Oct 27, 2010

Why I Hate El Clinto

But boy, was he handsome.
My fellow cineaste and dear friend Ken can't fathom why I cast such violent aspersions on the directorial career of Clint Eastwood, a man whom I consider highly overrated as an auteur. Ken makes a good point. Is El Clinto a hack of the magnitude of Joel Schumacher or Michael Bay? (nobody is a worse hack than Bay, except perhaps for Jon Avnet). I think the difference is not one of competence but one of temperament. The problem I have with El Clinto's movies is that they seem ponderous and pretentiously solemn. Hard as I try, I find it impossible to connect with them. I find them bone dry, stiff and clichéd. To be fair, I liked Letters from Iwo Jima. And I saw Changeling on a plane and, surprisingly, liked it, thought it was very effective. He gets good actors to do good work in scenery chompers that are more related to the world of movies than to the reality of flesh and blood. 
I find him nothing more than workmanlike. I find his movies are loaded with fake sentiment, as opposed to real emotion. And he has made an inordinate amount of  clunkers, like Invictus, or Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, among others. The sheer amount of mediocre work he's done has rarely stopped some critics from gushing (critics, and I don't use this line of argument lightly, who seem to be overwhelmingly male, white and square).  It's not El Clinto's fault that critics adore him without reservations. A. O. Scott had the audacity to be kind to Invictus. Roger Ebert tweets that Hereafter is not as bad as everybody says. They cut him way too much slack and I wonder why. Perhaps they are happy that a handsome, charismatic but not particularly good actor can direct halfway decently but with little imagination. Perhaps they identify with that.
Ken mentions Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River and Unforgiven. I saw all of them and believed none. Take Million Dollar Baby. Trite and conventional and with Morgan Freeman as the loyal black sidekick who sweeps the floor. A female Rocky, except that Rocky in its time was far more authentic and original. Unforgiven is a deeply hypocritical film that claims to abhor violence while it makes a big spectacle of it. I have no problem with violence in movies when it serves a dramatic purpose, but to use it to illustrate the point of how bad it is to use it is dishonest. I have to admit that I didn't dislike Mystic River. But I didn't love it either.
His movies do not speak to me at all. 


  1. Hmm. Fair enough I guess. But what about the orangutan ones?

  2. I don't disagree but perhaps you are too hard on the guy. His biggest flaw, I think, is that he works too much. So many of his films are unnecessary and forgettable (see Grand Torino, Invictus, etc). These water down the knock out punches that he does occasionally deliver. His biggest contribution I think is his undeniable ability to breath life into tired genres. Much as I didn't live Million Dollar Baby, it's hard to deny that this was a left turn for the excruciatingly tedious boxing sub-genre. Flags of Our Fathers/Letters From Iwo Jima was truly ambitions, even in the scope of the overdone WWII epic. Unforgiven came when the Western genre was a dated joke and the film's revisionist narrative and surprising conscience (however conflicted) forced the film to the front and center of the mainstream film discussion of its day. I don;t think these are insignificant contributions to the medium but I am admittedly taking a very objective view of his work as I do not personally care for a lot of it.

  3. You cannot understand those "fake sentiments" as you call them just for one reason: you are woman :)