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Archive for January 18th, 2010

Ever since the well deserved Best Picture and Best Director Oscars for Unforgiven in 1992 Clint Eastwood has had a reputation for Oscar friendly movies. Although seven of the movies he made between Unforgiven and Gran Torino received at least one nomination the other six where completely overlooked. I am going to take a look at the movies that were overlooked by the academy and in some cases by audiances. Here are the nominations and winners:

  • The Bridges of Madison County (1995) Nominated: Best Actress in a Leading Role (Meryl Streep)
  • Space Cowboys (2000) Nominated: Best Sound Editing nom
  • Mystic River (2003) Won: Best Actor in a Leading Role (Sean Penn)and Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Tim Robbins). Nominated: Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Marcia Gay Harden), Best Director (Clint Eastwood), Best Picture (Robert Lorenz, Judie Hoyt and Clint Eastwood) and Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay (Brian Helgeland)
  • Million Dollar Baby (2004): Won: Best Achievement in Directing (Clint Eastwood), Best Motion Picture of the Year (Clint Eastwood, Albert S. Ruddy, Tom Rosenberg), Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Morgan Freeman) and Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Hilary Swank). Nominated: Best Achievement in Editing (Joel Cox), Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Clint Eastwood) and Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay (Paul Haggis)
  • Flags of Our Fathers (2006) Nominated: Best Achievement in Sound Editing (Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman) and Best Achievement in Sound Mixing (John T. Reitz, David E. Campbell, Gregg Rudloff and Walt Martin)
  • Letters from Iwo Jima (2006) Won: Best Achievement in Sound Editing (Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman). Nominated: Best Achievement in Directing (Clint Eastwood), Best Motion Picture of the Year (Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg and Robert Lorenz) and Best Writing, Original Screenplay (Iris Yamashita and Paul Haggis)
  • Changeling (2008) Nominated: Best Achievement in Art Direction (James J. Murakami and Gary Fettis), Best Achievement in Cinematography (Tom Stern) and Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Angelina Jolie)

And the overlooked movies:

A Perfect World (1993): Following his memorable performance in Unorgiven Clint Eastwood did the right thing and took more of a backseat for his next film only taking a staring role. Kevin Costner who had himself won the best picture/director combo a few years earlier for Dances with Wolves, took the staring role.

Set in early 60’s Texas, Robert “Butch” Haynes (Kevin Costner) and Terry Pugh (Keith Szarabajka) have just escaped from prison and are on the run. To aid their escape Butch kidnaps eight year old Phillip Perry (T. J. Lowther) to use as a hostage. Before long things go wrong when Terry tries to molest Phillip, to save the child Buch shoots his accomplice and leaves with the boy.

The job of tracking down Butch and his hostage before they cross the border out of Texas falls to honest and caring Texas Ranger Red Garnett (Clint Eastwood) with the help of criminologist Sally Gerber (Laura Dern) and the hindrance of Bobby Lee (Bradley Whitford) from the FBI. Philip and Butch soon develop a bond, having grown up thus far without farther and under the supervision of a strict and devout mother Philip has had far from a normal childhood. Butch see’s himself in the child as he also didn’t have the best childhood; from here a farther-son relationship begins to emerge between the hostage and his captor. Within this relationship Kevin Costner demonstrates subtlety and gives a nuanced performance that ranks among the best of his career.

The film was well received by critics and was relatively successful both in America and the rest of the world. Some of this can certainly be attributed to star power; Kevin Costner was certainly a growing star at the time. As you would expect with an Eastwood film, it is extremely well made. The direction is taught but subtle letting the characters slowly develop emotionally throughout the film without allowing the film to lose its way or become boring.

The Oscar it should have been nominated for: Best Actor in a Leading Role (Kevin Costner).

Absolute Power (1997): Based on a novel by David Baldacci. Luther Whitney (Clint Eastwood) is a master thief; he only does a small number of jobs and always on his own terms. Each job is methodically planned right down to his simple but effective alibi. He is disturbed whilst carrying out what should be his last job at the home of billionaire Walter Sullivan (E.G. Marshall). Sullivan’s young and attractive wife Christy (Melora Hardin) comes home with another man. Luther observers the couple from behind a one way mirror. They are having rough sex that rapidly becomes too rough. Christy stabs the man in the arm with a letter opener, he screams causing his bodyguards to enter the room and shoot her. To complicate matters further the man is the President of the United States, Alan Richmond (Gene Hackman) and his bodyguards are Secret Service agents (Scott Glenn and Dennis Haysbert). Whist the presidents people clean up the scene making it look like a robbery gone wrong they discover Luther who managers to narrowly escape with the letter opener with that is in itself vital evidence as it has both the President’s blood and Christy’s fingerprints on it. It isn’t long before Detective Seth Frank (Ed Harris) suspects Luther’s involvement as not many people would have been capable of planning the original burglary. As his estranged daughter (Laura Linney) gets drawn into the case Luther takes action.

The film received mixed reviews at the time it came out and had a mediocre box-office performance. As a film it is well made and well acted by all parties. The plot although very farfetched actually works well. I can’t watch the film without thinking of the movie No Way Out from approximately ten years earlier in which Gene Hackman plays a character in a similar predicament (a Defence Secretary not president). And that is the real problem with the film, although it does everything it sets out to do, other films have already it better. There is nothing wrong with lacking originality as long as you do it better than what you are emulating. Not a classic but like all Eastwood films worth seeing at least once.

The Oscar it should have been nominated for: None

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997): Based on the book of the same name by John Berendt that in turn is based on a true story. Told from the point of view of reporter John Kelso (John Cusack) based on Berendt. Kelso is in Savannah Georgia to write a magazine article on the famous Christmas party held by local millionaire antique dealer Jim Williams (Kevin Spacey). He immediately strikes up a friendship with the eccentric Williams who is played to perfection by Spacey. Soon he meets Williams’ young gay lover Danny Hansford (Jude Law), a volatile hothead young man. Following Danny Hansford’s murder the rest of the story revolves around Kelso’s attempts to cover the story of the murder and Jim Williams subsequent trial. Along the way he meats various colourful Savannah characters including local celebrity entertainer and drag queen The Lady Chablis (played by him/herself).

Filmed almost entirely on location in Savannah the film beautifully captures its location and its eccentric residents. Although long the film doesn’t drag and is always watchable particularly for Kevin Spacey’s performance. A true testament of a well made movie.

The Oscar it should have been nominated for: Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Kevin Spacey)

True Crime (1999): Steve Everett (Clint Eastwood) is a habitual womaniser, a recovering alcoholic and journalist for an Oakland newspaper. Whilst covering imminent execution of convicted murder Frank Beechum (Isaiah Washington) Everett realises that he may be innocent when he realises that the key witness lied about what he saw, however time is not on his side with the execution looming.

As is often the case Eastwood’s character is a deeply flawed person looking for redemption by doing the right thing, even though he doesn’t realise it himself. As with Absolute power there is nothing new here but it is supremely well handled. Eastwood puts in a great performance, notably in his scenes with James Woods. Unfortunately the movie was a box-office bomb. Don’t let that put you off it is worth seeing. Look out for Eastwood’s real life daughter Francesca Fisher-Eastwood playing his daughter in the memorable zoo scene.

The Oscar it should have been nominated for: None

Blood Work (2002): Based on the novel of the same name by Michael Connelly. Terry McCaleb (Clint Eastwood) is forced to retire from the FBI following a heart attack leaving an unsolved serial killer case open. His life is saved after receiving the heart of a murder victim. Following his recovery he is visited by Graciella Rivers (Wanda De Jesus), the sister of the victim whose heart saved him. She asks McCaleb to investigate the unsolved murder. Against the advice of his doctor, Dr. Bonnie Fox (Anjelica Huston) he begins investigating with the help of friend and neighbour slacker, Jasper “Buddy” Noone (Jeff Daniels). He soon discovers Graciella’s sisters murder is linked to his own unsolved serial killer case, but how and why?

The film received mixed reviews and performed poorly at the box-office. The plot is a little contrived but as always the film is really well made. The main appeal of the film is for the acting Jeff Daniels is really good but this is Clint’s show all the way. Showing vulnerability in his frail post op condition he plays against type both for Eastwood and the character he inhabits who finds it hard to accept his new limitations. This film along with Space Cowboys shows a turning point in Eastwood’s career where he stopped playing tough characters. In his final two films (if it is true that he has retired from acting) Million Dollar Baby and Gran Torino he plays people who are strong of character but more grounded than his Dirty Harry/man with no name persona.

The Oscar it should have been nominated for: None

Gran Torino (2008): I was so amazed that Gran Torino had been overlooked at the Oscars I had to double check to see if was ineligible for some reason. In a lot of ways I found it to be a better film than Changeling that came out the same year. I have already mentioned the movie in two other blogs so rather than rehash old material take a look here and here.

The Oscar it should have been nominated for: Best Achievement in Directing (Clint Eastwood), Best Motion Picture of the Year (Clint Eastwood), Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Clint Eastwood).

(please note all suggested nominations reflect an achievement greater than at least one of the years actual nominations and not just an strong performance. they are all just my opinion)

For other Clint Eastwood blogs check out the LAMB Directors chair #5 here.

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