Play Misty for Me. I was trying to decide what to watch this evening when I was driving back home. Lo and behold, Misty comes on the radio. Case closed. This was Eastwood’s first film as director, and for a lead actor known for tough-guy roles, his character is surprisingly passive here. He gets steamrolled by the batshit insane Jessica Walter. (I was so glad when I finally realized why she was so familiar). This one definitely holds its own against, say, Misery, Basic Instinct, and Fatal Attraction. Ebert gives it four stars. See also psycho-biddy and bunny boiler, two of my favorite new terms.
Bird. A pretty good Eastwood-directed biopic about Charlie Parker, though I’m not sure it’s that interesting for people who lack at least a mild enthusiasm for jazz. This is not a three-act story of redemption a la Ray or Walk the Line. This one seems more of a collage, cutting back and forth. It’s a blur, short of detail, but heavy on mood, aided in that most of the movie’s shots are so dark, murky, noir-ish. Parker–alcoholic, junkie–doesn’t seem a raging, violent, destructive artist, but one more burdened and resigned. I’ve got a new appreciation for Forest Whitaker now that I’ve seen him in a leading role. Makes me curious about The Last King of Scotland. Here’s a nice bit from Ebert’s review:
Two of the subtler themes running through much of Eastwood’s work – and especially the 14 films he has directed – are a love of music, and a fascination with characters who are lonely, heroic drifters. There is a connection between the Parker of “Bird” and the alcoholic guitar player in “Honkytonk Man.” They are both men who use music as a way of insisting they are alive and can feel joy, in the face of the daily depression and dread they draw around themselves.
Unforgiven. This is a very, very good movie. There’s so much psychological fodder here: regret, revenge, greed, vanity. Beautifully shot and edited. A killer starring cast and a deep bench of side characters that round out the town life. My favorite part is the subtext with the biographer W.W. Beauchamp and his parasitic/symbiotic relationship with the narcissistic, murderous men in the film. He’s the everyman, fascinated and terrified of the violence, jotting down every detail while pissing his pants. Eastwood dedicated the movie to Don and Sergio.
The Outlaw Josey Wales. I wouldn’t call this a Great Movie, but it was fun, thoughtful, and I was never bored. The gunplay was the least interesting part. Nice character color. Nice soundtrack. Nice to see a love interest of sorts. And look at all those guns.
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Couldn’t talk my friend into a Western, so this was the Eastwood-directed compromise. As I expected, it’s a dud.
Gran Torino. Weaknesses up front: there’s some lazy writing, some bad acting, and Eastwood’s estranged family seems excessively caricatured. BUT, I thought the overall story arc here (themes: growing old; American confronting the Other; reluctantly becoming a better person) was really interesting and I never thought of switching it off. It had some good food-for-thought staying power after it ended. And Clint Eastwood gets a co-writing credit for the movie’s theme song.
Out of the West: Clint Eastwood’s shifting landscape by David Denby for The New Yorker. My relatively new Eastwood obsession means of course I dropped everything to read it. Lots of good stuff in this article.
For a Few Dollars More. I’ve finally finished the Dollars Trilogy. This one is great. I found it much better than A Fistful of Dollars and almost up there with The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. The first duel in this movie is either the first or second best in the whole trilogy. I love the way Leone builds from silence to melodramatic swells of music and back to silence and only then gives you resolution. And nice little details like in the delightful hat duel where every time Eastwood shoots the hat it lands in a pool of light. And the repeated appearance of the safe during the bank robbery scene. You know something is going to happen with/to/near/around it, but you gotta wait for the moment. Sweet, sweet suspense.
A Fistful of Dollars. Apparently it’s heavily influenced by / a remake of Yojimbo, which I’ve yet to see. It’s shorter and more amusing than the prequel, but I enjoyed The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly much more. It needed a good villain.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. I’d seen about 90% of this one, but never before in one uninterrupted stretch. Every bit as good as they say.