Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Clint Eastwood's Republican Convention speech was the best thing he's done since Space Cowboys

I would rather have diarrhea for three days than watch a political convention. It's not just the cynicism, the deceit, the utter phoniness of them, but also the fact that all of us are paying for them. Are you a Democrat? A Libertarian? A Green? TFB, you helped pay for last week's Republican infomercial. And you Republicans et. al. are footing the bill for the Democrats to get together and tout all their "accomplishments."

And it's hard to imagine a more over-rated filmmaker than Clint Eastwood. He's been involved in some good, even great films. Those Dollars films that he made with Sergio Leone are uniformly good, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is one of my all-time favorite films. I liked The Outlaw Josey Wales and High Plains Drifter. Dirty Harry and Play Misty for Me are two fantastic examples of agitprop that retain their raw power.

I'd like to especially note the film Tightrope, a complex film about misogyny and corruption in which Eastwood gave what is easily the best performance of his career. Eastwood plays a variation on his Harry Callahan character, with the difference being that in this film, the policeman in question, Wes Block, recognizes his own inner decay and is horrified by it.

Also, there was Space Cowboys, a rousing meditation on old age obsolescence and politics.

Those are all fine films, and Eastwood has enjoyed an extraordinary career. But his later career, in particular the almost universal praise he's earned for his directing efforts, is completely baffling to me. His films are artificial and turgid. There is nothing authentic about them. His movies feel like movies, like every time he steps behind the camera he's attempting to create real capital-A Art, and the life is drained from them. And why is it that he's been using the same muted grey-blue color scheme in every one of his films? All of his movies look like the film was left out in the sun during processing.

Look at his recent filmography:

J. Edgar
Gran Torino
Letters From Iwo Jima
Flags of Our Fathers
Million Dollar Baby
Mystic River

I was only able to sit through three of those films (Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, and Gran Torino). I tried to watch every single one of the others, and couldn't make it more than 15-20 minutes. Life's too short!

Those films that I did actually sit through are tedious. Mystic River had very good performances by Sean Penn and Tim Robbins, but they're both usually very good. MDB might be the worst "Best Picture" of all time. GT is cynical phoneybaloney manipulative "emotion." None of the characters in any of these films behave like real people, but like props in a morality play. They are as staged and scripted as a political convention, draining away any feeling of real emotion and spontaneity.

And that is why Eastwood's performance at the Republican Convention was such a revelation. That thing was not scripted. It was totally spontaneous.


"I think, possibly, now it may be time for somebody else to come along and solve the problem."

How's that for a ringing endorsement of the Republican presidential candidate? And, did he get a convention center full of Republicans to cheer bringing Americans home from Afghanistan tomorrow? Seriously, how often does anyone with a national platform mention ending America's "nation building" imperialism experiment? And in Afghanistan, which is supposedly the "justified" war?

"I think, possibly, now it may be time for somebody else to come along and solve the problem."

Of course, there's hardly any difference between Romney and Obama on war and imperialism issues. Just as Obama has continued and amplified Bush's war policies, so would Romney. Perhaps, the occasionally libertarian-leaning Eastwood was subliminally endorsing Gary Johnson?

The talking to an empty chair was an effective metaphor, even if you disagree with the implications. Comparing the candidate Obama and everything that he allegedly stood for -- remember that he promised to close Gitmo (as Eastwood points out), he promised to be the "most transparent administration ever," he promised to not harass medical marijuana users or get in the way of states legalizing medical marijuana, etc to the president Obama reveals a person who, well, didn't really believe in any of those things he claimed to believe in. His campaign and much of his presidency has been spent decrying the mistakes of and the mess left by GW Bush, yet he has extended Bush's bailout policies, he's extended Bush's tax rates, he's extended Bush's neocon imperialism wars, he's ramped up the war on drugs.

If Bush was so bad, then why has Obama extended and amplified nearly every one of his policies? Perhaps all along it wasn't that Obama didn't like Bush's policies, it was that he felt that Bush didn't go far enough.

It's only too bad that Eastwood didn't hammer those points more forcefully. But it's clear that he made an impact. Immediately after the speech, Obama's campaign tweeted a picture of himself in a chair labeled THE PRESIDENT, with the caption, "This seat's taken."

Which only showed just how much they'd missed Eastwood's point. Yeah, Obama is the president. And he wants to brag about that? He wants to brag about high unemployment? He wants to brag about ruining the lives of medical marijuana users? He wants to brag about an escalated war on drugs that kills thousands of people all over the world every year? He wants to brag about the assassinations and the drone bombing of Muslims? He wants to brag about using terrorist tactics to fight "terrorists"? He wants to brag about using espionage laws to prosecute government workers who reveal abuses of power or otherwise embarrass the administration?

Okay, great. "This seat's taken." And just look at what you're doing with it.

But Eastwood's best point was when he said "You, me, we own this country... Politicians are employees of ours... And when somebody does not do the job, we gotta let 'em go." Obama is an employee. If more people like the indiscriminate drone bombing of Muslims, and like the harassment of medical marijuana users, and believe that the United States should rule the world, then they will vote to retain Obama. If they don't, then they'll vote to put someone else in that empty chair.

"I think, possibly, now it may be time for somebody else to come along and solve the problem."

I don't think at any point that Eastwood actually said that Romney was that "somebody else." I certainly don't think he is! (Full disclosure: I will be voting for Gary Johnson for president!) But he did say that "politicians are employees of ours." That was the message, and his spontaneous, meandering, strange, whimsical and muddled speech was a lot more exciting than Gran Torino.

And, he kinda obliquely dropped an "F-bomb," as the kids call it.


Miss Malevolent said...

Yeah, I think I'm voting for Gary Johnson too.

We can't afford another four years of Obama.

12 years of Bush/Obama is enough...

Thrill Fiction said...

But what do Americans really think about the president?

If there is so much discontent in the States about the two main parties isn't it time for like minded citizens with a democracy agenda get together to form a third party? One viable at all levels of election and one that supports the American people as opposed to the American imperialist?

November wont stop the drones or war on drugs. Do the majority of Americans really care?

Ricky Sprague said...

AJaye, there are pretty serious institutional barriers for third party candidates to overcome. Basically, the Democrats and Republicans -- both private corporations -- get themselves elected to political office, then pass "campaign finance" laws that restrict the ability of anyone who isn't a Democrat or a Republican to run for office, or campaign, or what have you. It varies by state, which adds to the confusion-- in some states, you need to get X number of signatures each election cycle to get your candidate on the ballot; in others, you need to hit a certain % threshold in the previous election to get on the ballot this time. You need to fill out forms every time you spend a certain amount of money, or when you get together with more than one other person, or what have you.

They also use a process called "gerrymandering," in which voting districts are drawn for the sole purpose of protecting one political party's seats in state and federal legislatures. I mean, they don't even try to hide what they're doing.

Unfortunately, what most people care about is making sure that their side wins. Look at the previous president versus the current one. When the Republicans held the White House, Democrats promised to roll back all of their "abuses." Now the Democrats hold the White House, and they have decided that those "abuses" were actually just "tools" necessary to fight the war on drugs, the war on terror, etc.

All those "progressives" who were so concerned with abuses of minority citizens, with ending America's imperial empire, with ending our undeclared "wars" on countries with mostly Muslim populations, etc, now just want to make sure that Obama doesn't lose. So their attitude now is, "To hell with them."

Thrill Fiction said...

"If voting changed anything, it'd be illegal" - or words to that effect.

I especially like the term 'gerrymandering' and the practice sounds like skullduggery at its most arcane. I suppose this explains why there is no third party in the states. I can't remember anyone non-aligned holding executive office since/other than Jesse Ventura (and you know my interest in his case).

Then 'change' must come from within the establishment. The neocons understood this which resulted in the present day GOP. I can only suppose the democracy agenda in the Democrat Party have been sleeping and sexing their way through the 90s. The left has failed to capitalize on the near death of capitalism.

At least in America. France has turned socialist; Britain to follow. The right wing in the 2000s, throughout the western world, has shown they are anti-democracy. The electorate are the gate keepers against fascism. It's the proletariat that suffers the most under (quasi) dictatorships anyway.

Igor Grebenschikov said...

The thread that ties Eastwood's movies to the theme of this blog is the notion that one person (with the tantalizing sop to the viewer that it could be someone Just Like Them) could take over authoritarian style and Make Everything Right. Limbaugh wrote about this in his "The Way Things Ought To Be." Reality is always messier and realistically Obama is closer to that reality. I can't say that is a good thing, but imagine a return to a world where one party runs the executive, Congress, and the courts like under Bush II and imagine how much longer the disaster would take to wind down, if indeed it could be wound down without some kind of Thunderdome deal.