Never count out Clint Eastwood.
The 80-year-old actor and director’s latest film, “Hereafter,” hasn’t been beloved by the critics (50 percent positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, a score of 56 on Metacritic), and many Oscar pundits have placed it in the lower reaches of their Best Picture predictions, if they’ve included it at all.
But critics and pundits don’t vote for the Oscars – Academy members do, and the outlook for “Hereafter” may be looking a little better after the film screened on Saturday night at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in the Academy’s Beverly Hills headquarters.
Anecdotal evidence from these AMPAS members screenings isn’t always reliable – they loved “Michael Jackson’s This Is It” last year – but it can be instructive to learn which films score and which fall flat with an audience made up almost entirely of Academy members and their guests.
And from what I hear, Eastwood’s drama – three interlocking tales of people around the world affected by death or near-death experiences, with Cecile de France and Matt Damon (left) – was very well-received by an AMPAS crowd that I’m told filled as much as 85 percent of the 1,000-seat Goldwyn.
One Academy member who was at the screening said the reaction to the film was “terrific,” with sustained applause at the end of the film. Others concurred, but thought the attendance might have been a bit overstated.
Eastwood has long been considered an Academy favorite, winning Best Picture and Best Director for “Unforgiven” in 1993 and “Million Dollar Baby” in 2005.
After that latter film, his next five pictures were all initially considered strong Oscar contenders – but only “Letters from Iwo Jima” received a Best Picture nod, while “Flags of Our Fathers,” “Changeling" and “Invictus” were not embraced by voters in the top category, and "Gran Torino" was shut out entirely.