American Sniper

Lets get the meta-analysis out of the way. This is a war movie. Stop analyzing it. It’s a bunch of idealists with guns going to a foreign country, killing a lot of people, and then wondering why they don’t feel good. Like I said, a war movie. Lets move on.

It’s a good war movie. Undoubtedly the best one about the Iraq War. But does that make it a good movie? A movie, just like any story, is good because it tugs on your emotions. American Sniper does not tug, or snipe. It takes a machine gun and blasts them apart. There’s a lot of death, and blood splatters, and shock value, and slow-motion flag waving with a lone bugle playing in the background. You will cry. Maybe you like that. I didn’t. Crying is fine, emotional manipulation I accept, but when it’s done by killing a lot of Iraqis, there I have a problem. The mere fact this sort of movie is seen as entertainment, I find offensive. And yes, American Sniper is entertainment, or at least tried to be. It’s big budget Hollywood fluff. He doesn’t even have a cover on his scope. It’s absurd to the point of comedy.

I wanted to like it, I really did, but American Sniper is so full of shock value and horror and death it’s impossible to use critical analysis. As soon as you start thinking, any value disintegrates as into a sandstorm. There’s a scene where a Bad Guy uses a drill to kill a little kid. It’s awful. Bad Guys (capitol G) are swarming out of a van directly into enemy fire, and people in the audience started laughing. Laughing. At guys getting machine gunned down. Is this a video game? The mere fact that some people treat it as such negates any respect I might give it. Those same people cheered when the opposing enemy sniper died. Cheering. At death. They were probably thinking “America, Fuck Yeah!”. I was thinking “How do you make a 2,000 yrd shot in an approaching sandstorm?”

As for the Oscar nod, I don’t see it. The directing, that is, the technical aspects of telling a visual story, was atrocious. It was supposed to be a sniper duel. Instead its endless scenes of people running around yelling and blood spatters and soldiers with Predator comic book symbols on them. Now someone is dying in surgery. Then suddenly we are in America and she’s telling him he’s got something wrong with him. Telling. Not showing. It’s George W. Bush era propaganda, a war movie about what we want a war movie to be. Shock for subtlety. Ambushes for angles. No cleverness, or originality, or the things that an Oscar should be.

Yes, Bradley Cooper did a great job acting. But when he dramatically takes off his helmet front-and-camera-center in a war zone, or pulls out his satelite phone in the middle of a firefight and makes a tearful call to his wife, I don’t really care how good the acting is when what you’re doing is ridiculous. Yeah, there was one good scene at the end where he’s crying in a bar. It doesn’t make up for the banality of his character who honestly seems like a simpleton. To quote him when asked to explain his motivations: “God, Country, Family”. Give me a break.

Yes, the visuals were impressively realistic but A) this was Hollywood big budget meaning they just hired a thousand extras and rented out a real bombed-out city somewhere in the middle east and when you think about it that way its not so impressive and B) when you’re talking about blood spatters or a desert or a city in ruins, it doesn’t matter how realistic it is, it’s still terrible or tragic or uninteresting.

American Sniper would have been good if it hadn’t been about Chris Kyle. If it hadn’t pretended to be realistic. If it had just been about some fictional sniper having some fictional sniper duel in some fictional war, and everyone watching it took it as a blood-spattered horror movie, it would have been fine. I would have given it an A-. Instead, people confuse it with the real Chris Kyle who sounds like he was kind of psychotic. They confuse it with the immoral Iraqi War. They confuse two minutes of crying or staring blankly at the TV as Post-Traumatic Stress. And because of that, I have to hold this movie to a higher standard.

Grade: B-

Pretty dynamic webpage backgrounds

Ever since I wrote this post on dynamic backgrounds, I’ve been trying to accomplish the same thing with javascript, automatically, for a webpage.  It’s now possible thanks to a new css tag in town – blend-mode!  Firefox supports it, and Chrome does if you turn on experimental features.  Here’s pictures.



Here’s a fiddle:


Here’s the code (I have got to find a better ‘show code in wordpress’ plugin

function dynamicbackground(repetitions){
 var repetitions = repetitions || 5;
 var thebody = document.getElementsByTagName("body")[0];
 var i;
 var randdeg = Math.round(Math.random() * 360);
 var randcolor = "#"+Math.random().toString(16).slice(2,8);
 //randcolor = "#f00";
 var randcolor2 = "#"+Math.random().toString(16).slice(2,8);
 randcolor2= "#fff"; //black
 //randcolor2= "#000"; //white
 var randstart = Math.round(Math.random()*30);
 var randend = Math.round(Math.random()*70) + 30;
 console.log(randdeg+", "+randcolor+", "+randstart+", "+randend);
 //create overlapping divs with blend mode 'difference'. looks really nice
 thebody.innerHTML += "<div class = 'generatedgradient' style='background-image:linear-gradient("+randdeg+"deg, "+randcolor2+" "+randstart+"%,"+randcolor+" "+randend+"%);'>&nbsp</div>";

And a live page at:

Movie review time!

I’ve seen a movie most tuesdays this month.

Into The Woods:

Knowing nothing about this except weird people like it, I went into this movie with high expectations. Sadly, I was disappointed.

The acting was great, the story was interesting, the sets were beautiful, but a musical needs MUSIC. There wasn’t any. The songs were not really songs – as a friend put it, they were “sing-songy”. It was more chanting, not singing. The lyrics were more like poems full of two-word rhyming couplets. The instrumentals and melody were repetitious and darn near banal. I also felt the director didn’t have much inspiration – the songs took place on one set, the singers not moving. It had the feel of a broadway play, meaning it did not take advantage of the medium of film.

Halfway through the movie, there was a huge plot twist and most of the singing stopped and it became more like a typical movie. I’m curious to see if it is true to the broadway version. I will have to go see it when it plays at the Rhode in Kenosha in a few months.

Don’t get me wrong, none of it was bad, and if you’re a fan of musicals I recommend it, but with such big name actors and a large budget, I expected a lot better.

Grade: B


The book was in my estimation rated PG, maybe PG-13 for a brief sex scene, and was more about the Pacific Coast Trail than the character. In the movie, it’s rated ‘R’ and ‘wild’ refers to Reese Witherspoon’s life and story, which they made as crazy as possible. This is Reese Witherspoon like you’ve never seen her before. You’ll get to see Full Frontal Nudity Reese Witherspoon, Swearing-with-every-step Reese Witherspoon, Ripping-off-my-toenail Reese Witherspoon (Warning, its how the movie starts and it is graphic), Heroin-stoned Reese Witherspoon, and last but not least, Thrusting-Moaning, Back-alley-sex Reese Witherspoon. The Pacific Trail takes a back seat to the person. There’s some pretty scenery and a snake but this is a character piece, not a nature walk.

It’s worth seeing for one main reason – because its a gender piece, centered around her experiences with men, and what it’s like to be, to quote the hunter, a “pretty girl alone in the woods”. She screams and runs from caterpillars and snakes alike, but she’s never really afraid until she meets men. There’s several moments in the movie (that were not in the book FYI) that emphasize how scared she is of men. There’s nothing in the dialogue. The fear is communicated by body language and tone of voice. It’s subtly done. I appreciate the realism at the same time hating it. What’s she so scared of?

So there’s this guy with a bow stalking her, right? He’s crass, she’s terrified. But why? She’s pretty and a novelty and is his lack of manners really that scary? I appreciate that scene for showing me how making personal comments will be interpreted as a threat, but at the same time hating the guy for being so crude and the girl for being so afraid. Same with when the guy in the pickup truck gives her a ride to get some food. He comes across as bad, music cues and all – until he mentions his wife. At that point Reese Witherspoon visibly relaxes and the rest of the scene is friendly and calm. It’s accurate yet cringe-worthy. Even a less-dramatic scene where a Ranger brings her coffee and calls her pretty is laden with implications and debate, because she just ignores him! She ignores the nice guys and gives attention to the creepy ones.

Why is life like that? Why all the tension and fear and miscommunication? I tried to mention these concerns to both my sister and my friend Sarah and they didn’t seem to get where I was coming from. I felt sorry for the guys and they had no idea why.

Grade: A-

The Hobbit, Battle of the Five Armies:

Typical Peter Jackson/Lord of the Rings fare. Have you seen ‘The Two Towers’? It’s like that – one big battle – except smaller (dwarfs, you know). The atmosphere was grey and cold, and the amount of one-on-one battles were excessive. I realize they were trying to mix it up with extra characters, and supposedly some of them were based on other ‘lost tales’ written by JRR. Tolkein and published by his son, but point is, it was excessively long and violent. I want more Smaug and his silky voice, and less dwarfs!

Like the first Hobbit movie, this story could and should have been told in half the time. The Thorin going crazy bits were boring. The funny dwarfs were more or less absent. The most interesting character was the Regent’s servant, who wasn’t even part of the book. And sadly, my favorite scene in the entire book, the scene where Gandalf appears with a flash in the middle of the armies to stop the fight, was not included.

Grade: B-

Hunger Games 3, part 1, Mockingjay

Everyone’s seen this, so I’ll keep it brief. It’s okay. Jennifer Lawrence carries her weight, but unfortunately they didn’t give her much to do. It’s all wandering around battlefields and bunkers, listening. Typical Hollywood big-budget fluff. My biggest disappointment was that it did not copy the style of the book. The book was bad, but it at least tried something the movie did not – to be original.

Grade: B


Already reviewed it. If you like sci-fi (or Mathew Mcconolly – he did good), its worth seeing because of some of the fantastic ideas like time warping near a black hole or a planet full of nothing but shallow water, or that totally kick-ass transforming robot – but beyond that, I don’t really recommend it.

Grade: C+