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New Republic Trailer Critic Dennis C. Jett Can’t Even Critique Trailers Correctly

Garbage human being
• January 20, 2015 1:24 pm

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Noah Berlatsky thinks it's quite unfair that people are piling on noted dope Dennis C. Jett for writing an essay about a trailer for a film and suggesting in that essay that the film makes an argument it doesn't. Here's Berlatsky:

Of course, Jett makes it clear he didn't see the film. There isn't any deception. But for commenters, the issue isn't deception. It's art. Issues around the war on terror are secondary; what matters is a fair assessment of the aesthetic object, the film. And "art" here is specifically defined. The trailer doesn't count; Hollywood says the main thing is the film, so the thing you have to talk about is the film. Otherwise you're lazy—even if you've read the autobiography. … 

People are fans of film; no one really cares much about criticism. Therefore film is the thing that matters; criticism has to be fair to, and deferential to, film, or else ridicule and scorn will be unleashed. As so often, a charge of lack of professionalism boils down to anger that someone, somewhere, hasn't jumped through your particular hoops.

I'll be honest, that strikes me as a bit of convoluted silliness—the thing is the thing unless it's another thing and then that's the thing, you see—but let's stipulate, just for the moment, that it makes sense to judge a movie by its trailer.* (It doesn't, but whatever; just roll with it.) Because another fascinating thing about noted dope Dennis C. Jett's essay is that he totally misreads what's happening in the trailer. Here's the trailer:

As a piece of art, the trailer is something of a masterpiece, deftly telling a story and laying out a dilemma in about 100 seconds of screen time. (I wish the movie as a whole had been as good as this trailer.) But the dilemma it has laid out does not really strike me as one related to "moral anxiety," as noted dope Dennis C. Jett argued in his essay. Rather, it's explicitly a dilemma related to the rules of engagement (ROE); as his spotter says, "they fry you if you're wrong." The flashbacks, then—cuts to shots of him with his family and shots of him sitting next to flag-draped coffins/wounded vets—suggest that Kyle is worried about getting crucified for violating the bogus rules of engagement that endanger he and his friends. He's worried about missing out on seeing his kids grow up while rotting away in a cell. He's worried about the dead and injured Americans that the ROE will result in. He's not really all that concerned about pulling the trigger and taking out someone who needs to be taken out.

All of this is to say that when noted dope Dennis C. Jett writes this:

Bradley Cooper, who plays Kyle, seems beset by uncertainty and moral anxiety in the above scene. But anyone who has read Kyle’s autobiography of the same title knows that his bravado left no room for doubt. For him, the enemy are savages and despicably evil. His only regret is that he didn’t kill more. He laments that there were rules of engagement, or ROE, which he describes as being drafted by lawyers to protect generals from politicians. He argues instead for letting warriors loose to fight wars without their hands tied behind their backs. At another point, he boasts that the unofficial ROE were pretty simple: "If you see anyone from about sixteen to sixty-five and they’re male, shoot ‘em. Kill every male you see."

I have no idea what contradiction he's seeing.

In other words, the new New Republic‘s trailer critic can't even critique trailers correctly. It's a real solid operation that Poke Button Pioneer Chris Hughes has put together.

*Let's also stipulate that Jett has actually read Chris Kyle's book. I'm not convinced he has. He writes, "But anyone who has read Kyle's autobiography of the same title knows…" and not, say, "As I noticed when I read his autobiography." This doesn't really seem like the sort of book that Jett would be into. And the description he pens could easily have been cribbed from any of the left-wing write ups of Kyle's autobiography.

Published under: American Sniper, Chris Kyle