Saturday, January 31, 2015

"American Sniper"

American Sniper is an excellent piece of work, a subtle anti-war film if I've ever seen one ... "war is hell," and that's made abundantly clear here. I was worried, from some of what I've read, that it glorified war; it doesn't.

Throughout the film, bits and pieces lift up the futility, the aimless of war. I was particularly moved by the opening scene of the young Chris Kyle being raised in a "Southern Warrior" home ... a belt-loving father, a hunter, a quiet, if not silenced, mother, going to church - the toxic mix of religion and violence throughout the South.

Kyle had four tours of duty ... a profound dislocation for him, for his wife and his children. Where was home? Was it with his family, or with his "family" over there? The horror of war is clear ... this is not glory, this is pain and fear and sorrow and stress of the worst kind.

Kyle does his job. He's a Southern Warrior - not an evil man, but an innocent man, a good man, devoted to his country, his god and his buddies. Like Graham Greene says in one of his novels, "Dear God, save us from the innocent and the good." With that said, it's clear that Kyle was neither a mean man nor one who lusted for blood. He was a Southern Warrior, a class in America, if not a caste, like those found throughout history and cultures - a class of people who, by instinct and tradition, are warriors, willing to put their lives on the line for the cause of god, nation and the good, as they see it.

At the end, news footage of his funeral procession, and thousands lining the highway with flags a-waving. The hurt and pain of a soldier's life all covered up and glorified with the Stars and Stripes.

I don't think anyone seeing this movie would come out cheering ... I think it provokes lots of questions about what America is doing to its soldiers, and to the world.

I thought the "enemy" was decently portrayed - mostly, I think. The enemy sniper was no different than Kyle - a soldier doing his job. One character, "the butcher" was portrayed as a man of great evil ... but the enemy was simply that.

Blood and gore ... sudden death ... who's the enemy? women and children ... as is done in all wars by occupied peoples; sadly, women and children are called upon to defend their homes, their land, their families, too.

Acting is superb - Bradley Cooper is astonishing, and so is everyone else. My son noticed the evolution of equipment from Kyle's first tour to the fourth.

Kyle's belief rarely wavered, though at the end, he was ready to come home ... not just be stateside, but to come home, not only in body, but with soul, too, to his family.

That he was murdered by another vet whom he was trying to help is full of profound irony. Who knows how life would have gone on for him - it seems that he was making the transition to civilian life.

That Greg Abbot should declare a Chris Kyle Day is also ironic, and sad - for a man who only did his duty, who was not interested in his "legend," who only wanted to serve his country, not be used by a political hack to further the culture of violence and American pride.

Worth seeing? For sure ... you'll come out as I did - appreciative of this strange Warrior Class, and one member of it: Chris Kyle, and all the more determined that we end our nation's warring madness ... as Harry Emerson Fosdick wrote:

Cure Thy children’s warring madness,
Bend our pride to Thy control.
Shame our wanton selfish gladness,
Rich in things and poor in soul.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
Lest we miss Thy kingdom’s goal,
Lest we miss Thy kingdom’s goal.

Monday, January 26, 2015


Stunning in all regards. 

The story, in all of its complexity and sorrow, is told and pulled me in. 

I was there, in the moments of planning, anxiety, doubt - the drama on the bridge, the horror of the beatings - I was there watching the likes of George Wallace and the local sheriff gladly wallow in their own hatred ... when LBJ, always the consummate politician, struggles to weigh the options and hold the now-dead Democratic coalition together ... I felt the despair of decades of voting rights denied ... I felt the pain as  Martin and Coretta struggle to figure it all out ... and shocked once again to realize that he was only 39 when white rage finally caught up to him and killed him on a Memphis motel balcony. 

The story ends triumphantly in Montgomery, with only a tag line at the end of his death. Musically, powerful, with a searing rap song woven in at the end mentioning Ferguson. 

The cast, superb ... 

A must-see - for an important chapter in the American Story.


A FB friend of mine offers the following:

  • Constance McIntosh One lyric line in Common's rap portion of "Glory" says "our music is the cuts that we bleed through". For me, that fresh truth sums up why the director did not go with all the old songs from the marches of the 60s.

    For those who were disappointed in 
    the soundtrack, a very subtle aspect to notice is that the 'theme song' (from the white perspective) of the civil rights movement was 'We Shall Overcome' and many people may not be aware that it was a Pete Seeger song. The Weavers were THE Justice singers and nobody could have more love for them than this granddaughter of a union organizer. And, yes, they were white allies as I am a white ally...but we are supporting characters in the movement, not the stars. White folks have a problem not being put in front...and this is something that needs to be addressed by all white allies and corrected. 

    The music in Selma was all black, from black singer/song writers and performers ..,. Except "Yesterday Was Hard on All of Us", by Brit singer/songwriter, Fink. And that placement was such an olive branch of reconciliation in the film. This is a great film and it will be a classic. It just isn't receiving much recognition now.  

    AND I am so grieved that 'American Sniper' has grossed (really) $105 million while this giant film, Selma, has taken in @ $20 mill, barely breaking even so far. What a sad social commentary.