Location: Los Angeles, California

Friday, January 16, 2009

Say No to Gran Torino

I wasn't planning to write about Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino. But now the movie is doing well at the box office, and whispers are circulating that it might even slip into the Best Picture race.

If Gran Torino gets nominated for Best Picture, that's it, I'll be done with the Oscars. It's the worst movie I saw this year, and the mere idea of it being rewarded with a Best Pic slot is sickening to my stomach. It's sickening because it means so many other more deserving films (e.g. WALL-E, Doubt, The Wrestler) will be overlooked in order to serve the Academy's Eastwood fetish.

I don't think Torino will get in. I like to think there's still some sanity left in this world. Eastwood will probably receive an Actor nomination. Fine. I'll let that slide as some sort of career appreciation award for what is supposedly his last performance. But in the event that Torino does get nominated for Best Pic, here are the reasons why I'll be disowning the Academy Awards:

(warning: major spoilers follow)

1. Gran Torino insults its audience at every single turn. Eastwood's vision of what contemporary kids and parents are like is primitively contrived. I highly doubt any father would let his daughter text-message during her grandmother's funeral. Oh, Clint, children are so insulting these days! But it doesn't stop there -- oh, there's the boy who kneels before the church pew and says, "Spectacles, testacles, wallet, and watch." Kids these days! Oh no, there are the kids who don't help an old woman pick up her groceries. There are the young black men who make sexually crude comments about a young Vietnamese woman. On and on and on...

2. I don't think Clint intended Torino to be a comedy, but that's the way it played for my audience. This is revealing of both Mr. Eastwood and my audience. First, all of the movie's "comedy" consists of Walt Kowalski (Eastwood) calling his Hmong neighbors every racial slur in the book. Are we supposed to detest Walt? I certainly did within minutes of meeting him. Or are we supposed to find him funny? Oh, isn't that cute -- he's so ignorant and mean-spirited yet loveable in his own quirky way. Ugh. Imagine if his neighbors were a different ethnicity, say, African American, and the entire movie consisted of Walt calling them every racist word that exists for black people. Would people still find Walt so enjoyable? As for my audience, shame on you. You shouldn't laugh simply because a character uses a racist word. That's not comedy. Films have to earn their laughs, and relying on hackneyed racial slurs doesn't cut it.

3. The acting from everyone besides Eastwood is amateurish. Bee Vang's performance as the next-door boy, Thao, never felt natural or believable, and Ahney Her's delivery as Thao's sister sounded consistently forced. I won't even address the cringe-inducing turns by the Hmong gang members.

4. Eastwood's direction is not known for its subtlety. I can never forget the scene that nearly ruined Million Dollar Baby for me: when Maggie's white-trash family visits her in the hospital, and they're wearing shirts from Universal Studios! Eastwood rarely trusts his audience to figure things out for themselves, so he pounds and pounds away. This happens all over the place in Torino, but two examples particularly come to mind. The first is when Walt gives Thao his Silver Star medal. Why? Oh, there's a reason: so Eastwood can include a slo-mo shot just 10 minutes later of Thao wearing the medal right after Walt's death. See, it's symbolism! Second, during the reading of Walt's will, the lawyer is about to announce who will receive Walt's 1972 Gran Torino. Cut to Walt's granddaughter, who is visibly grinning as if she actually thinks she'll get the car. Come on, Clint. First off, we know the daughter shouldn't be expecting that car since it's obvious to everyone that Walt hates her. Second, even if she did think she had a slight chance of inheriting the car, wouldn't she keep her smile to herself until the lawyer finished reading the will? Nope, this was just another opportunity Eastwood couldn't pass up: "My audience is so stupid that I have to show them one more time how horrible this granddaughter is."

5. As the movie is about to end, the end-titles song starts playing, and it's Eastwood's voice that we hear singing! I was looking forward to exiting this movie theater in peace, and now Clint's raspy voice has to follow me on my way out. I laughed, though, because just when I thought Gran Torino couldn't find a way to get any worse, it did. I got to give Eastwood credit for that -- the man sure is committed.


Anonymous DENNIS J. said...

Must be tough being so much smarter than everyone else.

I enjoyed the film. Best Picture? No but a fine, enjoyable film. I walked out,with the rest of the audience, thinking that it was a good film.

Too bad you didn't enjoy it.

BTW, Wall-E was awful. Just terrible. Even my 4 and 8 year old children agreed that is was bad.

9:37 PM  
Anonymous Kevin C said...

When I first saw the trailer for Gran Torino, I thought it was a parody of Clint Eastwood films...apparently that is true?

Why was WALL-E awful, Dennis? John at least gave reasons for why he thought the same of Gran Torino. I'm pretty sure even some 66 and 62 year old men agreed that Gran Torino was bad.

7:49 AM  
Anonymous Darrin said...

I found your blog looking for reasons why Gran Torino was ignored at the Oscars. I learned alot about some films I haven't seen yet, and I agree with some of your opinions. Gran Torino has some pretty "cookie cutter" moments, but they all fit together somehow, and I really liked all of the Hmong actors. I think the girl didn't sound forced, she sounded like a slightly naive and over confident school girl. The frustrated and quiet brother was quite realistic as well. Anyway, i loved the film, sure there were some slightly manipulative scenes, but as a whole it made me think about all the different levels of humanity it was portraying, and it was just fun to watch Clint work. Yeah I laughed at Clint's singing a bit on the title track, but the song is really beautiful and would've been nice to see nominated considering the 3 choices that were made this year. I don't know if it's best picture, but I certainly will see it again, and probably never want to see Benjamin Button a second time.

3:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have never been an Eastwood fan, but Gran Torino has changed my mind. More than any other movie nominated for last year, Gran Torino portrays something real and modern. I'm from Detroit, and I can tell you they nailed it. My family is Polish, and were driven from their homes by urban sprawl and lower income minorities who brought in violence and social debasement. For the hard-working immigrants who take pride in themselves and in their homes, having a group of minorities make your neighborhood unsafe and your property value plummet is insulting and repulsive. The comic value of the movie was not that used every racial slur in the book, but that it's so rooted in truth and reality. And Walt was a truly dynamic character...he passed the sense of pride and integrity on to the younger generation despite fighting a losing battle. Best movie of the year, hands down. It wipes the floor with Benjamin Button - which was good, but failed to address anything realistic and important.

6:55 AM  
Anonymous apowerr said...

yes, because gran torino uses racial slurs it must be excluded from the oscars? of course an old man like that who is now in a neighborhood of strangers is going to use slurs. Are movies not allowed to portray anything real anymore? Gran Torino was the best picture for 2008, hands down.

7:56 PM  
Blogger splizzy said...

I thought that Grand Torino was the best picture of the year! I did appreciate reading your review, however. Viva la difference! You, or someone, mentioned "manipulation", and I felt that Slum Dog was too contrived...a little disappointing because of a formula. And, I am a Danny Boyle fan! I like it, but I loved Grand Torino. Nothing about it was forced..and I liked the political incorrectness. We need that, as a country! We need to stop being afraid to present things as they really are. Good for Clint Eastwood, and I hope he knows that many fans think he should not only have been nominated, but should have won best picture, hands down! I also love the way he portrays his Catholic priests. Never does he consider falling into the faith bashing, "hip" trend of making all priests, nuns or anyone of faith look like an uneducated, backward fool. GO Clint Eastwood! I loved the movie.

12:47 PM  
Anonymous jsn said...

Maybe it was just saying punk kids in the ghetto are like that, I mean I see tons of kids do rude things as described above, sorry I dont live on the good side of town like you and sorry you dont see how most of America really is

7:43 PM  
Blogger Jimmy said...

Whoever wrote this blog was trying grabbing at straws trying to justify why Clint wasn't nominated.

Maybe you don't know real life because you're living in the movies, but I thought his movie was both realistic and touching.

You're a TOOL

8:25 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

I'm not even going to justify why I think this movie is the best of the year after reading the blog. Like the poster above said, guy's a complete tool.

6:37 PM  
Anonymous Schmidt said...

You know what, you can be cynical about almost anything. and yes you did pick out everything you could have. And the part about where it came out to your audience as a comedy, that is caled comic relief so the audiennce is not depressed the whole film, Duh. I nominate "Grand Torino" to stand next to a movie like "Crash" that just points out so many social issues with our society instead of going along with them.
I got to go along with Jimmy and one up him to. you sir are a TOOLBAG.

9:16 AM  
Blogger John said...

Loving the insults, people. Keep them up!

7:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where I grew up, 2 out of every 3 fathers were WWII and Korean War vets. When I went to see the movie, every male around my age (+/-50) in the theater was laughing through most of it, myself included.

Why? Clint was able to accurately capture the personalities of all the war veteran fathers of that era that we knew as kids. They spoke that way to all us of whether we were their kids or not.

They were all devoted to their wives, swore and drank alot, had given up on religion, used countless racial slurs, were suspicious of all foreigners and, in spite of what we thought was the harsh treatment we received from all of them as kids, cared for us all very much.

I don't know what determines whether a movie is worthy of award nominations, but I thought this was Clint's best movie, and I've seen them all.

5:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I totally agree that it was his best. I also have an uncle who is a Korean war hero. (Saved his captured platoon...) I liked how the movie showed a flawed character; his relationship with his own sons was shot, yet there was still humanity in him, and he got to save a family before his life ended. In the end, whether out of respect for God, or for his wife, he does as she had asked (goes to confession) and saves lives, instead of taking more. I loved it! It should have gotten the Oscar, and it's just a testament to our pop culture that Slum Dog won. Not half as deep, or moving as Grand Torino.

2:35 AM  
Blogger The Smiths said...

Sure got this one wrong buddy.

2:30 AM  
Anonymous Jacob R. said...

I can't believe that you have so much against a film that portrays something so real. I am sorry that everything can't exist inyour fantasy world like Wall-E or The Wrestler. Oh and if you have something against Clint singing at the end, well guess what? You do know that you can get up and leave he theater without listening to that right?

12:36 AM  
Anonymous Jake B said...

1. Kids actually do act that way. Did you notice that the grand daughter had a naval piercing, nose piercing, and that she smokes? It should be obvious from there on out how much control the parents have over their kids, I'm surprised that the kids even came to the funeral. Furthermore, construction workers regularly "comment" on a woman's looks, so what the gang members say shouldn't be that surprising.

2. I doubt Eastwood was going for the comedy in this one. But I think you were suppose to detest Walt. Think of it as a reverse Tragic Hero (if Macbeth is the epitome of the Tragic Hero). Instead of a man who has the potential to be so good and yet falls to evil; you have a man who seems to have no potential for good, make a huge sacrifice for someone he once hated (someone evil do something good).

3. All the Hmong (except for one) were taken from the streets with no previous acting experience, same as Slumdog Millionaire, you can't expect them to be professional .

4. The silver star was awarded to Walt for being the only one left alive in his group of soldiers. Since Walt and Thao are going on a "mission", Walt gives Thao the medal for the same reason he himself received it, (predicting his own death) being the only one left alive. Second, even if the girl knew she wasn't going to directly receive the car, she probably thought that her uncle or father would get it. And in which case she could then weasel the car away from them.

5. I agree that Eastwood singing at the end was a little weird, but who actually watches the credits anyway?

Lastly, it is sad how the only reason you complained about the movie was because it was doing so good.

5:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

there arent even any vietnamese women in this movie. you're an idiot. gran torino is a great movie. and just because his family was like that doesnt mean he thinks all white families are. its a movie. they do stuff for emphasis and to symbolize certain things. they arent ultimates. get over it moron. you dont know shit

1:56 PM  
Anonymous YouFahKingMoron said...

you're just some assfuck trying to pull emotions to get people to comment. It's hilarious reading through your writing, how you misconstrue so much. You should watch a movie a couple times before forming an opinion. As well, try hiding your hate for Eastwood a little more. He's more deserving of anything ... than you'll ever be.

6:44 PM  
Anonymous Rapper said...

Yeah you totally failed with this blog John. It shouldve been nominated for a slew of Academy's. Jamie Cullums tune alone should have won best song...But as long as u Enjoy your shitty taste in movies John, we're all happy.

10:45 PM  
Anonymous bill vanderbilt said...

I found gran torino to be an masterpiece. I was outraged when it was overlooked and not even nominated for an oscar.I have always been a fan of clint's films and do not necessary have to be a fan of clint to like this movie.say yes to gran torino.

6:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, you walked out of the movie listening to the "raspy" voice of Esstwood singing the song, which means you did NOT hear Jamie Cullen's version immediately following Clints. Too bad, Cullen's version was soulful and beautiful-and definitely better than any "oscar" song lately.

8:17 PM  
Anonymous the truth said...

if you thought that wall e was better then grand torino then your just an over sensitive liberal

8:38 PM  
Anonymous Brad said...

Yes that young Vietnamese woman being picked on by african americans. Hang on, she wasn't Vietnamese. I get it now, you were too busy thinking up ways of criticizing the movie that you didn't even watch it properly.
You most definitely are a TOOL.

7:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey i respect your opinion about the film, but i think it was a great film and sholda been atleast nominated for an oscar with clint winning best actor!

the only point i agree on is the THAO kid he cuda played some parts better but overall he was acceptable..

it was a cool, suttle approach to racism, cars, gangs, different cultures.

7:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was pleased with the movie right up to the point when Clint was joking about racism with the barber. The old Don "I'm not racist, I hate everyone" Rickles crutch . It would have been so much better if he was really racist, not just an "ol timer" that didn't know any better. Anyway, and enjoyable film. Yes things were rammed at the audience, but after all it WAS a FABLE. I laughed and learned new slurs. Thanks Clint!(PS-don rickles was a REAL racist, then when it wasn't cool anymore he pussied out!)

1:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This review is wrong on every count.

2:42 PM  

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