Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood directing Kevin Costner in A Perfect World (1993)

Clint Eastwood directing Kevin Costner in A Perfect World (1993)

  • Born: 1930
  • Rank: 18
  • Score: 721.50
  • Awards: 2 Oscars / 2 DGA / 3 Golden Globes / NYFC / LAFC / 2 NSFC / CFC
  • Nominations: 4 Oscars / 3 DGA / 2 BAFTAs / 6 Golden Globes / 3 BFCA
  • Feature Films: 29
  • Best: Unforgiven
  • Worst: The Gauntlet

Top 5 Films:

  1. Unforgiven – 1992
  2. Mystic River – 2003
  3. A Perfect World – 1993
  4. Million Dollar Baby – 2004
  5. The Outlaw Josey Wales – 1976

Top 10 Director Finishes (Nighthawk Awards):

  • 1976 – 5th – The Outlaw Josey Wales
  • 1988 – 9th – Bird
  • 1990 – 6th – White Hunter, Black Heart
  • 1992 – 1st – Unforgiven
  • 1993 – 5th – A Perfect World
  • 1997 – 10th – Absolute Power
  • 2003 – 2nd – Mystic River
  • 2004 – 4th – Million Dollar Baby
  • 2008 – 9th – Gran Torino

In 1988, Clint Eastwood was 58 years old. He was one of the best known movie stars in the world and the mayor of Carmel, California. He was also a director. He had directed 12 films and while only one of them was below par (The Gauntlet), he had also made only one very good film (Play Misty for Me – his debut film) and one great film (The Outlaw Josey Wales). He had never been nominated for an Oscar as either a director or as an actor. His career laurels consisted of a Golden Globe for “World Film Favorite” and several People’s Choice Awards. His directorial career wasn’t bad but wasn’t great – no more than any other director at an age when D.W. Griffith, Erich von Stroheim, Preston Sturges and James Whale had all stopped directing and an age that F.W. Murnau, Francois Truffaut, Krzyzstof Kieslowski never reached. No one would have considered him for a list of the top 100 directors. Yet, here he is in the top 20. It not only is almost entirely thanks to the last 20 years, but most of it comes from just the last seven years.

Up until 1988, Eastwood mostly made Westerns and cop films, but then he set out to make a biopic of Charley Parker and found himself rewarded with the Golden Globe for Best Director. He went back to his comfort level with The Rookie (his only film aside from The Gauntlet that is lower than ***), but then made White Hunter, Black Heart, a great film that got no award attention but put him back on people’s radars as a director. Then came Unforgiven, a film that deservedly won Best Picture and should have won him Best Actor to go with it. Somehow his next film went completely unnoticed by all awards groups and for the next decade, with the exception of the sublimely under-rated Absolute Power, he made solid films that didn’t get ever get better than a *** film. But then came the next stage.

When William Goldman made the idiotic argument in 2004 that Scorsese didn’t deserve the Oscar for The Aviator because he had made better work in the past, it ignored the fact that Goldman was pushing Million Dollar Baby, an excellent film, yet one that wasn’t even as good as the previous film by the same director (Mystic River). But that back to back firmly established Eastwood back on the Oscar map and the double whammy of Flags of My Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima (with the Picture and Director noms for the latter) mean that any future Eastwood film will get serious awards consideration, so we can all look forward to Invictus, the Nelson Mandela film that comes out later this year. After all, Eastwood has made two films with Morgan Freeman before and both won Best Picture and last time they both walked away with Oscar gold.

A Perfect World – #5 film of 1993

How did this film get so ignored by the awards groups? The star was Kevin Costner, who was one of the biggest actors in the world and just three years before had won multiple Oscars for Dances with Wolves. The director and other star was Clint Eastwood who the year before had the same success on Oscar night (Oscars for Picture and Director, nomination for Actor). The female star was Laura Dern who had been Oscar nominated two years before (for Rambling Rose) and earlier in the summer had been in the biggest box office hit in history (Jurassic Park). It was dark, brilliant, had an amazing script, great editing. And it was a financial flop and got completely ignored. So people never got to see Kevin Costner’s career best performance. And Clint Eastwood’s masterful follow-up to Unforgiven.

So why is that?  It can’t be the quality of the film.  While it is not quite as well edited or photographed as Unforgiven, those were Oscar worthy efforts and the technical aspects on this film are quite good.  The direction is extremely good, as Eastwood finds a way to move away from true violence while being more subtle about the kind of violence that lurks underneath.  The script is brilliant, the best Original Screenplay of 1993, far better than the simplistic approach to AIDS of Philadelphia or the bizarre character shifts in The Piano.  And the acting is first rate.  Eastwood took a step away from the dark turn of Unforgiven and gave himself a more understanding character.  And it may be hip now to deride Kevin Costner but he has done some masterful performances and this is one of them, miles away from his comic turn as Crash Davis or his Gary Cooper-esque performance in Field of Dreams.

But perhaps Costner is the reason the film was not a success.  The four years I was in high school (1988-1992) attending the same high school that Kevin Costner had graduated from a generation before, he was the biggest star on the planet.  He proved that he could be a box office success at comedy (Bull Durham) or action (Robin Hood), that he could star in Oscar nominated sports fantasy films (Field of Dreams) or serious political films (JFK) and also that he could take a Western and not only win Best Director, but make it a huge box office hit (Dances with Wolves).  But then overload set in right around the same time I went to college and he was in The Bodyguard, which was not a good film and then he went a very serious route in a morally questionable character in this and people didn’t want to see it.  They didn’t want to look at a morally gray world; they had done that the year before with Unforgiven and they wanted something a little more black and white.  And it’s a shame, because a lot of people have missed out on a very fine film with great performances and a marvelous script.

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