Short Takes and Trailers: White Bird in a Blizzard / American Sniper

White Bird in a Blizzard

In the decades of dysfunctional family dramas, the blame is often placed on the basic construct of the nuclear family. The psychotic or sociopathic individual is portrayed as a potential  genius who is stifled by  parents, siblings, and auxiliary relations.  Writer-director Gregg Araki has always known that the real problem is in the individual, not the  hive.  There is a scene in his new picture, “White Bird in a Blizzard” in which three friends, a gay lad, an obese lass, and a hot babe, socialize very comfortably at a table in a mall.  They know the mall sucks, but are smart enough to know it is not the source of their problems.  Although their friendship might be interpreted as an alternative family unit, one without the oppression of convention and expectation,  it is closer to a  protective shield that allow each messed-up individual the freedom of self-deception.  The family stands as the measure of reality, the lie-detector test that won’t let you forget who you really are.

American Sniper

In 1986 Bob Dylan sang, “They took a clean cut kid /And they made a killer out of him.”  It was true then, and even truer now, in the 21st Century, with the United States having succumbed to what former president Eisenhower foresaw as the “unwarranted influence of the military industrial complex.” In “American Sniper,” director Clint Eastwood takes a  cold and clear-eyed look at  the process through which a clean-cut kid becomes a killer. Bradley Cooper gives a bleakly terrifying performance as real-life sniper Chris Kyle, who killed between 160-255 people during his four tours in Iraq.  Sienna Miller is quietly insightful as Kyles wife, who witnesses his degeneration into a dead-souled automaton of death.  Kyle, however, doesn’t recognize himself in the legend that his fellow soldiers have attached to him.  Eastwood stays close to the drama human drama, refusing to take the a stance of either pro or anti war.  He wants us to witness Kyle’s transformation, not judge it.

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