Sunday, June 13, 2010

#24: Clint Eastwood

- "I love every aspect of the creation of motion pictures and I guess I am committed to it for life."

Is there a more iconic figure in Hollywood today? The question could probably even be framed as “in all of cinema?” Including each facets of his career, meaning both acting and directing, I don’t think there is. The personas he developed as an actor have become completely enmeshed in pop culture. I dare say there isn’t a single person older than their teens that doesn’t know about The Man With No Name or Dirty Harry. But this series is not about great leading roles, it’s about directors. And whether or not the public at large recognizes it or not, Eastwood’s talents behind the camera exceed those he displays in front of it. Don’t get me wrong, I love Eastwood the actor – when he is selective and carefully chooses the proper roles, he is outstanding. What never ceases to fascinate me about him, though, is his willingness to branch out as a director. By this, I mean that although he is still immediately linked to westerns, he has shown himself capable of directing a variety of genre films. And he has succeeded in almost every endeavor. Westerns, crime dramas, war movies, mysteries… the man can handle anything.

Even so, as a huge fan of his work, even I still find it hard to separate Eastwood from the genre in which he made a name for himself. While not every western that he has directed has been great, he has two undisputed masterpieces in The Outlaw Josey Wales and Unforgiven. I would argue that High Plains Drifter is incredibly underrated and borders on such an honor, but I don’t think there is any debate regarding Josey Wales and Unforgiven.

I also find something very appealing about the way that he revisits various themes and styles throughout his work. Distinctive visual styles are maintained through various periods, as he teamed up with specific cinematographers and worked through whole cycles with them. Right from the start in his directorial career he collaborated with Bruce Surtees, whose darkened, hazy cinematography added an edge to every story. When he stopped working with Surtees in the 1980s, Surtees’ former camera operator Jack N. Green stepped in and provided continuity. In fact, it could be argued that the films took an even starker visual style. Just watch Unforgiven; even in lighter moments, there is something gloomy about it all. And finally, the third and current phase with Tom Stern has been equally as impressive, resulting in visual marvels like Mystic River, Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima. Eastwood’s style might not have as much of the visual flair of his mentors such as Sergio Leone, but I like his approach. He teams himself with talented people (like the aforementioned cinematographers) and opts for a slightly less daring use of the camera. What makes up for any lack of bold directorial flourishes is the man’s innate storytelling ability. Some just have a natural affinity for storytelling, and like Howard Hawks, Clint Eastwood has it.

There are certainly some duds in Eastwood’s total filmography, but at the top of his game he is among the best living directors.

1. Unforgiven (1992)
2. Mystic River (2003)
3. The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)
4. High Plains Drifter (1973)
5. Gran Torino (2008)
6. Letters From Iwo Jima (2006)
7. A Perfect World (1993)
8. Flags of Our Fathers (2006)
9. Play Misty for Me (1971)
10. Changeling (2008)
11. Bird (1988)
12. Pale Rider (1985)
13. The Bridges of Madison County (1995)
14. Million Dollar Baby (2004)
15. Blood Work (2002)
16. Breezy (1973)
17. Absolute Power (1997)
18. Heartbreak Ridge (1986)
19. Space Cowboys (2000)
20. Honkytonk Man (1982)
21. The Gauntlet (1977)

Up next is a master of classic Hollywood and arguably the greatest of all western directors: John Ford.


  1. Love the comparison to Hawks (whose work I've finally been catching up with lately), there is definitely a parallel there with Eastwood's ability to tackle any genre and more often than not come away with something special. You said it best Dave, he is a natural storyteller, and his lack of flash and strong aesthetics are compensated for with a sharp sense of narrative and economy.

    I am not as big a fan of his work from the past decade as most people seem to be (save Letters, a true masterpiece), but there's no denying that his ever growing body of work continues to rank among the most impressive and prolific in American cinema.

    1. Unforgiven
    2. Letters From Iwo Jima
    3. The Outlaw Josey Wales
    4. Play Misty for Me
    5. White Hunter, Black Heart
    6. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
    7. A Perfect World
    8. Pale Rider
    9. High Plains Drifter
    10. Mystic River
    11. The Eiger Sanction
    12. Sudden Impact
    13. Changeling
    14. Gran Torino
    15. The Gauntlet
    16. Million Dollar Baby
    17. Space Cowboys

  2. My top ten....

    1. Unforgiven
    2. Mystic River
    3. The Outlaw Josey Wales
    4. Letters From Iwo Jima
    5. High Plains Drifter
    6. Million Dollar Baby
    7. Pale Rider
    8. Changeling
    9. Gran Torino
    10. Flags Of Our Father......M.Roca

  3. His greatest film is LETTERS, but I'll admit UNFORGIVEN pushes close. You've again provided your readers with a splendid essay which rightly points to the altering/darkening of themes. He's an icon for sure, though I'd argue his work has been ineven, with last years' South African failure, and the manipulative MILLION DOLLAR BABY as prime examples.

    I'll go with a dozen:

    1. Letters from Iwo Jima
    2 Unforgiven
    3 High Plains Drifter
    4 Mystic River
    5 A Perfect World
    6 The Outlaw Josie Wales
    7 Play Misty For Me
    8 Pale Rider
    9 White Hunter Black Heart
    10 Bird
    11 Changeling
    12 Flags of Our Father

  4. Drew - Yes, we are on the same page. He might not wildly innovative, but he tells a good story, which as a person who knows very little about technical aspects, is probably the most important attribute of a favorite director.

    Maurizio - A solid Top 10, with really only Million Dollar Baby being one I would place significantly lower.

    Sam - His work has always been uneven, there's no question. The second half of my list aren't films that I necessarily care to watch again, even if some of them might have some good qualities. As I say in my piece, similar to Woody Allen, there are definitely some duds he has put out over the years. But I'm more concerned with guys at their best. We obviously disagree on his greatest film, as I place Unforgiven so far out in front of the pack it's not even close. I also like seeing someone else rank A Perfect World so high. I think it is an outstanding film.

  5. A great director AND a great screen actor. Eastwood has never won an acting Oscar for the same reason greats like Robert Mitchum, John Wayne & Cary Grant were routinely ignored. Actors who weren't seen as acting but as being.

    As for his directing, the 'uneven' accusation is one that needs to be placed in context. No major director with a comparable number of films (over 30 & counting)has ever made nothing but masterpieces. Hawk, Hitchcock, Lean, Chabrol, Mizoguchi & any other director you care to name - they ALL made duds from time to time. Citing the likes of 'The Rookie' & 'Firefox' & then disingenuously claiming 'Well we obviously can't take HIM seriously', as some try to do, is not going to fly no matter how many times it's attempted. Not when Eastwood has nearly a dozen truly great films under his belt - Million Dollar Baby, the Iwo Jima diptych, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Bird, The Bridges of Madison County, Mystic River, Gran Torino, Changeling & Unforgiven. Add to that a string of excellent films plus much (often very) good entertaining work & you have a director who, it's perfectly evident, was ignored & derided by critics for the best part of three decades.

    I think you're at least right about Eastwood's innate instinct for story & it's a shame he himself hasn't been more forthcoming about his involvement with shaping scripts. For example, 'Iwo Jima's' business about Gen Kuribyashi's revolver came from Eastwood himself. Spot on too, about Eastwood's chameleon ability with genre. As is evident from the above list his versatility with genre, & above all to transcend genre, is one of the things which marks him out as one of the great American filmmakers. For me & many others, in fact, American cinema's finest living director.

    Eastwood's recent run of work is his most consistent & ambitious yet. Unforgiven increasingly appears to pale beside it. A smart & knowing film about western cliches it may be, & its conscious summation of Eastwood's own western persona is thrilling. But at the end of the day it's still just another oater in which regret is expressed over the use of violence (while naturally showing it as explicitly as possible), before the hero rides into town & kills everybody before going off to start a new life with his kids. It's really a very conventional western & inferior to both Gran Torino - a stunning generational study & another riff on Eastwood's screen persona but one that movingly inverts Unforgiven's climax - & the brilliant Million Dollar Baby. That film allows its Eastwood protagonist no release through violence, only two choices, both of which offer a lifetime of agony for a man who believes himself to have failed as a father. It's a film that cuts FAR deeper than Unforgiven even if it lacks that films magisterial quality.

    Anyway, good point on Eastwood's close technical crew (Stern's work on M$B is often breathtakingly daring) & there's a parallel with Eastwood's own rep company of supporting actors throughout the 70's & most of the 80's. It's fascinating to me that the theme of surrogate/extended families that crops up repeatedly in so much of Eastwood's onscreen work can also be extended behind the scenes to his actors & technical crew.

  6. Eastwood can be uneven as a director but my top 2 are five star "perfect" movies in my opinion. I agree with you Dave that a filmmaker can be forgiven for his duds if his best reaches greatness. Clint has reached greatness or near greatness about 3 or 4 times in his career. Draven- The western hero Eastwood debunks on Unforgiven is anything but conventional. How many classic westerns repudiate their protagonists in such a manner? It is along with Fargo, Goodfellas, and The Thin Red Line my favorite American picture of the 90's......M.Roca

  7. Dave, I think I had the Iwo Jima films in mind when I declared Eastwood the hardest working senior American. Two films in a year is a feat few younger directors can manage. Two on that scale at his age was incredible -- and he batted out another two (of varying quality, admittedly) two years later. I wonder, though, whether ambition rather than art drives him now. Ever since Mystic River he's been one of the most Oscar-baiting filmmakers. Yet nothing of his run from that point forward (and you know how I like Flags) really equals his two greatest westerns. Some of them come pretty close, however.

    Here's my top ten:

    2.The Outlaw Josey Wales
    3.Flags of Our Fathers
    5.High Plains Drifter
    6.Million Dollar Baby
    7.Pale Rider
    8.The Bridges of Madison County
    9.Letters From Iwo Jima
    10.Gran Torino

  8. Draven86 - Your passion for Eastwood is palpable and your response here outstanding. You raise many good points as to why Eastwood deserves to be recognized for the great director he is. I have to strongly disagree that his recent output has caused Unforgiven to "pale beside it." Calling it just another oater is like calling Goodfellas just another gangster film. We likely just have different taste on this one. I love Gran Torino but don't place it anywhere in the same stratosphere as Unforgiven. With Million Dollar Baby, I have to agree with Samuel Wilson about Oscar-baiting on that one. But, in the end, I don't want to demean any of Eastwood's work. The whole point of this thread is to celebrate. I obviously love overall product to rank him this high, so we agree on that point at least.

    M.Roca - Agreed on the Unforgiven points. I rank it #3 for the decade behind only Goodfellas and JFK on a personal list.

    Samuel - The Oscar-baiting charge likely has some merit, but even so I obviously enjoy many of his films this decade - Mystic River I have at #2 on my list. You really don't place it in his Top 10? Million Dollar Baby falls in my estimation each time I watch part of it. As I said at Agitation of the Mind, perhaps its the boxing fanatic in me that can't take the preposterous nature of the story. As for Invictus, I can't really comment as I still haven't seen it.

  9. Oscar-baiting? Blame Haggis! Haha, sorry for that. Clint Eastwood can do no wrong in my book, I adore him as an actor and as a director, though maybe a little more as an actor for his iconic - legendary if you want to hyperbole a little - presence. Unforgiven is my fifth favourite western, and that means a lot since it's my favourite genre and the four movie ahead of it are all from Leone (one of my three favourite directors).

    Personally, I think Unforgiven's ending is amazing. Usually, when the hero gets his bloody revenge you're sorta happy for him, or at least you sympathize with him. Not so much in Unforgiven with it's last shootout, so ugly, so revolting that it's hard to side with Eastwood's character and you also realize that he hasn't changed at all, he's still the coldblooded killer he once was (which is similar to the message of that Red Dead Redemption game when I think about it, sometime you just can't change who you are). The old cowboy missed his last chance at redemption. Well, anyway that's what I think of it.

    Great essay and great to see a lot of enthusiasm for Mr. Eastwood.

  10. Dave, Mystic River has a great performance by Tim Robbins and an overrated one (in my view) by Sean Penn, who drags a good film down a bit in my overall Eastwood list. Oscar baiting in Eastwood's case is mostly a matter of timing, though Invictus (admittedly instigated by Morgan Freeman as much as by anyone) has the air of prestige about it. But since I haven't yet seen it, either, I should say no more on that subject.

  11. Wow, that's a long list

    I like the fact that you're following up Eastwood with Ford. Eastwood is the most Fordian of all directors working today, probably the last of the classic filmmakers. And that's a reason enough to celebrate him.

    I've only seen a few of Eastwood's :

    1. Unforgiven
    2. Gran Torino
    3. Letter from Iwo Jima
    4. Mystic River
    5. Million Dollar Baby
    6. Flags of Our Fathers
    7. Invictus
    8. Changeling

  12. Fantastic thread here! These people know their Eastwood! Bravo.

  13. Wonderful blog!
    I'm enjoying your noir top 100 list,
    bit by delicious bit.

    If you're interested in a swell bit of noir background material -

    - and thanks again for all the leads!

  14. "The western hero Eastwood debunks on Unforgiven is anything but conventional. How many classic westerns repudiate their protagonists in such a manner?"

    Anon, the question is rhetorical since the film self-evidently doesn't repudiate its hero. You may THINK it does & that's fine, but aside from Claudia's beyond the grave sense of disapproval there's precious little evidence elsewhere for this in the film. And especially for the audience, which only tolerates Munny's pious declarations that he 'ain't like that anymore' in the expectation that when push comes to shove he will indeed drop the pacifist crap & revert to the figure the audience so fervently wishes him to be. Sure enough that's what happens.

    Unforgiven makes anti-violence comments while at the same time indulging the audience in the bloodlust it wants from an Eastwood western. Nothing wrong with that, it's a classic Hollywood tactic. It's called having your cake & eating it. But don't tell me that amkes it 'revisionist' or 'unconventional' because it doesn't.

    'Revisionist' would have been Eastwood's character dying, gunned down by Little Bill in the film's climax, or perhaps unexpectedly dying much earlier in the film ala Janet Leigh in 'Psycho.' But then that kind of revisionism would not have sold tickets. Unforgiven grossed nearly $100 m in the US & it did not do so because the audience suddenly favoured revisionist westerns. In fact most genuinely revisionist work in the genre (such as Altman's 'Buffalo Bill & the Indians') did terribly at the box office.

    No, 'Unforgiven' was a hit because it was both familiar & conventional. Smartly made & full of knowing about the myths & realities of the old west which it sets up & undercuts brilliantly, I grant you all of that, but still, nothing to challenge anyone raised on a diet of the old westerns.

    I like 'Unforgiven' a lot, it fully deserves its success & its Oscars. But it has long since vacated it's no 1 spot as Eastwood's greatest film because Eastwood has since gone on to direct better films with more penetrating & ambitious subject matter. In fact personally I prefer 'The Outlaw Josey Wales' over 'Unforgiven' but the latter would still make my Top 10. Probably around seventh or eighth on the list.

  15. 1. Unforgiven (1992)
    2. ... (this empty space means that Unforgiven is way better than everybody else) ...
    3. Pale Rider (1985)
    4. The Bridges of Madison County (1995)
    5. Absolute Power (1997)
    6. Changeling (2008)
    7. Million Dollar Baby (2004)
    8. True Crime (1999)
    9. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997)
    10. Mystic River (2003)
    11. The Rookie (1990)
    101. Letters From Iwo Jima (2006)
    102. Flags of Our Fathers (2006)

    101 and 102 are not so bad, they are tonally needless...

  16. "Calling it just another oater is like calling Goodfellas just another gangster film."

    But 'Unforgiven's themes & content ARE familiar! The same in fact for 'Goodfellas. I get the impression you just must not have seen very much of either genre. Go watch Henry King's 1950's movie 'The Gunfighter' to see Gregory Peck as a William Munny type - an infamous, ageing 'gunny' whose reputation precedes him wherever he goes & makes it impossible for him to change his ways. Sound familiar?

    Catch 'The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance' for the mth vs reality theme that is a major part of 'Unforgiven' over 40 years later. Go watch William Wellman's 'The Public Enemy' & the other WB gangster films of the 1930's to see present every thematic element of 'Goodfellas.' There are countless other examples from both genres.

    'Goodfellas' is really only of note for its style & then only intermittently. It always seems to me to sag disastrously once we get past the airport robbery & its aftermath. Its themes & story are nothing special & I find the film as a whole vastly overrated.

    "We likely just have different taste on this one."

    Well that's certainly part of it!

    "With Million Dollar Baby, I have to agree with Samuel Wilson about Oscar-baiting on that one."

    You've got no evidence for that. It's a ludicrous accusation. Don't you know that NO studio in town wanted to make that script? WB didn't want to make 'Mystic River.' Too dark, too depressing they said. They only reluctantly agreed for a minimal budget & Eastwood waiving his director's fee. When MR was nominated for all those Oscars & won for Penn & Robbins, Eastwood went back with the M$B script. Same reaction. WB felt the movie was far too grim, boxing stories - especially female ones - weren't commercial they said. They had so little faith in the director they told Eastwood he could shop it around. When Eastwood came back with half the budget raised from an indie firm (Lakeshore Entertainment) Warner grudgingly ponied up the balance (the total budget was only around $15 million if that), insisted Eastwood again waive his fee & sold off all international rights before the movie went into production. When the film became a commercial smash WB saw none of that overseas revenue. Relations between studio head Alan Horn & Eastwood were extremely strained during this period. Yet here you & Sam are telling me the film was a classic example of 'Oscar bait' like that piece of crap Scorsese movie 'The Aviator.' M$B was a movie that came out of nowhere into the Oscar race. Few had even heard of it before a sensational press preview on the Warner lot a few months before Christmas.

    You & Sam need to get over trying to caricature Eastwood's movie as some sentimental schmaltz & see what it's really doing. It's a very, very tough examination of a failed father with brilliant performances from its three stars, exquisitely restrained in its emotions & with direction from Eastwood so austere & stripped down it verges at times on the abstract. It deserved every one of the Oscars it won & ranks as one of the all time great Oscar winners & one of the great American films of the decade. And I'm hardly the only one saying so (well, except maybe on this thread!)

  17. Draven86 - I can appreciate the passion, but if you want to come and challenge other folks' movie knowledge, you're not going to impress many folks here by "name dropping" a bunch of films. I've seen every movie you're bringing up, so it's no great accomplishment to be able to rattle them off.

    Unforgiven is a familiar story? Yes, it is. But such a claim could be made about 90% of the movies ever made. Statements like:

    "Unforgiven makes anti-violence comments while at the same time indulging the audience in the bloodlust it wants from an Eastwood western."

    "Revisionist' would have been Eastwood's character dying, gunned down by Little Bill in the film's climax, or perhaps unexpectedly dying much earlier in the film ala Janet Leigh in 'Psycho.' But then that kind of revisionism would not have sold tickets."

    Make me think that you don't get the movie... which I'm sure will set you off on another explosion, but that's fine. Get bent out of shape once again because folks don't agree with your opinions. The point of making the anti-violence statements and then "glorifying" it as you say is precisely the point of the movie. Will can't escape his violent past. He resorts to it because he knows no other way to handle things. And if you read the ending of that film as a glorification of violence, that is YOUR problem, not Eastwood's. The ending is tragic. Will tried to go straight, stayed on the path for many years, but ultimately reverted to his past persona. Now he is doomed to live out his years trying to cope with this and somehow find a place in life.

    You're perfectly entitled to rank Eastwood's movies anyway you want. But don't use this as part of your support: "And I'm hardly the only one saying so (well, except maybe on this thread!)" and then continue to trash Unforgiven. Notice how everyone else in this thread agrees that Unforgiven is his best movie. Notice how nearly every critic's list for Eastwood places Unforgiven #1. Does that make it so? Absolutely not. But it shows that ranking it at #1 is not the ludicrous proposition that you seem to be proposing. So please, don't start questioning other people's movie knowledge. Not only is it petty, but it's not going to impress many folks in this crowd who have movie knowledge to spare. You try to soften your stance on Unforgiven in your response, but there's no need to go back on everything else you've said. You castigate it and then all of sudden say "it deserves the praise." No need to double back and cover your tracks.

    We'll get nowhere arguing the merits of Million Dollar Baby. It is not, in my opinion, a very good movie. You like it. That's cool, but no matter how much background information you provide about it's production, nothing can overcome the fact that the story is so farcical to me that it overshadows the outstanding performances.

  18. And before this degenerates into a "my Eastwood is better than your Eastwood" back and forth, I'll just say to everyone that I probably shouldn't have even taken that bait in the above response... as it puts me in a position where it seems like I'm being anti-Eastwood toward some of his work. The whole point of this entry was to celebrate the man as a director. I mean, I just ranked his as my 24th favorite director OF ALL TIME! That is high, high praise. So my remarks aren't meant to denigrate anything that Eastwood has done, but simply to defend a movie that I absolutely love.

  19. MILLION DOLLAR BABY is Eastwood's most embarrassing film. No wonder it's reputation has diminished since it's Kiss of Death Oscar win. It's manipulative and superficial right through it's smug conclusion. If you like it Sir, more power to you, but I dismissed this one a long time ago.

  20. "Get bent out of shape once again because folks don't agree with your opinions."

    I rather think the one getting bent out of shape here is you. Evidently you can't defend your childish criticisms of Million Dollar Baby & accusing me of 'trashing' Unforgiven when I clearly said it 'deserves all the success & Oscars it's got' suggests it's certainly not me who can't take criticism.

    Nothing wrong with not liking Eastwood's recent work but you need to come up with a more persuasive reason than 'it's Oscar bait' lest one reach the conclusion that you & your friends are, shall we say, somewhat - ah - immature.


  21. Imagine using the Oscars as a validation of artistry?

    That's the height of stupidy, even though I play the game for fun year in and year out. Usually an oscar win insures the winner's lack of quality.

  22. "stupidity"


  23. Lol at Draven telling us to go watch The Gunfighter and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Should I go see that old boxing movie called Body And Soul with some guy named John Garfield.......M.Roca

  24. We got a good old fashioned blog fight going on!! Get Allen and Bob Clark over here lol......M.Roca

  25. Draven - I can take your trashing of Unforgiven and praising Million Dollar Baby... it's near delusional that's all. If I got bent out of shape, it was only in response to your diatribe that questioned our knowledge of westerns, classic gangster films, etc.

    And you continue saying that I don't like Eastwood's recent work - LOOK AT MY RANKINGS. 5 of my Top 10 come from the 2000s. Mystic River, Gran Torino, Letters From Iwo Jima and Flags of Our Fathers are all very good. How does this translate into not liking his recent work?

    We have listed more criticisms than simply Oscar bait (manipulative, preposterous story, terrible boxing scenes), but you seem so hung up on that one that is all you focus on. No problem, though. The main problems - and yes, this includes Oscar bait claims - with the film have nothing to do with Eastwood's direction though. It is, once again, Paul "I'm going to be a point into your head" Haggis who I would place the most blame on.

  26. I don't have much to add, and I don't think quite as highly of Unforgiven as Dave does (for me Mystic River is far and away his best movie), but by framing Unforgiven as "just another oater," Draven is betraying his own misunderstanding of the western genre, and its fundamental reliance on convention. Draven, I do think your criticisms are pretty shallow; kind of like blaming the chef for cooking a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, and if you think that anyone who claims to care seriously about cinema has not seen The Gunfighter or The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance...well, I don't know what to say. You're blaming it for not challenging someone raised on old westerns (which is me, I guess), but Eastwood isn't trying to engage so much with Ford or Hawks as he is with himself. There is far greater and deeper respect for human life in The Searchers or Red River or WInchester '73 than in the westerns Eastwood did with Leone, and the emergence of the spaghetti western really signifies a loss of value and meaning within the genre as a whole (Peckinpah, of course, excepted). Unforgiven isn't dealing so much with old westerns as with the fact that in destroying them, he destroyed our ability to relate to them in human terms, and the ways in which Eastwood, by extension, killed the western.

  27. Eastwood has had one of the most fascinating directorial careers around. I've always found his fascinating with dark subject matter and morally complex themes to be very interesting and I like how he's found endless variations on exploring them in his films. Not to mention his work rate, at his age, is amazing! My faves:

    1. A Perfect World
    2. Unforgiven
    3. White Hunter, Black Heart
    4. Play Misty for Me
    5. Changeling
    6. The Outlaw Josey Wales
    7. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
    8. Pale Rider
    9. Mystic River
    10. Flags of Our Fathers

    and also special mention to TRUE CRIME. A fantastic thriller with some really wonderful performances.

  28. "Draven, I do think your criticisms are pretty shallow; kind of like blaming the chef for cooking a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, and if you think that anyone who claims to care seriously about cinema has not seen The Gunfighter or The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance...well, I don't know what to say."

    Doniphon chimes in with probably the best sentence in this entire exchange. A wonderful response as usual, Doniphon. I rank Mystic River as my #2 for Eastwood, so we're not too far off on favorites.

    ThatQuebecGuy - Your reading of the ending of Unforgiven is how I see it also... it's tragic, not some bloodlust glorification of violence. Will Munny whiffed on his shot at the straight life.

    JAFB - Yes, I agree with the parallel between Ford and Eastwood. The Ford thread should be interesting, as I have at least one ranking that most will disagree with...

    giveitaname - Thanks for the compliments.

    Nostromo - Agree on there being a gap between Unforgiven and the rest, but not due to the others being bad films. I just think that highly of it.

    J.D. - Wow, A Perfect World at #1... bold choice, but it really is an outstanding film. Before I saw it, I had my questions about Costner in such a role but he performs magnificently. I still need to see both White Hunter, Black Heart and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Will try and get to them soon!

  29. To clarify my characterization of Eastwood as an Oscar baiter in light of Draven's comments: in the particular case of Million Dollar Baby my understanding is that Eastwood pressed for a December 2004 release for a film originally scheduled for early 2005, on the assumption that it would prove a prestige sleeper. It seems like an instance when he timed a release to maximize his chance of winning Oscars. I can imagine him being similarly insistent on the timing for Gran Torino because the Oscar he's most interested in at this point, I suspect, is for himself as an actor.

    As for "M$B" (Clint missed a marketing chance there!), I still forgive its contrivances for the sake of its mood. I may have said somewhere else that it's a better movie than it is a boxing movie; if not, I've just said it here.

    And as for Unforgiven, some critics seem to equate "revisionism" with "repudiation," so that no western is revisionist unless it deconstructs or discredits genre archetypes or exposes untenable presuppositions. It so happens that I think Buffalo Bill & the Indians is a great revisionist western (and one of my favorite Altman films) but it doesn't set the sole standard for revisionism. "Revision" is quite literally a matter of finding another way of looking at something. The "adult" or "psychological" westerns of the Fifties were revisionist. The spaghetti westerns were revisionist relative to Fifties westerns. Unforgiven is revisionist relative to the spaghettis, and to much that came before, in its emphasis on the destruction William Munny wreaks on a community. He makes his exit not as a triumphant hero or avenger but deliberately as a figure of terror. Focusing on his victory over Little Bill misses the larger, revisionist point.

  30. For me, Eastwood's directing career has been a roller coaster ride filled with the Good (Bird, Letters From Iwo Jima, High Plains Drifters, The Outlaw Josey Wales), the bad (Invictus, The Gauntlet) and the Ugly (Bronco Billy, The Rookie). I don't think I would rate him this high on my own list, if I had a list, but that is neither here nor there.

    Here are my top ten Eastwood's

    Letters From Iwo Jima
    Mystic River
    The Outlaw Josey Wales
    Flags of Our Fathers
    Play Misty For Me
    High Plains Drifters
    Pale Rider

  31. I'm not crazy about Eastwood's more recent work but I tip my hat to him for his work ethic. The perverse streak in me (eat your heart out, Draven86!) wants to call "Space Cowboys" my favorite Eastwood film simply because it's so silly and yet doesn't seem to know how silly it is, which only makes all the more charming. But that's coming from someone who finds some of his serious, yes, "Oscar bait" work pompous and overbearing. I agree with the commentator who preferred Tim Robbins' performance to Sean Penn's - the grandstanding really irritated me there.

  32. He is the most incredible actor and director I've ever seen in my whole life!