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Gran Torino: a World Magazine review

With three young kids, my husband and I don't get a lot of opportunity to go out and watch movies in a theater anymore. I think last year we saw two of them, one in November and the other in December. When we get the chance to do the dinner and a movie thing, we want that time on our own spent watching a quality film. One movie we would love to see if we get the chance is Gran Torino. Ed Morrissey saw it and offered his review at Hot Air. Another review I just read is at World Magazine, one of my favorite sources for movie reviews because they offer excellent analysis of movies from a Christian world view that I appreciate and their review of Gran Torino is no exception. Here is a portion:

As Korean War vet Walt Kowalski, Eastwood offers us a thoroughly unlikable character who manages, even in his unrepentant racism, to win our favor. He pulls this trick off by, first, realistically addressing the culture clashes that are as annoying as they are unavoidable in a melting pot like ours and, second, by depicting the ugly side of middle-class America just as much as he depicts the gang-violence typical of poor immigrant neighborhoods.

Want to take exception with the use of the word ugly to describe part of our modern heartland values? Then consider sons and daughters who push their elderly father to shut himself away in an age-restricted community where they will only have to visit him on the odd holiday and he will relinquish all responsibility to impact upcoming generations. Consider parents who place the acquisition of mini-mansions with new granite countertops above raising children who understand that such riches are not their natural-born right. It's not pretty, and neither is Walt, but he is made more so in that he doesn't pull punches no matter what group he's assaulting, not even his own.

The reviewer, Megan Basham, argues that Clint's film offers a realistic depiction of racism and asks us some uncomfortable questions:

[R]ather than merely imparting an exhilarating sense of justice, these trademark elements are also used to cast light on some uncomfortable questions: Is clinging to every bit of nostalgic Americana really patriotic, or is it sometimes exclusionary? Do some immigrants fail to assimilate because they don't want to or because natural-born citizens fail to reach out to them? It is precisely because of his status as an icon of heartland masculinity that Eastwood is able to take on this sensitive subject with far more integrity (not to mention authenticity) than films like 2004's Crash managed. Instead of a quick and shallow snapshot of various incarnations of racism, Gran Torino digs deep and shows that racism is not, as Crash implied, a special sin of the United States. It is a general sin of man whose fallen instinct is to horde his resources and establish superiority.

Gran Torino earns its R rating with the most obscenities and racial invective this side of a Quentin Tarantino movie. But unlike the films of lesser directors, the language here is rarely window dressing. Though a few exchanges strike a gratuitous note, it would be impossible to convey the spiritual evolution of the bitter, godless, and racist Walt Kowalski without making him sound, well, bitter, godless, and racist. In a twist that elevates Gran Torino far above the typical vengeance-wreaking flick, Walt discovers that the greatest satisfaction comes not from proving you were right but from sacrificing to right your wrongs.

I'm not sure when we will get another opportunity to see a movie in a movie theater, but when we do it will be this one, as long as it's still playing.

I recommend reading the entire full review in the January 31st edition of World Magazine. You can find an abridged version at World Magazine online here.


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Comments (11)

I grew up in Milwaukee and ... (Below threshold)
Pretzel Logic:

I grew up in Milwaukee and this guy is like any/all of our dads. Great movie, must see.

Kim,This is definitely one ... (Below threshold)

Kim,This is definitely one of the best movies I've seen in a long time. It's worth the time and money. In my opinion his movies get better with age.

I saw this with my signific... (Below threshold)

I saw this with my significant other a few weeks ago. We rarely go to first run movies - between the expense and the quality, we're rarely motivated.

It was a great movie and I'd highly recommend it.

This movie was excellent. ... (Below threshold)

This movie was excellent. I went to see it with three of my girlfriends (seems an odd choice, I know). We all thought it was well-done.

The movie was excellent, th... (Below threshold)

The movie was excellent, the review is way, way off base. Walt is not a racist and you can tell that from his actions. The words he uses are a different matter entirely and the movie spends a lot of time explaining that.
Like Walt I live in a neighborhood where I am the last "American" on the block. This is the first film I have seen that in any way looks at the effects of forced change on a neighborhood. The immigrants move in an start gangs. The gangs start raping girls and beating up the boys and the white people leave and are called racists by the liberals because that matches their prejudice. That is what happened to my home town, and it is very difficult situation to endure.
Walt had to deal with a lot of what I am dealing with, and it is not easy. The movie is not about changing a bitter, racist, godless man in a few months. That good man was there the whole time, but like Michelangelo's chisel, the Hmong family, and Walt's priest and friends were able to chip away the marble and find Moses.
Because of my experience with immigration and illegal immigration, I have a different take on the film than Megan Basham. See the film and talk about it with your friends and family, it has more than one very important message and it is very entertaining, something most Hollywood films have left behind in their propaganda campaign.

A little historical explanation is in order for the young people. My father grew up in Walt's world of wars and social upheaval, when the dozens of national backgrounds and racial types were melted into an army that spanned the globe and brought us victory. Those soldiers used words to describe each other that are not allowed today in proper company, but they fought and died together against a common enemy. Just calling someone a name did not make you a racist in that world, because in most cases it was just the way people talked. My father used to explain it like this, "You can tell if a joke is racist when the person telling it looks around the room to see who is in it before they tell it. If they don't look around the room, it's just a funny joke." It seems strange today but there was a time when the intent of the person speaking meant something. Now we are told that something is objectionable if the person who hears it is offended, even if no offense is intended.
One poor politician had to resign because he used the word "niggardly" in a sentence when talking about the city budget. That would have pissed Walt off, and he would have good reason for being upset.

I'll send you $30 to help o... (Below threshold)

I'll send you $30 to help offset the cost of the babysitter - go see it!!!

tyree,Spot on.... (Below threshold)
Sheik Yur Bouty:


Spot on.

The 'uncomfortable' questions Ms. Basham asks strike me as typical of an American leftist mindset.

Is clinging to every bit of nostalgic Americana really patriotic, or is it sometimes exclusionary?

Simple answer: HELL NO! Are we as a country not even entitled to our own culture any more? The only way it is 'exclusionary' is you are a WASPy American who thinks that only other WASPy Americans can celebrate Americana. I'm about as WASPy as you can get. I married a 1st gen Vietnamese immigrant. Her whole family loves this country! They have embraced much of our culture wholeheartedly. That doesn't mean they don't also keep and celebrate their own culture and customs. We celebrate both!

It is like having a second child. You don't stop loving or investing time and energy in the first child when the second child comes along. You love them both. This is what I see in my in-laws.

Most of my family come from an area of the US where they simply don't have much direct exposure to immigrants of any kind. In spite of that, they have never even had the slightest problem with my wife or her family. In fact, all of them get along wonderfully. It has been a beautiful thing to watch, because years of being told by the leftist media that we were a racist country really made me worry about it.

Do some immigrants fail to assimilate because they don't want to or because natural-born citizens fail to reach out to them?

This is a horribly incomplete question. So the only possibilities why some immigrants fail to assimilate is that they don't want to or we don't reach out to them? BS. How about many people are afraid to reach out to immigrants becausee decades of leftist 'multiculturalism' have taught brainwashed both 'them' and 'us' that 'they' don't have to assimilate and that 'we' are racist for thinking they need to? Decades of 'multiculi' BS have transformed America from a melting pot to a salad bowl, much to the detriment of both existing Americans and immigrants.

I'm not saying that there is no racism in America. As long as there are homo sapiens in America there will be racism. As long as there are homo sapiens on this planet there will be racism. It isn't an American problem, it is a human one. However, I take offense at the characterization of America as a racist country.

I'm a 50-something white gu... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

I'm a 50-something white guy, liberal as hell. I realize that not every old dude who says, "Polack" or "Dago" is a dyed-in-the-wool racist.
"Gran Torino" is not only a great movie, it's a great EASTWOOD movie. I doubt any other actor could have brought it off. It was awesome.

I saw the movie this weeken... (Below threshold)

I saw the movie this weekend. Great movie.
Its an old joke, but I dont think Walt was racist. He hated everybody equally.

In this time of high unempl... (Below threshold)
Don McAninch:

In this time of high unemployment and overpopulation, it is crucial to start eliminating immigration. Both legal and illegal immigration should be reduced to zero.

LiberalNitemare...... (Below threshold)


Hated everybody equally? And them "presto", he stopped hating?

You and I come from different worlds in our interpretation of the film. Talk to some old widowers about the emotions they go through when their wife dies. I've been there I'm glad I was surrounded by friends and family who at least tried to understand. Walt was alone and isolated in the neighborhood his family grew up in. Read my post above and see the film again. As Bruce Henry says, there was a time in this country no long ago when a man who would lay down his life for his friend would call the same guy a "Mick" over a beer at the corner bar.






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