The anti-American Sniper piece that we all knew was coming was posted late Sunday afternoon by The Wrap‘s Steve Pond, and in so doing the first liberal shot across the bow of Clint Eastwood‘s hugely popular drama — a somber-minded but nonetheless conservative, generally pro-America, God-and-country war flick that has become the apple of the American hinterland — has been fired.
The idea isn’t to diminish Sniper‘s general popularity (which would be impossible at this stage) but to cut its rep down among Los Angeles and New York-centric Oscar voters. The basic thinking, apparently, is that hinterland values, which are generally thought to embrace characterizations of Middle Eastern heathens as insect-level life forms and a belief that they deserve to be exterminated en masse, have no business influencing a basically benign, liberal-minded, hooray-for-Hollywood event like the Oscars.
Pond’s piece, which will almost certainly be followed by others in a similar vein, contends that a moral argument against the late Chris Kyle, played by Bradley Cooper in the film, is gaining traction among Hollywood types. The basic beef is about Kyle having declared in his partly self-authored book that enemy combatants he fought against during the Iraq War are “savages and despicably evil” and that his “only regret is that I didn’t kill more.”
Pond’s piece claims that “Academy members seem to be paying attention to the criticism that Eastwood and Cooper shouldn’t be celebrating a man who wrote that killing hundreds of Iraqis was “fun.” On top of which famed documentarian Michael Moore tweeted on Sunday that “snipers aren’t heroes…and invaders [are] worse.”
Anti-Kyle material has been lying around for ages, but nobody in Hollywood circles had gone to town with it before because until this weekend nobody realized how really big Sniper would be, and how much that huge success could potentially influence the Oscar race.
What’s going on here, most likely, is that the same liberal firebrands who took down Zero Dark Thirty over alleged claims that it endorsed torture are massing and possibly ready to go on the warpath again. Maybe. American Sniper earning a couple of hundred million for Warner Bros. is fine by everyone, but the Oscars are a clubby L.A.-and-N.Y. event, and indications are that the liberal Academy membership doesn’t want Eastwood’s film to be influencing Oscar votes or wind up in the winner’s circle.
I for one would like to see Sniper become a major Best Picture contender as it injects excitement and controversy into the race. Before this weekend I was feeling distinctly bored, but no longer.