Why I Still Like Clint Eastwood
Because he’s an artist.
In his relative old age, Clint has made films that forced me to think and feel; given the male-slacker crap I see advertised as fall films, I would say that is quite an accomplishment.
It’s true, Clint made a fool of himself in public, on cue, during the Republican convention. Apparently, he was put in that slot because Mitt Romney likes his make-my-day message. We should not be surprised after watching Romney sneer at half the country in front of his own people, the entitled rich. So Clint was no accident.
However, if Chris Christie can pine for respect from Bruce Springsteen, (ignoring the messages in the man’s songs), then I reserve the right to respect Clint the film-maker, Clint the actor.
I never had any interest in Clint’s first decades, the inarticulate avenger riding across the west or the urban landscape. But he got interesting in his old age.
Somehow I sought out The Unforgiven in 1992, knowing I would like it. It’s about an aging gunslinger who expects he will not be forgiven for the murders and robberies he has committed. Raising two children in poverty, his wife dead, he has acquired a sense of mortality along with morality -- an emergence of conscience, rarely encountered in American films,
When he is pulled back in through his need to care for his children, Clint now lives by a code. Killing makes him sick. He can no longer sleep with a woman, even when that offer is made from tender appreciation of his protection. His gravel Clint voice says, I aint like that no more. It’s not a bad code to tuck in our wallets.
Ultimately, he shoots up the bad guys. It is, after all, a Clint movie. He walks into the saloon and asks: Who’s the fellow owns this shithole? (How many times have I muttered this line in some crummy restaurant or motel? Without ensuing damage, of course.)
After the carnage, Clint rides out of town, warning people to bury his murdered pal (Morgan Freeman) and addressing the entire citizenry: “Better not cut up nor otherwise harm no whores or I’ll come back and kill every one of you sons of bitches….” He is still threatening what he will do as he vanishes into the rainy night. We understand the gunslinger is a parable; it’s only a movie; but still.
In 2008, Clint issued Gran Torino, about an aging autoworker in fading Detroit, now being populated by Hmong refugees from the hill country of Laos. The film could have been called Unforgiven II because it is about a man who knows he can never escape what he did during the Korean war.
My favorite part is where Clint advises his young Hmong protégé how to carry himself like an American, including ethnic insults to friends. I also like when Clint is charmed by the young man’s college-going sister, who slyly persists in calling him Wally, causing him to grunt that his name is Walt. It would not be a Clint movie if he didn’t menace a few punks and bring about justice through a hail of bullets.
Of course, Clint could have used some of that tolerance when he addressed an empty chair that represented the President of the United States. We have known all along, watching the resentful ‘50’s redneck pusses on McConnell, Boehner and Cantor, that these last four years have really been about race. Now we watch Mitt Romney address his own kind. For the first time in this campaign, expressing scorn for collective modern society, the man comes alive; he’s the guy who brought in Clint, undoubtedly knowing of the contempt within.
Still, Clint has grown to make movies about conscience, about the potential for growth.He’s an artist. I hold him to a different standard.
9/19/2012 12:14:28 pm
9/20/2012 01:17:35 am
Dear Altenir: Because you are a writer, you understand how complex and different writers and artists can be. I saw that Clint said if somebody was "dumb enough" to invite him to speak in public, he had to know Clint might do something unusual. That;one way of looking at it. Muito obrigado. GV
9/20/2012 03:09:53 am
9/20/2012 06:49:42 am
I like sedevacantist comedy. Anyway, maybe Clint Eastwood gave at least one of those two boring conventions a chance to be remembered for something.
9/20/2012 07:36:48 am
Five years from now when Clint is producing a (respctful) film about Barack Obama, the question will be, who was that rich stiff whose convention Clint enlivened?
9/20/2012 12:40:06 pm
I wouldn't hold my breath, George, as much as I sincerely, completely wish you were right about Clint being motivated in the future to revise his view. I voted for Obama with great, great hope. But I have been too close to this failed Administration and, after experiencing his failure to lead public discussion on any substantive issue, after seeing the Academy award winning documentary, Inside Job, and reading the Pulitzer winning author Suskind's Confidence Men, and being invited (and going) to the White House for consultations at the invitation of officials who have since left the Administration in disgust, it is pretty clear to me that we have a set of problems our President is unwilling or simply unable to address. Clint, unfortunately, may have gotten it right. I have no idea if Romney would be any better, but his record as Governor is genuinely progressive and at odds with his national party. His odds of winning are miniscule, however, so he won't get the chance. That is probably too bad and Clint probably agrees with me.
9/20/2012 12:40:44 pm
I wouldn't hold my breath, George, as much as I sincerely and completely wish you were right about Clint being motivated in the future to revise his view. I voted for Obama with great, great hope. But I have been too close to this failed Administration and, after experiencing his failure to lead public discussion on any substantive issue, after seeing the Academy award winning documentary, Inside Job, and reading the Pulitzer winning author Suskind's Confidence Men, and being invited (and going) to the White House for consultations at the invitation of officials who have since left the Administration in disgust, it is pretty clear to me that we have a set of problems our President is unwilling or simply unable to address. Clint, unfortunately, may have gotten it right. I have no idea if Romney would be any better, but his record as Governor is genuinely progressive and at odds with his national party. His odds of winning are miniscule, however, so he won't get the chance. That is probably too bad and Clint probably agrees with me.
9/20/2012 03:44:03 pm
Brian, thanks. I guess I was projecting some creative arc for Clint down the line, or just hallucinating. But my more immediate position is that Obama has been sandbagged by deliberate obstructionists, and whatever has or has not happened over four years, Romney is being abandoned by his own party by the hour. Romney';s disgrace may help Obama lead for the next four years. GV
9/21/2012 09:00:35 am
Brilliant George. You have(once again) read my mind. The Unforgiven and Gran Torino are two of my favorite movies by Eastwood(personally I think if you compare Eastwood and Woody Allen the former's work has been ever on the rise while Mr. Manhattan's work has been inconsistent as he ages). Anyway, I have a sneaking suspicion that Clint also has plenty of disdain for a lot of Republicans and some of their ideas for which he has little use or sympathy. Don't forget, Clint made that great movie Bird, with Forrest Whitaker, about Charlie Parker and more recently Invictus, about Mandela and the S. Africa rugby team. I think he's a lot more complex than many people think. I would love to be a fly on the wall during a conversation between Clint and his buddy Morgan Freeman after that talking-an-empty-chair performance.
9/21/2012 09:10:53 am
John, I knew there was another film on my mind. (I saw bits of the Japanese war film, and he showed the humanity of them, too.)
9/21/2012 09:22:55 am
Invictus was great! I was down in NZ for much of that year and became a huge All Blacks fan. Clint made me really like the Springboks (even if they did hire the same guys that did in George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle a few hundred miles and a few years distant!).
9/21/2012 11:16:30 am
Flags of Our Fathers was ok. But I thought Letters from Iwo Jima was much better. Can you believe they shot a film about Iwo Jima in Iceland?
9/21/2012 09:03:54 am
p.s.-Romney is revealing himself to be as big a clown as any major candidate we've had in recent memory. His platform should be: "I won't raise your taxes, and I'm white. And by the way, we Mormons are just like all you other Christians, except for the funny underwear."
9/21/2012 03:29:08 pm
Brian, not sure where to place this, but let's try at the bottom. What is "sedevacantist comedy"? GV
9/21/2012 03:32:38 pm
John, it's an interesting point. Do you think that if Mitt were presdient -- which after sending his boy wonder out to lecture AARP today seems even less likely -- do you think people would see Pres. Mitt making a speech and envision the Underwear Situation underneath? Or is the underwear a metaphor? GV
9/22/2012 02:21:07 am
Sedevacantist comedy = "empty seat" comedy. Think the word originated as a religious term having to do with a false Pope.
9/22/2012 05:50:44 am
Brian, that's a new one on me. Now I have to figure out a way to use it as perfectly as you did.
9/21/2012 07:12:10 pm
Let's hope that Mitty's relentless march toward self-destruction continues apace. The Republicans were so concerned that if W showed his face or opened his mouth that they turned him into a non-person, like one of those out-of-favor commissars magically retouched out of the photos in the times of Stalin or Krushchev. Now it's clear that their own chosen candidate is his own worst enemy, and a bigger problem than how to handle the still-living last Republican to occupy the White House. But how do you gag the candidate? As for the underwear situation...I think if people really dig around and find out what it's all about they'll probably have a laugh but wonder, "c'mon, the President of the United States can't REALLY believe that his special 'garments' protect him from harm like Superman, can he?"
9/25/2012 08:08:37 am
9/25/2012 08:37:46 am
Oh dear. There are lots of views 'bout politics, Alan, and lots of sites on which to declare them in this kind of detail about one candidate being better than another. A different kind of perspective was provided by former Times reporter Chris Hedges yesterday and it might be useful for all of us to appreciate that there isn't a lot of holy water to bathe in this election year. Take a look below:
9/22/2012 06:16:48 am
Hi George -- Did you know I wrote a new verse of "What Was I Thinking?" in honor of Clint? It goes like this:
9/22/2012 06:59:53 am
This should make everyone's day.....(well, after the first 7 or 8 minutes!)
9/23/2012 06:27:48 am
Christine and Bruce
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1/7/2016 03:07:58 am
By the time Clint Eastwood was interviewing his chair I had lost all interest in the election until the General Election and Electoral Count. I have not lost interest in Clint Eastwood since his enigmatic Super Bowl Half Time Commercial over seven months earlier:
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From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.