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Author Topic: GRAN TORINO: Reviews and Features in the Media  (Read 128640 times)
right turn clyde
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« on: December 03, 2008, 02:04:18 PM »

The reviews for Gran Torino have started to trickle in, here's one that does contain minor spoilers..http://www.aint-it-cool-news.com/node/39304
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Dan Dassow
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« Reply #1 on: December 03, 2008, 07:15:14 PM »

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/season/2008/12/eastwood-rides.html

The Envelope
Notes on a Season by Pete Hammond
Eastwood rides into race in 'Gran Torino'
Posted by Pete Hammond on December 2, 2008
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Dan Dassow
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« Reply #2 on: December 03, 2008, 07:17:46 PM »

http://www.debbieschlussel.com/archives/2008/12/just_got_back_f_1.html

December 02, 2008
Just Got Back From Seeing Clint Eastwood's "Gran Torino"
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By Debbie Schlussel

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I just got back from a critics' screening of Clint Eastwood's new movie, "Gran Torino," and I'm floored. I loved, loved, loved it. "Dirty Harry" is back. Yes, I know it's not a Dirty Harry movie, but if you liked Eastwood in the days when he played law and order tough guys who got the bad guys--as opposed to the contemporary Eastwood of anti-war and pro-euthanasia movies--you'll love this.

I can't post a review yet until the movie comes out, but I can tell you I plan to give it FOUR REAGANS. It's definitely one of the best movies of the year. I bet it does mega-profits at the box office, as opposed to his recent anti-war bombs. This is the kind of movie Americans wanna see.

If you're counting your pennies, as we all are in these tough times, and can only see one movie over the holidays, this is the one. Well worth the ten bucks. The movie comes out on Christmas Day in limited release and wider release after.

Stay tuned for my review right before Christmas.

Posted by Debbie at December 2, 2008 01:16 PM

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KC
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« Reply #3 on: December 03, 2008, 07:42:07 PM »

Thanks for starting this thread, Right Turn Clyde! It was time, even though Gran Torino doesn't officially open for more than a week! 8)
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Richard Earl
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« Reply #4 on: December 03, 2008, 09:25:04 PM »

Wow! I cannot remember the last time that I was this enthusiastic about a new movie. Our tough guy Clint is back.
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« Reply #5 on: December 04, 2008, 02:18:59 PM »

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« Reply #6 on: December 04, 2008, 02:30:43 PM »

National Board of Review - Best Actor 2008 - Clint Eastwood : Gran Torino  :)

http://www.nbrmp.org/awards/
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AKA23
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« Reply #7 on: December 04, 2008, 04:29:42 PM »

Variety has posted the first trade review, and it's a positive one.

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At 78, perhaps the only actor in the history of American cinema to convincingly kick the butt of a guy 60 years his junior, the hard-headed, snarly mouthed Clint Eastwood of the 1970s comes growling back to life in "Gran Torino." Centered on a cantankerous curmudgeon who can fairly be described as Archie Bunker fully loaded (with beer and guns), the actor-director's second release of the season is his most stripped-down, unadorned picture in many a year, even as it continues his long preoccupation with race in American society. Highlighted by the star's vastly entertaining performance, this funny, broad but ultimately serious-minded drama about an old-timer driven to put things right in his deteriorating neighborhood looks to be a big audience-pleaser with mainstream viewers of all ages.

In his first screen appearance since 2004's "Million Dollar Baby," Eastwood revives memories of some of his earlier working-class characters; Korean War vet Walt Kowalski suggests a version of what Dirty Harry might have been like at this age, and there are elements as well of the narrow-minded, authority-driven figures in "The Gauntlet" and "Heartbreak Ridge," as well as those films' humble settings and plain aesthetics.

His wife freshly in her grave and his two sons' upscale families uncomfortable around him, Kowalski has impeccably maintained his modest suburban Detroit home while every other house nearby has gone to seed. A lifelong auto worker after his Army stint, Kowalski has seen his contemporaries die off or move on, replaced by immigrants and assorted ethnics he despises. His racist mutterings, which employ every imaginable epithet for Asians, are blunt and nasty, but Eastwood grunts them out in an over-the-top way that provokes laughs, and his targets are no less sparing of him.

Particularly irksome is the family next door. To Kowalski, they are generically Asian, but they are specifically part of the sizable local Hmong population, mountain folk from Laos, Thailand and elsewhere who sided with the U.S. during the Vietnam War and understandably fled when the Yanks pulled out of Southeast Asia. Residing in the rundown house are a granny, a mother and two teenagers, retiring boy Thao (Bee Vang) and more assertive girl Sue (Ahney Her).

Visitors often congregate at the home, and Kowalski imagines them eating dog (he has one) and pursuing other unwholesome activities. But the sole genuinely unsavory element is a bunch of Hmong gangbangers hot to recruit the leader's cousin, Thao. "Get off my lawn," Kowalski menacingly snarls when some commotion spills onto his property in what will no doubt become one of the film's trademark lines, and the cagey coot makes it clear he'll be gunning for the hot-rodding hoodlums if they bother him again.

The pivot in Nick Schenk's lively, neatly balanced screenplay (which was allegedly not written with Eastwood in mind, although it's a mystery who else could have played the lead) has the gangstas forcing Thao to prove himself by stealing Kowalski's cherry 1972 Gran Torino. When the alert old soldier catches him at it, Thao's tradition-minded family insists he work off his shame at the victim's pleasure. Reluctantly at first, Kowalksi has him make repairs around the neighborhood, thereby initiating a quasi-father-son relationship between extremely unlikely prospects.

More melodramatically, Kowalski also becomes a protector of sorts to Sue, whom he rescues from some taunting black street kids in a scene that echoes previous scenes in Eastwood films in which the hero dares badass types to take him on. Beginning to take an interest in his young charges, Kowalski learns from Sue that, among Hmong kids in the U.S., "The girls go to college and the boys go to jail." Once he spends more time with the siblings and sees their desire to raise themselves up, Kowalski admits that, "I have more in common with these gooks than with my own spoiled, rotten family."

Thus is launched a character arc that will strike some as so ambitiously long as to seem far-fetched for such an old, mentally entrenched man. But Eastwood makes it appear plausible -- as if, once Kowalski has seen the light, everything that comes afterward is clear, almost preordained. Religion hovers in the background; a very young priest (Christopher Carley), determined to fulfill the final request of Kowalski's wife to get her husband to confess, keeps getting the door shut in his face, the old man feeling he knows a lot more about life and death than this green seminary product. Climax is heavier and more sobering than expected, but it's quietly foreshadowed by narrative and character elements.

While "Gran Torino" is entirely of a piece with Eastwood's other work, it also stands apart from his artful films of the past six years in its completely straightforward, unstudied style. To be sure, there are themes and understated points of view, most fundamentally about the need to get beyond racial and ethnic prejudice, the changing face of the nation and the future resting in the hands of today's immigrants. In a way that clearly could not have been intended, Eastwood could be said to have inadvertently made the first film of the Obama era.

Eastwood has dealt very intelligently and matter-of-factly with race throughout his career -- in "Bird," "Unforgiven," "Million Dollar Baby," "Flags of Our Fathers" and "Letters From Iwo Jima," among others -- and in this respect, the key scene here is one in which Kowalski takes Thao to an Italian barber and, with the intention of making him "man up," teaches him the relevant ethnic insults, which, in his world, everyone should be able to withstand and humorously throw back at the perpetrator. For the two older adults, it's a game -- a rite of passage that incorporates a healthy, if superficially abrasive, acknowledgment of their differences.

Eastwood's initial vocal rasp moderates over time, just as his character softens toward the seeming aliens who surround him. There is probably no leading Hollywood actor with less ham in him than Eastwood -- just compare him to Jack Nicholson or Al Pacino, for starters -- but by his standards, this is a real barn-burner; grumbling under his breath or merely looking askance at the perceived lowlifes that litter his existence, Eastwood clearly relishes this role and conveys his delight to the audience, to great satisfaction all around.

Hmong roles were filled by nonpros and quite adequately so. A bit characterless at first, Vang ultimately comes into his own as a 16-year-old forced into life's crossroads, while Her capably embodies a girl with more spirit than judgment. Carley plays right into his priest's naivete, while John Carroll Lynch has fun as the old-school barber.

Shot over five weeks in Detroit's Highland Park neighborhood, the pic is efficient and modest in all production departments. Editors Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach brought it in crisply at under two hours.

http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117939157.html?categoryid=2880&cs=1
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« Reply #8 on: December 04, 2008, 05:39:30 PM »

That Variety review was inked by longtime Variety staffer Todd McCarthy. Thanks for posting it, AKA.

People, it would be nice if you remembered to mention the author of material you post here, as well as the source. Thanks! :)
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« Reply #9 on: December 04, 2008, 05:41:27 PM »

National Board of Review - Best Actor 2008 - Clint Eastwood : Gran Torino  :)

http://www.nbrmp.org/awards/

Also ... after Best Picture winner Slumdog Millionaire ...

Quote
Top Ten Films
(In alphabetical order) BURN AFTER READING, CHANGELING, THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON, THE DARK KNIGHT, DEFIANCE, FROST/NIXON, GRAN TORINO, MILK, WALL-E, THE WRESTLER

Yup, that's TWO Eastwood films in the NBR's Top Ten (or actually, Top Eleven). 8)
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« Reply #10 on: December 04, 2008, 06:04:54 PM »

Kirk Honeycutt in The Hollywood Reporter liked Clint's performance, the film not so much:

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/film-reviews/film-review-gran-torino-1003919698.story  Warning: Spoilers (not included in the quote, below)

Quote
Bottom Line: Clint Eastwood delivers one of his rare comic performances in a film that otherwise doesn't measure up to his recent outstanding works.
So now we know what became of Dirty Harry.

In "Gran Torino," Clint Eastwood plays a retired auto worker in Michigan who could literally stand in for his iconic character a quarter of a century later. Crotchety as hell and a gun never far from his side, Harry -- sorry, Walt Kowalski -- lives a sullen, solitary life in a deteriorating blue-collar neighborhood where nonwhite and immigrant faces constantly irritate him. Indeed everything from the rundown funk of the 'hood to his blase grown children and their punk kids irritates him. A scowl chiseled into his gruff, stony face, he spits foul-mouthed commentary and racial epithets from the side of his mouth about everyone he sees.

Eastwood has always had the gift for comedy in his acting repertoire, but he indulges in it only rarely. His fans might embrace this return to comedy, but those expecting something more in the vein of recent Eastwood incarnations as an actor ("Million Dollar Baby") or director ("Changeling," "Letters From Iwo Jima") may be in for a disappointment. So it's up to Warner Bros. marketing to make that distinction prior to release for "Gran Torino" to gain boxoffice traction.

The movie itself, directed by Eastwood and written by Nick Schenk (from a story he wrote with Dave Johannson), is an unstable affair given to overemphasized points and telegraphed punches. It lacks the subtlety of Eastwood's recent efforts, but then again, the film must be seen in the mode of "Dirty Harry reunites with his 'Every Which Way but Loose' orangutan" -- only this time it's an aging dog named Daisy.
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AKA23
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« Reply #11 on: December 05, 2008, 06:03:39 PM »

Here's another positive review.

By Mike Goodrich of Screen Daily:

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Gran Torino is an unpretentious, often very funny humanist drama which is a small jewel in Clint Eastwood's canon of work as a director and a highpoint in his career as an actor. Revolving around a racist curmudgeon with a military past – a cross between Dirty Harry and Archie Bunker – the film is unlikely to reach the box office or critical heights of Mystic River or Million Dollar Baby. But Eastwood's standing as a perennial star, even at 78 years of age, and the publicity surrounding his provocative character Walt Kowalski will guarantee solid box office numbers from adult moviegoers, and a healthy return on investment for Warner Bros and Village Roadshow.

In the awards race, to which he is no stranger, Eastwood is most likely to score recognition in the best actor category. He has never won an acting Oscar and has only two nominations to his credit (for Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby), so, regardless of the fact that he gives a magnificent performance here, sentiment alone should drive him into the final five. Eastwood has hinted that this will be his final performance, a fact which may also work in his favour.

The film opens at the funeral of Walt's wife. A Korean War veteran who stands by her coffin grumpily judging his two sons and their families during the service, Kowalski keeps his M1 rifle in the house, is hostile to the local priest (Carley) when he comes to call, and is full of contempt and abuse for the Hmong immigrants who have moved into the neighbourhood.

He has few pleasures in life – gruff banter with the local barber (Lynch), the companionship of his dog Daisy, regular intake of bottled beer, and his Gran Torino car which he keeps in pristine condition in the garage.

Walt's life changes when his neighbour, shy teenager Thao Lor (Vang), is bullied into stealing the Gran Torino by a group of gun-toting Hmong gangbangers. Walt scares him away and the next day pulls his gun on the gang, winning the admiration of all the Hmongs in the neighbourhood. Thao's mother and older sister Sue (Her) insist that Thao confess to Walt that he was the would-be thief and offer to make amends.

Though he wants nothing to do with the Hmongs, Walt likes Sue's spunky personality, and enjoys their tasty food. He puts the boy to work in his house and in the neighbourhood, and the two develop an unlikely rapport. He tries to help Thao develop handyman skills so that he won't follow the seemingly inevitable path into gang warfare. Gradually his understanding of the family next door leads him to unlock his own damaged soul and confront demons from his past.

Eastwood still commands the screen even while he is spitting out racist comments or coughing up blood. He growls, scowls, threatens and pulls a gun whenever he feels like it. But while the trailer might imply that he is returning to a Dirty Harry "Make My Day" persona here, his character ultimately doesn't obliterate the gang with a gun but with a noble act. It's anything but Dirty Harry Redux.

Similarly Walt's abusive language to the Hmongs – which includes just about every racist epithet you can think of – is shocking at first but gradually becomes comic as he himself realises how absurd his prejudices are.

The two young newcomers Bee Vang and Ahney Her give spirited performances as the Lor siblings whose lives are inextricably bound together with loss and violence.

Eastwood is America's great humanist director at present, making eloquent calls for compassion in films like Million Dollar Baby, Letters From Iwo Jima and this year's Changeling, but never at the expense of spinning a good yarn. Gran Torino is a plea for racial tolerance in the US but it is also a compelling story of friendship which lingers in the mind when the extravagances of Benjamin Button and Australia have faded from memory.

As with Eastwood's other recent films, the film is ultimately a tearjerker with a momentously moving finale. As Clint's own gravelly voice starts up over the end credits singing the mournful title song, it's genuinely sad to think we might not see him act again, but somehow fitting that he should bow out with Walt Kowalski.

http://www.screendaily.com/ScreenDailyArticle.aspx?intStoryID=42190
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« Reply #12 on: December 05, 2008, 06:08:34 PM »

Here's another positive review from Emmanuel Levy. He gave Million Dollar Baby an A, and Mystic River a similarly high grade. He gives this one a B+, which was the same grade he gave Changeling .

Quote
John Wayne was 62, when he won the Best Actor for “True Grit,” a star vehicle in which he both displayed and poked fun at his own screen image, and Clint Eastwood may be 78, when he finally wins recognition as an actor for his star vehicle, "Gran Torino," in which he more or less does the same thing as the Duke.  The two movies, their stars, and their performances share other similarities in common, which I will return to later on.

Marking his first screen role since his 2004 Oscar-winning film "Million Dollar Baby," for which he received a Best Actor Oscar nomination, “Gran Torino” is a rather simple, old-fashioned, character-driven drama, based on the often-used premise of a fish out of water, or to put it in more sociological terms, culture collision.  In this film, the conflicts and contrasts are embodied by two individuals, fifty years apart in age, who belong to entirely different socio-cultural and racial milieus.

As “the fish out of water” Eastwood plays Walt Kowlaski, a rigid, iron-willed Korean War veteran living in a rapidly changing world, who is forced by his immigrant neighbors to confront his own biases, prejudices, and his entire value system and way of life.  Despite some elements of violence in the depiction of gang wars and a sad but well-earned denouement, the movie offers a rather pleasant and enjoyable experience, due to Eastwood’s high-caliber if broad acting and also the positive, upbeat message.  Reflecting the new demographics of American society in the new millennium, "Gran Torino" is a classic sage applied to new realities, which makes it both timely and timeless.

Lacking the gravity of issues and moral ambiguity that have defined Eastwood’s recent work as a director (“Million Dollar Baby,” “Flags of Our Father,” “Letters from Iwo Jima,” and even “Changeling”), “Gran Torino” contains healthy humor, is much simpler in narrative structure, and much clearer in tone.  I will not describe it as a downright crowd-pleaser but as mainstream entertainment, which might broaden its commercial appeal.  Eastwood’s two war films and “Changeling” (which is still running) have not been particularly successful at the box-office.

The sound of Eastwood character’s name immediately brings to mind another working- class brute named Kowalski, Stanley, in Elia Kazan’s version of Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire,” a movie that could not have been more different from “Gran Torino,” though Walt Kowalski certainly possesses his own set of prejudices and psychological problems, at least when the story begins.

The story begins and ends in church.  In the first scene, Kowalski attends the funeral ceremonies for his dead wife, Doris.  We quickly learn that his wife's final wish was for him to take confession.  But Walt feels that there's nothing for him to confess, plus, there is no one he can trust enough to confess, certainly not the new, young pastor.

In clear and broad narrative brushes, scripter Nick Schenk, working from a story by Dave Johannson and Nick Schenk, reveals crucial personality traits and episodes of Kowalski’s long life.  He is an embittered veteran of the Korean War who keeps his M-1 rifle cleaned and ready—just in case.  A retired autoworker, he now fills his days with home repair, guzzling beer, taking regular trips to the barber, and spending quality time in his garden with his old and loyal dog, Daisy; occasionally, Kowalski could be heard talking to his dog.

The people who used to be his neighbors have all moved or passed away, and they are now replaced by Hmong immigrants from Southeast Asia. Resentful of virtually everything he witnesses about their way of life, Kowalski has nothing but contempt for them.  But Kowalski basically despises everything he sees and everyone he meets.  He resents the drooping eaves, overgrown lawns, the foreign faces surrounding and smiling at him.  Then, there are the local gangs of Hmong, Latino and African American teenagers who think and behave as if the neighborhood belongs to them.

A widower, Kowalski is also estranged from the callow strangers that his own grown-up children have become. Unlike another famous screen retiree, Jack Nicholson in “About Schmidt,” who embarks on an exciting journey after his wife’s death, Kowalski just seems to be waiting out the rest of his life.

His quiet, rather boring existence is thrown into chaos, when one night someone tries to steal his `72 Gran Torino.  Still gleaming as it did the day Walt himself helped roll it off the assembly line decades ago, the car serves as a means of communication—really a physical and social bridge—to his shy teenaged neighbor Thao (Bee Vang).  Unbeknownst to him, Thao, a “mamma’s boy,” has been pressured by the Hmong gang-bangers into trying to steal the cherished object as a site of passage into manhood.

Standing, literally and figuratively, in the way of the heist and the gang, makes Kowalski the reluctant hero of the neighborhood, especially to Thao's mother and older sister Sue (Ahney Her), who insist that Thao work for Walt as a way to make amends. Though he initially wants nothing to do with “these people,” Walt eventually gives in and puts the boy to work fixing up the neighborhood.

Main segments of the ensuing saga depict a series of interactions, mostly learning experiences, between Kowalski and Thao, which ultimately lead to one of the unlikeliest friendship seen in American film, one that will forever change both men and their value systems.

Through Thao and his family's unrelenting kindness, Walt comes to understand certain truths about the people next door--and about himself.  In due time, he recognizes that these people, mostly provincial refugees from a cruel past, have more in common with him than he has with his own blood family.  And it’s through them that Kowalski gains self-awareness in an odyssey that reveals to him parts of his soul that have been walled off since the Korean War.

As noted, Eastwood has not been in front of the camera since 2004’s "Million Dollar Baby." Interestingly, the character of Walt Kowalski was not written with a specific actor in mind, though it’s hard to imagine any other thespian playing the part, which fits Eastwood’s age, specific acting skills, and screen image as a glove.   Like the Duke, in True Grit” and other films during the last decade of his career (“The Cowboys”, “The Shootist”), in which he played surrogate fathers or grandfathers set in his own ways but still committed to basic values, who transmitted the torch to the younger generation, Eastwood fulfills a similar narrative function in “Gran Torino,” in which his character is roughly his own biological age.

Though he plays a part that's largely unsympathetic, at least in the beginning chapters, Eastwood goes all out with a set of overt gestures and grimaces that while meant to poke fun at his neighbors essentially poke fun at and even satirize his own screen image and acting style, both largely underestimated by film critics, audiences, and the Oscar voters.

http://www.emanuellevy.com/search/details.cfm?id=11972
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Christopher
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« Reply #13 on: December 05, 2008, 06:48:12 PM »

National Board of Review - Best Actor 2008 - Clint Eastwood : Gran Torino  :)
Wow, that's awesome! O0 Nice to see both of his films honored too.
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« Reply #14 on: December 06, 2008, 08:34:24 AM »

http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117996931.html?categoryId=1995&cs=1
Posted: Fri., Dec. 5, 2008, 3:05pm PT
Clint Eastwood, 'Gran Torino'
Film offers icon a chance at first acting Oscar
By PETER DEBRUGE

Quote
Nothing would make Clint Eastwood's day more than winning a lead actor Oscar.
At 78, he's been nominated twice ("Unforgiven," "Million Dollar Baby"), earning picture and director honors on both films, and yet he remains unrecognized for the craft that made him a screen legend.

"Gran Torino" could be Eastwood's chance, especially as his onscreen stints become more scarce (of his last half-dozen projects, Eastwood has appeared in only three).

"Each film, I think, 'Well that will be the last. It's about time for me to go to the back of the camera and move along,'" he says. "Then this part came along, and I thought he was a good character for me to be playing."

Eastwood, who carefully oversees the campaigns for his films (both theatrical and Oscar), is keeping the film under wraps until the last possible minute -- a strategy that worked for both "Million Dollar Baby" and "Letters From Iwo Jima." But he does offer a bit of insight into what appealed to him about Walt Kowalski, painting a very different picture from the growling, rifle-packing old codger featured in "Gran Torino's" trailer. ...
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« Reply #15 on: December 06, 2008, 09:32:33 AM »

Time magazine article by Richard Corliss on Eastwood's "Clintessence" (includes some analysis of Eastwood's acting career and the author's thoughts on Gran Torino):

Quote
Eastwood the director, commendably casting major roles from within the Hmong community, elicits a naturalness from his untutored young stars, though for a while you must take the performances on faith, as Walt learns to take the people. But Eastwood the actor is in total command, daring himself to new depths. You'll see a tough man cry--one of the few flourishings of tears in the Eastwood oeuvre. That unaffected emotion eventually informs the whole movie, making it a wrenching, rewarding experience.

If Gran Torino is his last hurrah as a movie star, that's too bad. But he couldn't find a better one to go out on--not just as a valediction for the crusty character he's played so often and for so long but as a final twisting validation of it. Along with his famous guts, Dirty Harry has a heart.

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1864429,00.html

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« Reply #16 on: December 06, 2008, 08:11:45 PM »

Here's another quote from that one I liked:

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Is that acting? Sure. He doesn't just behave; he performs, confidently, richly, within the slim range of the Man with No Name, no home and no regrets. How do we know this is acting? Because in person Eastwood is genial, soft-spoken, quick-smiling--the opposite of the movie Clint in temperament and thoughtfulness, his equal only in stature.
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« Reply #17 on: December 07, 2008, 12:30:29 PM »

Another positive review in the latest issue of Time Magazine:

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1864429,00.html
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« Reply #18 on: December 07, 2008, 02:24:23 PM »

Thanks, Madison, it was cited by MC two posts above yours. :)
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« Reply #19 on: December 07, 2008, 04:16:50 PM »

Roger Ebert has posted his top 20 feature film movies of the year. I post this here because of two films that are noticeably absent, Changeling and Gran Torino . Roger Ebert is a huge Eastwood fan, both as an actor and as a director. Eastwood's 2003, 2004, and 2006 films were all on his top 10 list. The fact that he made a list of 20 this year, and didn't see fit to put either of Eastwood's films on there, was disappointing to me. I still stand by my earlier commentary on Eastwood's actor prospects, but beyond that, I don't see this film competing. 

The exclusion of these films does not, however, mean that he didn't like these films. Changeling was given a three and a half star review by him, so he may have liked Gran Torino , but he was likely not as impressed with it as he was Eastwood's other films, which were all on his top ten lists.

http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20081205/COMMENTARY/812059997/1023
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