I couldnt believe how awful American Sniper was. I knew that some Hollywood war films are as close to reality as two-headed unicorns, and i didn’t want to waste my time arguing about its version of truth in Iraq because the core message in that film was basically the same Sunday sermon we have been hearing since Dubya, but really, an Oscar nomination?
This has been a great year for films. I watched Birdman the other day and i was blown away by the usual genius of Alejandro Inarritu (That opening sequence, good Lord!). I was moved and almost shed tears while i was watching Selma as i found it the most powerful film ive seen in recent years (my personal favourite for this year’s Oscar, although i dont think it will win). The Imitation Game was not as great as some people made it, honestly, but bringing up the legend of Alan Turing to global audience deserved a credit of its own. I haven’t seen Boyhood but reading its concept and the production plot already ensures me that it didn’t take the world by storm for nothing.
Then i stumbled upon American Sniper, a shooting-galore flick that could easily be taken as real life action film of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. But unlike Modern Warfare that doesnt really see the world in black and white with its plot of betrayal and conspiracy (and Modern Warfare is a video game, i have to emphasize), American Sniper is a motion picture shot through a Star Spangled-lens. It’s a film that screams "It’s either you’re with us or against us!"
What really surprised me from American Sniper is its bluntness and no-nonsense approach to confirm what the rest of the world thinks about America’s foreign policy. Previous modern war drama films like The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, which i think are brilliant, had some bitter reality perspective to offer. We could argue that those two films didnt fall short in promoting America’s military prowess, but at the same time also gave us some sneak-peek about the whatnot behind the curtain of war.
American Sniper didn’t bother at all to be subtle. It’s so straight-forward in advocating patriotism through military means, i was left wondering whether some high-ranked officers in that penta-shaped building are going to use this film as an army recruitment tool. The film has no space to read between the lines. When Chris Kyle, played by Bradley Cooper, said, "...It’s the greatest country on earth", i was about to think that maybe American Sniper was meant to be satirical, until i realized that Clint Eastwood doesnt dig satire.
The fact that Cooper earned an Oscar nomination for best actor, while David Oyelowo, who splendidly played Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, did not, irks me even more. I probably dont know much about acting, but the only reason i could think of for Cooper to get nominated is because he spoke flawlessly in Texas accent for 137 minutes. This is Cooper’s third nomination for Oscar and i read on a film blog that the other actor with 3 Oscar nominations was Humphrey Bogart. The film blog asked if Cooper was the Humphrey Bogart of our generation. Perhaps. Bogart wasnt endorsed by Haagen Dazs, so Cooper might have achieved more in life.
If there were attempts in the past to portray USA better in pop culture to alter global opinions about it, American Sniper is the attempt to blow the house of cards down. It’s saying "No, we dont want you think about us that way. We’re worse than what you think".
I began to think whether the reason American Sniper is a box-office and earn so much money in January is because it’s the accurate picture of what most Americans think of themselves. Patriotism, muscle, and gun-culture.
While the Americans could do whatever they want to position themselves in global theatre, i conclude that we, Indonesians, could learn a thing or two from them to establish our image in world stage. Let’s take a no-nonsense approach. Stop pretending that we’re nice and courteous. Let’s start embracing the stereotypes.
I would like to suggest our film-makers to produce a film in the mould of American Sniper. A film that would set us apart from the rest of region, a cultural beacon that would make us shine among our neighbours. A showstopper.
If American Sniper was a character that embodies everything American, there must’ve been a character that would epitomise everything Indonesian. I cant think of anything better than an Indonesian Parking Guy.
A parking guy is the realisation of Indonesian Dream that enables us to have life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Park your car in any corner of Jakarta for a minute and a parking guy will pop out of nowhere to charge the parking fee. He could be a real professional parking guy or just a random guy in shorts and flip-flops who accidentally happened to walk nearby, but it doesnt matter. Come ot think of it, being an impromptu parking guy is the proof that in this country you’re allowed to participate in the pursuit of happiness, even if it means collecting money that you’re not supposed to.
Gang-wars related to parking turf conflicts are nothing new, especially in nightlife hotspots. Parking in those hotspots is not for the faint-hearted because how much you will be charged depends on the kindness of the parking guys and their cartels. In Kemang, for instance, sometimes i get charged 5000 IDR during the day, but could get charged double at night. I dont know why, maybe moonlights and starts cause the inflation.
When you go to music concerts or sporting events in stadia, there will parking guys whose rate could cost you a fortune. I parked once in Tennis Indoor Senayan and the parking guy asked me for 50000 IDR. Did i think it’s a fair price? Of course not. Could i object, though? Probably, but i would get asked to park elsewhere. The parking guy walked away with my 50000 IDR. Like i said: Life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.
They’re illegal, of course, but it doesnt mean the legal ones dont act like a dick either. There are exclusive parking spots in shopping malls that you can only use if your ride is a Ferrari or Harley Davidson. In short, you cant park there if you’re poor.
Again, the less-exclusive parking space sometimes could be really hard to get. Have you ever been in a basement parking, see that there’s a few of empty spots, but you couldnt get there because there were cones that stood between your car and the parking spots? Some parking guys put those cones there so if you want those cones removed, you have to ask them and subsequently you’ll be in moral debt that will prompt you to give small money for their service of removing the cones.
The most damning thing about the parking guys, even the legal ones, is they refuse to take any responsibility if anything happens to your vehicles, as written on your parking tickets. You pay money so your car can get parked properly, but if something bad happens, nobody is responsible but yourself.
There’s nothing more Indonesian than the parking guys. Life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.
Quick, somebody, produce the Indonesian Parking Guy film.