Clint Eastwood’s potential Best Actor win

Posted by · 9:09 am · December 20th, 2008

Clint Eastwood in Gran TorinoIt could happen…but it shouldn’t.

My admiration and love of Clint Eastwood’s work as a director was enough to send me on an 18-month research and writing spree, piecing together a study of the man that should be in bookstores in a week’s time. In the forward, I make clear that had anyone suggested to me in the 1970s that Eastwood would one day be an Oscar-winning director and producer, one of the best directors working in modern cinema, and a two-time Best Actor nominee, I would have laughed, long and loudly in their face.  Certainly there could be no question about his star power…he had that.  But he was hardly a great actor.

Earlier this year his film “Changeling” was released to strong reviews, but doesn’t seem poised to do much for him come Oscar time (a shame).  But there is talk of a Best Actor nomination for his performance as crusty, cranky, tough-as-nails Walt Kowalski in “Gran Torino.”

Actors have won Oscars masquerading as a career achievement in the past. Hell Al Pacino must know as do we that “Scent of a Woman” is not his best work, yet he won the Oscar for it. Henry Fonda won for “On Golden Pond,” though he should have won years before for “The Grapes of Wrath,” while James Stewart took home the gold for “The Philadelphia Story,” one of his lightest performances.

Guy put together a smart list of similar AMPAS atrocities a few weeks ago, so I won’t go into them here.  Suffice it to say, the “career achievement” Oscar is a staple of a dubious Academy year in and year out.

Eastwood has been snubbed by the Screen Actors Guild for his work in “Gran Torino,” but come Oscar nomination morning, I have a strong feeling he will be in the mix. I struggle with this because his inclusion means a more deserving actor is left out for sentiment’s sake.  And if nominated will he win?  More importantly, should he win?

Again a strong Eastwood fan here, but I say ‘no.’  The performance is the best thing in the film, but it simply does not compare to work we’ve seen from Sean Penn, Richard Jenkins, Leonardo DiCaprio, Mickey Rourke, Frank Langella, Brad Pitt and Benicio Del Toro this year.  The Academy loves Eastwood, and if they truly want to honor him for something this yearm they should tip their hat toward “Changeling,” because that was his greatest accomplishment of 2008.  In “Gran Tornio,” Eastwood is playing a variation on “Dirty Harry” and “Heartbreak Ridge” merged with “Million Dollar Baby,” and though fun to watch, there is nothing new in the work.  We’ve seen it all before.

I say this knowing an Eastwod win would bump up book sales for me and help line my wallet, but I really hope he doesn’t take the Oscar for this, some of his least interesting work to date.  It would not only be a slight to many talented performers this year, but to Eastwood’s greater accomplishments.

→ 20 Comments Tags: , , , | Filed in: Daily

20 responses so far

  • 1 12-20-2008 at 9:21 am

    Patrick said...

    Perfectly stated. Now if every academy member would please read the above.

  • 2 12-20-2008 at 9:42 am

    Ronn said...

    I admire your candor, John. I always look forward to reading your opinions. They always come from a genuine place and regardless of being in agreement or not, it’s always great to hear how someone really feels about something especially if it goes against the grain.

  • 3 12-20-2008 at 9:45 am

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    I still want him to win. I would be so happy, though I’ve yet to see most of those other actors at work.

  • 4 12-20-2008 at 10:52 am

    McAllister said...

    I haven’t seen Gran Torino or Revolutionary Road yet… but it’s going to take a lot of convincing for me to believe they deserve a nomination more than Brad Pitt’s wonderful work in Benjamin Button. He is powerful in that powerful movie and it’s about time they recognize him again after being robbed for Babel and The Assassination of Jesse James.

  • 5 12-20-2008 at 10:54 am

    N8 said...

    I agree with you that the “career achievement” award can be aggravating if the actor doesn’t deserve it, but I should point out that the Oscars aren’t about awarding an actor for his/her “best work”, but about awarding the best performances of the year.

    The reason I was bothered by Pacino’s win for “Scent of a Woman” isn’t because it wasn’t HIS best performance, but because it wasn’t THE YEAR’S best performance (in that category). The same applies for the Oscar wins for Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne

    Conversely, I don’t think Sean Penn’s best work was in “Mystic River”, but I wasn’t bothered at all by his win because I believed it to be the best of the year.

    It’s impossible to tell what an actor’s best work is until there career is almost over, so it’s kind of unfair to criticize the Academy for not awarding an actor for their “best work”. How are they supposed to know? I suspect that if the Academy knew Jack Nicholson would eventually win two more Oscars, they may have given the Best Acor award of 1975 to Pacino for “Dog Day Afternoon” (arguabley his best work).

    Hindsight is 20:20. It’s not a crime to award an actor for something that isn’t their best. It is a crime, however, if it isn’t the best of the year.

  • 6 12-20-2008 at 10:59 am

    BobMcBob said...

    Clint Eastwood deserves an acting nomination as much as he needs to make another grim film

  • 7 12-20-2008 at 11:40 am

    Foreigner said...

    If it´s true that Rev Road is DiCaprio´s best work yet – better than What´s eating Gilbert Grape? and The Departed, for instance – how come he´s not a self.evident Oscar nominee? I mean, is Brad Pitt really better in CCOBB than DiCaprio was in Gilbert Grape – or are they in fact competing against their respective resumes? I don´t get it.

  • 8 12-20-2008 at 12:08 pm

    Kevin Crossman said...

    Pacino, sure. But Henry Fonda? No. He was quite deserving of the Oscar that year. True, that he hadn’t won certainly put him over the top but that definitely wasn’t a situation where the “career achievement” was the primary rationale.

  • 9 12-20-2008 at 12:38 pm

    Patrick F. said...

    This is the same organization that gave an acting oscar to Roberto Beninni. How very like AMPAS to give an Oscar to the racist role over the gay revolutionary. That’s the sign of progress..

  • 10 12-20-2008 at 12:43 pm

    Helena said...

    Have now seen “RR” and “BB” , I would definitely cast my vote for an Oscar nod for DiCaprio over Pitt

    My ideal lineup would be Penn, Rourke, Langella, DiCaprio, and Jenkins


    I certainly felt that “RR” reflected some of DiCaprio’s best work from an actor who already has a great body of work under his belt.

  • 11 12-20-2008 at 1:17 pm

    Chris said...

    Haha, I agree. The movie itself is alright, but Clint Eastwood is really the only reason to watch it. I remember people saying that they thought Gran Torino would become an Oscar nominee in Best Picture and Best Director, but after seeing the film, it is not Best Picture or Best Director material at all. I haven’t seen Changeling, and I don’t really want to, because I am not a fan of Angelina Jolie. On top of that nothing really intrigued me to see it.

    Anyway, I can picture Eastwood getting nominated, but shouldn’t win. From what I’ve seen I think Sean Penn has given the best leading performance of the year, and Mickey Rourke looks like he’ll be up there as well.

  • 12 12-20-2008 at 2:04 pm

    Foreigner said...

    Thanks, Helena, something to look forward to, then.
    And, being Scandinavian, I´m certainly not worried about the gloom. Love in a cold climate is right up our alley.

  • 13 12-20-2008 at 2:47 pm

    John Foote said...

    For Kevin Crossman — Fonda was wonderful in “On Golden Pond” but NOT the best of the year — Burt Lancaster gave his finest performance and the best of the year in “Atlantic City” and non-nominated, but should have been work of Robert Duvall in “True Confessions”, Richgard Dreyfuss in “Whose Life Is It Anyway?” and John Travolta in ‘Blow Out” all surpassed Fonda’s work — of the nominees Lancaster gave the years best performance and should have won the Oscar that Fonda did. Love Henry Fonda, really do, but he did not give th best performance of the year.

  • 14 12-20-2008 at 3:20 pm

    Tim Correa said...

    Eastwood shouldn’t and hopefully won’t be nominated this year. He hardly needs a “career achievement” Oscar, he’s already won plenty of Oscars, even if they haven’t been for acting. But in all honesty he isn’t the strongest actor, so why award him for it? I still remember my aggravation when he was nominated for M$B over Paul Giamatti’s far superior work in Sideways. There have been way too many great male performances this year for him to sneak in again.

  • 15 12-20-2008 at 6:08 pm

    Speaking English said...

    John, for me the best Lead Actor performance of ’81 was clearly the un-nominated Klaus Maria Brandauer in “Mephisto.” Not only the best performance of the year, but one of the best performances of all time. What a mistake the Academy made not nominating him. A savage injustice.

  • 16 12-20-2008 at 7:22 pm

    Paul said...

    How amazing would it be if Eastwood won? Do today’s audiences even know him as an actor? Obviously Clint has learned a lot from his experiences but I’ve always been curious what kind of formal acting training he has gone through. A good acting school is worth it’s weight in gold. The key is to find one that caters to your individual needs. Not only do you need the basic tools for auditioning, scene study and the like, but you need a curriculum that works with whatever your schedule may be. Whether you work all day, go to high school or care for your kids, not everyone can study in the traditional way. Another acting program that works this way is Film Connection. Film Connection’s acting program is affiliated with Joe Anthony studios and features valuable one-on-one mentoring. Most importantly they teach you about the “business” of show business.They are also available to anyone living in the United States and have financial aid assistance.

  • 17 12-20-2008 at 9:26 pm

    Casey F. said...

    paul it really wouldnt be amazing at all. it would be the academy heaping love all over eastwood for his acting because changeling is so dead on buzz that they cant award his directing. its pretty sad actually that they for some reason feel like they have to reward him…
    and i know that wasn’t an acting school plug. this is not an advertisement website man. that was shameless man. advertising for your own website while other people are discussing their admiration or distaste for a film. i’m sorry if i sound condescending or self righteous to anyone else here but that disgusts me

  • 18 12-21-2008 at 2:00 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    After the SAG snub, I don’t see Eastwood actually winning. From where I’m standing, it looks like Penn is way out in front — maybe Rourke is a potential spoiler, but he’ll have to make up a lot of distance.

  • 19 12-21-2008 at 1:34 pm

    John Foote said...

    Full agreement with Guy on this — I think Penn will be holding the Oscar come the big night — fully deserving for a brilliant piece of acting that might be the best of his career — Rourke might, though I think the nomination will be his welcome back,

  • 20 12-21-2008 at 6:22 pm

    ThatOneGuy said...

    Clint Eastwood doesn’t deserve an Oscar for Gran Torino. Yes it’s a great movie and yes he gives a great performance, but it wasn’t the best acting performance of the year. Heck, I don’t even know if I’d call it acting. Was he really acting, or was he just being Clint Eastwood?