the “2-film” rule

So I was listening to some podcast while huffing glue and the two hosts introduced an interesting concept: if a film director makes two unquestionably great movies, then they belong in the canon of great directors.

It seemed like a sound enough argument. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it a hundred more times: it is extraordinarily difficult to make ONE good film. If a filmmaker can make one good movie, then replicate that impact in a subsequent film, then it’s obvious that the director knows what he/she is doing.

But the more you think about it, you come across some problems: specifically what it means to be “great”, or even a “Director”. Because if this criterion were true, then we find that a few questionable directors would belong in this canon.

Some examples:

Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia, Stop Making Sense)

John McTiernan (Predator, Die Hard, Hunt For Red October)

George Lucas (Star Wars, American Graffiti, THX-1138)

Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator)

Robert Aldrich (Kiss Me Deadly, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, The Dirty Dozen)

William Friedkin (The French Connection, The Exorcist, Sorcerer)

Etc, etc, etc

While there are a bunch of notable films on those director’s resumes, would any of those directors be considered “great”? (IMHO, I would say “yes” for Friedkin, Aldrich, and McTiernan. “No” for the others.)

A “three film” criteria would fix this: Ford, Hitchcock, Wilder, Lean, Kubrick, Kurosawa, Coppola, Scorsese, Tarantino, and Spielberg would easily hurdle this barrier. But what about directors that made ONE unquestionably great film?

The Deer Hunter is arguably the greatest film ever made. And it was the only great movie that Michael Cimino directed.

But here’s another example: Orson Welles.

Citizen Kane IS unquestionably the greatest movie ever made. Now name another movie he made that had a similar impact? The Magnificent Ambersons? Touch of Evil? The Lady From Shanghai? Sure, they were good to VERY good. But were they Citizen Kane…or even Deer Hunter…great? Yet every cinephile would undoubtedly place Welles as one of the greats in film history.

And what about the niche directors…David Lynch, Paul Verhoeven, John Carpenter, Sergio Leone, and even Paul Schrader, etc etc? I’d argue that it’s these directors that have the greatest influence on younger audiences.

What about the directors that aren’t auteurs? Some operate more as “CEOs” in their craft. George Lucas is one of these guys. Ridley Scott is too (and Spielberg to some extent). My personal fav is John Sturges, who directed such bangers like The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, and Bad Day at Black Rock (a forgotten classic).

So I don’t know, the “two film” rule doesn’t seem to work (neither does the idea of a “canon”). It’s all too subjective.

As a side not, I didn’t mention very many European directors or auteurs of other nations. That’s obviously my American bias. Like it or not, cinema is the one (and only) contribution that the US has uniquely made to the arts. Nevertheless, these filmmakers deserve a shoutout. The Japanese, Korean, and Italian directors have a distinctiveness that I greatly appreciate and I regret not mentioning more of them. The Mexican film industry is criminally underrated. British directors, at least with their mainstream work, mimic their American counterparts. Tarkovsky, Costa-Garves, Wim Wenders Fellini, Herzog, and Pasolini are all incredible as well.

But the French New Wave sucked.

sudden impact yur ass!

We should all be thankful that we still have Clint Eastwood. The man’s been working for close to 70 years. He’s an absolute legend.

The Hollywood GOAT?

Seriously, think about that. He’s an accomplished actor AND director. It’s a career that will never be topped. Ever.

Many have tried, notably Sylvester Stallone, but it’s just not possible. (To be fair to Stallone though, Eastwood was in much more competent hands earlier in his career between Sergio Leone and Don Siegel).

This being said, Eastwood isn’t the most innovative director. In fact, when he does make a great film, it’s as though he accidentally did so. His two universally acclaimed films, Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby, are mostly great because of their scripts (same with The Outlaw Josey Wales). Gran Torino appears to be a film with a lasting cultural impact, and while I wouldn’t say it had an outstanding script or direction, the movie works because of Eastwood’s personality, not because of anything he did behind the camera. But I’d say that Eastwood is to filmmaking what Steve Kerr is to the NBA…he’s extraordinarily competent.

Of course, when you go through a stretch where you’re making a movie ever 20 minutes, it’s hard to maintain quality.

Sudden Impact is one of the million Eastwood movies that gets lost in the shuffle. With a story from pioneering independent filmmaker and Arkansas legend Chuck B Pierce, this Dirty Harry sequel has our favorite 44 Magnum carrying San Francisco investigator being more dirty than usual. Eastwood’s then-wife Sandra Locke costars as woman exacting revenge against men who raped her 10 years earlier. I’d say that this is the best Dirty Harry sequel. Nay, this sequel is better than Dirty Harry, a film that defined raw 70s cop dramas.

What makes Sudden Impact so memorable is not the plot, I don’t remember if there was one, or character development or any of that bullshit. No, what makes this film great is watching Eastwood stumble from one scene to the next just absolutely beating the shit out of and shooting everyone. EVERYONE. To top it off, he runs around with a farting bulldog. He also kills a guy by just giving him a heart attack for fucks sake. Eastwood is just a straight up asshole, more so than usual for Dirty Harry. It’s probably that greatest Cannon film not produced by Cannon.

The film feels as though Eastwood didn’t want to return to the role and the only way they could convince him is if they allowed him to direct. And it payed off. Some of the best films made from this period were done when no one gave a shit. But Eastwood’s direction gave this entry an added edge, which is probably why Sudden Impact feels so different from the other Dirty Harry films.

While we still have him, I wish Eastwood would do ONE MORE Dirty Harry film. It’s what we need now more than ever: a 90 year old bastard just blasting the fuck out of bad guys with a 44 Magnum.

Do it Clint!