As a director Clint Eastwood has the reputation of being one of
the best in the world and of knowing exactly what he wants and how to get it.
He’s been called “the most important small-town artist in
Eastwood grew up in depression-era
He came back to the States to play more tough guys in Hang ‘Em High, Coogan’s Bluff, Where Eagles Dare, and Kelly’s Heroes. By 1969 he was the world’s top box office draw.
For Eastwood, directing was something he was determined to do from his earliest days as an actor, and aside from Woody Allen, no contemporary star has directed more often than he has. In 1971, he made his debut behind the camera with the well-received thriller, Play Misty for Me. Since then he has directed just about every kind of movie-westerns, comedies, cop dramas, romances, and even a biopic.
Also in 1971, Eastwood introduced one of the screen’s most controversial and most crowd-pleasing characters ever in Dirty Harry. The fiercely independent, pistol-packing Detective Harry Callahan, who found it easier to shoot suspects than to interrogate them, would return four more times in Magnum Force (1973), The Enforcer (1976), Sudden Impact (1983), and The Dead Pool (1988).
“Critics have increasingly come to recognize how Eastwood, from the beginning of his career, has played with and reworked his star persona through his films, now viewed as highly reflexive works,” notes the New York Times. He’s alternated adrenaline-pumping action movies such as Escape from Alcatraz and The Eiger Sanction, which exploit his macho image, with more personal and romantic films such as Honkytonk Man, Bronco Billy, and The Bridges of Madison County.
“I’ve played an awful lot of characters and they’re all
different,” said Eastwood. “You always hoped the audience would follow you into
expansion.” They did and so did the critics. He has been honored with film
retrospectives in museums in
“Today, Eastwood is blessed with mass audience appeal and critical respect that have afforded him a career rare in its longevity, even rarer in its artistic and personal freedom,” says the Los Angeles Times. “Most people who remember me, if at all, will remember me as an action guy, which is OK,” says Eastwood. “There’s nothing wrong with that. But there will be a certain group which will remember me for the other films, the ones where I took a few chances. At least, I like to think so.”
"We all have it coming, Kid": Clint Eastwood Tim Groves from Senses of Cinema, Januray 2001
The Great Eastwood Project Antti Ivanoff tribute site, including an extensive biography
A 75th Birthday Tribute to Clint Eastwood 4 part essay by Brad Lang
Classic Movies profile page
Clint Eastwood NNDB biography
Clint Eastwood | California Museum portrait of a luminary
Tiscali Biography another biography and filmography
Filmbug Biography yet another
Clint Eastwood, Clint Eastwood movie, Clint Eastwood pictures ... profile page from Bullz-Eye
Clint Eastwood Forums fan discussion site
Clint Eastwood News updated news and gossip reports
Clint Eastwood - Libertarian Bill Winter
Clint Eastwood Image Galleries more photos
Clint Eastwood by David Levine - The New York Review of Books April 1, 1982 cartoon drawing
Clint Eastwood's Restaurant in Carmel California Betsy Malloy from About.com (undated)
Clint Eastwood Go Ahead, Punk Go Ahead, Clint, by Greg Wahl from Images (undated)
Clint Eastwood - "Scraps of Hope" Henry Sheehan from Film Comment, September/October 1992
Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award 1994 recipient
AFI Life Achievement Award: Clint Eastwood 1996 recipient
Blood Work Chris
Fujiwara from The
Photo Gallery: Clint Eastwood Filmography:
Clint Eastwood, Chris Nashawaty from Entertainment Weekly,
Eastwood Still Riding High"
Dave Rochelson from ABC News,
Eastwood Receives French Honor BBC news, February 17, 2007
Clint Eastwood and Other Illustrious
Artists Honor Jazz Legend Dave Brubeck
Berkley makes Eastwood's day at MJF Jessica Bailiff from the Monterey Jazz Festival, September 24, 2007
Clint Eastwood Receives
Berklee Degree at Monterey Jazz Festival (news release)
Eastwood: Eight Who Dominate"
Steven Gaydos from Variety,
Clint Eastwood targets the legacy of Dirty Harry - Los Angeles Times Geoff Boucher, June 1, 2008
vs. Spike: WWII racial grudge match! - Beyond the Multiplex ... Andrew O’Hehir from Salon,
guardian.co.uk Gentle man Clint, November 2, 2008 Elizabeth Day from The Observer,
Clint Eastwood retires: His top 10 best and worst film roles ... Steve Anglesey from The Mirror, including video clips of the 5 best and 5 worst, November 24, 2008
Once More With Feeling! | The New York Observer Christopher Rosen,
The Films Are for
Him. Got That? Bruce Headlam from The New York Times,
Clint Eastwood shines up his 'Gran Torino' Geoff Boucher from The LA Times,
of the Blind Pt 1 Matt Zoller Seitz
from Moving Image Source,
of the Blind Pt 2 Matt Zoller Seitz
from Moving Image Source,
Will This Clint Eastwood Movie Be Any Good? Vulture
Does the Math Bilge Ebiri from NY
Matters Bilge Ebiri from They Live
Eastwood, Clint They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They
Clint Eastwood - Interview Stuart Fischoff interview from Psychology Today, January 1, 1993
Urban Cinefile Feature A Wreck of a Hero, interview after TRUE CRIME by Nick Roddick in 1999
Cinefile Feature Laid Back Space
Cowboy, interview after SPACE COWBOYS by Jenny Cooney Carrillo,
Cinefile Feature New Heart, Old
Bones, interview after BLOOD WORK by Jenny Cooney Carrillo,
DGA Article Conversation with a Director and his Team, article and interview by Ted Elrick, September 2003
BBC Films Stella Papamichael interview from the BBC, October 10, 2003
Comment Amy Taubin interview,
Bright Lights Film Journal | Interview with Clint Eastwood Tony Macklin interview, February 2005
Schickel interview from Time magazine,
Charlie Rose show: An hour with Clint Eastwood December 19, 2006 (video)
Interview (2007) Philip French from
Clint Eastwood | Film | The Guardian
Dirty Harry Comes Clean, Jeff Dawson interview,
Interview: Clint Eastwood Interview
by Katey Rich from Cinema Blend,
Eastwood on Changeling: Angelina Jolie 'a fine actress hampered by beauty' Interview by John Hiscock from The Telegraph,
Do you feel lucky, punks? Then download this critical roundtable podcast on Clint Eastwood Roundtable discussion on Eastwood by Ed Gonzalez (Slant), Akiva Gottlieb (The Nation), Kent Jones (Film Comment editor), Kevin Lee (Shooting Down Pictures), and Karina Longworth (Spoutblog editor), which can be heard on an MP3 podcast (audio), December 30, 2008
micropsia: 'Eighty? It's just a number' - Clint Eastwood
Interview ... Interview by
Emma Brockes from Micropsia,
Clint: The Life and Legend Gerald Peary, thoughts on Patrick McGilligan’s Eastwood biography, March 2000
"Horizons West: Directing the Western from John Ford to Clint ... written by Jim Kitses, book review by Saige Walton from Senses of Cinema, December 2005
Clint Eastwood — www.greenwood.com Clint Eastwood: Evolution of a Filmmaker by John H. Foote (224 pages), brief comments
SCORSESE: John [Cassavetes] was such a great artist, but he
wasn't so tolerant of the genres of the
Time Out review Tom Milne
Eastwood's first film as director, and first exploratory probe for the flaws in his macho image as outlined in Siegel's The Beguiled. A highly enjoyable thriller made under the influence of Siegel (who contributes a memorable cameo as a bartender), it casts Eastwood as a late-night Californian DJ who, flattered by the persistent attentions of a mysterious fan (Walter), lets himself be picked up for a one night stand before going back to his true love (Mills). Before long, blandly assuming an on-going relationship, Walter reveals herself to be a suicidal hysteric who won't take no for an answer; and poor Eastwood is driven into a corner like a mesmerised rabbit, unable to find a way out of the impasse without driving one of his two jealous women over the edge. From there it's but a step to the watcher in the bushes, the carving knife glittering in a darkened room, and a splendid all-stops-out finale.
Clint Eastwood made a fine directorial debut with this very effective thriller that’s a precursor of 'Fatal Attraction,' which ripped off whole scenes from it. This is by far the better film.
Clint is Dave Garver, a popular DJ for an all-night jazz
radio station. A woman (Jessica Walter) calls every night to request “Misty.”
Soon she introduces herself as Evelyn, and Dave, playing the field in the wake
of an uncertain relationship, goes to bed with her after she assures him
there’ll be no strings attached. Dave’s former lover Tobie (Donna Mills) comes
back to town, and he would like to rekindle the romance, but Evelyn gets in the
way — she becomes posessive, first in small ways, then in frightening,
Evelyn, it turns out, is not only exceptionally needy and insecure, she’s also a psychopath. A laid-back guy like Dave would naturally resist commitment, and Evelyn holds him to everything he says, reading messages of love where there are none, going more and more overboard, until finally Dave comes home one afternoon to find his furniture trashed and his cleaning lady slashed. And that’s not the end.
Clint’s direction is sometimes shaky but usually assured, and he gets a bold performance from Jessica Walter, who manages to be most scary when she’s least threatening. Evelyn isn’t given a past, so there’s no psychobabble explaining why she’s berserk; Walter’s mannerisms and general aura of desperation tell us all we need to know.
SF, Horror and Fantasy Film Review review [3/5] Richard Scheib
Cinepassion.org Fernando F. Croce
DVD Review e-zine dvd recommendation Shawn Harwell
Urban Cinefile dvd review Richard Kuipers
And You Call Yourself a Scientist! (Liz Kingsley) review comparing the film to FATAL ATTRACTION (1987)
The entire film plays out like a dream sequence, beginning and ending as if drifting in and out of a mirage-like haze, with eerie music that sounds like a Twilight Zone episode. And in fact, that’s pretty much what it is, the story of an avenging angel who comes back to the small town of Lago to hold people accountable for their greed, corruption and murderous ways, now hiding behind their piousness and sanctimonious morality, all of which is built on a pack of lies. To this degree, it resembles the tone of John Carpenter’s THE FOG (1980), which after revealing itself as an unexplained natural mystery, slowly tightens its noose around the entire town until eventually corpses begin rising from the dead. Eastwood’s film is a little more understated, a revenge saga told like a parable, with a deadly solemn tone throughout. Eastwood is another one of his Man with No Names, known only as the Stranger, who rides into town one day, is accosted by three thugs which chose the wrong guy to pick on, as he immediately blows the three away in broad daylight. Too bad for them. When a corseted blond sashays directly into his path, followed by a stream of insults, one might think he would give her a spanking. Not so, as instead he pulls her into the barn and rapes her, again in broad daylight, this time in front of the entire town standing there watching. This is a bit disconcerting, as there’s some things you just don’t do to a lady, and this is certainly one of them, but this is also a clue that this is no ordinary avenging angel, as is his survival in a bathtub which she shoots full of holes in anger. But he has nary a scratch.
The gist of the story is then revealed in a dream sequence, which is an apparent flashback into the Stranger’s life when he was the town sheriff and was about to report a mining company’s boundary infraction, to their advantage of course, but was whipped to death by a crew of outlaws while the entire town stood and watched. Now the Stranger is back, completely unrecognizable to anyone in town, who have kept quiet about this incident ever since, though the three outlaws were sent to prison for murder, and are about to be released. At seeing what the Stranger can do with a gun, they immediately hire him, offering him whatever he wants that the town can provide, if he’ll protect them from the outlaws return. Basically, they’re asking him to cover up their initial cover up. This borders on the ridiculous, reminiscent of Kurosawa’s YOJIMBO (1961), where the outlaw plays head games with a town with two warring factions. Interesting, since the Sergio Leone westerns starring Eastwood, especially A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964), borrowed liberally from Kurosawa, including the exaggerated facial close ups, the lone gunman slowly ambling out into the street in a cloud of dust, the leaves blowing, the window shutters on the street locked shut by panic stricken and hysterical townsfolk, all shivering in fear, while his dusty, sweaty opponent enters the street, usually covered by at least a half-dozen, rifle-toting henchmen, while eerie, percussive music plays to accentuate the heightened sense of anxiety. But Eastwood directing on his own is toned down to the bare essentials, accentuating a mood of the austere, where the Stranger is a man of purpose. Even his presence has an Eastern sense, as he appears to be a wandering spirit who is restless because no one has bothered to put a marker on his grave.
Few westerns exclusively play the revenge card like this one, though Eastwood tried it again with PALE RIDER (1985), both by the way shot by Bruce Surtees.
As gravestone inscriptions
in the town of
After starring in a few of Sergio Leone's more famous Spaghetti westerns, Eastwood picks up the director's reins as well as those of the leading part in a really quite extraordinary gothic western.
Haunted by the guilty knowledge that they stood by and did nothing while their sheriff was horsewhipped to death and fearing the imminent release of his three killers, the citizens of Lago decide to offer Eastwood, the enigmatic 'Man with No Name', anything he wishes in payment for his protection from the murderous gangs' return.
Eastwood's consequent exploitation of the townsfolk is outrageous but somehow strangely satisfying and provides a great deal of the film's wry humour. Indeed, High Plains Drifter takes almost sadistic pleasure in the humiliating treatments meted out to Lago's more unpleasant inhabitants as the thread of the moral lesson of this particular Western unwinds, seemingly as a pointed (but still wickedly funny) condemnation of their apathy and cowardice. As the gunfighter; Eastwood is a joy, as capable of razor sharp one-line ripostes and blunt witticisms as he is of twirling his six-shooter like only cowboys know how.
Slightly surreal in places, High Plains Drifter is perhaps one of the more off-beat, and as result, fascinating post-spaghetti American Westerns. As a tale of revenge, it is carried along by a powerful eerieness and an undercurrent of mordant dark humour to what is realty a pretty unusual climax.
Turner Classic Movies review Michael Atkinson
The western is
Which is not to suggest that Eastwood’s movie is a dead-serious intellectual indictment – it’s raw pulp, with plenty of adolescent overripeness and crude narrative ideas. But the bones of it are outrageously metaphoric, as much as any western since Monte Hellman’s mysterious, seminal cheapie The Shooting (1967). Eastwood plays a nameless gunslinger who simply rides into Lago, a small, spare mining town built on the edge of a huge mountain lake. He doesn’t talk much, in the classic early-Eastwood vein, but the townspeople are all wary, suspicious, openly hostile and plagued with shame. Our anti-hero is confronted time and again, leading to a few impromptu corpses and, in the film’s most wildly questionable scene, a rape of the town trollop (Marianna Hill). Interestingly, we hardly blink at this laconic gunhand dispatching a few antagonistic frontier men with pistol blasts to the forehead and chest, but the rape – which like everything else in the film is involved with a protracted plan for retribution – sticks in our contemporary craw, even if the hateful woman in question does eventually return with her own gun, seeking vengeance.
In any case, it becomes clear that what we’ve got here is a postmodern morality play, in which justice is methodically served but no one is heroic or good at heart. The town’s backstory hovers over the action like a thunderhead – in the recent past, a sheriff who’d been gearing up to report the mining company’s territorial infractions got horsewhipped to death in town, and virtually every citizen had either participated or watched. All have remained silent since. Structurally mix-‘n-matching aspects of High Noon (1952), Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) and Forty Guns (1957, as well as hearkening forward to Eastwood’s masterpiece Unforgiven, 1992), the film also has metaphysical implications – Eastwood’s mystery man is either a ghost, an avenging angel, or simply a walking-talking deus ex machina, personifying the townspeoples’ self-immolating guilt, and preparing to bring grief to an American frontier founded on bloodshed, capitalist greed, rampant self-interest and immigrant exploitation. (Eastwood, shying away from the supernatural, has stated more than once that he had always thought of his character as the dead sheriff’s brother, but the film never suggests this, and offers only notions of cosmic eeriness.)
Taking advantage of the town’s quaking fear over a trio of returning outlaws (led by Geoffrey Lewis, Juliette’s dad), the gunslinger essentially takes over, making a put-upon midget (Billy Curtis) sheriff and mayor, having a lavish welcome-home picnic set up for the impending criminals, and forcing the townspeople to literally paint the entire town blood red (one of the gritty ‘70s’ most Boschian images). Eastwood’s character even renames the town ‘Hell’ in red paint on the sign at the town limits, further suggesting an Old Testament reading – or even an existentialist view, in which Hell, as per Sartre’s No Exit, is no more than our own sins and our own communities. Either way, you cannot escape the fact that all westerns are about
It’s a good thing High Plains Drifter is such a rich and thorny creature in its ambiguities and abstracted subtexts, because on the surface it does indulge in hammy TV acting (mostly from a supporting cast full of faces familiar from old TV westerns like Rawhide and Bonanza), and veers close to being simplistic and cheesy in its attitudes toward women, gunplay and tough-guy patois. As for Eastwood, he had shown such vulnerability two years earlier in his directorial debut Play Misty for Me (1971), but in this, his second shot at directing, he effectively transports himself back to the inexpressive, squinting Man with No Name of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns. (Both "S. Leone" and "Don Siegel" are seen as names on gravestones.) But as we have learned in recent decades (from, among other devotees, Quentin Tarantino and Tim Burton), one decade’s dismissible genre junk is another’s pop-culture commentary. Like other potent pulp from the late-‘60s-early-‘70s, – I’m thinking about George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968), Franklin J. Schaffner’s Planet of the Apes, Steven Spielberg’s Duel (1971), Bob Clark’s Deathdream (1974), Cornel Wilde’s No Blade of Grass (1970), etc. – Eastwood’s movie resonates beyond its grade-B trappings, and speaks eloquently in simple language about epochal social realities.
DVD Times Mike Sutton
Images Movie Journal Elizabeth Abele
SF, Horror and Fantasy Film Review review [4/5] Richard Scheib
Ruthless Reviews review Erich Schulte
Cinepassion.org Fernando F. Croce
Digital Retribution Mr. Intolerance
DVD Verdict - Clint Eastwood: Western Icon Collection [Dan Mancini] reviewing TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA, also JOE KIDD
A gorgeous looking ‘Scope film shot by Bruce Surtees, who
also shot HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER (1973), that uses a near wordless opening montage
of changing events that reveal the backstory even before the opening credits
roll, maximizing its use of authentic landscape, impressively revealing the
West as a place of great expanse while contrasting that against the
psychological boundaries that exist within a man’s mind, where despite the
limitless horizons, a man can not run from his past. Eastwood plays Josey Wales, a dirt poor
farmer from Missouri whose life changes when his wife and son are murdered and
his house burned to the ground by renegade Union troops known as Redlegs led by
a cutthroat officer, Captain Terrill (Bill McKinney), whose job is to
demoralize what’s left of the South by leading brutal massacres. Wales joins a team of Confederate raiders led
by Commander Fletcher, John Vernon, who vow revenge, but after a few operations
together the war soon ends, leaving them an armed but rag-tag group with no war
to fight and nowhere to go but back home, all but Josey Wales, who has no home
to return to. As these men turn
themselves and their weapons over to a Union outpost, all part of an amnesty
agreement, they are double-crossed and shot down in cold blood by none other
than Captain Terrill, where Wales leads a valiant rescue attempt, but he is
only able to rescue a young kid (Sam Bottoms) who is severely wounded. When the kid starts singing “The Rose of
Blamed for the murder of the men gunned down in his unit, Josey Wales goes on the run, turned into a legendary and mythical figure whose exploits have been exaggerated throughout the territory, all an excuse for Terrill to track him down like a dog, he and any other bounty hunters scraping out a meager existence looking to collect the hefty reward money. The film shifts into a road movie as Josey Wales starts collecting a few stragglers along the way, more outsiders and derelicts who don’t fit into society anywhere else, led by Chief Dan George (and his castaway dog) who adds a comical turn as a disgruntled Cherokee Indian whose domestication to reservations has stolen his Indian identity, not to mention his wife and family who lost their lives on the Trail of Tears. His distrust of the white men matches Josie’s own view of betrayal and human loss. But they also pick up a stray Indian girl (Geraldine Keams) who herself has been victimized, also a Unionist group of Kansas pioneers led by the complaining grand matriarch Paula Trueman who doesn’t trust anybody, hauling her granddaughter Sandra Locke in tow, but granny reveals after an attack by marauding outlaws that she’d rather ride with the contemptible Josey Wales than with the Commanches.
One of the better portrayals in the Eastwood repertoire, the film sets a somber and reflective tone, maintaining the strong, silent image of Clint as a fabled gunslinger, using his macho persona that he already established from the Sergio Leone trilogy, but here he is haunted by his past, plagued by scars deeper than the one etched on his face, and at least attempts a revisionist history about the American West, telling the truth about the massacre of Indians, the open prejudice and hostility displayed by western settlers toward Indians, while also revealing the presence of roving gangs that terrorized the country even after the Civil War was over, as a distrustful anxiety continued to spread thoughout the initial stages of this reformatted Union creating a palpable mistrust of government that exists to this day. Adapted from a source novel Gone to Texas by Forrest Carter, who is part Cherokee Indian, the excellent screenplay is written by Philip Kaufman who was the original director as well, but thinking his shooting style was too slow, Eastwood, who had secured the rights to the book and was executive producer, eventually took over. If any Eastwood movie shows insight into the director’s own world view it is this one, much more personal than it at first appears and always cited as one of Eastwood’s own favorites, as the character Josey Wales believes that by their own actions governments have shown they are dishonorable, whether it be Union or Confederate, but individual men have the capacity to remain honorable to one another, perhaps the last vestiges of morality left after the ravages of war, and it is this creed that forms a more perfect Union.
A remarkable film
which sets out as a revenge Western: Eastwood sees his family massacred and
joins the Confederate guerillas; after the Civil War, he is hunted by Union
soldiers while he pursues his family's slayer and a friend apparently turned
traitor. But slowly the film changes direction, until through a series of comic
interludes it becomes the story of a man who (re)discovers his role as family
man, as he befriends Indians and various strays and leads them to a paradise of
sorts where they can forget their individual pasts. If that seems like a
rewrite of Hawks'
eFilmCritic.com review [5/5] Slyder
Reel.com dvd review [3.5/4] Tor Thorsen (link lost)
The '70s weren't exactly the best time to make Westerns. Citing declining public interest and dwindling grosses during the decade, a major entertainment industry journalist went so far as to call the genre "financial leprosy." Yet two of the best Westerns ever were made during the disco era — High Plains Drifter and The Outlaw Josey Wales, both starring and directed by Clint Eastwood. Drifter has been available on a handsome, if bare-bones, DVD from Universal. Now, however, Warner Bros. has released a freshly remastered version of Outlaw as part of its Clint Eastwood Collection, and it's been well worth the wait.
Outlaw was based on The Rebel Outlaw Josey Wales, Forrest
Carter's novel about a defiant Confederate guerilla who leaves a trail of good
deeds and shot-up Union soldiers behind him on his journey from
How do I know all this? Because the "Hell Hath No Fury: The Making of The Outlaw Josey Wales" featurette on the Outlaw DVD told me so. Although it's a bit heavy on plot exposition at first, the half-hour mini-documentary is the highlight of the disc, an informative treat that more than abrogates any need for a commentary track. It extensively covers the pre-production re-writing of the story, which co-screenwriter Phillip Kaufman reworked from a the-South-will-rise-again drama to a humanistic adventure. Unfortunately, "Hell" barely mentions the juiciest story from Outlaw's production — the "creative differences" that made Eastwood yank the director's reins from Kaufman 10 days into the shoot. However, the featurette makes up for this shortcoming with extensive interviews with stars Eastwood, Sam Bottoms (Lance from Apocalypse Now), Bill McKinney (a long-time Eastwood collaborator), Geraldine Keams, and John Vernon (best known as the basso profundo-voiced Dean Wormer in Animal House). The only living star we don't hear from is Sondra Locke, whose decade-long romance with Eastwood started during Outlaw and ended in a bitter split in the mid-'80s.
"Hell" also features comments from editor Ferris Webster, who speaks glowingly of Eastwood's consummate filmmaking skill. This would sound like hyperbole, except for the fact that you can see the man in action in over 15 minutes of crisply preserved behind-the-scenes footage. Eastwood's calm demeanor is the polar opposite of Francis Ford Coppola's hysterics visible in Hearts of Darkness. Granted, Outlaw was a much smaller-scale undertaking, but Eastwood's steady energy, unflappable patience, and command of the craft is simply Kurosawa-esque, a feat made all the more remarkable by the fact that he's starring in the film too. Listening to Eastwood eruditely explain why he likes shooting films in the fall (it's the angle of sunlight more than the colors) and watching him effortlessly nail one complex shot after another, it's hard to believe that one of his next films, Every Which Way But Loose, would co-star an orangutan.
Also included on the Outlaw DVD is the featurette called
"Eastwood in Action." Reminiscent of the "Hero Cop" short
on the Magnum Force DVD,
its low-end production values and positively obsequious tone make it the 1970s
equivalent of the cheesy "sneak peek" documentaries which pad
21st-century cable schedules. More enlightening are the text production notes
and cast bios, which deliver funnier-than-usual trivia about the actors; for
instance, did you know
As always, though, the real reason to get a film on DVD is the sound and
picture quality, and the Outlaw Josey Wales disc doesn't disappoint.
Digitally transferred from a richly hued print, the image likely looks better
than it did in theaters back in 1975, with its 2.35:1 widescreen scope
capturing the vastness and beauty of its
The audio-visual remastering and extras make Outlaw Josey Wales essential to any Western fan's DVD collection. What makes it quintessential is the end credits of the "Hell Hath No Fury" featurette, where Eastwood comments extensively and hilariously on Wales' signature habit — his aggressive spraying of chewing-tobacco spittle on dead foes, annoying salesmen, dogs, horses, insects, scorpions, and anything else that gets in his way. Besides adroitly explaining the totemic value of the chaw-spraying, he also says which brands of chewing tobacco he would use for each circumstance on the set. But parents shouldn't worry about their kids running out to guy a king-size pouch of Red Man — Eastwood officially discourages the habit, and pleads, laughing into the camera, "Please don't send me a free case! I don't want it!"
Karli Lukas from Senses of Cinema, February 2004
DVD Times Mike Sutton
Turner Classic Movies review Scott McGee
(55). The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976, Clint Eastwood) Kevin Lee from Also Like Life,
Movieline Magazine review Joshua Mooney
DVD Review Guido Henkel
DVD Town (John J. Puccio) dvd review Special Edition
Movie Reviews UK review [4/5] Damian Cannon
Cinepassion.org Fernando F. Croce
Urban Cinefile dvd review Shannon J. Harvey
'Big .45 calibre fruit! Macho mentality!' - Eastwood under siege as Sondra Locke leads the assault on his monolithic image. As much comedy as action picture, The Gauntlet mines the vein of humour discovered in The Outlaw Josey Wales: again most of the laughs are at Eastwood's expense. In his most mellow cop role yet, he plays a long-suffering, rather dumb officer who extradites a smart, fast-talking hooker, but ends up hiking her cross country, pursued by mob and cops alike (more identical than alike). The well paced script is an effective mixture of worldliness and naïveté: despite the couple's graphic sparring scenes, in which Eastwood more than meets his match, their relationship remains curiously innocent; a kind of fugitive romanticism pervades. A major source of amusement is watching Eastwood the director leaving Eastwood the actor barely in control throughout. Eastwood's Annie Hall?
Clint Eastwood (The
Outlaw Josey Wales, The Eiger
Sanction) stars as Ben Shockley, a
Also directed by Eastwood, The Gauntlet is a preposterous and far over-the-top action flick that delivers entertainment while stretching the limits of credibility. Eastwood and Locke are fun to watch as they fight like a cat tied to a dog. and Eastwood, the director, appears to have had fun setting up the wild stunt pieces, which, while making little sense as far as realism, do offer some memorable highlights to talk about and laugh at (or with, as it were).
The sheer absurdity of The Gauntlet is a double-edged sword, making the film fun to watch, but also destroying the tense drama that might have played it if it stayed within the realm of reality. The Gauntlet is recommended for Eastwood fans primarily, or just action fans in the mood for some no-brain entertainment.
Eastwood must have wondered what to do with his image after
playing two sock 'em characters in earlier movies -- The Man With
No Name, and Harry Callahan. What do I do now, Ma? It's easy to visualize
Eastwood sitting down alone and frowning, because he's really thinking hard,
you know? And kind of doing thought experiments. And ruminating somewhat along
these lines: "The Western is headed toward the graveyard. Not much future
there. The main battle in the early 1970s is in modern society, corrupt as it
is, what with Watergate and whatnot. Dirty Harry Redux? No -- not yet. Not
again. How can I remold this image in which I've been cast. Sergio Leone said
that Michelangelo could look at a block of marble and see the man inside, but
that he, Leone, could look at me and see the block of marble inside. Not very
nice. A good thing he didn't speak English and I couldn't speak Italian. Wait!
I think I've got it! We'll take Dirty Harry, give him a new name and location,
and turn him upside down! Well -- sideways anyhow. We'll suggest that he's a
drunk, but drop it pretty soon. There's a limit to how dirty we want this guy
to be. And this time we'll -- that's it! -- we'll give him a girl!" Ben
Shockley isn't the brightest cop on the planet, but despite that initial pint
of booze falling out of his car, and his day-long stubble, he gets the job
done. The job is picking up an informer in
Cinepassion.org Fernando F. Croce
The Gauntlet Eastwood plays dumb cop, by Robert Alpert from Jump Cut
DVDBeaver dvd review [Blu-Ray Version] Gary W. Tooze
Time Out review Geoff Andrew
A disarming movie, standing somewhere between a comic, contemporary version of The Outlaw Josey Wales (bunch of no-hopers finding fulfilment together) and Frank Capra (good 'little people', runaway heiress, scheming Eastern bureaucrats). Basically, it's the charming tale of a New Jersey shoe-salesman who fantasises about being a cowboy, and takes a group of assorted weirdos on the road with a travelling show. Not a lot to it in terms of plot, but Eastwood manages to both undermine and celebrate his character's fantasy life, while offering a few gentle swipes at contemporary America (the Stars and Stripes tent sewn together by mental hospital inmates). Fragile, fresh, and miles away from his hard-nosed cop thrillers, it's the sort of film only he would, and could, make.
Clint Eastwood's underappreciated Bronco Billy is an
affectionate ode to the fading myth of the American West and the enduring power
of the American Dream. Eastwood, in one of his first roles to examine his own
Western icon status, plays the titular cowpoke, a former
Bronco Billy (Clint Eastwood) is an old-fashioned guy governed by
old-fashioned principles. An ex-New
Much as in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, star/director Eastwood successfully captures his characters’ quirkiness. Billy’s tent show gang ranges from an Indian snake-wrangler to a rope-twirling draft dodger. We don’t learn a whole lot about these characters, so like the later film it is ultimately something akin to ‘Altman-Light’, but we learn enough to know that Billy is a well-meaning father figure.
Eastwood, much like Burt Reynolds’ character in Boogie Nights, welcomes everyone into an unconventional but strangely warm environment. These characters have abandoned careers as doctors or bank tellers to pursue something more enlightening, and Billy is happy to take them in. These people achieve solidarity and gain purpose by traveling the Mid West and providing people with old-style entertainment.
The plot revolves around Antoinette stumbling upon Bronco Billy in the midst of her marriage failing. Of course, a rich girl like Antoinette can’t just disappear, and her money-hungry stepmother convinces the family lawyer to accuse Antoinette’s wayward husband of murder.
As her family’s machinations unfold, Antoinette begins to feel at home in Billy’s world. A prudish and obnoxious woman, she eventually becomes the best assistant Billy has ever seen. This doesn’t make her any nicer, so Billy works hard to warm her heart.
This story of opposites that initially don’t attract is pretty basic and predictable stuff, but the film succeeds because of its old-fashioned humour. There’s nothing profound here and this is certainly not an accomplished morality tale like Unforgiven, but it is nonetheless a wonderful comedic diversion. The highlight of the film comes in the form of Eastwood and his posse trying to rob a train – like a flashback to his earlier career.
Eastwood is the star here and he gives a great performance as the nurturing father figure. Sondra Locke is more of an acquired taste, but I found her performance to be wholly appropriate in light of the type of character she is playing. Some might criticize Locke for not toning down the obnoxious persona once her character falls for Billy, but this honest portrayal works for me. And if there is something that Billy tries to teach everyone he encounters in his film, it is to abandon the banality of life and be yourself, embracing your full potential.
Urban Cowboy. Bronco Billy Women, the Last Frontier, by Rachel Kranz from Jump Cut
Cinepassion Fernando F. Croce
One of the most oddball and heroically unfashionable superstar vehicles ever contrived. Only Eastwood, with the rest of Hollywood obsessed with taking us up where we belong, could have the audacity to play a comparatively odious and untalented country singer dying of consumption during the Depression. Much of the film is concerned with his picaresque pilgrimage to a Nashville audition along with nephew (played by Eastwood's son) and grandpappy (the excellent McIntire), and it culminates in a last-chance recording session during which the singer nearly coughs himself to death. The whole thing veers wildly in quality, and no Eastwood-hater should go within a mile of it; but few lovers of American cinema could fail to be moved by a venture conceived so recklessly against the spirit of its times.
Slant Magazine review Eric Henderson
Clint Eastwood's dust bowl drama Honkytonk
Man is a sensitive road picture about a mostly luckless aspiring country
music singer. It was also one of the earlier films directed by Eastwood to
reveal the unmistakable disparity between the silent assassin persona audiences
had come to embrace in him and the much gentler humanist behind the camera.
Anchored by an unforced if slightly episodic screenplay by Clancy Carlile
(based on his own novel), Eastwood cast his own son Kyle as his on-screen
nephew, Whit. The two of them (accompanied by a mostly peripheral Grandpa
figure) escape the parched Okie land on a road trip to
Turner Classic Movies dvd review Jeremy Arnold
Since 1971's Play Misty For Me,
Clint Eastwood has directed 24 feature films and established himself as one of
the great current
Honkytonk Man (1982) was Eastwood's ninth picture as director and the second he also produced - an important item to note when you consider that he has had complete creative control over most of his films ever since. While not one of his greatest films, Honkytonk Man is nonetheless underrated. It features the perfect compositions and clean editing we've come to expect from Eastwood's movies, fine acting all around, gentle but satisfying humor, and some emotional dramatic moments. What it lacks is a truly strong story. Still, it's very watchable if you get in the right mood for a leisurely road movie and character study.
Set in the Depression, Clint plays Red Stovall, a country singer who is determined to audition at the Grand Ole Opry before he dies of tuberculosis. Accompanied by his adolescent nephew Whit (played by Clint's son Kyle Eastwood, who does just fine) and Whit's Grandpa (the great veteran character actor John McIntire), Red departs
Still, Eastwood's well-known love of music, especially jazz and blues, is surely a reason he was drawn to this script. He even included cameos by several well-known musical artists. Famed country singer Marty Robbins was the most prominent - he appears in the recording sequence, playing and singing with Eastwood on the song "
Recently issued as part of Warner Home Video's Clint Eastwood Collection, this disc has few frills - just a trailer and a printed list of highlights of Eastwood's career - but the movie itself is a perfectly fine transfer.
Cinepassion.org Fernando F. Croce
And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
While this is another gorgeous looking ‘Scope film, shot in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho by Bruce Surtees, also shooting THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES (1976) and HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER (1973), the script by Michael Butler and Dennis Shryack comes up short, as the storyline is more overtly obvious and so much feels embellished from other sources, where another “Man with No Name” rides into town called Preacher (Eastwood), a hard nosed guy fast with his fists who knows how to take care of himself, impressing the locals who are ridiculed and humiliated every time they step into town by local thugs who work for Coy LaHood, Richard Dysart, the man who owns the mining company and the rights to all the land and mineral rights except for a small patch of claims tended to by a bunch of poor mining settlers whose ownership sticks in LaHood’s craw, as he’s a greedy capitalist who wants to have it all with his ecologically disastrous hydraulic mining operation and has no misgivings about wiping out the opposition through threat and intimidation. While not the great Western of the 80’s that many have suggested, there’s plenty of references here to Kurosawa’s SEVEN SAMURAI (1954), especially the opening scene which highlights a pack of riders on horseback that eventually target this small mining community and shoot it up, tear it apart, and leave it a vandalized wreck needing to be rebuilt, an incident designed to get them to hasten their departure. With the help of Eastwood, however, someone who can stand up to the bullying tactics and actually fight back, it gives them hope that if they all band together, in unity they can prevail.
The problem with films like this is that their “savior” is
revered, adulated, loved, and desired as a mythological character who defies
human limitations, as his outsider status allows him to be a super hero while
trying to pretend he’s just a man. But
compared to him, all the other men in this rag-tag group of squatters don’t
stand up. So the women, young and old,
idealize him as the perfect man who can save their community, who in every
respect is an answer to their prayers.
This is given even more reverential status as young Megan, Sydney Penny,
is reading the passage of Revelations
from the Bible to her mother (Carrie
Snodgrass) that describes the arrival of a man on a pale horse just as Eastwood
rides in on his white horse.
LaHood sends for Sheriff Stockburn (John Russell), guns for hire, as he always travels with his six armed deputies, the kind of muscle people with money can afford in order to get what they want. There’s a mysterious connection here, as both have heard of one another, but Stockburn believes Eastwood’s character is dead, likely due to the 6 bullet wounds we earlier saw on his back. This bridge is never connected, as it remains a mystery, which is actually part of the appeal of this film, as it does play out as myth instead of reality. Eastwood is excellent in a role where he barely has to utter any words, as his actions are all that matters in a film like this, where the action sequences are concise, furiously violent, and quickly done with, very much like a samurai confrontation. Only the final scene has any degree of elongated pace, where Eastwood’s presence is largely unseen, a shadowy figure where all we see is a peek of his face, a glimpse of his hand, as otherwise it’s a series of reaction shots, all victims from his largely successful stealth campaign, concluding in the most traditional of western stylizations. The film feels like a less sentimentalized version of SHANE (1953), using a similar ending with a character shouting out their names which also resembles the eloquent final sequence in DANCES WITH WOLVES (1990). There is a nice sedate pace to the movie and there always seems to be a fresh layer of snow on the mountains and streets, but it disappointingly never delves deep enough into any single character, or provides motives beyond the typical levels of money, power, and greed, suggesting too much power accumulated in a single man’s hands corrupts his vision, moral judgment, and sense of individual worth, leaving him, for all practical purposes, blind and rooted in Machiavellian fascism. The problem is that in order to bring him down, the suggested solution, all wrapped up in Western lore, is that only the strongest and most grotesque use of violence prevails—no different really than the mentality on display from the DIRTY HARRY (1971 – 1976) saga.
One of the oldest Western themes: an enigmatic knight errant rides into town, sides with the poor but decent folk against the robber barons, then rides back to the horizon leaving the West won for the forces of good. This is shot in classical style, with much less of the baroque, mystical flourish which characterised High Plains Drifter. But there are sufficient question-marks inserted to lift it out of the routine: Eastwood's preacher man seems to carry the stigmata of a ghost; and he arrives as the answer to a maiden's prayer. Furthermore, his care for the landscape puts him in the Anthony Mann class. It's good to be back in the saddle again.
Say what you will about the man or his methods of storytelling, Clint
Eastwood is a master at his own particular kind of style. It's so subtle that
it's called easily as conventional, but there's something there, something very
dark in his style that has come out in many of the films he's directed (and
sometimes starred in). In fact, in one way or another to greater or lessor
digress all of his directed/acted westerns (High Plains Drifter, The Outlaw
Josey Wales, Unforgiven) run a streak of the bleak in them, and only once in a
while become resolved in light of a happy ending or something decent. They're
still (usually) traditional stories, only stripped away of all of the BS that
John Wayne had to carry with him like an insecure badge of masculine honor.
Pale Rider is one of the 'happier' ones, by proxy that a) Eastwood, in a rare outing, plays something that is actually more-so the hero than an anti-hero, only anti in that he doesn't quite play by the law (then again, neither do the law in the film- the six or seven "deputies"), and b) there is something of an actual happy ending, different from Fistful of Dollars only inasmuch that, again, the Preacher is a true good-guy Man-with-no-name. This doesn't necessarily make Eastwood's character any less of a bad-ass than usual, or how he plays him by proxy, which makes it even more interesting. There's moments of insatiable one-liner-type wit, or just a couple of laugh-out-loud bits of real "grit" that we come to love from Eastwood in these kinds of roles. What makes it work as something nearing the wholesome (if not entirely PG-rated) is the conscience of the Preacher- who, actually, hints at not being a preacher at all in a wonderful scene with Sarah Wheeler- and the spirit of the small-townies vs. the big money-barons like Coy LaHood.
The story, perhaps, isn't quite original. Even without having seen Shane (or, for that matter as a slightly opposite but relevant comparison, the Seven Samurai), I can tell there are used parts here, not least of which the last scene with the girl crying out for the Preaher on horseback. And there are some scenes that just ring as corny with the dialog or not all there performance-wise - sadly by this I mean the two principle female characters played by Carrie Songress and Sydney Penny, the latter having usually excruciatingly delivered lines like her miracle-plea. Maybe some will dig that part of the sub-plot, and while I didn't it did not detract from the overall entertainment value of Pale Rider.
It's mostly a lean, effective and fun/dark/absorbing thriller with killer climax and meaty male stock characters (i.e. Richard Kiel's mute Club, a serious parody of the parody Mongo from Blazing Saddles) that reveals the psychology behind the director while going for what works, simply, for the mainstream crowd. 8.5/10
"Behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death"
"Pale Rider" is sometimes cited as the greatest Western
of the eighties, although it had so little competition that that accolade does
not seem much more than the cinematic equivalent of being the proverbial big
fish in a small pond. (What competition it did have came principally from
"Heaven's Gate", "Silverado" and "Young Guns").
The plot is that familiar one- familiar from films like "Shane" and
Clint Eastwood's own "High Plains Drifter"- about the mysterious
stranger in town who helps the locals fight off a gang of bandits. (Eastwood
was a brave man to make a film on this theme in the eighties, as this was the
plot satirised by Mel Brooks in "Blazing Saddles", his brilliant
spoof Western from 1975. Club, the character played by Richard Kiel, even has
something in common with Brooks' Mongo).
The film is set in a small gold-mining village (references to
This may be a familiar story, but Eastwood is able to inject some fresh elements into it. Firstly, in line with eighties thinking about the environment, there is an ecological viewpoint lacking in most earlier Westerns; the tin-pans' method of prospecting for gold is far less environmentally damaging than the methods used by LaHood's men, which involve blasting the rocks with high-pressure jets of water. (The film also has an anti-capitalist slant, favouring the little man against the big corporation). Secondly, there is a sub-plot involving Sarah, Barrett's widowed fiancée, and Megan her teenage daughter from her earlier marriage, both of whom fall in love with the Preacher. Although in both cases their love is unrequited, this gives the film an element of sexual tension not normally found in films of this type.
Thirdly, there is a strong religious or mystical current running through the picture, and not merely because the main character is a clergyman. The film's title has a literal meaning, in that the Preacher rides a pale grey horse, but there is also a quite deliberate Biblical reference. At one point Megan reads the following words from Chapter 6 of the Book of Revelation:- "Behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death". Stockburn and his deputies are together seven in number, a number which is often regarded (particularly in Revelations) as having a mystical significance. (It has also been suggested that they are an evil version of the seven gunfighters in "The Magnificent Seven").
Eastwood gives a fine performance as the Preacher, calm rational and authoritative, a performance which leaves open the possibility that there may be something supernatural about the character. When he is washing we see that his back bears the scars of a number of gunshot wounds which, I would have thought, would under normal circumstances have proved fatal. When LaHood and Stockburn are discussing him, Stockburn says that he reminds him of a man he once knew, only to correct himself a moment later. "Can't be. The man I'm thinking of is dead". The implication is that the Preacher may be a vengeful ghost returned from the dead. Certainly, his ability in the final shootout to appear and disappear at will suggests that he may have powers beyond those of a mortal man.
The film has a distinctive visual style, with strong contrasts of light and dark. The interior scenes are mostly dimly lit, the outdoor ones of some magnificent mountain scenery are shot in bright sunlight. This contrast may in itself have significance as symbolising the film's central theme of a clash of good and evil.
The film has had a mixed reception from the critics; Halliwell's Film Guide, for example, rather superciliously calls it a "violent, pretentious movie with little to be pretentious about", although others, such as Roger Ebert, have defended it. In my opinion, however, it is a good example of the western tradition, made at a time when that tradition was out of favour. It does not quite have the depth of "Unforgiven", Eastwood's masterpiece from a few years later, but by most other standards it is a very fine film. 8/10
Turner Classic Movies review Jay S. Steinberg
Much like his allegorical protagonist did for the oppressed
prospectors of Pale Rider
(1985), director/star Clint Eastwood rode to the rescue when the Hollywood
Western genre was at its lowest ebb. Once the notoriously disastrous Heaven's
Gate (1980) had made its title synonymous with wretched excess, the major
studios wanted nothing to do with sagebrush sagas, and few if any similar
projects that could be regarded as significant emerged in theaters through the
Over his career, Eastwood had known nothing but success with oaters, and he went into the production of Pale Rider regarding the project as a safe gamble. As he declared in 1984 to Michael Henry in Clint Eastwood: Interviews (University Press of Mississippi), "It's not possible that The Outlaw Josey Wales could be the last Western to have been a commercial success. Anyway, aren't the Star Wars movies Westerns transposed into space?"
Eastwood opined to Henry that the Hollywood Western had gone stale by the '60s "probably because the great directors -- Anthony Mann, Raoul Walsh, John Ford -- were no longer working a lot." With the spaghetti Western cycle that had made him a global superstar having run its course, Eastwood found it time "to analyze the classic Western. You can still talk about sweat and hard work, about the spirit, about love for the land and ecology. And I think you can say all these things in the Western, in the classic mythological form."
As developed by Michael Butler and Dennis Shryack, Eastwood's scenarists on The Gauntlet (1977), Pale Rider became a compelling concoction owing obvious debts to Shane (1953) and Eastwood's star-making efforts for Sergio Leone. A small community of tin-panners laboring in Gold Rush-era
When the most defiant of the prospectors (Michael Moriarty) is accosted on a supply run by Dysart's thugs, he is aided by lone stranger Eastwood, who enters town astride a pale steed like an apocalyptic horseman from Biblical prophecy. The grateful Moriarty offers Eastwood lodging, a proposal that meets with initial resistance from his widow housemate (Carrie Snodgress). Once Eastwood sits down to dinner revealed in a minister's collar, Snodgress' teenage daughter (Sydney Penny) comes to regard him as the answer to her prayers for deliverance. Dysart, for his part, calls in for deadly reinforcements before the irksome itinerant can instill the on-the-ropes miners with faith.
Commenting on the movie with interviewer Christopher Frayling, Eastwood later said, "Pale Rider is kind of allegorical, more in the High Plains Drifter mode: like that, though he isn't a reincarnation or anything, but he does ride a pale horse like the four horsemen of the apocalypse...It's a classic story of the big guys against the little guys...the corporate mining which ends up in hydraulic mining, they just literally mow the mountains away, you know, the trees and everything...all that was outlawed in California some years ago, and they still do it in Montana and a few places."
Pale Rider has a splendid look, with the
With a take of better than $20 million in its first ten days of release (on a $6.9 million production cost) and a slate of positive reviews, the front office at Warner Brothers had no cause to regret the green-lighting of Pale Rider. While no major cycle of American Westerns would follow in its wake, the film stood as a vindication of the form and proof of its continuing viability.
Joseph K. Heumann and Robin L. Murray from Jump Cut, Winter 2005
a wasted life
DVDBeaver dvd review [Blu-Ray Version] Gary W. Tooze
USA (161 mi) 1988
Eastwood's Bird is bravely the Bird of the jazz faithful, with few concessions. Most of the exaggerations and telescopings of place and time will offend only the discographical mentality. The treatment of narcotics, race, and racism is matter-of-fact, nor is the sense of period insisted upon as it was in The Cotton Club; above all, brave beyond the call of duty, the director trusts the music, tricky old bebop. Music properly dominates the biopic, explaining Chan's long-suffering love for Bird and Bird's whole outlook on the world. The way the narrative leaps back and forth in time parallels the neurotic speed of uptake in bebop itself. Whitaker looks as if he's really playing, indicates the protean nature of the genius, and grabs the part of a lifetime with both hands. Venora's Chan is a miracle. The progression from the Chan of the courtship days,, with her hip, sassy dancer's walk, to the set face and shoulders of the common-law wife, tells a touching story of betrayed dreams. At last American cinema has done black music proud. Unforgettable.
Any true fan knows about Clint Eastwood's love for jazz music. Many of his urban action films feature jazzy soundtracks, sometimes performed by the man himself (who plays a mean piano). Once upon a time, though, Eastwood was able to bring three films into existence with jazz as their main subject. Warner Brothers has recently released these labors-of-love on beautiful new DVDs. All three are presented with stunning, sparkling sound, and, though they all lack for interesting extras, all three come highly recommended.
Eastwood made the switch from
That same year, Eastwood worked as producer on the excellent documentary Thelonious Monk: Straight No Chaser (1988, Warners, $19.98). Directed by Charlotte Zwerin (Gimme Shelter), the film collects tons of recently-found vintage footage of Monk in action; playing, talking, and spending time with friends. Zwerin connected the old footage with new interviews with Monk's friends and collaborators. The portrait that emerges is one of genius, sadness, and a certain withdrawn forlorn-ness, as shown in a single, haunting shot of Monk spinning around in circles in a crowded airport.
Eastwood was indirectly involved in getting Bertrand Tavernier's 'Round (1986, Warners, $19.98)
off the ground as well. Considered the equal of Bird, 'Round follows Dale Turner,
played by real-life jazz legend Dexter Gordon in a brilliant Oscar-nominated
performance, as he plays the clubs of
Cool in a jazz musician is the combination of intensity and relaxation. And, poised over his saxophone, his shoulders and head rolled slightly forward, eyes closed, brow smoothed, Charlie Parker looked like a sleepy god dreaming a new music into being.
He was the essence of cool.
In "Bird," the new movie Clint Eastwood directed on the life of Charlie (Bird) Parker, the image of the great young actor Forest Whitaker standing dead still on the bandstand, with only his fingers moving over the buttons of his horn, is hauntingly definitive, yet somehow shadowy and enigmatic, like a figure drawn in smoke.
Images, not ideas or a cohesive narrative, are what we take away from
"Bird." Though it's a
"Bird" isn't the great movie about jazz that some jazz writers are proclaiming it to be. Structurally, it's too scrambled, and ultimately we're too frustrated by the leaping around to feel we understand its subject or even what the filmmakers want us to know about him. But even though, thematically, the movie won't come clear, Eastwood has succeeded so thoroughly in communicating his love of his subject, and there's such vitality in the performances, that we walk out elated, juiced on the actors and the music.
Forest Whitaker's brilliance is the force that holds the scattered pieces of "Bird" together. Only rarely in movies do characters achieve this sort of palpability, and then only when presented to us by a remarkable performer. And this is a remarkable performer giving a gentle, exuberant, charismatic performance.
Whitaker's work here has an enormous weight and authority. Watching him, we feel we can gauge exactly how many late nights Parker has logged or how much he's had to drink by the slope of his shoulders or the angle of his gait.
Yet what Whitaker emphasizes in his performance is Bird's courtliness and grace. He plays him as a kind of humbled aristocrat. There's tremendous delicacy and quiet -- a sweetness -- in what Whitaker does. This comes out especially in his scenes with Venora. An ex-dancer, Chan Richardson was a white, middle-class jazz devotee who haunted Parker's gigs, and Venora plays her as prickly and defiant -- a boho princess.
The scenes these actors play together are like duets danced on slippery ice. Venora's style is sharper than Whitaker's, and her presence adds a sexual tension; and that's important because, without it, Whitaker might seem too easygoing to convey the lady-killing potency Parker was known for.
In "Bird," Eastwood shows talents that were never even hinted at in his earlier pictures. He's particularly good at capturing the crisscrossing emotional rhythms of two people -- Bird and Chan -- who aren't quite sure what to do with each other.
Some of the director's choices, though, are far from fortunate. The film -- which was shot by Jack Green -- is composed in velvety shades of black. But in places it's so murky that you have to strain to see what's going on. And this is particularly frustrating in the more intimate scenes where we want to see what's happening in the actors' faces.
Still, there's a lot to like. In a lovely grace note, Bird, while on a swing
Living on the edge was more than a spur to Parker's creativity. It's possible that Eastwood sees "Bird" as an antidrug movie, but he isn't evasive about Parker's drug abuse and alcoholism. And he doesn't try to obscure how much Parker's life revolved around scoring and shooting. But Eastwood doesn't attempt to provide any pat psychological explanations for Bird's vices. We can thank the filmmakers for resisting the impulse to reduce these characters to easy types.
The only exception is the portrayal of Estevez (James Handy), the vice cop who hounds Bird mercilessly, without any sense of the man's gift, causing him to lose his cabaret license and, in effect, making it impossible for him to earn a living. The filmmakers are conscious, though, that Parker didn't need an Estevez to captain his boat onto rocky shoals; from the beginning, Bird set a shipwreck course.
With its rainy imagery, "Bird" is a romantic vision of the jazz life, but it's a dark romance, and if it weren't for this jazz lover's fond regard the film might be unrelentingly bleak -- another junkie's crackup. This affection shows itself clearly in the pains Eastwood has taken to give a faithful presentation of Bird's music by isolating Parker's solos from vintage recordings and remixing them with new tracks laid down by contemporary sidemen.
Something like the same method, though, has been used to isolate Bird from the social forces around him. But then Eastwood hasn't conceived the film in historical -- even jazz historical -- terms. And if we weren't familiar with Bird's career, we might not realize that after the war he took jazz away from the squares and reinvented it. There's something touching, in fact, in the matter-of-fact way the birth of bop has been presented here, with a blitzed and defeated Bird sitting on a bed in his undershirt telling how he learned how to extend the chord changes and play "inside the melody." For a instant, he looks his age and, for an instant, the tragedy overwhelms us.
Cinema Blend dvd review Katey Rich
Urban Cinefile dvd review Louise Keller
Time Out review Geoff Andrew
In this adaptation by Peter Viertel from his thinly fictionalised account of John Huston's arrogant antics immediately prior to filming The African Queen, Eastwood - directing himself as Huston/'Wilson' - proffers a supremely intelligent study of a man of monstrous selfishness and often irresistible charm, whose overwhelming passion for hunting drives him inexorably toward what even he acknowledges as an irredeemable sin: killing an elephant. Friendship, the film, and ordinary ethics are sacrificed on the altar of his ego. Wisely, however, Eastwood doesn't preach or condemn, but simply reveals the man's magnetism while admitting to the terrible consequences of his ambition. After a comparatively stodgy opening in London, the film shifts to Africa, and at once settles into a tone of semi-comic high adventure which never allows the serious themes - wanton ecological destruction, colonial racism, and the necessity of remaining true to oneself - to lapse into portentousness. Ably aided by a fine cast and Jack Green's no-nonsense photography, Eastwood constructs a marvellously pacy, suspenseful movie which is deceptively easy on both eye and ear.
Turner Classic Movies dvd review Paul Tatara
Outside of his Oscar-winning work on Unforgiven,
Clint Eastwood the director has never been able to shake the curse of
simplistic scripts and terminally sluggish pacing. Check out True Crime,
Space Cowboys, and Blood Work, all of which he helmed in the past
four years, if you need a painful refresher course. By all rights, White Hunter, Black Heart,
a fictionalized account of the filming of John Huston's The African Queen,
should have worked like gangbusters. Unfortunately, its recent Warner Bros. DVD
release only reminds us that it hardly works at all.
At least film buffs will have some fun trying to pinpoint who's playing who, since the names have been changed to protect against lawsuits. Eastwood is John Wilson (wink-wink), a flamboyant, macho-man Hollywood filmmaker who's supposedly shooting an African Queen-like picture in the wilds of
A loyal young screenwriter named Peter Verill (Jeff Fahey) serves as
Eastwood's ridiculously mannered performance as "Huston" is the main problem here. He's playing an unstoppable life-force, a Hemingway-esque individual who attacks every day as if it's his last. But he can't pull it off because he's made a career out of being the steel-eyed silent type who only acts out when he's pushed too far. You simply can't accept Eastwood projecting reckless abandon - or wearing a silk scarf, for that matter - and he continually struggles to duplicate the rococo quality of Huston's speaking voice. There's also a complete lack of emotional balance between
Everything's great on the technical end. The print is pristine, with wide screen imagery that takes full, vibrant advantage of the African landscape. In fact, Jack N. Green's cinematography is the film's single most impressive feature. Lenny Niehaus's African-tinged score is also right on target, and it sounds terrific, courtesy of a Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack that was upgraded for this release. You can choose between four different languages (given the loss of Eastwood's baroque vocal stylings, the picture actually plays better in Portuguese) and eight different sets of subtitles.
The bonuses are kept to a bare minimum, with just a trailer and a cast listing that you can just as easily see in the end credits. Strangely, the back of the box promises "Eastwood film highlights," but they're nowhere to be found on the menu. Surely, they don't mean this movie.
A Free Man Jonathan Rosenbaum from Moving Image Source, December 1, 2009
Slant Magazine review Eric Henderson
Entertainment Weekly review [C+] Owen Gleiberman
“It's a hell of a thing, killin' a man. You take away all he's got and all he's ever gonna have.” —William Munny (Clint Eastwood)
Time Out review Geoff Andrew
A magnificent movie that transcends its familiar tale of a reformed gunman forced by circumstance to resume his violent ways. When a cowhand cuts up a prostitute and a bounty is placed on his head, killer-turned-farmer Will Munny (Eastwood) joins his old partner (Freeman) and a bluff youngster (Woolvett) in the hunt. But in Big Whiskey, they must face the rough justice of Sheriff Daggett (Hackman)... While Eastwood's muscular direction shows he's fully aware of genre traditions, he and writer David Webb Peoples have created something fresh, profound, complex. It's not only a question of the excellent characterisations, but of situations given a new spin: the prostitutes and the spirit of Munny's dead wife introduce a feminist angle; there are insights into the thin line dividing law from justice; and the accent on ageing, fear and death establishes a dark tone perfectly complemented by Jack Green's sombre images. All of which links with the way this very violent film shows the cost of violence, painting a persuasive portrait of people increasingly given to emotions they have no control over. Refuting conventional cowboy heroics, Eastwood presents an alternative myth whereby a man, goaded by Furies to yield to a past that still haunts him, despatches himself to a living Hell. In this dark, timeless terrain, the film achieves a magnificent intensity.
Clint Eastwood’s defining commentary on – and deconstruction of – the gunslinger persona that made him an icon, Unforgiven remains, a decade after it nabbed 1992’s Academy Award for Best Picture, the actor/director’s crowning Western achievement. The solemn tale of retired outlaw William Munny (Eastwood) and his final murderous act against a duo of cowboys who’ve mutilated an innocent whore, the film exhibits Eastwood’s trademark directorial classicism (expert framing, sharp editing, quiet grace without a showy moment to speak of) and a soul-wracking despair born from Munny’s acknowledgement that killing is “a hell of a thing.” Unforgiven conveys the power of the Western genre’s myths (dramatized most vividly through the character of Saul Rubinek’s reporter) as well as the ugly, unromantic realities that lurk behind them, and the film’s overpowering tragedy is brought to heartbreaking life by the terrific Eastwood, Morgan Freeman (as Munny’s compassionate former sidekick Ned Logan) and Richard Harris (as ruthless bounty hunter English Bob). Yet the film belongs to Gene Hackman, who, in a superbly chilling performance, makes the corrupt, gregarious sheriff Little Bill infinitely more frightening by imbuing his arrogant villainy with a hint of rationality.
Eleven years earlier, William Munny (Eastwood) gave up the outlaw life to
marry and settle down, eventually having two children. Three years ago, his
wife died, and he's been struggling to make it ever since. A young punk, the
Schofield Kid (Woolvett), shows up, tells him that a group of whores have
offered a thousand dollar reward to kill a cowboy, who cut one of them up, and
the cowboy's partner. During his outlaw days, Munny recalls, he was drunk most
of the time; he's put that past behind him. But it's a
thousand dollars they're offering, the farm is blowing away, the animals are
sick. Though at first he says no, he eventually rides after the Kid, picking up
his old partner, Ned Logan (Freeman). In the town, another bounty hunter,
English Bob (Harris), is brutally beaten by Sheriff Little Bill Daggett
(Hackman), as a warning to assassins to stay away from the bounty. That night,
in the middle of a storm, the three ride in to find the whores and set about
collecting the bounty. As a movie, 130 minutes of entertainment, I really can't
offer a review of Eastwood's Unforgiven. I sat enthralled, by the pace,
the story, the extraordinary performances and the brilliant cinematography but
thought it maybe a little slow, and rarely has a grand epic had so simple a
story. But in the genre, as both a movie and a conscious addition to the
ongoing celluloid Western mythology, the film is a masterpiece, a stunning and
awe-inspiring statement. In 1956, in that greatest of revisionist Westerns
The Searchers, John Ford offering the unsettling view that maybe the
western heroes who helped transform the wilderness into civilization were
basically psychopaths. But in the film, John Wayne was still a hero. Here
Eastwood tells a western story deprived of any heroic resonance. The central
story revolves around a washed-up murderer and company, the stupid job of
murdering the cowboys, one of whom is basically innocent, and a tough sheriff.
This, the film argues, is the way the West was, simple thuggish acts
transformed through the eyes of creative observers. Eastwood's explicit here,
having a dime store novelist (Rubinek) who first attaches himself to English Bob,
then Daggett and then finally looks with longing at Munny, following whichever
man seems the most powerful, believing any story. The fascination here is with
how events like this became Western myths. One of the defining moments in
The Searchers is a shot of
Turner Classic Movies review Jay S. Steinberg
In the early 1990s, Clint Eastwood experienced a rare lull in his career so
he elected to dust off a previously optioned Western script from years before
and prepare it for what might be his last venture as both director and lead.
Between its crisp narrative and willingness to subvert both the image of its
star and the conventions of its genre, the resulting product not only
re-energized Eastwood's marketability with a $100 million-plus domestic
box-office take, it granted him validation as a serious filmmaker. The critical
response to Unforgiven (1992) culminated with a string of awards,
including the Oscars® for Best Picture and Best Director.
The narrative is set in the 1880s, and opens in a brothel in the dusty
The story shifts to a ramshackle
The legend of the bounty, however, has also reached an incensed Little Bill, who rouses his deputies to disarm any stranger entering Big Whisky. The brutal lawman makes a public example of the first such gunslinger who arrives to collect the prize, a big-hat, no-cattle British dandy known as English Bob (Richard Harris). The unfolding of the fates of the Munny party as they ride into certain disaster take Unforgiven to a jarringly violent conclusion.
Screenwriter David Webb Peoples had authored his script (originally titled The Cut-Whore Killings) on spec all the way back in 1976; Francis Ford Coppola picked up the option, and held onto it through the Zoetrope Studios' collapse in the early '80s. Soon afterwards, Eastwood was handed a copy as an example of Peoples' work, and immediately sought the rights. As recounted in Richard Schickel's Clint Eastwood, the star's rapt interest appalled his story editor, Sonia Chernius. "We would have been far better off not to have accepted trash like this piece of inferior work," she stated in a memo. "I can't think of one good thing to say about it. Except maybe, get rid of it FAST."
In a 1992 interview for Cahiers du Cinema, Eastwood expounded on what separated Unforgiven from his previous Westerns. "[T]he film deals with violence and its consequences a lot more than those I've done before," the star stated. "In the past, there were a lot of people killed gratuitously in my pictures, and what I liked about this story was that people aren't killed, and acts of violence aren't perpetrated, without there being certain consequences. That's a problem I thought was important to talk about today, it takes on proportions it didn't have in the past, even if it's always been present through the ages."
There's actually quite a bit that separates Unforgiven from the rest of Clint's sagebrush oeuvre. Consider the feminist subtext spurring the plot, his willingness to play a bounty hunter whose skills had eroded and his handing of the supporting roles to actors with the gravitas of Hackman, Freeman and Harris. As a result, these elements make the film seem fresh and elegiac at the same time. (Eastwood dedicated the film to the two directors that most profoundly affected his early career and own behind-the-camera aspirations, Sergio Leone and Don Siegel.) In August 1992, after the studios had rolled out their big-budget, special effects extravaganzas of that summer, Unforgiven made its way into theaters with relatively little fanfare, and audiences and critics that were hungry for more adult fare flocked to it eagerly.
The film received an aggregate eight Oscar® nominations, and ultimately also captured the prizes for Joel Cox's editing and Hackman's supporting performance. Hackman, whose characterization was at least partially inspired by former LAPD police chief Darryl Gates, gave his usual flavorful effort as the autocratic lawman with carpentry skills as suspect as his moral code. He had initially passed on the script as too violent, and ostensibly has no regrets about having reconsidered.
Kamera.co.uk review Adrian Gargett
DVD Journal Gregory P. Dorr
Movieline Magazine dvd review F.X. Feeney
eFilmCritic.com review [5/5] Slyder
Images Movie Journal Grant Tracey
DVD Review Guido Henkel
Reel.com dvd review [4/4] Mary Kalin-Casey reviews the 2-disc Anniversary Edition
DVD Savant (Glenn Erickson) dvd review 2-disc Anniversary Edition
digitallyOBSESSED.com (Mark Zimmer) dvd review [HD-DVD Version] 2-disc Anniversary Edition
DVD MovieGuide dvd review [Special Edition] 2-disc Anniversary Edition
The Onion A.V. Club [Keith Phipps] 2-disc Anniversary Edition
Urban Cinefile dvd review [10th Anniversary Edition] Shannon J. Harvey
Entertainment Weekly review [B] Owen Gleiberman
DVDBeaver dvd review Henrik Sylow
DVDBeaver dvd review [Blu-Ray Version] Leonard Norwitz
Time Out review Geoff Andrew
While this lacks the class and assured blend of genre traditions and subversion that marks Eastwood's best work, it is very entertaining. In some respects, the film looks formulaic: an escaped con (Costner) flees with a child hostage (Lowther), pursued by Texas Ranger Eastwood, criminologist Dern, a trigger-happy FBI sniper and assorted redneck assistants. To an extent, all goes predictably. Costner gets to like the kid, his essential goodness underlined by contrast with the psycho sadist who is briefly his fugitive partner, while Clint's conservative but well-meaning law enforcer discovers a measure of empathy with both the pragmatic Dern and his prey. Among the familiar stuff, however, there are very fine moments. It's just a pity that Costner never really comes alive. That said, the director manages mostly to avoid the enormous maudlin pitfalls of his material, at least until the over-extended final scene. As usual with Eastwood, little is overstated - and the accent is on humour.
Shot in and around Austin last summer (for all two of you
who didn't already know), Eastwood's first film since the Oscar-sweeping Unforgiven
is a taut, occasionally touching chase film that pits prison escapee/kidnapper
Costner against Texas Ranger Eastwood in 1963 Texas. Having broken free from
Let's face it, Kevin Costner hasn't become one of the most popular movie stars in the world because he can act the hell out of a part. Sure, he's been charming enough in light fare like SILVERADO and BULL DURHAM, but he's done little to prove that his ideal dramatic role wasn't as the corpse in THE BIG CHILL. It therefore might not seem to mean much to say that A PERFECT WORLD features Costner's best all-around performance yet, and indeed it's nothing earth-shattering. However, it's more than solid, and coupled with an impressive turn by 7-year-old T. J. Lowther creates a haunting story that packs a real punch even through its superfluous subplot.
Costner stars as Butch Haynes, a recidivist criminal who
escapes from a
Screenwriter John Lee Hancock makes one big mistake, and that's spending so much time and the tired and uninteresting subplot focusing on the law enforcement in pursuit of Butch. It seems in the early stages that he's setting up a parallel, or is interested in creating a hunter-hunted conflict a la THE FUGITIVE, but neither reall proves true. Instead we get cliche'd characters in cliche'd conflicts. There's an icy Fed to get on Red's nerves, and plenty of pithy good ol' boy wisdom dispensed. Eastwood and Dern toss off token lines of good-natured antagonism, but neither one is interesting enough to make their story at all significant. A tighter, potentially classic drama might have come from chopping their segments entirely, because the main plot is a gem.
The relationship between Butch Haynes and Philip Perry is one of the most unique and interesting explored in recent years. While at first glance Butch might seem to be a simple "victim of a negative environment" type, he's more complicated than that. The picture that develops of his father is far from clear, making Butch a less than reliable narrator. His attachment to Philip is based on the worst memories of his father, yet it is his father he seeks throughout. A PERFECT WORLD plays out like an extended therapy session for Butch, as he attempts through Philip to create the perfect childhood he could not have for himself. Costner captures a surprising amount of nuance in his portrayal of Butch, one minute the doting father, the next an edgy psychotic. It's a radical change of pace for Costner, and he pulls it off. Perhaps the larger credit for A PERFECT WORLD's success is T. J. Lowther. He's not asked to say much, but his expressive face becomes one of the most vital elements in the film. The relationship between Butch and Philip is the heart of A PERFECT WORLD, and it's nearly perfectly executed.
Director Eastwood's first outing since his Oscar for UNFORGIVEN is a similarly dark piece about a struggle for redemption, and while the whole may not be as strong as last year's Best Picture winner, some of the moments are even better. The opening sequence is instantly gripping, and a long shot of Butch and Philip walking through a field, the boy repeatedly attempting to hold the criminal's hand, is wonderful. The best sequence comes near the end, as an idyllic waltz quickly turns into a remarkably intense confrontation. Eastwood draws out the ending a bit too long, but by that point I was more than willing to stick with Butch and Philip.
A PERFECT WORLD is really two films. One is mediocre at best, but the other is one of the best films of the year. Together, they still add up to one of the better films of the year.
A note to inside joke watchers: look for a billboard for "Bull Durham Tobacco" in the sequence at Friendly's store.
DVD Review by George George Chabot
Entertainment Weekly review [C-] Owen Gleiberman
The Bridges of Madison County Anthony Lane from the New Yorker
You can't help wondering
what a completely faithful adaptation of Robert James Waller's best-selling
novel would have looked like: a sort of "Natural Born Lovers,"
presumably, full of swirling zoom shots and lunatic superimpositions. As it is,
screenwriter Richard LaGravenese and director Clint Eastwood have turned out
something sombre and restrained—almost, in fact, good (though it's too long).
Eastwood also stars, as Kincaid, the strolling photographer who shows up at an
Time Out review Geoff Andrew
When the daughter and
son of the late Francesca Johnson (Streep) return home to Madison County, Iowa,
to oversee the funeral arrangements, they're shocked to learn that their mother
wished to have her ashes scattered from the
Since 1988's Bird, Clint Eastwood has emerged as one of
The Bridges of Madison County book, by Robert James Waller, is famous for being utter drivel, but this bad book makes a good movie. The story has a traveling photographer, in town to snap pictures of the famous covered bridges, falling in love with a married woman whose husband is out of town. The story is told in flashback, after the woman's death, as her children go through her things. Screenwriter Richard (The Fisher King, The Ref) LaGravenese apparently aced most of the new-agey excess and Eastwood directs the hell out of it.
I've never much liked Meryl Streep, but then I never much liked Kevin Costner either, and Eastwood brought out Costner's finest performance ever in A Perfect World. Same here: Bridges may be Streep's finest hour. With age, she seems to have dropped most of her acting school pretensions. We sense that these two mighty stars really are two people falling in love.
The film is co-produced by Amblin's Kathleen Kennedy, and I believe that Steven Spielberg was originally going to direct. Imagine the kind of sappy, syrup-drenched crap that would have emerged if that scenario had occurred. Clint's movie is muddy, dusty and full of flies. It took a real man like Eastwood to really fall in love.
DVD Details: I haven't seen the old DVD, but I'm led to understand that this new, 2008 edition is availble in 16x9 widescreen for the first time. Eastwood is not one for commentary tracks, so this new "deluxe" disc comes with a new making-of featurette (including interviews with Streep and Eastwood), a commentary track by cinematographer Jack N. Green and editor Joel Cox, and a music video for Eastwood's lovely instrumental song "Doe Eyes." There are also optional subtitles and language tracks.
With Unforgiven, Clint Eastwood was grandly given credit for
single-handedly reviving the moribund genre of the film Western. Such hyperbole
may also come his way for The Bridges of Madison County, which can be
seen as breathing fresh life into the stagnant genre of women's film melodrama.
But probably not, because Bridges is, after all, a woman's story, and
what's our Clint doing mucking around in girl stuff? Clearly, Bridges is
a movie Eastwood very much wanted to make: Not only does he co-star, he also
directs and co-produces. Yet when word crept out that Eastwood was preparing
Robert James Waller's runaway bestseller The Bridges of Madison County
for the screen, reactions were generally incredulous and bemused. The common
ground between the screen icon and the romance novel were far from obvious. But
Eastwood has always been one to flex his screen persona, so it's not that
unusual that he chose to play the role of the sensitive photographer and lover,
Robert Kincaid. His real stroke of genius, though, was casting Meryl Streep as
Francesca Johnson, the story's Italian-born
Robert James Waller's novel The Bridges of Madison
County was a genuine literary phenomenon. The simple story set in 1965
about a married
The Bridges of Madison County was such a popular book that it didn't take long for
Finally, it was Bruce Beresford (Tender Mercies (1983) who was officially announced as the director with Clint Eastwood firmly set to star as Robert Kincaid. At 65 Eastwood was a bit older than the 52-year-old character in the book, but after a career of playing mostly tough guys and steely cowboys, Eastwood saw the role as an intriguing opportunity to show a more sensitive side on screen.
Before long, however, Eastwood and director Beresford found themselves at odds over the crucial casting of Francesca, which had not yet been finalized. Francesca was supposed to be an Italian war bride who came to
The cast and crew of The Bridges of Madison County soon descended on
When The Bridges of Madison County was released, viewers and critics alike seemed pleasantly surprised at how good and poignant it was. The consensus was that it was an exceptional case of
Movie Reviews UK review [4/5] Damian Cannon
Entertainment Weekly review [A] Owen Gleiberman
Washington Post review Rita Kempley and Desson Howe (click on their names to the left)
Time Out review Geoff Andrew
Clint Eastwood has a great feel for the charm and
idiosyncrasies of the
Eastwood's film, adapted from John Berendt's phenomenally
bestselling “nonfiction novel,” is as entertaining and outrageous a confection
as its source material, half Southern gothic and half Our Town on
goofdust. Cusack plays John Kelso, a stringer for Town and Country
magazine who arrives in the verdant squares of
Here's a brain teaser for all you aspiring screenwriters
out there: how do you adapt
IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL, a 350-page true-crime drama in which the crime
doesn't occur until around page 170? Before you answer, I should warn you that
it's a bit of a trick question. John Berendt's 1994 non-fiction novel, based on
the author's experiences while living in
John Lee Hancock had more or less the right idea when he
chose to let his screenplay wander and sprawl. The backbone of the narrative
involves Berendt's fictional stand-in, a
That covers the "plot" in a video-guide-summary sense, but it doesn't begin to do justice to what is about. Hancock's script wisely retains Berendt's willingness to let a collection of colorful characters carry the story in tangential directions, painting a messy but vivid portrait of Savannah as (in Kelso's words) "GONE WITH THE WIND on mescaline." Among Kelso's odd encounters are run-ins with a voodoo priestess named Minerva (Irma P. Hall) and a flirtatious relationship with pre-operative transsexual The Lady Chablis (played by the real Lady herself). Director Clint Eastwood chooses an ideal, languid pace for which turns it into the perfect Southern story: in no particular hurry to get anywhere, yet still intriguing in its richness of detail.
In Berendt's novel, that fragmented approach turns the city
Hancock and Eastwood may very well have made the best adaptation of possible within a studio system. The acting is first-rate from top to bottom (including a sly and charismatic debut by The Lady Chablis as him/herself), Eastwood's technical team delivers typical excellence, and many of the book's best situations are re-created with sharp humor. There's just something vaguely unsatisfying about , and not just in comparison to its source material. This story cries out for a less conventional treatment, though it's still fairly unconventional by most standards. The makers of had their heart in the right place, but the result teases with the promise of an off-beat exploration it delivers only sporadically. Perhaps the answer to that screenwriting assignment is even trickier than the question. How do you adapt IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL? You don't.
Chicago Reader (Jonathan Rosenbaum) review also reviewing THE RAINMAKER
Slate [Sarah Kerr] also reviewing THE SWEET HEREAFTER
The Providence Journal review Jim Seavor
Entertainment Weekly review [C+] Owen Gleiberman
The Globe and Mail review [2.5/4] Rick Groen
Time Out review Geoff Andrew
When a colleague dies
in a car crash, Steve Everett (Eastwood) of the Oakland Tribune inherits
a human interest story on the upcoming final few hours of Frank Beechum (
Like so many of the flawed gems in the Clint Eastwood
oeuvre, True Crime manages to underscore both the virtues that have
earned him recognition as a major director and the limitations that consign
him, for the most part, to a position just a cut or two below the first rank.
As one of the last of the old-school auteurs, Eastwood has a clear, consistent
idea of what he wants to say with his films, so there's not much danger of
mistaking his work for anyone else's. True Crime, which strikes me as
his best work since 1992's Unforgiven, contains many of Eastwood's
trademarks, including the definitive one: a morally ambiguous, emotionally
scarred protagonist getting one last shot at redemption after a spectacular
fall from grace. In this case, the rehabbing hero is Steve Everett, a one-time
star investigative reporter trying to revive a career he's trashed with booze,
satyriasis, and inordinate faith in his gut instincts. When one of Steve's
colleagues dies in a car accident, his editor (Leary) assigns him to finish the
story the recently deceased was working on: an interview with a San Quentin
inmate (Washington) who's about to be executed for murdering a pregnant grocery
cashier. Almost immediately, though,
In Robert Altman's film industry satire THE PLAYER, an
earnest young screenwriter pitches a death penalty "issue" drama
called HABEAS CORPUS, which he insists should have "no stars" and a
downbeat ending, because "that's reality." The studio buys the story
and turns it into an action thriller in which Bruce Willis races in at the last
moment to save Julia Roberts from the gas chamber, quipping "Traffic was a
bitch" as he carries her to safety. Capital punishment had been reduced to
a plot device for a by-the-numbers crowd-pleaser. In
On the surface, TRUE CRIME appears to be something a bit
more highbrow, but it's still a frustrating gloss over a sensitive subject.
Clint Eastwood directs himself as Steve Everett, an
And, we assume, to save his own personal and professional
soul in the process. TRUE CRIME is naturally more
It's in their dealing with Beachum that Eastwood and his
writing team throw TRUE CRIME into the most confusion. Beachum's final hours
with his wife and daughter are given a lot of screen time -- perhaps to deflect
the perception that this is yet another movie about a white man finding
salvation through helping anonymous non-white characters -- yet those scenes
serve primarily to tangle the film's themes. If we're watching Beachum's
torment simply to give
Ironically, it's only the fact that TRUE CRIME is a slick
World Socialist Web Site review David Walsh
Guilt Bonds - Movies - Village Voice - Village Voice J. Hoberman from The Village Voice
Film Freak Central review Bill Chambers
The Providence Journal review Michael Janusonis
Reel.com dvd review [Eastwood] [1.5/4] Pam Grady
Boxoffice Magazine review Wade Major
Entertainment Weekly review [B] Lisa Schwarzbaum
The Globe and Mail review [1.5/4] Rick Groen
New York Times (registration req'd) Janet Maslin
The set-up is obliviously hilarious: the opening ten minutes are a monochrome rip-off/reprise of The Right Stuff, with 1950s fighter-plane test pilots hurtling to the outer limits of the atmosphere, before being leapfrogged into space by a monkey. Fast forward 40-odd years. The Cold War is over and NASA is enlisted to repair an obsolete Soviet satellite before it falls to earth. But the design is so archaic, none of today's computer nerds can figure it out. Hence a call-up for the old coots. By any sane criteria this would be considered an insult to audience intelligence, but in the context of contemporary blockbusters, you'd have to say it's all in fun. And it is fun: tongue in cheek but straightfaced enough to have you pulling for them. Messrs Garner and Sutherland don't have much to do but make the most of every scrap they get, while Clint generously cedes the lion's share of the big emotional scenes to Tommy Lee, who ropes them and rides them home. They puff around the running track, cheat on the physicals, override the automatic pilot - override pretty much everyone and everything that gets in their way, in fact - and show the new pups some old tricks. If the purpose of the exercise was to prove that the codgers can still get it up, then Mission Accomplished.
Clint Eastwood may act like a cantankerous old coot, but everyone knows he's the ideal American Hero — fiercely loyal, exceedingly courageous and smart as a rocket scientist. In Space Cowboys, producer-director Eastwood plays Frank Corvin, a super-pilot and pioneering engineer whose dreams of flying to the moon were cut short 32 years back. An elegiac black and white opening sequence shows Frank and his Team Daedalus in youthful action in 1958, crashing $4 million jets, yahooing and punching each other out, because that's what real men do. The military team members remain competitive and contentious when they grow up to be Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, and James Garner, but their true adversaries are the know-nothing and untrustworthy civilians, represented here by James Cromwell in his L.A. Confidential mode. The boys are called back into action when a Russian communications satellite goes wrong, because it's using a guidance system that Frank designed way back in the Skylab days. The Cold War politics, personal betrayals, and acts of heroism that make up the actual mission are predictable, and the film thankfully spends relatively little time on all that. It focuses instead on recuperating old male bodies (and, to an extent, intellects) as venerable cultural objects and still-vigorous entities, certainly a worthy goal in a youth-obsessed era. But Space Cowboys reverts to Eastwood's familiar formula: establishing the obvious problems with the "old way" — egocentric, violent, and obsolete masculinity — and then celebrating it absolutely.
Speaking of body horror, there's no
A cockpit-shaking, wing-shearing, black-and-white prologue, set
in 1958, establishes the team's cowboy derring-do as well as the ongoing
rivalry between feisty Frank and hellcat Hawk. Indeed, Frank was supposed to be
the first American in space until, he thinks, he was sandbagged by the
irresponsible Hawk and replaced by a monkey. Dissolve to present-day
Something like Grumpy Old Men Go to the Moon, the scenario is amusing in a crusty sort of way. The movie has no shortage of recurring gags—including one in which the teammates regularly discover that old pals have passed away. The mode is relaxed and folksy, with occasional heartwarming bits of business—although the grinning Marcia Gay Harden, who plays a NASA mission director, seems a bit too thrilled (or is it pained?) with her part in the project. Each actor gets more than ample time to rehearse his identifying quirk and the leisurely regimen includes trading riffs with Jay Leno on TV. Eastwood is in no particular hurry. It's nearly 90 minutes before the guys board the Metamucil Express and blast out into the cosmos to lasso the malevolent fossil of Cold War hardware that's been left floating in space like a Russki time bomb.
The obvious subtext here is that Clint knows not only how to fix an obsolete satellite but how to make an old-fashioned movie. I was particularly impressed by the effectively frugal use of Industrial Light & Magic effects—despite the somewhat abrupt (and anticlimactic) landing. Eastwood signs off with a blast of generational insouciance, but if he had held off on the Sinatra until the end credits, the final shot would have had a bit more poetic pow.
SPACE COWBOYS will be greeted with enthusiasm in a certain demographic group simply because it dares to suggest that Americans over the age of 60 exist. That's a fairly revolutionary notion in pop culture, most of which is targeted at an audience that still gets graded in "nap-time" and "scissors." It's also a rare opportunity for veteran actors to get work in major roles, so you can't blame anyone involved for being enthusiastic about the project, especially given its themes. It's fun to watch a film like SPACE COWBOYS -- and probably even more fun for those viewers in the stars' peer group -- because the film itself could be an example of what its protagonists are trying to demonstrate: Sometimes, wisdom and experience trump washboard abs.
Clint Eastwood has been around the block a few times in
There's more than a little bit of GRUMPY OLD ASTRONAUTS to SPACE COWBOYS, with screenwriters Ken Kaufman and Howard Klausner taking advantage of time-worn senior citizen incongruities. Hawk and Frank are still feisty enough to get into fistfights (chortle); Jerry is still a skirt-chaser, even with his telescope-lens glasses (hoot); a female doctor walks in to examine our drooping, totally nude heroes (big-time guffaw). It's cheap humor, but it's still amusing because the performers seem dignified even when they're doing silly things, and because everyone seems to be having so much fun doing it. They also get a chance to turn the tables and mock the cocky younger astronauts (Loren Dean and Courtney B. Vance) on their mission, a development always good for a round of applause. In any other outer space adventure, the hour-plus wait for the astronauts to get off the ground would be excruciating. Eastwood makes the Daedalus team's detailed training regimen a chance to let his gifted NASA-meets-AARP stars flaunt their ease in front of the camera.
Then the astronauts finally do get off the ground, and SPACE COWBOYS crashes to earth. It's bad enough that once the Daedalus mission is underway, the good humor and cameraderie of the training center sequences vanishes, leaving nothing but crisis resolution-based plotting. Worse still is the mission itself, a ridiculous "surprise" that would have been evident even if Eastwood hadn't filmed certain characters with ominous slow-zoom close-ups to signal their soon-to-be-revealed villainy. Eastwood doesn't even seem interested in the entire third act, racing through the events at such a frantic pace (particularly for the usually meandering director) that you may wonder if he was running out of film. More likely, he understands that once the entertaining interplay between the actors gives way to shaky-cam explosions, there's not much reason to wait before sprinting toward the credits.
SPACE COWBOYS builds up enough good will through its first 80 minutes to carry it over the massive hump of its lame conclusion. Eastwood is still one of the most uniquely evocative visual film-makers around -- a director generally willing to linger where other directors would cut -- which generally makes his films worth experiencing. His style also makes him a uniquely appropriate choice for a film about characters that have reached the point in life where they'd rather amble than run. SPACE COWBOYS ambles right along with Eastwood, Jones, Sutherland and Garner, right up to the point where they amble into the conclusion of a generic summer action film. This kind of veteran acting talent deserves better. Wisdom and experience should tell someone like Clint Eastwood that there's plenty of kids' stuff out there without trying to make him and his co-stars part of it.
Andromeda Heights Christopher Huber from Senses of Cinema, December 2000
Film Freak Central review Bill Chambers
Reel.com review [3/4] Tor Thorsen
Movie Reviews UK review [3/5] Michael S. Goldberger
Plume Noire review Fred Thom
World Socialist Web Site review David Walsh
SF, Horror and Fantasy Film Review review [3/5] Richard Scheib
another review of Space Cowboys by Paul Varner Pop Matters
Movieline Magazine review Michael Atkinson
Entertainment Weekly review [B-] Lisa Schwarzbaum
Seattle Post-Intelligencer review Sean Axmaker
Ultra grim, to the point of excess, with a hint of Oliver Stone at the end, as if to suggest the film we just saw was on the grand scale of Scorsese's GANGS OF NEW YORK, as if somehow, the history of America is built on dead bodies being buried somewhere, in a place where there's no democracy and no government oversight or accountability, a world where small-minded, right-wing fanatics rule, where their word is the last on any given subject, and all the rest is window dressing. Do you buy that? I didn't. Even the acting was excessive, particularly Penn and his cohorts, not that it wasn't good, it just didn't fit the low-key, cold, austere style of this film, think Gene Hackman in UNFORGIVEN, where evil is not just evil, it has to be portrayed as wretchedly excessive, which typically, by the way, personifies the American film concept of violence. However those two cops were superb, Kevin Bacon in particular and Laurence Fishburne, also the pained, horribly conflicted wife, Marcia Gay Hardin. When I saw that Clint Eastwood wrote the musical score which was soaring while the credits played at the end, this only confirmed my suspicions.
I've never taken a hankering to Eastwood’s films, Bridges of Madison County excepted, as I always believe they break down somewhere. Here, the style of the film was terrific, obviously well-made, but it doesn't hold up as a whole, and it gives the impression Penn gets away with murder, which personifies, in the face of America at war, just how corrupt America is, always was, and always will be, yet pretends to be our protector, the keeper of the flames of freedom, while murdering innocents abroad to protect our own selfish interests.
Time Out review Geoff Andrew
Years after one of them was abducted and abused, three former friends (Robbins, Penn and Bacon) from the predominantly working class Irish neighbourhood of South Boston find themselves caught up together in an arena of distrust, hatred and betrayal after the murder of Penn's teenage daughter. Though not, apparently, quite as rich a study of community relations as the Dennis Lehane novel on which Brian Helgeland's script is based, the film does largely succeed in its strategy of focusing on character, motivation and milieu rather than on police procedure and straightup action. It is in many ways Eastwood's tightest movie for some time, and certainly his darkest since Unforgiven; indeed, the ending offers as corrosive an assessment of the limits of American justice as anything in his career. The use of the director's own main musical theme is a little heavy-handed, and Linney's Lady Macbeth speech is a touch too explicit to convince, but the sheer classical elegance of Eastwood's direction is a delight.
The Boston Phoenix review Chris Fujiwara
Reverse Shot review #3 Film of the Year, by Nick Pinkerton, January/February 2004
Reverse Shot review The Quiet American, by Erik Syngle, November/December 2003
Fernando F. Croce
Chicago Reader Movie Review Jonathan Rosenbaum
digitallyOBSESSED.com (Nate Meyers) dvd review Deluxe Edition
Reverse Shot review Any Which Way You Can: How Europe Paints Eastwood Red, by Stefano Ciammaroni, November/December 2003
Kamera.co.uk review Thessa Mooij
hybridmagazine.com review Kelly Hsu
Film Freak Central dvd review [Widescreen Version] Walter Chaw and Bill Chambers
culturevulture.net, Choices for the Cognoscenti review Arthur Lazere
Reichert, January/February 2004
Talking Pictures (UK) review Emma Dixon
eFilmCritic.com review [5/5] Slyder
Reel.com review [3.5/4] Tim Knight
Plume Noire review Fred Thom
DVD Town (John J. Puccio) dvd review Special Edition
Reel.com dvd review [4/4] Jerry Renshaw
Mystic River (Oct 08, 2003) | Lisa Schwarzbaum Entertainment Weekly
in the Bone; Clint Eastwood's 'Mystic River' Rages With the Force of Man's
Grief Ann Hornaday from The
Boston Globe review [3/4] Ty Burr
Seattle Post-Intelligencer review William Arnold
DVDBeaver dvd review Henrik Sylow
Surprisingly good—Eastwood at the top of his game, reminiscent of the calm, poetic narration from Morgan Freeman in SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994), and because it’s sparingly used, it's even more effective. Freeman is superb as Eastwood’s sidekick, providing much needed comic relief as a dry, sarcastic counterbalance to the more ornery, chiseled old buzzard that Eastwood plays. It’s a terrific script, an adaptation by Paul Haggis from “Rope Burns: Stories From the Corner,” a Jerry Boyd book published under the pseudonym F.X. O’Toole after 40 years of rejection, a 70-year old man who had been a boxing manager and corner cut man. While the film is immersed in the down and out boxing world, living and breathing the stink of the gym, it’s not really about boxing, instead it’s a scorchingly real redemption story, where the humorous wit really surprised me, with Eastwood and Freeman continually taking little sarcastic snipes at one another. Add an extraordinary performance by Hilary Swank as a young, down on her luck, middle aged nobody who wants to be somebody and decides to do it in the boxing ring.
Eastwood owns an old run down gym and has a knack for training boxers, but stays away from Swank, as she’s a girl, and he fears nothing good can come of it. But she sticks around, believing the ring is the only place where she ever feels good about herself, and eventually wears down his attempts at insults and rejection. Together they make a name for themselves, and even touch glory, but only for a moment. It’s a darkened, extremely spare film style that utilizes the dimly lit edges of people in shadows or standing in the corners, never really in the picture at all, always just barely there. My knock here is that the sports shots seem all too predictable, and part of the story—seeing her family, the sordid world of managers—isn't even necessary. There's a scene of them having dinner at ringside which, even if true, is pretty ridiculous. However, overall, the tone is sharp, tightly scripted, dimly lit, like in the shadows of what's real, exploring the edges of the frame, with very spare use of music as well, again, written by Eastwood, which is equally haunting and quiet. Something of a weeper.
The Onion A.V. Club review Scott Tobias
Actors are capable of sinking into many roles, but icons like Clint Eastwood are another story: His range is limited, but within those limits, his aura suggests a history and gravity that's more powerful than mere performance. In his beautiful boxing drama Million Dollar Baby, Eastwood allows the gentle masculinity of his recent roles to seep into the entire movie, creating a haunted tone that transforms an underdog sports film into something as intimate as a whisper. With its down-and-out characters and dramatic interplay of darkness and light, the film has the texture of a somber palooka noir like Robert Wise's The Set-Up, but it's touched by a dogged optimism that's anathema to the genre. Though conventional in many respects, it feels like no other boxing film ever made, due largely to Eastwood's unmistakable presence on both sides of the camera.
Based on Rope Burns: Stories From The Corner, a short-story anthology by veteran fight manager and cutman Jerry Boyd (writing under the pen name F.X. Toole), Million Dollar Baby is suffused with loss, since even the brightest boxing careers are short-lived and doomed to disappointment at the end of the line. As a longtime trainer and current proprietor of a dilapidated gym, Eastwood knows this heartbreak better than most, because he's reminded of it every day. His gym manager, played by an assured Morgan Freeman, was a great contender, until a brutal title bout left him blind in one eye. Hesitant to train another fighter, Eastwood reluctantly takes on Hilary Swank, a trailer-park-raised waitress who overcomes her age and inexperience with raw talent and determination. Estranged from their respective families, Eastwood and Swank develop a deep surrogate bond that leads them through the gritty, low-stakes female-boxing circuit.
Million Dollar Baby sets the stage for a hard-won triumph-over-adversity tale, but it's too wise about the boxing world to fall for easy victories, or even the redeeming, spirited letdown of the original Rocky. In Eastwood's hands, the standard training montages have a hushed, meditative quality, with a specific emphasis on the scientific half of "the sweet science" that no doubt stems from Boyd's experience. Though the rambling narrative shows signs of squeezing a few short stories into one—the last 30 minutes, in particular, seem like another movie altogether—the film coheres around groups of characters that integrate more tightly as it goes along. The three leads are all superb, even the seemingly miscast Swank, who finally rediscovers the Method intensity that's been missing since Boys Don't Cry. But Million Dollar Baby belongs to Eastwood, the icon and the auteur, whose weathered face tells a story like nothing he's done since Unforgiven, and whose direction resonates with quiet, insistent soul.
The Boston Phoenix review Chris Fujiwara
Now in his Seventies, Clint Eastwood continues to find new challenges both
in front of and behind the camera, as the heartrending Million Dollar Baby
Age has clenched Clint Eastwood's face tight as a fist, but he has never been more tender, vulnerable, and heartbroken than in Million Dollar Baby. It's not surprising that the camera still loves Eastwood's visage, finding unchanging beauty in the skull beneath the skin. His facial bones, if anything, appear more finely chiseled than in his youth. But the muscles that hold the thinned skin have contracted, pulling brow and eyes down and inward, so that the signature squint is deeper and less yielding, even to laughter. Eastwood never had one of those expressive, easy-to-read faces. He made a virtue of his guardedness, subtly adjusting a personal character trait to fit dozens of different fictional characters and stories. As both director and actor, he has applied a single style-stripped-down realism-to an enormous range of genres: westerns, cop thrillers, biopics, screwball comedies, psychodramas, even a three-handkerchief romance. At first, he tinkered with their formulas; then he turned them upside down.
Loss, regret, and the things one does and doesn't learn from experience are the themes of the late Eastwood films, among which Million Dollar Baby is one of the greatest. Unforgiven may be more magisterial, but Million Dollar Baby is the tougher work of art in the sense that it's easier to fuel a film with anger and the desire for revenge, as Unforgiven is, than with a grief that can never be assuaged. Million Dollar Baby starts out bittersweet-it could be a Thirties studio picture about a broken-down boxing trainer who gets a second chance when he takes a hungry young fighter under his wing-but it ends up akin to King Lear. And much of the emotional power of the film comes from Eastwood's performance. In the past, Eastwood the director has treated Eastwood the actor perhaps too much as a functionary. Since a large percentage of the world's population enjoys seeing him onscreen, it hasn't been such a bad strategy. But here, for the first time, he gives himself the kind of liberty that he has, so generously, given other actors: to explore the character in the moment as the camera rolls.
Eastwood plays Frankie Dunn, a physical and emotional wreck of a man who has spent a lifetime in the fight game and now owns a run-down gym and occasionally manages a boxer. Frankie's body barely cooperates anymore, but what has really dragged him down is his estrangement from his daughter (Eastwood leaves it for us to imagine what terrible thing happened between them) and also that one of his fighters was badly injured in the ring. That fighter, Scrap (Morgan Freeman), is now Frankie's sole employee and his only friend. Scrap encourages Frankie to work with Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank), who's trying to rise above her own family horror show and believes that a boxing career could be her way out of grinding poverty. Frankie wants no part of this venture, but Maggie's persistence, courage, and passion for the fight game prove persuasive.
"Always protect yourself" is the basic boxing lesson Frankie tries to drum into Maggie's head. But Frankie has a problem figuring out when protectiveness-of oneself and the people one is committed to-closes off the possibility of living fully. More than a film about boxing, Million Dollar Baby is about the relationship between parents and children, specifically between fathers and daughters. Maggie gives Frankie a second chance at parenting, and Maggie knows, just as we in the audience know, that Frankie is the best father any daughter could wish for. The heartbreaking thing is that Frankie, almost assuredly, will never feel that way about himself.
This is the most musical of Eastwood's films in that so much meaning and feeling is carried by shifts of tempo and tonality. The shifts that happen within the dialogue scenes are extremely delicate-the three leading actors play off one another with the subtlety and spontaneity of jazz musicians. The fight scenes, however, are explosive and brutal. Shot with two cameras, and virtually unchoreographed, they have a rawness that makes them scary to watch, especially since it's clear that Swank is doing all her own fighting. Swank is terrifically game and courageous, both in and out of the ring. Her eager, bright spirit is a great foil for Eastwood, and together, they create a complicated map of loyalty, trust, and love.
World Socialist Web Site review David Walsh
Cinepassion Fernando F. Croce
Reverse Shot review Hit me Like You Mean It, by Erik Hynes from Reverse Shot, Spring 2005
Bright Lights Film Journal review Tony Macklin, February 2005
Bright Lights Film Journal review Eric Schlosser, May 2005
Filmbrain Like Anna Karina’s Sweater
Million Dollar Baby Henry Sheehan
Slant Magazine review Ed Gonzalez
Alternative Film Guide Review Andre Soares
Kamera.co.uk review Mark Sells
culturevulture.net, Choices for the Cognoscenti review Arthur Lazere
hybridmagazine.com review Tiffany Couch Bartlett
Million Dollar Baby Michael Sicinski from the Academic Hack
Reel.com dvd review [3.5/4] James Plath, 2-disc set
Reel.com review [3.5/4] Sarah Chauncey
Film Freak Central dvd review [Widescreen Edition] Walter Chaw and Bill Chambers
Talking Pictures (UK) review Jamie Garwood
Ruthless Reviews review Matt Cale
Boston Globe review [4/4] Ty Burr
Seattle Post-Intelligencer review William Arnold
Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert) review [4/4] January 7, 2005
Critics have no right to play spoiler :: rogerebert.com :: News ... Roger Ebert, January 29, 2005
From boxing movie to political bout » Jim Emerson, Ebert website editor, January 28, 2005
'Million Dollar' misrepresentations » Jim Emerson, Ebert website editor, February 10, 2005
Is Oscar's best pic a masterpiece? » Jim Emerson, Ebert website editor, March 4, 2005
DVDBeaver dvd review Gary W. Tooze
Perhaps only the clout of director Clint Eastwood and coproducer
Steven Spielberg could have brought us a movie about how the most inspirational
photo of World War II--four GIs raising the flag at
The Onion A.V. Club review Scott Tobias
Since stories of battlefield heroics are the myths that fuel the war machine, it really doesn't matter if they're precisely true—or even invented from whole cloth—as long as they contribute to the cause. The flag-raising at Iwo Jima, perhaps the most iconic snapshot of American struggle and triumph in World War II, shows that a picture can say a thousand words, but those words don't necessarily tell the story. On its face, Clint Eastwood's Flags Of Our Fathers seems like a potent piece of revisionist history, boldly examining what heroism really means and how it can be manufactured for the "greater good." But somewhere along the way, the film loses its moxie and becomes the very thing the flag-raisers would have detested—another bronze-cast tribute to bravery and self-sacrifice, destined to fill out a three-hour slot in a Memorial Day TV marathon.
Beautifully structured, save for a heavy-handed framing
device (one of several traits, good and bad, it shares with Saving Private
Ryan), the script cuts between the propagandistic tour of three soldiers
featured in the picture and the cruel details of the battle itself. On day five
of a monthlong siege aimed at taking
At its most devastatingly effective, Flags Of Our Fathers
follows these three men as they're trotted in front of roaring crowds at places
like Soldier Field and Times Square, knowing that this charade is keeping them
from their friends on the front lines. (Whenever they're introduced as
"the heroes of
War is tragic until fed through the media -- then it becomes heroic. Flags
of Our Fathers opens with an anguished soldier running through a pulverized
battlefield; the camera zooms into his horrified eyes to reveal it as an old
man's memory, or the lingering toll of the past on a collective consciousness,
perhaps. In any case, Americans prefer history with "easy-to-understand
truths and damn few words," and Clint Eastwood thusly analyzes his
subject, namely the snapshot of the six
Crash came in between Million Dollar Baby and Flags of Our Fathers, so patronizing blabbermouth Paul Haggis's unmistakable hand in the screenwriting is clearer here -- the director can try to cut away at the blubber, but he's still left with Haggis's exclamation points (Bradley's "So much for no man left behind" as destroyers sail past a drowning grunt, "Goddamn Indians" as Hayes finds that his uniform can't dim prejudice). Steven Spielberg, who co-produced, is as dubious an influence in this project as he was in Poltergeist: Eastwood's intimate, handheld scuttling on the beachfront segues into a tracking shot following two men carrying a mangled body, then cranes up for a panoramic view of the CGI-filled slaughter. So this may not be a "pure" Eastwood work like, say, True Crime or Blood Work, yet its scrupulous scrutiny of societal notions of heroism and masculinity projected on troubled characters is closer to Ford's They Were Expendable or Wellman's The Story of G.I. Joe (to say nothing of the filmmaker's own gnarled loners) than to Saving Private Ryan -- not a last word on WWII epics but a human-sized contemplation of propaganda and fame, battlefield experience and its public packaging, moral exploitation and personal dignity. No squinting is needed here to spot the toppling of Saddam's statue or Bush's "Mission Accomplished" strut, though some critics insist there's no need for another heroism-debunking portrait, just as they miss the pared-down poetry of a veteran who continues to slash deep in his inquiry. (The film is only half an epic: Letters from Iwo Jiwa next year provides the myth's alternative perspective.) Eastwood questions the printing of the legend, but a more appropriate John Ford quote for his ambivalence might be Anna Lee's line in Fort Apache about the departing soldiers: "All I can see are the flags."
A single photograph, we're told early on in Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers, can win or lose a war. But sometimes that photo shows us only part of the story, whether it's the part we don't want to see—slaughtered villagers at My Lai, tortured prisoners at Abu Ghraib—or the part we do, with heroes front and center and the carnage out of view.
In Flags, the
image under scrutiny is one of the most iconic in American photojournalism:
five U.S. Marines and one Navy corpsman planting Old Glory atop
Based on the bestselling book by James Bradley, whose father, John "Doc" Bradley, was the Navy corpsman in Rosenthal's photo, Flags of Our Fathers is about the three flag raisers who survived Iwo Jima—Bradley (Ryan Phillippe), the dashing and mildly pompous Rene Gagnon (Jesse Bradford), and the proud Pima Indian Ira Hayes (Adam Beach)—and how their moment in the spotlight irrevocably altered their lives. For these men were not the first to fly the Stars and Stripes, but rather a secondary team, assembled after the smaller flag erected earlier by a different group was claimed as a souvenir by a naval officer. It was this second flag, though, that was seen around the world, its raisers plucked from duty and ferried hither and yon by wily politicians who saw the makings of an inspired PR campaign. It was not the first—or last—time that perception trumped reality in the selling of wars to the American public.
According to the press
notes, in his later years John Bradley was plagued by hallucinations and night
terrors, and Eastwood's movie unfolds as if it were one of them, flashing back
and forth between the charcoal sands of
To an extent, Flags of Our Fathers is to the WWII movie what Eastwood's Unforgiven was to the western—a stripping-away of mythology until only a harsher, uncomfortable reality remains. But what Eastwood really does is call into question an entire way of reading history, by which the vast and incomprehensible are reduced to digestible symbols and meanings. In war—Eastwood offers us a timely reminder—who is just and unjust depends on where you're watching from. And to further the point, his next movie, Letters From Iwo Jima, tells the story from the perspective of the Japanese.
With Flags, Eastwood has made one of his best films—a searching, morally complex deconstruction of the Greatest Generation that is nevertheless rich in the sensitivity to human frailty that has become his signature as a filmmaker. You feel this most in the characterization of Hayes, whose postwar descent into alcoholism and near madness has been told before, in song ("The Ballad of Ira Hayes") and on-screen (1961's The Outsider), but never with such haunted intensity. Beach's agonizing portrait is made all the more poignant by the film's revelation that Hayes, like the other men who raised the second flag, did show extraordinary bravery on the battlefield, just not in the way for which he was remembered. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but for men like John Bradley, Rene Gagnon, and Ira Hayes, there were thousands more that went unspoken.
BFI | Sight & Sound | Flags of Our Fathers (2006) Ali Jaafar from Sight and Sound, January 2007
World Socialist Web Site review Ramón Valle
DVD Times Noel Megahey
The Nation (Stuart Klawans) review also reviewing BORAT, calling it a culture split between Charlie Chaplin (Borat) and D.W. Griffith (Flags)
Ruthless Reviews review Matt Cale
eFilmCritic.com review [3/5] U.J. Lessing
Reel.com review [3.5/4] Tim Knight
Entertainment Weekly review [B-] Owen Gleiberman
Boston Globe review [2.5/4] Ty Burr
Seattle Post-Intelligencer review William Arnold
In this film, they use the Ken Burns THE CIVIL WAR (1990) device of reading soldier’s letters written home, cue a melancholic piano theme to go along with poignant thoughts. It might be more interesting if all of the letters used were actually written during wartime, as was the case in Burns’s film, instead this is a fictionalized narrative device that feels like déjà vu, as only the General’s letters were actually discovered. Of course these letters are moving, but predictably so, even though what’s most interesting is a letter written by an American mother to her American soldier that perished in front of them. Again, as this was the only American soldier temporarily rescued in the entire film, a stark contrast to what happens to two Japanese soldiers captured by the other side, of course this is the United Nations moment where stunned Japanese soldiers realize American soldiers are just like them. War is hell and no one should be forced to fight in them unless absolutely necessary. The message in this film about the treachery of war reminds us of the lies we are told and the mythology that is used to demonize the enemy in order to justify war in the first place, but the message is clumsily told, despite its ultimate poignancy. From the Japanese perspective, great care is taken to highlight the sense of honor, perfectly expressed by the rock solid leadership of Ken Watanabe as General Kuribayashi, only to see that honor evaporate under duress and turn to murder. Americans are seen doing the same thing. War does not distinguish among victims. Watanabe’s performance is all the more impressive because he offers staggeringly effective leadership that confounds his more traditional minded officers.
By the numbers, 100,000
It's hard to explain exactly why Clint Eastwood's Letters From Iwo Jima is so much better than its companion World War II film Flags Of Our Fathers, except to say that Flags tries too hard to emphasize the ironies of selling a war, while Letters deals with the ins and outs of the war itself. Aside from a short modern framing device and a handful of flashbacks, Letters From Iwo Jima starts just before the U.S. invasion of a tactically significant Japanese island, and ends with the U.S. victory. All of this is shown exclusively from the Japanese military perspective, as they dig tunnels, lay in supplies, and prepare to fight off the Americans with almost no resources save their own discipline. And as the battle wears on, even that breaks down.
Eastwood and co-screenwriters Paul Haggis and Iris Yamashita (working from a book by Tadamichi Kuribayashi) finesse the trick of making the historical bad guys into sympathetic characters by dividing them into blinkered, remorseless traditionalists and homesick grunts. Splitting the difference is Ken Watanabe, playing the mission commander, an American-schooled Lt. General more interested in keeping his troops alive for a sustained attack than sacrificing them for some nebulous sense of honor. To some extent, Letters From Iwo Jima is cheap in the way it manipulates audience sentiment, and the few scenes where the Japanese soldiers learn how much they resemble their enemy are way too on-the-nose.
At the same time, Eastwood and company capture what it must have been like for a simple baker like Kazunari Ninomiya, dealing with conflicting orders and a nationalist philosophy that values martyrdom over success. Those looking for contemporary relevance in Letters From Iwo Jima could find it all over the sociopolitical map, from the insanity of terrorist suicide bombers to the frustrations of a "stay the course" foreign policy. The most significant moment in the film is one of its least strident: an unsparing scene where American soldiers execute a handful of prisoners rather than risking their own lives to transport them. It's hard to argue with those soldiers from a strategic point of view, but in the context of Letters, their choice convinces the Japanese to fight to the death rather than surrendering, which ultimately costs even more American lives. Eastwood handles that kind of minute study of human darkness best, showing how people make impossible choices with dreadful repercussions.
In Clint Eastwood’s “Letters from
The Nation (Stuart Klawans) review (Page 2)
With the release of Clint Eastwood's Letters From Iwo Jima two months after his Flags of Our
Fathers, one of the most remarkable projects in American film history is
complete. It astonishes me to think that even a producer-director of Eastwood's
influence could carry it off: making two complete films about the battle for
Flags of Our Fathers (reviewed December 4) re-creates the
past by exploring a document of the war: the famous photograph of the American
flag-raising. Letters From Iwo Jima adopts the
same narrative strategy but uses as its documents the correspondence (both
delivered and unsent) of Japanese soldiers on
Two figures predominate in the large cast: the aristocratic
commanding general, Tadamichi Kuribayashi (played by the godlike Ken Watanabe),
and a sardonic, sly, hapless conscript named Saigo (Kazunari Ninomiya), who was
a baker in civilian life and would just as soon turn the island over to the
Americans. With an ease and grace more suited to the general than the foot
soldier, Eastwood and his screenwriters (Iris Yamashita and Paul Haggis) slowly
draw together the fates of these two. Saigo turns into a fighter, not through
love of his country but from personal loyalty to the general. He clings to
Kuribayashi because the general, though steeped in the code of the Japanese
warrior, is himself idiosyncratic. He breaks with tradition, to the outrage of
his subordinate officers, by conserving his troops' strength and falling back
into underground bunkers rather than plunging into glorious battle. Worst of
all, he forbids his men to commit suicide when they lose a position, ordering
them instead to escape and go on fighting. Kuribayashi brushes away the charge
that such behavior is a disgrace. He has lived in the
Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From
Iwo Jima together form an enormous diptych that has all the grandeur these
stories demand. There are crowd scenes, chaotic battles (filmed in the
contemporary style, with most of the color drained away), vistas of vast fleets
of warships and airplanes. What emerges most powerfully, though, is an intimate
sense of sorrow, and of decency. If there is any chance that popular American
cinema will continue to be an art form--a very slight chance, I'd say, looking
back over the past year's major studio releases--then I bet Eastwood's
In the new Clint Eastwood movie, ordinary young
men—husbands and fathers, artisans and aristocrats—are drafted into a war whose
motives many of them do not fully understand. There, on an island called
This simple act of
mirroring can't help but seem provocative in a movie that's about to be
released into a nation at war—a war, like most others, predicated on absolutist
notions of good and evil. But in Letters, as in Flags, Eastwood
seems less concerned with provocation than with contemplation of a popular
military campaign and its supposed days of glory. The second film completes and
deepens the first, yet to view them side by side is to see not two sides of a coin
but rather two distinct panels in a diptych—one rendered with the disquieting
Eastwood, who directed Letters from a screenplay he commissioned by the first-time Japanese American screenwriter Iris Yamashita (a research assistant on Flags), seems awestruck by the dogged perseverance of the Japanese, who continued to fight to the death even when all hope was lost. Not surprisingly, he shows a special affinity for the Japanese Lieutenant General Tadamichi Kuribayashi, who masterminded that defense and whose tender letters home to his family appear in the film as narration. Played by Ken Watanabe, Kuribayashi, who opposes the war in principle but will nevertheless sacrifice all for his country, emerges as exactly the kind of strong but sensitive man of action Eastwood himself has played in many of his later films—a poet-warrior whose moral compass points one way, his sense of duty another. In Letters, he's surrounded by a literal army of similarly conflicted individuals (some fictional and some fact-based), from the lowly Private Saigo (Japanese pop star Kazunari Ninomiya), who dreams of returning to the small bakery he ran with his pregnant wife before the war, to the regal Baron Nishi (Tsuyoshi Ihara), an Olympic horse-jumping champion who counts Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks among his personal friends. In voiceover, we hear their letters home too, nearly all of them of a piece in their lyrical candor ("Am I digging my own grave?" Saigo wonders to his wife) and their eagerness to discuss anything but the fog of war.
Letters From Iwo Jima isn't the first wartime drama to suggest that to know thine enemy is to know thyself. William Wharton's autobiographical 1982 novel, A Midnight Clear, for example, tells of a brief détente between platoons of American and German soldiers at Christmastime 1944, while last year's sentimental French Oscar entry, Joyeux Noël, depicted a similar holiday hiatus on the battlefields of World War I. But the special power of Eastwood's achievement is that, save for one indelible moment, the mutual recognition between sworn adversaries happens not on-screen, but later, as we piece the two films together in our minds. The exception comes near the end of Letters, after Nishi retrieves a folded-up note from among the effects of an American P.O.W. who has just died before him. Written by the dead soldier's mother, it is, like so much of the correspondence in Letters, almost banal in its concerns—some dogs dug a hole under the fence and got loose in the neighborhood, and please come home safely. Then, in closing, this advice: "Remember what I said to you. Always do what is right, because it is right." It is Eastwood's queasy triumph that, when we hear those words, regardless of what language we speak, they have rarely sounded more foreign.
World Socialist Web Site review David Walsh
Bright Lights Film Journal review In Like Clint! by Alan Vanneman, May 2007
Aftermaths. James Bowman from The American
DVD Times Noel Megahey
Cinepassion.org Fernando F. Croce
Reel.com review [2/4] Jim Hemphill
Letters from Iwo Jima Chris Fujiwara
Film Freak Central review Walter Chaw
Reel.com dvd review [3/4] Jerry Renshaw. 2-DVD Special Edition
cinematical.com Jeffrey M. Anderson
Entertainment Weekly review [C-] Lisa Schwarzbaum
Letters from Iwo Jima
Boston Globe review [4/4] Ty Burr
Seattle Post-Intelligencer review William Arnold
Sagacious and audacious: Kiyoshi Kurosawa talks about Letters From ... Taro Goto interviews Kiyoshi Kurosawa about Eastwood’s LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA, from the San Francisco Bay Guardian, February 20, 2007
The New York
Times (A.O. Scott) review
OSCARS; Surrender and Survival In the Crucible of
Battle A.O. Scott from The New York Times,
DVDBeaver dvd review Yunda Eddie Feng
aka: The Exchange
Wretched can barely begin to describe this heavy-handed, overwrought period drama about seriously misguided police misconduct in the late 1920’s Los Angeles, where the tone of the film exists in a dire state of abject misery that just keeps on giving. Using Angelina Jolie in another one of her Saint roles, tears flowing in nearly half of her scenes, as she suffers here in such a Christ-like manner so that the rest of us might be saved from this kind of bizarre, oppressively degrading behavior, the problem being some eighty years later the Los Angeles police department remains one of the most corrupt and brutalizing departments in the nation. Adapted from a real life story which is horrendous enough, Eastwood’s artificial treatment of the material overemphasizes every emotional note, playing it for more than it is worth, which eventually cheapens the real story. Jolie plays a mother whose 10-year old son disappears after leaving him alone when she was called in to work on her off day. There isn’t a single moment in the entire film where Jolie takes responsibility or feels remorse for her own negligence. Instead it’s the LA police department’s fault for waiting 24 hours before they’ll even file a missing persons report. Six months later, rolled out like a photo op in a brazen attempt to shore up their battered reputation, the police reunite her with her son, only to discover it’s not her son. Incredibly, the police still insist it is despite physical evidence to the contrary, even bringing in a doctor to support the department’s views. As she adamently remains convinced this is not her son, the police actually have her committed to a psych ward subject to release only after she’ll admit it is her son, also absolving the police of any responsibility in the matter. Already mired in a false tone throughout with such broadly painted strokes of saintly good and grotesque evil, the portrayal of the mental hospital is about as subtle as any B shlock movie dripping blood at every turn, where the viewer continuously hears cries of pain and torture in the background and where every single staff member is a horrid picture of evil relishing the idea of sadistically inflicting pain on its patients, which is a prime example of Hollywood overkill.
Somehow, this all started to feel like Jessica Lange in FRANCES (1982), also based on a true story, but if truth be told, Angelina Jolie is no Jessica Lange, and Lange’s character in FRANCES was mistreated far worse. Instead, Jolie’s horror story is only hinted at, where psychiatric patients were subjected to electric shock out of punishment for disobedience, and many were left in a catatonic state. Lange’s character in FRANCES, on the other hand, was actually lobotomized in the early 1930’s at a time when the procedure was still experimental and the results were disasterous, leaving her permanently brain damaged, an especially pernicious punishment for the simple crime of a woman speaking her beliefs in 1930’s America. I only mention this as Lange is a much more sympathetic character, an actress who put her heart and soul into that role. Jolie, in contrast, is not mature enough to carry this picture and instead goes through the formulaic method actress procedures of a woman scorned and mistreated, who garners very little sympathy due to the overly pathetic nature of her performance, where she continuously utters to the point of nausea, “He’s not my son!” or “Did you kill my son?” In Jolie’s case, others come to her rescue, arriving at the last moment like the cavalry, while in Lange’s real life story, no one rode to her rescue. Interesting that it is John Malkovich, invariably the most wacked out character on any movie set, who plays the voice of reason, an energized LA pastor who makes it his life’s mission to expose the corruption of the LA police department. From the outset this film has misplaced priorities, as it seems too intent on evoking outrage in exposing the events of the past instead of developing an intriguing storyline with any character build up, as even by the end, Jolie feels like a complete stranger to the audience, utterly forgettable. Certainly one reason was the overemphasis on the artificiality of her overly stylized look, where she kept wearing a heavy fur-laden coat with adorning scarves in the usually sweltering Los Angeles setting, all of which kept distracting the audience from ever developing any real identification with her maudlin character.
Clint Eastwood’s Changeling is based on the true story of Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie), a single mother whose young son disappeared in 1928 and was returned six months later—at least, the Los Angeles Police Department said it was her son. She didn’t recognize him, which irritated the patriarchal and corrupt police captain so much he threw her into a mental hospital. It would be a horrific story even if underplayed, but Eastwood shoots it like a horror movie. The false boy is lit to resemble the Antichrist Damien in The Omen, while in the psychiatric ward, whey-faced loons press their heads against the bars and shriek, ugly nurses leer, and the creepy doctor plots to throw Angie on a gurney and give her jolts of electricity. The ham-handed script by J. Michael Straczynski rearranges events so that the motives of the police captain (Jeffrey Donovan) are unfathomable—he must want Damien to grow up and bring forth Armageddon. The way Eastwood shoves Jolie’s suffering in our face is like a threat to the Academy: “And the Oscar will go to …” She’s a great actress. She doesn’t need his domineering chivalry.
Pasadena, 1928. Single mom Angelina Jolie is a switchboard supervisor who glides around the telephone company on rollerskates. It’s adorable, but her signature smoky eyes and blood red lips mean she’s probably moonlighting as either a tramp or a clown. Scenes confirming one option or the other were, unfortunately, left on the cutting room floor.
The LAPD is corrupt –– so corrupt that the holiest man in town is John Malkovich. So when Angie’s son goes missing, they give her back a “fake boy,” and the evil detective (Jeffrey Donovan) can’t figure out if the ensuing scandal means he should have an Irish accent or not.
We drink every time Angelina hysterically proclaims, “He’s not my son!” We get very drunk, and this may be why we can’t figure out why Clint Eastwood made a cheap-looking Lifetime movie that eventually turns into an “And justice for all!” episode of SVU. Just when the drinking game is starting to get really out of control, there’s a twist so shocking that it’s punctuated by two inches of ash falling off a policeman’s cigarette … in slow motion.
This sobers us up pretty quick. “Really, Clint?” we say out loud, right in the middle of the screening. But no one can hear our cry, they’re so overwhelmed by the sound of Angelina’s constant tears, which just keep flowing, long after the stakes have vanished, because Eastwood can’t help but indefinitely extend the misery. So we shrug. “Oscars for all!” Now for another drink.
There are three or four movies competing for attention within Changeling, and unfortunately for Clint Eastwood, they’re all equally dreadful melodramatic drivel. In his worst directorial outing since 1999’s True Crime, Eastwood delivers something close to a parody of an Oscar-baiting period picture, establishing a faux-prestigious tone for this “true story” about a 1920s single mother whose son is kidnapped and, when he’s located months later, turns out to be not her son. J. Michael Straczynski’s clip-ready script is a tale of both child and female abuse, as gaunt Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie), upon contending that the returned boy isn’t her flesh and blood, comes up against a raft of monstrous misogynistic caricatures led by dismissive captain Jones (Jeffrey Donovan) and the nasty chief of the psych ward that Christine is eventually sent to after the LAPD – trying to avoid further negative press – grows weary of her nay-saying. A righteous anti-police-corruption pastor (John Malkovich) and a giggly, loose-limbed serial killer also find their way into Changeling, which overstuffs itself with sensationalized narrative rubbish that Eastwood shoots with oppressively decorous, corny stateliness epitomized by a slow-motion shot of cigarette ash landing (with a titanic thud) upon a table. The broad, crude construction of most every peripheral character is matched by the Swiss cheese nature of the film’s plot, so that Eastwood’s attempts to comment on culturally entrenched sexism get lost amidst hoary flashbacks, dull procedural machinations, and B-movie hysterics. These reach a crescendo once Christine is confined to the mental institution, an embarrassing sequence involving evil physicians who make Nurse Ratched look timid, Amy Ryan’s benevolent, foul-mouthed hooker and Christine getting a hackneyed last-second reprieve from electroshock therapy. Amidst the statuette-craving histrionics, Jolie valiantly attempts to suffuse Christine with the powerless heartache, frustration and fury of a grieving mother wronged. Yet between Eastwood’s overbearing direction, his story’s leaden moralizing and clunky logic, and his procession of ever-lamer would-be endings, Jolie’s performance ultimately succumbs to mannered routine, no less self-consciously affected and hollow than the proceedings as a whole.
A California of
Noir Shadows and Blood Manohla
There are actually several monstrous crimes committed in
“Changeling,” including those against a single mother named Christine Collins
(Ms. Jolie). In March 1928, Christine’s only child, the 9-year-old Walter,
disappeared from their
It’s a lurid, nightmarish story, reminiscent of any number of James
Despite Ms. Jolie’s hard work and Mr. Eastwood’s scrupulous attention, the difficult, fairly one-dimensional character fails to take hold. For much of the film, Christine weeps and pleads, begging the police for help and fending off disbelievers. She clings to hope, the problem being that Ms. Jolie, whose off-screen role as Angelina Jolie is so much more vivid and all-consuming than the parts she now plays on screen, this one included, does not come across as a clinger or a whiner or a pleader or even much of a waterworks. Like Joan Crawford, Ms. Jolie seems capable now of only playing variations on herself, which is why she was more persuasive holding back her tears as a steely Mariane Pearl in “A Mighty Heart.”
Coda: At the press conference that followed the screening, Mr. Eastwood put the kibosh on reports that he would be returning to play Dirty Harry again. “That rumor is incorrect,” Mr. Eastwood said. But “I am!” Ms. Jolie piped up, an idea that seemed to appeal to her director. “Dirty Harriette,” he said, smiling.
Changeling opens - as did George Romero’s Land of the Dead - with a semi-ironic use of an old-time Universal Studios logo, hearkening back to lionized days of old from a present-tense vantage point. The joke of it is that the sentiment, in both cases, is a pose. Like Romero with Land, Changeling director Clint Eastwood is as lost with where movies came from as with where they are - his film (based on the late-20s/early-30s era true story of Los Angeles-residing mother/martyr figure Christine Collins) is a rootless jumble of tones and plots, a desiccated nowhereland, like something waiting to be feasted on by Stephen King’s ravenous Langoliers.
There’s hope at first that Eastwood and star Angelina Jolie are using Changeling‘s kidnapping-cum-social reform narrative as a mere framework, the means by which to illuminate Collins’ tempestuous emotional inner life in the way of many a so-called, oft-derided “woman’s picture.” Eastwood’s clearly aware that Collins (with her weeping-willow flapper hat and scarlet letter lipstick) is not so far removed from a Crawford, Davis, or Hayward heroine, but he’s incapable, and quite embarrassingly so, of delving into her psychology. Clint’s emotional/visual cues throughout are strictly film school (most hilariously: an inches-long shard of cigarette ash slow-motion falling to the ground to emphasize a lurid, murderous revelation) and he shifts focus so often that Collins eventually ceases to be the center of her own tale, something that throws Jolie’s awards-baiting shenanigans into even harsher relief.
It’s a terrible performance - all clothes, no soul, colored by the worst sort of vanity (the final straw: a ludicrous Snake Pit-like interlude in a mental hospital, featuring sacrificial supporting actress lamb Amy Ryan, that ends with our down-dressed leading lady almost being shock treated), though unsurprising given the clunky, schematic nature of both Eastwood’s direction and Babylon 5 scribe J. Michael Straczynski’s script. When Collins confronts the twitchy maniac (Jason Butler Harner, indicating unhinged psychosis with all the subtlety of his moustache-twirling forbears) who kidnapped and most likely murdered her young son (Gattlin Griffith), Jolie treads new depths of shameless gusto (screaming “Did you kill my son?!!” with every possible inflection and gesture, as if performing the “my sister/my daughter” confessional from Chinatown at the sycophantic urging of James Lipton), though it’s most certainly of a piece with all that’s sloppily preceded.
Flattery will get you everywhere except to the heart of the matter: Jolie’s Collins is such a mascara-stained saint that she can predict the Best Picture winner of 1935 (It Happened One Night - so infinitely superior, as the character notes, to the likes of DeMille’s Cleopatra), but give her a moment of spiritual closure at movie’s finish and she has to demystify it for our benefit (she has “hope” now, you see). Clint films her like a white-hat Western hero who’s just survived a 140-minute shoot-out (she even gets a tip of the brim from the kindly police detective - Michael Kelly - who helps to extricate her from her troubles), but to the end she remains a hollowed-out nonentity, an empty cipher whose mystery (and femininity) is quashed rather than clarified by the dictates of old hat A-to-B storytelling. It’s sure to be a performance (and a film) praised for its proto-feminist shadings, but Eastwood’s gaze has never come off more crudely Neanderthal.
Clint Eastwood has directed so many high-toned, award-scarfing prestige movies over the past few years that people have largely forgotten about the schlock he used to churn out, even after Unforgiven cemented forever his reputation as a serious auteur. For every Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby or Letters From Iwo Jima, there’s also been an Absolute Power, True Crime or Blood Work—disposable cinematic potboilers. Changeling, Eastwood’s latest effort (at least until Gran Torino opens in December), looks at first glance as though it must surely belong to the Oscar-bait category, having premiered in competition at the Cannes Film Festival; Universal’s ad campaign works overtime to sell it as this year’s equivalent of something like Atonement, a sophisticated period melodrama. But prepare not to be edified. For all its highbrow trappings, Changeling is in fact the most compulsively watchable piece of trash Eastwood has ever made.
Much of its breathless allure, I should note, stems from one’s
mounting incredulous horror at the knowledge (revealed in an opening title)
that these insane events actually happened. On
That brief synopsis only scratches the surface of what was known, in its day, as the Wineville Chicken Coop case—a saga so absurdly sensational that you can only wonder how on Earth it ever fell into obscurity in the first place, and so notorious at the time that Wineville hastily changed its name to Mira Loma in an effort to escape negative associations. Rediscovered and fashioned into a somewhat ungainly script by Babylon 5 scribe J. Michael Straczynski, the tale plays, in Eastwood’s so-called “classical” style (which really amounts to a sort of measured impatience), like lurid dime-store pulp disguised as a case study of institutional corruption. It doesn’t help that Jolie, a defiantly modern actress, seems to be in constant battle with the period setting; her solution is to turn up the volume yet another notch in each successive scene. And pity poor Amy Ryan, so indelible in Gone Baby Gone, who’s saddled here with the tired role of a good-hearted, wisecracking hooker and saddled with reams of didactic exposition.
And yet I must confess that I was riveted from start to
finish—not by the film’s artistry, which is negligible, but by its sheer ...
well, f--ked-up-ness is the only “word” that springs to mind. Changeling
aspires to be a muckraking proto-feminist weepie, demonstrating how women of
the flapper era were dismissed as hysterics whenever they dared to challenge the
male power structure, but its true fascination lies in countless details too
damn weird for any screenwriter to have invented. Because the two Walters are
played by different actors, there’s no Return of Martin Guerre-style
mystery here, but the revelation of the impostor’s motive is a jaw-dropper;
likewise various aspects of the parallel investigation, which I wouldn’t dream
of spoiling via even the vaguest allusion. And while the film has plenty of
Angelina Jolie Suffers For Us All in Changeling; Zinedine Zidane Watches a Good Game in A 21st Century Portrait J. Hoberman from The Village Voice
Changeling and Gran Torino
Double Feature, by Chris Fujiwara from The
House Next Door [Matt Noller] at
Dispatch: Part Four: Patrick
Came Running: Cannes, Competition: "Changeling," "Two
Lovers" Glenn Kenny at
Exchange Mike Goodridge at
Clint, Angelina and the movie with no name Andrew O’Hehir at Cannes from Salon
The Onion A.V. Club review Keith Phipps
CBC.ca Arts review Katrina Onstad
2008 diary: 'The Exchange' Dave
Boston Globe review [2/4] Wesley Morris
Seattle Post-Intelligencer review William Arnold
FILM; The Mommy Track Mark
Harris from The New York Times,
Clint Eastwood answers Obama and has a dialogue about race in America, actually reprising a humorous, occasionally gut-slapping variation on his most infamous DIRTY HARRY (1971) role to do it, where nearly every foul word that comes out of his mouth is an expletive directed at one racial group or another. The man just can’t help himself, and there are scenes within the film that poke fun of this constant factor, sort of like doing variations or riffs on this theme. This would be despicable in the present age if it came from someone without the stature of Eastwood, who in what is reportedly his final screen appearance seems to relish an excoriation of all the pent up anger brewing just under the surface of a twisted and paralyzed modern society spewing from the unending display of senseless violence that has gripped our nation. What sense are we to make of all this?
The film is simple enough, an aging Korean war vet, Eastwood as Walt Kowalski, is retired from working the line at the Ford auto plant, is recently widowed, finds that his own family have become complete strangers to him, and with a stockpile of weapons lives alone next door to a Hmong Chinese and Laotian family that emigrated to America during the Vietnam War. All Kowalski wants is to be left alone in peace and for them to stay off his lawn, where he growls to himself whenever he sees one of his neighbors followed by racial epithets, but trouble ensues when a local gang tries to initiate an introverted kid, Thao (Bee Vang), one of the Hmong family members, to steal Kowalski’s nicely polished vintage 1972 Ford Gran Torino, a plan that goes awry, made even worse when Kowalski has to pull a gun to keep the kid from being kidnapped by the gang afterwards. In humiliation, the family next door is forever thanking him with gifts and flowers and eventually food when they realize it’s something he actually needs, surviving pretty much on Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and beef jerky. Thao’s older sister Sue (Ahney Her) is much more receptive, remarkably open and down to earth, taking his remarks in stride and cracking jokes with her racist neighbor, becoming an ambassador and interpreter as she walks him through their home as they’re having a Hmong family barbeque. That scene in itself is hilarious as it’s a play on nearly every kind of stereotype, but it works through oddball humor, like Kowalski continually calling her Dragon Lady, and the fresh appeal of Her’s performance, as she’s a tremendously gifted, extremely naturalistic actress, easily the best thing in the film.
The problem with this film is that no one seems comfortable
with the racist dialogue, so it feels staged and overwritten, as it’s obviously
written for provocative effect rather than bearing any resemblance to real
life. Eastwood’s character is a battle
hardened war vet disgruntled over the changing racial dynamic in his
neighborhood, which he sees as growing from bad to worse, which he expresses
through a series of grunts and squints while sitting on his front porch
drinking beer, occasionally pulling his gun on the outlaw types, establishing
his turf as a do not disturb zone. In
this dangerous and contemptable world, every scene with Sue in it is like a
breath of fresh air in this film, as she’s acclimated well to both American as
well as her own culture, where she matter of factly states that Hmong girls do
well in school while the boys all end up in prison. So the film instead concentrates on her more
troubled (and less interesting) brother who has a harder time of it, as he’s
exposed to greater dangers with fewer options, so he is more likely to make
that one mistake that he will regret for the rest of his life. In an amusing manner, Kowalski tries to mold
him in a style that more closely resembles himself, but this is ridiculous, as
he’s still just a kid without the least bit of ingrained
Gran Torino (Warner Brothers) imagines what would happen if the classic Clint Eastwood hero—Dirty Harry, Unforgiven's Bill Munny, A Fistful of Dollars' Man With No Name—aged into a racist coot who sat on his front porch with a rifle and a six-pack, decrying the invasion of his Detroit suburb by "spooks" and "gooks." It's not much of a stretch; many of Eastwood's iconic roles combine creeping racial anxiety with an element of vigilante justice. But Walt Kowalski, a just-widowed Korean War vet with a grudge against his Hmong neighbors, is Eastwood's furthest venture yet into the comic possibilities of his flintier-than-thou persona.
Walt is a crank and a bigot, but no fool; he can see that his nerdy teenage neighbor Thao (Bee Vang) is being pressured to join a violent neighborhood gang. So Walt scares the gangbangers away with a vintage weapon and a world-class squint. He strikes up a reluctant friendship with Thao, who helps him with household tasks and envies Walt's mint-condition '72 Gran Torino. Thao learns the art of asking out girls and the efficacy of a well-timed dirty joke. Walt learns that "gooks"—at least the unarmed, studious kind—are people too. As for "spooks" … well, the jury remains out, apparently.
Eastwood fans will love this movie, but I confess that I've never been one of them. The man does have a priceless way with a dry putdown (the winner here has to be "Good day, Puss-cake"), and as an actor, he's a master at riffing on his own cinematic myth. But I can't get past his lead-footed direction and the ponderous Manicheanism of his worldview. Gran Torino ends with a fantasy of vigilante violence that squanders all the goodwill its main character has spent the movie accruing. This is the better by far of the two movies Eastwood has made this year, a stripped-down alternative to the overupholstered Changeling. But both movies share a moral vision—bad guys as leering sickos, good guys (and girls) as sacrificial lambs—that shuts down the possibility of any real, well, doubt.
Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino, from a screenplay by Nick Schenk, based on a story by Dave Johannson and Mr. Schenk, caps his career as both a director and an actor with his portrayal of a heroically redeemed bigot of such humanity and luminosity as to exhaust my supply of superlatives. The movie begins with Mr. Eastwood’s gloweringly cantankerous retired Polish-American autoworker, Walt Kowalski, presiding over his beloved wife’s funeral, and visibly disapproving of everyone in attendance both in the church and at the reception afterward in his Detroit domicile. These include his spoiled but moderately successful sons, their wives and children; his parish priest, Father Janovich (Christopher Carley); and all his Hmong neighbors, who he feels have invaded his once solidly Polish-Irish community. In short, Walt, like many retirees, refuses to accept a changing world on any terms but his own jaundiced view of humanity, and his hostility has not escaped the attention of a Hmong matriarch sitting on the porch next door, who asks him ironically why he has not left the neighborhood with all the other “white people.”
But Walt is too stubborn to change his ways or his locale. When his children suggest that he might be happier moving to a retirement community they have chosen for him, he virtually throws them out of the house. However, he soon discovers a new perilous problem in the area, that of emerging ethnically and racially divided disaffected young gang members: Hmong immigrants from Southeast Asia, African-Americans and Latinos. On one occasion, he rescues a cheeky young Hmong girl named Sue Lor (Ahney Her) from a menacing group of African-Americans by flashing a handgun he has kept in his possession since the Korean War—in which he served with distinction, and possesses the medal to prove it.
We learn later that he is still haunted by the memory of a North Korean youth he killed in hand-to-hand combat. Meanwhile, the story shifts to a fatherless Hmong youth, Thao Vang Nor (Bee Vang), living next door, who is being intimidated by a Hmong street gang, to which Thao’s cousin belongs, into stealing Walt’s 1972 Gran Torino, which he keeps lovingly polished in his garage as a reminder of happier times in his life. When Walt, gun drawn, surprises Thao in the garage, the boy flees in a panic to his home, where he is dominated by his mother and two sisters.
When the gang members come after him, a fight breaks out and spills over to Walt’s neatly tended lawn. An outraged Walt springs out of his house with an M-1 rifle in shooting position, causing the gang members to flee and thereby lose face.
Suddenly, Walt is hailed as a hero by his Hmong neighbors, who start bringing him food, drink and plants despite his pleas for them to stop. But when Thao’s family sends Thao to Walt’s house to apologize for his attempted theft of Walt’s Gran Torino, and to offer his free services for a few weeks as an act of contrition, Walt begins to look at his neighbors in a new light. He also strikes up a friendly relationship with Thao’s older sister, Sue.
As for Thao, he begins regarding Walt as the father he never had, and the two become friends. Nonetheless, the Hmong gang members resume their raids and other depredations with explosive firepower of their own. The stage is set for Walt’s climactic confrontation with this new enemy in his life. In the process, Walt has been transformed into an elderly avenging angel with love in his heart for people of a different color, religion and ethnicity.
Mr. Eastwood worked closely with his writers, Mr. Schenk and Mr. Johannson, who were just starting out in the industry, but also with longtime collaborators like cinematographer Tom Stern; production designer James J. Murakami; editors Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach; costume designer Deborah Hopper; and above all casting director Ellen Chenoweth and her associates, Geoffrey Miclat and Amelia Rasche, who had to scour the country for the film’s nonprofessional Hmong performers. The results of all these collaborations add up to a genuinely pioneering production very much worth seeing for the emotional thunderbolt that it is.
Screen International review Mike Goodridge
Gran Torino is an unpretentious, often very funny humanist
drama which is a small jewel in Clint Eastwood's canon of work as a director
and a highpoint in his career as an actor. Revolving around a racist curmudgeon
with a military past – a cross between Dirty Harry and Archie Bunker – the film
is unlikely to reach the box office or critical heights of
In the awards race, to which he is no stranger, Eastwood is most likely to score recognition in the best actor category. He has never won an acting Oscar and has only two nominations to his credit (for Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby), so, regardless of the fact that he gives a magnificent performance here, sentiment alone should drive him into the final five. Eastwood has hinted that this will be his final performance, a fact which may also work in his favour.
The film opens at the funeral of Walt's wife. A Korean War veteran who stands by her coffin grumpily judging his two sons and their families during the service, Kowalski keeps his M1 rifle in the house, is hostile to the local priest (Carley) when he comes to call, and is full of contempt and abuse for the Hmong immigrants who have moved into the neighbourhood.
He has few pleasures in life – gruff banter with the local barber (Lynch), the companionship of his dog Daisy, regular intake of bottled beer, and his Gran Torino car which he keeps in pristine condition in the garage.
Walt's life changes when his neighbour, shy teenager Thao Lor (Vang), is bullied into stealing the Gran Torino by a group of gun-toting Hmong gangbangers. Walt scares him away and the next day pulls his gun on the gang, winning the admiration of all the Hmongs in the neighbourhood. Thao's mother and older sister Sue (Her) insist that Thao confess to Walt that he was the would-be thief and offer to make amends.
Though he wants nothing to do with the Hmongs, Walt likes Sue's spunky personality, and enjoys their tasty food. He puts the boy to work in his house and in the neighbourhood, and the two develop an unlikely rapport. He tries to help Thao develop handyman skills so that he won't follow the seemingly inevitable path into gang warfare. Gradually his understanding of the family next door leads him to unlock his own damaged soul and confront demons from his past.
Eastwood still commands the screen even while he is spitting out racist comments or coughing up blood. He growls, scowls, threatens and pulls a gun whenever he feels like it. But while the trailer might imply that he is returning to a Dirty Harry "Make My Day" persona here, his character ultimately doesn't obliterate the gang with a gun but with a noble act. It's anything but Dirty Harry Redux.
Similarly Walt's abusive language to the Hmongs – which includes just about every racist epithet you can think of – is shocking at first but gradually becomes comic as he himself realises how absurd his prejudices are.
The two young newcomers Bee Vang and Ahney Her give spirited performances as the Lor siblings whose lives are inextricably bound together with loss and violence.
As with Eastwood's other recent films, the film is ultimately a tearjerker with a momentously moving finale. As Clint's own gravelly voice starts up over the end credits singing the mournful title song, it's genuinely sad to think we might not see him act again, but somehow fitting that he should bow out with Walt Kowalski.
Walt Kowalski growls a lot—a dyspeptic rumble that wells up from deep inside his belly when he catches sight of his midriff-baring teenage granddaughter text-messaging her way through her grandmother's funeral, or when his good-for-nothing son and daughter-in-law suggest that he sell his house in a gang-infested corner of suburban Detroit and move to one of those plasticine retirement homes that look so nice in the brochures.
Like many characters Clint Eastwood has played in his six-decade screen career, Walt Kowalski is a man outside of his own time—a man who senses on some deep, inarticulable level that he has outlived his own usefulness. He's a little bit of "Dirty" Harry Callahan, brandishing his disgust (and his firearm) at the unsightly blemishes of a value-less society; a little bit of Million Dollar Baby's Frankie Dunn, the rundown boxing trainer who's been as much of a disappointment to himself as to his estranged family; and more than a little bit of Unforgiven's Bill Munny, the has-been gunslinger haunted by the sins of his past but unable to refuse one last ride in the saddle. And much like those movies, Gran Torino (which Eastwood directed from a generally superb script by newcomer Nick Schenk) is about what happens when circumstance hurls Walt Kowalski into direct conflict with the present.
Like Unforgiven, Gran Torino begins with the death
of the Eastwood character's unseen but implicitly saintly wife, after which
Walt only has eyes for two things—his faithful canine companion and the
gleaming 1972 Ford Gran Torino that sits in his garage, a reminder of the
now-defunct assembly line where he spent most of his adult life. Back then, Walt's
neighborhood was an enclave of the blue-collar sons and daughters of European
immigrants. Now, those same streets have been taken over by another immigrant
population—the Hmong people of
As Walt rants about the "zipperheads" dragging down the neighborhood, brushes off the barely postpubescent priest who comes around to give Walt confession, and growls some more, Gran Torino looks to be shaping up as something of a gently un-p.c., geriatric crowd-pleaser of the Space Cowboys variety. And if that's all you want or expect of Gran Torino, then that's exactly what it will be—no matter that Eastwood, for whom moviemaking has long been symbiotic with his love of jazz, merely uses the bass line of a butt-kicking Clint Eastwood action movie to play a series of complex variations on his career-abiding themes.
Mostly, Gran Torino is a two-hander between Walt and the
literal boy next door—an introverted, fatherless Hmong teen, Thao (Bee Vang),
who caves to pressure from a gangbanger cousin and tries to steal Walt's car in
a botched initiation rite. Gradually and grudgingly, Walt takes the boy under
his wing and takes it upon himself to "man him up" a bit—but only
after Walt first steps across the property line and into the Hmong world. At
its most didactic, Gran Torino has Walt stare into a mirror and realize
that he has more in common with these "foreigners" than he does with
his own flesh and blood, but more often, the movie works by subtle implication.
This is hardly the first time Eastwood has played a man with a shadowy past, but rarely have the shadows been so vividly illuminated (no matter the director's trademark preference for chiaroscuro lighting). "We used to stack fucks like you five feet high in Korea and use you for sandbags," Walt barks while shoving his old M-1 in the face of one of the gang members who continue to terrorize Thao's family—a moment (one of the finest Eastwood has ever acted) that echoes the image of the Iwo Jima survivor stirred from a nightmare at the start of Flags of Our Fathers. Only, Walt Kowalski is wide awake, and the nightmare is still unfolding.
"The thing that haunts a man most is what he isn't ordered to do," Walt says in Gran Torino's defining scene, and the thing that has long haunted Eastwood is the legacy of American violence and the false heroic myths on which that legacy has been written. For him, romanticized movie violence long ago lost its allure, and at least since Unforgiven, the act of killing another human being has been depicted as one that leaves a permanent scar on men's psyches. In Gran Torino, that strain of investigation reaches its apotheosis in an inversion of Unforgiven's climactic barroom standoff, a scene that brings the curtain down on Eastwood's cycle of urban-crime films as hauntingly as the earlier one did on his Westerns.
I'm not sure if Gran Torino is Eastwood's "best" film, to whatever extent such trivial distinctions matter. Certainly, it's a rougher, less formally elegant one than the masterly Unforgiven and A Perfect World. But especially when viewed in light of this year's earlier Changeling (which, on the surface, looks like the more "important" movie), it seems like one of Eastwood's most personal, right down to his raspy warbling of the self-penned end-credits song. Above all, it feels like a summation of everything he represents as a filmmaker and a movie star, and perhaps also a farewell. "That," future generations of fathers will someday tell their sons, "is what Clint Eastwood was all about."
BFI | Sight & Sound | Gran Torino (2008) Kate Stables from Sight and Sound, March 2009
Changeling and Gran Torino
Double Feature, by Chris
Fujiwara from The
Slant Magazine review Bill Weber
Entertainment Weekly review [A-] Lisa Schwarzbaum
Clint Eastwood shines up his 'Gran Torino' Geoff Boucher from The LA Times, January 7, 2009
of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
—Invictus, by William Ernest Henley, 1875
If 2009 had a most valuable player award for the movies, it would
have to go to Matt Damon. Whether he's appearing in "The Informant!," a Sarah Silverman Web parody or in Clint Eastwood's
stirring post-apartheid drama, "Invictus," he has been consistently
spot-on and almost breathtakingly self-effacing. He has become that most
In "Invictus," Damon plays Francois Pienaar, the captain of the South African rugby team the Springboks, which in 1995 won the World Cup. The movie tells the story of that unlikely and politically crucial victory, which as much as anything was the result of the gentle coaxing and adamantine moral suasion of the country's new president, Nelson Mandela.
Morgan Freeman doesn't play Mandela as much as inhabit the man, in a performance that seems to embody the very transcendence that Mandela himself has come to stand for. Freeman captures with perfect pitch the inner workings of a man who, put in charge of a country still ravaged by the still-fresh violence and injustices of apartheid, sees an opportunity for healing in the rites and rituals of sport. His job is to forge within the black community a sense of identification with a mostly white team that for years has represented oppression.
Eastwood adopts a flat, uninflected style for
"Invictus," wisely letting this remarkable story tell itself with a
minimum of flourish or underlining. The result is a thoroughly absorbing,
inspiring movie that, like last year's "Milk," features one of the
year's most galvanizing performances. Freeman doesn't merely impersonate
Mandela as much as personify not just political genius but an almost superhuman
suppleness of character.
A new film from Clint Eastwood is starting to be a regular annual occurrence, like a major sports championship match or the films of Woody Allen. "Invictus", Eastwood's latest directorial effort, has more in common with the former than the latter, as it centers around South African former President Nelson Mandela's involvement with the sport of rugby, propelling the national team to the World Cup finals. Missing is Eastwood's usual looming specter of death, the most common thematic element in his career. But on the flip side, as if to make up for it, Eastwood's secondary favorite elements of recent years are very present: racial tension, and Morgan Freeman (as Mandela). The biggest surprise of it all is the fact that this film, riding in like a drama-heavy historical epic with "important" written all over it, is, in actuality, a feel good sports movie - albeit one with major racial, political, and social themes wrapped around it.
On one hand, "Invictus" is a nice account of
President's Mandela's efforts to racially unify newly post-apartheid
Based in events of recent history (1995, to be exact), "Invictus" completely sidesteps Mandela's great personal troubles of his post prison time, and glazes over the major tasks and other aspects of being president of a newly radically changed country. And yet by focusing on lighter fare, "Invictus" isn't any less of a drag that it might've been had it actually been saddled with all that big-picture baggage. Actually, calling the film a drag is overstating it, but if there is such as thing as a breezy drag, "Invictus" is it. Eastwood can never quite find the exact focus of the story, bouncing around from Mandela, to Mandela's security detail, to the family of the rugby team captain - but never allowing any to develop fully. More embarrassingly, there are numerous red herring deathly threats peppered throughout the film for absolutely no good reason. It all builds up to the formulaic Big Game, the outcome of which actually doesn't matter at all in the greater fabric of the story. It's all indicative of a larger problem, which is the terminally loose screenplay.
"Invictus" is a lightweight tangent in Eastwood's otherwise greatly respectable filmography of darkness, death, and human toil. Supposedly he did it as a favor for his good friend Freeman, who yes, is great as Mandela. In any case, we can hope that next year's inevitable new Clint Eastwood film will go the distance, as this one never quite does.
Aside from Morgan Freeman, who makes a fabulous Nelson Mandela, there's this to savor about Invictus, a rosy tale of racial reconciliation neatly wrapped in a triumphalist sports movie: The film is blessedly free of Obama parallels. Also, we could use a happy global moment, and Eastwood picks one out of the otherwise rocky history of South Africa, when the country's first post-apartheid president stepped out of the jail where he'd languished for 27 years and firmly set aside revenge politics in favor of national unity.
More than most, Mandela understood the cohesive power of the symbol—in this case, the bright-green uniform of the South African rugby team the Springboks, echoing the flag equally beloved by whites and hated by blacks under apartheid. Adapted by South African writer Anthony Peckham from a book by former London Independent journalist John Carlin, Invictus tells the story of how Mandela, with help from the Afrikaner team captain, Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon, gym-pumped into Michelin Man and oozing fair play), turned a World Cup rugby match into a moment of rainbow solidarity.
Like every Eastwood production, Invictus is stately, handsomely mounted, attentive to detail right down to the Marmite adorning the team's breakfast buffet, and relentlessly conventional. As a portrait of a hero, the movie effortlessly brings a lump to the throat (Freeman gives a subtly crafted performance that blends Mandela's physical frailty with his easy charm and cerebral wit); as history, it is borderline daft and selective to the point of distortion. It's true that you can't shoehorn a nation's history into a single movie, but Peckham's dialogue, stuffed with strenuously underlined exposition, blazes an indecently fast trail from mutual suspicion to interracial love and understanding.
The powerful dislike between Mandela's black and white bodyguards melts into reverence for their leader and joint cheerleading for the team. Within minutes of their enforced arrival in the shantytowns, the Springboks (including Eastwood's cute son, Scott, who gets plenty of money shots) are happily hoisting adoring little black boys onto their shoulders. Pienaar's parents' maid gets tickets to the cup final, where she and the mistress sit side-by-side, rib-poking with every home-team score.
Never mind that many white supremacists fled abroad to seethe in safety over the end of white privilege. Never mind that the ANC, the very movement that had worked for years to free Mandela and bring down apartheid, is confined here to a lone reductive scene that dismisses a complex resistance group as a bunch of thuggish ideologues. And Winnie Mandela, who is no picnic but deserves a place in this story, is kicked out of the movie altogether, save for a couple of cheap gibes at her betrayal of her long-suffering husband. She and the extremist wing of the ANC have a right to more nuanced exposure in Invictus, if only to acknowledge the unpalatable truth that apartheid manufactured more monsters than it did dignified heroes with forgiveness in their hearts.
That Mandela is a great man is beyond dispute—but that's no excuse to position him in a Great Man theory of history. In the end, Invictus becomes what almost every Eastwood movie becomes: an inquiry into masculinity shaped in the director's own image, with the answers already supplied.
Eastwood can't play his own wounded hero this time, but his perennial ideal is all here in Mandela the courtly gentleman, Mandela the elderly yet still potent flirt, Mandela the dry wit—above all, in Mandela the rugged individualist who won't toe the PC line when duty suggests otherwise. Manning up in Eastwoodland has matured with age, from "Revenge is sweet" (the final scene in Unforgiven) to "The best revenge is living well." Maybe, but in real life that's not enough. Mandela befriended his prison guards and refused to make enemies of South African whites, including his former tormentors. Yet for all his lovely manners, his donations to worthy causes, his insistence on pouring his own tea, or even his high-minded dedication to reconciling former enemies, South Africa today is a muddle of hope and despair.
For the record, I cried my way through the climactic game, with all its
kitschy slow-mo lopes around the pitch, its roar of the crowd and peripheral
melodrama. But I came out feeling had. How Invictus will play in the
North American multiplex (foreign sport + foreign country = not promising) is a
lot less interesting than its reception in Johannesburg
and—perhaps more significantly—in the townships, where conditions remain
abysmal and communities are decimated by a long-untended AIDS epidemic that
makes our own crisis look like a tea party. Today's
(Clint Eastwood, 2009) Ignatiy Vishnevetsky at Mubi,
The Onion A.V. Club review [B] Keith Phipps
Entertainment Weekly review [B+] Owen Gleiberman
The Hollywood Reporter review Kirk Honeycutt
Austin Chronicle review [3/5] Marjorie Baumgarten
William Ernest Henley Wikipedia
While this is basically the Steven Spielberg produced BABEL (2006) of the afterlife, an interweaving string of three narratives that in itself hopes to make the audience feel a part of the interconnectedness of all things, the problem being that some of the narratives are stronger than others, turning this into something of an endurance test to get through the weaker moments in order to enjoy the more powerful moments. If one of these strands weren’t so strong, the film may not be worth the effort, as it’s a plodding, largely uninteresting series of events where the characters themselves couldn’t be more disinterested, leading to an all-too contrived finale that was expected from the outset. Cécile de France, in a horribly unbecoming wig, plays Marie LeLay, a rich and highly successful French television journalist who suffers a near-death experience after nearly drowning while on holiday in Hawaii in the opening tsunami sequence, which in an explosive rush places the audience into the hands of computer graphics designers, something all the rage these days, but not always the thrill the directors hope for. Though momentarily overwhelming, the entire sequence then becomes strangely inconsequential to the rest of the world that moves on to its next human catastrophe, a foreboding sign of what to expect for the rest of the film. Matt Damon is George, a psychologically troubled psychic in San Francisco who is overwhelmingly scarred by his hauntingly sad experiences with the dead, which has made him give up his business in an attempt to try to lead a normal life. Easily the most fascinating sequence is in London and involves two twin brothers, Frankie and George McLaren as Marcus and Jason, where one dies early on in a tragic accident leaving the other alone to fend for himself, feeling suddenly abandoned and lost, hopelessly disconnected from the rest of the world. It must be said that the digital photography used for this film leaves the screen colorless, permeated in a gray graininess, always feeling underlit, as if darkness pervades every frame.
The Cécile de France segments haven’t got an ounce of energy anywhere to speak of and feel stereotypically flat throughout the entire film, as if her world has collapsed and she needs to reinvent herself as a completely new person. Since she wasn’t all that interesting to begin with, this is the hardest of the three sequences to endure. Damon is slightly more interesting because unlike the common perception of psychics, eccentric and stereotypically weird, he’s just an average guy with supernatural experiences that actually connect him to the dead, a gift that he describes as a curse, as he can never seem to recover from these “readings,” overly devastated by their enormous sense of loss. My favorite part of his character is his preference for Dickens over Shakespeare, where he loves to sit and listen to read-aloud recordings of various Dickens stories. His brother, Jay Mohr, is an irritant throughout as he’s completely clueless with a self-centered interest in exploiting George’s prowess and is perhaps even responsible for traumatizing his brother. But Marcus is the genuine article, a troubled kid who is pulled out of his home by social services, as his mother is helplessly addicted and needs immediate treatment, leaving the poor kid in a state of isolation that is hauntingly sad. His is the only segment that generates unending sympathy, as his sense of longing and grief is intensely believable. He is perhaps the only real likeable person in the entire film, which descends into a gloomy maze of joyless hope, where people are turning away from the world around them and isolating themselves into a cocoon of perpetual mourning, where their brief glimpse into the world of the dead leaves them self-ostracized, solemly disconnected from all human experience, forever wandering on a vague spiritual quest for a connection with the afterlife.
Matt Damon is George, a spiritualist in spite of himself in "Hereafter," and one of three people in the film who have haunting connections with the afterlife. Unfortunately, Clint Eastwood's slow-paced drama has slack connections with the here and now.
This supernatural thriller, which was written by Peter Morgan,
begins impressively when a tropical resort is ravaged by a tsunami. In the
chaos that ensues, Marie, a TV personality on vacation from
One problem that soon surfaces is the movie's certitude. No
Turn-of-the-Screw-y ambiguities, no mind games about whether the three might
share some all-too-human delusion. Either you buy their Vaseline-lensed visions
of the hereafter, or you watch in stony silence, as I did, wondering why
there's no one to care about. Mr. Damon brings calm intelligence to his role,
and he has an agreeable encounter with Bryce Dallas Howard in a cooking
class—the students take turns wearing masks and spoon-feeding one another in
blind tastings. But even that scene wears out its welcome; it isn't as intimate
as it promises to be, and its pace, in keeping with the movie as a whole, is
insistently slow. The cast includes Marthe Keller as a celebrated student of
death and not dying, and Derek Jacobi as himself, giving a reading at a
The Onion A.V. Club review [C] Nathan Rabin
When Amores Perros came out in 2000, it looked like an
uncharacteristically arty variation on the spate of Pulp Fiction knock-offs
that inundated video store shelves with gritty, achronological, interconnected
narratives throughout the ’90s. Seen today, Amores Perros looks less
like a continuation of the Tarantino boom than the beginning of a new subgenre
that includes writer Guillermo Arriaga and director Alejandro González
Iñárritu’s follow-ups 29 Grams and
Late to the party, director Clint Eastwood and Oscar-nominated screenwriter Peter Morgan try their hand at the interconnectedness-of-humanity subgenre with Hereafter, an ambitious, globetrotting drama about mortality, fate, and the thin line separating the dead from the living. Matt Damon stars as an unassuming young man blessed and cursed with the ability to communicate with the dead. Damon’s brother (Jay Mohr) wants to exploit his gift for commercial gain, but Damon is ambivalent at best about his special talent. Halfway around the world, meanwhile, a glamorous French television personality (Cecile De France) experiences a profound spiritual awakening following a near-death experience, and a spooky little English boy attempts to communicate with his dead twin brother.
Morgan’s screenplays for Frost/Nixon and The Queen were clever to the point of being glib, but the hotshot screenwriter’s facility for witty dialogue abandons him here. Hereafter isn’t just unfunny; it’s positively humorless. In sharp contrast to the hyperbolic melodrama of Crash, Hereafter is hushed and understated to an almost perverse degree; it’s so sleepy it borders on narcoleptic. Eastwood develops so little momentum that when the film’s three discreet strands intersect climactically, it feels more arbitrary than revelatory. Just because a film takes place entirely in the long shadow of death doesn’t mean it has to be this relentlessly dour.
Who would have thought that, after decades (and decades) as Hollywood’s premier tough guy, Clint Eastwood would become such a stodgy formalist as a filmmaker? Not to insult his oeuvre or anything. Invictus, Changeling, Letters from Iwo Jima, Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, The Bridges of Madison County: They’re all classy pieces of old-school Hollywood cinema. Eastwood learned his lessons working for some of the finest directors in the business, and he knows how to construct a film with the best of them. But he seems more inclined toward stoic “Masterpiece Theatre”-inspired melodramas than anything with a discernible pulse.
Hereafter, Eastwood’s newest stint behind the camera, is a mature film all right. It’s constructed like something out of “This Old House,” with all the gables, beadboard wainscoting and hand-split wood-shake roofing of a master craftsman. But it’s a work of art that requires a Herculean amount of patience to get through. And I’m not so sure that patience ends up being rewarded.
The film is a Babel-inspired tapestry of story threads in which various people around the globe are linked together by the thin strands of fate. Like so many of those films, though, the characters in Hereafter aren’t bound to one another because their stories are actually, logically, realistically interconnected, but rather because of some grand, New Agey “we are all connected” conceit.
The film starts out with a famous French television journalist named Marie
LeLay (Cécile de France from High Tension) on vacation in
Obviously, these three characters will cross paths at some point. Clearly, George will break out of his funk, help Marie and Marcus with their problems, and in the process ... heal his own broken heart. Sounds predictable as hell, but let’s get to it.
Unfortunately, Hereafter is in no hurry to get to that inevitable point. Clocking in at two hours and 10 minutes (and feeling like three hours and 10 minutes easily), Hereafter sets the dial to “meander.” George works at his job, argues with his brother (Jay Mohr), flirts with a cute girl (Bryce Dallas Howard), takes a cooking class at continuing education (really?) and generally bemoans his supernatural abilities. Audiences will be forgiven for wondering if George, Marie and Marcus will ever get around to crossing paths.
They do. Eventually. And for purely coincidental reasons. The script by
Peter Morgan (The Queen, The Last King of
The problem is that, in the end, Hereafter doesn’t seem terribly pointed. Yes, people get bummed out about death. That’s generally a given. But Hereafter doesn’t espouse any particular theological, cosmological or metaphysical point about said bummed-outedness. The film seems to hint that traditional religion is no real help, although its endorsement of the afterlife—all tunnels of light and crowds of dead relatives—seems doggedly conventional. The film also admits that most spiritualists who claim to speak with the dead are just con men. Except for the really sincere ones who aren’t. As a result, the film finds no real difference between the two. Real or fake, a clairvoyant is going to deliver the exact same message: “Your dead mother/father/brother loves you and wants you to go on with your life and be happy.” Really? Thanks for the news flash.
Pensive, contemplative and lapped by waves of melancholy, Hereafter is
a worthy examination of mortality. By the same token, this is also a film that
manages to be languid and lyrical even while watching a 30-foot tsunami sweep
down a crowded city street. Like
There's something admirable about filmmakers who are willing to risk ridiculousness in an attempt to imagine unfilmable realms of experience: life after death, the subconscious, infancy, drug trips, dreams. Even when the experiment fails—What Dreams May Come, The Lovely Bones—the attempt to deliver the beyond has a weird nobility to it. And on the rare occasions that such films do succeed—think of Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris, or Michael Tolkin's haunting, underrated The Rapture—the results can be transcendent.
Clint Eastwood's Hereafter (Warner Bros.), for me, fell into the former category. Its vision of the afterlife—indistinct figures milling around in front of a white light—could have come straight from one of those basic-cable documentaries in which people recount their near-death experiences in between cheesy "re-enactments." And Eastwood's habitual preference for expounding ideas over developing characters often gives the movie the dull urgency of a tract (though it advances no religious doctrine, and indeed mentions none, with the exception of atheism). Still, I found myself cutting Hereafter break after break, thinking "OK, that scene didn't work, but let's see where he goes next." And this wasn't because I'm a particular fan of Eastwood—in my view, he's one of our most overrated living filmmakers—but because this movie's earnest dullness was part of its charm. I'm totally down with the idea of a slow-moving, somber meditation on grief, loneliness, and death, directed by an 80-year-old movie star. If only the movie had offered me more in exchange for my patience.
Hereafter's plot (the film was scripted by Peter Morgan,
the British screenwriter and playwright who wrote Frost/Nixon and The Queen) proceeds according to the logic of what I've
come to think of as "the Babel structure," though this kind of
sprawling international narrative no doubt preceded Alejandro González
Inárritu's Babel (2006). Three separate story threads—one set in
The movie's opening sequence is its best, because it so matter-of-factly upends our expectations of what an Eastwood film should be. A well-known French anchorwoman, Marie Lelay (Cécile de France), vacationing in a tropical location with her lover, is out shopping for souvenirs when the beachside village is suddenly hit by a tsunami. With no warning—and, blessedly, no hokily suspenseful music—we're plunged into a disaster movie, and the victim's-eye view as Marie is hurled along by a wall of water is truly terrifying. She nearly drowns, is pulled from the water by rescuers, and just as they've given up on their resuscitation attempt, she coughs up water and returns to life. But what Marie saw during those few moments between death and life—see above, in re: vague figures milling in a white light—renders her incapable of returning to her life as the successful host of a show called Window on the Event. The only event she wants a window onto is what happened to her in that tsunami.
Meanwhile, in scenic
And concurrently, in
And, at long last, more than an hour into this stuff, the three
stories begin to weave together—but the braid they form is maddeningly loose.
The feeling of the last act is one of dispersal and fragmentation, the plot's
energy slackening just when it should build. Marie wanders off to
William Maxwell, a novelist and former fiction editor for The New Yorker, once said something simple but heartbreaking about death: "People die and then they're gone. I'll never get used to it." The characters in Hereafter are stuck at that border—the moment when someone dies, and someone else refuses to get used to it, or to give up on trying to understand where their loved one has gone. Though I found Hereafter meandering and occasionally sentimental, I couldn't help but admire Clint Eastwood's ambition in taking on—headfirst—the greatest fact of human existence.
TIME Magazine review Richard Corliss
The House Next Door [Aaron Cutler] interesting comments on the digital world
Filmcritic.com Chris Cabin
Sound On Sight Kenneth Broadway
Entertainment Weekly review Lisa Schwarzbaum
Time Out New York review [2/5] Joshua Rothkopf
Austin Chronicle review [2.5/5] Marjorie Baumgarten
The New York Times review A.O. Scott
I am…a revolutionary. —Fred Hampton, Chairman of the Chicago Chapter of the Black Panther Party, murdered by an FBI raid
What is overlooked here is how FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the most powerful police organization in the country, was so compelled by his reactionary beliefs to continually violate the law himself, even resort to murder in order to, in his views, protect American citizens when pursuing Black Panthers in the late 60’s, as evidenced by the December 4, 1969 assassination of Party Chairman Fred Hampton and fellow Panther Mark Clark in Chicago, including a cover up of the police actions, claiming they were firing in self-defense in a dawn 4:30 am FBI raid into Hampton’s private residence, supposedly to serve a warrant for a weapons violation. According to a forensics report, 99 bullets were found entering the apartment from the outside, while only 1 bullet was ever fired from inside, hardly the barrage of “an onslaught of bullets” reported by the police to justify their actions.
All the Chicago officers on the Hampton raid were vindicated, where only after a period of ten years were they finally held responsible for violating Hampton’s civil rights. Over the course of time, this also led to the FBI revelations that they actually directed the State’s Attorney’s raid, based on diagrams provided by FBI informant William O’Neal, who was paid $30,000 by the FBI and was Hampton’s bodyguard, the man who actually provided the exact location of Fred Hampton’s bed, which was the target of the majority of the police bullets. An autopsy also revealed that there were barbiturates found in Hampton’s stomach, who was known to be ardently drug and alcohol free, suggesting he was drugged the night before by O’Neal, who served him kool-aid and hot dogs the night before, corroborating the testimony of Hampton’s girl friend in the apartment who claimed he did not respond and remained groggy throughout the raid, only lifting his head an inch or so off the bed before he was shot and killed.
Black Panthers were targeted by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI watch list as public enemy number one, calling them "the greatest threat to the internal security of the country," infiltrated by informants, oftentimes black police officers, and eventually the entire organization nationwide was hunted down and targeted for arrest and/or death “by any means necessary,” to borrow a phrase of the Panthers organization themselves. Bobby Hutton of the Oakland branch was killed, Eldridge Cleaver fled the country, Huey P. Newton was arrested for manslaughter, H. Rap Brown for murder, and one by one the leaders were taken out in a secret FBI spy operation against American citizens called COINTELPRO that was only uncovered years later under the Freedom of Information Act. By 1970, 34 known Panthers were dead as a result of police raids and shoot-outs, while the rising costs of legal fees eventually ended the existence of the Black Panther Party. Hoover and his organization have never been held accountable for their own criminal illegality, which is why there continues to be a major distrust factor of police in black communities. Informant William O’Neal eventually threw himself into the lanes of the Eisenhower expressway, committing suicide on Martin Luther King Day on 1990. There is no mention of any of this in the film, which also neglects to mention Hoover’s active contribution to the Red Scare McCarthyist Era of the 1950’s.
The film does show that from December 1963 until his death
in 1968, the
FBI wiretapped the phones of Reverand Martin Luther King Jr, claiming that
one of King's closest advisers, Stanley Levison, a white New York lawyer and
businessman, was a top-level member of the American Communist Party. As it turned out Levison had extensive ties
with the Communist Party in the 40’s and 50’s but departed from the
organization by the time he met King in the early 60’s. Nonetheless, a wiretap was ordered on
The FBI scrutinized Dr. King's tax returns, monitored his
sexual and financial affairs, and even tried to establish that he had a secret
foreign bank account. Religious leaders
and institutions were contacted in an effort to undermine their support of him,
and unfavorable material was “leaked” to the press. Bureau officials contacted
members of Congress, and special “off the record” testimony was prepared for
This film, easily one of the ugiest looking films ever seen (in more ways than one), written by Dustin Lance Black, who also wrote MILK (2008), is largely taken from Hoover’s own 1972 memoirs which he dictates throughout the film accentuating a more tender side of Hoover, Leonardo DiCaprio in a horrible accent, not just a ruthless, powerful man in America who rose to the directorship of the FBI from 1935 until his death in 1972. It was only after he died that America learned Hoover was a cross dresser, a closet homosexual, who may have repressed his lifelong love affair with Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer), the Associate Director of the FBI from 1930 until just after Hoover died in 1972, the man who inherited Hoover’s estate after he died, which amounted to a little more than half a million dollars and Hoover’s home. Ironically Hoover was outspoken against homosexuality and refused to allow gays, women, and very few blacks to become FBI agents, and in fact spread defamatory false rumors that Presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson was gay. And while these personal revelations may be salaciously interesting, they prove to be something of a distraction, and pure speculation, where adding a vulnerable and more humanized dimension to his personality, a secretly repressed love affair that Hoover never publicly acknowledged during his lifetime, and for which there is no corroborating evidence, has a way of diverting attention away from the corrupt ruthlessness in which he ran his office, known for blackmailing Presidents, threatening to expose and ruin the careers of anyone who would dare attempt to challenge him, surviving largely unscathed in his own personal domain as head of the FBI, remaining outside of public scrutiny for 37 years, collecting and consolidating power in his office long after a series of Presidents came and went.
Placing the focus on Hoover’s love life takes away from the fact that this man singlehandedly destroyed lives throughout his lifetime, altering the possibilities of social change in history, where the damage he caused in arrests, murder, and intimidation was far greater than that of any terrorist, where he was the man in charge of all the slimy, underhanded dirty tricks and lies, which Hoover felt was far more effective than the truth, used to undermine the reputations and public effectiveness of others, yet he remained in charge of the nation’s highest law officers, continuing to collect information that he could use “against” others in his own private crusade on public decency, an unchecked monster that himself became that threat to the internal security of our nation, an embarrassing stain in the nation’s history that this film steers clear of because Hoover led the fight against Communism in America and continues to be lauded in right wing circles as a patriot. A dull and drab Clint Eastwood movie that fictionalizes certain aspects of his life is no substitute for the real thing, which would be an exposé that reveals the truth about just what the man was responsible for in his lifetime, revealing all the skeletons in the closet. Despite modernizing crime fighting technology, such as creating a centralized fingerprint file and forensic laboratories, he also used the FBI to harass political dissenters and activists, to amass secret files on political leaders, and routinely used illegal methods to collect evidence. There were no Black Panthers and no one from the King family offering their views on how this lone man dedicated his life to work tirelessly not only to discredit the hopes and dreams of others and the movements they advocated, but ultimately he vowed to literally destroy lives. In 2001, Nevada Senator Harry Reid sponsored an amendment to strip Hoover's name from the FBI Headquarters named after him in Washington, D.C. claiming “J. Edgar Hoover's name on the FBI building is a stain on the building,” however the Senate never adopted the amendment.
Review: J. Edgar - Reviews - Boston Phoenix Gerald Peary
Filmmaker Clint Eastwood, famously
Republican, portrays right-wing hero J. Edgar Hoover, the late FBI head, as a
self-aggrandizing, conniving bully and mama's boy who broke the law whenever he
wanted to bring anyone down. Leonardo DiCaprio has the unenviable task of
playing a character without a single redeeming feature. He's good as the little
merde, though the film itself wobbles from boring bio scenes to
effective political history to embarassingly miscast actors playing Bobby
Kennedy (Jeffrey Donovan) and Richard Nixon (Christopher Shyer). The script by
Dustin Lance Black (Milk) is overwritten, with characters lecturing
J. Edgar Hoover was once the most powerful
It's tough to make a 140-minute film about a character so despicable he'd make Dick Cheney blush, but director Eastwood and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (Milk) inject Hoover with a touch of humanity: his lifelong affair with his right-hand man, Clyde Tolson. Armie Hammer (the twins in The Social Network) steals scenes from Leonardo DiCaprio (
Naomi Watts does well with the two-dimensional Helen Gandy,
Tom Stern's desaturated cinematography drains the film of joy, which perfectly mirrors
Fortunately, Eastwood and Black condemn
J. Edgar | Film | Movie Review | The A.V. Club Tasha Robinson
The trouble with biopics is the overwhelming pressure to shape a subject’s
story into a neat arc, where a defining characteristic in the first act leads
to a predictable uplift or downfall in the third. This approach never does
justice to human complexity, and it only rarely does justice to a film. In the
case of Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar, the attempt to accordion J. Edgar
Hoover’s 50-plus years with the FBI (including in its nascent stages, before it
was called that) into two hours offers snapshots of many
Leonardo DiCaprio stars as
In his script, Dustin Lance Black (Milk)
hits some key milestones in
In one of the climactic moments of the new film J.
Edgar, a thirtysomething J. Edgar Hoover reveals his plans to take a
wife. The scene unfolds in a
There is no evidence that this
fight—much less the kiss—ever took place. What we know about the relationship
J. Edgar’s scriptwriter, Dustin Lance Black, had the
luxury of imagining the answer to this question, depicting
And yet it is
Swift promotion was not particularly unique at the early Bureau;
Their own brawl in J. Edgar takes places sometime during
this period, evoking the erotically charged world of café society as a backdrop
For the most part, though,
This produced the predictable
political associates knew to treat them as a bona fide couple. In the 1930s,
evoke nothing so much as the formal world of 1950s married life, one set of
spouses trading entertaining tips and social niceties with the other. But did
these friends actually view
It is easy to write
off the more open aspects of
At the very least,
they were caring social partners, relying on each other for emotional
sustenance and daily support that went beyond the realm of ordinary friendship.
J. Edgar closes with Tolson clutching a love letter to Eleanor Roosevelt from
journalist Lorena Hickok, now widely seen as one of
“Words are mere man-given symbols for thoughts and feelings, and
they are grossly insufficient to express the thoughts in my mind and the feelings
in my heart that I have for you,”
J. Edgar Review: Life in a Vacuum - Pajiba Daniel Carlson
J. Edgar reviewed - Slate Magazine Dana Stevens
Filmcritic.com Bill Gibron
J. Edgar : DVD Talk Review of the Theatrical Jason Bailey
Combustible Celluloid Review - J. Edgar (2011), Clint Eastwood ... Jeffrey M. Anderson
J. Edgar | Review | Screen - Screen International Mike Goodridge
Oscar Prospects: J. Edgar | The House Next Door R. Kurt Osenlund
DiCaprio in Clint Eastwood's 'J. Edgar ... - New York Times Brooks Barnes interviews the actor from The New York Times,
J Edgar – review Andrew Pulver from The Guardian, November 30, 2011
J. Edgar – review Peter Bradshaw from The Guardian, January 19, 2012
a visionary? Don't believe it Alex
von Tunzelmann from The Guardian,
J. Edgar – review Philip French from The Observer, January 21, 2012
'Edgar' worth investigating - BostonHerald.com James Verniere
Critic Review for J. Edgar on washingtonpost.com Ann Hornaday
The Washington Times [staff] Peter Suderman
Harry Meets Dirtier Edgar - NYTimes.com - New York Times Maureen Dowd,
Hoover’s FBI Spied on the White House and
Counterculture Alike Tim Weiner from
Martin Luther King Jr. FBI Files 3165 pages of FBI files
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Case Study - ICDC Supplementary Detailed Staff Reports on Intelligence Activities and the Rights of Americans, Book III, Final Report of the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities United States Senate, April 23, 1976
The FBI's Vendetta Against Martin Luther King, Jr. from the book The ... The FBI's Vendetta Against Martin Luther King, Jr, excerpted from the book The Lawless State, The Crimes of the U.S. Intelligence Agencies, by Morton Halperin, Jerry Berman, Robert Borosage, Christine Marwick, 1976
The FBI and Martin Luther King - Magazine - The Atlantic David J. Garrow from The Atlantic Monthly, July/August 2002
FBI tracked King's every move - CNN Jen Christensen from CNN News, March 31, 2008
FBI — Fred Hampton FBI Records on Fred Hampton
Last Hours of William O'Neal | Our Town | Chicago Reader Michael Ervin,
but a Northern Lynching: The Death of Fred Hampton ... Susan Rutberg from The Huffington Post,
As someone who never much liked Frankie Valli and the Four
Seasons when they were incessantly overplayed on the radio in the 60’s and
70’s, where it always sounded like they had a “produced” rather than a natural
sound, it would be a challenge to sit through yet another disappointing Clint
Eastwood film since MILLION DOLLAR BABY (2004), a few of which have been among
the worst films in this director’s career.
The Four Seasons were the epitome of mass marketing, viewed as
old-fashioned and square, the kind of Lawrence
Welk schmaltz and sentimentality that even your grandmother could enjoy,
where live performances included few spontaneous moments and were identical to
the radio sound, as there was little actual performance in an era that featured
some of the greatest performers in pop, rock ‘n’ roll, and rhythm and blues
history, where the sheer unconventionality of these artists broke from the
suffocatingly conformist chains of the 50’s, an era when performers simply
stood at a microphone and sang in tune.
Compare that to Tina Turner, Janis Joplin, James Brown, Jerry Lee Lewis,
Chuck Berry, Eric Burdon, Jimi Hendrix, or Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones,
who all revolutionized the stage performance.
Nonetheless, adapted from the writing team that produced the Tony Award
winning 2005 Broadway musical that won Best Musical, with John Lloyd Young (now
at age 38, where his character ranges from a teenager to the father of a
teenager, also winning a Tony for Best Leading Actor in a Musical) in the lead
role of Frankie Valli as the sole original Broadway performer to be featured in
the movie, the film is largely a recreation of the theatrical conception. This is what’s commonly known in the trade as
a moneymaker, a “can’t lose” proposition given to an A-list director, while the
investors then sit around and wait for the cash dollars to come rolling
in. That’s been the story of this
theatrical production from the outset, costing $7.8 million dollars to produce on
Broadway in November 2005, recouping all of their investments by the following
June, where 9-years later the show continues to average $715,000 per week in
grosses, where the weekly running costs are only about $400,000, which is low
by Broadway standards, passing over $1.7 billion dollars in worldwide grosses
earlier this year, where there are no announced plans to end its New York run. Frankie Valli and his songwriter Bob Gaudio
have earned $4.1 million dollars so far on the Broadway production alone, as
well as a steady stream of revenue from their musical royalties, where early in
their careers they inked contracts where they take 6% of the music’s net
profits. And now, the movie, which is
wall-to-wall songs, nearly every one a similar looking set piece, which is
cheap, easy to construct, assemble a cast, and shoot, which just earns more
money into the hands of the investors.
All of this sounds like the
Imagine ‘Goodfellas’ without much in the way of stakes, and you’ll get Clint Eastwood’s pleasingly square and forgettable adaptation of the award-winning jukebox musical, which charts the rise and fall of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Like the stage show, the story is told through the eyes of each of the band members – Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young), Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza), Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda) and Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) – each talking directly to camera. It’s a half-arsed gimmick that Eastwood and his screenwriters deploy haphazardly (Valli doesn’t even get his turn until the dewy-eyed final scene). This fits the mood of the movie, though, which comes off like one of those meandering reminiscences you indulge in during a family get-together.
The band has a colourful history that involves money mismanagement, mob ties (Christopher Walken bringing his inimitable style to gangster Gyp DeCarlo) and even actor Joe Pesci (Joseph Russo), who was instrumental in introducing keyboardist Gaudio to the group. Yet Eastwood directs each scene with a creaky monotony that nullifies most of the drama. Even when the characters ratchet up the colourful mob insults or the film shifts back and forth in time, things feel sleepy and sedate.
That leaves the musical performances of hits like ‘Walk Like a Man’ and ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’ to pick up the slack (it was a good move to hang on to Tony-winning actor Young as the angel-voiced Valli). Neither the creaky aesthetic nor laughable old-age makeup hampers Young’s charm and charisma. He makes the music come alive despite the cinematic embalming.
C’mon Clint: have a little fun, why don’t ya? Eastwood’s take on
four hoodlums who escape
In the director’s hands, the song-and-dance-pumped Broadway hit Jersey Boys becomes a passable but tediously predictable portrait of band conflict. Like the musical, Eastwood’s film finds the members of the Four Seasons each addressing the audience directly with the story of Frankie Valli’s rise to teen idol. But they inhabit a grimly realistic ’50s and ’60s shot in desaturated hues. Gone are the musical’s dozens of catchy songs: here we get a handful of hits like “Sherry”, with the only one that taps any real energy in the film’s last, climactic showstopper.
There’s a strange incongruity between this plodding realism and the script’s over-the-top stageyness. The movie Mamma Mia was giddy enough that we might have believed a trio could read music over a composer’s shoulder for the first time and sing it in perfect four-part harmony. Here, when budding composer Bob Gaudio shows the guys his sheet music and they pull it off flawlessly it feels forced because of the tone. Scenes of uniformly grinning audiences swooning to Valli’s falsetto make you long for the deadpan silence of the concert scenes in Inside Llewyn Davis.
Things aren’t all bad. Christopher Walken brings a bit of insanity to the benevolent mob boss who takes Frankie under his wing. And Mike Doyle is flamboyantly hilarious as producer Bob Crewe.
The Broadway star of Jersey Boys, John Lloyd Young, takes the lead here, and while he can reach the high notes, his character’s dull. Vincent Piazza fares better as the Four Season’s swaggering bad-boy Tommy DeVito. The women are throwaways, though, whether it’s the wives left at home or the girlfriends who revolve through the hotel rooms. In fact, it’s difficult to invest in any of the relationships here. Eastwood seems to want to shoehorn it all in—the good, the bad, and the ugly—when most of the audience is probably just there for the matching red velvet jackets and doo-wop.
On the one hand, Clint Eastwood‘s
stage-to-screen adaptation of Jersey
Boys is an exercise in Broadway fidelity: rather than re-cast the
project with established movie-star personalities, the director chose to fill
out three of the four primary roles with actors who performed in the show’s
original Broadway tour. Furthermore, according to an interview
with Scott Foundas, Eastwood passed over a screenplay from
veteran writer John Logan (Rango, Skyfall)
in favor of a draft penned by Marshall Brickman and Rick
Elice, who authored the original Broadway book. (Unlike
The result is a film that, while perhaps underwhelming as a whole (and certainly something that won’t convert any latter-day Eastwood skeptics), still contains numerous pockets of interest. Consider, for instance, the wonderful fun Eastwood has toying with the various direct-to-camera addresses. At first, it appears that the actors’ sidebar narrations are conventional: tough-guy Tommy DeVito (Boardwalk Empire‘s Vincent Piazza), who is saddled with the majority of the fourth-wall responsibility, simply walks and talks to the audience, the camera tracking with him as he offers brief exposition and local New Jersey color. Eastwood replicates this set-up so methodically that, whenever a scene is introduced with a single character, we are triggered to expect a bit of transitional narration to occur. But Eastwood flips the trick on a number of occasions, as in a late scene, where a private rant by Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young) suddenly turns into a two-person conversation when it’s revealed that his girlfriend (Erica Piccininni) is packing her suitcase in the next room. (A similar effect is achieved in an earlier scene that begins with Tommy combing his hair in front of a mirror.)
Eastwood’s decision to keep multiple actors from the Broadway tour is also revealing, considering the director’s well-known preference for quick, efficient shoots that rarely accommodate more than one or two takes per set-up. (“You’ve got people who’ve done 1,200 performances; how much better can you know a character?,” Eastwood states in the Foundas interview.) Needless to say, however, performing Jersey Boys on stage is radically different from performing it on a Clint Eastwood set, and though the Broadway holdovers—in addition to Young, there’s Erich Bergen (as songwriter Bob Gaudio) and Michael Lomenda (as bass player Nick Massi)—make good on their musical talent, they are altogether more stiff and uncomfortable when it comes down to the nuts-and-bolts of a dramatic conversation or altercation. This is especially true of Young, a 38-year-old man who, when the film begins in 1951 in Belleville, New Jersey, has practically no chance in the world of convincing us that he’s a 16-year-old kid who drinks milk with his spaghetti at the family dinner table. (Piazza, the lone Four Seasons player with no connection to the Broadway show, is by far the most charismatic and energetic of the principals.)
On a narrative level, the movie spends a lot of time setting up a framework of working-class New Jersey brotherhood before delving into the jukebox-musical structure that paves the way for renditions of “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” etc. The downside of this choice is that, though the emotional dynamic among the four members is clear and promising—with Gaudio’s well-bred roots making him an intriguing outsider in the group—the narrative developments and rise-and-fall mood swings that populate the rest of the film are simply too demanding for Eastwood’s modest production scale to handle. Considering the amount of plot on display here—the movie begins in 1951, and ends in 1990 (with some shoddy old-age make-up that J. Edgar detractors will surely pounce on)—it’s insane to think that the production budget of Jersey Boys, at $40 million, is only $7 million more than Gran Torino‘s $33 million. (Similarly, Changeling—which, like Jersey Boys, is a period piece with about six plots squeezed into one movie—cost $55 million.) This out-of-whack relationship between subject matter and scale—the plots are getting bigger, while the budgets are staying relatively in the same ballpark—accounts for much of the uneven scene work that plagues Jersey Boys.
This is made clear most glaringly through the film’s female characters, starting with Frankie’s first wife, Mary (Renée Marino). It’s possible to portray a relationship like this with diligent, useful economy (especially in an ensemble picture that, by nature, requires such brevity), but here, with the relationship dubiously jumping from one interval to the next—first-date flirting, marriage, Mary’s alcoholism—it’s impossible to get a grip on how these characters relate to each other and what their relationship means. Frankie’s relationship with his troubled daughter suffers from a similar fault: at one point, she’s a background presence that barely even registers; at another, she’s suddenly one of the emotional cores of Frankie’s arc.
Even with these missteps noted, the movie is a pleasure to look at: Eastwood and production designer James J. Murakami‘s sense of place is phenomenal, from the shiny red booths of a diner to the paper-filled offices where Frankie and the Four Seasons duel over contract disputes and personal rivalries. (Two days removed from seeing the film, I still remember a cup of pencils sitting on a desk in one of those offices—even in scenes as short as that one, Eastwood populates the frame with small details and objects that are breaths of fresh air.) And there are moments, too, where Eastwood breaks out of his prestige-drama bubble and offers surprising spurts of energy: the closing-credits curtain-call; a speedy dash up the front of the Brill Building; numerous references to films of the day, from The Blob to Ace in the Hole; a “Hitchcock moment” where Eastwood appears on television as a character watches Rawhide; and, in what might be the film’s best scene, a humorous full shot of a room of men, each of them with a large glass of red wine, preparing to settle a debt in the mansion of a gangster (a delightful Christopher Walken).
Jersey Boys / The Dissolve Tasha Robinson
Jersey Boys - HitFix Guy Lodge
Sound On Sight JR Kinnard
Jersey Boys | Reviews | Screen - Screen International Tim Grierson from Screendaily
Review: Clint Eastwood's 'Jersey Boys' A Classy Yet Clumsy ... Charlie Schmidlin from The Playlist
Eastwood's Jersey Boys Walk Like Jersey Men | Village Voice Alan Scherstuhl from The Village Voice
Jersey Boys - Reelviews Movie Reviews James Berardinelli
Eastwood's Baffling Jersey Boys - Sophie Gilbert - The ... Sophie Gilbert from The
'Jersey Boys' Review: That Thing You Don't Do - Pajiba Agent Bedhead
Daily | Clint Eastwood's JERSEY BOYS | Keyframe - Explore ... David Hudson from Fandor
Boys' actors laud Clint Eastwood's minimalism - Los ...
Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio's uneasy relationship with ... Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudi’s Uneasy Relationship with ‘Jersey Boys,’ where Steven Zeitchik interviews Valli and Gaudio from The LA Times, June 26, 2014
'Jersey Boys': Film Review - The Hollywood Reporter Todd McCarthy
Jersey Boys review – a sporadically entertaining affair | Film ... Mark Kermode from The Observer
'Jersey Boys' is old-school entertainment with surprising edge Kenneth Turan from The LA Times
Boys - Los Angeles Times ‘
Jersey Boys - Roger Ebert Odie Henderson
'Jersey Boys,' Eastwood's Take on Showbiz Myth - The New ... Manohla Dargis from The New York Times, June 19, 2014, also seen here: New York Times [By MANOHLA DARGIS]
Jersey Boys - Review - Theater - The New York Times Ben Brantley theater review, November 7, 2005
This is a perfect example of utterly conventional Hollywood
filmmaking, as it takes a simplistic, one-dimensional approach to war,
patriotism, and serving one’s country, becoming a jingoistic portrayal of an
American warrior who thinks he knows what his country stands for by asking no
questions, where no reservations are expressed, instead it typifies the gung-ho
spirit of the armed forces in much the same way as pro football player Pat
Tillman was made the military poster child for enlisting in the Army in the
aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. His idea
was to kick some terrorist ass in
While the film takes the viewer into the heart of ongoing military operations, almost exclusively seen through a guy’s perspective, it also has a stateside component where Sienna Miller as Kyle’s wife Taya offers a near-cringeworthy performance, though her character is horribly written and is equally one-dimensional, where she seems to have little sympathy or understanding for the unique adjustments soldiers must make upon returning home, as unfortunately they bring a bit of the war back with them. Instead she nags at him continuously to be the person she married, telling him “I need you to be human again,” expecting him to adjust to her concept of a normal family life, while picking at him when he’s less than forthcoming about describing the horrors that he experienced. Keeping much of his emotions locked in, it is only a matter of time before he is called back, as he is needed on the battlefield, eventually serving four tours of duty. Easily the most overwrought and hysterical scenes are the ones when Kyle is in his sniper position in a moment of calm, casually talking to his wife back home, when suddenly a firefight will break out, cutting off normal communications, while she’s left whimpering on the other end of the line wondering what’s happened to her husband. This guy is in special ops, for Christ’s sake, assigned the most dangerous missions, specially trained to be battle hardened, calm in the face of a storm, yet she doesn’t get it, remaining scared out of her wits and clueless about what this guy does for a living. These scenes drain much of the energy from the picture, and there are several of them, where she becomes too much of a distraction, as it’s inconceivable to the public back home that wives would want to be on the phone with their husbands “during” military operations. That’s exactly what could get them killed as it takes away from their primary focus at that moment. The relationships with fellow soldiers may not get the same amount of screen time, but they are much more acutely drawn, as these guys understand each other, where they are trained to have each other’s backs, instilled with the same warrior mentality, yet they can also laugh in quieter moments, as they’ve each been through hell and back.
Certainly one aspect of war this film
attempts to convey is the sense of urgency, where Kyle reflects the military
mentality when he tells his wife that his family has time to wait, while the
frontline soldiers don’t, which is what continually compels him to return. Embellishing the mythic picture of an
American hero, only
While the film attempts to honor and eulogize fallen soldiers, but in idolizing this figure, what the film overlooks are the actual hate-filled views expressed by Kyle in his book, as his zealous American fervor is spewed with xenophobic and racist venom, where killing Iraqis is the answer to his own effusive bitterness and contempt, as he is unwavering in his belief that everyone he shot was a “bad guy.” “I hate the damn savages. I couldn’t give a flying fuck about the Iraqis…The enemy are savages and despicably evil. My only regret is that I didn’t kill more.” Chris Kyle is actually a younger version of the grizzled old Korean war veteran Walt Kowalski portrayed by Eastwood himself in GRAN TORINO (2008), where his prejudiced views separate him from the changing and more complicated world around him that he can’t begin to understand, as in his mind he’s narrowed it down to overly simplistic, black and white perceptions of good or evil. In other words, we are right, and they are wrong. Intentionally or not, much like John Wayne in a John Ford western, most particularly THE SEARCHERS (1956), this film makes a hero out of Kyle, a special ops patriot that took pleasure in killing and dehumanizing the enemy, recalling the frontier spirit of Ford’s westerns where “the only good injun is a dead injun,” which has now evolved into “the only good Iraqi is a dead Iraqi,” where there are a lot of Chris Kyles in the world who believe in God and country and the American flag, while anyone questioning this view is looked upon with traitorous suspicion and contempt bordering on hatred, equivalent to aiding and abetting the enemy, reminiscent of the derisive and often violent sentiments expressed in the pro-war slogan “America, love it or leave it” during the Vietnam era of the 60’s. In the unquestioning eyes of the true believers, Kyle’s unambiguous belligerence represents not only the embodiment of America’s cowboy mentality (The Cowboy Myth, George W. Bush, and the War with Iraq), but may also explain his considerable success on the battlefield, as there is no soldier remorse, no guilt or crisis of moral conscience about the act of killing when he regrets none of his actions, where in this case his complete lack of subtlety or imagination is what makes him particularly emblematic of today’s American military hero. When faced with the choice between depicting the truth or the myth, however, Eastwood decided to go with the myth, which should come as no surprise to anyone, as peddling myths is the very foundation of what Hollywood does for a living, which is also what makes the film so predictably conventional.
Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” is both a devastating war movie and a devastating antiwar movie, a subdued celebration of a warrior’s skill and a sorrowful lament over his alienation and misery. The movie, set during the Iraq War, has the troubled ambivalence about violence that has shown up repeatedly in Eastwood’s work since the famous scene, midway through “Unforgiven,” in which the act of killing anguishes the killer. Eastwood, working with the screenwriter Jason Hall and with Bradley Cooper, who stars in the film, has adapted the 2012 best-selling autobiography by the Navy seal sharpshooter Chris Kyle (which was written with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice). “American Sniper” is devoted to Kyle’s life as a son, a husband, a father, and, most of all, a decorated military man—one of the most lethal snipers in U.S. military history. Kyle, who made a hundred and sixty confirmed kills (and more than two hundred probable kills), is always sure that he’s defending American troops—and his country—against “savages.” Perched on a rooftop in Ramadi or in Sadr City, he’s methodical and imperturbable, and he rarely misses, even at great distance. He shoots insurgents, members of Al Qaeda in Iraq, and, when he thinks it necessary, a woman and a child. He’s haunted by the thought of the Americans he hasn’t been able to save. Cooper is all beefed up—by beer as much as by iron, from the looks of it (it’s intentionally not a movie-star body)—and he gives a performance that’s vastly different from any that he’s given in the past. With fellow-seals in the field, he’s convivial, profane, and funny; at home with his loving wife (Sienna Miller, who’s excellent), he’s increasingly withdrawn and dead-eyed, enraptured only by the cinema of war playing in his mind.
Eastwood’s command of this material makes most directors look like beginners. As Kyle and his men ride through rubble-strewn Iraqi cities, smash down doors, and race up and down stairways, the camera records what it needs to fully dramatize a given event, and nothing more. There’s no waste, never a moment’s loss of concentration, definition, or speed. The general atmosphere of the cities, and the scattered life of the streets, gets packed into the action. The movie, of course, makes us uneasy, and it is meant to. Like Hitchcock in “Rear Window” and Michael Powell in “Peeping Tom,” Eastwood puts us inside the camera lens, allowing us to watch the target in closeup as Kyle pulls the trigger. Eastwood has become tauntingly tough-minded: “You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?” he seems to be saying. And, with the remorselessness of age, he follows Chris Kyle’s rehabilitation and redemption back home, all the way to their heartbreaking and inexplicable end.
Spouting off to an empty chair at the 2012 Republican National Convention, Clint Eastwood looked as if he were slipping into doddering dementia, but he’s shrewder and more focused than ever in his Iraq War picture American Sniper. It’s a crackerjack piece of filmmaking, a declaration that he’s not yet ready to be classified as an Old Master, that he can out-Bigelow Kathryn Bigelow. Morally, though, he has regressed from the heights of Letters From Iwo Jima (2006). In more ways than one, the Iraq occupation is seen through the sight of a high-powered rifle. The movie is scandalously blinkered.
Its springboard is the tragically murdered Chris Kyle’s best-selling memoir (written with Jim DeFelice), which chronicled his tours in Iraq as a Navy SEAL and his acquisition — thanks to an unprecedented number of sniper kills — of the sobriquet “the Legend.” I’m not going to fault Kyle’s view of his enemies as representing a “savage, despicable evil,” but I do fault Eastwood for making what is, essentially, a propaganda film.
The script, by Jason Hall, shows Kyle (Bradley Cooper) watching the Twin Towers fall on 9/11 and enlisting, having learned from his dad that the world consists of “sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs,” and that he must be the last — a protector. Then, after disarming and winning a woman named Taya (Sienna Miller), he’s off to Iraq, with no indication that the two events — 9/11 and the Iraq invasion — have been yoked together by unscrupulous politicians who don’t have a clue what lies in store for American soldiers. As in many jingoist war movies, the native population are portrayed as invaders of our sacred space instead of vice versa. Hall provides a supervillain, a crack shot named Mustafa (Sammy Sheik) who hunts the Legend, with Eastwood laying on the growly doomy music whenever Mustafa appears. Their face-off gives American Sniper a conventional, suck-on-this climax.
In the latest Hunger Games movie, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s PR guy, Plutarch, views propaganda footage of Katniss Everdeen and says, “It’s a little on the nose, but of course so is war.” He could be talking about American Sniper. A fellow sniper tells Kyle as he takes aim at a potential insurgent, “If you’re wrong, they send your ass to Leavenworth” — which would be news to a lot of soldiers who got it wrong without consequences. When Kyle goes back to Iraq, Taya (now with their son and daughter) says, “I don’t think we’ll be here when you get back.” And you just know, as soon as Kyle’s buddy asks him to be his best man, that in a few moments, the guy will be history.
Eastwood does stage a scarily amorphous final battle in a sandstorm, and Cooper is very impressive. Best known for more congenial roles, he plays Kyle as grimly self-contained, both hyperalert and alienated. Kyle is put through the kind of training that would drive most men insane and, newly honed, gradually realizes that he’s now fit to do only a few things — protect other Americans, avoid being killed, and kill — and that he’ll never fully recover his old self. But Eastwood — who never directed a better scene than the one in Unforgiven when the protagonist shoots a basically harmless man and has to listen to his excruciating death throes — makes the moral stakes almost nonexistent. The people Kyle shoots always represent a “savage, despicable evil,” and the physical and mental cost to other Americans just comes with the territory. It’s a Republican platform movie.
Review: American Sniper | Film Comment Chris Norris
When a muezzin call echoes over a black pre-title screen, you know you’re engaged with that top-shelf Hollywood product, the 21st-century war film. Beneath the amplified Arabic chant, a subsonic throb morphs into the rumble of an Abrams tank that appears on screen, up close, from the perspective of the Marines moving warily alongside it down a debris-strewn city corridor, preparing to breach a cinderblock housing complex. Street tension cuts to watchful repose on a nearby rooftop where Navy Seal Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) cradles a long-barreled, sound-suppressor-tipped M40 rifle.
Grungy, bearded, with a dead-lifter’s brawn, NASCAR fan shades, and mud-colored backward ball-cap, Kyle lies motionless, sniffs loudly once or twice, and scans the street below, his bright blue eyes all but popping out of the monochrome palette with which the film renders the blasted war zone—highlighting key assets of a skill set the military credits with killing more people than anyone in its history. As Kyle gives soft, Texan-Jack-Webb reports on his radio, his scope picks up a chador-cloaked woman and a boy walking into the rubble-strewn path of the column. The woman in his cross-hairs produces a grenade and hands it to the child, Kyle’s supervisor radios that he’ll have to make the call himself, and we hold our breath—for a half-hour of expository flashback.
In the 15 days that elapsed between losing director Steven Spielberg and acquiring Clint Eastwood, Team American Sniper did some psychic realignment (from kickass epic to soulful profile in courage), then cast, shot, edited, and delivered a gangbusters hero’s encomium to a man who was shot to death by a troubled vet shortly after his first phone call with producer-star Bradley Cooper. That’s what the military calls a Quick Reaction Force: Eastwood, Cooper, and screenwriter Jason Hall deliver everything this tale requires, without quite squelching the ambient pathology surrounding it.
Any project begun with an avowed commitment to honor a slain war hero will round off some rough edges. Any such film directed by Clint Eastwood risks becoming a Fallujah-set version of Shane. Things seem headed that way after we jump from the rooftop cliffhanger to a bucolic Texas boyhood scene: young Chris bags his first buck, his dad kneels to say “That’s a fine shot, son. You’ve got a gift,” then delivers a moral lesson at the dinner table: “There are three types of people in this world: wolves, sheep, and sheepdogs.”
Creation myth established, we move briskly through the short-lived rodeo career that gives us our first look at Cooper’s De Niro-to-LaMotta transformation: bulky cowboy walk, finely delineated Texas twang, his light-blue eyes—which read as amped-up or tweaked in previous roles—softened into a gentle perceptiveness that belies his bravado. A TV report on a bombed U.S. embassy moves Kyle to enlist for Navy Seal training in California, where he impresses his rifle-course instructors and teasingly charms a hard-looking beauty named Taya (a brunette Sienna Miller), whom he marries just before being re-deposited onto the opening scene’s rooftop.
Using Kyle’s rifle scope for his POV, Eastwood begins a film-length dialectic with a visual conceit used in countless spy, crime, and action thrillers (including Eastwood’s most famous role: a cop pushed beyond legal limits to stop a psycho-killer… sniper). With a soft exhalation, Cooper shoots first the boy, then the woman attempting to complete his pass, the grenade exploding harmlessly. When a jarhead beside him slaps Kyle’s shoulder in congrats, Cooper tersely backs him off, registering an ambivalence conspicuously absent from Kyle’s account of the same incident.
This sobering moment begins Kyle’s sequential tours of Iraq hot spots Fallujah, Ramadi, and Sadyr City, where in 2008 he makes an impossible, record-breaking shot from 2,100 yards, the round traveling toward its target for some five seconds of screen time as if, I daresay, guided by Divine Forces. The actual RPG-wielding target is replaced here by Kyle’s doppelgänger, Syrian Olympic marksman Mustafa (Sammy Sheik), who earlier foiled Kyle’s attempt to save an informer from a black-robed, power-drill-wielding Qaeda enforcer known as the Butcher (Mido Hamada). Frustrated by his own powerlessness and the casualties that the less tactically adroit Marines take during raids, Kyle leaves his rooftop aerie to lead the soldiers in what becomes the film’s most thrilling section. Roving the ancient apartment complex’s shadowy corridors, the SEAL-led Marines stake out lairs and interrogate suspects as they hunt for the Butcher and his al-Qaeda leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Here, the 84-year-old Eastwood shows a command of complex, large-scale action setpieces to rival nearly any director in the action-film game, the film’s perspective switching from that of the foot soldiers to the snipers targeting them from above.
As the ferocity of his missions escalate, Kyle’s home life shows relatively minor stress fractures. “Even when you’re here, you’re not here,” Taya over-explicates, after suffering a few cruel-and-unusual satellite calls from the midst of firefights. The coming-home plotline feels cursory and underwritten. Responding to any query into Kyle’s emotional state with bright-eyed monosyllables, Cooper gives denial a vividly fresh face, but the characters’ troubling post-battlefield behavior barely exceeds a blunted affect, and his readjustment to suburban home life is mighty speedy for someone who estimates he killed about 100 more than the 160 that were confirmed. In Unforgiven (92), Eastwood explored the wounds that killing inflicts on killers, which post-combat clinical psychiatrists now define as “moral injury.”
As Chris Kyle, Cooper beautifully realizes a living, breathing gentle-giant of a human being; but as a fictional bomb- disposal soldier, Jeremy Renner let The Hurt Locker share truths about war that American Sniper is too respectful to explore. In the book American Sniper, the author does share one regret that haunts him: “I only wish I had killed more.”
Debate about cultural topics, in our era of insta-judgment and unwarranted conclusions, becomes so flattened and foreshortened that the initial subject disappears from view. Anyone who’s ever read anything I have written understands that I am deeply committed to a view of culture as politics (and politics as an aspect of culture). But the back-and-forth social-media wars over “Selma” and “American Sniper” demonstrate how cultural works get reduced to “politics” in the least interesting sense of that word, meaning the tedious binary between “left” and “right,” neither word meaning what it claims to mean, that explains nothing and obscures everything. An entire range of complex divisions and intersections in American life — based in geography, history, race, class, education and economics, in other words all the elements of “culture” in its anthropological sense — get boiled down to the symbolic circus of bipartisan politics. (I am always tempted to say “meaningless” circus, but that gets people’s dander up and isn’t quite true. It means. It just doesn’t mean much.)
You can’t reduce Ava DuVernay’s magnificent and troubled historical drama “Selma” to its historical fudges on the relationship between Lyndon B. Johnson and Martin Luther King Jr. (I have a bigger problem, the more I think about it, with casting British actors in all four major roles as prominent 20th-century Americans.) The LBJ question is no more than a footnote or parenthesis within the film itself, but one that for the moment has contaminated its reputation. Similarly, Clint Eastwood’s Iraq War drama “American Sniper” is now defined by its extraordinary $105 million box-office performance over the MLK holiday weekend, apparently driven by white male moviegoers in the heartland states. It’s very close to the biggest January opening in Hollywood history, and by far the biggest in Eastwood’s directing career, which includes quite a few hits.
I don’t mean to equate the two films: “Selma” is a more original and more successful work, with deeper historical resonance. But it’s almost as unfair to describe “American Sniper” as nationalistic war propaganda as to describe “Selma” as anti-white historical revisionism. I say “almost” because Eastwood and screenwriter Jason Hall leave themselves halfway open to that interpretation with their measured and deliberately ambiguous portrayal of Chris Kyle, the profoundly unreflective cowboy-turned-sharpshooter played in the movie by Bradley Cooper. But despite Eastwood’s reputation as the strong, silent type both as a movie star and a director, you really can’t accuse him of being an apologist for violence or depicting it as free of consequences. If one theme ties together his better films, from “High Plains Drifter” to “Sudden Impact” to “Unforgiven” to “Gran Torino,” it’s the lingering trauma of violence and the difficulty of overcoming it. That’s the real subject of “American Sniper” too, no matter how many racist tweets from yahoos in Oklahoma it may have provoked.
As Salon’s Laura Miller discussed in her memorable review of Kyle’s memoir (which provoked considerable ire among his right-wing admirers), the real Kyle, who by his own reckoning shot more than 250 people in Iraq — before being shot himself by an unstable fellow veteran — absolutely thought of himself as a steadfast warrior for good in a Manichaean universe. He stood tall against the “bad guys” and “savages” of the Islamic world, confirming the worst Arab-held stereotypes by getting a “Crusader cross” tattooed on his trigger arm. He apparently never questioned the politics and strategy behind the sequence of events that sent him to Iraq in the first place, and couldn’t be bothered with parsing fine distinctions between al-Qaida, the Saddam Hussein regime, the Iraqi civilian population and the foreign fighters from all over the Islamic world who later joined the Iraqi insurgency. Unsurprisingly, his memoir never mentions Abu Ghraib or Gitmo or “enhanced interrogation” or the total absence of Iraqi WMD or any connection between Iraq and 9/11. He recounts telling a superior that he wished he were free to gun down random unarmed people based on his own godlike judgment, but was nonetheless obeying the military’s pantywaist rules of engagement.
It’s true that Eastwood and Hall – and especially Cooper, an actor who can display visible internal torment without apparently doing anything – have made the movie’s Kyle more sympathetic, more complicated and less of a raging dumbass. I’m aware of the disputes between people who attack “Selma” for its lack of historical veracity and those who are exercised about the depiction of Chris Kyle straying from documented facts. It’s a deeply uninteresting game of gotcha, in my judgment – both movies offer an interpretation of real events for specific narrative purposes, and I think both choices are generally defensible. Go ahead and attack Eastwood for making a movie that’s totally uninterested in the underlying politics of the Iraq conflict, and that depicts its Arab characters in cursory and stereotypical terms. That’s entirely legitimate, and indeed I think those America-centric aspects partly undermine the film’s aims. But to assign Eastwood some Bush-Cheney war-booster agenda because he supported Mitt Romney in 2012, or even because some unknown proportion of moviegoers have seized on it that way, simply isn’t fair.
“American Sniper,” the movie, is a character study about a guy who sees himself as fundamentally honorable and decent, but whose simplistic moral code turns out to be exceptionally poor preparation for the real world and real warfare. How well Eastwood accomplishes that goal, whether or not it’s worth doing and how much that may or may not reflect the real story of Chris Kyle are all matters for debate. In Cooper’s marvelously contained physical performance, Kyle’s beefy, cheerful Texas certainty seduces us part of the way toward his self-righteous vision of himself. Or it does if you let it, and depending on how you process the film’s opening scene, in which Kyle faces a decision about whether to shoot a woman and child on a Fallujah street who appear to be carrying a grenade. The Marine serving as his spotter groans, “Man, they’ll send you to Leavenworth if you’re wrong.” I couldn’t help reflecting that, no, they almost certainly won’t.
In their quest to create a relatable hero for the mainstream American audience – the proverbial dudes-who-don’t-go-to-movies, who have evidently shown up for this one – Eastwood and Hall slice the moral equation awfully fine. They never directly challenge Kyle’s assertion that all his Iraqi kills were “clean” and all his targets “bad guys,” and they manufacture a fictional rivalry between Kyle and a mysterious insurgent sniper called Mustafa, who never speaks but is so physically striking – long, lean and distinguished, with amazing eyelashes – as to be beautiful rather than handsome. It’s like a forceful undercurrent of Orientalist and homoerotic fantasy: Which of these guys will end up drilling the other one with an impossible rifle shot from 2,000 meters, the suave mustachioed Arab clad all in black or the buff, bearded Texan with the frat-boy ball cap? (You don’t even get one guess.)
On the other hand, “American Sniper” never shies away from depicting Kyle as racist and xenophobic, an innocent abroad rendered armed and exceptionally dangerous. After sitting through the film twice, I’m more convinced than ever that there’s a level of sardonic commentary at work that is sometimes subtle and sometimes pretty damn obvious. Pay attention to Cooper’s increasingly congested body language, the posture of a man stricken with unmanageable psychic distress. Pay attention to the use of the phrase “mission accomplished” late in the film, or the stateside scene in which Kyle runs into a Marine whose life he saved in Fallujah and can’t even make eye contact with the guy. This is a portrait of an American who thought he knew what he stood for and what his country stood for and never believed he needed to ask questions about that. He drove himself to kill and kill and kill based on that misguided ideological certainty – that brainwashing, though I’m sure Clint Eastwood would never use that word – and then paid the price for it. So did we all, and the reception of this film suggests that the payments keep on coming due.
American Sniper feeds America’s hero complex, and it isn’t the truth about war Alex Horton from The Guardian, December 24, 2014
Is American Sniper historically accurate? | Film | The Guardian Alex von Tunzelmann, January 20, 2015
The mediocrity of 'American Sniper' Alyssa Rosenberg from The Washington Post, January 21, 2015
American Sniper and the political battle over Chris Kyle. Dana Stevens from Slate, January 21, 2015
Every movie rewrites history. What American Sniper did is much, much worse. Amanda Taub from Vox, January 22, 2015
Editorial: The reality of American Sniper Chris Kyle The Dallas Morning News, January 22, 2015
How Accurate Is American Sniper? We've Separated Fact From Fiction. Courtney Duckworth from Slate, January 23, 2015
American Sniper: propaganda movie or tale the nation needed to hear? Andrew Pulver from The Guardian, January 23, 2015
'American Sniper's' missing element: The man behind the gun Alyssa Rosenberg from The Washington Post, January 24, 2015
American Sniper: anti-Muslim threats skyrocket in wake of film's release Nicky Woolf from The Guardian, January 24, 2015
'American Sniper' Has Led to Increase in Threats Against Muslims: Civil Rights ... Hilary Lewis from The Hollywood Reporter, January 26, 2015
Why the Left Hates American Sniper | Observer Rabbi Shmuley Boteach from The Observer, January 27, 2015
Jesse Ventura calls 'American Sniper' Chris Kyle a 'liar' Teresa Mull from The Week magazine, January 29, 2015
Civil war at the cineplex: “American Sniper,” “Selma ... - Salon Civil war at the cineplex: “American Sniper,” “Selma” and the battle over American masculinity, by David Mascriota from Salon, February 1, 2015
“The truth is unspeakable”: A real American sniper unloads on “American... Dennis Trainor Jr. from Salon, February 4, 2015
'American Sniper' trial set to start this week in glare of international publicity Dianna Hunt from The Dallas Morning News, February 7, 2015
“American Sniper’s” sinister philosophy: Pro-war propaganda wrapped in... Robert Gordon from Salon, February 8, 2015
'Legend' of American sniper Chris Kyle looms over murder trial Ed Lavandera from CNN News, February 9, 2015
American Sniper Is a War-on-Terror Fantasy | Village Voice Amy Nicholson from The Village Voice
Review: Clint Eastwood's American Sniper is a war movie ... Ignatiy Vishnevetsky from The Onion A.V. Club
American Sniper / The Dissolve Keith Phipps
AMERICAN SNIPER Movie Review: Nobody Tries Less ... Devin Faraci from Badass Digest
American Sniper - QNetwork Entertainment Portal James Kendrick
American Sniper - Reelviews Movie Reviews James Berardinelli
American Sniper (2014) Movie Review from Eye for Film Amber Wilkinson
'American Sniper' Complaints Grow in Hollywood: Should Clint Eastwood Be ... Steve Pond from The Wrap, January 18, 2015
The Real Story Behind American Sniper Chris Kyle Paul Mosely from People magazine
'American Sniper' Chris Kyle: His own words on war and Hollywood Debbi Baker from U-T San Diego, January 17, 2015
American Sniper review – worryingly dull celebration of a killer Peter Bradshaw from The Guardian
American Sniper review – Bradley Cooper stars in real-life ... Mark Kermode from The Guardian
Why we fear and admire the military sniper Graeme Wood from The Boston Globe, January 16, 2015
Review: 'American Sniper' - Los Angeles Times Kenneth Turan
American Sniper - Roger Ebert Glenn Kenny, December 25, 2014
'American Sniper,' a Clint Eastwood Film Starring Bradley ... A.O. Scott from The New York Times
CINE-FILE: Cine-List - CINE-FILE Chicago Friday, APR. 5 - Thursday, APR. 11, Managing Editor Patrick Friel, on behalf of all of the volunteer contributors at Cine-File
ROGER EBERT (1942-2013)
We at Cine-File are extraordinarily saddened at the passing
yesterday of legendary
Roger Ebert honored by Hollywood stars - chicagotribune.com Mark Caro from The Chicago Tribune, April 12, 2013
“Roger, this is your happening, and it's freaking me out.”
This is how Chaz Ebert, after receiving a standing ovation from the Chicago Theatre crowd with her hand over her heart, introduced Thursday's tribute to her late husband —by invoking a line from his screenplay to 1970’s campy cult film “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.” Later in “Roger Ebert: A Celebration of Life,” clips from the Russ Meyer film would be shown, and tears would be shed, though not at the same time.
It was that kind of night.
If Roger Ebert's funeral Monday at Holy Name Cathedral — following his death April 4 at age 70 after a long cancer battle — represented his formal, religious farewell, complete with speeches from the governor and mayor, then Thursday's event at the Chicago Theatre was more of a laughter- and sorrow-filled send-off from the entertainment and media worlds.
There were clips this time, of Ebert and his late TV partner Gene Siskel arguing on the sets of their and others’ (such as Johnny Carson’s) shows, as well as interviews that the Chicago Sun-Times film critic gave before and after cancer claimed his jaw and ability to speak, even as his writing gained depth and vigor. There were also speakers and more speakers.
Ebert famously said, “No good movie is too long, and no bad movie is short enough,” and in the scheme of things, Ebert was more than a very good movie. So it’s no wonder that the people who loved him wanted to talk about him and not to let go. Even at the end of a 2-hour-and-45-minute program, Chaz Ebert told actors Chris Tucker and Scott Wilson in the audience that she was sorry that they didn’t have a chance to speak.
Others did, such as
John Cusack shared memories of reading Ebert while growing up, and he recalled visiting New York (and “Late Night with David Letterman”) as a 17-year-old to promote his first lead turn in “The Sure Thing” and winding up seated at a table next to one shared by Ebert and Siskel at the Carnegie Deli. The young Cusack was sweating bullets, he said, until Ebert leaned over and told him, “I liked your movie.”
John Cusack also recalled the studios always stressing to him the importance of his interviews with Ebert, who “reeked of integrity” and thus couldn’t be bought. “He was always supportive of artists and always gave you a fair shake,” Cusack said.
Marlene Iglitzen, Siskel's widow, candidly related how Siskel and Ebert genuinely didn’t like each other so much in the early days, with Siskel having to be persuaded to invite Ebert to their wedding only for Ebert not to show up. The big difference maker, in her view, was Chaz, who helped her husband — and his heart — grow to the point that all were much closer by the time Siskel died at age 53 in 1999.
Up till that point, Siskel and Ebert had been inseparable as far as their professional identities went, but Iglitzen praised Ebert for thriving in the years after Siskel was gone, saying she felt a bit of her husband was alive as long as Ebert was.
Filmmaker Gregory Nava lauded the late critic for his championing of non-mainstream films, such as his own “El Norte” (1983), and for his “great heart. The world of movies has lost its heart.”
Nava recalled being invited to Ebert’s bedside in the days before he died only to see the writer scribbling supportive messages to him and other visitors.
“Roger didn’t ask us to be with him to comfort him,” Nava said, choking back tears. “He wanted us to be with him to give us something.”
Other filmmakers — Chicagoan Andrew Davis (“The Fugitive”), Julie Dash (“Daughters of the Dust”) and Ava DuVernay (“Middle of Nowhere”) — told stories of friendship and encouragement, with the latter two singling out Ebert’s dedication to African-American filmmakers.
On the more ribald side, Old Town Ale House owner Bruce Elliott told an anecdote to illustrate Ebert's love of large breasts, and activist/comedian Dick Gregory, 80, showed he’s still got razor-sharp timing as he somehow managed to work a joke about Kobe Bryant’s sexual assault accusations into a zippy tribute that ended with him comparing Ebert to a turtle: “hard on the outside, soft on the inside and willing to stick your neck out.”
Newscaster Bill Kurtis (who provided Ebert’s voice on the recent “Ebert Presents At the Movies” show), TV producer Thea Flaum (creator of Siskel & Ebert’s PBS show “Sneak Previews”), Sony Pictures Classics co-president Michael Barker, Sun-Times columnist and former Ebert TV partner Richard Roeper, Facets executive director Milos Stehlik, former Playboy chairwoman Christie Hefner, Ebert Digital co-founder Josh Golden, disabilities-rights activist Marcia Bristo, Hollywood Reporter film critic Todd McCarthy, new Variety film critic Scott Foundas, film industry veteran Tom Luddy, and Tribune reporter Monica Eng and her sister Magan (both of whom maintained a close relationship with Ebert long after their mother had stopped dating him) also offered testimonials. The gospel groups Walt Whitman and the Soul Children of Chicago and Charles Jenkins and Fellowship Chicago opened and closed the show.
By my unofficial non-count, the word that came up second most often was “empathy.”
The word that came up most often was “heart.”
And in the end there was Chaz, on the stage with her family, Roger’s stepchildren and grandchildren, opening hers.
“I have a capacity for love that is very deep,” she said plainly, noting that she knew she had to fill a hole that had been in Ebert’s life. So she did, for more than 20 years of marriage.
And when he was diagnosed with cancer in 2002 and lost his jaw and ability to speak and to eat solid foods in 2006, she willed him on, saying she knew he had more important things to do. But when the cancer returned again recently, “this time he said, ‘I’m tired. You must let me go,’” she recounted. “I thought we had two more years to go. I did not know he would go so quickly.”
Still, she said, she hoped that everyone could experience a love like theirs, even when times were tough.
“When he was disfigured, when I looked at him, I saw beauty,” she said.
On this point there would be no argument.
Movie Reviews and Ratings by Film Critic Roger Ebert | Roger Ebert newly designed Ebert site
Reviews Ebert’s regular site at the Chicago Sun-Times, also seen here: rogerebert.com :: Movie reviews, essays and the Movie Answer Man ...
Ebert’s Great Movies site
His 1969 Profile of Paul Newman Newman's Complaint, by Roger Ebert, Esquire magazine, September 1969
Best Story Roger Ebert Ever Wrote for Esquire Ebert interview of Lee Marvin from Esquire, November 1970, republished
a Movie With an Old Friend Stephen Hunter from The
Roger Ebert's Farewell to "Ebert and Roeper" The Balcony Is Closed, Chicago Sun Times, July 24, 2008
Roger Ebert Is the Essential Man Chris Jones from Esquire, February 16, 2010, also seen here: Roger Ebert Cancer Battle - Roger Ebert Interview - Esquire
A Few More Intimate Moments with Roger Ebert Chris Jones from Esquire, March 2, 2010
Tech Gurus Give Roger Ebert His Voice Back CBS News, March 2, 2010
Roger Ebert: Why I Hate 3D Movies - The Daily Beast Roger Ebert from The Daily Beast, May 9, 2010
Author Responds to Tea-Party Attacks on Ebert Chris Jones from The
3D doesn't work and never will. Case closed. Roger Ebert Blog,
Ebert's TED Talk: The Internet Saved My Life Foster Kamer from Esquire,
finally won the New Yorker cartoon caption competition Roger Ebert from The Guardian,
was born inside the movie of my life"
Roger Ebert Journal,
not fear death - Salon.com Roger
Roger Ebert: A Critic Reflects On 'Life Itself'
: NPR John Powers from NPR,
Ebert measures up to celluloid's stoic heroes | Michael Miner on ... Michael Miner reviews Ebert’s new memoir, Life Itself from The Chicago Reader, October 27, 2011
Ebert: 'I'm an optimistic person' Rachel Cooke from The Observer,
Women are Better Than Men Roger Ebert,
Ebert Writes to Absent Roger from Cannes
Jen Yamato at
Nawazuddin Siddiqui's Tryst With Roger Ebert Subhash Kjha at Business of Cinema, May 28, 2012
Roger Ebert–a 'bitchy' man hater? Dennis Byrne from
Roger Ebert honored for 'Making History' ABC
70th Birthday Roger Ebert! Gary
Susman from Moviefone,
Two Thumbs Up
Today’s Pictures from Slate,
Martin Scorsese plans Roger Ebert documentary Ben Child from The Guardian, September 10, 2012
of Presence Roger Ebert’s last post,
Ebert takes 'leave of presence' to deal with recurrence of cancer Amanda Holpuch from The Guardian,
Roger Ebert, film's hero to the end Steven Zeitchik from The LA Times, April 3, 2013
statement from Chaz Ebert
Thinking Molecules of Titan”: A Story by Roger Ebert The New Yorker,
Ebert: Critic with the soul of a poet
Rick Kogan from The Chicago
to a generous colleague and friend
Michael Phillips from The Chicago
unique partnership of Siskel and Ebert
Sid Smith feature from 1999, reprinted from The Chicago Tribune,
Roger Ebert dead at 70 after battle with cancer Neil Steinberg from The Chicago Sun-Times, April 4, 2013
Ebert (1942-2013) :: rogerebert.com :: In Memory Neil Steinberg from Ebert blog,
Roger Ebert, 1942-2013 Richard Brody
from The New Yorker,
A Critic for the Common Man Douglas Martin from The
New York Times,
Ebert Is Remembered on Twitter, a Place Where He Found a New Voice Mekado Murphy and Michael Roston from The New York Times,
Roger Ebert, nation’s best-known movie critic, dies at age 70 after long battle with cancer The Washington Post, April 4, 2013
Roger Ebert, prolific film critic in print and on TV, dies at 70 Emma Brown from The Washington Post, April 4, 2013
accessible and empowering critic Ann
Hornaday from The Washington Post,
Roger Ebert Marie Elizabeth Oliver
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times movie critic, dies aged 70 The Guardian, April 4, 2013
Roger Ebert, film's hero to the end
Kenneth Turan from The LA Times,
Ebert dies at 70; Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic John Horn and Valerie J. Nelson from The LA Times,
Roger Ebert through his books
Carolyn Kellogg from The LA Times,
celebrities react to death of film critic Roger Ebert Amy Kaufman from The LA Times,
Roger Ebert's influence, on- and off-screen
Oliver Gettell from The LA Times,
PHOTOS: Roger Ebert - Career in Pictures The LA Times,
Remembering Roger Ebert WGN TV,
the Roger I knew Jim Emerson from
Roger Ebert Story Will Leitch from
Ebert: Farewell to a Film Legend and Friend
Richard Corliss from Time
Roger Ebert: A Former Colleague Reflects on the Journalism Legend Steven S.
Duke from Time magazine,
Roger Ebert R.I.P. Michael Scherer from Time magazine, April 4, 2013
Chicago Sun-Times Film Critic Roger Ebert Dies Caryn Rousseau from Time magazine, April 4, 2013
on Roger Ebert: Farewell To the Mayor of Movie
Critic-Ville David Edelstein from
thoughts on the death of Roger Ebert, a man who meant a lot to us Scott Tobias from The Onion A.V. Club,
did Roger Ebert mean to you? The Onion A.V. Club,
Ebert: In Memoriam Richard Starzec
from The Wesleyan Argus,
Daily | Roger Ebert, 1942 – 2013 David Hudson from Fandor,
Roger Simon: The debt I owe Roger Ebert Roger Simon from The Chicago Sun-Times, April 4, 2013
newspaperman's newspaperman Roger
Simon from Politico,
Roger Ebert: 1942-2013 Tal Rosenberg
Ebert, the Enthusiast Christopher
Orr from The
Roger Ebert Knew About Writing Spencer Kornhaber from The
Chicago Critic Remembers Roger Ebert
Maureen Ryan from The Huffington Post,
Roger Ebert Quotes: His Best Movie Take Downs The Huffington Post,
Roger Ebert Linda Holmes from NPR,
Ebert, Legendary Film Critic, Dies
Eyder Peralta from NPR,
Pulitzer-Winning Critic Roger Ebert, Films Were A
Journey - NPR Cheryl Corley from
Roger Ebert Dead at 70 | Movies News | Rolling Stone Jon Blistein from Rolling Stone magazine, April 4, 2013
Peter Travers on Roger Ebert: No One Could Keep Up With Him ... Peter Travers from Rolling Stone magazine, April 4, 2013
Ebert (1942-2013) Matt Singer from
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Stevens from Slate,
US film critic Roger Ebert dies at 70
Jill Serjeant from Reuters,
Film Critic Roger Ebert Dead at 70
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Movies Roger Ebert Really Hated | Mental Floss Stacy Conradt from Mental Floss,
Did Roger Ebert Think of Some of Your Favorite Movies? - IGN Jim Vejvoda from IGN,
Roger Ebert, RIP Bill Pearis remembers many of Ebert’s video reviews from Brooklyn Vegan, April 4, 2013
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Roger Ebert Reviews: Beloved Movies He Didn't Like (PHOTOS) Katy Hall from The Huffington Post, April 4. 2013
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Roger Ebert Dies at 70 - The Hollywood Reporter Mike Barnes from The
Roger Ebert: The Iconic Film Critic's Life and Career in Pictures The Hollywood
Ebert's Top 20 Best- and Worst-Reviewed Films The
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Obama, Scorsese, Winfrey lead tributes to Roger Ebert Bryan Alexander
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Schlosser from NBC News,
Ebert, America's Movie Critic, Dead at 70 After Battle