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Eastwood As Director


Given the discussion Erik’s post below is likely to stimulate, I thought I’d go back to our archives for an 2004 post about Eastwood as a director, lost in our archive shift but now made available to you, our faithful readers, in a special limited edition lovongly curated by Ridely Scott during a brief hiatus between his 21st and 22nd versions of Blade Runner:

I wrote recently that Sideways was the best reviewed film of the year. I’m not sure if this is true any longer; the reviews from top critics of Million Dollar Baby have been remarkably good. (Sideways still has a slightly higher Metacritic score, but eyeballing the reviews and year-end lists of major critics, Eastwood’s movie seems to have been reviewed even more enthusiastically.) Both A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis, for example, rank it the year’s best film. (In an oddity, Stephen Holden–normally a perfect negative litmus test for my own tastes–has a top ten list I’m in much greater agreement with.)

Now, Million Dollar Baby, which I haven’t yet seen, certainly might be an outstanding film; Eastwood did, after all, direct his best film just last year. Still, I suspect I might fall in with the few dissenters. And the reason for my skepticism is simple: is there a director who gets a freer ride from most good critics than Clint Eastwood? There’s something about his status as a film icon, slow pace, formal immersion in genre conventions, and noir lighting that makes many American critics swoon on contact. (This style is often called “modest,” although it draws attention to itself every bit as much as the more innovative theatricality of a Welles or Scorsese.) Even if you consider Mystic River and Unforgiven the masterpieces they’re often called as opposed to the very good movies I consider them, the idea that he’s anything close to the best American director currently working is laughable nonsense. Consider the record. The two movies I’ve named are my exhaustive list of good Clint Eastwood pictures, with the new one pending. Admittedly, I’ve never seen his highly regarded version of The Horseshit of Robert James Waller, so let’s say that’s three. There are a couple of passable-plus westerns, and a couple of honorable failures (Bird and White Hunter); the kind of mediocre patch almost all directors have. But beyond this, what’s amazing is how many absolutely, irredeemably terrible movies Eastwood has directed. Robert Altman may be the most uneven of America’s living first-rate filmmakers, but I would watch Pret A Porter 100 times before watching Absolute Power–a howlingly awful “thriller” that is among the worst movies I’ve seen in a theatre in the last 15 years–again once. Midnight in the Garden of Good And Evil is only marginally better, and it compensates by being even more soporific. During my second most recent awful stomach flu, I watched some of Blood Work on TBS and thought I was watching a fifth-rate CSI knockoff until a cadaverous looking Eastwood ambled into the picture. Then you’ve got the atrocious Dirty Harry sequel, the atrocious Dirty Harry clone, awful sci-fi, awful Kevin Costner vehicle. I’m sorry, but if that’s the best American director I’m Robert Bresson.

So, while Million Dollar Baby may be great, I’m approaching it strictly on a wait-and-see basis.


I pretty much stand by my earlier analysis. Million Dollar Baby was OK but massively overrated.   I haven’t seen the WWII movies, which have a decent rep, so perhaps that merits an upgrade.   The Changeling and Invictus belong squarely in the “honorable failure” category.   Gran Torino was uneven but much better than it should have been, one of his best.   Hereafter was substantially worse than it sounds, which is really saying something — I think I’d rather screen Absolute Power again.   J. Edgar was a failure I’m not sure I would call honorable; a badly squandered opportunity.   So…I’d continue to say that he’s an interesting director who mixes the occasional real good one along with rather more vaguely watchable but dull prestige pictures and the occasional egregious crime against cinema.

To be fair and balanced, in a rare post where he is largely wrong about something Glenn Kenny explains why he gives Eastwood a pass.

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  • Reasonable Person

    Where was this new found interest in Clint Eastwood’s films last week?

    You’re transparent…and small-minded. Facts are irrelevant.

    It’s like you’re getting paid to do this or something.

  • Eh. He was very underrated before Unforgiven, and now he’s overrated. I agree that the plodding pace of his post-1992 movies is a big problem, and he’s treacly…. I don’t know. I’m not very fond of his recent movies, the ones that I have seen anyway.

    But at the same time, until 1992 he was very underrated, I think. Basically he got the protection of being a movie star, which also denied him some of the praise. People didn’t think of him as a real director, so they didn’t assess him like one. But he is a real director, and he’s had his share of high-quality movies.

    I’m doing a blog in which I watch every #1 movie since 1970, and that has led me to watch some Eastwood movies I had never seen before. (I don’t innately have much interest or affinity for Eastwood.) But it’s just wrong to say that he gets this pass and praise that other directors are denied. For a long time, he was denied his due share of credit too.

    For my project, I recently watched Play Misty for Me and High Plains Drifter for the first time. Both movies are pretty remarkable. In Play Misty, his first feature, Eastwood pretty much invented a genre — the stalker movie — and his handling of it toed the tricky line between lurid sensationalism and a more adult evenness of tone. Basically he manages not to overdo it with the gore and the shock, and his love of jazz means that the movie doesn’t shrill you out (no shrieking violins). A darn good movie. High Plains Drifter is just a mite incoherent, but if anything it’ better, a truly disturbing allegory about power set in a self-consciously absurd Wild West. Again, not a masterpiece, but a hell of a second effort, far better than a bunch of the #1 movies I’m looking at right near it.

    As I said, I agree that the days of Eastwood sheepishly taking out ads in the NY Review of Books to win over respect from the intelligentsia are long behind him. But he’s a very interesting filmmaker, and deserves to be treated as such. In many ways the complaints you’re making about him aren’t that different from what you’d say about late Scorsese or late Coppola — which is telling.

    • mark f

      Eastwood pretty much invented a genre — the stalker movie

      Cape Fear?

      • Uh, Eastwood definitely did not invent the stalker movie.

        • You may be right, I’m basing that on a little research I did for my review. It’s very, very hard to find movies before Misty that are like Misty — Cape Fear is certainly one — and easy to find them afterward. Even if he didn’t invent it, he tapped into something interesting, and he was ahead of the curve.

        • Anonymous

          By “stalker movie,” I’m assuming we’re talking about films in which post-“liberation” women treat men like men have always been expected to treat women (sexually aggressive advances coupled with an inability to understand “no,” punctuated by increasingly violent episodes).

      • Robert Farley

        Is the first Cape Fear really a stalker movie in the modern sense of the genre? Mitchum isn’t a fan; he has a (given his priors) reasonably hate going on, and wants to torture his victim. Different from the crazed fan genre, I think.

        • mark f

          That’s fair. Maybe I considered “stalker” more literally than Martin did. Like Martin, I can’t think of any other counter-examples offhand.

      • I did some research into this, and Cape Fear was the only movie I can think of that’s in the same territory. Strangers on a Train has something of the same vibe too. I agree with you about that, it’s a valid point. But Misty is a lot closer to the very familiar movies that followed it, and better too.

        • Auguste

          Even if people are giving you hell about “inventing” vs. whatever (never seen either the original Cape Fear OR Play Misty For Me) I have to say I’m enjoying your blog very much.


          • Richard

            as am I

          • Thanks very much! To both of you.

            • mark f

              As the nitpicker who threw the stalker question out there, I concur with Auguste and Richard.

      • Just Dropping By

        The Night of the Hunter (1955) is also rather “stalkerish” (and also happens to star Robert Mitchum).

    • As long as we’re talking about it, here’s my review of Misty, which — be warned — covers the whole “inventing” concept a fair bit but addresses some other aspects too.

    • Woodrowfan

      Interesting idea for a blog. Bookmarked….

  • Spuddie

    White Hunter, Black Heart is a decent time waster. Its about as decent as anything starring Jeff Fahey has a right to be.

  • Richard

    Although I could quibble about the merits of the individual movies mentioned (I think Mystic River is a masterpiece but Bird is unwatchable), I certainly agree that Altman and Eastwood are/were the most uneven of directors. You couldn’t make me watch Pret a Porter again under any circumstances. Absolute Power was terrible but not nearly as bad as Pret a Porter.

    • Altman was crazy uneven, but his heights are far higher than Eastwood.

      • djw

        And his failures are always at least a little bit interesting. There’s no “Absolute Power” for Altman.

        • Richard

          I would give you that. Altman made some truly horrible movies but even the worst are somewhat weirdly terrible. Eastwood’s worst were simply terrible. That isn’t to say that Altman’s worst are actually watchable, but they often had something that gave you a little respite from the dreariness of the movie. Kansas City, for example, was abysmal but Belafonte’s performance was strangley entertaining and the music was great. J. Edgar, on the other hand, was just boring.

        • Kurzleg

          That’s what I’m saying. Altman, whatever his shortcomings, like to try different ideas. Doing that is overrated – you have to differentiate the wheat from the chaff – but the ideas Altman tried were always at least engaging.

          • Richard

            I generally agree but would draw the line at Pret a Porter

      • Richard

        I would disagree. I love Unforgiven, Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby and probably four or five others. I love McCabe and Mr. Miller, The Player, California Split and several more (hated Nashville, Buffalo Bill, Three Women and many others). I dont consider McCabe or any other of his best as greater than Mystic River or Unforgiven.

        • California Split is really awesome.

          • Scott Lemieux

            As, of course, is Nashville.

            • Richard

              Thats where we disagree. One of the most overrated movies of all time.

              • sparks

                Now I know how serious to take you. It’s not perfect, but it’s not overrated, either.

                • Richard

                  Well that depends, of course, on who’s doing the rating. I very much remember when it first came out (actually even before that) and Pauline Kael went nutso in her praise of it. That rapturous review influenced many of the subsequent reviews. Is it a terrible movie, no. But certainly not a a very good movie. What I most disliked was the idea you could make a movie about the Nashville music industry, obsessed with churning out hit records, but have the actors, almost all non-singers, sing their own songs which were decidedly not hit songs.

                • sparks

                  I didn’t pay a great deal of attention to Kael. She did point me to some older movies I now love. What I read of her contemporaneous criticism, I agreed on some things, disagreed rather violently on others. Much like with most critics.

                  The recent canonization of Vertigo only told me a new batch of jackasses were in charge.

                • Richard

                  Well I could go on for hours about Kael. Really interesting writer but her extreme likes (Nashville, Last Tango, Yentl) and her extreme dislikes (West Side Story, Dr. Strangelove) were bizarre. Her effusive praise for Nashville (she reviewed the rough draft months before the movie came out) was highly influential, I believe, in the excessive praise which the movie received from other critics

                • djw

                  There was some truth to Woody Allen’s line about her–something to the effect of she had an abundance of every characteristic you could ever wish for in a critic–personality, wit, passion, knowledge, etc–all that was missing was judgement.

                  Of course, it’s perfectly obvious she was correct about Nashville.

                • Halloween Jack

                  What I most disliked was the idea you could make a movie about the Nashville music industry, obsessed with churning out hit records, but have the actors, almost all non-singers, sing their own songs which were decidedly not hit songs.

                  Of all the movies that you could possibly say that about–and there’s more than a few–you had to pick on the one that had this song in it, which even won the Oscar.

                • Richard

                  The competition for worst song to win an Oscar for best song is fierce but I’m Easy is right up there

          • sparks

            I’ve been telling people that for years, but couldn’t show them anything but a battered broadcast VHS recording. Took forever to be out on DVD and I never saw it on VHS.

            • Richard

              And its not currently available on DVD (although I guess you can rent it through Netflix)

              • sparks

                I have the DVD. Comes with a group commentary by Altman, Gould, Segal, and the writer Joseph Walsh.

                • Richard

                  I checked on Amazon. Not available in stock but you can buy it used from a third party vendor for $35

        • Jay B.


          That kinda disqualifies everything else you wrote. Sorry.

          • Richard

            Are you criticizing Scott for liking Nashville or me for not liking Nashville?

            • Jay B.


              • Richard

                We disagree then. As I said above, grossly overrated movie

                • firefall

                  you are not alone in that opinion: its a bit of a litmus test for pretension

                • charles pierce

                  I watched Nashville again a while back and it really hasn’t aged well. (Henry Gibson? Really?) But McCabe is a masterpiece.

                • Gibson is one of my favorite parts! I mean, we must be doing something right to last 200 years…

    • Scott Lemieux

      I think Mystic River is a masterpiece

      I don’t think we’re far apart. As I say in the link, I thought it held up exceptionally well on second viewing; I wouldn’t quibble over adjectives.

    • Steve S.

      “You couldn’t make me watch Pret a Porter again under any circumstances.”

      I kind of didn’t get the last ten minutes of that one, so I watched it again. And again. God, I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve watched the last ten minutes of that movie.

  • ben

    Eastwood gets a pass since he was involved in so much shit people are amazed when his movies turn out to be pretty good.

    • Despite what I said above, I think there’s something to this.

    • Kurzleg

      I think it has more to do with his genial (for a GOPer) disposition. Most GOPers fly into a rage if every idea they conceived isn’t heralded as the second coming of “Citizen Kane”.

  • djw

    I think I agreed with this wholeheartedly at the time, and still do with the overall assessment of Eastwood, but subsequent screenings of the Unforgiven and Mystic River have caused me to revise my assessment of the former positively, and the latter negatively. MR is a good film, but the flaws stand out more on subsequent viewings.

    I’d now Rank Mystic River 4th for Eastwood, behind Unforgiven, Josey Wales, and Gran Terino. (I also haven’t seen the WWII films).

    His most remarkable ability as a director is surely hs ability to hypnotize good critics such that they fail to take notice of the most howlingly obvious flaws in his films.

    • Kurzleg

      How do you feel about MR in relation to “Gone Baby Gone”. I certainly thought the latter captured the time and place better than the former, and in spite of MR’s cast, I though GBG had better performances. Or maybe that was the script, but the cast delivered on that.

  • Peter Hovde

    Million Dollar Baby also had some vicious R style “culture of dependency” stuff in it, like the mother who doesn’t want money cause she’s living high on welfare.

    • djw

      All the scenes with Swank’s family are cringe-inducingly awful.

      • “All the scenes with Swank’s family are cringe-inducingly awful.”

        Half that movie’s running time is cringe-inducingly awful, and that’s before you get to the two Grand Canyon sized plot holes that make the whole thing dumber than a poorly thought through Hallmark Hall of Fame movie:

        1. Swank starts the movie as a professional boxer (seriously, she’s on the undercard in the opening fight), yet the first forty minutes are her learning to box like she’d never seen a pair of gloves in her life (there are no professional boxers who do not own speed bags, for example). The first time I saw it, I thought I had somehow missed the movie going into a flashback. Nope.

        2. The hopelessly melodramatic (and very long) ending, wherein Swank and Eastwood are super tough with each other and she admits she lost the title fight, makes not the least bit of sense on account of her opponent would’ve been disqualified (we even see the referee give her a warning before the final punch).

        My overall film knowledge isn’t great enough that I can say it’s the worst movie ever to have won Best Picture, but if it ain’t, it’s gotta be close.

        • Scott Lemieux

          Let’s not forget the scene where she’s injured by the evil German fighter, which could have come out of a late Rocky sequel.

          My overall film knowledge isn’t great enough that I can say it’s the worst movie ever to have won Best Picture, but if it ain’t, it’s gotta be close.

          Evidently, you haven’t seen Crash. Or Forrest Gump. Or A Beautiful Mind. Or Gladiator. And..congratulations! I mean, people are right that The Departed is barely one of the 10 best movies of Scorsese’s career, and yet it’s way superpar for a Best Picture winner.

          • Crash has to be the worst. And I really hated Slumdog Millionaire. Although thank god Little Miss Sunshine didn’t win.

            Is The Departed a top 10 Scorsese? Could be, at the bottom. I guess.

            • We definitely agree on Little Miss Sunshine, at least. God, I hated that movie.

              • I was living in Albuquerque when that came out. The homerism for that movie was crazy. When it didn’t win Best Picture, I thought the people in the apartment above me were going to start a riot. They were literally screaming obscenities at the TV. I think one of them might have done some work on the picture, which was filmed in New Mexico.

                • The movie kind of lost me when it tried to pass off Carell as a Proust expert. And that everything else in the movie is overdetermined and inauthentic and unconvincing. A more confident director — Mazursky? — could have done something pretty spiffy with the material.

            • Kurzleg

              LML had the benefit of shining a light on the right general issues, whatever it’s flaws might be.

            • MattT

              Forget win, has there ever even been a Best Picture nominee as bad as Crash?

              This does give me the opportunity to mention my story of having dinner while the people at the table next to me discussed how they were going to use their Best Picture votes. They were planning to not watch several of the nominees because they were “too hard.”

            • bloix

              Slumdog Millionaire was an absolutely pitch-perfect, technically brilliant Hollywood movie. It was Dickens for the 21st Century. It totally deserved to win Best Picture.

              • Vance Maverick

                I could be reading your irony wrong, but it sounds to me like you’re saying it was terrible.

          • Sherm

            Are any of those movies worse than Titanic? And Departed made up for screwing him on Goodfellas.

        • Walt

          You’re a lucky man to have forgotten or to never have heard of Forrest Gump.

          • sparks

            I was smart enough to have never seen it in any form. The commercials for it made me cringe, and that was enough.

          • djw

            Forrest Gump probably isn’t the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but I’m pretty sure there’s no movie I hate more strongly. Just thinking about it can still make me angry, decades later.

            • elm

              Same here. I saw it with my best friends when it came out when I was in high school and despised it to the bottom of my soul. It was so manipulative and forced (and I’m someone who likes treacle and melodrama, so this is saying something coming from me) that it was just painful. I wasn’t surprised when it won best picture though, because my friends all loved it and were dumbfounded that I hated it.

              I knew I was right, but I knew the Academy would agree with my friends.

            • I liked Forrest Gump when I first saw it, but the more I think about it the lower my regard for it becomes.

        • laura

          Agreed. Not a good film. Hilary Swank’s character is not motivated at all. Sweet, hard-scrabble girl with a heart of gold who also likes laying other women out flat in the boxing ring (knocking them unconcious in a lot of cases). I could buy it, but I want some explanation of *why* she wants to box and we never get it.

        • Umm, Titanic? I’d rank…and I use that term specifically…MDB far above that dreck.

  • No mention of Bronco Billy? For shame!

  • Gran Torino is horrible. There’s no way a movie with such an atrocious script would’ve gotten a pass if not for the Eastwood mystique. I still cringe when I think about the “how to Talk Like A Man” bit.

    • mark f

      What was wrong with it, you dirty stupid Polak?

    • Sherm

      That bit at the barbershop was awful. As was the forced the bigotry in the work trailer with the Irish foreman. But that movie was quite good despite those scenes.

      And no one has mentioned High Plains Drifter.

      • Scott Lemieux

        I underrated that one — Martin is right.

  • Jim Lynch

    I’m a huge fan of western genre. By my lights, High Plains Drifter, Josey Wales, and Unforgiven are glory enough for one director.

    I’m also a long time student of WW2. What Eastwood accomplished in Letters From Iwo was to effectively portray the simple humanity of the Japanese soldier trapped on that god forsaken island in 1945. By so doing a far deeper meaning to the great tragedy of Iwo- and of war itself- was conveyed than is typical of other “war movies”, even (or, perhaps, especially) to those familiar with the particulars of the battle.

  • The World War II films– Letters from Iwo Jima and Flags of Our Fathers, for those of you scratching your heads– were very interesting, conceptually: take a famous battle and investigate it from each side’s perspective.

    Rashomon writ large, you could say.

    Letters, the Japanese version of the battle, was far superior to Flags, which suffered from, I think, an attempt by Eastwood to nod in the direction of the war movies of the 60s and 70s, like Big Red One, A Bridge Too Far, The Longest Day (especially this one) and so on. He seemed to toss in stock characters and referenced some of the same tired “comedic relief” without actually using Don Rickles.

    That said, I’d rank them both above Gran Torino (which kinda bored me, since the plot twist was pretty evident from the get-go) but well below Unforgiven, which I think is his finest film.

    But now I’m going to throw one into the pot: A Perfect World, where Kevin Costner plays a killer on the run with a little boy he’s kidnapped.

    I know this is one of Eastwood’s best, simply because he managed to get a good performance out of Costner, and probably revitalized his career from hero to villain characters.

    Altho God knows, he still made Waterworld and Postman after this and, hang onto your hats, the sequel to Field of Dreams…(to be released 2013)

    • I think. He made a short in 2011. There’s been talk since. I just did a quick search and couldn’t find firm confirmation.

    • Leeds man

      Rashomon writ large, you could say.

      Rashomon isn’t about perspective. It’s about people lying to cover their arses.

      • Jay B.

        This is a case where I thank the Internet and everyone who submits to it. Thanks Leedsie, I had never considered that. Excellent stuff.

      • EJ

        I can’t find a citation in the Googles, but I’ve read that Kurosawa said that Rashomon was a murder mystery, where absolutely everyone is lying, and has a solution if you watch carefully and consider the motives of the characters. Apparently he was rather bemused by the idea that it’s a story about conflicing perceptions.

        • For whatever reason, the term ‘Rashomon’ has become shorthand for the idea that all perspectives are equal, you can never know the truth. It’s not completely crazy, the movie does brush up against the idea. But any attentive viewing of the movie will reveal that one of the versions does have primacy, they’re not just all equal. So yeah. It’s baffling, but what are you going to do. (I don’t think actor212 said anything very wrong btw.)

          • Hogan

            Marge: Come on, Homer. Japan will be fun! You liked Rashomon.

            Homer: That’s not how *I* remember it.

        • This was the closest I could find. Leeds, you might want to read this excerpt because I’m going to reply to you here:

          However, one day just before the shooting was to start, the three assistant directors Daiei had assigned me came to see me at the inn where I was staying. I wondered what the problem could be. It turned out that they found the script baffling and wanted me to explain it to them. “Please read it again more carefully,” I told them. “If you read it diligently, you should be able to understand it because it was written with the intention of being comprehensible.” But they wouldn’t leave. “We believe we have read it carefully, and we still don’t understand it at all; that’s why we want you to explain it to us.” For their persistence I gave them this simple explanation:

          Human beings are unable to be honest with themselves about themselves. They cannot talk about themselves without embellishing. This script portrays such human beings–the kind who cannot survive without lies to make them feel they are better people than they really are. It even shows this sinful need for flattering falsehood going beyond the grave—even the character who dies cannot give up his lies when he speaks to the living through a medium. Egoism is a sin the human being carries with him from birth; it is the most difficult to redeem. This film is like a strange picture scroll that is unrolled and displayed by the ego. You say that you can’t understand this script at all, but that is because the human heart itself is impossible to understand. If you focus on the impossibility of truly understanding human psychology and read the script one more time, I think you will grasp the point of it.

          It’s not so much about lying, as it is about the inability of a human being to see things without adding their own personal stamp to them.

          In that regard, we’re sort of both right. It’s about differences in perception, but it’s also about the inability to be honest about what we experience.

          • Leeds man

            It’s not so much about lying, as it is about the inability of a human being to see things without adding their own personal stamp to them.

            I would agree if it weren’t for a key question – did the samurai kill himself, or die in combat? Not much room for a personal stamp there, and it’s not exactly conducive to a contemplation of how we lie to ourselves. That could be a fascinating story, but for me, Rashomon isn’t it. Great film, though.

    • jeer9

      I also remember liking A Perfect World, though I’d need to watch it again to confirm my opinion. Costner’s pretty good, too, in The Upside of Anger as an alcoholic ex-jock radio talk show host.

      • Scott Lemieux

        I liked the Upside of Anger a lot, actually. I may have to watch A Perfect World again.

        • Walt

          I really liked A Perfect World the first time I saw it, but it didn’t really hold up on rewatching. I still find the opening shot with the money blowing around that doesn’t get explained until the end quite striking.

        • mark f

          Upside of Anger was terrific.

      • I’d argue that Eastwood is the weakest character portrayal in the movie, outdone even by a six year old.

        That said, it’s a great film on a rainy afternoon

  • The man made at least two, arguably more, of the best, most provocative and intriguing, westerns ever: The Outlaw Josey Wales and Unforgiven are definitely there; I’d put Pale Rider and High Plains Drifter are in contention as well.

    And let me say a word for the original Dirty Harry: I know of no other film that so thoroughly embodies, indeed anticipates, and bends over backward to validate, so many of the rhetorical moves the right-wing would make through the 70s and the 80s. The psychopathic killer is an effeminate, peace-sign-wearing, unprincipled, blood-thirsty, sexually perverted girly-man. And so on. Watching it in conjunction with Shaft or some similar blaxploitation flick of the era is a wild ride through contrasting (and, when it comes to women, often parallel) stereotypes.

    • Sherm

      He didn’t direct Dirty Harry.

      • sparks

        He did direct Sudden Impact, a Dirty Harry film. Biggest piece of garbage I got dragged to.

  • charles pierce

    I think “Letters From Iwo Jima” is one of the best movies I ever saw. Could be just a personal thing, but it really, really got to me, especially the scene in which the Japanese commander watches the iconic flag-raising from a great distance off.
    As I said, YMMV, but I loved that film.

    • Kurzleg

      The local (Mpls) film critic told me to hold off on my criticism of “FoMFs” until I saw “Letters”. I’m not sure it wholly justifies the flacid and unconvincing “Flags of My Fathers”, but it was a vast improvement.

      One complaint I have about all of his films starting with Mystic River is the editing. In almost every case, it disrupts either the tone or pace of the film. Midnight is the most glaring example, but it holds true for all subsequent films, even Gran Torino.

  • Unforgiven is fucking great c’mon now

  • kmeyer57

    I haven’t seen all his movies either, but I’ve seen most … Letters from Iwo Jima is by far the best that I’ve seen. It’s pretty brutal and haunting. If any of his films is a masterpiece, that’s my vote.

  • bloix

    Eastwood gets a pass as a director because his work as an actor is so incredibly reactionary to the point of being fascistic and as a director he’s conventionally liberal. He’s like Springsteen.

  • elm

    Invictus is an odd movie. It tries to be both a political drama and a sports movie and in attempting to be both, it fails at each. Plus, it is perhaps the most egregious violation of Chekhov’s postulate of all time. (Really, we focus almost the entire movie on the security detail even though there isn’t a single actual threat to Mandela’s life in the movie?)

    However, once I decided to view it purely as a sports movie (and I have weakness for the treacly underdog sports movie, I must admit) and treat the political stuff as melodramitc fluff designed solely to increase the tension of the rugby matches, it’s actually a lot of fun.

    (On Eastwood’s larger body of work, I would argue that he isn’t a great director, but he’s created a number of good movies. Even ignoring his early westerns, which were fantastic for the genre but not to everyone’s taste, I liked Unforgiven, Mystic River, Letters, and even the Changeling, though that was uneven. That’s not a bad career all by itself, so I choose to give him a pass on the crap he’s done.)

  • Dave

    He is the Jimmy Stewart de nos jours…

  • Well, at least we now know why Hereafter sucked

  • Tracy Lightcap

    I think Clint’s Westerns are great, especially the heroic fantasy The Outlaw Josey Wales. I watch that every time it comes on; it’s fluff, but it’s extremely good fluff.

    I also think he’s overrated as a director, however. Not that he isn’t pretty damn good, of course. You have to remember how he learned the trade to get him straight. He has always said that he learned to direct from Don Siegel, one of the most underrated directors in Hollywood history. Siegel – his best film is probably the Killers, though some (me) like Charley Varrick – was a master at taut dialogue and of action sequences and all his films have a violent and cynical overtone. He was like Walter Hill, a guy who never had a big hit, but who kept making films because he never had a true bomb and the studios liked to send directors on the way up to his set to see how things were done. Clint learned and is like that as a director; no true bombs and he hits them out of the park occasionally. Imho, the reason he’s got the rep he does isn’t his directing, but his acting career. The only other combo actor/director of his caliber is Orson Welles (though Ida Lupino might have been with more opportunities). That’s pretty hefty company and I think it gets reflected in his reviews.

    But not the greatest, even among the actives today, by a long shot.

  • JREinATL

    I like “Million Dollar Baby” up to the point of the [SPOILER……] accident.

    After which it pretty much goes to pot. Espeically because nobody’s ever been able to give me a reasonable explanation (other than plot contrivance) why Swank couldn’t just refuse treament rather than have Eastwood shoot her up full of horse tranquilizers.

  • Mike

    So Scott, you haven’t seen Million Dollar Baby, but ready to send it to the back. I wouldn’t take Clint Eastwood’s word on politics any more than I’d go to a movie Barack Obama made or listen to film criticism from some PolySci professors.

    • Hogan

      So Scott, you haven’t seen Million Dollar Baby

      So Mike, you didn’t follow the links.

      • mark f

        Or even just the words.

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