Punch au Cognac label, circa 1915
Matthew Braun: ‘Unlike the War Films of Generations Past, ‘American Sniper’ Actually Has to Explain Onscreen That al Qaeda Insurgents Were (and Still Are) Bad’Posted: January 29, 2015
What ‘American Sniper’ Tells You About Its Critics
A veteran reviews ‘American Sniper’
Matthew Braun writes: I am not at all surprised that Michael Moore and Seth Rogen don’t like American Sniper . For them, the idea of military sacrifice is absurd. We get an idea of how badly they understand the motivation of the modern American fighting man and woman when they can’t tell the difference between someone like me, with 15 years of experience in law enforcement, military intelligence, and counterterrorism, and a Nazi. No. Seriously.
American Sniper kind of reminds me of the movie that’s showing in the third act of Inglorious Basterds.
— Seth Rogen (@Sethrogen) January 18, 2015
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
— Michael Moore (@MMFlint) January 18, 2015
“The American Left has never been able to find the line between patriotism and jingoism.”
He later said, implausibly, he just happened to tweet this while “American Sniper ” was pulling in a massive $105 million opening weekend box-office haul and wasn’t talking at all about “American Sniper .”
“Where John Ford and Frank Capra once did propaganda films during World War II, Hollywood today is irredeemably corrupted by a worldview that blames America for all the ills of the world.”
Moore’s experience with martial matters is exactly zero, and his understanding of snipers is based on a tragic anecdote from World War II. Moore never allows for the possibility that Nazi snipers might have been cowards, and that American snipers might be saving lives.
Newsflash: Like the Nazis, Al Qaeda Is Bad
War movies have changed a lot since the 1940s. War movies in the 1940s didn’t have to explain that the Nazis were bad. We take Nazis as evil for granted now; with 65 years of hindsight there are far more people around now who were never alive for Hitler’s Reich, but all of us understand that Nazis are bad.
“The American Left can’t imagine a person who actually fights to protect other Americans, who actually believes America is the greatest country on Earth, and who does it all with a Bible in his pocket. That’s a farce to them.”
Film has been, perhaps, the best teacher of this simple truth. Nazis were just Nazis in movies, even when their evil was supernatural or no longer based in reality.
“…It’s too far off from the people they have known and deal with every day to be real, so they think it’s propaganda for the Right, for America, for war.”
Unlike the war films of generations past, ‘American Sniper’ actually has to explain onscreen that al Qaeda insurgents were (and still are) bad.
The Left continues to think of the American military and foreign illegal fighters as basically being two sides of the same coin. Worse, they can’t seem to tell the difference between American service members and al Qaeda. Unlike the war films of generations past, “American Sniper” actually has to explain onscreen that al Qaeda insurgents were (and still are) bad. In explaining, and in depicting, Kyle’s firm and unflinching lack of remorse or understanding for the plight of the torturing, ambushing, child-murdering insurgent, we see a fun word on Twitter: Jingoistic.
The American Left has never been able to find the line between patriotism and jingoism. Read the rest of this entry »
Fox may have a new franchise on its hands with this witty and occasionally spectacular homage to 1970′s-era James Bond adventures.
Scott Mendelson writes: 20th Century Fox will be releasing Kingsman: The Secret Service starting in the UK beginning January 29th before eventually debuting in America and elsewhere on or around the February 13th. The film, directed by Matthew Vaughn and written by Vaughn and Jane Goldman, comes from Marv Films and Fox. I don’t have an exact budget for this one, but if I had to guess, I’d say over/under $40 million. At a glance, the initial tracking for the picture puts its domestic debut at $30m over the Presidents Day Weekend, which would be a fine score for this geek-friendly R-rated action romp. Especially considering that Fifty Shades of Grey (Universal/Comcast Corp.) will be sucking up all the media attention heading into the Valentine’s Day Weekend, a $30m debut weekend would be a big win for this comparatively under-the-radar picture.
If you had asked me a month ago, even after I saw the film, I would have worried that the picture was potentially going to fall victim to the Scott Pilgrim/Dredd disease, by which I mean a geek-friendly genre film plays great on the online movie blogger circuit but was mostly ignored by the general audiences.
“Consider this a warning. If you’re seeing Kingsman: The Secret Service, stop watching the trailers right here and now. You’ll thank me later.”
Heck, you could argue that Matthew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass, which like this film is an adaption of a Mark Millar comic book, suffered from the same fate, to the point where the R-rated cult comic book adaptation had to defend a “mere” $19 million debut weekend. But Lions Gate Entertainment’s Kick-Ass eventually made it to $96m worldwide and played well in post-theatrical, to the point where Universal/Comcast Corp. ended up with Kick-Ass 2, which earned just $60m worldwide in 2013. But I digress.
Point being, Colin Firth is a known entity without being an out-and-out box office star, and Samuel L. Jackson hasn’t been an automatic draw since, well, Lakeview Terrace and/or Jumper in 2008. Oh, he’s the king of the added-value element, and he darn-well should have won his Oscar for Django Unchained, but most of the cast (aside from Michael Caine and Mark Strong) are little-known kids. Read the rest of this entry »
Season 2 of Bates Motel is Coming to Netflix on February 7
1957 Perma Books paperback original
Nous Soumettons à Aotre Autorité: ‘Blasphemous’ Artwork Removed From Paris Exhibition After Threat, to Avoid OffensePosted: January 28, 2015
Artwork showing women’s shoes on Muslim prayer mats is removed from exhibition after warnings of possible violence
David Chazan reports: An artwork depicting high-heeled shoes on Islamic prayer mats has been removed from an exhibition after a Muslim group warned of possible violence in the wake of the Paris attacks.
The French-Algerian artist, Zoulikha Bouabdellah, withdrew the work from an exhibition in a northern Paris suburb with a large Muslim population after an Islamic group told local authorities it could provoke “uncontrollable, irresponsible incidents”.
“I’m left wondering at the reasons that push a certain fringe among French Muslims to see this work as blasphemous. I’m from a Muslim background and my intention was not to shock or provoke, but to offer a vision as a starting point for a dialogue.”
It is considered disrespectful to step on Muslim prayer maps with shoes.
Ms Bouabdellah has replaced the artwork, “Silence”, previously exhibited in Paris, New York, Berlin and Madrid, with a video installation showing belly-dancing to the French national anthem, with swirling red, white and blue shawls symbolising the national flag.
“I protest against all pressures and/or threats that would result in a peaceful art work being pulled from an exhibition, be it due to a Christian group, a Muslim group, or a group of other beliefs.”
The decision sparked protests from other artists who complained that freedom of expression was being undermined only weeks after 12 people were killed when gunmen attacked the office of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. Another four people were killed at a kosher supermarket, and a policewoman was shot dead near a Jewish school.
Ms Bouabdellah, 37, said on Wednesday that the “lack of understanding” of her work was probably related to “heightened emotions” after the attacks. Read the rest of this entry »
Holmes will play a shrewd and chic businesswoman named Paige who enlists the services of Ray (Liev Schreiber). She also happens to be the daughter of Ian McShane‘s billionaire producer character, Andrew. McShane was cast in a recurring role earlier this month. Read the rest of this entry »
Billiken Godzilla, 1954 (Model Kit Box Art)
From today’s Fresh Air, a wonderful interview with producer Kevin Howlett. Worth a listen. Hearing about The Beatles early show business career, and early appearances on BBC radio programs, reminds me of interviews with members of Monty Python. As they described it, England’s radio and television landscape at the beginning of the 1960s, was buttoned-down and formal. The notion of performers talking informally in front of a microphone, improvising and being mischievous, was unprecedented. What the Beatles were allowed to do was — though it’s hard to imagine now — was revolutionary.
Also of interest, the BBC never preserved any recording of the Beatles broadcasts, in all those years. Producer Kevin Howlett had to seek them out from individual collectors who’d recorded the live broadcasts. Good thing he did!
NPR: England got a lot more of The Beatles than Americans did during the group’s formative years. Between 1962 and 1965, The Beatles were featured on 53 BBC radio programs, including their own series, Pop Go the Beatles. They performed originals and covers and chatted with BBC hosts.
The Beatles: On Air-Live At The BBC Volume 2 has just been released. Kevin Howlett produced both that and the newly remastered reissue of the first volume, which was originally released in 1994. For reasons he explains to Fresh Air host Terry Gross, Howlett had to search for many of these recordings, and they weren’t easy to find.
Howlett has written a new companion book called The Beatles: The BBC Archives,which includes transcriptions of the band’s BBC radio and TV interviews as well as fascinating internal memos about the Beatles and their music.
On the challenges of his project working in the BBC archive
My quest to restore the BBC archive [of the Beatles] goes way back to 1981 when I joined the national pop network in this country, BBC Radio 1, as a young rookie producer. I was 24 years old. The management knew I was a Beatles fanatic, I was a child in the ’60s growing up with the Beatles, and they gave me this task. What a dream thing to be handed. They said, “Can you investigate what programs the Beatles performed music in and what songs they did?” And the BBC’s written archives are a wonderful place where they kept every single piece of paper relating to the Beatles’ performances, so when I wrote the book it was a magnificent source of material: memos, contracts, audience research reports — so that was fine, you could find out all of the information.
But then finding the music on the tapes? That was a completely different matter. Some of these recordings come from transcription discs, LPs that were distributed by the BBC to other countries for broadcast. Some come from producer listening copies. There were some producers at the time that thought maybe it is worth keeping this material, and in some of these cases, listeners who taped off the radio.
On The Beatles’ audition for the BBC
The very first thing that Brian Epstein did when he took over the management of The Beatles was to fill out an application form for the variety department of the BBC. This, again, reminds us that there was no rock business as we know it. This was show business and they would be on with all sorts of other acts, radio ventriloquists even, that kind of thing. Read the rest of this entry »
November 1941 Pocket paperback, 4th printing
Amazon’s new pilot proves that alternative-history shows are an uphill battle
The Man in the High Castle, by Philip K. Dick, is an acknowledged classic of the alternative-history genre — the sort of books that imagine a world in which something important had gone differently. (In this case, it’s if the Axis powers had won World War II.) The TV show of the same title, whose pilot is currently streaming on Amazon, is unlikely to meet as much success, not least because the alternative-history genre of TV isn’t something that exists. In general, TV has been uniquely bad at conveying dystopian fantasies. So far, The Man in the High Castle is worse than it could be — but it’s hard to call it a disappointment, given how low expectations should have been.
The power of books that imagine the apocalypse (or a far worse alternate present) is their power to parcel out information about the state of the world we’re witnessing through context. When television attempts to do the same, it feels sledgehammer-level unsubtle. In a book, a mention of a popular current movie or song, or a quick description of a poster or work of art, can be easily absorbed in the flow of information. In Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle pilot, when the camera pauses on a movie theater marquee or poster of a Third Reich soldier, it feels as though we’re being nudged in the ribs: This will be important later! The important stuff that’s actually interesting gets withheld to a frustrating degree, in favor of fairly dull characters who are on quests we don’t get enough information about to care. What would it really be like to live under Nazi rule in America? We don’t get a strong sense, aside from a vague feeling that the police would be far more aggressive.
Subtlety isn’t television’s strongest trait, but shows like The Man in the High Castle, which exist in a wildly different universe than our own, only exacerbate the medium’s problems with obviousness. We want to know how America ended up overrun with German and Japanese soldiers — just as how, in Under the Dome, we want to know how the town ended up under a dome, or how in the late ABC reboot of V we wanted to know the alien’s plots. Those last two shows are but two easy examples of an irritating phenomenon: when they did parcel out information about the world in which their characters found themselves, it was heavy-handed in a way that only emphasized how much the rest of the show was wheel-spinning. Read the rest of this entry »