The Way of the Warrior

So, the wailing, the sobbing, the gnashing of teeth from the so-called intellectual and cultural elite over the runaway box-office success of American Sniper is pure music to my ears … all the more so since I started calling for this kind of movie to be made … oh, in the early days of the Daily Brief, back when it was still called Sgt. Stryker. It didn’t take the WWII-era studios to get cracking and crank out all kinds of inspirational military flicks within a year of Pearl Harbor, the disaster in the Philippines and the fall of Wake Island. Of course, those were full-service movie studios, accustomed to cranking out movie-theater fodder on an assembly-line basis. There was, IIRC one attempted TV series, set in an Army unit in Iraq, which was basically recycled Vietnam War-era military memes, and died after a couple of episodes, drowned in a sea of derision from more recent veterans, especially after an episode which featured an enlisted soldier smoking dope. On deployment. In a combat zone. The producers of the show had obviously never heard of Operation Golden Flow. Or maybe they had, and assumed it was something porn-ish.

We did get at least a cute and military-knowledgeable TV comedy series out of the last ten years of the military experience – Enlisted – which barely lasted a single season. And then there were a whole long series of well-meaning movie flops, out of which only Hurt Locker seemed to come within a country mile of realistically dealing with the military experience in this last decade. And so now we have Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, which is packing them in at the mega-plexes and sending entertainment figures like Michael “Jabba-the-Hutt” Moore and Seth Rogan into epic fits of pearl-clutching, and inspiring dark warning of everything from Nazi-style propaganda to a possible anti-Muslim backlash. Said backlash, by the way, is rather like the Loch Ness monster, or the chupacabra; there are people absolutely convinced that it exists, but only rare and usually blurrily-photographed sightings provide any evidence at all.

One might think that the success of American Sniper, in contrast with previous mainstream movie offerings might effect some kind of turnabout when it comes to making movies about the military experience in the last ten years. One should not count on it. Michael Medved pointed out decades ago, in Hollywood VS America, that most major players in the movie business were too much invested in making movies that were artistic, and ‘risky’ and ‘stuck it to the establishment’ (whatever establishment suited, presumably those that it would be safe for Hollywood to stick it to). Rather than make movies that were broadly appealing, refrained from excessively epatering the poor old bourgeoisie, and upheld our common values – and which would make a mint at the box office – they would prefer the accolades of critics and peers.

My own crystal ball likely could use a re-calibration, but from where I sit – at home and preferring to watch movies through streaming video on a modest flat-screen TV – it looks like mainstream Hollywood prefers to make movies for each other, rather than the rest of us. Discuss.

(Crossposted at The Daily Brief.)

17 thoughts on “The Way of the Warrior”

  1. “oh, in the early days of the Daily Brief, back when it was still called Sgt. Stryker.”

    Sgt. Stryker’s Daily Briefing. The blog that will never be over Macho Grande? Started following it soon after it appeared, perhaps thanks to a link from Instapundit.

  2. “it looks like mainstream Hollywood prefers to make movies for each other, rather than the rest of us.”

    Agreed, with the caveat that all those other movies are also “for the rest of us” in the sense that Hollywood does want to persuade us to hate ourselves, hate the military, hate the real America and vote for whoever promises to replace America with a leftist corporatist version.

  3. Ah, Stryker himself wandered off – I think he lost interest after a while, and let the domain name lapse. I think Insty dropped the Brief from the blogroll a couple of years after that.
    I keep it going for the archives, of which there are ten years+ worth.

  4. “Rather than make movies that were broadly appealing, ”

    A lot of this is related to overseas box office. For example Economist says The true worth of a film is no longer decided by the crowd that assembles in the Kodak Theatre—or, indeed, by any American. It is decided by youngsters in countries such as Russia, China and Brazil.

    Hollywood has always been an international business, but it is becoming dramatically more so. In the past decade total box-office spending has risen by about one-third in North America while more than doubling elsewhere (see chart). Thanks to Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes and “Inception”, Warner Bros made $2.93 billion outside North America last year, smashing the studio’s previous record of $2.24 billion.

    Why do you think the Arabs hate us ? They see the Hollywood version of America.

    The growth of the international box office is partly a result of the dollar’s weakness. It was also helped by “Avatar”, an eco-fantasy that made a startling $2 billion outside North America. But three things are particularly important: a cinema boom in the emerging world, a concerted effort by the major studios to make films that might play well outside America and a global marketing push to make sure they do.

  5. Perhaps the overseas market is a big thumb on the scales … but still, wouldn’t that make movies that play big in the US – hey, consider us an underserved niche market! – something tempting to the Hollywood moviemakers?
    Avatar made a good pile of boodle inside the US as well. Is the ‘overseas market’ consideration putting the cart before the horse when it comes to making movies? I’ve read that the movies that do sell well overseas usually have simple plots and dialog, lots of action – because that’s easy to put across in subtitles. Subtleties don’t translate well, it seems.

    Considered from another angle – Hollywood consistently and thoroughly trashes ordinary Americans, American society, and our governing establishments … to curry favor with foreign audiences? Hmmm…

  6. “A lot of this is related to overseas box office.”

    Another of Hollywood’s delusion. Instead of making a movie that makes money in the USA and may make money overseas, Hollywood makes movies that lose money in both places.

  7. If you spend very large amounts of money for the production, you will need the largest possible audience to get a good return. However, maybe you would do better making multiple movies on a less-lavish scale, more targeted to specific audiences.

    I suspect many of these decisions are based less on economics of the business (profits for shareholders) than they should be, and more on the egos of particular executives involved and desire to promote their personal political viewpoints.

    One of these days, somewhere in the media space, there is going to be a shareholder lawsuit alleging violation of fiduciary responsibility based on such behaviors.

  8. Alias (tv series). Hunger Games. Harry Potter. Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Rawhide reruns.
    Etc. All these shows reflect pioneer values, locals handling terrorists without aid from The Central Power (which is usually incompetent and a supporter of pc terror).

  9. Here’s a list of highest grossing films:

    How many of those are overtly or covertly political? Most of these are entertainment. That’s what people want generally when they go out. They want to leave the world behind and have some fun. Look at the Pixar Toy Story films. They’re about childhood and toys and basic values like love and friendship and adventure. The LOTR and Hobbit movies are similar, and even though the LOTR is arguably much darker, it occurs in an alternate world where there’s magic and mythical creatures. It also concentrates heavily on basic values of right and wrong, friendship, betrayal, life after death, hope, courage, and even the meaning of life. Is there a lesson here?

  10. All these shows reflect pioneer values

    And those were all values people in the 1930’s-1950’s – even into the 1960’s to a degree – understood from their own lives, values they still recognized and many held to. The same values so disparaged by the New Left and the Progressives.

  11. Movies that turn out to be popular unexpectedly, like Forrest Gump, always befuddle the Hollywood types because they thought Forrest Gump showed a stupid American soldier, kind of what the author intended, but it showed desirable values and audiences responded. Ditto for some of the family movies that surpass Hollywood. In the old days, the studio heads had often been theater owners to start with and knew what audience wanted.

    Now these people have gotten all artistic and look down on audiences as dull witted fools. The problem is that the dull wits are often in the Hollywood types. I keep thinking of Kim Basinger who decided to negotiate her own film deal and went bankrupt.

  12. By production standards, this movie didn’t cost a lot – $60 Million or so IIRC – but it resonates with America. Eastwood understands the American pulse, most of the Hollywood “elite” don’t so they will continue making such turds as Lions For Lambs and wonder why their box office is so down.

    For me this month was ironic in the box office dept because they have 3 movies I actually wanted to see – and waited, besides Sniper, Unbroken, the movie adaptation of Laura Hillenbrands best selling book on Louis Zamperini, and The Imitation Game.

    The Imitation Game was a movie already made in the UK and picked up

    All 3 recommended. After seeing these we can ignore Hollywood for another 2-5 years until they get another good one.

  13. Mike – good point about the overseas markets – and I might add – a lot of filmmakers get their financing from overseas.

    When we say “Hollywood” we can’t tar everyone with the same brush. But there are so few conservatives that when they do make a movie they stand out. I remember reading that Sniper had a very long gestation period and there were times that it was questionable whether it would have been made.

    I wonder if it weren’t for Clint Eastwood and his long relationship with Warner Brothers if it would have been made. The success of the movie has overwhelmed Kyle’s widow Taya

    If a movie has been directed by Eastwood I will see it. Have seen about all of his, including (his previous one) Trouble with the Curve.

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