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Do We Feel Lucky? What President Obama Can Learn From Clint Eastwood

December 4, 2009

Clint Eastwood’s ‘Dirty’ Harry Callahan made audiences appreciate his zero tolerance policy for criminals with lines like “Go ahead, make my day”.  Over the course of five films Harry took out the trash for San Francisco.  He squashed numerous threats from serial killers to corrupt police officers.  He drove ‘bleeding heart’ liberals crazy to the point they were calling the initial film Fascist (see reviews by Pauline Kael and Roger Ebert).

Similar to Harry’s strength against criminals, Eastwood himself has gained a reputation for being fiscally strong as a director.  Growing up in the depression era has certainly influenced him. Maybe President Obama can learn some things from Eastwood’s successful career. In a new article for Variety, Eastwood says:

“I grew up in an era when you knew the value of a buck, and I’ve never forgotten it, my old man used to preach to me, ‘Nothing comes from nothing, no one’s going to give you anything,’ and that’s probably the best advice I’ve ever had.”

Eastwood’s new film, Invictus, reportedly came in ahead of schedule and under budget. Maybe Eastwood should have stuck with politics!  It is safe to assume that Eastwood is most likely not a fan of Obama’s wasteful spending (with no signs of slowing down).  If Obama were to make a film it would most likely be a massive box office flop. Let’s just hope that America doesn’t turn into Waterworld (one of the largest flops in history, for those who don’t know).

Speaking of Eastwood’s continued ability to make successful films, the Variety article continues:

“Eastwood, in turn, has harnessed such lifelong aversions into a career long, pragmatic pursuit of the most efficient and economical business and production models. And while so many of his contemporaries tolerated inflated and ballooning budgets, and then burned out, Eastwood, a tightfisted, fiscal conservative in the grand tradition of Hitchcock and Preminger, is having the last laugh.”

Because of their ability to make films with a responsible budget, not to mention the use of appealing subject matter that isn’t driven by radical agendas, directors like Eastwood, Hitchcock, and Preminger enjoyed successful careers that lasted the rest of their life. Obama should definitely take some lessons from these men while his approval ratings drop.  Just over a year after his election into office, Gallup polls show how America is continually losing faith in Obama:

“Americans are much less positive than they were a year ago that President Barack Obama will be able to accomplish a number of challenges facing his administration. In particular, far fewer Americans believe he will be able to heal political divisions and control federal spending.”

If only Obama could govern the country like Eastwood makes films.  Of course, that would require fiscal responsibility. A good Christmas gift for Obama would be a selection of Eastwood’s films or Marc Eliot’s new biography American Rebel: The Life of Clint Eastwood. This would give him a good dose of the “Eastwood Doctrine” that could prevent America from becoming Obama’s box office flop!

Editor’s Note: See David Swindle’s January 2009 FrontPage essay on the libertarian-conservative vision in Eastwood’s films.

  1. David Forsmark permalink
    December 4, 2009 6:39 am

    The Outlaw Josey Wales is Eastwood’s under-rated masterpiece, a libertarian view of how a community comes together and should work, though harassed by big government as well as barbarians. It’s a much better film than Unforgiven, which I think got some of its Oscars to make up for past omissions.

    Of course, that does not explain how Gran Torino was criminally overlooked by the Academy, but at least it was in good company with The Dark Knight and Wall-E in that respect.

    • Carterthewriter permalink
      December 4, 2009 7:04 am

      You’ve touched upon Clint’s secret to success, the underlying message updated from the old western with a modern twist.

      Each production carried itself in a very unique way. As you point out, Josie Wales had a montage of experiences that fulfilled it’s premise and remains a classic.

      Play Misty probably has more relevance today, than when it was originally filmed, too. But, we could go on and on, I fear.

    • December 4, 2009 4:46 pm

      Dave did you see my FP piece? I discuss “Josey Wales” in it:

      That was one of my earliest FP pieces.

      • David Forsmark permalink
        December 4, 2009 6:52 pm

        yeah, I remember that. nice

  2. December 4, 2009 6:56 am

    I would agree with you for the most part, however I do feel “Unforgiven” deserves the praise it has received. It provides an excellent commentary on the genre as a whole, but specifically the gunfighter character. It is really just a excellent version of “Shane.” Eastwood’s Will Munny is the prefect western antihero. Of course, the film is not overtly political, it is just more of a realist approach to the genre as opposed to the “spaghetti” films that made him famous (which are also great).

    You are right, “Gran Torino” was criminally overlooked by the Academy, but that shouldn’t surprise us. Some of the best filmmakers in history were overlooked by the Academy for most of their career (Hitchcock, Wilder, Scorsese, etc).

    • David Forsmark permalink
      December 4, 2009 8:25 am

      Actually, his Shane tribute is Pale Rider, interesting, but not altogether successful. Whether a bad guy will go bad again is not as interesting to me as other Eastwood works, so I found Unforgiven a tad uninvolving, but I get why people like it.

      And Hitchcock and Wilder probably had better competition than Milk, Benjamin Button and…. and… what the HECK besides Slumdog was nominated last year?

      Scorcese is over rated, too. Way too much emphasis on the sucking chest wounds of life. However, Goodfellas is one of the 20 best movies ever made. And The Departed is irresistable.

      • December 4, 2009 8:43 am

        You are right about Pale Rider, but I still see “Unforgiven” as the final word on that. Of course, this film isn’t for everyone but I am a western junkie so I regard it as one of the most important in the genre. My favorite westerns are probably “The Searchers” and “Rio Bravo.”

        Hitchcock and Wilder did have much better competition (Hawks, Ford, Welles, etc), which is sad to think how many crappy filmmakers there are today. When a film like “Slumdog” wins and “Torino” gets snubbed, you know there are serious problems in the academy.

        I am a Scorsese enthusiast, so we may have to disagree on him. While there are some of his films I definitely don’t care for, I have a deep appreciation for his career (Swindle back me up :). I think even his less popular films like “King of Comedy” and “The Aviator” as well as “Gangs of New York” are excellent. I agree on “Goodfellas” as one of the best ever, and “The Departed” is irresistible!!!!

        • David Forsmark permalink
          December 4, 2009 9:25 am

          Gangs of New York is an ahistorical, illogical grandiose mess. Rio Bravo is the most under-rated movie of all time, particularly the opening almost silent movie sequence. It’s so enjoyable and seemingly effortless, that critic-types miss the artistry.

          The Searchers is art and no one can miss that.

          Slumdog was the LEAST of the problems of the films that were actually nominated. What a terrible bunch of movies.

          • Carterthewriter permalink
            December 4, 2009 9:32 am

            I second your choice; Rio Bravo.

          • December 4, 2009 9:35 am

            The problem with the critic-types these days is that they don’t know the first thing about film. I was talking about this with Andrew Klavan at Restoration Weekend.

            • Carterthewriter permalink
              December 4, 2009 11:20 am

              Almost as bad as politicians!

            • David Forsmark permalink
              December 4, 2009 3:23 pm

              Yeah, make me jealous!

              • December 4, 2009 4:01 pm

                haha sorry, you should attend next year…it was an amazing experience!

      • December 4, 2009 4:53 pm

        Scorsese is not overrated. Sorry Dave, you’re wrong.

        And “Gangs” is great. Day-Lewis is fing badass in it and it looks really cool.

        • David Forsmark permalink
          December 4, 2009 6:54 pm

          But it’s a fundamentally stupid movie. It makes no sense. None. Maybe if it were science fiction in a parallel universe…

  3. Bob Meyer permalink
    December 4, 2009 7:54 am

    Eastwood also understands something that most of Hollywood doesn’t: Don’t make the same movie over and over. Eastwood experiments. He made “Firefox”, “The Bridges of Madison County”, “Absolute Power”. All had very different characters and plots.

    Some of his films were flops, some were just poor movies but overall his productions were very successful, entertaining and some were even thought provoking like “Million Dollar Baby”. Eastwood, like Hitchcock, isn’t given the respect he deserves because he makes solid, commercially successful, entertaining films that people love and critics don’t.

    It looks like his basic rule is “Would I want to go see this film?” instead of “How can I impress the Academy and the critics?”

  4. December 4, 2009 10:33 am

    Someone needs to tell Obama, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

  5. Marylou permalink
    December 5, 2009 1:21 am

    I know you guys are having a good time talking about movies but I would like to speak to the initial article here.

    This is just what excites me about Generation Y! You have a fresh and welcome solid perspective. You look at those old Clint Eastwood movies that just seemed simply gruff but somehow fascinating to me while I was watching them, and you see the romance, the contemporary application, and more that only your generation seems to grasp and express. It’s really fresh to me and I love it.

    I finally found an example of what I was trying to tell Mr. Swindle about previously. Yes, DS, I read your piece in FP. Enjoyable.

    Contrasting Obama to Clint’s prototype heroes! What an angle. As I say, I am impressed and heartened somehow. Maybe you kids can save this country after all!

    • December 5, 2009 8:42 am

      Hi Marylou,

      I am glad you enjoyed the post! I am a lone conservative studying film at the graduate level. If I can find a way to enjoy the overwhelmingly liberal film industry so can anyone else. The angles are there, you just have to look in the right place (or at older films!).

      David Swindle and I are constantly talking about what defines Generation Y Conservatism, as you have probably seen from some of our other posts. As film lovers who happen to be conservative, we have found it fairly easy to use Hollywood films against the Left. Of course, Eastwood is by far a cut above the rest!

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