Tag Archive: clint eastwood


TA3A5741.DNG

Bradley Cooper gets his third nomination in a row as the title character in this Oscar nominee.  To address the personal elephant in the room, ‘Can I separate our obviously different ideologies from Clint Eastwood’s craft?’ The answer: I (try to) do it all the time when it comes to art.  Saying this film is superior to ‘Jersey Boys’ and ‘J. Edgar’ in not a debate in my opinion.

Based on the true story of the most ‘successful’ sniper in U.S. military history, Cooper puts on the weight and takes on the Texas accent to play Chris Kyle, the All-American hero who goes from cowboy to assassin.  Sienna Miller is for the second time this awards season barely recognizable as the wife of an American hero whose life is cut short.

is this film a pure propaganda piece?  I’ve heard that argument, but I saw it more as a character piece (Chris eventually feels the psychological effects of war and all the murders he’s committed in the name of country). Eastwood and Cooper are both golden boys for their generations, so if voting blocs get splintered, they have to be serious dark horse candidates for Oscar.

We shall see…

 

_MG_8965

The stats machine is telling me today’s post is post number 500. So much going on in ‘real life’, we’re right on time for some introspection…

By the personal and professional standard I hold myself to, I’ve had back to back ‘house money’ years.  I’ve been in the Game long enough to know this pace won’t last forever, but this extended upswing has given me new perspective, or rather it’s added to the perspective I have.  I don’t feel as if I’m changing in a dramatic way, but I feel I’ve opened a door in understanding how others think.  Let me explain…

To start where I started, and to be shaped by the philosophies and politics that shaped me, I was aware of how ‘power corrupts’, but I just didn’t get it.  I have enough ego to know that once in a while it’s in your best interests to let the world know ‘Yeah, I got this.’, but to live a lifetime where everything is driven by someone doing you wrong at some point; not me.  While also not my style, there was a point in the process where I understood the Hater Code (if I can’t have it, then you can’t either).  But to be fair, the only thing I’ve consistently hated on the past couple of years is the Miami Heat, so how much of a hater am I really?

The new perspective I feel I have a better understanding of now is ‘being born on third base.’  I was (proudly) not born on third base, so it represented ‘the Other’ for most of my life.  But from where I sit now, I can at least get how people who have never known a certain type of struggle have no need or understanding for religion.  And on the flip side, I see better how much all of our religious beliefs are shaped by the cultures that raised us.  In a larger sense, I’m really saying I have a new understanding of conservatism.  If you’re too far removed from the cycles that feed and encourage a certain type of self destruction, then it would be hard to separate ‘the person who can and will pull themselves out if we give them a little help’, from ‘the person with no intent of changing their situation’ (and feeding the worst stereotypes people associate with any type of socialism.)

Here’s how this relates to me individually: as my life, and the things I want out of this life have all started to fall into their proper place, I feel now that the best way to serve the people I love and the communities I love…is to be myself.  Not (as I intended at earlier points) to be some outsized, WWE version of ‘Malik Aziz turned up to 11’ that you I get to play sometimes on stage or in front of the camera, but as the me that those who know me the best have gotten used to seeing and talking to everyday.

‘Boston’ was a prime example of this.  A year ago, I would have felt compelled to say…’something’.  As last week played out though, all the points or opinions I felt were made by others: I just shared or retweeted them as I chose.  It doesn’t mean if shit really hits the fan, I won’t be right back on the frontlines.  It just means, in a way, I’m returning to a ‘classic’ version of myself: when I speak up, you know I’ve thought about the viewpoint, and I believe in it.  The much, much less serious version of this is my relation to black cinema right now. When I and my generation started, Spike had kind of established himself as ‘the Voice’, so most of us felt compelled to be our generation’s ‘Voice’.  Now, they may not be household names just yet, but there are so many good, young black filmmakers out there telling original, good stories, I don’t really feel like I ‘have’ to do it anymore.  I do it when I want to do it.  (Having said that though, consider this: Clooney and Eastwood directed their first feature films at 40, Denzel was in his 50s when he did it.  So by my new standard, I’m somewhere between ‘right on time’ or ‘ridiculously ahead of schedule, still.’  Chew on that.)

I’ll end this milestone post, on this last but definitely not least statement.  If this is your first time passing through or your 500th, thank you for coming by.  Some of the regulars I know very well, some of my internet stalkers I probably wouldn’t be able to guess in a million years.  But especially those of you who I do know in ‘real life’, you have left your mark on me as much as I have on you.  In terms of this space, I’ve been figuring it out as we go along, but over time I fee like this has become a pretty accurate reflection of me and my personality.  Days like today you see the intellectual and spiritual core, but most of the time: silly, romantic, soulful, eccentric.  Sounds about right.

So here’s to the next 500!

J. Edgar

 

I heard a lot of mild criticism when J. Edgar came out so I didn’t have my hopes real high when I finally got a chance to see it.  It’s not a bad film by any means, but against the best work of either Clint Eastwood or Leonardo DiCaprio, this film definitely falls into both men’s second tier.

The film tells the story of the rise of the F.B.I. and its controversial figurehead, J. Edgar Hoover.  This film isn’t an action flick by any stretch, so the sections about the Bureau (like the Lindbergh case) aren’t dramatically interesting until a third act revelation.  Like most character studies, this film revolves around the relationship the main character has with others.  In this case it’s Hoover’s relationship with his mother (an icy Judi Dench), and his ‘right hand man’ at the Bureau (played by Armie Hammer).  The real Hoover was supposedly a closeted homosexual, and where Eastwood’s film really shines is in exploring both why J. Edgar was repressed in his sexuality and even more telling, how living a secret life possibly opened the door to an obsession with other people’s secrets.  If you want to go all the way with it, does selling the world on one big lie make it easier to sell others (including yourself) on a hundred other smaller lies over the course of a lifetime?  It’s an interesting thought.

You can add me to the chorus of those who think Leo was miscast in this role, but can’t say it was a bad business decision.  Even with Clint’s pedigree, I doubt Warners would have signed off on Philip Seymour Hoffman playing the title character (but that would have been something!)

 

 

It seems no one is happy in Hollywood right now.

In this month’s GQ, Clint Eastwood and Leonardo Dicaprio sit down for an interview to promote their upcoming film, J. Edgar. During the interview, both men, who happen to be icons for each of their generations, lament on how difficult it is to greenlight serious dramas like the film they just colloborated on.  I feel pity for them (sarcasm), but it does beg the question: if two guys of the status of Clint and Leo aren’t happy with the studio system these days, then who is?

Is it the suits?  A week doesn’t pass without hearing one of my creative friends complain about pitching to someone who only sees their vision as some type of Moneyball formula: Actor X + Director Y = Genre Pic Z.  I know my fair share of suits as well though, and from their side of the table, Hollywood doesn’t sound like a seller’s market these days.

A lot of Clint and Leo’s nostalgia is for 70s era cinema, when the director had the freedom to try new things and be auteurs.  But those days are over unless your name is James Cameron.  Actors ebb and flow their way to the top of the food chain.  At their last peak, the action star era of the 80s, they were the movie stars.  But in our current era, the franchises themselves have become the movie stars.  What about writers?  In television, maybe.  In film?  Please.

Tyler Perry made the most money in Hollywood last year but…was he really ‘in’ Hollywood?  I’d argue no, which is part of why he’s so beloved and successful with his core audience.  And what about ‘the audience’?  In theory the goal of the game is to provide something that makes you want to leave home and experience it on the big screen in a dark room with a group of strangers.  But have there been any ‘must see’ films this year (if you’re not a Harry Potter fan)?

So to summarize, the bean counters have little to no incentive to creating ‘great art’, the artists may have the desire but rarely have the power to push their vision through, and the audience is rarely motivated to come out en masse for a film.  The question needs to be asked: will someone or something ‘rise’ that unites the business and creative sides of Hollywood, while pulling in the masses to see what the big deal is?

Was this whole post an elaborate ruse to post that trailer?  No.

Am I willing to give Hollywood a free pass for another 296 days if it means there’s a reasonable chance the system pumps out one more above average Batman film?  Yes.

Suck it America.

Suck it.

Quick Shots

A lot of movie talk among friends this week – I thought I’d post my thoughts on three different castings…

Willow Smith in a remake of Annie – I mean, did this even have to get ‘sold’?  Little Jada has a hit song under her belt, her brother had a nice hit (and respectable remake) with the Karate Kid; and little orphan Annie is one of those movies that it seems like every generation gets their own version of.  I don’t know if it’s confirmed, but I heard Jay Z will be helping out in some way.  I may be wrong but it seems like “Hard Knock Life” was his first real, real big crossover hit.  Seems like a smart, safe play all the way around.

Beyonce in a remake of “A Star is Born” – this was the equivalent (to me anyway) of seeing someone whose name you know but you just can’t remember, then they say their name and say “YEAH THAT’S IT!”  I can’t say I’m a hardcore Beyonce fan, but I’m a fan.  Personally I’ve wanted to see her do a role where she just acts and doesn’t sing, but “Beyonce in “A Star is Born” sells itself.  Directed by Clint Eastwood sounds to me like they’re gearing up for an Oscar push.  We shall see.  Early prediction: there won’t be a Jennifer Hudson this time around to steal the movie from under her.

Anne Hathaway in “The Dark Knight Rises” – Cautious optimism.  I don’t care how much juice Chris Nolan has with Warner Brothers, there was just no way there was going to be any kind of “Batman 3” without SOME type of female lead. (Not saying that was his intention.)  I like Anne Hathaway, I think she’s very credible as an actress, but (like everyone else) wasn’t even on my radar to be Catwoman.  Of course we all know the reason the rational fanboys haven’t gone ballistic over this: Heath Ledger as the Joker.  So we’ll see what Nolan has in mind…

Have a good weekend.

Invictus

 

Invictus tells the story of the 1995 South African rugby team.  Hyped up by the newly elected president of South Africa Nelson Mandela, the rugby team goes on a great run in the 1995 World Cup.  (I won’t ruin it for you if they won or loss; rugby is not my forte so the outcome didn’t automatically register with me).  I have no idea how Clint Eastwood is still directing quality films at his age, but he is.  The first half of the film is about Mandela using the rugby team as a metaphor for bringing the two races of his country together; in the last act a sports film breaks out.  If you know Eastwood’s directing style (slow burn, working the plot to its breaking point) you probably know what you’re getting into here.  His style is what it is, so if you don’t care for his other movies too much, this isn’t the one that’s going to ‘win you over.’  A few other quick points from me:

I’ve raved before about my respect for Matt Damon as an actor.  And the cat is still so young!  Hollywood is a different animal than sports obviously, but when Damon’s career is done, it will be interesting to see where his name is mentioned with the all time greats (keep in mind, he’s already won an Oscar, headlined an action franchise, established his comedy chops and I believe he won People’s Sexiest Man Alive a couple years back (don’t quote me on that last one)).  And like I said, he’s still a pretty young guy.

Morgan Freeman was Mandela’s hand picked choice to play him in a movie.  No surprise he pulled it off: the gait, the accent, the dignity and the quiet charisma.  Others have said this before me, but I don’t feel like this was Morgan’s best work.  He did great, but Mandela (the character in this movie) didn’t have much of an arc.  We get all the references to what he was before, but all that happened before the film’s story started.

I doubt I was the only one (and if I was, leave me alone), but I’ve known the poem Invictus for a long time; I learned it as a teenager.  I know it wasn’t intentional, but for someone like myself who memorized the poem in a different way; hearing Morgan’s slow, Hollywood, melodramatic recitation left me chuckling a little bit.  I could never get away with saying it that slow in my day….(but it really is a tremendous poem for those of you unfamiliar with it).

All things considered, I wouldn’t be surprised if this film is one of the TEN Best Picture nominees (yeah, it’s time to start thinking about that) off of name recognition alone.