Know Your 2007 Oscar Nominees: Director Clint Eastwood, Letters From Iwo Jima

We’re counting down to the Oscars by introducing you to some of the best and sometimes overlooked performances of this year's Oscar contenders. Today’s episode: The Good, the Bad and the Oscar.

The biggest trap of filming a historical epic, especially in this day and age, is trying to tell the story from both sides. A sad side effect of our country’s preoccupation with political correctness is that we feel we must do justice to both sides of any conflict. Unfortunately, that only leads to terrible storytelling, creating meandering efforts that are properly polite but no one cares about. Yes, I’m looking at you, The Alamo.

Clint Eastwood came up with a unique and potentially disastrous solution to this conundrum. Make two completely separate, yet entirely linked films. But if I were to tell you last summer that one would fail and one would succeed, only to follow that up by saying that the good film would be the one about the Japanese and the bad one was the American film – well, with Clint as director, you probably would have called me crazy. But that’s exactly what happened. So with Flags of Our Fathers all but forgotten, all eyes are on Letters From Iwo Jima. But while everyone knows Eastwood directs in addition to acting, most people don’t realize he’s directed 28 films. Yes. Twenty-eight. Here are the highlights.

Essential Filmography:

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Easily Eastwood’s weirdest film is also one of his most underrated. Sadly it came out during the year of cinematic renaissance in the ‘90s – 1997 – and found itself neglected while surrounded by a crop of truly brilliant and groundbreaking films. This movie managed to truly capture the spirit of Savannah, Georgia, while perfectly adapting one of the best selling non-fiction books of our day. In an odd choice, Eastwood actually cast one of Atlanta’s own characters, The Lady Chablis, as herself. And it completely worked. A wonderfully different film for Eastwood.

Unforgiven. Best. Western. Ever. You might have a different favorite western – I’m partial to The Magnificent Seven my own self – but this one is the very best. Eastwood took everything he ever learned, first from acting in spaghetti Westerns (for greats like Leone), then by directing them, and created a seething, raw masterpiece of western pathos chock full of bad guys and almost no good ones. This is first and foremost a revenge film, but also one about salvation – both lost and found. And it is one of the best damned films I’ve ever seen in my life.

Sudden Impact. Sure, it may not be the best of the Dirty Harry series, but it is the most iconic of them. This is the film where Eastwood utters the single most famous line of his entire career. Go ahead. Make my day. But that isn’t the only reason worth mentioning this. It’s also a pretty damn good film and a hell of a lot of fun.

The Outlaw Josey Wales. Bridging the gap between his work with Leone’s Man Without a Name trilogy and his film Unforgiven is this classic, 1976 western. The story of a man on the run from murderous Union soldiers who killed his family, this stands as arguably the best Western of its era and deserving of mention with the best ever. Clint sure knows his Westerns, and this was the film that proved it wholeheartedly. Oddly enough, it's also the film that most people forget he directed.

Why he probably shouldn’t get the gold: Well, with Clint there’s a couple of reasons. First of all, many have accused him of resting on his laurels – while many people have loved his past few films, others haven’t and feel his nominations are based upon who he is rather than what he’s done. Secondly, he directed two films at once. One was great, the other far from it. That kind of balances out, don’t you think? Especially when we’re holding him responsible either way. And lastly, and really the reality of it all, he’s won twice. Every other nominee has never won. He ain’t gettin’ it this year.

C. Robert Cargill - - - Email Me
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Austin-based Cargill, who not only loves but owns The Cutting Edge, writes on movies and DVD two times a week.

This is part of Film.com's coverage of the 2007 Academy Awards. For more Oscars articles, analysis, news, and red carpet photo galleries, visit our Oscars page.