Saturday, January 26, 2013

the Directors: Clint Eastwood


What I admire most about Clint Eastwood is his unwillingness to bow down. He’s been in the film game for nearly six decades – being turned into a legend at the hands of Sergio Leone (and later Don Siegel), netting four Oscars including two Best Pictures, and, most importantly for this post, more or less directing a movie a year since the early ‘70s. The man is an icon, a brand, a household name. Sure, many (most…?) of the films he’s directed are less than stellar, while others are just plain awful. But there are those few classics sprinkled in that justly earn him iconic status.

And yet still, despite the flops, the occasional hit, and the fact that he’s passed 80 years of age, the man simply does not stop. Sadly, I would argue that Eastwood’s filmography has steadily declined over the past few years, but it only takes one Unforgiven to remind us that he’s still got it. I certainly hope we get another one of those, but until then, here’s how Clint Eastwood got to where he is.

Play Misty for Me (1971)
Exhausted from spending his days sitting around on frantic sets, Eastwood, along with his production partner, set out to assert himself as a director capable of running a smooth, fruitful production. He pitched his idea to a few producers, and they politely requested that Eastwood make his first film a western. He said if they let him make a small domestic drama, then he’d deliver a western later. And so it is and so it goes.

Early in Play Misty for Me, popular radio personality Dave Garver (Eastwood) runs into a woman in a bar (Jessica Walter). They talk, he takes her home, and she soon relents that she actually waited to find him in the bar. It’s a playful story of forced happenstance that the two laugh off amicably. It’s funny, until it’s not. Soon enough, that innocent young woman reveals her personality disorder, sending Dave into a stalked tailspin.

Play Misty for Me certainly didn’t change the game in terms of domestic disturbance thrillers, but it is impossible to watch Fatal Attraction, for example, without seeing Misty’s influence. A well intentioned indie thriller that proved that everyone’s favorite cowboy had some filmmaking chops. B+

High Plains Drifter (1973)
There’s not a whole hell of a lot of westerns in which, in the first 10 minutes, a stranger rides into town, kills three men, rapes a woman in broad daylight, and is soon put in charge of the town he’s defiled. That’s enough plot to justify that Eastwood’s High Plains Drifter deserves to stand on its own. The film is a magnificently campy revisionist western that proved to producers, audiences and critics alike that Clint Eastwood, the director, was here to stay. There’s a common maxim among people preparing to commit debauchery that they will soon “Paint the town red.” Well, I can’t say I’ve seen too many films in which a character actually does just that. A-

Breezy (1973)
Once successful but personally miserable Frank Harmon (William Holden) meets young drifter Breezy (Kay Lenz) a hesitant May-December romance soon takes hold. It’s a story we’ve seen before – because he’s 55 and she’s 20, both will question if their relationship will last, but at separate times – but the actors lend particular weight to the somewhat flimsy material. Lenz plays a carefree loner quite well, and Holden does, well, what you expect Holden to do. A worthy, dramatic effort. B

The Eiger Sanction (1975)
For many of Eastwood’s lesser efforts, I’ll attempt to be succinct yet thorough, but can’t promise I’ll always have the nicest things to say. Noting that, The Eiger Sanction isn’t that bad. It’s a silly action romp about an ex-government operative (Eastwood) hired to carrying out two final sanctions (aka, assassinations) in Switzerland. George Kennedy (Dragline!) plays an old pal who helps get Eastwood back into shape and from then on, there are Nazis, blood transfusions, albinos (wait, that’s all one guy), intense climbing sequences, double crosses, easy women – so, yeah, a real Eastwood frolic. Expect nothing here, and you might get a little something. C-

The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)
Set during the American Civil War, The Outlaw Josey Wales depicts a crazed man who stops at nothing to avenge the murder of his family by Union Jayhawkers. And, thanks much in part to Eastwood’s go-for-broke performance (arguably the most enraged acting he’d done up until that point) this is a damn solid western through and through. A man on the run, the hunted becoming the hunter, a racially varied (and immensely talented) cast, and thrilling shootouts. It’s also important to note the fact that this film ended in a way very few of Eastwood’s early films did. No need to give it away here, but The Outlaw Josey Wales completely deserves its ranking as a western classic. A-

The Gauntlet (1977)
A washed up Phoenix cop (Eastwood) is ordered to drive to Las Vegas and escort a prostitute (Sondra Locke) back to Arizona. From the minute Eastwood shows up, Locke profusely exclaims that the people trying to kill her will certainly kill them both soon. Eastwood gruffs it off, and within minutes, their transport car explodes, Locke’s house is shot to shit, a chopper chases both of them through the desert. At some point the two fall in love and are certain that when they arrive back to Phoenix, a “gauntlet” of corrupt cops will be waiting to shoot them dead. And, in arguably the most overblown action sequence of Eastwood’s career, the two attempt to breach the gauntlet via bus and are shot at for a good 10 minutes, or something. I can think of no reason that you need to see this. D

Bronco Billy (1980)
As the star of second-rate traveling circus, Bronco Billy (Eastwood) is losing his touch. His grand finale of throwing swords at his revolving assistant recently netted an injury and his crew of screw-ups is only getting more unreliable. So they hit the road, looking for acclaim elsewhere. While researching this post, I read that Eastwood once said if he has any skill as a director, it can be found in Bronco Billy. He considers the film one of his personal best, which is probably a notion that’s more interesting than the film itself. I appreciate its delicate humor and the vulnerability of Eastwood’s character, but there’s nothing that really makes it stand out. C+

Firefox (1982)
Firefox, or: Eastwood in the Air. As a former Air Force Major (big in Vietnam, survived a prisoner of war camp, etc) Eastwood is recruited by a small group of important-looking government officials to sneak into Russia and steal their badass, brand new military aircraft. No big deal. But soon after entering the Motherland, our favorite hero discovers that there are actually two Firefox aircrafts. Will he managed to destroy and/or deliver the jets to the US, while maintaining his action-packed life? Should you really care? Nah. D+

Honkytonk Man (1982)
This gentle Depression-set tale tells the story of Red (Eastwood) a struggling country musician hoping to make it to Nashville to partake in the Grand Ole Opry. During his travels, he is accompanied by his precocious nephew, Whit (Eastwood’s son, Kyle), and the two manage to get into one whimsically farce scenario after another. Now, while there’s nothing inherently wrong with Honkytonk Man, (and while I certainly appreciate Eastwood stepping far away from his Man With No Name and Dirty Harry characters) the film belongs in the category of Eastwood’s films that don’t carry any weight. Its heart may be in the right place, and its acting may not even be half bad, but it adds nothing to anything. C

Sudden Impact (1983)
Sudden Impact is a few things. The fourth Dirty Harry movie, sure. The only Dirty Harry movie directed by Eastwood, yep. But, most notably, the flick that popularized “Go ahead, make my day.” It’s also, for the record, not that bad of a film. The movie picks up with old Harry six years after we last saw him. He’s still gruff, disgraced, and getting seemingly shit on by everyone in his life. After being forced to take a vacation, Harry meets up with a vigilante rape victim and the two set out to solve the world’s problems. Or hers, anyway. Yeah, not a very insightful flick, but good enough for a Dirty Harry movie. B-

Pale Rider (1985)
One thing I hope for when drafting these extensive directors profiles is that I’m able to locate a diamond in the rough. Give me something commendable that I didn’t see coming, and it’s all worth it. Slugging through Eastwood films I hadn’t yet seen proved to be an exercise in exhaustion. Many of them were tiresome and carbon copies of other films in Eastwood’s oeuvre. Thankfully, Pale Rider was such a diamond. It’s a simple film about a man who rides into a tiny town and, for unknown reasons, elects to protect the townspeople from evil gold miners (who, among other things, try to rape a little girl in all their transgressions). There’s a touch of High Plains Drifter, a dash of Seven Samurai and a hint of Unforgiven. It is, in short, one of the best westerns Eastwood ever made. A-

Heartbreak Ridge (1986)
This tedious, long, wanna-be war melodrama has Eastwood playing an aging Gunnery Sergeant whipping a handful of new recruits into shape. We’ve seen this Eastwood character before: tough, mean, short-spoken, but aim at just the right place, and you’ll hit his soft heart. After about an hour and a half of repetitive training exercises, the movie unexpectedly sends its trainees to Grenada to rescue some American students. Eastwood and Co. go in, orders are given, ceaseless shots are fired, and, well, you can assume the rest. Heartbreak Ridge could’ve been a decent effort, were it not so meandering. D+

Bird (1988)
Clint Eastwood is an insatiable fan of jazz music, and he battled tirelessly to gain the rights to Charlie “Bird” Parker’s story. Thankfully, things worked out, and the result is a musical biopic unlike any other. Instead of following a structured narrative, Bird gives us extended scenes of different influential moments in Bird’s life. From his childhood, to his early stages of on-stage humiliation, to his successful career, up until his ill-timed death (but certainly not in that order), Bird is a rough sketch of one troubled man’s life. Now, while I enjoy its fly on the wall narrative, it doesn’t necessarily make for a consistently engaging film, especially at nearly three hours long. Forest Whitaker is simply explosive in the lead role, but the film may be a tad too grandiose for its own good. B

White Hunter Black Heart (1990)
White Hunter Black Heart is Eastwood’s take on the making of The African Queen. Kind of. In Eastwood’s film, he plays renowned film director John Wilson, who smokes cigars and speaks in a cadence much like The African Queen’s director, John Huston. Wilson travels to Africa to film his next feature, but becomes entranced by killing wild elephants. So, like I said, kind of. But honestly, no matter where White Hunter Black Heart drew its inspiration from, it belongs in Eastwood’s good-not-great category of films. Where it currently sits in vast company. C+

The Rookie (1990)
It’s a tough, and not particularly nice, call to make, but The Rookie must be the worst film Eastwood has ever directed. After Eastwood’s cop partner is killed, Charlie Sheen is assigned as his new partner.  The two track down criminals while getting into never ending fights and shootouts (seriously, these sequences are ridiculous in their length), eventually resulting in the film’s most discussed scene, when Eastwood is bound and raped by a psychotic woman. (Which, to be clear, he appears to enjoy more than her. Also, lot of rape in Eastwood’s movies…). Eastwood phoning it in, Sheen barely there, lame action, and a far too self-congratulatory ending. Just skip it. D-

Unforgiven (1992)
Back in college, I took a fantastic film course called Revisionist Westerns. The syllabus included McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, The Wild Bunch, and so on. But as a fan of the genre, I knew what the professor was leading to. And thus, the final class was structured solely around the magnum opus of revisionist westerns, Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven.

From its first savage scene in which we watch a drunkard slice a prostitute’s face half way to shit for no good reason, Eastwood is hinting at something raw. And new. When we first meet his Will Munny, the notion is only cemented. As America’s most well known cowboy struggles to get onto one of his horses, resulting in him falling in the mud, we’re damn sure that, through Unforgiven, Eastwood wants us to forget the Clint Eastwood you’ve familiarized yourself with. Although now retired, it’s clear that his Munny was a despicable character – a man who killed men, women and children alike, all to keep his pockets full. Now widowed and settled, he sets off for one last bounty, and the rest, as they say, is cinema history.

Critically speaking, Unforgiven remains Eastwood’s most well regarded film (commercially speaking, if adjusted for inflation, its his biggest box office draw as well) and upon rewatching it recently, it’s not difficult to see why. Unforgiven is revisionist cinema at its most complimentary. A+

A Perfect World (1993)
In A Perfect World, escape convict Butch Haynes (Kevin Costner) flees his Texas penitentiary, nabs a sheltered kid for a hostage, and heads for the border. All while, hard ass Texas Ranger Red Garnett (Eastwood) is hot on Butch’s trail to save the boy and take Butch in alive. Pretty standard stuff, and save some meaty acting, there’s not much else to set this film apart. (Except for the fact that Butch actually escapes with Terry, another prisoner. But Butch shoots Terry dead when he catches Terry trying to rape the boy. Seriously, what’s with all the sexual abuse in Eastwood’s films?) Anyway, A Perfect World is enjoyable while you’re watching it, but not too interested in fortifying itself in your memory. B

The Bridges of Madison County (1995)
One of the (if not the) most tender film of Eastwood’s career is a gentle love story of middle-aged attraction, rooted in love but burdened by lust. When National Geographic photographer Robert Kincaid (Eastwood) meets sweet housewife, Francesca Johnson (Meryl Streep), the two quickly partake in a brief extramarital affair that alters the rest of their lives. The risk of the film is that everything is told in flashback, through letters Francesca’s grown children have discovered in their recently deceased mother’s home. Cross cutting back and forth, especially in a love story, isn’t easy. Cut out of the principle romance too frequently, and you can lose us. Stay in the present too long, and we may stop caring about what we’re supposed to. Thankfully, The Bridges of Madison County gets most everything right. This is also a rare example of a rather good movie being produced from a rather bad novel. B

Absolute Power (1997)
Career jewel thief Luther Whitney (Eastwood) witnesses the President of the United States (Gene Hackman, flawless political scum) beat his mistress to a pulp in a drunken haze (he tries to force himself on her, so there’s that… again.) Secret Service intervenes and kills the woman, detectives are soon put on the case, details are covered up and Luther is on the run. But moments before jet setting with his stolen merch, Luther decides to, you know, do the right thing and bring the President to justice by convincing everyone that the leader of the free world is a chauvinistic, abusive asshole. A cold turn by Laura Linney, as Luther’s estranged daughter, helps move the film along, which, in the end, is a perfectly decent, and wildly far fetched political thriller. B

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997)
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil depicts 1980s Savannah, Georgia as a mecca for Southern Gothic idealism. There are big drinks, thick accents, voodoo, invisible dogs, and, for the purpose of the film, a murdered hustler found dead in the home of a popular socialite. John Cusack plays the New York City author sniffing around Savannah for some lush details, while Kevin Spacey chews the scenery as near-queen socialite, Jim Williams. The film is based on a book that itself is based on true events, but Eastwood changed much for the sake of entertainment. The result: a mildly amusing southern tale with a tremendously laborious running time. The movie could be nearly an hour shorter, but because it is not, you’re likely to have checked out long before the film is finished. C-

True Crime (1999)
You’ve gotta love how the majority of Eastwood’s films can be summed up in a cheesy one-sheet tagline. In the case of True Crime… A Man on Death Row. A Reporter Who Believes He’s Innocent. Time is Running Out.

Isaiah Washington plays a convict who spends the final hours of his life trying to convince an alcoholic reporter (Eastwood) that he didn’t commit the murders he will soon die for. I’m not purposefully trying to make slight of the film, but like the bulk of Eastwood’s post-Unforgiven films, True Crime is entertaining enough while watching it, but not at all memorable. I will, however, make specific mention of this film’s final scene, which shouldn’t work, but does in the best possible way. It makes the movie worth it. B-

Space Cowboys (2000)
Old Dudes In Space. (See, this is fun). In what has to be the biggest inside joke of his career, Eastwood decided to get a few of his old buddies together and send their asses into space. A Russia satellite is soon to fall out of orbit, and the only man who can fix it is the geezer who designed the guidance system. Soon, Frank Corvin (Eastwood) assembles a motley crew of Good Old Boys, ready to save… Russian/US diplomacy, or, something.

So, the inside joke is that a movie as lame sounding as Space Cowboys must be just that, right? Eh, not really. The film contains some spirited moments (particularly when the old fellas are in training) and certainly does no harm to anything (including the viewers’ precious time) but, to repeat myself yet again, you’re likely to forget about it the minute it’s over. Once is enough. B-

Blood Work (2002)
Ace FBI agent Terry McCaleb (Eastwood’s characters have the best, most American names, don’t they?) suffers a heart attack while in pursuit of a killer. Years later, he’s received a heart transplant and is living peacefully on his houseboat. To disrupt the serenity, a woman approaches Terry and asks him to find her sister’s killer. Her sister, it should be noted, whose heart is now in Terry’s chest.

Pretty typical Eastwood fare: decent crime drama dumbed down with convenient plot details. But with that in mind, Blood Work is a rather solid flick. That is, until its final 10 minutes cashes in on a cliché most anyone can see coming. Blame Eastwood, his screenwriter or the book the movie is based on; Blood Work could’ve been halfway to great, but it’s finale makes it nothing less than forgettable. C-

Mystic River (2003)
I haven’t the slightest clue what the hell happened to Clint Eastwood in the months between Blood Work and Mystic River, but whatever he tapped into, we’re all the more grateful. Mystic River is a masterful film. A perfect crime drama about childhood lost, friendship ruined and the hard knocks of contemporary blue collar America.

Jimmy Markum’s cold and calculating street pursuit of the man who murdered his daughter paves way for one of the finest modern thrillers in cinema history. As Jimmy, Sean Penn has simply never been better. It’s the quintessential Penn performance: silent reservation, anguished restraint, animalistic rage – the man carries the movie as much as anyone (or anything), and he carries it superbly. But he certainly has some help. Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Marcia Gay Harden, and, yes, Lady Macbeth herself, Laura Linney, all deliver some of the finest work of their respective careers. But any honest director will tell you that, for better or worse, it’s the director’s fault. Trusting that maxim, Mystic River certainly was Clint Eastwood’s fault. For better, mind you. For damn better. A+

Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Perhaps more inspiringly confounding than Eastwood’s genuine dramatic shock with Mystic River, was the immeasurable power of his immediate follow-up, Million Dollar Baby. A sturdy, old school boxing picture that flips the script by placing a female in the lead, Million Dollar Baby is, as far as I’m concerned, a masterpiece of modern cinema. You can blame this on the fact that I’m a boxing fanatic, sure. Or you can cite my appreciation for the film on the fact that it’s perfectly acted, appropriately shot, tenderly scored, and touched by the hand of a master. A master who set out to prove that, like every great fighter, he had one more bout in him. Yeah, that’s damn right. A+

Flags of Our Fathers (2006)
Riding high off the Oscar-friendly one-two punch of Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby, Eastwood found that his dream project, which would recreate the Battle of Iwo Jima, was suddenly easily fundable. So, in typical Eastwood fashion, he scraped together his modest crew, shot a movie in time and under budget, and delivered a throwback war film of unique sensibilities.

Told in a narrative of convoluted flashbacks, Flags of Our Fathers depicts the battle itself most prominently, but the heart of the film is in the aftermath. How three of the men who hoisted that flag high on that mountaintop were sent home and treated like circus clowns to collect war bonds. Heroes on the field are turned into guinea pigs against all well wishes. If nothing else, it’s interesting to see a real patriot like Eastwood convey how his country once let down the people it should’ve cared for most. A rare war film that has just as much emotion on the battlefield as off. A-

Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)
To keep the streak alive, Old Clint elected to perform a feat that I’m not entirely sure anyone had done before. He shot two movies back to back that depicted the same event, but he shot them from different points of view. That’s rare enough, but the fact that the Japanese film is, by most all accounts, superior to the English version, really says something for the aptitude of all those involved.

Letters from Iwo Jima is, among plenty of other things, an excellent example of story trumping hype. Hype of the actors you love, the special effects you’re wowed by, and the language you’re comfortable with. Eastwood stripped down the viewers’ expectations and delivered as fine a war film that has been made since. To put it bluntly, Letters from Iwo Jima may go down as Eastwood’s last truly great film. Time will tell. A

Changeling (2008)
This mostly true, Depression-set melodrama chronicles the years-long struggle of a single mother searching for her kidnapped son. Along the way, Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie, delivering some of her best work) is trusted and helped by a reverend (John Malkovich, playing refreshingly against type), crucified by a police captain (Jeffrey Donovan) and mutilated by an impetuous doctor (Dennis O’Hare). The cast, on all fronts, is exceptional, and although the film drags during its second act, the introduction of serial killer Gordon Northcott (a flawless Jason Butler Harner) brings it back to life. I always thought Harner deserved as much praise for his work in Changeling as Jolie received. Northcott is surely one of Eastwood’s most repulsive characters, and Harner encapsulates him hauntingly. The film itself is no match for Jolie and Harner’s fearlessness, but it does a damn affable job trying. B+

Gran Torino (2008)
I’ve always considered Gran Torino Clint Eastwood’s sawn song. The film’s protagonist, Walk Kowalski, is not unlike the characters that made Eastwood famous – crass, cold, quiet, secretly sensitive. And that’s a risky tactic. Eastwood purposefully throws an unlikeable character in a situation that forces him to be vulnerable, and expects us to care. Well, I certainly do, as Gran Torino is equipped with as much earnest emotion as the best that Eastwood’s films have to offer.

I’d like to end there, but if fair is fair, I simply cannot. Look, I really like Gran Torino – I buy into the quick and steady arc of Walt, the whole asshole-turned-saint bit. That’s fine. But, as a fan, I must relent that the acting by the Hmong cast members is universally awful. The poor male lead is especially dreadful. I give Eastwood credit for casting unknown Hmong actors, but his want for authenticity didn’t pay off here. Other than that qualm, Gran Torino is damn fine. B+

Invictus (2009)
In retelling Nelson Mandela’s desire to have his rugby team win the World Cup, Eastwood did a very wise thing by casting his pal Morgan Freeman in the lead. Not for nothing, but Freeman completely carries the film, with Matt Damon, as the captain of the rugby team, doing a close second. When I first saw Invictus, I think the conviction of Freeman’s performance blinded me, if ever so slightly. Don’t get me wrong, Invictus isn’t a bad film, but it’s overly long and invests itself in plot scenarios that may have been better rooted elsewhere. B

Hereafter (2010)
Hereafter begins with a tremendous and horrifying retelling of the tsunami that ravaged Thailand in 2004. It’s brutal, honest, and utterly gut wrenching (it is also, when compared to last year’s The Impossible, relatively tame, which is saying quite a lot for the latter film). Once the dust settles, Hereafter intersects the lives of ex-psychic George (Matt Damon), tsunami survivor Marie, and little boy, Marcus, who has recently lost his twin brother. The main problem with the film is that it’s too focused on giving its three storylines equal footing. This is faulty because some stories are organically more appealing than others, but the fact that we’re forced to remove ourselves from them makes the whole film a muddled experience. Big heart, failed narrative. C-

J. Edgar (2011)
I’m sorry we have to end on such a negative note, but J. Edgar is a goddamn mess. It’s clunky, misguided, aimless; a genuine, all around bore. J. Edgar Hoover, from what I gather from multiple accounts (accounts that vary in terms of accuracy) was a pretty interesting guy. Problem is, Eastwood’s film is anything but. Sure, Leonardo DiCaprio attempts reliable work while depicting Hoover for most of his life, but he’s not enough to save it. Thrown in a wasted Naomi Watts, a caricatured Judi Dench, and far too long running time, and we settle on a total wash.

J. Edgar was a film Eastwood had wanted to make for a great long while. I’m sad that it didn’t turn out better, and I’m hesitantly left wondering if the man has finally had enough. I pray I’m wrong, but with no picture solidly in development, will J. Edgar be Clint’s lasting hoo-ray? For now, we wait. D-

In Summation
Masterful
Unforgiven
Mystic River
Million Dollar Baby
Letters from Iwo Jima

Great
High Plains Drifter
The Outlaw Josey Wales
Pale Rider
Flags of Our Fathers
Changeling
Gran Torino

Good
Play Misty for Me
Breezy
Sudden Impact
Bird
A Perfect World
The Bridges of Madison County
Absolute Power
True Crime
Space Cowboys
Invictus

Eh
The Eiger Sanction
Bronco Billy
Honkytonk Man
Heartbreak Ridge
White Hunter Black Heart
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
Blood Work
Hereafter

Just Plain Bad
The Gauntlet
Firefox
The Rookie
J. Edgar

(Also, for those interested: 11 out of Eastwood’s 32 films have scenes containing, or plots revolving around, rape. Am I the only person who finds that odd?)

Previous Director Profiles include:

31 comments:

  1. I liked The Gauntlet more than you seem to have done. I wouldn't call it a masterpiece, but the sheer overkill of the damn thing, especially the bus being shot up with literally thousands of bullets, appealed to me back then. Haven't seen it since the late 90s, mind you, I may just find it silly now...

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    1. Yeah I bet if I saw it when I was younger, I would've been awed by the insane amount of firepower in that final scene. But now it's just overkill. I mean, it isn't horrible but yeah, just a tad silly.

      Either way, thanks for checking out the post!

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  2. Probably the biggest filmography you've done since Woody Allen. Pretty impressive you managed to track down and watch all of them. I'm surprised you haven't done Terrence Malick yet since his filmography is so small and you seem like such a big fan.
    -Dan

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    1. Yeah Clint's filmography was definitely a big one. Been chugging through it for some time, just needed that final push to get through some crappy ones.

      Been wanting to do a Malick post for a long time. He'll be next!

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  3. The sexual abuse thing is particularly funny considering Clint doesn't write his own films. I imagine when he's choosing scripts it's all like "nope, not enough rape..."

    I love this guy, anyway. One of those serious filmmakers like Allen or Herzog who just keeps making films because it's what he does. Probably the best actor-turned-director, too?

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    1. Exactly! I mean, do people who have scripts with rape scenes just pitch them to him? It really was bizarre to discover so many.

      And yeah, I still love Clint as well. He makes 'em because he loves 'em. Best actor-turned-director... yeah, I'd agree with that.

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    2. I'm surprised you didn't say Cassavetes Alex
      -Dan

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    3. Tough call. Damn tough. A Woman Under the Influence may be better than any film Eastwood ever made. Maybe...

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    4. "Damn, this rape scene's a tough sell. Better try Clint."

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    5. Ha shit. Sad but kind of true.

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  4. Funny thins is I have only seen the good movie he directed - Unforgiven and everything from Mystic River to Invictus and none of the bad ones. And going by the titles(Honkeytonk Man??), I don't even think I will. I will try to find first three in your Great column.

    BTW, I am glad that you mentioned Letters from Iwo Jima being better than Flags of Our Fathers. I like Flags but Iwo Jima is heart-breakingly honest movie.

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    1. Nice man, you're lucky that you've only seen the great ones. I'll always love Clint, but the dude has made some serious garbage. But oh well.

      Letters is a fantastic film, and such a risky concept. I love Flags as well, but Letters is damn near perfect.

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  5. Based on what I've seen from Clint the director, here's how I rank his film so far:

    1. Unforgiven
    2. Letters from Iwo Jima
    3. Flags of Our Fathers
    4. Million Dollar Baby
    5. Mystic River
    6. Changeling
    7. A Perfect World
    8. Bridges of Madison County
    9. Absolute Power
    10. The Bridges of Madison County
    11. Gran Torino
    12. Sudden Impact
    13. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
    14. Invictus
    15. Hereafter
    16. J. Edgar

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    1. Wait, 10 is actually Space Cowboys, it's silly but I kind of like it.

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    2. Good stuff. We're not too far off with our rankings. Unforgiven is just that damn good. And I agree, Space Cowboys is silly, but definitely fun.

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  6. Have only seen Changeling from him, and it's an A for me. You have me interested in checking out the rest of his filmography, a lot of which the general public loves to pieces.

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    1. I really do like Changeling, rather underrated film right there. I highly recommend the films I put in the masterful column, those are all remarkable. But stay away from some others!

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  7. I haven't seen all of these, but I've seen all of your masterful picks and all but two of the great ones (High Plains Drifter and Pale Rider). He has made some pretty wonderful films, for sure.

    That stat is quite odd. Hmm...

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    1. I felt like a creep for calling that stat out, but when I was marathoning his filmography, it was impossible to not notice. Strange.

      Anyway, glad you like some of his flicks. An often wonderful filmmaker indeed.

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  8. A couple of years ago, I watched several of Eastwood films in quick succession. I found, just like you did, that he hit his peak with Unforgiven in 1992, and once again in the very fertile period that started with Mystic River and that ended with Letters from Iwo Jima.
    I also have the hope that Eastwood doesn't stop as a director with J. Edgar since it's certainly not the best way to end such a legendary and iconic career behind the camera.
    I totally agree with you when it comes to your comments about Gran Torino, it's almost as if we had exactly the same experience when watching it. The supporting cast wast just awful.

    PS. If you're interested, feel free to check out some reviews of his films in my blog, including Unforgiven, Gran Torino and Letters from Iwo Jima.

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    1. That's so cool that we're right in line here. And despite all of his flops, it's impossible to argue with Unforgiven and Mystic through Letters. Just some amazing films right there.

      Gran Torino: sad but true. Damn shame.

      I'll check out your reviews really soon!

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  9. I had no idea he directed so many movies! I'm familiar with those from 00's and Perfect World and Unforgiven, but other than that - no clue. Very impressive especially that the peaks - Unforgiven and Milion Dollar Baby - are quite far apart.

    J. Edger and Hereafter were very disappointing, mostly because there was a good movie there somewhere, but the script was so messy in both cases. If the first dealt just with the kidnapping plot and the second, for example with the relationship between Matt Damon and Bryce Dallas Howard's characters they could have been really great films.

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    1. He's damn prolific, isn't he? Much like Woody Allen, he makes films often - some are good, others are crap, but it's cool that he still makes them.

      From the moment I saw Hereafter, I thought if it just focused on the Damon/Howard romance, there could've been a fine film there. But I agree with what you said, both of those movies are messes. I hope he makes more!

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  10. The best actor-to-director career turn ever. Eastwood doesn't do anything fancy with the camera, lighting or shots. He just allows the actors emotions to play out the stories, perfectly fine with me. Even though his run from Mystic River to Letters is remarkable, he peaked both as an actor and director with Unforgiven. THE revisionist western to end all revisionist westerns. I agree with all of your masterful choices. I'm in the minority with Hereafter I guess, I feel it was a tender and heartfelt story about how unimaginable tragedy and loss affects people differently. With Cecile De France and Damon doing oscar caliber work. But I do see your points, I just give more credit than most others. I do also hope that J. Edgar is not his swan song.

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    1. I was just explaining Eastwood's filming style to my girlfriend, or lack of filming style. He doesn't care about shadows, rehearsal, tracking shots - nothing. The dude didn't even stage the fight scenes for Million Dollar Baby, he just told the actors to fight, and the DP to grab as much of it as possible. I really love that.

      Hereafter isn't awful by any means, I just found it a tad misguided. The scenes with Damon/Howard really shined to me. Can't say I cared as much about France or the little boy, sadly.

      Yes, please, let's pray J. Edgar is not the end.

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  11. WOW. This is one hell of a post, man. Really ambitious idea -- I love it! I knew Eastwood was prolific, but damn. Didn't realize he directed 32 films.

    Out of these, I have only seen four, with Unforgiven being the biggest highlight by far. Looking forward to digging into his other essentials.

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    1. Ha, thanks dude! Eastwood really churned some out over the years, hasn't he?

      I hope you dig the others you dive into. He's made some damn fine films.

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  12. I haven't seen many, but here's how I'd grade his films. Not a big Eastwood fan, really.

    Play Misty For Me - B
    Unforgiven - B+ (Didn't like it as much as expected)
    Absolute Power (Can't remember it)
    Blood Work - C+
    Mystic River - A- (My personal fav.)
    Million Dollar Baby - A-
    Changeling - B+
    Gran Torino - B+
    Hereafter - C
    J. Edgar - C-

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    1. Yeah, those are pretty close to my thoughts as well. I'll always love Unforgiven, Mystic and Baby, but some of the others are just bland as can be. Be curious to see if he has some greatness left in him.

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  13. I agreed for the most part. I thought Gran Torino was "Masterful". Th Supporting actors were a it off, but it was still one of his best in my mind. I think Firefox was maybe a lower "Eh" for me rather than a "Just Plain Bad". Letters form Iwo Jima would maybe be a "Great" rather than "Masterful", but that's just my opinion. Will you do one about Leone? (He only made about five good films but his filmography is small enough to tackle all of them. (P.S. Have you seen A Perfect World?)

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    1. I definitely need to cover Leone soon. I've just been too busy recently! I reviewed A Perfect World above, gave it a B. Pretty solid movie. Thanks so much for the comment!

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