‘The Interview,’ ‘American Sniper,’ and ‘Selma’

I’ve recently written about three movies — ‘The Interview,’ ‘American Sniper‘ and ‘Selma‘ — that I had not seen (which kind of limited what I had to say about them). This past week, I had planned to see them all and write about them further. Which would have been quite the hat trick for a guy who is accustomed to waiting until films show up on Netflix.

I managed to see two of them. I still hope to see the other soon.

My report follows:

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The Interview

This one took the least trouble to see, which was good, because I wouldn’t have crossed the street to see it. I rented it from iTunes on my Apple TV, and it didn’t cost me anything because I had a gift certificate I hadn’t used up.

It was about what you would expect, if you’ve seen enough Seth Rogen movies. On that spectrum, it was nowhere near as good as “Knocked Up” or “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” and a good bit better than “Pineapple Express” or “Zack and Miri Make a Porno.” I’m not saying it was more elevated or worthwhile than those latter two, but the bathroom humor was funnier. The dirty talk wasn’t nearly as funny or relevant as the dirty talk in “SuperBad,” so you are forewarned.

One of the more interesting things about this film was that North Korea was so ticked off about it, seeing that the guy who played Kim Jong Un was handsomer, more engaging — certainly more manly looking (both in terms of masculinity and maturity) — and more engaging on a human level than any of us have ever seen the Dear Leader be. I mean, even though the flick was making gross fun of him and making a joke out of killing him (which, one has to grant North Korea, is pretty offensive), it was actually kind of flattering to him.

If you can see it for free at any point and you want to know what all the fuss is about, it’s not completely unwatchable. But otherwise, don’t bother.

 

AMERICAN SNIPER

American Sniper

I had wanted to see this anyway, even more so after The Guardian (being The Guardian) practically painted Chris Kyle as a war criminal, but I sort of reckoned without the fact that everyone else in South Carolina wanted to see it this past weekend as well.

Bryan Caskey joined my younger son and me (neither Mamanem nor Bryan’s wife wanted to see it) at the 5:10 show at Dutch Square. Bryan got his ticket and went inside ahead of us. While waiting for my son to get through the queue, I spoke across the ticket-taker to Bryan, saying, “Don’t worry; there’ll be plenty of previews.”

The ticket guy said, “Yeah, but there won’t be plenty of seats.” He said this was their 11th show of the weekend, and several of them had been sold out.

Boy, was he right. With stadium seating, I normally sit about halfway up, so that the center of the screen is at eye level. But this time, we had to sit with the groundlings on the third row, way off to the side. So Bryan, my son and I all had to slide down in our seats with our knees propped against the seats in front and our heads resting back onto the tops of our seatbacks, looking almost straight up, at a weird, distorting angle. But I got used to it by about the 75th preview (OK; honestly, I didn’t count).

But other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the show?

Good. But you knew it was going to be good. When’s the last time Clint Eastwood made a bad one? And the older he gets, he seems to get better. I’m thinking “Gran Torino” here.

And the portrayal of Chris Kyle was — matter-of-fact and respectful. It was the story of a guy who is definitely a sheepdog in the sheep/wolf/sheepdog model of killologist Dave Grossman — one of those who is neither a sheep nor a wolf, but one of those rare types who sees himself as a protector of sheep from wolves. And one of those rarer men (like, 2 percent of the male population) who doesn’t have nightmares after killing other people, if he has good reason to see the killings as morally justifiable.

Eastwood helps the viewer to understand a man like Kyle, without either condemning or overly glorifying him — although many will see him as a monster or as a red-white-and-blue excuse to wave the flag, according to their own proclivities. As I say, the depiction is respectful.

I could have used a little more examination of the psychology of a sniper. While many will feel like there was too much footage of Kyle taking careful aim on enemy combatants (and, in more than one case, “combatants” who are women and young boys, which is the thing that will make you want to walk out if anything does), I felt like not enough was done to show how most people would be torn up by that — say, with a side story about a fellow sniper who was not as unconflicted about his job. You know that the cost to Kyle is not nil, as you see the stress he undergoes after his fourth deployment. But I could have used more explication in that department.

Anyway, it’s worth seeing, whatever your attitudes on the subject matter. It’s well-done, and examines unflinchingly the moral ambiguity that accompanies any combat role, regardless of the conflict in question.

 

10

Selma

Still haven’t seen this one. I passed up, with some misgivings, the Urban League’s annual breakfast, justifying it by saying that I was going to go with some friends to see ‘Selma’ at the Nickelodeon as my way of observing the day.

But even though we were there half an hour ahead, we couldn’t get into the 2:30 show. Sold out.

Has going to the actual movie theater experienced some huge resurgence when I wasn’t looking? I haven’t been to a show as crowded as “American Sniper” in decades, partly because I try not to go on the opening weekend at the most popular times. (Wouldn’t you think a 5:10 show would be an awkward time — neither matinee nor evening-out time? I did.)

And then, to not get into the show at all, when the film’s been out a couple of weeks?

OK, yeah, I realize it was MLK Day, and it looked like there were some school groups there. But still.

Have any of y’all seen it? Can you give us a review?

 

38 thoughts on “‘The Interview,’ ‘American Sniper,’ and ‘Selma’

  1. M.Prince

    “Selma”
    I had high expectations for the film, which I saw this past week. Unfortunately, my expectations were not met. Although both David Oyelowo and, especially, Carmen Ejogo (as Coretta Scott King) performed their roles well, the film as a whole fell flat. It lacked momentum and, strangely, drama – save for the place you’d expect it: the confrontation at the Edmund Pettus bridge. And even that had something of a stagey made-for-TV feel to it that lessened its effectiveness, at least for me. I had major problems with both Tim Roth as Gov. Wallace and Tom Wilkinson as Johnson – in particular Wilkinson’s lackluster rendition of Johnson’s “We shall overcome” speech. As for the invented conflict between the LBJ and MLK, Elizabeth Drew wrote a very good take-down of that in a recent issue of the NY Review of Books:

    http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2015/jan/08/selma-vs-history/?insrc=hpbl

    Reply
    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yeah, it really worries me that it’s become such a huge thing, particularly among black Americans, to take kids to see this so that they’ll know their history and how people suffered and sacrificed to provide them with the freedoms they enjoy today… and the thing is so historically inaccurate.

      It’s particularly disturbing to me because it boosts the notion that so many people hold that taking to the streets is the only way to get things done. Because, in this fictional portrayal, LBJ would never have pushed through the Voting Rights Act unless forced to do so. This has a corrosive effect on the public’s already weak confidence in our system based in the rule of law.

      Yes, the demonstrations of the civil rights era WERE important — because they helped LBJ get the Act passed. NOT because The Man is inherently evil and has to be forced to act, but because it helped the public understand the need for such an Act, and helped those working through the system to bring it about.

      I mean, what’s the point of a Voting Rights Act to begin with, if you have no confidence in representative democracy?

      Reply
    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Dang, Bryan, you need to make it easier to comment on your blog. I just wrote a medium-length comment on your review and it disappeared before I was done. Second time that’s happened to me in a week.

      I was trying to make a couple of points. First, I wanted to react to this: “Even if you were against the Iraq war and think President Bush is horrible, try to compartmentalize that and focus on what is actually in the movie. It’s not a political movie. It’s not a justification for the war, and it’s not an indictment of the war.”

      For soldiers, wars are not political the way they are for civilians. In combat, soldiers do what they do not in the service of a political cause, but for the guys next to them. It’s what keeps them on the line instead of running (back in the days when battles had lines). With the overwhelming majority of soldiers through history (as opposed to the few super-soldiers like Kyle), it’s what has caused them to fire at the enemy, overcoming a huge human resistance to killing.

      It’s all about protecting the people next to you, who you know will protect you as well. You can’t let them down. It doesn’t matter how you got there. The various motivations and arguments of politicians and voters back home don’t matter. You’re there, and you’re in the s__t, and you have an obligation to your comrades. And THAT’S what motivated Kyle for those four tours, and made him ill-at-ease when he was home. Because he was one of those who felt the obligation just as acutely, if not more so, when he was far from the battlefield.

      My second point was to question the analogy to Dick Winters. I see the parallels, but I think there was a huge difference. Winters’ gift was as a leader of men in combat, a gift he didn’t really know he had until it was tested on June 6, 1944. Kyle’s gift was different, a specific set of skills that made him valuable to the unit. He was more the star running back (the Heisman winner of snipers) than the team captain. Comrades were impressed by his deeds of (sort of) single combat. Winter’s men were inspired by his leadership. Kyle was more like Easy Company’s Shifty Powers, only with a bigger rep as a sharpshooter.

      And Kyle did NOT put it behind him when he went home, near as I could tell. Remember him telling the shrink he was still haunted by the guys over there he couldn’t save? I doubt Winters was as conflicted when he went home. But then, he didn’t go home until the war was won (and won with a totality that is hard to imagine today), and he had played a significant part in winning it…

      Reply
      1. Bryan Caskey

        Sorry about my blog eating your comment. Not sure what happened. Maybe that’s why I don’t get many comments. :) I knew that it would certainly get more comments over here.

        My comparison of Kyle and Winters isn’t a perfect one. There are plenty of differences between the two men. I think Kyle had a little more raw edge to him than Winters.

        Winters and Kyle certainly had different skill sets (leadership vs. marksmanship), but my point was more about how they both excelled in combat and then ultimately (it was harder for Kyle) put the war behind them.

        In particular, neither man shrank from the killing aspect of war, which sets them apart from many others. (As you have pointed out) I’m thinking particularly about the moment in Holland when Winters charges over the dike, waaaaay ahead of the company, and sees the solitary German soldier, whom he promptly shoots.

        I think if Winters had been transported in time to Iraq and had then left the Army before the war was over, he may have had similar feelings to Kyle’s sense of not finishing the job or leaving his men behind. Remember how Winters tries to charge in and lead Easy Company when Lt. Dike is botching the assault on Foy? Winters has to be ordered to stand fast, and if his superior officer hadn’t been standing right there next to him to give that order, Winters probably would have charged down there and led the assault himself.

        I see that part of Winters and Kyle overlapping. Winters felt that same tug to be down on the ground leading Easy in the same way that Kyle wants to get down from overwatch and lead the Marines in clearing the houses.

        To stay with your football analogy, if Kyle is a star running back, then I think it would be fair to say that Winters was a good quarterback who got promoted to assistant coach.

        Thoughts?

        Reply
        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Yeah, I can see that.

          But since you bring up the scene in which Kyle ABANDONS HIS POST to go down and do what he has not been ordered to do, assuming command of a group of Marines and showing them how to do their jobs…

          I’m not sure what to think of that. And I wonder whether Kyle faced any disciplinary action for doing it. I’m pretty sure that a Marine would have been in major trouble for doing the same thing. For Marines, orders are orders. By contrast, SEALs are more about assessing the situation and taking initiative. But this seemed to stretch the point.

          Also, while maybe Kyle was really good at clearing houses — a skill all SEALs would be trained in — we hadn’t really seen anything in the film so far to tell us that he was SO good at it that it was worth abandoning his sniper post to jump in and do that…

          Reply
          1. Bryan Caskey

            You’re right. He did abandon his post at overwatch to go down on the ground and start clearing houses. If someone had been hurt as a result of his failure to be on overwatch that day, you can bet he would have been in hot water. In that particular instance, his spotter had the right (if callous) position of saying that clearing houses isn’t his job, and those guys (the Marines on the ground) picked the wrong job.

            I don’t think Winters would have done that, unless something like Foy was happening. When Kyle left his post on overwatch, there wasn’t any emergency occurring at the time.

            The closest I can think of with Winters is when he ignores Col. Sink’s order for a second river crossing and then writes a false report to cover up for the fact that he didn’t effect a crossing as ordered. Winters very likely saved some lives with his ignoring a direct order. Maybe Kyle did, too. Kinda different situations.

            I’m confident that Winters would have faced a disciplinary action for submitting a false report to cover up for the fact that he ignored an order if it had been discovered in a timely way, as would have Kyle.

            But law (military or civilian) isn’t necessarily justice, is it?

            Reply
  2. Barry

    Haven’t seen the film Brad- but will comment on your observation of the crowds

    my wife and I tried to go out Friday night to eat around 6pm – impossible. One Mexican restaurant was picked was so crowded, we couldn’t find one parking spot after driving around the restaurant twice. It’s been a long time since that has happened to me.

    Drove about 5 miles and tried a small, locally owned pizza place – at least 3-4 families were waiting to be seated. It was packed. The parking lot was almost as crowded as the Mexican restaurant experience. We just drove away.

    We ended up a fast food place.

    We were stunned at how many people were out eating. The economy must be doing pretty good.

    Reply
    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yes. I think we’re seeing less an indicator that folks are turning away from Netflix and going out to the movies, and more an indicator of economic confidence…

      Reply
      1. Silence

        OR: The core “fanboy” demographic that goes to see certain types of movies in the theatre is pretty recession resistant. As Kathryn mentions. Look at some of the biggeest openings:
        #1) The Avengers
        #2) Iron Man 3
        #4) The Dark Knight Rises
        #5) The Dark Knight
        #8 Spider Man 3
        All comic book movies. Comic books and fandom are an expensive endeavor. New titles run about 3.99 each, and nobody takes just one, so if you collect several each month, it’s expensive.

        The others on the top 10 are Harry Potters, Hunger Games, and Twilights, just FYI.

        Reply
  3. Kathryn Fenner

    The Nick is super tiny, even in the new place, compared to cinemas of old, and is the only screen around showing it, so no surprise on the sellout–I understand it happens often.
    The fanboys were probably out for American Sniper. The ones for whom the studios make most movies, because they can “open” one.

    Reply
    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I don’t know what “‘open’ one” means.

      But “Selma” was on at several other theaters in the area. Just not until after 4, and some in our group had commitments that made that impossible.

      So we walked down to Bourbon and had a drink and some appetizers. First time I’d been there…

      Reply
  4. Kathryn Fenner

    The Interview would probably have gone the way of Nailed, or whatever it’s called now, if the North Koreans had stayed out of it.
    I’m trying to think of other situations where so-so material was elevated by threats of censorship and the like.

    Reply
    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Well, it wasn’t quite as troubled as “Nailed.” It was going to be released and all, and was probably going to get as much audience as, say, “This is the End.” But yeah, N. Korea’s reaction gave it a boost.

      Although not monetarily (I’m assuming), since it didn’t get the wide release originally intended.

      OK, I looked it up, and haven’t seen any sales figures since the end of December. But I see that by then, it was already Sony’s biggest-selling movie ever online. Still hadn’t turned a profit, though…

      Reply
  5. susanincola

    I went to see Selma at the 4:30 showing at Dutch Square, and it was also packed. I was conflicted, too, since I would usually go to the gathering at MLK Park, which was at 4:00, but I was going with a group of friends, and couldn’t choose the time, so the movie won out. I’ve also noticed restaurants seem more crowded. One recent Friday evening e went to three restaurants around five points and forest acres before finding one without a long wait.

    Reply
  6. Silence

    I saw The Interview, I thought there were some funny bits, but overall it was a pretty crummy movie. I give it 1.5/5 stars. I haven’t seen the other two, but I will after they leave the theatres.

    Yesterday was probably the nicest day of the year. It was 70 degrees out and sunny in Columbia. It was the perfect day to go to the park, work in the yard, take a walk or a hike, go for a bike ride, or grill a nice steak. There is NO excuse for sititng in a movie theatre on a day like yesterday. It was simply too nice of a day.

    I’ve also noticed that restaurants seem pretty busy around Columbia lately. I abhor waiting, I’ll just leave if I see a line, so I ended up with my 6th choice on Saturday night.

    Reply
      1. Doug Ross

        The U.S. economy is at the tail end of making the transition from manufacturing to services. The key is to have a skill in the service economy that is not easily replaceable.

        Reply
        1. Silence

          Well-well look. I already told you: I deal with the god damn customers so the engineers don’t have to. I have people skills; I am good at dealing with people. Can’t you understand that? What the hell is wrong with you people?

          Reply
  7. Mark Stewart

    I saw The Imitation Game last night. I’d like to see American Sniper this evening.

    I’m thinking the two might make an interesting character study.

    Reply
      1. Mark Stewart

        Excellent movie with an oscar winning performance (I would hazard the guess).

        It’s a fascinating, incisive portrait of disassociated genius. While I think some (many?) may see the film as a heroic – and politically correct – portrayal of the persecuted misfit, what I found most intriguing was the almost psychopathic quality of the single-minded pursuit.

        Is it genius that has its own kind of madness, or is this kind of madness more broadly something which also afflicts other kinds of exceptional achievers?

        Reply
        1. Brad Warthen

          I initially read this in the “comments” part of my dashboard, not knowing what you were replying to. I thought it was about “American Sniper,” and I thought you were picking up on a LOT of stuff I missed… :)

          Reply
          1. Mark Stewart

            So I saw American Sniper this evening. How can I put this? I was, frankly, underwhelmed.

            Yes, Eastwood approached this with an almost ambivalent eye on Chris Kyle; very Hollywood. But he delivered nothing of moral/thematic complexity. While I found the quietness of the audience leaving the theater (church like) to be appropriate, by the time I got home I felt like I had just seen something closer to The Green Berets than to any kind of honest portrayal of the moral ambiguity/complexity (and psychic pain) of war.

            The Imitation Game (despite the PC preaching about the suffering of homosexuals – which as this film does paint has actually been a history of inhumanity) is the better war movie. The better movie, period. Yes, it is about genius geeks who never left England, but it has the honest complexity which we experience in real life – dramatized of course. Turing the movie character was a warrior, far more than the version of Kyle presented by Eastwood.

            Someone is going to make a definitive movie about the War on Terror (or Iraq or Afghanistan); but Clint Eastwood didn’t make it. Maybe he has provided the foundation though, for both the audience (all of us) and Hollywood to dig deeper and find the complexity that defines the human condition – as laid bare by war. David Lynch seems the kind of director that could actually make sense of the war in Iraq (or Afghanistan).

            The Imitation Game deserves some Oscars. I will be a little bummed if American Sniper earns any – even for Bradley Cooper.

            Reply
            1. Doug Ross

              I also saw American Sniper last night and agree with you, Mark. Based on the hype, I was expecting a compelling movie experience. I found the movie dull and cliched. When a soldier says he’s bought his girlfriend a ring, you know he’s going to get killed eventually. Same for the soldier who talked about being in the seminary. Instant target. The battle scenes brought nothing new. I’ve seen better on Homeland multiple times this year. It wasn’t anywhere close to classics like Blackhawk Down or Saving Private Ryan. The flow of the movie with the jumping back and forward in time felt clunky. Did we really need to repeat the 30-45 seconds that started the movie?

              Acting wise, the actress who played the wife was much better than Bradley Cooper, in my opinion. Cooper was basically channeling Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry persona – strong, silent type delivering justice to the “savages”. I didn’t recognize any of the actors who played the soldiers and it felt like they were playing stock characters.

              The attempt to elevate Kyle to hero status felt a little flat and contrived to me. If you believe the story, he was “born” to be a sniper. I think he was a product of his upbringing and being the first born son. I don’t buy the whole “you’re either a sheep, wolf, or sheepdog” categorization either. I guess I don’t value the motivation of a guy who leaves a wife and two kids at home. If you want to do that job and feel it is your duty, don’t get married and don’t have kids.

              Reply
  8. Doug Ross

    Since this is the movie post, let me suggest that people take a look at the various offerings Amazon has for its Pilot Season. They already had a big winner last year with “Transparent” which won the Golden Globe for best comedy and best actor in comedy (Jeffrey Tambor). I’m almost done with last season’s “Mozart in the Jungle” which is also very, very, good. It is a behind-the-scenes of the New York Philharmonic comedy. Sorta like “Girls” but with likable characters who are not self-absorbed airheads.

    This new season Amazon has a few pilots that might interest some of the regular posters here:

    “The Man in the High Castle” – “Based on Philip K. Dick’s award-winning novel, and executive produced by Ridley Scott (Blade Runner), The Man in the High Castle explores what it would be like if the Allied Powers had lost WWII, and Japan and Germany ruled the United States. ”

    “Point of Honor” – “At the start of the Civil War, a prominent Virginia family makes the controversial decision to defend the South while freeing all of their slaves, pitting the family against one another and testing their strength, courage and love. ”

    “Cocked” – Family is like a loaded gun. A corporate lapdog is forced to return home to Colorado to save his family’s struggling gun business, much to the horror of his liberal family, and his playboy older brother who never left. Hilarity, epic fights and meltdowns ensue in this dramedy starring Sam Trammell (True Blood), Jason Lee (My Name is Earl) and Tony-winner Brian Dennehy (Death of a Salesman).

    Reply
      1. Doug Ross

        Note – these are all pilots so you may watch one and never see another one made. Based on the ratings so far, The Man in The High Castle looks like the favorite.

        Reply
    1. Silence

      I’m a fan of Philip K. Dick’s work and I’ve read the story “The Man in the High Castle”. I’d like to check out the show, but I’ll need to consult the I Ching first.

      Reply
  9. Brad Warthen Post author

    Y’all, I heard on NPR this afternoon that the experience that Bryan, my son and I had was quite typical across the country.

    “American Sniper” is huge, getting kudos from all sorts of demographics and political positions. Among those who love it are Jane Fonda and Newt Gingrich. Michael Moore hates it, which should make most sensible people love it — which is what’s happening.

    I can’t find a link to that story (I often have this problem with things I’ve just heard on public radio). But here’s a story that makes some of the same points.

    Anyway, it’s apparently doing boffo box office.

    It’s all due to Eastwood’s ability to just lay a powerful story out there before us without telling us what to think about it. So people project onto it what they want to see. But I suspect they also learn from it…

    I don’t know if anyone has yet succeeded in writing the Great American Novel (I mean, since Huck Finn), but Eastwood seems to have made another Great American Film, one that speaks to (almost) everyone where they are.

    Reply
  10. Jim Cross

    A review of American Sniper by a veteran and a different analysis of the “wolves, sheep, sheepdogs” analogy:

    “There Are No War Heroes: A Veteran’s Review Of American Sniper

    “The Surprising History of American Sniper’s “Wolves, Sheep, and Sheepdogs” Speech”

    The first article has a little bit of the history of how snipers are viewed by others, which tallied with my own reading of military history–snipers (even your own) were often loathed because they “didn’t fight fair” by killing anonymously from a distance. It gives a little bit of context to Moore’s overblown “snipers are cowards” comment.

    I would also suggest reading Soldaten: On Fighting, Killing, and Dying, The Secret WWII Transcripts of German POWS by Sonke Neitzel and Harald Welzer and translated by Jefferson Chase which analyzes secretly recorded conversations by the British and Americans of German POW’s. It suggests that it might not take as much as one thinks to overcome the aversion to killing other human beings and that frame of reference is very important in understanding why certain things happen in warfare. It ends with an analysis of an infamous video of American soldiers killing civilians posted by Wikileaks which gives some (albeit incomplete) insight on how such tragedies can happen.

    Reply
    1. Bryan Caskey

      RE: Your first link:

      Your first link goes to a piece where the author is talking about the “cinematic” and “literary” history of snipers. I was actually kind of hoping for actual evidence from real life, not movie anecdotes…but ok. He cites Full Metal Jacket, All’s Quiet on the Western Front, and generally all war movies up to Saving Private Ryan as examples of movies where snipers are portrayed negatively. But let’s play his game and expand on this a little:

      In Full Metal Jacket, he’s referencing the sniper at the end of the movie, who is probably the most pure “bad” sniper example of the bunch. However, what I really took away from that scene is that it’s ultimately revealed as a young woman doing the shooting, when they finally get to her. It’s kind of an unexpected shooter. But there are all sorts of other “bad” characters in the film. A lot.

      In AQonWF, I don’t know. I haven’s seen it. So I’m skipping this one. But I’ll stipulate that the sniper is a “bad” guy who shoots the main character. Ok.

      In Saving Private Ryan, yeah there’s a German sniper. But there’s also the American sniper who is shown as a very positive character. He’s not ostracized by his fellow soldiers. So I don’t really get the point that this guy is trying to make. And I’m pretty sure the German sniper gets taken out, so there goes the whole “not in danger” thing.

      In general, war movies (about modern war anyway) feature snipers, or at least the specter of snipers for two reasons. First, it’s realistic. Second, it adds a layer of tension to the film that a sniper may, at any moment, kill someone.

      And the idea that snipers are somehow beyond the battlefield and “safe” and are therefore cowardly because they’re not fighting fair is just dumb for a couple of reasons. I’ll give you two. First, and foremost, war is not a sporting event. If you’re in a “fair fight” you’re doing it wrong. Any argument to the contrary is just silly.

      Second, snipers are certainly in the battlefield and are therefore in danger. Just to use the example from Full Metal Jacket, the sniper is killed at the end. So, she was kind of in danger, no?

      And if we’re going to use a few movies as evidence to make the argument that snipers are viewed negatively, you can’t just ignore movies that portray snipers as good guys. Here are a few, just off the top of my head:

      Clear and Present Danger: Domingo “Ding” Chavez is one of the main “good” characters in the movie, and he’s a sniper who we first see actually in a sniper course. (It’s actually a pretty funny scene.) Again, he’s in danger, because he ultimately gets captured by the cartel before Ryan and Clark rescue him.

      Enemy at the Gates: I’m not sure how you can use movies to support an argument about snipes either way, and omit this one, since it’s pretty much entirely about snipers. A soviet sniper battles a German sniper in the Battle of Stalingrad. Snipers aren’t really portrayed negatively here. They’re just part of the battle, like artillery, tanks, and infantry – just another tool in the toolbox of the Army, and they’re all in danger.

      Shooter: Mark Wahlberg plays an American sniper who is set up and battles against bad guys. Luckily, he’s a sniper because he’s seriously outnumbered. Positive portrayal here. The best line of the movie is probably where someone is trying to talk him out of a desperate raid on the bad guys’ HQ, and he responds by saying “You don’t understand how serious this is. These boys killed my dog.”

      I could go on, but you get the idea. I think it’s just odd to argue that snipers are “safe” and are beyond the realm of danger. Are they in as much danger as guys who are in forward infantry units? No, probably not. Are the guys flying high altitude bombers, fighter-bombers, or operating artillery units in that much danger? No.

      How about the guys serving on aircraft carriers or submarines? Are they “unfair” as well because they’re sneaky?

      Reply
  11. Bryan Caskey

    RE: Your second link:

    I was hoping the “history” would go behind Grossman’s idea of it, but the author pretty much starts with Grossman and goes forward. So much for history, I guess. Accordingly, I was kind of disappointed from the outset, because I was hoping the piece would trace backwards from Grossman, not go forward to the fact that the “right wing blogopshere” has picked it up. (By the way, Brad: Welcome to the “right wing blogosphere”. I guess I need to send you a jacket that we’ve had made.)

    I especially like how the author dispensed with good and evil as being “unscientific”.

    “While Grossman does have a Ph.D. in psychology, his analogy has zero basis in science. Good and evil aren’t scientific phenomena. While some humans have inclinations toward aggression and violence, it is not a gene that some people have and others do not.

    Oh, ok. Since the idea of good and evil isn’t capable of being measured in test tube, I guess they just don’t exist, huh? Real sharp guy, this one. I really enjoyed this line also: “Faced with this problem, how can you tell a wolf from a sheep? The easiest way is race.” and “White Americans, in general, view threats through the lens of race.”

    What? Oh…right. Everyone who doesn’t think like this genius is raaaaccist. I’m not even going to bother fisking the rest of the piece because it’s so dumb, it would take too long.

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