutionalized brother, and perhaps the most touching of all, the love between a step-father and the son he finds himself caring for alone. The scenes between Liam Neeson and young Thomas Sangster are by themselves worth the price of admission. And every Anglophile will love Rowan Atkinson’s two pitch-perfect cameos.

There’s some language and some comical nudity, so this one might not be for the kiddos — but prove to me you aren’t dead inside and learn to love Love Actually.

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The 10 Most Essential Christmas Specials and Holiday Movies

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

Editor’s Note: This article was first published as “Essential Christmas: The 10 Best Holiday Specials And Movies” in 2011 and is now resurrected and republished as part of today and tomorrow’s Ghost-Lists of Christmas Past Series.

In a day when parents and children rarely watch the same TV shows, Christmas TV specials and holiday movies still somehow manage to continue to bring families together.

These days it’s even easier than it used to be to share these traditions. ABC Family has made an art out of holiday programming with their “25 Days of Christmas” programming blocs that package specials throughout the month of December. Home video and streaming services also allow families to watch programs whenever they want.

In the spirit of Christmas, I’m offering to you this list of the ten most essential specials and movies of the season.

We’ll start with a pair of very different types of animation from a production company synonymous with Christmas specials…

10. The Year Without A Santa Claus

Arthur Rankin and Jules Bass are synonymous with their stop-motion Christmas specials of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Viewers not familiar with their names will recognize their unmistakable round-headed characters, candy-colored landscapes, and softly falling snow. A few of their specials are on this list, starting with The Year Without A Santa Claus.

In this 1974 special, Mrs. Claus (voiced by Shirley Booth) tells the story of the year Santa (voiced by Mickey Rooney) decides — on doctor’s orders — to take a vacation. Two of his elves and the young reindeer Vixen take a trip to find enough Christmas spirit to cheer Santa up. Along their way, the elves battle the Heat Miser and Snow Miser and visit Southtown, USA, where they get lost. Santa journeys south to find Vixen and discovers that the children of the world need him. He can’t skip Christmas.

The Year Without A Santa Claus is a clever story with some memorable scenes and catchy songs, including those involving the villains.

It’s not as ubiquitous as Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer or Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, but The Year Without A Santa Claus is trippy holiday fun.

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