The Evolution of Eastwood: DIRTY HARRY


“Being that this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and would blow your head clean off, you’ve gotta ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well do ya, punk?” – Harry Callahan

There are two roles for which Clint Eastwood is most prominently known: the “man with no name” from the Sergio Leone westerns and “Dirty” Harry Callahan.

It’s ironic, then, to consider that he not only wasn’t the first choice for the role, he wasn’t even among the first 10 choices. The role was offered to stars like John Wayne, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Burt Lancaster, and even Frank Sinatra (who was attached to it for the longest period of time prior to Eastwood). The script (originally titled Dead Right) had been bouncing through development for several years and under several different talent packages before (rumor has it) Paul Newman recommended that Warner Brothers reach out to Clint Eastwood.

Eastwood was in post-production on Play Misty for Me when the original script was sent to him, but by that time the script in development had been in several hands (including a draft by John Milius and one from Terence Malick) and Eastwood did not like the new versions as much as the original. He also insisted that Don Siegel direct the film and even approached Universal executives to get Siegel loaned out for the director’s chair.

Dirty Harry is about a San Francisco police officer (and dedicated to officers who have died in the line of duty) whose nickname comes from the fact that he’s always handed the “dirty” jobs no one else wants to touch. He also has a reputation for using unconventional tactics – which frequently get him and the police force into trouble – to bring criminals to justice. When he begins to close in on a serial sniper wreaking havoc throughout the city, tensions escalate and the department comes under immense scrutiny to both catch the killer and abide by the procedural guidelines. Harry is caught in the crossfire of these two objectives, and you can easily guess which one of the two he cares most about achieving.

Dirty Harry is not only a landmark, signature entry in Clint Eastwood’s career, it is a landmark entry in the crime genre at large. Of the five collaborations Eastwood and Siegel had as director and star, Dirty Harry is easily Siegel’s most stylish film, exploring interesting setups of shadow and color as well as experimenting with differing suspense techniques as well (which would be mimicked by countless police thrillers that followed). The character of Harry Callahan provides an opportunity for wry moments of dark humor for Eastwood (“Well do ya, punk?”) and the violence is heavily intensified from his previous cop-drama, Coogan’s Bluff (which Siegel also directed).

The film stirred substantial controversy in its initial release due to its perceived “ends-justify-the-means” philosophy and the violence (both of which were reasons cited by offered stars for turning down the role). But the film also sparked significant conversation about victim’s rights, which was a major reason why Eastwood wanted to make the film in the first place. The social dialogue intensified around police brutality and questions of procedural responsibility as well.

And although those concerns remain vital points of conversation almost 50 years later, it’s hard not to be plainly and simply impressed by how affecting of a film Dirty Harry is. While other crime thrillers from the same era have disappeared into the status of “relic”, there is a vitality and a potency in Dirty Harry that still thrives. Much of that is owed to Eastwood’s assured and confident performance (strapping back on the gun he left behind for two films – and taking an upgrade while he’s at it), but a tremendous portion of why the film works so well is creditable to Don Siegel’s approach to the picture. By this point, he and Eastwood were such a formidable collaborative machine that it’s quite surprising that they wouldn’t make another film together for 8 years.

It is now pretty widely known that Eastwood himself directed at least one prominent scene in Dirty Harry, and he possibly stood as a secondary directorial surrogate for Siegel on other scenes as well. But whatever cocktail this pair of creatives had drank down, it was electric by this point.

1971 saw three collaborations between Siegel and Eastwood (two of which Siegel directed and Siegel also played a small, bit role in Play Misty for Me) and all three of them are fantastic. The Beguiled is disturbing and fascinating and Play Misty for Me is a nail-biting suspense thriller, but easily the most culturally iconic (and objectively best) of the three films is the indomitable Dirty Harry. It’s a standard-setting film in the cop-thriller genre and one that should not be missed by any remote fan of that brand of story.

Reed Lackey is based in Los Angeles, where he writes and podcasts about film and faith. His primary work is featured on the More Than One Lesson website and podcast, as well as his primary podcast, The Fear of God (which examines the intersection between Christianity and the horror genre). Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook to receive updates on his reviews and editorials.

The Evolution of Eastwood: PLAY MISTY FOR ME


“I hope Dave likes what he sees when he gets here. Because that’s what he’s taking to Hell with him.” — Evelyn

Eastwood’s second attempt in 1971 to move away from his stereotypical role was his boldest and most revolutionary career-wise: he stepped behind the camera to direct his first feature film.

He had spent more than 17 years in front of the camera (with nearly 8 of those years in feature films). He had actively learned the processes of production and scripting while leaning on the expertise of directors he admired (most prominently Don Siegel) and felt that he was finally ready to tackle the job himself.

As a first feature, Eastwood was very strategic. He did not want an ambitious war film or even a cop drama or western with their necessary attention to production design and detail. Instead, he chose a very simple domestic thriller, with only a handful of characters and familiar locations, and made Play Misty for Me, which is still regarded today as one of the greatest suspense thrillers of the 70s.

The story is of a radio DJ named Dave (Eastwood) who specializes in classic Jazz and receives a call every night from a fan named Evelyn requesting that he “Play ‘Misty’” for her. When Evelyn tracks him down at his favorite local night spot, the two of them have a one-night stand. The very next week, Dave reconnects with his ex-lover and wants to try to pursue something more serious, but Evelyn has become immediately and violently territorial about her affection for him and she will stop at literally nothing to ensure that Dave is hers and hers alone, even if it kills him.

As a suspense thriller, Play Misty for Me is outstanding. More iconic future entries like Fatal Attraction and even Misery owe a great deal to Play Misty for Me’s premise. Eastwood wisely allows the tension to steadily build rather than try to evoke danger from the onset. Evelyn (played to terrifying perfection by Jessica Walter of Arrested Development fame) begins almost endearingly, as though she were little more than a persistent eccentric. But suddenly – jarringly – she displays outbursts of rage or coercive manipulation. Her shifts in behavior and language are not merely shocking to Dave, they’re shocking to us as the audience, timed with a near perfect cadence for maximum effect. And with each new escalating tactic, the stakes and the threat grow ever more dangerous for Dave and for the people he cares about.

It may not have the cinematic flourishes of other thrillers, but for suspense-lovers, it is a triumph. Eastwood not only manages the directorial duties deftly (adopting techniques and style from his friend, Don Siegel, who plays a small role in the film), but he also delivers a highly compelling acting performance as well. He originally wanted the role to go to Steve McQueen, who it is rumored declined the role because of how much stronger Evelyn’s character was than Dave’s. Following McQueen’s decline, Eastwood decided to take on the role himself and he balances both jobs with the ease of a pro.

As with The Beguiled, Eastwood is again playing a rather vulnerable character, not crippled this time but undeniably trapped and held prisoner by a woman with a sadistic and relentlessly possessive mentality. Eastwood’s excellent balance of disgust, fury, and terror display some of his best range yet as a performer. But unlike The Beguiled, Play Misty for Me was a massive success, both financially and with audiences. It revealed that Eastwood was a director of effective economy: that he could handle the various elements of a film set while still delivering a compelling and effective story and an admirable performance. He would eventually handle much more ambitious material both narratively and thematically, but as a starting point for a directorial career, it’s hard not to be extremely impressed with how effective Play Misty for Me is and how well it holds up nearly 50 years later. It’s an exciting and rewarding entry for suspense fans, and a classic film for anyone else.

Reed Lackey is based in Los Angeles, where he writes and podcasts about film and faith. His primary work is featured on the More Than One Lesson website and podcast, as well as his primary podcast, The Fear of God (which examines the intersection between Christianity and the horror genre). Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook to receive updates on his reviews and editorials.

The Evolution of Eastwood: THE BEGUILED


“You must understand that it was the wine that turned loose the devils in me.” – Corporal John “McBee” McBurney

For nine films (and years of network television) Clint Eastwood had been “a man with a gun”, whether that was in a war film, a western, or a police drama. At this point in his career, he was genuinely concerned about being overly typecast and he made two calculated choices to try to perform against type. The first choice was this Civil War drama, The Beguiled, and his second choice was to finally direct his first feature film.

The Beguiled is a unique entry in both the catalogue of Clint Eastwood and of Don Siegel, its director. At this point, the pair of them had collaborated twice already and had become good friends as well as a veritable mutual admiration society. The opportunity to try their collaborative magic at something quite different appealed to them both. Eastwood himself was a major force behind the project’s inception, having read and become captivate by the original source novel, A Painted Devil by Thomas P. Cullinan. The script went through a few different iterations (including one with a straight-forward “happily-ever-after” ending) before ultimately landing with the results for the final film.

The premise revolves around a badly wounded union soldier (Eastwood) during the Civil War who is discovered and taken in by a group of young ladies at a boarding school. The headmistress is rigid and occasionally oppressive, but the soldier’s presence sends the entire group of young women into distrustful disarray, inciting desirous intentions and deceit, eventually erupting in violence and disturbing behavior as the soldier rejects and accepts certain advances (while making one or two of his own at the same time). The tension and threats escalate to an irreversible degree and the soldier soon realizes that he must find a way to escape or he will be trapped there forever, if not dead.

One of the earliest shots in the film, immediately following the soldier’s being taken into the school, is of a raven tied by a sequence of thread to an upstairs bannister. We discover that this bird had a wounded leg and is being held there while it heals, but we occasionally witness the bird’s frantic attempts to break free of the restraints and fly away. This steadily increasing dread and ever-deepening threat extend throughout the film, and the result is both disturbing and compelling.

It is often a very uncomfortable film in its extremist depictions of relational desire. There are moments involving sensual advances by teenagers and even an incestuous thread (albeit by flash-back). The soldier, too, presents an unsettling attitude towards desire and entitlement, although his perspective is frequently portrayed within a survivalist context (i.e. he’s doing what he ordinarily might not do because of the pressure of his circumstances). This all makes it challenging to openly endorse or recommend the film, but the performances (particularly by Eastwood and Geraldine Page – who plays the school’s headmistress) are exceptionally complex and often captivating.

But the most prominent element of the film is its exploration of the discomfort of gender roles in positions of power. Siegel is quoted as having stated that the film contained in its central theme “the desire of all women to castrate men.” This makes for several outright emasculating qualities to the narrative, which is about as drastic of a departure for Eastwood as you could imagine, even more so than when he sang in Paint Your Wagon. The film disturbingly treats women within certain stereotypes and does no favors for any conversation about equity of value within relationships or society. But the film-craft at work through the production and performances are enough to maintain a highly compelling viewing experience.

The film is also frequently frightening. The narrative plot may be a period drama, but stylistically and tonally, this is a horror film, and nearly everyone is – at one time or another – a monster. It is a strong opportunity for Eastwood as a performer to play a variety of emotions, including ranges of terror and vulnerability that he had literally never shown before. And without tipping too heavily into spoiler-territory, I’ll vaguely mention that there are at least a couple of devastating predicaments in this film that his character doesn’t escape without irreversible consequences.

But the film was not terribly well-received by audiences (although critics praised it rather highly). Eastwood would eventually blame mishandled marketing on the part of Universal Studios and a sensibility from his fans that did not like to see him so vulnerable. Time has been much kinder to it in general (and renewed interest was sparked when Sofia Coppola remade it in 2017). But The Beguiled is a bleak, unsettling, southern-gothic thriller and it is very, very effective. With the disclaimer that there are some highly uncomfortable thematic elements and a few disturbing moments, it still comes with a pretty strong recommendation.

Reed Lackey is based in Los Angeles, where he writes and podcasts about film and faith. His primary work is featured on the More Than One Lesson website and podcast, as well as his primary podcast, The Fear of God (which examines the intersection between Christianity and the horror genre). Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook to receive updates on his reviews and editorials.

The Evolution of Eastwood: KELLY’S HEROES


“Sergeant, this bank’s not gonna fall into the hands of the American army. It’s gonna fall into our hands.” – Kelly

When Eastwood originally signed on to lead Kelly’s Heroes, he did so because it was supposed to be helmed by Don Siegel who, following Two Mules for Sister Sara, Eastwood considered his personal friend and favorite director. However, Siegel was bogged down with post-production on that film and unable to fit the production schedule. Meanwhile, Eastwood was unable to back out of his contractual obligation.

Directorial duties then fell to Brian G. Hutton, who had previously helmed Where Eagles Dare. In a few ways, Kelly’s Heroes is quite similar to that film. it features a troop of soldiers on a mission behind enemy lines, but unlike the weighty and twist-filled Where Eagles Dare, this mission is of a more personal nature and the tone is much more light-hearted and direct.

The 34th Infantry Division are disgruntled, frustrated, and overwrought. Their captain is glaringly selfish and whenever he decides to lead his men at all, he frequently positions them either in the way of harm or of boredom. When Private Kelly (Clint Eastwood) learns from a captured German officer about a bank filled with millions of dollars in gold bars, he resolves to travel behind enemy lines to break in and steal the loot. Enlisting the aid of his fellow disgruntled officers, along with a ragtag group of misfits from other divisions, the group cross into enemy territory and begin a series of adventures in misdirection in an effort to obtain the gold.

Eastwood carries top-billing this time, but he’s a bit dwarfed by the rest of the impressive cast. The cast includes the brutish and intimidating Telly Savalas, the apoplectic and hilariously obnoxious Don Rickles, and – in one of his most delightfully eccentric performances – the hippie-zen-warrior “Oddball” played by Donald Sutherland. The cast also includes Carol O’Connor as a naïve commander and Gavin Macleod as a perpetually furious army mechanic. Eastwood anchors the chaos with a steady and assured performance that is by no means a step backwards, but is hard to find impressive amidst such a colorful and entertaining collection of co-stars.

The film deftly balances some genuinely exciting action sequences with a constant thread of sardonic humor. But it is the most cynical film in Eastwood’s filmography thus far, often criticizing without any subtlety the hazards and pointlessness of wartime conditions. Not only is the mission at the plot’s base a mission of profit and desertion, but along the way, the “heroes” of the title enlist the help of nearly every disillusioned soldier, including at least one Nazi. The cynicism becomes perhaps most apparent when the soldiers – essentially on a bandit’s mission – are mistaken for bold and devoted patriots who are making an advance against the enemy (prompting the joke of the film’s title).

There is an utterly chilling moment when, following a particularly significant victory, a Nazi solider who has joined their treasure hunt instinctively gives the Nazi salute, momentarily stunning Private Kelly into remembering who they were before this mission. Once this shocking instinct is realized, the same Nazi alters his posture into a military salute, letting his mouth drift into a self-righteous smirk. It’s a provocative moment of glaring indictment against the whole enterprise that is unsettling and unforgettable.

But despite these alarmingly biting elements, this film manages to be highly entertaining and paced like a bullet, displaying once again Hutton’s talent for handling wartime mission narratives. It is often laugh-out-loud funny and occasionally poignant. It also contains possibly intentional echoes of Eastwood’s collaborations with Sergio Leone, most noticeable in a climactic scene where he, Savalas, and Sutherland face off against a Tiger Tank in a fashion unmistakably reminiscent of a western showdown. With strong characters, a simple and direct narrative, a steady pace, and a sharp tone, Kelly’s Heroes is an easily recommendable war film, whether you enter it with or without affection for that type of film.

Reed Lackey is based in Los Angeles, where he writes and podcasts about film and faith. His primary work is featured on the More Than One Lesson website and podcast, as well as his primary podcast, The Fear of God (which examines the intersection between Christianity and the horror genre). Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook to receive updates on his reviews and editorials.

2018 Feeler’s Choice Award Winners

It’s our 2nd Annual Feeler’s Choice Awards and this year we added two new categories unique to Feelin’ Film: E-Motion Picture of the Year and Poignant Performance of the Year.

Thank you so much to all of the incredible members of our free-to-join Feelin’ Film Facebook Discussion Group who participated by sending in nominations and voting to make these awards a success. There is no doubt that these winners are very representative of the varying cinematic tastes we have in the Feelin’ Film community. Be sure and listen to the 2018 Oscars & Feeler’s Choice Award Reaction episode to hear us discuss these, and we look forward to having even more participation next year.

Best Costume Design PHANTOM THREAD
Best Documentary Feature FACES PLACES
Best Animated Feature YOUR NAME
Best Original Screenplay GET OUT (Jordan Peele)
Best Adapted Screenplay LOGAN (James Mangold)
Best Original Song “This is Me” (THE GREATEST SHOWMAN)
Best Original Score STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI (John Williams)
Best Sound Editing BABY DRIVER
Best Cinematography BLADE RUNNER 2049 (Roger Deakins)
Best Actor in a Leading Role Andy Serkis (WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES)
Best Actor in a Supporting Role Willem Dafoe (THE FLORIDA PROJECT)
Best Actress in a Leading Role Frances McDormand (THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI)
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Laurie Metcalf (LADY BIRD)
Best Director Christopher Nolan (DUNKIRK)
Best Picture DUNKIRK
E-Motion Picture of the Year WONDER
Poignant Performance of the Year Andy Serkis as Caesar (WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES)

2018 Oscar Predictions

Ready for the Oscars this Sunday? The Feelin’ Film team — Aaron White, Patrick Hicks, Steve Clifton, Don Shanahan, and Jeremy Calcara — are here to tell you just who will be taking home those glorious golden statues. Below you will find five definitive lists of who will win at the 2018 Oscars, followed by a brief explanation by one team member of why they made that choice. We believe that these are all objectively correct predictions. Do with that as you will, and if you’re in an Oscar pool this year – GOOD LUCK!


Best Picture

Aaron – GET OUT






Best Actor


Aaron – Gary Oldman

Patrick – Gary Oldman

Steve – Gary Oldman

Don – Gary Oldman

Jeremy – Gary Oldman


Best Actress


Aaron – Frances McDormand

Patrick – Frances McDormand

Steve – Frances McDormand

Don – Frances McDormand

Jeremy – Sally Hawkins


Best Supporting Actor


Aaron – Sam Rockwell

Patrick – Sam Rockwell

Steve – Sam Rockwell

Don – Sam Rockwell

Jeremy – Willem Dafoe


Best Supporting Actress


Aaron – Allison Janney

Patrick – Allison Janney

Steve – Allison Janney

Don – Allison Janney

Jeremy – Allison Janney


Best Director


Aaron – Guillermo del Toro

Patrick – Guillermo del Toro

Steve – Guillermo del Toro

Don – Guillermo del Toro

Jeremy – Guillermo del Toro


Best Adapted Screenplay








Best Original Screenplay


Aaron – GET OUT

Patrick – GET OUT

Steve – GET OUT


Jeremy – GET OUT


Best Cinematography


Aaron – BLADE RUNNER 2049

Patrick – BLADE RUNNER 2049

Steve – BLADE RUNNER 2049


Jeremy – BLADE RUNNER 2049


Best Costume Design








Best Film Editing


Aaron – I, TONYA

Patrick – DUNKIRK





Best Makeup and Hairstyling








Best Original Score








Best Original Song


Aaron – “This is Me” from THE GREATEST SHOWMAN

Patrick – “This is Me” from THE GREATEST SHOWMAN

Steve – “This is Me” from THE GREATEST SHOWMAN

Don – “Remember Me” from COCO

Jeremy – “Remember Me” from COCO


Best Production Design


Aaron – BLADE RUNNER 2049






Best Sound Editing



Patrick – DUNKIRK





Best Sound Mixing



Patrick – DUNKIRK



Jeremy – DUNKIRK


Best Visual Effects








Best Animated Film


Aaron – COCO

Patrick – COCO

Steve – COCO

Don – COCO

Jeremy – COCO


Best Foreign Language Film








Best Documentary Feature




Steve – ICARUS




Best Documentary Short


Aaron – HEROIN(E)

Patrick – EDITH + EDDIE



Jeremy – HEROIN(E)


Best Animated Short








Best Live-Action Short







BEST PICTURE: How did I get this draw? LADY BIRD was my favorite film of 2017, but it’s too benign for Oscar voters. GET OUT would be a statement win, especially in our current social climate, but I just don’t think older voters are going to push a horror film to the top. For me that leaves THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI and THE SHAPE OF WATER. The preferential ballot and lack of a directing nom for Martin McDonough indicate to me that THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI is vulnerable, even though it keeps hanging around and over performing everywhere. I’m counting on enough voters dropping it low on their ballots, where I think THE SHAPE OF WATER will garner enough top votes to push it over the top. Ask me again tomorrow and I’ll probably tell you something different. – Steve

BEST ACTOR: As much of a lock as there has ever been, Gary Oldman’s transformative performance as Winston Churchill in the Best Picture-nominated DARKEST HOUR is sure to be recognized for its greatness. This performance feels like total immersion into the character with his veins seemingly about to pop at any time, and his stutters and pauses perfectly capturing the enormous pressure weighing Churchill down. Oldman has already won almost every major award for Best Actor thus far and will rightfully take home the Oscar, too. – Aaron

BEST ACTRESS: If you were to add up all the lead-up awards (as I have), this would be a neck-and-neck contest between Sally Hawkins of THE SHAPE OF WATER and Frances McDormand for THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI. The way I see things shaking out, this might be the one Oscar Martin McDonagh’s film wins all night and it’s probably the right one in this Year of Women. Slot McDormand over Hawkins in a race closer than we’ll ever see. – Don

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Willem Dafoe’s Bobby Hicks was the glue that held life at the Magic Castle Inn and Suites together. His presence there not only kept the place in business, but his character brought a paternal presence to it’s residence. I’m glad he got a nod for the nomination, but it’s hard to beat out a film with two strong supporting leads. Sam Rockwell edges out Woody Harrelson for the win. – Patrick

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: I would argue that this is Oscar’s toughest category this year. All five women nominated gave performances that commanded the screen every time they appeared. Given what we’ve seen in awards season thus far, all signs seem to point to Allison Janney winning her first Academy Award for her portrayal of Tonya Harding’s mother LaVona Fay Golden in Craig Gillespie’s I, TONYA. Janney has long been one of Hollywood’s most reliable actresses and she absolutely becomes Golden in a darkly funny role as the unrelentingly awful mom (and lover of tropical winged creatures). If there’s any justice in the world, she’ll agree to share the trophy with that bird. – Jeremy

BEST DIRECTOR: In a very deep category, it’s wonderful to see Hispanic (Guillermo del Toro for THE SHAPE OF WATER), black (Jordan Peele for GET OUT), and female (Greta Gerwig for LADY BIRD) diversity.  That’s promising for the state of film, but there can only be one winner and it’s going to be Guillermo del Toro.  Since January, him winning the Golden Globe, the BAFTA, and, most importantly, the DGA Award from his Directors Guild peers seals his Oscar victory. – Don

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Earlier in this awards season, THE DISASTER ARTIST was running away and hiding with this category as the preordained choice of cult and niche cinephile fans. As soon as that Hollywood in-joke of a film hit general audiences, it died a death about as quick as the film it’s based on. Surging ahead instead is CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, adapted by veteran screenwriter James Ivory, who has never won the Big One after years of Merchant-Ivory awards bait offerings. This is the place for voters to throw this topical LGBT message film a bone and to cap a respected career for Ivory. – Don

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: This was once wide open, but it seems to have settled into a two horse race between GET OUT and THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI. As much as I really want to see Greta Gerwig on that Oscar stage, I fear support for LADY BORD is starting to wane, and it could get shut out completely. I really believe Jordan Peele and GET OUT are going to squeak by with this one. THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI is pesky, but with no persons of color considered a threat for an acting win, you can bet the Academy will want to honor their commitment to squashing #OscarsSoWhite in some fashion, and Peele is very deserving here.  – Steve

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Roger Deakins has been nominated for Best Cinematography 14 times and somehow, inexplicably, he has gone home with empty hands 13 of them so far. This has to be the year the Academy finally recognizes his staggering greatness, right? BLADE RUNNER 2049 was sadly skimmed over in major categories, but my thinking is that the critically acclaimed film will still win some technical awards, including this one. The one contender that has performed well on the award circuit and could yet again spoil Roger’s party is most likely Dan Laustsen for his gorgeous work in THE SHAPE OF WATER. But that film will win plenty of other awards. This one goes to Deakins. – Aaron

BEST COSTUME DESIGN: Um, really? Was there ever any doubt as to what film was going to win Best Costume Design. The movie is called PHANTOM THREAD for goodness sake. Besides that, the stunning costumes add to the overall tone of the entire film and make it the most worthy recipient of the Oscar. – Patrick

BEST FILM EDITING: Last year, Patrick defined Film Editing this way: “Pacing would be the operative word to describe the quality of a well-edited film. Did it flow? Did each scene lead well into the next? Were there abrupt changes to the tone of the film as a result of the way it was pieced together?” Well, this year there are a few films that likely good take home the award, chief among them being DUNKIRK, BABY DRIVER, and I, TONYA. I wouldn’t be surprised if any of these win, but the award circuit buzz seems to favor I, TONYA and this feels like a year when we’re going to see several films taking home multiple statues. – Aaron

BEST MAKEUP/HAIRSTYLING: As the bald man of the group, it is my absolute honor to judge and handicap this category. I know my sugar-honey-iced-tea. For me, the fact this is the one remaining Oscar category to still skate by on three chincy nominees instead of a full field of five is ridiculous. Surely two more films could have been honored to compete. Of the three, this is duel for “Best Lead Character Transformation” more than anything else, and Gary Oldman’s disappearance into Sir Winston Churchill for DARKEST HOUR will win over making Jacob Tremblay as ugly as he is cute in WONDER. – Don

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: 2017 seemed to be the year of what has come to be known as modern minimalist music in film. BLADE RUNNER 2049 and DUNKIRK, scored by Hans Zimmer, really dive deep into this style. Desplat’s THE SHAPE OF WATER, however, takes a different approach, and really becomes another character in the film. Beautiful and haunting, and a lock to take home the award. – Patrick

BEST ORIGINAL SONG: Sigh, the best song never seems to win the Oscar, and the frontrunner all along has been “Remember Me”, from COCO. It’s nice and sentimental, but it isn’t particularly memorable outside the confines of the film. I’m expecting the Academy voters to finally honor the true best song and go with “This is Me”, from THE GREATEST SHOWMAN. This song has become a global anthem of inspiration, and has made a star out of powerhouse singer, Keala Settle. – Steve

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN: This award could easily go to THE SHAPE OF WATER, but like with Best Cinematography this seems like the proper place to recognize BLADE RUNNER 2049 and in a year with so many worthy nominees of high quality, this one goes to the futuristic world over the fairy tale one.  – Aaron

BEST SOUND EDITING: It might seem a little odd that a film that was repeatedly criticized in its initial release for having dialogue that was hard to hear is now the odds on favorite to win the award for best sound editing. But upon further examination audiences realized that they were hearing exactly what Gregg Landaker, Gary Rizzo and Mark Weingarten wanted them to hear in Christopher Nolan’s DUNKIRK. Nolan’s completely immersive film makes the viewer feel like they’re on the beach at Dunkirk largely because of the deft hand with which this crew recreates the sounds of war. BABY DRIVER may sneak up and take this one, but my money is on DUNKIRK. – Jeremy

BEST SOUND MIXING: Every year we talk about how the difference in Sound Editing and Mixing is so small that usually the same film wins both. While I do think BABY DRIVER’s unique style could change things up this year by winning Sound Editing, ultimately I believe both awards will go to the relentlessly visceral sound of DUNKIRK. Honestly, in any other year DUNKIRK would be a slam dunk, but BABY DRIVER does give me pause due to how integral sound is to it as well.  – Aaron

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: I’m not going to apologize for supporting what I think is the runaway pick in this category. That’s not to say the other four nominees aren’t worthy. They clearly are. But when you can get me to cry from watching a digital ape act on screen, you’re doing something right. I also believe this will be Andy Serkis’ indirect Oscar for his performance as Caesar because both need each other to make this success story what it is.  – Patrick

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM: Pixar typically has a stranglehold on this category, and this year is no different. The first of their films set south of the border is a celebration of family and following your dreams, with all of the classic Pixar bells and whistles thrown in. They have no competition here. COCO it is. – Steve

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: There was some trading going on among Feelin’ Film contributors regarding who would be given the opportunity to highlight this category and after a long fight that ended in Patch struggling but ultimately succeeding in yelling “UNCLE” through his tears, I won the opportunity. I’m picking Ruben Ostlund’s THE SQUARE here. Why? Because I saw the trailer and I like Elizabeth Moss. The Swedish film, which is about an art installation at the X-Royal Art Museum in Stockholm, has received rave reviews and won the Palme d’Or at Cannes. It’s going to win. – Jeremy

BEST DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE): The odds on favorite to take away this year’s statue for best documentary feature is Agnes Varda’s FACE PLACS. The doc, that follows the famed director and the artist known only as JR while they travel the countryside of France and take large photos of the people they find there, has stolen hearts of viewers everywhere it has played. This will be Varda’s second Oscar in less than a year after having been given the Academy Honorary Award back in November. – Jeremy

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT: The dreaded “short” categories will make or break your Oscar ballot. This year is a toss up, but I’m leaning toward EDITH + EDDIE, a story about physical abuse of the elderly, sure to tug at a few heartstrings and anger a few people along the way. – Steve

BEST ANIMATED SHORT: This year’s nominees were all strong contenders, and my favorite isn’t even the one I think SHOULD win. GARDEN PARTY stands above as a visually stunning display of animation on top of a left field plot (if you could call it that) with an ending that is the perfect exclamation point to its tale. But I think my favorite of the five will take home the statue this year. DEAR BASKETBALL is a fantastic balance of words, visuals and music, wrapped up in a visceral experience that isn’t forgettable, at least not to me. (This may end up being first time an NBA player will have won an Oscar which will be crazy in and of itself). – Patrick

BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT: As a nice get with press credentials, I’ve actually been lucky enough to see all five of these obscure films. I don’t have to throw a dartboard and guess like most everyone else. In this unfortunate era of mass shootings, the absolutely harrowing experience that is DEKALB ELEMENTARY reenacting at true story of a school secretary talking down a would-be school gunman is, far and away, the best of this bunch. – Don

Agree with our picks? Disagree? Want to share your own? Leave us some feedback. We’d love to discuss them with you. Thanks for reading!

The Evolution of Eastwood: TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA


“Everybody’s got a right to be a sucker once.” – Hogan

The script for Two Mules for Sister Sara was shown to and discussed with Eastwood by Elizabeth Taylor while he was filming Where Eagles Dare with her husband Richard Burton. The original plan was for her to star in it, but when the time came, she was busy on another project. The role went to Shirley MacLaine (a more established star than Eastwood at the time), and it was the last time in Eastwood’s career that he would get second billing for a major role in a feature film.

Partnering up once again with director Don Siegel, who had helmed Coogan’s Bluff previously, and bringing on composer Ennio Morricone to score the film provides some familiar touchpoints for Eastwood in this film while still allowing him to flex a bit of range in his characterizations. He plays a drifting bounty hunter named Hogan (who strongly resembles his “man with no name” with the hat and cigarillo but minus the poncho) who rescues a nun (Sister Sara of the title) from a group of lecherous bandits and finds that his current mission to capture a French-occupied fort coincides with hers to rescue a group of prostitutes from the same place.

Despite much grumbling and numerous frustrations (not to mention her nunnery vows), Hogan finds himself drawn into romance with Sister Sara which deepens even further after he is badly wounded by a group of Indians along their quest and nursed back to health by her. Her impetuous boldness and his stubborn attitude provide much of the flavor and enjoyable drama in the film, and the broader setting of their mission raises the stakes to a very effective and engrossing level.

Eastwood is more talkative and expressive in this film than in any of his previous works thus far, frequently casting out sarcastic arguments and displaying exaggerated reactions to the absurdity of his character’s predicament. It is no small degree of fun to see him flex his characterization this way, and MacLaine’s fiery, assured portrayal as Sister Sara is an excellent counter to him. The story itself isn’t the strongest, but its functionality as a vehicle for its stars is well-suited and Siegel handles the pacing and tone extremely well. There is even a soft third-act twist that makes for a fitting resolution to both the narrative and the characters (I call it a “soft” twist because it is a twist of character rather than of plot).

I enjoyed Two Mules for Sister Sara quite a bit. It finds Eastwood playing to some of his strengths without feeling too familiar and finds him stretching his talents without drifting too far upstream from his core appeal (like what happened with the poorly crafted Paint Your Wagon). There are rumors that things on set were tense with MacLaine, not necessarily between her and Eastwood but between her and Siegel, and the film certainly feels as if her character is the more crucial one driving the overall production forward. This is not to say that she overshadows Eastwood, but it is telling that not only did Eastwood never take secondary billing again, he also wouldn’t work with a female co-star of his same celebrity status again until Bridges of Madison County.

But for fans of Eastwood westerns, this is a must-see. I’d even say it’s a must-see for fans of westerns in general. And even for the broader general audience, it’s an enjoyable comedy-action-western that’s likely to bring several smiles to your face and an ultimately satisfied feeling when the credits roll.

Reed Lackey is based in Los Angeles, where he writes and podcasts about film and faith. His primary work is featured on the More Than One Lesson website and podcast, as well as his primary podcast, The Fear of God (which examines the intersection between Christianity and the horror genre). Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook to receive updates on his reviews and editorials.

The Evolution of Eastwood: PAINT YOUR WAGON


Take this in: Clint Eastwood. Lee Marvin. Western… Musical.

If that general concept strikes you as somewhat odd, you’re in the precise mindset to encounter 1969’s Paint Your Wagon. Directed by Joshua Logan based on the Broadway play by Alan Jay Lerner, Paint Your Wagon is an odd and apparently misguided venture from conception all the way to execution.

Adapted by the legendary screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky, the production became troubled even from earliest developments. The location was remote, forcing the cast and crew to be helicoptered in every day. The original playwright micro-managed Logan’s direction, forcing frustrations and production delays. Lee Marvin, while regarded by everyone as a consummate southern gentleman, was also unfortunately drunk for nearly every scene of the film. Locals were used as extras who eventually became a coercive union, forcing the budget to bloat even further with unreasonable demands that had to be met rather than further delay production.

These complications don’t automatically shine through in the finished film, but something beneath the surface certainly feels strained. The result is a film that’s overlong, unfocused, and largely thematically confused. There are a couple of memorable songs, but even they feel somewhat forced amidst an ambling and disjointed narrative.

The story, in brief, centers around Ben Rumson (Marvin) who, after finding the wreckage of a wagon that left one man dead and the man’s brother (Eastwood) severely wounded, discovers gold dust and stakes a claim there. Eventually a town builds up around that claim, and into that town drifts a Mormon man with two wives (one of whom he rather casually sells off to the highest bidder – which, of course, winds up being Rumson). As the town continues to boom, a love triangle forms between Rumson, his “Pardner” (Eastwood), and the bride (Jean Seberg) which is set against the backdrop of the wild and fickle gold rush in California. Eventually the triangle (and the town) collapses, leaving our characters to decide for themselves how to tackle whatever comes next.

Eastwood again takes a supporting role here, following his strong presence in Where Eagles Dare. His acting is a bit less steady, and it is disarming on a fundamental level to hear him sing (he and Marvin both perform all of their own songs), but his character in this is far too aimless and reactionary to really anchor any of his performance choices. Where he had previously seemed to bring the full power of his expertise to the strong, silent type role of Lieutenant Schaffer, he now seems to feel out of sorts and confused, wondering both on and off screen (apparently) just where the hell everything is going.

Fans of large-scale movie musicals may find a handful of diamonds in the rough to cherish, but not being in that company myself, I found little to admire and even less to enjoy. The narrative is tedious, the comedy is too ham-fisted, the drama is too self-important. And the theme of the piece seems to confuse whether it wants us to be on board with our protagonists’ philosophies or not (it spends 2 hours bringing us on board with their frontier ways of thinking and living only to monumentally dismantle all of them in the last 30 minutes and ultimately justify the stark-raving preacher who condemned it all).

If I haven’t made it clear enough, I did not enjoy Paint Your Wagon. However, it is a vital entry in Eastwood’s catalogue for one gigantic reason: this is the film that made Eastwood want to become a director.

He would later reference Paint Your Wagon specifically as an impetus for him to move more firmly behind the camera. He said that being a part of this production taught him “how not to make a movie.” And it would only be a couple short years later before he would indeed step behind the camera for the first time, beginning a lifelong legacy that expanded beyond performance into the realm of Hollywood storyteller. If only for the push in that impressive direction, perhaps Paint Your Wagon should be thanked after all.

Reed Lackey is based in Los Angeles, where he writes and podcasts about film and faith. His primary work is featured on the More Than One Lesson website and podcast, as well as his primary podcast, The Fear of God (which examines the intersection between Christianity and the horror genre). Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook to receive updates on his reviews and editorials.

The Evolution of Eastwood: COOGAN’S BLUFF


“You better drop that blade, or you won’t believe what happens next, even while it’s happening.” – Coogan

Work began on Coogan’s Bluff (the second of three Eastwood films released in 1968) even before Hang ‘Em High had been released. The original script had appealed to him and offered a welcome chance to move away from the westerns for which he was known without really moving away from them. Essentially, the film is a western in tone, style, and characterization, but set in 1960s New York City.

The plot involves a womanizing and reckless Chief Deputy from Arizona named Walt Coogan (Eastwood, of course) who is given orders to extradite a prisoner he’d previously captured from New York City. While in the city, he finds himself in conflict with the bureaucracy standing between him and his prisoner and a stubborn Chief of Police (played by Lee J. Cobb). He bypasses the process with lies and exaggerations to get his hands on his prisoner, but he is then tricked and ambushed and the prisoner escapes. What follows is a vigilante manhunt through the city, against the will of both the city police and his own chief back in Arizona, wherein Coogan attempts to bring his escaped convict to justice.

The film was a decent hit in 1968, so I was excited to see it (it’s the first one in this year-long challenge that was new to me). It is most notable for being the first partnership between Clint Eastwood and Don Siegel (who would go on to direct Eastwood four more times, most notably in Dirty Harry). Prior to their pairing for this film, neither of the two men had even heard of each other, but they worked well together and became good friends off-set as well.

As for this first outing for them, Coogan’s Bluff is very “of its time”, which isn’t entirely a compliment. The sensibilities of late-60s/early-70s cop thrillers aren’t terribly appealing to me and some of them border on distasteful, particularly in their treatment of women (of which Coogan’s Bluff has a handful of transgressions). The script is often painfully utilitarian, the direction is straightforward and pedestrian, and the general resolution feels too tidy given some of the narrative’s general complications. In short, it’s easy to see why contemporary audiences enjoyed it, but it doesn’t hold up very well.

What works about it is Eastwood’s steady – if unremarkable – performance, two genuinely thrilling action sequences (one of them a motorcycle chase and the other an out all brawl in a pool room), and an even, simplistic narrative. Unfortunately, these merits don’t quite elevate the material beyond the status of a Saturday afternoon cable matinee. It’s worth noting that the script was a matter of some frustration for Eastwood. He had originally been drawn to the simplicity of the original script, penned by Rawhide veterans Herman Miller and Jack Laird as a possible TV pilot. But upon hiring writers to make the script more cinematic (and watching it go through several unlikable drafts), Eastwood rejected any further rewrites in favor of going back to the original concept. Dean Reisner was finally hired and, with considerable input from Eastwood himself, a new script was finished. This overall experience would start a long-standing distaste in Eastwood’s work for extensive revisions to scripts.

I can’t speak to the quality of the scripts that didn’t make it to the screen, but the one we finally get isn’t very good. It isn’t surprising that it was originally conceived as a TV pilot (the overall production has a decisively small-screen feel), but the script has three major problems:

First, the character of Coogan isn’t very likable (or effective). His treatment of women seems inconsistent (he slaps a man for groping a woman without permission, but frequently makes unwanted advances himself and even roughs up a woman late in the film to obtain information). It’s also his own impatience which causes the primary problem in the first place. His “bluff” subverts due process and enables the prisoner to escape. It’s difficult to root for a hero so fundamentally impetuous and arrogant. Eastwood plays Coogan with an appropriate blend of machismo confidence and gruff rebellion. It’s a steady and assured performance, but ultimately unremarkable and made even less so by how unlikable the character is.

Second, the film’s treatment of women is – at times – painfully offensive. In the character of Julie Roth (played by Susan Clark), the film seems to be attempting to present an independent and self-sufficient working woman, but her inevitable swooning over Coogan and her passivity towards moments of objectification are troubling at best and offensive at worse. All other female characters are reduced to objects of either Coogan’s affections or the villain’s (including the one Coogan eventually starts tossing around a room). It may not be uncommon given the times in which the film was made, but it’s uncomfortable and potentially upsetting to current sensibilities.

Lastly, the stakes in the script are simply too small. The reason for Coogan’s inability to extradite the prisoner is described in only the broadest of terms (which might support the character’s reason for bypassing it entirely). But even after Coogan’s “bluff” to get his hands on the prisoner lands him in deep trouble with both the local and his own direct authorities, his continued vigilante tactics are eventually dismissed with impunity simply because they are ultimately successful (yes, I know I just spoiled the ending of the film, but with a film like this you’ll already see the ending coming from an hour away).

Coogan’s Bluff is, in many ways, a very natural next step in Eastwood’s filmography. Coogan wears a cowboy hat (and is often referred to as “cowboy” by other characters). He carries himself very much the way Jed Cooper from Hang ‘Em High carried himself, with simple drives and simple goals. He’s the same basic character we’ve already come to know him as playing, just in the city instead of the west. Fans of this genre’s period will likely find this to be a perfectly acceptable entry, if not an impressive one. But for the casual film viewer, Coogan’s Bluff is little more than mild, diversionary fare.

Reed Lackey is based in Los Angeles, where he writes and podcasts about film and faith. His primary work is featured on the More Than One Lesson website and podcast, as well as his primary podcast, The Fear of God (which examines the intersection between Christianity and the horror genre). Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook to receive updates on his reviews and editorials.

The Evolution of Eastwood: WHERE EAGLES DARE


“Do me a favor, will you? Next time you have one of these things, keep it an all-British operation.” – Lt. Morris Schaffer

The third film Eastwood released in 1968 was the only one in which he was not the primary lead. It’s also possibly the best of the three. The film began specifically as a vehicle for its primary star, Richard Burton, who was looking for a stronger candidate to have a hit film. The film was a calculated attempt to earn a box office hit and allow Burton to perform in a piece with a broader appeal. Lee Marvin was approached to play opposite Burton, but he turned it down because he’d just recently completed The Dirty Dozen. The script was then sent to Eastwood, whose star was shining brightly thanks to the Leone films. Originally Eastwood didn’t care for the script, but the amount he was offered for the role quieted any quibbles he was carrying.

Writer Alistair MacLean had established a reputation for himself as a solid thriller craftsman whose bestselling books frequently translated into hit films. He was commissioned to craft a new story, largely with an eye towards being a Richard Burton vehicle. The result was Where Eagles Dare, a wartime covert-rescue thriller in which an elite team (who had never worked together before) must infiltrate a secluded castle stronghold and extract a captured American General. Although the mission is direct, its chances of success are very slim, and it quickly becomes clear that the mission is not as simple as it seems (and neither are the men on it).

Although Eastwood is not the primary headliner on this film, his presence is invaluable to why it works so well. Richard Burton, whose acting background was largely based in live stage work, adeptly handles the language when exposition or revelations become too wordy. Meanwhile, Eastwood (who, again, was not a fan of the script and actually asked for some of his lines to be given to Burton) spends his time largely letting his steely squint speak for him (a quality he’s come to nearly perfect thanks to his work with Leone). Burton and Eastwood were given much liberty to help craft their own characters for this film and the result is a highly watchable, frequently thrilling wartime spy classic.

The script itself, despite Eastwood’s irritations, is skillfully crafted, although it frequently suffers from a certain pedestrian bluntness when it’s delivering key pieces of exposition or explanation. This simplicity is offset, however, by a handful of genuinely surprising plot twists. Having never seen this film and knowing very little from cultural awareness allowed me to experience these twists with unjaded eyes and I found them to be very effective. From the onset of the narrative mission, one of the team is killed in a way that was intended to appear accidental. Since the individuals have not worked together before, suspicions begin to abound, not only about who on the team might be a traitor, but also about why they might truly have been sent on the mission at all. With each new revelation, the stakes and advantages shift; and I dare any first-time viewer to accurately guess what surprise will come next.

Most of the action sequences are focused on the last half of the film, and some of them are quite suspenseful. There are two sequences involving struggles atop a miles-high cable car that are very tense. It is also probably worth noting that, possibly because of the wartime setting, Eastwood’s character kills more people in this film than he does in any future film in which he stars (including some of his more brutal westerns). The sequences feel somewhat dated for the most part, but any astute viewer entering the film with an understanding of late-60s sensibilities should find themselves in for quite a treat.

As for this entry in Eastwood’s overall filmography, it made me wonder why he didn’t take on more secondary or supporting roles. No one would question his charisma or talent as a leading man, he’d already well proven those by this point. But he really thrives as a supporting character (although, true, he’s practically a co-lead in this film). His capacity to influence a scene in which he’s not directly leading the action is highlighted in this under-discussed gem. If you’re a fan of covert mission stories, or of wartime thrillers in general, you should give some time for Where Eagles Dare.


Reed Lackey is based in Los Angeles, where he writes and podcasts about film and faith. His primary work is featured on the More Than One Lesson website and podcast, as well as his primary podcast, The Fear of God (which examines the intersection between Christianity and the horror genre). Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook to receive updates on his reviews and editorials.