Changeling

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.

seoulbrother:

Six years ago Wikipedia started with a radical idea. That’s true. I ain’t promising you nothing extra. I’m just giving you life and you’re giving me life. And I’m saying that men can live together without butchering one another.

Now remember, when things look bad and it looks like you’re not gonna make it, then you gotta get mean. I mean plumb, mad-dog mean. ‘Cause if you lose your head and you give up then you neither live nor win. That’s just the way it is.

Dyin’ ain’t much of a living, boy.

Please consider a generous donation to the Wikimedia Foundation.

UPDATE: Download the Safari extension by Troy Gaul that puts this on Wikipedia. After installing, see it in action here.
(via Daring Fireball)

Play Misty for Me

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

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

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.

Gran Torino

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.

For a Few Dollars More

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.