Movie Review: American Sniper

Before I dive into my critique of Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, I want to elaborate on why I do film reviews. First, it goes without saying that I am an ardent cinephile. I’ve been in love with the art of filmmaking for as long as I can remember. If it wasn’t for my aversion towards the celebrity lifestyle, I definitely would have pursued a career in Hollywood (or Bollywood).

Second, I’m not the only one who loves movies. Everybody loves watching  movies. Everyone can quote random dialogues from films released twenty years ago. Some of our most cherished memories have been shaped around the movie-watching experience.

Therefore, films are one of the best mediums for social commentary. For decades, Filmmakers have utilized their craft to convey an important lesson to their audiences. Born on the Fourth of July poignantly captured the anguish and pain endured by numerous Vietnam veterans. Mummy Dearest (despite the unintentionally laughable acting) exposed the prevalence of child abuse. Inside Out persuaded us to get in touch with our inner emotions. Therefore, cinema has an incredibly tremendous impact on our culture.

This brings us to American Sniper. Clint Eastwood has continuously proved himself to be a sage in filmmaking. American Sniper is no exception. It was, no doubt, a brilliantly-produced masterpiece. In addition, Bradley Cooper was exceptional in the biographical role of Chris Kyle. In terms of film quality, I have nothing negative to say.

I watched this movie a year and a half ago in theaters with a couple of my friends. I remember the theatre room was packed, unsurprisingly. Upon the film’s conclusion, with the credits rolling through the depiction of Chris Kyle’s real life funeral, the theatre room fell into an eerie silence. As the screen went pitch-black, the silence continued. After a few moments, as my friends and I gathered our belongings, a spontaneous applause erupted. Some of the audience members had tears running down their cheeks.
The reason I’m telling this is to illustrate the depth of emotions this film evoked from the American public. In post-9/11 America, this movie had a cathartic impact on its viewers. Because of this film’s monumental significance, I’m even more disappointed by its distorted depictions of the events following 9/11.

The movie implies that 9/11 was the primary motive behind the US invasion of Iraq. That botched episode, which basically annihilated George W Bush’s credibility as president, was glorified in the film as a noble cause.

Ironically, Clint Eastwood is known for being firmly anti-war. He has vocally disapproved of American military engagements in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. Furthermore, Eastwood insisted that American Sniper was written to be an anti-war film!

Although most have doubt his assertion, I actually believe him. Eastwood aspired to depict the disastrous effects war has on one’s mental health. He never intended to produce a historical documentary. Eastwood primarily wanted to illustrate how PTSD not only affects soldiers, but their families, especially their spouses who are pressured to pick up the pieces.

In order to accurately depict the impact of PTSD, Clint Eastwood did a character sketch of Chris Kyle and portray the battlefield through his eyes. Unfortunately, Chris Kyle’s subjective perspective completely obfuscated the historically-factual account of the Iraq War. Therefore, future generations watching this movie will have an inaccurate picture of the Iraq War.

American Sniper attempts to humanize a person famed for his 150 kills. Chris Kyle is depicted as being helplessly trapped in the shadows of moral ambiguity that envelopes over the reality of the battlefield. However, Chris Kyle’s autobiography confirms that he is a self -aggrandizing liar and a sadistic psychopath who takes pleasure in shooting defenseless Iraqi children! Kyle represents the worst of the US armed forces and does not deserve to be lionized in an cinematic production!

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Movie Review: Dazed and Confused

Most of the films I’ve reviewed for this blog were released within the past couple of years. So, I thought a change of pace was in order. And so, my devoted reader, I present to you my take on Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused. 

Dazed and Confused images-7is a 1993 coming-of-age comedy set in the suburbs of Austin, Texas in 1976. The film is most notable for launching the careers of Mathew McConaughey and Ben Affleck into stardom. Dazed and Confused was one of many cinematic productions that capitalized off of the nostalgic idealization of the 1970’s that implanted itself in pop culture during the better part of the 1990’s. Sort of like how we, today, are infatuated with anything from the 1990’s.

I’m not going to debrief on the synopsis because…well…there really isn’t much of a story MCDDAAN EC010to tell. It’s just a bunch of stereotypically rebellious teenagers from the 1970’s idly dawdling from one scene to another. This movie reminded me of That 70’s Show (and I wouldn’t be surprised if That 70’s Show was inspired by Dazed and Confused). However, unlike The 70’s Show, the characters in Dazed and Confused weren’t likeable, nor very interesting.

Sure, there were a handful of quotable lines including the semi-pedophilic “That’s what I like about high school girls. I keep on getting older, they stay the same age” along with the contrarian yet all too real “Okay guys, one more thing, this summer when you’re being inundated with all this American bicentennial Fourth Of July brouhaha, don’t forget what you’re celebrating, and that’s the fact that a bunch of slave-owning, aristocratic, white males didn’t want to pay their taxes.”. But that’s about it.

The only reason you should watch this movie is for the sake of cultural literacy. This movie has been referenced countless times on TV shows, comedy specials and even movies. I suppose Dazed and Confused is akin to films like Forrest Gump, The Breakfast Club or Home Alone. While you, personally, may not appreciated them, if you haven’t seen any of those aforementioned movies, you can’t call yourself a true, red-blooded American.

 

Movie Review: Doctor Strange

Scott Derrickson’s Doctor Strange provides a visually-captivating backstory to one of Marvel Comic’s most intriguing characters. Dr. Stephen Strange is Stan Lee’s answer to Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, and appropriately played by Benedict Cumberbatch. He is a well-accomplished neurosurgeon known for his acute wit, extraordinary depth of knowledge and overbearing ego. After a brief, yet life-changing rendezvous with a horrendous car accident, Strange is left with crippled hands, unable to perform surgery, which was the only thing that brought meaning to his life. After an encounter with a former paraplegic who was mysteriously healed, Strange is directed to Kathmandu where he encounters the Ancient One. The Ancient One reveals to Strange a realm of reality incomprehensible to his scientific mind. Yet, Strange’s encounter with the astral plane and other dimensions would began to change his life forever.  

This film is one of the best example of cinematography. The way the film portrayed the complexity of interwoven dimensions was enough to leave the audience bewildered, yet mesmerized. The visual effects effectively captured the audience’s imagination while allowing a relatively conovulated topic to be easily understood. 

I was impressed by Cumberbatch’s affected American accent. I’ve always been puzzled on how effortlessly British actors can imitate the American accent. Somehow, we, on the other side of the Atlantic, received the short end of that stick. 

Cumberbatch’s chemistry with Rachel McAdams’ character, Christine Palmer, was watchable, but completely tame and unremarkable. Both actor are competent in their craft, no doubt. However, for some inexplicable reason, I don’t think they make a convincing pair. 

The rest of the cast did exceptionally well for their respective roles. I think they brilliantly captured the moral ambiguity  of their situation and the conflicting emotions associated. Marvel comics have typically been more realistic in their portrayal of flawed heroes being overshadowed by murky circumstances. 

A minor disappointing facet was its depiction of the culture of eastern mysticism and spirituality. When Strange is directed to Kathmandu, where he encountered the chosen one, I expected him to have an enlightened encounter with the esoteric profoundness of the Eastern schools of philosophical thought. However, Strange is merely exposed to some vague, cliched proverb of “mind over matter” which enables him to acquire superpowers and access to different dimensions.

Speaking of misrepresenting Asian culture, I have to turn into SJW mode. In the original comics, the Ancient One is depicted as an elderly Asian man. However, in the film, the Ancient One is not a he, but a she (well, a bald-headed, androgynous-looking she). Derrickson was apparently worried that the image of an aging Asian man would evoke the outdated Fu Manshu stereotype. He further claimed that an elderly Asian woman would evoke the Dragon Lady trope and a younger Asian woman would be perceived as “exploiting the Asian fetishes of Marvel fanboys”. Honestly, I don’t understand the logic of this explanation. Not to mention Derrickson unintentionally exemplified another old Hollywood stereotype: Casting white actors to play Asian roles!

As if Ghost in the Shell wasn’t enough!!

Nevertheless, Doctor Strange is an eye-dazzling masterpiece with an intriguing story coupled with abstract themes and sprinkled with sardonically witty one-liners. If you enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy or Sherlock Holmes, this movie is definitely for you