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Director Clint Eastwood Keeps Taking Risks, Says Essayist

Essayist Anne Taylor Fleming reflects on Clint Eastwood's filmmaking in the wake of an Oscar nomination for the actor and director's latest film, "Letters from Iwo Jima."

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  • ANNE TAYLOR FLEMING:

    As the Oscar race heats up here in Hollywood, the newspapers are now full of daily stories and ads touting this or that best movie contender, while the various stars, from Helen Mirren, to Kate Winslet, work the talk shows, even the august "60 Minutes." 'Tis the season of frenzied availability.

    Standing calmly in the midst is a previous winner, the iconic, laconic actor-turned-director Clint Eastwood, with his duet of World War II movies, "Flags of Our Fathers" and "Letters From Iwo Jima."

    It always seems to be a surprise to see Eastwood in contention, though he and his films have been nominated three times for best director and best picture, and won each twice, most notably in 2004, when he bested auteur Martin Scorsese with his boxing movie, "Million Dollar Baby."

    Part of the surprise is just the enduring memory of his acting days, the chiseled cowboy and smoldering cop he once was.

  • UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:

    What do they want?

  • CLINT EASTWOOD, Actor:

    They want a car.

  • UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:

    What are you going to do?

  • CLINT EASTWOOD:

    Get 'em one.

  • ANNE TAYLOR FLEMING:

    It's also about age.

  • CLINT EASTWOOD:

    I am going to disconnect your air machine. Then you're going to go to sleep. Then, I will give you a shot, and you will stay asleep.

  • ANNE TAYLOR FLEMING:

    In his late 70s, Eastwood is still making movies, big-time, big-issue pictures, bigger and bigger. And there is something thrilling in his continual evolvement, his willingness to keep taking risks.

    And no film — make that, no films — have been riskier than his current war duet. The first, "Flags of Our Fathers," tells the American side of the battle for Iwo Jima, specifically, the story of the men in the famous flag-raising photograph taken on that island and how they were — skillfully, if cynically — used and exploited in a public-relations campaign to raise war funds.

  • UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:

    I can't take them calling me a hero.

  • ANNE TAYLOR FLEMING:

    With its textured message and beautifully shot carnage, it is a strange movie, a little disjointed and old-fashioned, shot full of sorrow. And it did not do very well when it opened last fall.

  • UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:

    Some of the things I saw done, things I did, they weren't things to be proud of, you know?

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