Clint Eastwood the director, appreciation thread

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Clint Eastwood is instantly recognizable to generations of movie fans as one of the most iconic actors of the past half century. From his first fame in '50s television to the international surprise hits of the Leone Spaghetti Westerns to Dirty Harry and beyond, Eastwood has remained one of the most popular movie stars of his time. It's a remarkable self-made career, excising himself from the throes of the old Studio System to become a complete filmmaker. First as an independent producer, then a strong director with power to make films he wants. An improbable and wonderful journey.

When Eastwood entered the film business in the 1950s there was very little one could do to guide their own career. You signed a long-term contract with the Studios, in Clint's case Universal, and they used you how they saw fit. For Clint that meant they used him hardly at all. After a few walk-on parts in B-movies and television shows an unsatisfied Eastwood was unceremoniously released from his contract. But luck struck and a chance meeting with a CBS executive landed him a co-staring role as the headstrong Rowdy Yates on "Rawhide", which became a popular Western running for seven seasons, giving Eastwood his first tastes of fame.

Despite that initial success breaking into films proved impossible, and he found himself already typecast in most people's minds as the rather simple-minded charater Rowdy Yates. Even then Clint had ambitions to direct and he repeatedly asked the producers if he could helm episodes of "Rawhide". He was turned down every single time, which is strange today because every single actor who wishes on any show that runs more than a couple seasons is almost automatically given the opportunity to get behind the camera if they wish. But this simply wasn't done in the '50s and '60s. So rather than stew in disappointment and retreat to his trailer, Eastwood studied the entire goings-on of a set, even though he never got his chance to try his hand at running the show.



He became a movie star, again by luck, when an unknown Italian director sent him a script. It was a bloody low-budget Western reworking of Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo to be shot in Spain, produced by Germans, and primarily cast with and helmed by Italians. The pay was very little, but being a fan of Yojimbo and figuring if it was terrible nobody in America would ever see it anyway Clint took a chance and signed on. Of course the movie was Leone's A Fistful of Dollars which became an international hit, and by the time their third movie together (Clint still consciously learning about filmmaking all the while) The Good, the Bad & the Ugly was released Eastwood had even become a movie star in America.




Now he started to have some power over his own career. The old system was collapsing and the American Studios all wanted to work with him. He was able to begin crafting his own image by forming a production company. He named it Malpaso, and again this was long before every single actor with a couple hits had their own vanity production company. His second American post-Spaghetti feature was Coogan's Bluff, which started a collaboration with another director Clint would learn much from: Don Siegel. In all Siegel would helm five movies starring Clint: Coogan's Bluff, Two Mules for Sister Sara, The Beguiled, Escape From Alcatraz, and Dirty Harry. It was Harry Callahan who turned Clint from a star into a bonafide superstar, and with his post-Leone films all enjoying some measure of success he was now finally able to take aim and ascend to the position he'd been eyeing ever since "Rawhide": DIRECTOR.

The actor turned actor/producer was about to become an actor/producer/director, and by deferring his salary was allowed by Universal to direct Play Misty for Me in 1971. It was an original screenplay Eastwood's company had been developing about a one-night stand gone horribly wrong when the woman becomes an obsessed, violent stalker. With nods to Hitchcock, a subversion of his own masculine image, and great performances by all involved (including Clint's mentor Don Siegel who has a fun cameo role), it was a commercial and critical success, but most importantly for Clint it proved beyond any doubt that he could indeed do it all.



Now the ambitious Eastwood was truly off and running and over the rest of the '70s he quickly established himself in Hollywood as a reliable and economical filmmaker, always coming in on-time and at or even under-budget, with most of the movies showing healthy profits at the box-office. He knew where his bread was buttered and repeatedly worked in the same kind of action genres that had made him a star in the first place. With the Westerns High Plains Drifter and The Outlaw Josey Wales and the actioners The Eiger Sanction and The Gauntlet Clint directed himself in the kind of iconic roles people loved him for, but also very subtly was expanding and playing with the audience expectations. He also made an effort to stretch himself as a filmmaker even then, and in Breezy (1973) an underseen but solid romantic drama starring William Holden, Clint for the first time worked behind the camera exclusively. It was a modest little project that Universal was happy to let him do as he was making so much money for them, constantly.




Clint continued to act without directing too, but always using his Malpaso production power to shape the projects to his liking. Universal and Warner Brothers were the Studios where he was working, having them distribute his films, and eventually it was at Warners where he would develop an exclusive relationship - a relationship that still exists today.

While Clint was extremely successful at this point and always among the most popular movie stars year in and year out, his work as director was rather slow to be heralded critically or even fully realized by fans. But Warners gave him free reign, agreeing to finance and distribute virtually anything Malpaso was interested in. In the '80s, Eastwood would play with his screen image even more and as a director he became more and more accomplished. In films such as Bronco Billy and Honkytonk Man, Clint explored less action-oriented material and did it very well. But these movies didn't become huge hits and were still confounding some critics - at least in America. In Europe Clint's reputation as total filmmaker was secured around the time of The Outlaw Josey Wales in 1976, and his less commercial work through the '80s was already being seen for what it was rather than what it wasn't. The American critical community at large was much slower in coming around. All too often they dismissed his work as popular genre junk yet at the same time were left cold by the diversions from and subversions of genre he was orchestrating. But he was always the movie star, Warners was completely satisfied with their relationship, and he continued to wield the power he needed to make movies.



The American critics finally began to "get" Eastwood in 1988 when he made a minor masterpiece: Bird. A bio-pic of legendary Jazz BeBop saxophonist Charlie "Yardbird" Parker who's drug addiction shortened his astounding career and caused turmoil in his personal life. Eastwood stayed behind the camera and really showed how much he had matured over the years as a filmmaker. A life-long devotee of Jazz music Eastwood was a natural for the job. He had wanted to make the picture so much he even talked Warner Brothers into trading one of their highly-touted and expensive scripts to Columbia to get his hands on Joel Olianansky's take on Parker's short and remarkable life (as a trivia note, the script that was traded was Revenge, which eventually became the sweaty Tony Scott directed flop starring Kevin Costner). Bird begins with a quote by F. Scott Fitzgerald: "There are no second acts in American lives." The self-destructive Charlie Parker rather proves that, but at the same time the accomplishment that Bird is disproves it in regards to Eastwood. Now just shy of sixty, Eastwood was widely recognized as a total filmmaker, and he wasn't about to slow down.

Bird was one of the best received films at Cannes, winning the top acting prize for Forest Whitaker who's central performances as Parker under Clint's guidance is a masterwork. Clint and the film itself narrowly missed the top prizes too (read screenwriter William Goldman's book Hype & Glory for a recounting of that episode; Goldman sat on the Cannes jury that year). Whitaker and co-star Diane Venora both were nominated for Golden Globes for their work, and Eastwood WON Best Director over such competition as Barry Levinson (Rain Man), Alan Parker (Mississippi Burning) and Mike Nichols (Working Girl). But shamefully, Bird and Eastwood were shut-out of that year's Oscars (though the film did rightfully win for it's revolutionary sound design).



Despite the Oscar disappointment Eastwood had finally made his mark once and for all as a serious and multi-talented filmmaker, and over the next few years he would ascend to his highest peaks as an artist.

The underseen White Hunter, Black Heart (1990) is a thinly-veiled recounting of John Huston in Africa to shoot The African Queen...and, more importantly to him, shoot an elephant. It's a wonderful film, still waiting to be rediscovered. After a throwaway genre piece (The Rookie) Clint took on what would become his true masterpiece: Unforgiven. Eastwood had been aware of the original David Webb Peoples (BladeRunner, 12 Monkeys) screenplay for years, had bought it and loved it in the early '80s, but sat on it deciding to wait and age into the lead role and then make his final cumulative statement on violence and Westerns - the genre that had made him everything he became. By 1991 at the age of sixty-one Clint thought it was time. And was it ever! Unforgiven is a perfect film in every single way, and Eastwood's assured direction ties every wonderful element together just right. From the acting to the photography to the sets to the music to the tone and pace, the total filmmaker achieves a total film. The last end credit acknowledges Eastwood's two strongest influences, "Dedicated to Segio and Don" - of course being Sergio Leone and Don Siegel.




Unforgiven finally brought Clint respect and recognition as a director in every single possible arena, including the Academy, who named Eastwood Best Director and Unforgiven Best Picture (as well as winning Best Supporting Actor for Gene Hackman, Best Editing for Joel Cox, and garnering nominations for Eastwood as Actor, Jack Green's cinematography, Henry Bumstead's set design, the screenplay, and the sound design).

After the triumph of Unforgiven, Clint made two more beautiful masterworks. The first is A Perfect World (1993), where for the first time since Where Eagles Dare and Paint Your Wagon Clint took a supporting role and gave up top billing. One of my favorite movies, I think it is almost the equal of Bird and Unforgiven, but for whatever reason divided critics and never found an audience. It stars Kevin Costner, in what is far and away his best work as an actor, and young T.J. Lowther, a seven-year-old who had very little training. Costner's character Butch is an escaped convict in 1961 Texas, who kidnaps the young boy on his way. But Butch is a complicated haunted man, who has no intention of hurting the child, and in fact attempts to become the father figure neither one ever had - all the while being hunted down by Eastwood's sympathetic Texas Ranger. It's a beautiful movie with amazing performances, much too underappreciated.




Next was The Bridges of Madison County, from the impossibly popular novella by Robert James Waller, a fictional love story about a National Geographic photographer who has a brief affair with an Iowa farm woman while on assignment to photograph the covered wooden bridges of the communtiy. A publishing sensation in the early '90s, it is truly an awful little book (trust me, I've read the flippin' thing), the soapiest of soap operas, with cardboard characters, cringe-inducing dialogue, and the sensibilty of a love-struck ten-year-old with the writing skills to match. Because of the off-the-charts popularity of this tripe, a film project was inevitable, and it was set to be directed by Steven Spielberg, starring Meryl Streep. Eastwood was approached to co-star in the film, and eventually Spielberg dropped out as director and Clint took over. Armed with a rather intelligent script by Richard LaGravenese (The Fisher King) and bringing his own subtlty and sensibilty to the material, Eastwood and company remarkably truned a laughable piece of popular trash into an evocative and effective love story. It's really one of the most miraculous adaptations in the history of film, though seldom recognized as such. Don't let the book's reputation or the genre scare you off, The Bridges of Madison County is an excellent movie well worth seeing. The climax of the movie, where Streep's character must make a difficult decision on a rainy afternoon, is a masterful scene.

One of the aspects I haven't mentioned about Eastwood the total filmmaker is his work as composer. He has composed themes and all-out scores for many of his pictures. It's probably most evident and impressive in Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby and The Bridges of Madison County, but he's been doing it, often uncredited, for years.




The '90s saw continued success for Eastwood, though never again reaching the total success level of Unforgiven. As the century ended and Clint reached seventy-years of age, he moved back into a fun genre piece with Space Cowboys, and had his biggest commercial hit in years. Despite moving back to the thriller genre, Blood Work was a disappointment, but that was quickly erased. Moving back behind the camera again in 2003, Clint fashioned his biggest critical success since Unforgiven with Mystic River, a mystery/drama about the scars of abuse and the ruination of lives starring a powerhouse cast of Sean Penn, Tim Robbins and Kevin Bacon. It was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. Clint followed that up with an even greater success in Million Dollar Baby. The story of a young female boxer with nothing to lose and the grizzled old trainer who takes her under his wing was a surprise hit and a surprisingly excellent film, the performances of Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman and Clint himself elevating the material above the genre elements into something very moving and special. Clint's low-key directorial style was pitch-perfect, and the film was honored with seven Oscar noms. It won four awards, including Best Picture and a second Best Director for Eastwood (he became only the 18th multiple Oscar-winning director in the award's history).



Actors love the way Eastwood runs a set, as evidenced by the willingness of thespians from every generation to work with him, and all have nothing but respect and admiration for what he does. Now having helmed four of the last eight Oscar-winning acting performances (Penn & Robbins in Mystic River and Swank & Freeman in Million Dollar Baby) his stock as an actor's director has risen even higher.

He's starting to rack-up the career achievement type awards, too. In 1995 he received the honorary Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for his work as a producer, in 1996 he was named the honoree for the AFI's Life Achievement Award, in 1998 France's Honorary César for his work, and in 2006 the DGA gave him their Lifetime Achievement Award. Though Clint is hardly resting on his laurels. He's still very much at the top of his game as a filmmaker, and later this year will see an ambitious double release of two films made back to back with Flags of Our Fathers and Red Sun, Black Sand (eventually retitled Letters from Iwo Jima). The first is an adaptation of the non-fiction best seller recounting the young men who famously hoisted the American flag at the bloody Pacific Theatre WWII Battle of Iwo Jima. Rather than cast superstars, Clint and company went with mostly unknowns: Jesse Bradford, Adam Beach, Jamie Bell, Ryan Phillippe and Barry Pepper. Letters from Iwo Jima will examine the same battle from the Japanese perspective, and stars Ken Watanabe.



It took a long time, but Eastwood is now widely recognized as a total filmmaker - though even with all of his accomplishments he is still most readily identified for the iconic roles in Westerns and cop pictures that gave him the creative freedom he enjoys today. But take a long look at his filmography, watch a diverse selection of his work from the '70s to today, and I believe you can't help but recognize him as one of the best filmmakers of the past thirty-plus years. And he ain't done yet.



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"Film is a disease. When it infects your bloodstream it takes over as the number one hormone. It bosses the enzymes, directs the pineal gland, plays Iago to your psyche. As with heroin, the antidote to Film is more Film." - Frank Capra



So please, let's all discuss the work of Clint Eastwood: director. Favorites, least favorites, common themes you see, signatures, rate 'em, review 'em....whatever. Anything and everything regarding Eastwood the filmmaker, let's chat it up, folks!

This is how I personally rank his films (couldn't even mention them all in the first post)...



"Hell of a thing, killin' a man. You take away all he's got, and all
he's ever gonna have."


1. Unforgiven (1992)
GRADE: A+++
2. Bird (1988)
GRADE: A+
3. A Perfect World (1993)
GRADE: A
4. Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)
GRADE: A
5. The Bridges of Madison County (1995)
GRADE: A-
6. White Hunter, Black Heart
GRADE: A-
7. Million Dollar Baby (2004)
GRADE: A-
8. Honkytonk Man (1982)
GRADE: A-
9. High Plains Drifter (1973)
GRADE: A-
10. The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)
GRADE: B+
11. Changeling (2008)
GRADE: B+
12. Tightrope (1984)*
GRADE: B+
13. Mystic River (2003)
GRADE: B+
14. Play Misty For Me (1971)
GRADE: B+
15. Bronco Billy (1980)
GRADE: B+
16. Pale Rider (1985)
GRADE: B+
17. Invictus (2009)
GRADE: B
18. Flags of Our Fathers (2006)
GRADE: B
19. The Gauntlet (1977)
GRADE: B
20. Breezy (1973)
GRADE: B
21. Gran Torino (2008)
GRADE: B
22. True Crime (1999)
GRADE: B
23. Space Cowboys (2000)
GRADE: B
24. Hereafter (2010)
GRADE: B
25. Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil (1997)
GRADE: B-
26 J. Edgar (2011)
GRADE: C+
27. Sudden Impact (1983)
GRADE: C+
28. "Vanessa in the Garden" episode of "Amazing Stories" (1985)
GRADE: C+
29. Absolute Power (1997)
GRADE: C
30. Blood Work (2002)
GRADE: C-
31. Heartbreak Ridge (1986)
GRADE: C-
32. The Eiger Sanction (1975)
GRADE: D+
33. Firefox (1982)
GRADE: D
34. The Rookie (1990)
GRADE: D-

*UPDATED to include J. Edgar




He certainly isn't a perfect filmmaker, he's had his share of missteps that usually seemed to be motivated by commercial attempts to essentially finance his more experimental projects, but overall he's a talent to be reckoned with.



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I am having a nervous breakdance
Great thread, Holden!

I always like Eastwood, both as an actor and as a filmmaker, and sometimes I even love the things he does. He certainly is an actor's director since there's very seldom little to complain about in the acting department in his top films. I haven't "studied" him enough to really engage in deep discussion about him but I would too probably rank The Unforgiven as my favourite Eastwood directed film. I wasn't as impressed as most people by Million Dollar Baby. I thought it was very well acted by everyone involved, especially Freeman has developed into a favourite of mine and his performance in Million Dollar Baby certainly played a part in that. It also has a couple of great scenes, very well directed, in terms of the interaction between the actors/actresses. But there is something about the script that I'm divided about. It might be a high level of sentimentality that in some films I tend to like and in other films tend to find annoying. To me the characters somewhat also seem to exist in some kind of bubble and that, for me, makes me confused about what sort of expression that Eastwood wants to deliver. Is it naturalism? Some kind of fairytale? Perhaps it's both and I just needs to see the damn thing one more time..... He he...

Regarding themes. Ever since I read for the first time that Eastwood finds himself on the libertarian side of the political table I've tried to, when watching his films, look for some kind of evidence for him reproducing, on purpose or undeliberately, that libertarian ideology. I think that there is evidence for a "do it yourself" kind of returning theme. I'm probably thinking particularly about The Unforgiven and Mystic River where it comes down to taking things into your own hands. Again, I need to look more closely on his work again to say anything useful on the subject, but some kind of celebrating of individual freedom and common decency as a returning implicit theme seems to exist in Eastwood's films.

What say you?

It will be very interesting to see what he will give us with his two back to back WWII movies.
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The novelist does not long to see the lion eat grass. He realizes that one and the same God created the wolf and the lamb, then smiled, "seeing that his work was good".

--------

They had temporarily escaped the factories, the warehouses, the slaughterhouses, the car washes - they'd be back in captivity the next day but
now they were out - they were wild with freedom. They weren't thinking about the slavery of poverty. Or the slavery of welfare and food stamps. The rest of us would be all right until the poor learned how to make atom bombs in their basements.



A system of cells interlinked
Just finished watching Million Dollar Baby (second viewing) a few minutes ago. I am still rather effusive, so I may get sentimental. Holden spoke of low-key direction, and this film showcases this in every scene. His underplayed character fits right into each completely realistic scene and conversation. THe way the man draws the audience into these characters is ever so subtle, but you are locked into them as if by a vice by mid-film. When Frank and Maggie are returning from showing the house to Maggies ungrateful hillbilly Mom, I just couldn't take my eyes of the conversation they were having in the car. The way that was lit...That's another thing, the lighting design in this film is incredible. I think another couple of viewings and I might not be reduced to such a jibbering mess while watching and can focus more on the technical aspects of the film, but not yet.... Powerful and engaging.

Well, I see my copy of Unforgiven right here next to me and oh...there be the Josey Wales, too. Reckon I'm off to watch one or both 'o these, right now....

Great thread Holds. I still have yet to see A Perfect World...
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A Perfect World is one of my favorite movies. I have recommended it to half a dozen people and they all loved it.



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Lets put a smile on that block
Superb thread HP.

Im still a bit of an Eastwood virgin. The only titles of his that ive actually seen are Heartbreak Ridge, The Bridges of Madison County and [/i]Million Dollar Baby[/i]. The first was a film i just ended up catching on tv one night and didnt think too much of it, i enjoyed watching it but nothing stood out for me. As for Bridges Over Madison County, i was totally blown away by. I was never aware of the novella of it, and being a fan of Streep i wanted to make sure i watched it. But it just captivated me. The slow paced but incredibly intense story was brilliant, and as you mentioned, that climactic scene in the car with Streep and Clint just floored me. Incredible acting on both parts. It would be my favourite of the three ive seen however i felt the side stoy of Streeps characters children reading through her diaries let it down. I dont really think it needed to be there, but then it wouldnt be much of an adaptation if it wasnt. But its thanks to this film that ive become a fan and am desperate to see more of his stuff. Especially after my viewing of Million Dollar Baby. I havnt much else to say about it really as Sedai has mentioned all my favourite elements. The acting, the lighting, Clints character and that final shot through the misty window of the cafe. Brilliant film.
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Sir Sean Connery's love-child
Got to admit, I'm a huge fan of Clint the actor & director.
I've watched a few documentaries on him, one in particular about his directing style which features loads of interviews from his casts on various movies, his easy manner seems to bring out the best in certain actors, and anything with his name attached to it will always pique my intrest.
It's great to see a vetran actor turn his hand so succesfully to directing, although he's been directing for some time, Play Misty for me was his first in 1971!
He's had his share of good & bad over the years, but for the most part like his acting he remains fairly consistent and always watchable.
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Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbour?



The People's Republic of Clogher
I love Eastwood. Full stop.

Even fluff like Space Cowboys is tremendously watchable but when Clint hits form there's few who can touch him in modern Hollywood.

Give him a good enough screenplay and he's got the craftsmanship and backroom staff to turn out a quality piece of cinema. In fact, that backroom staff, and his complete confidence in their talent over many years, is one of the reasons why Clint is such a confident filmmaker thesedays: Henry Bumstead, Jack Green, Joel Cox, Phyllis Huffman, Tom Stern and Deborah Hopper (to name but a few) are names you see cropping up again and again in Malpaso productions. Having the trust of ole' chicken legs is as close as you can get to a job for life thesedays.

Unforgiven, unsurprisingly, my favourite Eastwood movie (and I own most of them) and I wouldn't change Holden's top three. If you've not seen Bird or A Perfect World then remedy it quick - he even managed to pull a good performance from Costner.

As an actor he's matured over the years as well, always aware of his strengths and weaknesses and still the owner of the best Double Take in Hollywood.
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"Critics are like eunuchs in a harem; they know how the Tatty 100 is done, they've seen it done every day, but they're unable to do it themselves." - Brendan Behan



I don't know that anybody even noticed, but I want to explain the asterisk on my list where I rate Clint's films as director.




Tightrope, released in 1984, is one of Clint's most mature and well-made genre efforts. The story of a New Orleans homicide detective investigating a series of grisly sexual-based murders that highlight his own kinky perversions and seem to implicate him as the prime suspect, it's a gritty and stylish neo-Noir with psycho-sexual themes and a terrific and layered central performance by Eastwood, taking the de-mythologizing of his Cop persona drastically further than he had in The Gauntlet. However, if you look at the credits, it'll say "DIRECTED BY RICHARD TUGGLE".

Tuggle was a screenwriter who had worked for Eastwood and Malpaso when he adapted Escape from Alcatraz for the screen, the last movie Clint and his mentor director Don Siegel worked on together. Clint was impressed with his work, and when Malpaso started developing one of Tuggle's original screenplays, Tightrope, Clint decided he'd give the screenwriter a shot at directing the project. Eastwood had done this before, promoting all the way up to director from personnel within Malpaso: when he got Michael Cimino his debut with Thunderbolt & Lightfoot (1974) after he'd written on Magnum Force (1973), and longtime stunt-actor and coordinator Buddy Van Horn who helmed Any Which Way You Can (1980) and later The Dead Pool (1988) and Pink Cadillac (1989).

But after only two days of production, Eastwood felt Tuggle wasn't up to the challenge. He let him go and stepped in to complete essentially the entire film with his own direction (Clint had directed ten features by then). The filming went smoothly, it turned out to be an excellent film, but when it came to arbitration with the Director's Guild they determined, in a landmark precedent, that Eastwood could not receive directorial credit - no matter how much of Tuggle's footage was or wasn't in the finished film. Because Clint was not only the principal star of the film but also the executive producer, the Guild decided they'd err on the side of caution and protect the original director. Still to this day it is called the Directors Guild of America's "Eastwood Rule". It's meant to protect directors from having their credit taken by a producer after filming has begun. Understandable, there have been horror stories over the years (some resulting in the infamous Alan Smithee pseudonym credit), but in the particular case of Tightrope maybe they should have looked at the specifics rather than automatically over-protecting the original director?

So anywho, it is still and will always be officially credited to Tuggle (who only directed one other film afterwards: 1986's Out of Bounds, a routine thriller starring Anthony Michael Hall), but Tightrope was directed by Clint Eastwood. Thus the asterisk, and my inclusion of it when I rated his filmography as director.



Don't know how many of you have seen Tightrope (it was a cable TV mainstay for years), but it's well worth tracking down. It is available on R1 DVD, so it shouldn't be impossible to locate. I definitely recommend it, directorial controversy or not. In addition to Eastwood's fine work in front of the camera (there was serious buzz that he may get his first Oscar nomination as actor for it - though ultimately that didn't happen until Unforgiven), it also showcases strong work by diminutive but sexy Canadian actress Geneviève Bujold (Anne of a Thousand Days, Dead Ringers, Coma). And Clint's own real-life daughter Alison plays one of his character's daughters (son Kyle, now a successful Jazz musician, co-starred in Honkytonk Man). Alison has become an actress as an adult, starring in Clint's Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil as well as mostly straight-to-video stuff like Just a Little Harmless Sex and Friends & Lovers. She bared all in a 2003 issue of Playboy, and frankly that's well worth tracking down too.

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The People's Republic of Clogher
Originally Posted by Holden Pike

Don't know how many of you have seen Tightrope (it was a cable TV mainstay for years), but it's well worth tracking down.
It was one of the first films I remember renting on VHS. Damn nearly wore out the pause button in places too...





I like The Gauntlet a lot and, though no masterpiece, think it's one of the most underrated of Eastwood's genre pictures. It's a very entertaining B-movie to be sure, but it also has real fun undermining Clint's already entrenched Callahan super-cop persona, especially in the first half of the picture. The officer he plays, Shockley, is a drunken loser who becomes stubbornly determined once he realizes he's been set-up as a disposable patsy. He's flawed, not terribly bright and a terrific character for Eastwood. Too often overlooked in his oeuvre, and one of the '70s entries where the subversions of the Eastwoodian image that were going on were largely ignored by the critics.

The Gauntlet can definitely be enjoyed as "just" an action adventure movie, but there's more than that going on.

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I am Jack's sense of overused quote
This is one of the best posts (by quality standards) I have seen in a while. A great deal of thought, research, and effort went into it. I just wanted to say I appreciate your fandom of Mr. Eastwood. That is important for what comes next:

I think Clint Eastwood is terrible.

Clint the Actor:

He plays Clint. Everytime he is on screen, I am waiting for him to ask somebody if they feel lucky. Everytime. He has no range. No depth. He does not draw me into his roles. Rather he leaves me feeling cold and empty to them. I never cheer for Blondie as he does what he does. These scenes in which so many speak so highly of him confuse me. A great actor is supposed to absorb the audience into the character. We are meant to feel as they feel. Eastwood never does that for me.

Eastwood the Director:

Many will make the claim this is the role he is stronger on. Yet, I feel something lacking in his direction. Take for example, Mystic River. I have never walked out of the theatre on a movie, but I came close in Mystic River. It had so much promise. It had a strong opening sequence. Sean Penn's grieving for his daughter was a powerful scene. It was well shot, well acted, well blocked. Just good overall. And then, the movie sinks. Just sinks. Any pity I had for Penn's character disappeared. Yet it wasn't replaced by anything else. I stopped caring. The ending was so blatantly obvious my half blind, senile Grandfather could have called it. The pace sucked, and I thought it ran far too long.
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I have more to say, but I find it's very hard to verbalize what it is I don't like about Eastwood. The above written is evidence of this. If challenged, I will try to defend this post. But just be known I admit to the probability he jsut doesn't "speak" to me. Perhaps that's the real problem. Like I said though, I did find this to be an excellent post Holden. You should be very proud of it.
__________________
"What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present." - T.S. Eliot



Originally Posted by gohansrage
This is one of the best posts (by quality standards) I have seen in a while. A great deal of thought, research, and effort went into it.
You should check out some of his other threads they are all good, even though I must warn you he is "One Ornery Sumbitch" sometimes


I have more to say, but I find it's very hard to verbalize what it is I don't like about Eastwood.
Oh I think you did quite well



Adding my review of Flags here as well. Plus I've editied my list in the second post to slot it among his filmography.


Flags of Our Fathers (Clint Eastwood)

Based on the stories of the soldiers who raised the flag in the most famous photograph of World War II, sadly it misses being the masterpiece it might have been. Adapted from the non-fiction best seller of the same name, a dying man's son realizes his father's war experiences he never talked about included being one of the six men who hoisted Old Glory atop Mount Suribachi during the battle for Iwo Jima. The photograph was so popular and instantly iconic back home that days afterward three of the surviving six men were sent back to the States for a whirlwind publicity tour to raise money for the war effort. And while you'd think those three plot strands of the investigation of the son, the battle itself and the subsequent tour would make for an interesting narrative, astoundingly Flags for Our Fathers can't make a consistently compelling movie from them. Segments of the film work wonderfully, and all the combat footage on the island is remarkable, but the structure is a mess. I'm guessing the idea behind the structure was to make the viewer as disoriented by it all as the men who lived it, to play up the insanity of being surrounded by the horrors of war one minute and parading around for pretend days later, and also to make what really happened with the flag raising a bit of a mystery and to show some of the son's process of discovery. Whatever the intent, the result of the badly paced and disorganized movie is no real emotional attachment to the core characters.

The three young leads are fine. Ryan Phillippe does good, quiet work as "Doc" Bradley, the Navy Corpsman who did his best to tend to the wounded during that horrific battle and Jesse Bradford is well cast as the good-looking Marine Rene Gagnon. But it's Adam Beach as Ira Hayes, the Native American Marine, who gets the most opportunites to stand out, and for the most part he does very well. Bradley and Hayes were both haunted by their experiences on Iwo Jima, though they dealt with it differently. Bradley buried it all inside himself while Hayes tried to dull the pain with alchohol. But as an example of where the film falters, Bradley's pain was centered around the loss of his buddy Ralph "Iggy" Ignatowski (played by Jamie Bell). Iggy was captured one night and found later in one of the island's many tunnels, mutilated in horrible ways. While it's understandable how that would haunt somebody, we really never get to see the bond between Bradley and Iggy, so there's no specific emotional attachment to the loss for the viewer. I mean it's obviously a horrible death among the many horrible deaths in that campaign, but the movie doesn't give any insight or even devote more than a minute or two to the men interacting as friends. Part of this is due to the disjointed structure, but even within the flashbacks the scenes of their friendship simply aren't there. There's also a hollow deathbed moment between Bradley and his son, but because we haven't really seen them interact either it's also one of those things where, yes, we can project a basic amount of empathy for the idea of a son losing his dad, but there's nothing in the body of the film to give any weight to these two specific characters.

And while the structure and the lack of emotional connections are the main problems with Flags of Our Fathers, there are also smaller issues that weaken the movie further. The one that I found most disappointing were a couple of minor roles that were very badly written and acted. Most specifically the General who after a bond drive event at Chicago's Soldier Field makes some racist comments about Hayes and his drunkenness and has him removed from the rest of the publicity tour. This character, though only in two brief scenes, is ridiculously over-the-top and arch, and frankly it isn't necessary for him to be so one-dimensional. This was the problem I had with Eastwood's last film, Million Dollar Baby, that Maggie's family was used as a bunch of White Trash stereotypes and a plot device rather than real characters. At least in that movie the main characters were portrayed with such grace, complexity and subtlety that I could get past the simplistic way her mother was drawn. In Flags the three main soldiers do not get the same level of care as the three main characters in Baby. And though the function of the racist and blustery General is not as key to the goings on, it's definitely a weakness just the same.

OK, enough of the flaws. What the movie does best is the chaos and Hell of battle. It doesn't do it any better than Saving Private Ryan's D-Day opening, but it is definitely on that level. The scale of the invasion and the confusion and blood of combat are all perfectly recreated. The black sand and jagged rocks of Iwo Jima will stay with you. The post-photo bond drive also has many highlights, and the points about the crass necessity of selling War to the public are well made and the deconstruction of the myth of the famous photograph is important. Flags of Our Father's ultimate theme of what makes a hero is earnest and certainly has darker edges than a typical John Wayne flick. The central performances are all good, and another melancholy musical theme by Eastwood is integrated very well. All of that is why is so frustrating that the structure is so unsatisfying and there isn't any emotional wallop brought out of the characters. Perhaps there was just too much story to tell? The movie is only two hours and ten minutes long, and I can't help but wonder if another forty-or-so minutes couldn't have fleshed out the characters more. Though frankly three hours with this flawed narrative structure still would have been disappointing.

You'll definitely want to stay all the way through the end credits. They start with a dedication to Phyllis and Bummy, being two longtime Eastwood collaborators who recently passed away: casting director Phyllis Huffman and legendary production designer Henry Bumstead. Then throughout the credits are photos of the actual men and the action on Iwo Jima, ending with the photo. As flawed as it is, I'm now even more excited about Eastwood's companion film, Letters from Iwo Jima, which will tell the battle from the Japanese perspective. Other than as the enemy seen briefly on the battlefield, Flags offers almost no glimpse of the 23,000 Japanese soldiers, though the discovery of Iggy's body and the noises Ira investigates in the tunnels atop Suribachi make me want to see the other movie even more.

Flags of Our Fathers has plenty to recommend seeing it, but it is flawed and simply isn't one of Eastwood's best works nor does it rank with the greatest War films.


GRADE: B
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NOT ACTUALLY BANNED
I've always thought Eastwood was a little overrated as a director, but I've really been looking forward to Flags.

So was it better or worse than you thought it would be? What kind of nominations (If any) do you think it will get?



I think Eastwood is underrated as a director, even still after winning two Oscars and all. But I go into that in the posts above.

As I said elsewhere on the board, I found Flags of Our Fathers to be disappointing. As for guessing what kind of nominations it'll get, they'll only be guesses with most of the likely Oscar contenders yet to hit the screens, but it'll definitely be in the running for Picture and Director. Among the cast I'd think Adam Beach has a good shot at Supporting Actor, though that's usually a pretty overflowing category. Maybe Phillippe has a very outside chance too, but doubtful. I'd say it'll almost definitely get nominations on the technichal side for things like Tom Sterns cinematography, the effects, the sound, the editing, etc. And as much as I hated the structure, because Paul Haggis and William Broyles are big names and it's a big movie I wouldn't be shocked to see it get an Adapted Screenplay nod.


But what difference does all that make?