Bill Maher recently took aim at Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper (2015) referring to it as two-dimensional hero-worshiping of a psychopath. True to form, Maher immediately drew the indignation of monosyllabic patriots like Sarah “let’s kill wolves from a copter, ‘cause it’s fun” Palin.
The National Glorification of Snipers Association was equally up in arms, proving Maher wrong with their “This film has made 200 gazillion dollars. The people have spoken!” [insert gavel sound] Of course, we may look at this as another illustration of Maher’s ongoing insistence that, by and large, Americans really are a stupid lot. After all, we love to throw our dyed green paper at anything that is merchandised to us, without scrutiny. We transformed the Scooby Doo Movie (2002) and Mel’s homophobe capitalist Messiah (Passion Of The Christ) into sacred, dumbed-down box office gold.
Perhaps the most nauseating example of a perpetually bored, illiterate American audience is its ongoing love affair with Clint Eastwood. It is tempting to write that I have lived long enough to see the actor turn into a 200-year-old blithering idiot. However, the fallacy in such a statement is that Eastwood has always been a blithering idiot who preaches to his choir of extremist right-wing Neanderthals and empty chairs (which are actually one and the same).
Criticizing such a fossilized institution as good old boy Clint might be tantamount to questioning the Old Pie in the Sky himself, or Dale “he died for our Budweiser sins” Earnhardt. Take your pick.
However, Clint and his generation of camouflaged hayseed worshipers should receive credit where credit is due, and one of those initial credits came from The Duke himself. John Wayne, of all people, once criticized Eastwood’s brand of hyper-realistic violence. Wayne argued that while the Westerns he had made with John Ford were violent, they used stylized violence. Wayne clearly found Eastwood’s variety of fetishistic fascism to be a disturbing glorification of carnage. That is, until Wayne (or his agent) noticed all the ticket-booth silver being dolled out by the yokels to see their stoic, cinematic sociopath in action. Wayne, hypocrite that he was, then spent the rest of what little career remained appearing in pale Eastwood imitations, such as The Cowboys (1972) and McQ (1974).
Eastwood can and should also be give credit for having sucked all the mythological poetry out of the western; a poetry so carefully nurtured as “the Great American Art Form” by the likes of John Ford, Howard Hawks, Anthony Mann, Budd Boetticher, and, above all—Aaron Copland.
In place of a sweeping, stirring, panoramic landscape, Eastwood and company gave us nihilistic sadism served up in a red, white, and blue Continue reading TAKING AIM AT AMERICAN SNIPER (2015) AND CLINT EASTWOOD