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HDD Study Hall: Clint Eastwood
Tags: Clint Eastwood, Luke Hickman, HDD Study Hall, Fun Stuff (all tags)
by Luke Hickman
Placing both the known and the secret lives of J. Edgar Hoover on the big screen, opening nationwide tomorrow, is Clint Eastwood's new dramatic bio-pic 'J. Edgar.' With Eastwood seemingly always in the running for Academy Awards, I figured he would be a worthy topic for Study Hall, only this time we'll review his past in a different format. Instead of looking at a few of Eastwood's classic titles, we're going to take a look at the many filmmaking roles he's successfully filled over his 56-year career.
Eastwood started in the business in front of the camera. Until the last decade, he was known first and foremost as an actor. His first few years in Hollywood were spent playing small roles in television shows and uncredited bit parts in small movies - mostly war flicks and, as you know, westerns. It didn't take long for him to find his niche. After four short years in the business, Eastwood landed the role of Rowdy Yates in the popular television series 'Rawhide,' and the rest is history.
After 217 episodes of 'Rawhide,' Eastwood made his way back onto the silver screen in Sergio Leone's spaghetti western 'A Fistful of Dollars.' One year later, he appeared in Leone's 'For a Few Dollars More' and just one year after that, they again reteamed for 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.' Arguably, this trio of films, known as 'The Man with No Name Trilogy' is the most well-known credit on Eastwood's resume. Personally, 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly' is not only my favorite western but my favorite of the films in which Eastwood stars.
Over the 14 years following his work with Leone, Eastwood appeared in at least one film a year - westerns, war films, and then crime dramas. In 1971, Eastwood kicked off a the five-film 'Dirty Harry' series, where he played a San Francisco cop who didn't play by the rules. Unlike 'The Man with No Name Trilogy,' Eastwood spread his Dirty Harry roles over 17 years, filling the gaps with notable titles 'The Outlaw Josey Wales,' 'Every Which Way But Loose' and 'Escape from Alcatraz.' Alng the way, he's received two nominations for acting in 'Million Dollar Baby' and 'Unforgiven,' but hasn't won.
The older he's gotten, the less films he's acted in. Eastwood's current focus is placed on producing and directing.
Eastwood began directing while shooting his 1971 film 'The Beguiled.' When not in front of the camera, he was behind a camera of his own shooting a making-of documentary about the film's director Don Siegel short called 'The Beguiled: The Storyteller.' He must have caught the directing bug because he stuck to it. His feature directorial debut was 'Play Misty for Me,' after which he directed some of his own westerns and war flicks, as well as one 'Dirty Harry' film.
Along the way, he would occasionally direct a film that he would not act in, but after 2004's 'Million Dollar Baby,' he's only returned for one film - 2008's 'Gran Torino.'
Eastwood won his first Academy Award for directing 'Unforgiven.' In 2005, he won another Academy Award for directing 'Million Dollar Baby.' He's also have had two other Academy Award directing nominations for 2003's 'Mystic River' and 2006's 'Letters From Iwo Jima.' Along the way he has directed ten actors to Oscar-nominated performances.
Since he started directing, Eastwood has produced nearly all of his own films, as well as a few musical and historical documentaries. If you see the Eastwood-produced 'You Must Rememeber This: The Warner Bros. Story' on your TV's listings, be sure to set your DVR to record this fascinating tale of the studio's formation, trials and successes from creation to modern releases.
As a producer, Eastwood has won two Best Picture Academy Awards for 'Unforgiven' and 'Million Dollar Baby,' as well as two additional nominations for 'Mystic River' and 'Letters From Iwo Jima.'
How many other director/producer/actors out there have also composed their own music? My guess is very few.
To date, Eastwood has composed six big screen scores. 'Mystic River,' 'Million Dollar Baby,' 'Flags of our Fathers,' 'Changeling' and 'Hereafter' were all his own films, but 2007's 'Grace is Gone' is the surprise title under his composing credits. Eastwood has no apparent connection to the filmmakers nor the studio that distributed the indie film, yet he composed the simple score. Perhaps he was drawn to the intimate script about a father (John Cusack - who appeared in the Eastwood directed 'Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil') trying to cope with the death of his wife serving in the Middle East while looking for the right moment to break the news to their daughters.
Even though I personally view the Eastwood-directed flicks as hit-and-miss, there's no arguing that he's a filmmaking legend. The guy has proven himself in numerous roles within the Hollywood system.
Is Clint Eastwood Overrated as a Director?
Tags: Clint Eastwood, Aaron Peck, Fun Stuff (all tags)
by Aaron Peck
When 'Hereafter' hit theaters, I remember reading a post on Jim Emerson's Scanners blog (Emerson manages Roger Ebert's website), where he asked if one could truly pick a Clint Eastwood film out of a lineup. He acknowledged that he had no idea if Eastwood really had a significant visual or emotional style to his movies like say, Aronofsky or Lynch have. He went on to claim that certain filmmakers he knows consider Eastwood an amazing project manager, rather than an accomplished director. This got me to wondering, is Clint Eastwood overrated as a director?
Speaking for myself, I've had an affinity for Eastwood movies ever since 'Unforgiven'. When Eastwood’s name is attached, some sort of fanboy-itis inside of me takes over, like a 'Star Wars' nerd clamoring for any information from George Lucas. I don’t really know why that happens. Over the years, I’ve found that films directed by Eastwood move with a purpose and feeling that is hard to find in other movies. Even a mechanical plot like 'Absolute Power' feels slightly different under Eastwood’s directorial hand.
Truthfully though, I can’t think of anything visually that separates Eastwood from the pack. I can, however, think of the feeling I get when I watch something like 'Million Dollar Baby' or 'Changeling'. Eastwood is a lingerer. The camera stays with the characters, observing them, showing us their surroundings and how they interact with them. When so many directors out there are chopping their movies up into a blinding series of one and a half second shots, Eastwood lets the story play out methodically, often without cutting away. Remember in 'Absolute Power' when he ascends the stairs in the mansion as the camera follows him further and further up, never cutting away? Or as he watches Gene Hackman attack the young woman, unable to do anything to stop it? Those scenes are almost uncomfortably drawn out, clearly giving you the feeling that this is the work of a different kind of director.
In the 'Changeling,' Eastwood crafted one of the finest scenes I’ve witnessed in movies. Hyperbole, I know, but to this day I can’t get that moment out of my head. A child is discussing the horrors he endured and observed at a desolate farm where the man of the place was kidnapping local kids. The scene is terrifyingly real. Again, Eastwood lingers on the characters, letting us in on their fears, showing us the horror on their faces. Think back to 'Mystic River,' the same thing. The emotion seeps through the film. To me, that’s masterful direction and filmmaking. 'Hereafter' didn’t resonate all that well with some people. Most of the detractors claimed the film was too long and drawn-out. I would submit, however, that that is Eastwood’s signature style. He’s interested in his characters and their reactions, not just driving the plot along. He might not have a visual style that jumps out at you immediately, but I would argue that it is certainly there, and that what separates him from the pack is his attention to detail, the natural way his camera moves and observes, and the way he lets you truly peer into the shots to participate in the onscreen world he's created.
So, is Eastwood overrated as a director? I don’t think so. Not at all. By his name alone, he’s able to produce and direct films that would otherwise go unmade. You think anyone else out there could’ve gotten a movie like 'Hereafter' produced for a wide release, and gotten Matt Damon to star in it? Not a chance. Even though Eastwood doesn’t pull viewers in with some sort of showstopping visual style, he certainly imbues his films with real substance. Oh, and he’s a dynamite composer to boot.