Time to Reassess Clint Eastwood, Auteur?

Every year, a new Clint Eastwood film hits theaters along with a wave of insta-Oscar buzz. It doesn’t matter if a single soul has yet to see the film in question. Its Oscar chances are stated as fact.

Will “J. Edgar” finally put a stop to that?

Director Clint Eastwood

Eastwood’s latest film got hammered by film critics, shredding any chance it had for a Best Picture nomination. But “J. Edgar” comes on the heels of “Hereafter,” “Changeling” and “Invictus,” three similarly hyped productions which were met with critical ambivalence.

Of Eastwood’s recent films, only “Gran Torino” delivered on its storytelling promises, but that movie’s politically incorrect tone kept the critical huzzahs to a minimum.

The aforementioned films aren’t the only clunkers on Eastwood’s resume. Consider “The Rookie,” “Space Cowboys” and “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” as three more examples where the director couldn’t live up to his reputation.

Eastwood’s screen legacy was secure long before he stepped behind the camera, and rightly so. He always brings a seriousness to his productions along with an ability to make movies without the fussiness of his peers. He’s famous for shooting quickly, an instinct developed during his early television days.

But it’s time we’re honest about Clint Eastwood, feature film director. He never occupied the same rarefied air as the Coen brothers, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg or Peter Jackson. His films are hit or miss, and lately he’s batting like a reserve infielder, not a slugger.

Audiences can always hope Eastwood can uncork another “Unforgiven” or “Mystic River,” but it’s more likely his future films will be as much of a crap shoot as movies made by the majority of his peers.

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