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Editor's Choice

Clint:A Retrospective by Richard Schickel, introduction by Clint Eastwood; Sterling, 288 pages plus 20-minute profile on DVD($35). The 80th birthday of Clint Eastwood came and went with surprisingly little fanfare a month ago. Oh sure, there was the requisite observance on Turner Classic Movies, but there was no significant pause in America's cultural machinery to ponder this significant fact:We have never before had an active, hit-making director/producer/superstar to hit 80. It is, in its own way, every bit as pause-worthy as the sudden superstar ascension of Betty White, an alumna of television's primal generation to, arguably, the greatest public demand of her life at the age of 88.

And that's the key. Eastwood's "Invictus" (without him as actor) may not have rung the box office bell, but "Grand Torino," which opened in January 2009, was a movie hit by any assay, box office, critical, etc. Certainly, there have been directors who have functioned brilliantly in their senior-most years—most notably John Huston, whose films of "Wise Blood" and "The Dead" were all made when he was past 70 ("The Dead" literally his final testament). But Huston wasn't his own star.

Of all living biographers, commentators and analysts of All Things Clint, there are few better than 77-year-old Richard Schickel, longtime film critic for Time magazine, documentarian and the author of the definitive Eastwood biography (which appeared 14 years ago).

What we have here is simultaneouslyagood deal less formal but also a good deal gaudier—a big, surprisingly reasonably priced, well-illustrated study of Eastwood's films, opus by opus, replete with Eastwood's commentaries on each. Add a 20-minute DVD of scenes from Eastwood films.

That Schickel himself is happily unsure what his own book is can be gleaned from his final "author's note": "There is, of course, no such thing as ‘objective' criticism or biography or history or whatever this book is. . . So to state the obvious, this is an admiring account of a good friend's career." And a good and valuable one, too.

— Jeff Simon