Film Review: Cry Macho (dir by Clint Eastwood)

I like Clint Eastwood.

That can be a dangerous thing to admit nowadays. Clint is not a popular man on social media. The older critics have yet to forgive him for endorsing Mitt Romney over Barack Obama in 2012, despite the fact that Eastwood’s empty chair speech was quite a bit tamer than some of the other criticisms and insults that were being lobbed at both Obama and Romney at the time. The younger critics are still angry that he made Richard Jewell, a film that was seen as criticizing the press at a time when Trump was doing the same thing, this despite the fact that Eastwood never endorsed Trump in 2016 or 2020. (Beyond having a strong individualistic streak, Eastwood’s films are usually apolitical.)

He’s one of those cultural figures that drives Twitter crazy. No one can deny that he’s a film icon and that he’s directed several good and a handful of great films. But, because he doesn’t seem to care what the online crowd thinks and probably isn’t even totally sure what Twitter is, there’s this need to try to tear him down. As such, I wasn’t surprised when his latest film, Cry Macho, received mixed reviews. At this point in the game, any film that Eastwood makes is going to be criticized.

Don’t get me wrong, of course. Sometimes, the criticism is correct, even if it is more motivated by personal animus than anything else. Some of his recent films have been a bit weaker than his earlier ones. I wasn’t a fan of Jersey Boys but I figured that Eastwood was in his 80s and he probably had always wanted to do a musical and, if anyone has earned the right to cross a few things off of his bucket list, it’s Clint Eastwood. Having the three men at the center of The 15:17 to Paris play themselves is something that worked better as an idea than in the actual execution. J. Edgar was a mess and so was Hereafter.

And yet, for every weak Eastwood film, there’s also a recent film that reminds us that he’s still a good director and that he’s still far more willing to explore new territory than some of his contemporaries. The Mule is a film that, like Cry Macho, received mixed reviews but which looks better with each subsequent viewing. Sully was a moving tribute to professionalism and grace under pressure and featured one of Tom Hanks’s best performances. American Sniper was far more nuanced that most critics were willing to admit. All of these films received mixed reviews, even the Oscar-nominated American Sniper. All of them have benefitted from reevaluation.

Will Cry Macho be another Eastwood film that will be embraced in later years? It’s too early to say but I think it will be. Now, again, don’t get me wrong. Some of the criticism that the film has received is justified. In Cry Macho, Clint plays a rodeo rider who, a year after being forced to retire due to a back injury, is hired to go down to Mexico and track down Rafo (Eduardo Minett), the teenage son of a wealthy businessman (Dwight Yoakam). Clint Eastwood is 91 years old and, let’s just be honest, he looks like he’s 91 years old as well. Thirty or even twenty years ago, Clint would have been perfect for the role of Mike Milo. Today, Clint is a bit too old for the role and it’s hard not to notice that, whenever Mike does throw a punch in the film, the scene is edited so that we see the fist and we see the results of the hit but we don’t actually see the punch itself. Clint is old in this film and, even more importantly, he comes across as being old.

But you know what? It almost doesn’t matter. He may be old but he’s still Clint Eastwood. He’s a pop cultural icon. He’s a legend. He epitomizes an era that Cry Macho acknowledges is coming to an end. It’s a bit of a meandering film. Though Rafo’s mother refuses to allow him to leave with Mike, Rafo still sneaks into Mike’s truck and travels with him to the border. Along the way, some men working for Rafo’s mother try to stop them from leaving Mexico. There are a few small action scenes but they’re not what the movie is about and it’s significant that this is a rare Eastwood film in which no one, not even the main bad guy, dies. Instead, the movie is about Mike and Rafo bonding on the road and discussing what it truly means to be macho. Mike is someone who has spent his entire life being “macho” but now he’s old and he’s broken down and he’s realizing that there’s more to life than just trying to live up to some sort of idealized version of manhood. Rafo is young and Mike is very old but, over the course of the movie, they both learn the same lesson. It’s okay to just be yourself. That may be a simple lesson but it’s one worth hearing.

As a director, Eastwood leaves room for the story to wander a bit but he still keeps the action moving at a steady pace. He gets good performances out of his cast. Despite being miscast, he still manages to gets a good performance from himself, though you may cringe a little at his insistence of still trying to present himself as being a romantic lead. (This was played for laughs in The Mule.) The film’s cinematography, courtesy of Ben Davis, is breathtaking. Even while helping Rafo leave the country, Mike falls in love with Mexico and, looking at the beautiful landscapes in this film, you can’t blame him. All in all, it’s a good film. If it had been made a few decades earlier, it would have been a great film but still, this is Eastwood at his most gentle and self-reflective. Future reviewers, free from the need to appease the online mob, will appreciate this film more than the modern ones.

Star in the Dust (1956, directed by Charles F. Haas)

The time is the late 1800s and the place is the town of Gunlock.  Gunlock is split between the ranchers and the farmers, with the ranchers eager to buy all of the land around the town and the farmers refusing to sell.  Trying to keep the peace is Sheriff Bill Jorden (John Agar), who not only wants to keep war from breaking out in Gunlock but who also wants to live up to the example of his legendary father.

There’s a prisoner in the Gunlock city jail.  Sam Hall (Richard Boone) is a notorious gunman who has been convicted of killing three farmers.  He’s due to hang at sunset but everyone in town believes that Sam will somehow escape the executioner.  (They’re even taking bets down at the local saloon and casino.)  Everyone knows that Sam was hired by the ranchers but Sam has yet to name which rancher specifically invited him to come to town.  The farmers want to lynch Sam.  The ranchers want to break him out of jail and arrange for him to be killed in the resulting firefight.  Meanwhile, Sheriff Jorden insists that he’s going to carry out Sam’s sentence by the letter of the law.  Complicating matters for Jorden is that he’s engaged to Ellen Ballard (Mamie Van Doren), the sister of the main rancher, George Ballard (Leif Erickson).

I was really surprised by Star in the Dust, which turned out to be far better than I would normally expect a John Agar/Mamie Van Doren western to be.  Though Agar, Boone, and Van Doren get top-billing, Star in the Dust is really an ensemble piece, with several different people responding to the possible hanging of Sam Hall in their own way.  Sam’s girlfriend, Nellie Mason (Colleen Gray), tries to figure out a way to keep Sam alive.  One of the ranchers, Lew Hogan (Harry Morgan), is morally conflicted about whether or not to honor his word to help Sam escape, especially after he finds out that Sam tried to rape his wife (Randy Stuart).  Even the old deputies (played by James Gleason and Paul Fix) get a few minutes in the spotlight before the shooting begins.  The town of Gunlock comes to life and everyone, from the villains to the heroes, has a realistic motivation for reacting in the way that they do to Sam’s pending execution.

Mamie van Doren’s role is actually pretty small.  She doesn’t have enough screen time to either hurt or help the film overall.  John Agar is as stiff as always but, for once, it works for his character.  Sheriff Jorden isn’t written to be a bigger-than-life John Wayne type.  Instead, he’s just a small town lawman trying to do his job and keep the peace.  Not surprisingly, the film is stolen by Richard Boone, who brings a lot of unexpected shading and nuance to the role of Sam Hall.  Hall may be a killer but he has his own brand of integrity and, if he’s going to die, he’s determined to do it his way.

Produced by the legendary Albert Zugsmith, Star in the Dust is a surprisingly intelligent and well-acted B-western.  If you watch carefully, you might even spot Clint Eastwood playing a ranch hand named Tom who wants to know if he should put money down on Sam Hall being hanged.  Though he was uncredited in this tiny role, Star in the Dust was Eastwood’s first western.

4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Morgan Freeman Edition

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

Today is Morgan Freeman’s 83rd birthday!

Morgan Freeman is one of my favorite actors but then again, I think he’s one of everyone’s favorite actors.  He’s an icon, not just for that famous voice but also because he’s a damn good actor.  Though he seems to get cast in a lot of mentor roles, he’s shown that he’s capable of playing a wide variety of roles, from heroes to villains to Gods.

(I have to admit that I would be so intimidated if I ever met Morgan Freeman, if just because I know that if I accidentally said something stupid, he’d probably give me a look of such utter disappointment that it would probably haunt me for the rest of my life.)

Here are….

4 Shots From 4 Films

Seven (1995, dir by David Fincher)

The Dark Knight (2008, dir by Christopher Nolan)

Invictus (2009, dir by Clint Eastwood)

Now You See Me (2013, dir by Louis Leterrier)

Film Review: The Mule (dir by Clint Eastwood)

In The Mule, Clint Eastwood plays Earl Stone.

In some ways, Earl is typical of the characters that Eastwood has played during the latter part of his career.  He’s grouchy.  He’s alienated almost everyone who was previously close to him.  He drives an old pickup truck and he has no idea how to text and he seems to literally snarls whenever he sees anyone under the age of 60.  He served in the Korean War and he’s not scared of guns.

In other ways, Earl is not a typical Eastwood character at all.  First off, he’s on the verge of financial ruin.  Earl may not be the first Eastwood character to not know how to responsibly handle money but he is perhaps the first one to be on the verge of homelessness as a result.  (He’s perhaps the first of Eastwood’s modern character to face real-world consequences for his flaws.)  Secondly, Earl often seems to be lost in the 21st century world.  In Gran Torino and Trouble With The Curve, Eastwood played grumpy old men who could still hold their own when it came to dealing with younger people.  But, in The Mule, Earl seems to be defeated by life.  The only thing that he really has going for him is his reputation as a horticulturist and, as the film makes clear, that’s not a skill that’s going to bring in much money.

That all changes when Earl has a chance meeting with Rico (Victor Rasuk), a friend of his granddaughter’s.  Knowing that Earl is desperate for money, Rico tells him that he could make a quick payday by transporting a package for some friends.  After giving it some thought, Earl agrees.  When Earl meets Rico’s friends, everyone is shocked at how old he is.  They’re even more shocked when Earl says that he doesn’t know how to text.  Earl is given a phone and told to answer it whenever it rings but to never use it to call anyone.  A package is put in the back of Earl’s pickup truck.  It’s suggested that Earl not look in the package.

Does Earl know that he’s transporting drugs?  At first, it’s hard to say.  While it seems obvious to us, Earl is from a different time.  Still, once Earl does eventually learn that he’s being used as a drug mule, it doesn’t seem to bother him.  If nothing else, Earl actually seems to get a kick out of being a real-life outlaw.  He continues to make his runs and he continues to make money and, perhaps most importantly, he now has a purpose in life.  In a strange way, the drug runners even become his new family.  (They call him Tata, which is Spanish for grandfather.)  Of course, they’re a family that makes it cleat that they’ll kill Earl if he’s ever late delivering the package but that doesn’t seem to matter to Earl.

Meanwhile, the DEA (represented by Laurence Fishburne, Bradley Cooper, and — somewhat inevitably — Michael Pena) are hearing reports about a new drug mule who has been nicknamed Tata.  What they don’t suspect, of course, is that Tata is a 90 year-old man who has no criminal record and who is always very careful to obey all the traffic laws.  Even when Earl is pulled over by the police, he’s such a nice old man that they let him go without bothering to really search his vehicle.  It seems like Earl’s got a perfect thing going but, unfortunately, things are never as good as they seem and eventually, the reality of Earl’s situation intrudes on his fantasy….

It’s been said that The Mule is going to be Eastwood’s final film as an actor and he gives an excellent performance as Earl.  The Mule, which feels, in many ways, like a good-natured companion piece to Gran Torino, features Eastwood at both his most vulnerable and, probably not coincidentally, his most likable and sympathetic.  In this film, Eastwood makes clear that he’s no longer the righteous Dirty Harry or the mythological Man With No Name.  Now, he’s just a man nearing the end of his life and trying to come to terms with the mistakes and the decisions of the past.  Eastwood plays Earl like a man who knows that his time is limited.  Smuggling drugs gives him a chance to feel like he’s alive again but, throughout it all, there’s still a deep sadness.  Earl can use his money to pay his bills and to fix up the local VFW hall but he still can’t buy his family’s forgiveness.  Watching the film, it’s impossible not to feel for Earl.  You’re happy that he found at least a little satisfaction with his criminal career, even though you immediately suspect that things probably aren’t going to turn out well for him.

Admittedly, there is one cringe-worthy scene in which it’s suggested that the 90 year-old Earl has had a threesome with two twenty year-olds (and one gets the feeling that the scene would not have been included if not for the fact that the film’s star was also the director).  For the most part, though, this is a thoughtful film that features a poignant performance from Eastwood and which is directed in a restrained, but empathetic manner.  If this is Eastwood’s swan song as an actor, it’s a good note to go out on.

4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Clint Eastwood Edition

Clint Eastwood in Revenge of the Creature (1955)

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

Today is Clint Eastwood’s 90th birthday!

Though Clint famously had to go to Italy to really get his film career going, he’s gone on to become an icon of American film.  While his early films were often criticized as glorifying violence and of being reactionary, his later films have — more often than not — been meditations on aging, moral ambiguity, and what a lifetime of violence does to a person’s soul.  Though Eastwood has fallen out-of-favor with a few critics as a result of the speech he gave at the 2012 Republican Convention (Film Twitter, to the shock of no one, had a particularly over-the-top reaction to it as many of them discovered, I guess for the first time, that not every artist is a Leftist), he’s a filmmaker whose legacy will be rediscovered and probably appreciated in the future.

Here are….

4 Shots From 4 Films

For A Few Dollars More (1965, dir by Sergio Leone)

Dirty Harry (1971, dir by Don Siegel)

Unforgiven (1992, dir by Clint Eastwood)

Gran Torino (2008, dir by Clint Eastwood)

Lisa Marie’s Oscar Predictions For November

Well, here we are!

We’re on the verge of the official start of Oscar season.  The Spirit Nominations have been announced.  The National Board of Review will be announcing their picks on December 3rd (I believe).  In just about a week from now, we’re going to be flooded by hundreds of different guilds and critics groups handing out awards and it will be a struggle to keep up.  With so many strong contenders this year, it’ll be interesting to see who actually emerges with the momentum.

(For instance, I don’t think anyone really took Mad Max: Fury Road seriously as an Oscar contender until it started sweeping all the critics groups in December.  And then we were all like, “Well, of course it’s going to be nominated for best picture….”)

With all that in mind, I’m going to go out on a limb with a few of my predictions below.  I mean, why not?  At this point, anything could happen.

To see how my thinking has evolved over time, be sure to check out my predictions for January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, and October!

Without further ado, here are my predictions for November:

Best Picture



The Irishman


Little Women

Marriage Story

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood


Richard Jewell

Uncut Gems

Best Director

Noah Baumbach for Marriage Story

Joon-Ho Bong for Parasite

Clint Eastwood for Richard Jewell

Jay Roach for Bombshell

Martin Scorsese for The Irishman

Best Actor

Paul Walter Hauser in Richard Jewell

Eddie Murphy in Dolemite is My Name

Joaquin Phoenix in Joker

Jonathan Pryce in The Two Popes

Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems

Best Actress

Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story

Saoirse Ronan in Little Women

Charlize Theron in Bombshell

Alfre Woodard in Clemency

Renee Zellweger in Judy

Best Supporting Actor

Jamie Foxx in Just Mercy

Anthony Hopkins in The Two Popes

Al Pacino in The Irishman

Joe Pesci in The Irishman

Brad Pitt in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Supporting Actress

Kathy Bates in Richard Jewell

Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers

Thomasin McKenzie in JoJo Rabbit

Margot Robbie in Bombshell

Zhao Shuzhen in The Farewell


Scenes That I Love: Harry Meets The Mayor From Dirty Harry

Today, we wish a happy 89th birthday to the one and only Clint Eastwood!

At this point of his career (from which he says he is now semi-retired), Clint Eastwood has become an American icon.  In many ways, his persona epitomizes all of the contrasts and extremes of the American experience.  A political conservative who specializes in playing taciturn and rather grouchy men, he is also one of our most humanistic directors, specializing in films that often question the traditional view of history and morality.  He may have first become a star in Europe but Clint Eastwood is definitely an American original.

In honor of his birthday, I’m sharing a scene that I love from 1971’s Dirty Harry.  In this scene, Detective Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) meets the Mayor of San Francisco (John Vernon).  The mayor is concerned that there’s a psycho on the loose, gunning people down and demanding money.  Callahan’s annoyed that he’s spent a lot of time sitting in a waiting room.  Things pretty much go downhill from there.

There’s so much that I love about this scene.  Both Eastwood and Vernon do a wonderful job playing off of each other.  The Mayor may be in charge of the city but Callahan probably didn’t vote for him.  One thing that I especially love about this scene is the look of annoyance that crosses Harry’s face whenever he’s interrupted.

And, of course, there’s that final line!  Eastwood does a great job explaining Harry’s “policy” but ultimately, it’s Vernon’s “I think he’s got a point,” that provides the perfect closing note.

Happy birthday, Mr. Eastwood!

6 Good Films That Were Not Nominated For Best Picture: The 1970s

David Niven at the 1974 Oscars

Continuing our look at good films that were not nominated for best picture, here are 6 films from the 1970s.

Dirty Harry (1971, dir by Don Siegel)

“Well, I’m all torn up about his rights….” Detective Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) says after being informed that he’s not allow to torture suspects for information.  Unfortunately, in this case, the Academy agreed with all the critics who called Harry a menace and this classic and influential crime film was not nominated.  Not even Andy Robinson picked up a nomination for his memorably unhinged turn as Scorpio.

Carrie (1976, dir by Brian DePalma)

The Academy liked Carrie enough to nominate both Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively.  The film itself, however, went unnominated.  It’s enough to make you want to burn down the prom.

Suspiria (1977, dir by Dario Argento)

In a perfect world, Goblin would have at least taken home an Oscar for the film’s score.  In the real world, unfortunately, Argento’s masterpiece was totally snubbed by the Academy.

Days of Heaven (1978, dir by Terence Malick)

If it were released today, Terence Malick’s dream-like mediation of life during the depression would definitely be nominated.  In 1978, perhaps, the Academy was still not quite sure what to make of Malick’s beautiful but often opaque cinematic poetry.

Halloween (1978, dir by John Carpenter)

“The night he came home!” should have been “The night he went to the Oscars!”  The film received no nominations and it’s a shame.  Just imagine Donald Pleasence winning for his performance as Loomis while John Carpenter racked up almost as many nominations as Alfonso Cuaron did this year for Roma.

Dawn of the Dead (1978, dir by George Romero)

If the Academy wasn’t willing to nominate Night of the Living Dead, there was no way that they would go for the film’s longer and bloodier sequel.  But perhaps they should have.  Few films are cited as an inspiration as regularly as Dawn of the Dead.

Up next, in about an hour, the 1980s!


Halloween Havoc!: REVENGE OF THE CREATURE (Universal-International 1955)

cracked rear viewer

The Gill-Man  made his second appearance in REVENGE OF THE CREATURE, a good-not-great sequel that finds The Creature out of his element and in the modern (well, 1955) world. In fact, The Creature is the most sympathetic character in the film, as he’s hunted, ripped from his home, chained up, tortured, and treated like a freak-show attraction. The humans, with the exception of heroine Lori Nelson, are your basic 50’s sci-fi hammerheads who fear what they don’t understand and try to force The Gill-Man to their will.

Old friend Captain Lucas is once again heading down the Amazon to the Black Lagoon, in his new boat The Rita II. Joe Hayes and George Johnson of Florida’s Ocean Harbor Oceanarium are out to capture The Creature and use him as a theme park attraction. Underwater dynamite charges stun The Gill-Man into a coma, and he’s trussed up and transported stateside. Professor…

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Playing Catch-Up With The Films of 2018: The 15:17 To Paris (dir by Clint Eastwood)

As we all know, October is the month when we usually ignore everything but the horror genre here at the Shattered Lens.  However, I’m going to briefly interrupt our horrorthon to say a few words about The 15:17 to Paris.

Directed by Clint Eastwood, The 15:17 to Paris is a film about the 2015 Thalys train attack.  This was when a terrorist named Ayoub El Khazzani opened fire on a train that was heading from Amsterdam to Paris.  He wounded three passengers and probably would have killed countless more (there were over 500 people on the train) if he had not been subdued by three American friends, one British passenger, and a French train driver.  The 15:17 to Paris focuses on the three Americans, Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, and Alex Skarlatos.

When the film was released on February 9th, it got middling reviews and was considered to be a box office disappointment.  Myself, I saw it the first week of March, just a few days before Jeff and I left for a two-week stay in the UK.  I meant to review it when we returned to America but I just never got around to it.  However, about a week ago the film made its cable debut and seeing as how Clint Eastwood has a second film coming out this year that might be the Oscar contender that his first film probably won’t be, I figured now is as good a time as any to defend The 15:17 To Paris.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  The 15:17 to Paris is not a great film by any stretch of the imagination.  In fact, the film’s first line of dialogue — in which Anthony Sadler, in voice over, says that he knows we’re probably wondering why “a brother like me” is hanging out with two white guys — made me cringe so hard that I was worried I might sink into my seat and never be able to escape.  Sadler, Spencer Stone, and Alex Skarlatos all play themselves in the movie and none of them comes across as being a natural actor.  They may be heroes but they aren’t movie stars.

And yet, the fact that none of them are stars is also the film’s greatest strength.  Throughout the film, Eastwood emphasizes how totally and completely average Sadler, Skarlatos, and Stone are.  None of them really get the type of “hero shots” that one normally expects to see in a film like this.  Instead, Eastwood continually reminds us that they’re just three friends who happened to be on the train when the shooting started.  They put their own lives at risk to take the shooter down and they also provided first aid to a man who had been shot.  Whether they have movie star charisma or not, they still saved countless lives.  The film’s point is that you don’t have to be Chris Pratt or Chris Evans to be a hero.  You can just be Chris from across the street.  You just have to be someone willing to do the right thing at the right time.  It’s a sincere and heartfelt message and it’s one that comes across specifically because Eastwood cast three nonprofessionals.

The film starts with a lengthy sequence that depicts the childhoods of the three lifelong friends.  It’s kind of a strange sequence, largely because almost all of the supporting roles are filled by talented actors who are best known for their comedic work on television.  Thomas Lennon plays a high school principal while Tony Hale shows up as a coach.  Even Jaleel White (!) has a role as a teacher who gives the boys advice on self-defense.  When the childhood scenes work, it’s largely due to the performances of Jenna Fischer and Judy Greer, who plays the mothers of Alex and Spencer.  But whenever Fischer and Greer aren’t around, the childhood scenes are a bit too slow and awkward.

However, once Sadler, Skarlatos, and Stone are on that train, the film definitely picks up.  Whatever awkwardness that the three nonprofessionals may have exhibited earlier in the movie disappears as they spring to action and they recreate their responses to the attack on the train.  It’s here that Eastwood’s no-nonsense approach to storytelling definitely pays off, as he recreates the train attack without any of the showy tricks that you might expect from other directors.  Instead, Eastwood allows things to play-out naturally.  Like the passengers on that train, all we can do is watched as the three men rush the gunman.

The 15:17 to Paris may not be one of Eastwood’s best films but it’s hardly the disaster that it was made out to be.  Instead, it’s a sincere and unapologetically old-fashioned celebration of heroism and doing the right thing.