Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper,” which racked up six Academy Award nominations last week, also proved to be irresistible Twitter-bait as it broke the January box office record. The $60-million film, which stars Bradley Cooper as Iraq War veteran and Navy SEAL sharpshooter Chris Kyle, brought in more than $105 million over the long weekend after the Oscar nods were announced, and all of those people converged on Twitter to discuss. From celebrity tweet-wars to the “American Sniper” diet and the fakest fake baby ever filmed, the film simultaneously provokes reverence and irreverence, directing our attention to the cultural implications of military hero-worship and the inanity of the Hollywood blockbuster all at once.
The film’s military hero-building mythology, based on Kyle’s own memoir, is fertile culture-war ground, pitting entertainers against each other along political lines. On the Michael Moore side is Michael Moore, of course, musing on the role of the non-American sniper:
My uncle killed by sniper in WW2. We were taught snipers were cowards. Will shoot u in the back. Snipers aren't heroes. And invaders r worse
— Michael Moore (@MMFlint) January 18, 2015
But those comments were made in general, of course, apropos of and directed at nobody in particular. Why would you think he’s talking about Eastwood’s film? Just because everyone in the country is?
Hmm. I never tweeted 1word bout AmericanSniper/ChrisKyle. I said my uncle killed by sniper in WWII; only cowards would do that 2 him, others — Michael Moore (@MMFlint) January 19, 2015
Moore then took his fight to Facebook, to leave no online argument stone unturned, as they say. Known defender of freedom Seth Rogen found himself the target of conservative criticism when he managed to trip Godwin’s Law early in the online discussion by comparing “American Sniper” to the Nazi sniper propaganda film in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglorious Basterds.” Like Moore, Rogen rushed to clarify his comments with his own hair-splitting clarification:
I wasn't comparing the two. Big difference between comparing and reminding. Apples remind me of oranges. Can't compare them, though. — Seth Rogen (@Sethrogen) January 19, 2015
Blake Shelton and Rob Lowe (I’d watch that “Dancing With the Stars” pairing) chime in:
Who's taking more shit today, Micheal Moore or the Packers coach? — Rob Lowe (@RobLowe) January 19, 2015
While comedian Billy Eichner offered his own executive summary:
If you don't like American Sniper then u don't like our country & if you don't like Troop Beverly Hills then you don't like OUR TROOPS! — billy eichner (@billyeichner) January 20, 2015
But forget about the differences in how the left and the right think about the military—how did Cooper get so SEAL-buff for the film? In news that’s never made me wish harder for a TLC weight-gain special, Twitter marveled at Cooper’s reported 8,000 calories-per-day diet that helped him pack on 40 pounds for the role.
Once he bulked up, Cooper practiced his Texas accent for hours every day, and according to this December Vanity Fair profile, stayed in character during the entire shoot. Cooper knew he'd have to talk, move and look like Kyle for the film to carry the right amount of authenticity to make his portrayal of a real man work.
But Eastwood, who is known for his tight shooting schedules, had no such requirements for the youngest actor on set when a baby cast opposite Cooper and Sienna Miller, who plays Kyle's wife Taya, turned up sick the day of the shoot, with the back-up baby also a no-show. Enter the fakest fake baby to ever fake it on film, complete with Cooper fake-moving the baby's fist with his own thumb:
An obviously ersatz detail like this smack in the middle of an Oscar-bait picture is too absurd to ignore. Let fly the fake-baby memes:
Whether you embrace or decry the film's political and cultural messages about war, we can thank Eastwood for staying on schedule, real infant be damned, thereby giving America the one thing—even if it is an obvious, plastic baby tackying up what could have been an emotionally-powerful scene—we can all embrace. May Bradley Cooper's fake baby live on—at least through the end of awards season.