Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) is an angry racist ex-Marine -- recently widowed and living alone with his dog in his old neighborhood now overrun with mostly Asian gangs. When the next door youth A Hmong teen named Thao (Bee Vang) tries to steal his beloved Gran Torino he strikes up a relationship with the boy that profoundly changes both. As Thao and his sister Sue Lor (Ahney Her) are threatened by gang members Walt springs into action and sets out to clean up the neighborhood using his gun and anything else at his disposal. Meanwhile his son (Brian Haley) and daughter-in-law (Geraldine Hughes) show up trying to convince Dad that it is time to move away from the ever-changing suburb he has lived in for so many decades and try a retirement community a prospect Walt will have nothing to do with. Eastwood gives the performance of a lifetime in Gran Torino. You will be reminded of everything that has made him a major star for five decades and astonished at the remarkable new challenges he sets for himself -- even in the sunset of a stellar screen career. Even though Kowalski’s language and attitudes verge on the Archie Bunker mentality Eastwood’s dry delivery of such offending lines actually elicits more laughter than outrage. It’s almost as if we are looking at what ‘Dirty’ Harry Callahan might have been like in retirement. His humanity is eventually allowed to shine through and it’s the journey that the actor takes with this character that makes Torino so worthwhile. Amazingly Eastwood has never won an Oscar for acting but Gran Torino might change things. Of the young newcomers Vang and Her are sweetly convincing and good foils for Walt’s crankiness. As usual Clint Eastwood the director paces the drama in a leisurely manner letting things unfold in its own due time. More than any other recent film he’s directed including his most recent film Changeling Gran Torino seems defiantly old fashioned in its storytelling. Reportedly Clint didn’t change a word of first-time screenwriter Nick Schenk’s script and that does lend itself to some awkward moments particularly in scenes with the neighbors. Clint has always been interested in different aspects of the race issues in America and here uses a disgruntled Marine to express what is simmering below the surface in many pockets of American life. Although younger audiences may find the film’s rhythms rather slow the ultimate payoff is huge and Clint fans are likely to eat it up.
Awards season has arrived!
The National Board of Review announced their 2008 picks today, naming Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire as best picture and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’s David Fincher as best director.
Clint Eastwood, star of Gran Torino, and Anne Hathaway, leading lady in Rachel Getting Married, received top acting nods, while Josh Brolin (Milk) and Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) were honored for their supporting roles.
The board, founded in 1909 in New York City, determines the awards by a vote of 125 plus members composed of academics, film experts and students in New York.
And the winners are:
Film: Slumdog Millionaire
Director: David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Actor: Clint Eastwood, Gran Torino
Actress: Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Supporting Actor: Josh Brolin, Milk
Supporting Actress: Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Foreign Language Film: Mongol
Documentary: Man On Wire
Animated Feature: Wall-E
Ensemble Cast: Doubt
Breakthrough Performance by an Actor: Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionaire
Breakthrough Performance by an Actress: Viola Davis, Doubt
Directorial Debut: Courtney Hunt, Frozen River
Original Screenplay: Nick Schenk, Gran Torino
Adapted Screenplay: Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire
Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Spotlight Award: Melissa Leo, Frozen River
Richard Jenkins, The Visitor
The BVLGARI Award for NBR Freedom of Expression: Trumbo
Top Ten Films
Burn After Reading
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Top Five Foreign Language Films
Edge Of Heaven
Let The Right One In
Roman De Guerre
Waltz With Bashir
Top Five Documentary Films
The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)
Encounters At The End Of The World
Roman Polanski: Wanted And Desired
William K. Everson Film History Award:
Molly Haskell And Andrew Sarris
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