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Wow, I'm almost certain I've seen the ending of "Silver Linings Playbook" before, but I'm also certain that I've never seen the entire film. Despite its spicy language, this is a somewhat classic, old-fashioned, rom-com - chock full of star power, and Jennifer Lawrence's vehicle for her first Best Actress Oscar. It's important to me that I see films "like this," but not for the reasons you may think: Although I'd heard the name "Jennifer Lawrence" a zillion times before, I didn't have the faintest idea who she was (I wouldn't have even been sure if she was a singer or an actress), and watching movies like this are the only way I can keep up with popular culture. The casting of this film was very star-heavy and strong, and there really wasn't a weakness in the entire ensemble that I can think of. That said, despite its "mental illness" twist, "Silver Linings Playbook" is a formulaic rom-com, and absent the language and some of the subject matter, could have been made with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell (although you'd need to substitute "rapid-fire dialogue" for "subtle facial expressions"). I found the film charming, if perhaps twenty minutes too long, and everyone gets to walk out of the theater happy and carefree. Given that this is an almost stereotypical rom-com, what more could you ask for? (Other than, of course, eight Academy Award nominations including the Big Five.) Peter Travers said this film was "crazy good"; I contend that while it's well-made, slick entertainment, it's "crazy for-the-masses."
This probably isn't the best time to be watching "American Sniper," but I do get a childish pleasure out of Clint Eastwood films, and I make a mild effort to watch Best Picture Nominees, even though I realize that's hardly an arbiter of anything but notoriety. Still, it's 2:30 AM, I'm having a tremendous pain flare, and I guess I'm in a "misery loves company" mood, so ... Interestingly, my personal assistant attended Chris Kyle's funeral (long story, that one). I also feel that, since I'm never there, I learn something from war movies, although I realize I'm watching Hollywood, and not reality, so must selectively filter whatever I see. Watching new films also fills a gap which I'd developed over the past fifteen years in terms of general popular culture. I really liked the analogy (at the young Chris Kyle's dinner table) of "sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs," and I guess I'm a classic case of a sheepdog - or I would be if I wasn't so badly hurt. I wish I could protect the unprotected, the weak, the sick, and the disadvantaged, but right now I'm just too badly injured, so I just have to sit back and watch. About 75 minutes into "American Sniper," I'm less convinced this is a "war movie" than it is a biographic about a man who's just doing his job - getting completely absorbed into his job - grisly though that job may be. I can easily see how partisans could either denounce this, or support this, but as pure film, I see this as more of an individual story than some sort of complicated team picture - almost like a perverse version of 'The [hypothetical] Cal Ripken, Jr. Story' (though I have absolutely no reason to think Cal would forsake his family for his job, which Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) ultimately does)' How it progresses in its final hour remains to be seen, but I can certainly understand how this movie polarized the public. Even now (or, perhaps "especially now"), I have a weird, almost sheepish feeling even writing about it, but this post should be taken as a movie commentary; not as any sort of pro- or anti-war stance. (Yes, of course I have strong, personal feelings about Iraq, but they have no place here, and if I betray them - one way or the other - then I have failed miserably). Boy, the contrast between Kyle buying his son a treat from the bubble-gum machine, immediately followed by the auto mechanic turning on his power drill, positively made me (as well as Kyle) shudder. Perhaps this is one of the first signs of Kyle's impending PTSD? Indeed, after I wrote that last sentence, I continued the film, and Kyle met the soldier he saved (the one who lost a leg), as the power drill continues to whir in the background - I'm pretty sure this is an important pivot in the film. The amount of liberty taken with this biopic is substantial - apparently, Kyle didn't have that much association with Mustafa (skillfully expressed in this film by Sammy Sheik), and only wrote one paragraph about him in his book. I don't know much about this particular issue, so if anyone has information to the contrary, please let us know. The shot (from underneath) of Mustafa jumping from one rooftop to another evoked something out of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," i.e., it looked very fake (well, they did say he was an Olympic athlete; but I assumed it wasn't for the Long Jump). Such happy scenes in this film - Ryan "Biggles" Job: "What do you mean, she can trace the diamond to Zales?" A little tidbit I picked up from Amazon X-Ray: "Chris Kyle's father personally told Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper that he would 'unleash Hell' if his son's memory was disrespected in this film. He also said that Eastwood and Cooper were 'men he could trust.'" I don't like the way they "invented" the villain of Mustafa, just to have a villain to root against. It really dumbs down the film - this is a story that should tell itself, and Eastwood (or whoever) felt the need to create a "Bird-Magic" type of rivalry between the two snipers. That might work for the masses, but it doesn't work for me: In real life, people aren't even sure "Mustafa" - or whatever his name was - even existed. That said, even though it was complete fiction, I *loved* the take-out shot in slow motion. Okay, that was one of the *worst* endings to any serious movie I've ever seen. I knew almost nothing about how Kyle died, and I *still* know almost nothing about how Kyle died. I feel cheated as all get out. Like the rest of my movie write-ups, this is obviously not a "review," so much as it is part of a (hopefully) larger discussion. When the day comes that I write a full-fledged movie review - and that day has not yet come - you'll know it; for now, I prefer these discussions to be a team effort among an intelligent, diverse group of movie lovers, hopefully flushing out some interesting and educational things about the films working together as a group. This type of approach could only work if this website was going to be around for the long haul - which it is. If the next commentary about this film comes two years from now, then so be it - we have all the time in the world, or, at least until humanity no longer exists. What I fear the most (and this relates to the film) is that, 100 years from now, inexpensive, devastatingly destructive technology will be available to anyone who wants it, so we, as a species, had better damned sight learn to start loving one-another; otherwise, there won't be anyone left to love, or to hate. Apr, 2013 - "The Legend of Chris Kyle" by Michael J. Mooney on dmagazine.com