Thursday, April 1, 2010


I missed this Clint Eastwood movie when it first came out but caught it the other night on cable.

It's not Eastwood's best, but it's still fun to watch, especially since he's pushing 80 and can pull off not just directing a flick this mostly engaging but also carry the movie with his performance as a bigoted working-class Korean War veteran surrounded by Hmong immigrants in a neighborhood he doesn't recognize anymore as the one he moved into to be a part of.

There's some cliched plotting and the flick doesn't live up to Eastwood's best. But he's one of those towering figures in the history of movie making who is always interesting on some level. There was an article in a recent New Yorker about him that had some enlightening information, but at one point the writer compares Eastwood to Warren Beatty, two Hollywood "pretty boys" I think is the way he put it, who went on to become a lot more.

But he writes about how Beatty is meticulous to a fault, looking at every side of a project, taking forever to make decisions, etc. While Eastwood just finds a script he likes, casts without making the actors read for their parts (in other words casting from what he's already seen of their work, something only a few directors in Hollywood do but I always thought not only made more sense, saved time, but also made for better performances because you feel that you're being hired because they dig your work so you feel confident in your choices etc.) and then shoots it with very few takes and usually ends up under budget and on time or ahead of time.

Beatty is notorious for taking forever for everything. But Beatty makes some pretty impressive movies, as does Eastwood, just a lot fewer. Eastwood's more like Woody Allen in that way, going from one project to the next, etc. He's definitely one of our greatest filmmakers anyway to look at it. But GRAN TORINO isn't high on my list of favorites of his. Although it was fun to watch and for sheer entertainment it's better than a lot of what gets made.

If I had to pick my trinity of favorite Eastwood movies it would be these:

PLAY MISTY FOR ME (his first and in some ways most original)

{PS: I saw, but didn't really meet, Eastwood at a Hollywood party once. He appeared even taller than his supposed six three and came across as an overgrown happy kid. I liked him a lot. The only other Hollywood connection I had with him was when I auditioned for one of his movies and was videotaped for him to watch in private. I didn't get the part, but when the movie came out, PINK CADILLAC I think it was called, people kept asking if I'd seen it and telling me that Clint did some stuff in the movie that reminded them of me. Of course when I finally caught the flick on cable years later I saw that the guy Eastwood plays is pretending to be different characters and one of them is dressed as I was for the audition and was doing a version of what I did in it. That kind of thing happens a lot in Hollywood, in my experience. I never could get used to it, but now that I'm not there anymore it doesn't seem as deliberately exploitative as it did when I was there. Everyone picks up stuff from things they see and experience. I still like what I see of the guy and totally admire his longevity in a business with a very short attention span and even shorter memory.]


RJ Eskow said...

My brother John wrote Pink Cadillac. Small world, isn't it?

Lally said...

It certainly is, and seemingly smaller every day.