Disastrophe: Evaluating The Last Decade Of Clint Eastwood Films

Clint Eastwood. Icon. That’s two sentences in three words, efficient, but it’s important to impart here that no matter what follows, how much we righteously ding the man, well, he’s still done more than most actors or directors ever dream of. Right now we’re addressing the last decade of his work, 2005-2014, but the decade prior had him pumping out three legitimate films:

Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Mystic River (2003)
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997)

From the titles above, not to mention his historical contributions, he clearly brought skill to el table, though that unfortunately only serves to make the last decade all the more disappointing. To be fair, he’s 84, and by that age I’ll either be dead, in jail, or peeing myself. So while it’s gonna get ugly here, no one should think we’re deriding the man that is Clint. What we’re pondering, all interllectual-like, is the art itself.

But enough of being nice! Let’s filet this fish.

Note: All of the following titles were directed by Clint Eastwood with the exception of two: His speech to an empty chair and Trouble with the Curve. The first was important to note because it exemplified the lack of planning that’s haunted his recent efforts, the latter because it a) sucked and b) continued the forward momentum of Eastwood hating everything modern.

Flags of our Fathers (2006)
Critical Reception: 73 percent on RottenTomatoes (at this point Clint was still getting the soft pass treatment).
Concept: Well how DID the United States rally the general populace and fund that big ol’ fight?
Best Case: Glory meets Margin Call.
Actual Dialogue From Script:

GENERAL “HOWLING’ MAD SMITH”: [on the telephone] I was promised ten days of shelling. You’re giving me three and saying that’s the best you can do?… I don’t give a shit! My men hit that beach with less than ten, and I’ll be taking them home to their mamas in buckets!… Yeah, I know exactly why. Because every Navy man with scrambled egg on his chest wants to offload us here and sail to Japan so they can be there for the big finish, tell their kids they captured the Emperor all by themselves. Well, you aren’t going to Japan unless we take this piece of shit island! These little pricks are dug in… Okay, appreciate that, Jim. Three days is a f****** beautiful thing.

Execution: The guys were loathsome. Hard to care about a bunch of jerks going around the country selling war bonds. Eventually, people in my theater started cheering for the Axis powers. This was the first sign we were in trouble.

Letter from Iwo Jima (2006)
Critical Reception: 91 percent on RottenTomatoes (the ultimate “art” film that everyone knows no one will see, so why bother dinging it?).
Concept: Black and white trench warfare. Gritty. Gutsy. The boys getting it done.
Best Case: The Pacific meets The Thin Red Line.
Actual Dialogue From Script:

KURIBAYASHI: They’re off mark! Off mark! Too close to the line.
Kuribayashki anguishes as he watches the life-saving supplies drop into unreachable zones.
Soldiers spot the supplies parachuting. At first, they CHEER loudly. But as they land, the soldiers soon realize they are irretrievable. A few brave souls make a mad dash out towards the supplies, but they are easy targets and are immediately GUNNED DOWN.

Execution: GUNNED DOWN. That was about it. Meant to be a bookend to Flags of our Fathers, it was instead a bookend of toilet paper. The Japanese were shown as doomed, which was meant to be sympathetic, but it actually just came off as rah-rah patronizing. As in, “Man, these Japanese guys should just surrender to the most awesomest nation on Earth!”

Changeling (2008)

Critical Reception: 63 percent on RottenTomatoes
Concept: “You’re not going to believe this, but we got Angelina Jolie. Yeah! That one!”
Best Case: Prisoners meets Species.
Actual Dialogue From Script:

STEELE: Six days, Mrs. Collins, and no progress. We may have to go to more… strenuous therapies. (beat) Unless you’re willing to prove you’re doing better… by signing this.

He holds it up in front of her. She focuses first on it, then on him… and finally, her spine where it needs to be even if the rest of her is in shambles, looks at him and says:

CHRISTINE: F*** you….and the horse…you rode in on.

Execution: I mean, just look at that scene. They exchange her kidnapped little boy for a different one and everyone wants to call it good. Except for Jolie. She knows what’s up, and you can institutionalize her all you want, she’s gonna keep coming with the heavy attitude. The worst part of this film? It was more boring than offensive.

Gran Torino (2008)
Critical Reception: 79 percent on RottenTomatoes.
Concept: Old white dudes be racist, but they can come around!
Best Case: A fella’s lawn, and the getting off of said lawn.
Actual Dialogue From Script:

WALT: Get off my lawn.
SMOKIE: Listen, old man, you don’t want…
WALT: I said get off my lawn. Now.
Walt’s calm demeanor is unnerving to the gangbangers. The guns in their hands seem tiny compared to the big military rifle Walt holds.
SMOKIE: Are you f****** crazy? Go back in your house, old man.
WALT: Get off my lawn.

Execution: People often make the case that this is a solid film, and I won’t disagree [Vince’s Note: I unapologetically love it]. But it played to Eastwood’s strengths, being surly and one-note – which were the exact things that got him into trouble with every other film he had a hand in. So while you can appreciate Gran Torino it’s extremely difficult to make the case it’s in his top five, or really showed us anything new at all.

Invictus (2009)

Critical Reception: 76 percent on RottenTomatoes.
Concept: The boys are all here for us! Racial problems be damned, let’s when this one for the Gipper! White people aren’t so bad!
Best Case: Miracle meets Mandela.
Actual Dialogue From Script:

VARIOUS SPRINGBOKS: If you drop the ball, or pass it forwards, you scrum for possession. This is a scrum. You kick forwards.
If you kick it out of bounds, you throw it back in to a lineout. This is a lineout. You score in four ways: a try, when you dot the ball down behind
the try line. That[s five points. Another two points when you convert the try by kicking the ball through the uprights. Three points for a penalty kick. Three points for a drop kick. Have you got all that?


Execution: Vanilla tapioca, pun intended. After casting Matt Damon it seems like everyone took a break … until after filming. When they took another break.

Hereafter (2010)

Critical Reception: 46 percent on RottenTomatoes.
Concept: The afterlife. What’s it all about?
Best Case: Something something by Kirk Cameron.
Execution: I didn’t see this one, because it looked like melted cheese. Couldn’t do it. I have no regrets.

J. Edgar (2011)

Critical Reception: 43 percent on RottenTomatoes.
Concept: See he was an all-powerful monolith who punished anyone he deemed unseemly… but he was also probably also a closeted homosexual. Why, it’s dramatic dichotomy for the simple man!
Best Case: Milk meets Spy Games.
Actual Dialogue From Script:

ANNIE HOOVER: [Contemptiously to Edgar] I would rather have a dead son than a daffodil for a son.

Execution: Terrible. The entire film focused on J. Edgar’s … well, I don’t know. It was an aimless story. Was it about momma? Or the closeted thing? Or his rivalries? The oppressed minorities? I’m all for biopics having depth, but this one had something else. It had zero point.

The Chair (2012)

Critical Reception: Confusion.
Concept: Let’s send this Republican Convention out on a high note!
Best Case: This generations Frost/Nixon.
Actual Dialogue From Script:

CLINT EASTWOOD: So, Mr. President, how do you handle promises that you have made when you were running for election, and how do you handle them? I mean, what do you say to people? Do you just, you know, I know people were wondering, you don’t, handle that okay. Well, I know even people in your own party were very disappointed when you didn’t close Gitmo. And I thought, well closing Gitmo, why close that? We spent so much money on it. But, I thought maybe as an excuse … what do you mean shut up?

Execution: Well, he wung it. And any time you wing things there’s a chance you’ll just suck butt. Which is pretty much what happened. True story: the reason he went with the chair was he saw a chair as he was waiting just offstage. He thought, “Empty chair. I can use that.” The crew backstage just thought he was taking it out to sit on. That’s amazing. Less thought went into what was supposed to be the defining moment of the Republican National Convention than your average powerpoint presentation. Think what would have happened if there was a pogostick sitting backstage!

Trouble with the Curve (2012)

Critical Reception: 50 percent on RottenTomatoes
Concept: This is a movie that features Clint Eastwood.
Best Case: A movie that featured Clint Eastwood.
Actual Dialogue From Script:

GUS: Anybody who uses computers doesn’t know a damn thing about this game.

Execution: Sooooo shoddy. Justin Timberlake didn’t sing or dance here. Amy Adams didn’t kiss Jennifer Lawrence, not even once. It was like Moneyball for people over 115 years old. Not a good situation.

Jersey Boys (2014)
Critical Reception: 61 percent on RottenTomatoes
Concept: From the Tony Award Winning musical comes the film adaptation of The Four Seasons! The band!
Best Case: Uhh, Chicago?
Actual Dialogue From Script:

It’s hard to find the actual script, given I have no connections anywhere, but I can point out a choice they made with it. They played this song, over and over, while he interacted with his daughter:

See if you can listen to a couple of minutes of that little ditty and figure out why it’s an odd call. And they didn’t do it once, they did it at least four times. Yeah. Once could be an editing mistake, four times smacks of incompetence.

Execution: Well, you know, it’s terrible. Basically meant for people who have fond memories of the songs so they can say, “Hey, I remember that song! And I banged biddies to it!” But so far as the narrative is concerned, it’s an endless barrage of Italian-American tropes. “Whattsamatta wit you, Tommy?!” Mr. Valli and all them seasons deserved better.

Now then, some good news (always end columns on a high note, I learned that from Sartre). Clint currently has a film called American Sniper in post-production, that, if it is anything like the book, will be awesome. Then Clint will be back! He can retire on top!

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