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Clint Eastwood

Classic Review: High Plains Drifter (1973)

At this point Clint Eastwood is as well recognized for his achievements as a director as he is for his work as an actor. He has been fully accepted by film critics as an auteur who brings his own distinctive stylistic touches to every film that he makes and no-one would think to question his bona fides as a scholar of the Western genre. Audiences have grown accustomed to digesting Eastwood pictures on a meta level, as he appears to be preoccupied with interrogating his own macho persona. His current reputation ensures that modern audiences struggle to understand how significant his early directorial works were in advancing his career prospects. Moviegoers weren’t prepared to see The Man with No Name struggle with girl problems and obsessive stalkers but Play Misty for Me exposed them to a rarely explored facet of Eastwood’s persona. His early directorial efforts feel like works produced by an artist who is desperate to gain artistic freedom and that provides them with an urgency that cannot be found in The 15:17 to Paris.
High Plains Drifter was the first Western he ever helmed and he wears the influence of his former collaborators rather heavily. He draws on Sergio Leone’s taste for picaresque storytelling and Don Siegel’s unfussy camera movements, whilst incorporating reverent homages to both filmmakers into the climactic gunfight. The resulting mélange of filmmaking styles that would seem to stand in opposition to one another is not entirely cohesive. As a director, Eastwood still seems resistant to the idea of taking big swings and chooses to hedge his bets at times when the screenplay calls out for stylistic excess.
The highly allegorical narrative of High Plains Drifter centers around Lago, an isolated mining town in the American Old West. The inhabitants of the settlement are presented as cowards who rely on hired gunmen to protect them from bandits. They are shocked and horrified when the enigmatic Stranger (Eastwood) rides into town and takes out all of the members of their security crew. In an effort to appease the Stranger, the townsfolk offer him the opportunity to become a dictator of sorts. He quickly takes control of the town and begins to humiliate individuals who dare to question his authority. Under his direction, the men of Lago become skillful fighters who are capable of murdering their enemies, but leaders within the community continue to stand in opposition to his plans.
Many of the film’s thematic preoccupations will be familiar to those who have seen Akira Kurosawa’s highly influential samurai epics but High Plains Drifter is primarily distinguished by its vivid, exuberant use of color. The plains referenced in the film’s title are represented as one big hallucinatory mirage and Eastwood makes the most of the extreme contrast between the wide blue skies and the sparkling waters that surround the town. The visuals become even more operatic when the Stranger instructs the townsfolk to paint the town red and starts to refer to Lago as hell on earth. By the time the climax rolls around, fire and brimstone imagery take center stage and the film fully commits to literalizing the visual metaphor at its center.
Ernest Tidyman’s pedestrian screenplay rarely displays the lightness of touch or sleight of hand that elevates Leone’s spaghetti Westerns. This means that the eye-popping cinematography is relied upon to spice up scenes that proceed along fairly predictable lines. However, Tidyman did make the crucial decision to stretch out the film’s opening act for an unusually long period of time. The opening showdown is staged in a conventional manner, which only makes it all the more disorienting when the next forty minutes are devoted to an anthropological study of the political tug of war that occurs after the usual status quo is thrown into disarray.
High Plains Drifter commercially successful hit paved the way for future Eastwood epics and stands out among his filmography for its surprisingly bold deployment of bright colors and rough textures. In many ways, the film feels like one in a long line of self-reflexive Westerns that meditate on the history of the genre. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it does gain a certain emotional resonance when considered within the context of Eastwood’s career.

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Clint Eastwood

‘Gran Torino’: Clint Eastwood Co-Star Bee Vang Blames the Film for ‘Mainstreaming Anti-Asian Racism’

Clint Eastwood‘s Gran Torino earned praise from critics and audiences. Many criticized the Awards for not nominating the film at the ceremony. However, some folks came forward to condemn Eastwood’s film regarding its use of racial slurs. Gran Torino star Bee Vang came forward to criticize the film for “mainstreaming anti-Asian” racism.

Bee Vang starred in Clint Eastwood’s ‘Gran Torino’ as Thao Vang Lor

'Gran Torino' Bee Vang, Clint Eastwood, Ahney Her smiling with Eastwood's arms around Vang and Her

L-R: Bee Vang, Clint Eastwood, Ahney Her | Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Gran Torino follows Walt Kowalski (Eastwood), who is a widow and Korean War veteran. His family alienates him and he’s angry at the world. Walt’s young neighbor, Thao Vang Lor (Vang), tries to steal Walt’s 1972 Ford Torino to impress a local gang, but Walt ultimately develops a close relationship with Thao and his family.

Vang earned a role in Eastwood’s Gran Torino. However, he wanted to elevate the movie and breathe authenticity into it. “During the shooting of the film, I tried to stay true to the script,” Vang wrote in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “But as a Hmong person, I also tried to do justice to my own life and to that of others like me.”

Bee Vang blames Clint Eastwood’s ‘Gran Torino’ for ‘mainstreaming anti-Asian racism’

Vang wrote a piece on NBC News that outlines anti-Asian racism in the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic era. He reflected back on starring in Eastwood’s Gran Torino and how it connects with the modern social and political climate.

“At the time, there was a lot of discussion about whether the movie’s slurs were insensitive and gratuitous or simply ‘harmless jokes,’” Vang wrote. “I found it unnerving, the laughter that the slurs elicited in theaters with predominantly white audiences. And it was always white people who would say, ‘Can’t you take a joke?’”

However, Vang looks back at Gran Torino with a different perspective, especially regarding the anti-Asian racism spreading around the world during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Gran Torino may have elided the crisis in Asia that birthed our diaspora and many others across the Pacific,” Vang wrote. “But more concerning was the way the film mainstreamed anti-Asian racism, even as it increased Asian American representation. The laughter weaponized against us has beaten us into silent submission.”

Vang continued: “To this day, I am still haunted by the mirth of white audiences, the uproarious laughter when Eastwood’s curmudgeonly racist character, Walt Kowalski, growled a slur … It’s a ‘harmless joke,’ right? Until it’s not just a joke, but rather one more excuse for ignoring white supremacy and racism.”

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic overtly perpetuates anti-Asian racism

Vang uses Eastwood’s Gran Torino as an example of how anti-Asian racism becomes integrated into mainstream culture. It’s not simply a joke to Vang when it has real-world ramifications. The 2008 film is not harmless content for Vang and many folks who spoke against the movie’s use of anti-Asian racism.

“In times of crisis, solidarity requires a collective commitment to justice,” Vang wrote in NBC News. “We cannot lose sight of this, or it will become impossible to imagine a new and better world. And I no longer wonder what people mean when they ask me why I can’t take a joke. Covid-19 has removed all doubt.”

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Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood Once Said We’re in a ‘P**** Generation’: ‘Everybody’s Walking on Eggshells’

Clint Eastwood is a legendary name in Hollywood. He remains one of the biggest western movie stars of all time. However, the world also knows him for his particularly conservative values and beliefs. Some audiences applaud him for his social and political stance, while others criticize him for it. Eastwood once explained what the “p**** generation” is and how it impacts him.

Clint Eastwood is an actor and director

Clint Eastwood in article about new generation smiling in front of AFI Fest step and repeat

Clint Eastwood | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Eastwood’s first acting role was an uncredited part in 1955’s Revenge of the Creature. However, he truly hit the big time by playing the Man with No Name in Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy. The franchise consists of 1964’s A Fistful of Dollars, 1965’s For a Few Dollars More, and 1966’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. His legacy continues to live on through its impact on modern cinema.

Eastwood stepped behind the camera for the first time with 1971’s Play Misty for Me. He didn’t stop acting, but his passion certainly pushed him to continue making movies. At the time of writing, Eastwood earned four Academy Awards for films including Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby.

Clint Eastwood said that we’re in a ‘p**** generation’

Esquire interviewed Eastwood and his son, Scott to discuss their experiences in Hollywood and their personal beliefs and ideals. The social and political climate entered the conversation, resulting in his discussion of Donald Trump and people’s level of sensitivity to specific topics.

“But he’s [Trump] onto something, because secretly everybody’s getting tired of political correctness, kissing up,” Eastwood said. “That’s the kiss-ass generation we’re in right now. We’re really in a p**** generation. Everybody’s walking on eggshells. We see people accusing people of being racist and all kinds of stuff.”

Eastwood continued: “When I grew up, those things weren’t called racist. And then when I did Gran Torino, even my associate said, ‘This is a really good script, but it’s politically incorrect.’ And I said, ‘Good. Let me read it tonight.’ The next morning, I came in and I threw it on his desk and I said, ‘We’re starting this immediately.’”

He described the “p**** generation” by saying, “All these people that say, ‘Oh, you can’t do that, and you can’t do this, and you can’t say that.’ I guess it’s just the times.”

Eastwood further described the generation as one where, “Nobody wants to work.”

‘Gran Torino’ continues to divide audiences

Eastwood’s conversation comments previously offended some audiences. However, his films also speak for themselves. Gran Torino star Bee Vang spoke out about the film, accusing it of “mainstreaming anti-Asian racism.” The film includes slurs against Asian people and turns them into a joke for mainstream audiences to laugh at. Vang and other critics raise the problems that arise with such casual racism.

Eastwood most recently made Cry Macho. He also starred in the lead role. He currently doesn’t have any films set for the new year, although he doesn’t show any sign of slowing down and retiring. Stay tuned for more information on Eastwood’s next project.

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Clint Eastwood

How The Good, The Bad & The Ugly 2 Would’ve Brought Back Clint Eastwood

The unmade The Good, The Bad And The Ugly 2 would have brought back Clint Eastwood in a surprising way. Clint Eastwood had spent years on a classic western series Rawhide before landing what would turn out to be a star-making role in 1964’s A Fistful Of Dollars. This low-budget Italian western was a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo and saw Eastwood’s Man with no Name playing two gangs against each other. The movie’s style and Eastwood’s iconic turn saw the movie become a surprise success and it helped establish the spaghetti western subgenre.

The popularity of westerns began to wane during the ’60s and ’70s, and later outings usually took a darker, more cynical view of the west. Clint Eastwood’s westerns tended to be more violent, and the lines between heroes and villains were very blurred. Eastwood directed some of his most famous outings in the genre himself, including High Plains Drifter – which has a supernatural angle – Pale Rider and 1992’s acclaimed Unforgiven.

The Man with no Name is still Clint Eastwood’s most famous western antihero, and following A Fistful Of Dollars, he reprised the character twice, for 1965’s For A Few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. This latter entry is actually a prequel to the events of the previous films and followed three characters hunting for buried gold against the backdrop of the American Civil War. The Good, The Bad And The Ugly is the most acclaimed of director Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy and has been hailed as a masterpiece. The movie ends with Eastwood’s “Blondie” riding off with half of the gold, and co-writer Luciano Vincenzoni later revealed he had plans to make The Good, The Bad And The Ugly 2, with Clint Eastwood returning as narrator.

For context, The Good, The Bad And The Ugly ends with Eastwood’s Man with No Name having killed Lee Van Cleef’s Angel Eyes and seeming to leave Eli Wallach’s Tuco to hang. In the final moments, he shoots Tuco’s noose to free him, with Tuco cursing out Eastwood’s character as he rides away. Vincenzoni’s The Good, The Bad And The Ugly 2 was to take place 20 years later, with Tuco tracking down the grandson of Blondie for the gold. Reportedly, Clint Eastwood – who has directed many movies – was interested in serving as narrator for a potential The Good, The Bad And The Ugly 2, though it’s unknown if the Man with No Man would have actually appeared in the story.

Sadly, there’s little solid information available on The Good, The Bad And The Ugly 2, including when it was being developed, though the late ’80s seems likely. Vincenzoni confirmed Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach were interested in returning too, and it appears Joe Dante was being courted as director. It was Leone who killed The Good, The Bad And The Ugly 2, as he didn’t want any more sequels to happen or his name linked to it. Vincenzoni put this down to a rift between the two men, but without Leone’s consent, The Good, The Bad And The Ugly 2 quickly died. It’s hard to know if the sequel could have worked without Clint Eastwood (who turned down Superman 1978) as the main character, though it certainly would have been intriguing to see what happened next.

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