In Appreciation of Clint Eastwood

In the past week or so since its release on DVD, more than a handful of people have come up to me and asked why Gran Torino wasn't nominated for a single Academy Award. Now I think the film is average in many respects but also extremely entertaining in that it has a really fun character to watch. But still, I just nodded my head because I know what they mean. It's a solid, likable flick -- that's where it ends with me.

Still, Clint Eastwood's run has been remarkable. Great work in the face of our own mortality is nothing new in any walk of life, but I still find it interesting that a guy like Clint Eastwood, at 79, is more active and artistically honed than most filmmakers half his age. Or a quarter his age.

I remember reading an interesting interview with Ridley Scott a few years ago, around the time Black Hawk Down was released to much acclaim. He'd had a string of critical and box-office successes, a run unlike anything he'd ever experienced in his career and he was posed the question of Why? His response was something along the lines of: Well, I'm getting up in years and when I looked back at what I'd done, I realized I hadn't done that many movies. Since 2000's Gladiator Scott hasn't gone more than two years without releasing a film. He has done eight films in the past 10 years. Not too shabby.

Look, Clint couldn't end his career on Blood Work, the same way Scott couldn't let G.I. Jane be his legacy. Since then both have been en fuego, although Clint doesn't have a turkey like A Good Year to live down. Now Scott is seven years younger than Clint Eastwood (who will turn 80 next year). Dirty Harry is going to be 80! Let that roll around the noggin for a while. But you wouldn't know it to look at him -- and you definitely wouldn't think it when you look at his work over the last 10 years. That's nine movies in 10 years, three of which were Best Picture nominees. And numerous members of his casts were nominated or won Oscars during that stretch.

You have to wonder if more filmmakers had the same moment of awareness

(and at earlier ages), if we'd get as much garbage released as we do on a regular basis. You can't tell me that the filmmakers or the suits at the studios are thinking about their legacy when they greenlight and fast-track, say, G.I. Joe.

Maybe there's some hope yet for guys like Stephen Sommers. Failures no doubt play a role in these artistic uprisings. Before Gladiator, Scott was coming off a relatively unimpressive run with few films of note. And by the time the '90s hit, Eastwood was an icon whose star was falling. Movies like Pink Cadillac just weren't going to cut it. Then he went and made one of the most important films in his career, Unforgiven. Suddenly, Eastwood wasn't just some old, has-been curmudgeon famous for magnums and tag lines. He became an Oscar-winning filmmaker really tapping into the medium on a personal and highly artistic level.

The '90s were mostly up and down for Eastwood actually, but he still had that Oscar under his belt and by the time Mystic River peeked its head around the corner, it wasn't too much of a surprise that the guy had done it again. Out of the next three that followed (Million Dollar Baby, Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima) two received Best Picture nominations. Neither The Changeling nor Gran Torino were nominated for Best Picture, but he did manage to score his leading lady an Oscar nomination. You have to wonder if Angelina Jolie had starred in a movie directed by, I don't know, Harold Becker ... would Becker's reputation have assisted Jolie's chances at a nomination?

Of course, Oscars do not necessarily denote quality. (Take this comment from someone who didn't think Letters From Iwo Jima was one of the 10 best films that year and that Flags was critically flawed.) Still, it is clear Eastwood remains a very successful and respected director in a way other master filmmakers have not in their twilight years.

He must look at a guy like the ever-preparing Quentin Tarantino and shake his head. Do you know how many feature films James Cameron has released in the past 25 years? Six. Six! There was a twelve-year lull after Titanic alone. How many has Clint made in that same span of time? 19. And that's only counting the films he's directed.

How many more films does he have in him? He's in shape and more importantly, he's still hungry. Invictus has a nice award-friendly mid-December release date and it wouldn't surprise me at all if it becomes a critical darling. It's just what the man does.

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Dre writes for And for cute little puppies. Email him!