American Sniper. Not as good as other Eastwood movies with similar thematic material. Broken heroes, the toll of duty and violence, and what it is to have a noble but misunderstood purpose, and so forth. Perhaps this and Selma share some common values? The fake babies are really distracting and completely baffling. Forewarning: there are parts of this movie that will be unbearable if you’re sensitive about violence against children. And if you aren’t… WTF? If I were choosing among 9/11 fallout movies, I’d rather watch Zero Dark Thirty again. Another movie with a great sandstorm climax is Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.

Million Dollar Baby. I’ve had this near the top of my Eastwood rankings for a while, but I started to wonder if I was due for a reevaluation. It’s good, but I think memory rounded off some of the rough edges.

Rankings are getting a bit absurd, but I think you can safely say that numbers 1-4 are in the must-see tier, 5-8 are worthwhile, 9-11 you can safely skip, while only 12 is what I’d call straight-up bad.

  1. Unforgiven
  2. Gran Torino
  3. Mystic River
  4. The Outlaw Josey Wales
  5. Changeling
  6. Play Misty for Me
  7. Hereafter
  8. Million Dollar Baby
  9. The Gauntlet
  10. High Plains Drifter
  11. Bird
  12. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

The Eastwood Conundrum – Esquire

An anecdote from his work on A Perfect World:

Costner was a big star who had agreed to make an art film while Eastwood was determined to make a Clint Movie, and they were at cross-purposes. Finally, Eastwood called Costner from his trailer for a scene, and Costner told him to wait — that he wasn’t ready.

“Find his extra,” Eastwood said, “and put a shirt on him.”

He wound up shooting the scene with the extra — with the extra walking through a field, and the camera so close to him he became a blur. Then Costner emerged from his trailer and announced that he was ready to work. “Never mind,” Eastwood said, “we’re moving on.”

The Eastwood Conundrum – Esquire

Hereafter. The ending is way too cute and coincidental, but the journey there is decent and it has a good premise treated seriously. The opening tsunami scenes are rightfully praised, but the cooking scenes were the real stand-outs for me. Excellent acting and directing there. The two boys are a little wooden, but I probably shouldn’t pick on kids. I recognized that Clint Eastwood did the score within about 4 seconds. Speaking of, it’s been a while since I last saw an Eastwood film. Updated rankings for stuff he’s directed:

  1. Unforgiven
  2. Gran Torino
  3. Million Dollar Baby
  4. Mystic River
  5. The Outlaw Josey Wales
  6. Changeling
  7. Play Misty for Me
  8. Hereafter (or maybe one rank higher)
  9. The Gauntlet
  10. High Plains Drifter
  11. Bird
  12. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

The Gauntlet. They used at least 300-thousand-million bullets in this film. It’s not the best Clint Eastwood movie I’ve seen, not by a long shot, but I went in with appropriate expectations. It’s just a fun and highly ridiculous road trip movie with a loser cop and a clever prostitute. We need more helicopter chases in movies. Interesting parallels with Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night. Check out that promo poster!

My updated rankings for Eastwood’s directing:

  1. Unforgiven
  2. Gran Torino
  3. Million Dollar Baby
  4. Mystic River (or maybe tied for third)
  5. The Outlaw Josey Wales
  6. Changeling
  7. Play Misty for Me
  8. The Gauntlet
  9. High Plains Drifter
  10. Bird
  11. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

High Plains Drifter. This is one of those movies where you have to remember that the protagonist doesn’t always reflect the values of the real, actual live human being director. Here, the Stranger kills three guys and rapes a woman within, oh, 10-15 minutes. It’s not the most subtle movie you’ll ever see. Honestly, I finished this one out of a sense of obligation and curiosity because I love westerns and I love Clint Eastwood. This was the second movie he directed, after Play Misty for Me. Aside from a few excellent parts here and there, this one is more enjoyable when reading and thinking about it after you’ve watched it than while actually watching. It doesn’t all hold together so well. Comparing this to his directing work in the 1990s and 2000s is like night and day. That said, objectively awesome bits include a great opening mirage entrance scene, a spooky, eerie score that would fit right in with a horror or 1950s scifi movie, and the tough guy one-liners. Speaking of tough guys, I really need to make some time for the Dirty Harry flicks…

Mystic River. Great movie. Dang. I was immediately convinced this one would be worth it. On the surface it’s a whodunnit crime thriller kind of thing, but by the end it’s beside the point. It’s about hurt and healing, history and fate. My respect for Clint Eastwood grows with every film I watch. My overall impression is that he just seems to use his time really well, which is not a small compliment. I also realized during the movie that the score was recognizably Eastwoodian–I hadn’t known he wrote it before I started watching, but it’s definitely got his touch there, too. And I can’t not mention the kickass cast that kicks ass like you think they would: Penn, Robbins, Bacon, Fishburne, Linney. Good stuff.

My updated rankings for Eastwood’s directing:

  1. Unforgiven
  2. Gran Torino
  3. Million Dollar Baby
  4. Mystic River (or maybe one ranking higher, not sure)
  5. The Outlaw Josey Wales
  6. Changeling
  7. Play Misty for Me
  8. Bird
  9. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

I think I’ve seen more movies directed by Eastwood than anyone except for Hitchcock (also 9 movies) and Spielberg (20-something!). Buster Keaton and Tim Burton come in at 6 and Martin Scorsese and Christopher Nolan at 5, if I’m remembering correctly. Can’t think of anyone else with more than 4 right now.

Changeling. Man, Clint Eastwood has a steady hand. He will take his damn time and everything will be in its place. He even did the music. There’s no razzle-dazzle here, it’s just firm, reliable storytelling. I’m glad he didn’t go into the more lurid aspects of the story, focusing more on building your outrage and indignation. You only see one death in full and its impact caught me off-guard. Heavy stuff. Angelina Jolie is excellent. The only other Jolie films I’ve seen are one of the Tomb Raider films (ugh) and Mr. & Mrs. Smith (eehhhh), so this was a nice change.

My current rankings for Eastwood’s work as director:

  1. Unforgiven
  2. Gran Torino
  3. Million Dollar Baby
  4. The Outlaw Josey Wales
  5. Changeling
  6. Play Misty for Me
  7. Bird
  8. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Lots of good work there. Cf. Hitchcock.