Sully Forth!


It’s a challenge to present a story that’s dramatic when the audience knows what happened, but that’s exactly what Clint Eastwood pulls off here.  Before looking into it I wrote next: “And a big part that success is that unless you followed the case closely, you don’t know what happened.”  But as I often do with “true story” films, I looked into the depiction of events in the film as compared to the facts, and it seems that Eastwood may have inserted his political views into the film; Wikipedia:

Stephen Cass, writing in the left-leaning UK paper The Guardian, declared that “In depicting government investigators as petty and clueless, the Hudson plane crash film trumpets a libertarian worldview at the expense of passenger safety”,[60] noting that “It’s not hard to see why this tack appealed to strident libertarian Eastwood”

If you are interested, and why wouldn’t you be, I recommend reading the entire section.  Based on Sullenberger’s statements, it might be that the film adhered to the actual events a little more than Cass asserts.  That is, the truth may lie somewhere in-between.


I have mixed feelings about movies that take liberties with true stories, but for the most part I’m more interested in seeing a good movie than worrying about how completely objective it is.  This isn’t a documentary, after all.  As I always pipe in my blog: story matters.  So give me a good one.

And Eastwood — whom I’ve called “a model of inconsistency” — delivers here.  Sully was not masterful in its execution (“mastery” is a high bar to pass for me), but the dramatic story worked well.  And something I wasn’t expecting: it touched me.  Not deeply to my very core, but nonetheless it touched me.

One more thing I learned during the end credits — which you’ll want to stick around for, as they feature footage of the real Sully: Eastwood composed the theme music.  Surprised me there — I didn’t know he was a musician too!  Say what you will about his ridiculous political involvements (the empty chair episode, e.g.), he is one of the most prolific entertainers of all time.  8/10

Comparison Notes (both recommended): Flight, Captain Phillips


American Sniper Strikes Back

American Sniper - poster

FINALLY!  A good movie about American contemporary war.  After Black Hawk Down and Zero Dark Thirty I was beginning to lose faith.  A couple clips nail it:

Kenneth Turan, LA Times:

Eastwood’s impeccably crafted action sequences so catch us up in the chaos of combat we are almost not aware that we’re watching a film at all.

David Denby, The New Yorker:

Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” is both a devastating war movie and a devastating antiwar movie, a subdued celebration of a warrior’s skill and a sorrowful lament over his alienation and misery.

A great film, one of the best of 2014.  That it was completely absent from the Golden Globes points to a wacky awards season.  Could it be a “sleeper” at the Oscars?  I hope so.  9/10

Out with the Jersey Boys

A scene I liked: a musical one

A scene I liked: a musical one

There are a number of biographies that harness the magic and power of great music and the musicians who create it, and in so doing yield a memorable cinematic experience.  Crazy Heart (yes, I know it was fiction but my point still applies), The Doors, Hilary and Jackie, Walk the Line, Shine, and Amadeus are all triumphs of the musical biography genre, and each one stands among my most treasured movies.

Jersey Boys - text block smallerSo that brings us to Jersey Boys and Clint Eastwood, a model of inconsistency.  It’s remarkable to think that this movie was made by the same person who brought us the powerful stories Mystic River and Gran Torino.  That that person is Clint Eastwood only deepens the mystery.  Jersey Boys is mostly muddled, meandering, uninspired storytelling with “no direction home.”

As an example of the amateur hour often at hand, the film starts out with the caption “New Jersey, 1951”.  Next thing we know — without any apparent time passing — there’s a reference to the song “Earth Angel”.  When I saw that, it bothered me — I didn’t know when “Earth Angel” was released, but 1951 seemed a few years too early.  Sure enough, “Earth Angel” was not released until late 1954.  What difference is a couple years here or there?  Plenty, damn it — you’re giving a history of music, so get it right.  Anachronisms plagued Jersey Boys on a number of occasions, and I found it distracting.  I swear there was even an out-of-place lighted touch-tone phone — get with the program, Clint!Jersey Boys - poster

Jersey Boys wrestled with larger issues; the entire project lacked any sort of central unifying theme or vision.  But there was one thing I liked a lot: the music.

Now one thing’s clear.  If you don’t LOVE the music, you will not have a good time with this movie at all.  And I do love the music — after all, these Frankie Valli songs are great classics of Rock ‘n Roll for a reason.  That is one place where this movie succeeds over a film about music of a similar era, last year’s Inside Llewyn Davis.  The songs are a known quantity, and the quality of that quantity is off the charts.  And there is still a lot of entertainment value here with good performances all around.  But as a movie, when Jersey Boys loses sight of the great music — which it does too often — it trips over itself and stops being fun.  5/10


Clint Eastwood could well be the most prolific filmmaker in Hollywood.  He has acted in 67 titles, and directed 36.  His acting performances are consistently excellent, notwithstanding his ‘art piece’ at last year’s Republican National Convention.  The movies he has directed are more of a mixed bag.  Some are exceptional, and some fall short — J. Edgar was a disappointment, for example.

Today I wanted to highlight probably his best film, Gran Torino (2008).  As is my general custom, I shall not go into in an in-depth review or analysis — there is enough of that already out there.  I just wanted to point out that this is a wonderful film which does all the things that you want from a great movie.  A near-masterpiece; 9/10, but right on the cusp of a perfect 10.

Gran Torino Still

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wrote:

Tough has never been enough for Eastwood. It’s a credit to the film’s twist ending that Walt exorcises his demons without easy violence or bogus redemption. A lifetime in movies runs through this prime vintage Eastwood performance. You can’t take your eyes off him. The no-frills, no-bull Gran Torino made my day.

Mine too.

Gran Torino Poster

Movie Review: Changeling

email 30 Dec 2008

In its instructions for creating a Mint Julep, The Joy of Cooking warns, citing Voltaire, that “The good is the enemy of the best.”  It is such a joy that Rombauer’s great reference provides nearly as much advice and philosophy on life in general as it does on cooking.  Now… I do not want to cast such negative aspersions upon Clint Eastwood’s Changeling, because it is a wholly worthwhile endeavor, a fine film with much to recommend it.  It is good, perhaps very good, depending on your point of view.  But it is not a “great” film.

I put “great” in quotations because I want to make it clear what I mean by that.  I don’t throw around “great.”  “Great” is a close cousin in my film-talk to “masterpiece.” Continue reading