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« Reply #40 on: December 12, 2008, 07:46:41 PM »

With 'Gran Torino,' nobody gangs up on Clint Eastwood

Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News (three stars out of five):

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The blunt truth about Clint Eastwood's "Gran Torino" is that it shouldn't work: The script is often heavy-handed, the supporting performances tend toward the awkward, and the direction falls well short of Eastwood's subtler work.

 But in front of the camera, the 78-year-old actor still appears able to demolish anyone who messes with him, which is why this showcase works as well as it does. His performance is the movie's centerpiece, and as you might expect, it's just tough enough to hold everything together.
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« Reply #41 on: December 13, 2008, 10:48:37 AM »

From Stephanie Zacharek on Salon.com. It is fairly spoilery, so reader beware I guess...

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GRAN TORINO
Clint Eastwood keeps it real as a retired Detroit autoworker
in this antidote to the season's glossy prestige pictures.


By Stephanie Zacharek

Dec. 12, 2008 | At a time of year when we're surrounded by ambitious, glossy movies based on much-lauded books and lavish tent-pole releases that promise more dazzle than they deliver, it's maybe too easy to be grateful for a movie -- plain-spoken almost to the point of gruffness -- like Gran Torino. Clint Eastwood is both director and star here, and he succeeds only haltingly in both roles: The picture chugs along, even though its rhythms are often choppy and forced, and Eastwood, great fun to watch when he allows himself to loosen up, falters in the big dramatic moments  -- he just can't resist clamping down hard on the old acting stick.

But until Gran Torino starts rumbling headlong toward its tone-deaf, self-serious ending -- the script is by Nick Schenk -- it's often enjoyable, satisfying and funny. Eastwood's character is a retired Detroit autoworker named Walt Kowalski: His last name may or may not be a reference to the Dodge Challenger-driving counterculture hero, played by Barry Newman, of Richard C. Sarafian's cult classic Vanishing Point, although the two characters have little in common other than, perhaps, their fondness for a nice set of wheels. (More on those later.) Walt is a cranky widower -- as the movie opens, his wife has just died -- who lives in what used to be a nice, respectable white neighborhood. Now Walt, a crusty, bitter Korean War vet, is surrounded by immigrant families, and there's no pussyfooting around in the way he refers to them. The words "chink" and "gook" are genuinely shocking when they first start streaming from his lips, until you realize that, for this guy, they're business as usual.

Walt really doesn't like these people, and when he's forced to deal with them, he shows his contempt by offering little growls and grimacing as if he smelled something bad. When Thao (Bee Vang), the exceedingly well-mannered kid from the Hmong family who live next door, shows up on the day of Walt's wife's funeral to ask if he might have a set of jumper cables, Walt snaps at him: "Have some respect, zipperhead! We're in mourning here."

But Walt eventually befriends Thao, a sweet, diligent kid who's in danger of being sucked into a life of street violence by his gangbanger cousins. He becomes especially close with Thao's sister, Sue (Ahney Her, in a nicely wrought performance that shows some wry comic timing), a hardworking student who doesn't expect the world to hand anything to her -- a marked contrast with Walt's own teenage granddaughter, Ashley (Dreama Walker), a sullen ingrate with multiple piercings who has no use for Walt but who's nevertheless very interested in his car: a 1972 Gran Torino that he helped build himself on the assembly line and that he's cared for lovingly over the years. Now, it's become a vintage status symbol.

Even for a movie set in the Detroit suburbs, Gran Torino has too much of a drab, listless look. (It was shot by frequent Eastwood collaborator Tom Stern.) What's more, it sometimes seems unsure of what kind of movie it wants to be, and it's least effective as a potential revenge drama: The ending is a too carefully calculated apologia for Dirty Harry. It's toward the end that Eastwood's performance falls apart, too. Eastwood is an appealing presence when he's playing a caricature (and Walt Kowalski is nothing but a caricature). He gets into trouble when he tries to mine deeper emotions -- when he reaches for them, they're just not there, and he compensates by doing a lot of the usual squinting and scowling.

But there are some places in Gran Torino where Eastwood doesn't make the performance look like work, and those are the moments when he shines. At one point Walt's son and daughter-in-law bring over some alleged gifts, including a handful of glossy brochures for what are essentially nursing homes and a phone with jumbo numbers on each key. His daughter-in-law proffers the latter: "It's a phone," she says helpfully. "I can see that," Walt mutters, and since this is Eastwood we're talking about -- he has veiny, burnished biceps that many 30-year-old guys would envy -- you can see how his character would chafe at being treated like a child.

And while Gran Torino explores some predictable notions of racial prejudice, it tiptoes into some more complex territory, too. My jaw dropped when Walt, hanging out with Sue in his backyard, barked, "Get me another beer, dragon lady. This one's empty." But a beat later, I laughed, as was obviously the intent. (Sue has learned to laugh at him, too.) The moment underscores the easy familiarity and understanding that can spring up between people even when their entrenched vocabulary of racial epithets, and the stereotypes that go with them, haven't been fully banished. In another scene, one of the movie's best moments, Walt sits at the kitchen table in Sue and Thao's house as the older women of the family flutter and coo around him, piling his plate high with food: He's the appreciative audience they long for, and he delights in the attention.

Schenk's story may be heavy-handed in places, but it's not easily dismissible. For one thing, Gran Torino marches up boldly to the idea that as much as urban liberals love to preach the merits of multiculturalism, it's often the people living in the suburbs (plenty of whom aren't liberals, or wouldn't call themselves such) who really end up putting the ideals of multiculturalism into practice. Even where I live, in Brooklyn, N.Y., there are neighborhoods populated by well-meaning white liberals who might be able to go for a whole day without seeing a person of color -- other than their nanny. While conservatives are often the ones who are most wary of immigrant outsiders, the reality, as Walt himself learns, is that the people who emigrate to this country and have to work hard for everything they have are very much in league with cherished "conservative" ideals -- ideals that aren't bad in and of themselves, as long as they're not co-opted by the government to cut social programs or otherwise disenfranchise citizens.

"I have more in common with these gooks than I do with my own family," Walt says in the movie's most telling line, although he doesn't have to spell it out, given that his own kids and grandkids clearly believe that, just because they're white Americans, everything should be handed to them. Gran Torino, whatever its flaws are, is a movie about what America looks like now, and it posits that the work of living amicably together is sometimes hard but always worth it. Is that a simplistic idea or a thorny, complex one? We can't know until, like Walt, we've figured out a way to make it work.

http://www.salon.com/ent/movies/review/2008/12/12/gran_torino/index.html
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« Reply #42 on: December 14, 2008, 03:07:48 PM »

 :)  " Movie Review: ‘Gran Torino’ Clint Eastwood is Still on Top "

        http://en.epochtimes.com/n2/arts-entertainment/gran-torino-clint-eastwood-8503.html

       
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Clint Eastwood does an excellent job portraying Walt, truly embodying the character. The last time Eastwood took the screen was in 2004 with Million Dollar Baby, and the film received an Oscar for Best Picture.

Walt resembles Eastwood somewhat as they both were Korean War veterans. Many cast members are given breakout roles or first-time roles in this film. The majority of the actors and actresses who play Hmong characters are Hmong themselves. Bee Vang, who plays Thao, is a 17-year-old Hmong newcomer from Minneapolis, where the film was originally scripted to be filmed.

When most filmmakers would be retired and out playing golf, Eastwood is starring in, directing, and even composing music for films. In Gran Torino, he shows the movie-watching world that he’s still king of the mountain. Come February, Gran Torino will definitely walk away with an Oscar.


Rating:      5 / 5


   
             
   
     
     " NY1 Movie Review ;  ' Grand Torino ' "

       http://www.ny1.com/content/ny1_living/90611/ny1-movie-review---gran-torino-/Default.aspx


     " Go ahead, offer Clint Eastwood another good script "

       Gran Torino could put the cap on Clint's acting career, unless another great role comes along

       
       http://www.thestar.com/article/553153

       
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BEVERLY HILLS, CALIF.–It's not that Clint Eastwood has an insatiable desire to work. It's just that he can't resist a good script, and they seem to be landing in his lap more frequently than ever nowadays, keeping him on film sets and away from the golf course.

At an age when most filmmakers have long retired, the 78-year-old actor-director completed two movies this year – he directed both and also stars in one – and he is currently developing another while at the same time embarking on a gruelling round of promotional interviews.

"This has just been an unusual year," he said. "In fact, the last five years have been kind of unusual, as it seemed like as fast as I would get one movie finished, another would just pop up. When I did Mystic River I thought, `Well, this is fine. I'm not going to act anymore. I'm going to retire from that.' Then suddenly Million Dollar Baby came along and I liked the story and there was a part in it for me. And that's kind of what happened this year."
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"I miss the era I grew up in when adults went to movies and you had different subject matters and every movie didn't have to be a sequel or a remake," he said. "Now people in Hollywood see a movie is doing good business so they make four more like it. It seems to me to be counterproductive."

As long as good scripts keep coming his way, he has no intention of retiring, although he may have had his last acting role.

"I'm still working at this stage of my life because I learn something every day, and as long as I do that I'll be happy," he said. "I keep saying I'm not going to act anymore and there aren't that many great roles for a 78-year-old now, but if a good role comes along, then it's never say never.

"But if not, and I'm never photographed in front of a camera again, it won't break my heart. I'm happy behind the camera."


 
 

 
     "  Reviews - Major Releases "

        http://www.filmjournal.com/filmjournal/content_display/reviews/major-releases/e3if39d7edc6dfc96b5c57059d5247c017e?imw=Y

       
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For movie details, please click here.

Embellishing his trademark Dirty Harry snarl with exasperated grunts and growls, a fusillade of racial epithets, and discharges of contemptuous expectoration, Clint Eastwood redefines what it means to be a grumpy old man. It’s hard to imagine a more disaffected, ornery coot than Walt Kowalski, the equivocal hero of Gran Torino. Yet Eastwood’s latest film, a morality play preaching the need for tolerance in changing times, isn’t nearly as superannuated as its protagonist would suggest. A Marine veteran, retired auto worker and unapologetic bigot, Walt is a veritable year-in-review, his hoary appearance and attitudes hiding a good heart and brave soul, qualities we’d like to imagine Americans embody. Gran Torino can resemble a civic lesson, but the film is consistently entertaining and, in these anxious times, reinforces the mantra of hope.

 
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The film proceeds from set-piece to set-piece: Kowalski rescues Thao’s sister, Sue (Ahney Her), from punks on the corner, only to have her teach him a thing or two about Asian history (Walt fought in the Korean War); he takes Thao to the local barbershop to initiate him into the bond of bonhomie (How to Swear Like a Man 101); he rudely dismisses the young priest (Christopher Carley) determined to save his soul until he decides that, like the atheist in the foxhole, it’s best to be on God’s good side when the bullets fly. As this suggests, Walt as father figure systematically morphs into Walt as Christ figure, one of the ways Gran Torino overreaches, but Eastwood has the singular ability to turn bombast into poignancy. The proof of this assertion is underscored (to pun) by the movie’s theme song (written by Clint, his son Kyle and Michael Stevens), croaked out by Eastwood himself as the credits roll…Folks, it ain’t over until the phat man sings.



       






     

   

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« Reply #43 on: December 14, 2008, 08:05:04 PM »

I think this may be the first time in history Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal has liked an Eastwood film.

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'Gran Torino' Is Perfect Vehicle for Eastwood
Bigot's role makes his day; Streep, Hoffman and script turn 'Doubt' into sure thing

By JOE MORGENSTERN



No one makes movies like "Gran Torino" any more, and more's the pity. This one, with Clint Eastwood as director and star, is concerned with honor and atonement, with rough justice and the family of man. It raises irascibility to the level of folk art, takes unapologetic time-outs for unfashionable moral debates, revives acting conventions that haven't been in fashion for half a century and keeps you watching every frame as Mr. Eastwood snarls, glowers, mutters, growls and grins his way through the performance of a lifetime.

He plays Walt Kowalski, a Korean War vet, and newly a widower, whose pride and joy is the immaculate 1972 Ford Gran Torino fastback that sits in his garage. Detroit's suddenly acute problems add a layer of poignancy to a film that's already elegiac. During the industry's heyday Walt worked on Ford's assembly line, where he installed the steering column in his own car. Now he's retired and embittered, a hard-shell crustacean perched on his front porch watching foreigners he deplores as they invade the old neighborhood.

Deplores is putting it genteelly. Mr. Eastwood and his writer, Nick Schenk, give Walt all of Archie Bunker's bile, though little of Archie's sly wit, at least for a while. No need to reproduce the radioactive epithets; suffice it to say Walt never lacks for political incorrectness. While the very sight of a Hmong refugee family next door produces pit-bull rumblings in his throat, another target of his ire is Christopher Carley's parish priest, Father Janovich, who wants to get him into the confessional booth. "I confess," Walt tells the baby-faced cleric, "that I have no desire to confess to a boy that's just out of the seminary."

If Walt were only a refurbished version of the lightning rod that electrified "All In the Family" audiences decades ago, "Gran Torino" might be an awkward curiosity and little more. But the filmmaker cares, as he did in "Letters From Iwo Jima," about racial and ethnic reconciliation, and the education of Walt Kowalski begins when a young man from the Hmong family next door tries to steal his precious car. Soon he's involved with the family to an extent he never imagined, let alone wanted, and "Gran Torino" becomes a vehicle for another kind of reconciliation -- Clint Eastwood's coming to terms with the vigilante tactics of Dirty Harry.

His new movie isn't an apologia for all that, but it's a meditation, as affecting as it is entertaining, on the limits of violence and the power of unchained empathy. It seems to be exactly the movie he wanted to make at this point in his long career, even though some of the performances, by inexperienced or nonprofessional actors, are less than successful. "Gran Torino" is defiantly old-fashioned, and occasionally, albeit endearingly, self-indulgent. Most of all it's heartfelt, and for me the feeling was mutual.

http://online.wsj.com/article/film_review.html
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« Reply #44 on: December 14, 2008, 08:12:11 PM »

Despite being in only SIX theaters nationwide, Gran Torino came in at #20 on the weekend box office chart at Box Office Mojo.

When you sort by per-theater average, Gran Torino was easily the winner, at $47,333. Next highest was Doubt, also newly released and in just 15 theaters. It grossed $35,000 per.

http://www.boxofficemojo.com/weekend/chart/
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« Reply #45 on: December 15, 2008, 09:42:28 PM »

David Denby in The New Yorker:

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In “Gran Torino,” Clint Eastwood appears (symbolically) as the last white man in America, guarding what might be called the last American car—an Army-green 1972 Ford Gran Torino, lovingly preserved in a garage in run-down Highland Park, just outside Detroit. The movie, directed by Eastwood and written by Nick Schenk, is set in the present, when a Korean War hero and longtime Ford automotive worker, Walt Kowalski (Eastwood), now a retired father of two grown sons, his wife recently dead, finds himself living next door to Hmong immigrants, whom he towers over and bullies. The Hmong are the hill people of Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam who fought on the American side in Vietnam; some of them immigrated to the United States, and they work hard, but Walt calls them “gooks” and “slopes” and other bitterly pronounced tags from the rich American vocabulary of abuse. When young Thao (Bee Vang), from next door, tries to steal the sacred Gran Torino, Walt becomes enmeshed with the boy’s family, first as antagonist and then, gradually, as fierce protector—so fierce that he gets caught up in the neighborhood gang wars, with their escalating back-and-forth of beatings, rapes, and shoot-outs.

Walt is meant to be the kind of fearless American whose strength is inseparable from his blighted vision of the world. He is obsessed with turf, with right and wrong narrowly defined, with male codes, male lingo. The movie was not written for Eastwood, but it still seems to be all about him—his past characters, his myth, his old role as a dispenser of raw justice. Growling and muttering, Eastwood appears to be offering a satirical critique: this hoarse-voiced, glaring, absurdly nasty old man is what Dirty Harry might have become. The movie, which Eastwood directed with his usual vigor, has plenty of violent scenes, but it’s mostly a rueful comedy of enlightenment: by degrees, Walt comes to admire his neighbors; he realizes that he has more in common with their quiet self-discipline than with the hollow consumerism of his sons and their grasping kids. Walt’s final acts in the neighborhood struggles come as a shock, but, in retrospect, they make perfect sense as Eastwood’s personal renunciation of vengeance and also as a kind of down payment on an altered American future.

http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/cinema/2008/12/22/081222crci_cinema_denby?currentPage=2

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« Reply #46 on: December 16, 2008, 12:29:36 PM »

This isn't a review but I guess it counts as a media feature.  I've been following this thread so I don't think it's already been posted.  But I've been wrong before.

http://www.zimbio.com/pictures/RPEqYM92CbG/Premiere+Warner+Brothers+Gran+Torino+After/5Lj-B2LIExt/Clint+Eastwood
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« Reply #47 on: December 16, 2008, 04:32:16 PM »

 :) "  Clint makes our day "

        http://jam.canoe.ca/Movies/Artists/E/Eastwood_Clint/2008/12/16/7762711-sun.html

       
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Dirty Harry has nothing on Eastwood's latest character. Sun Media catches up with the legendary tough guy

By LIZ BRAUN -- Sun Media
   
Clint Eastwood

What does an icon do for an encore?

If you're Clint Eastwood, you just keep working. And attract Oscar talk with your newest movie. That's what's happening with Eastwood's Gran Torino, which opens in theatres on Friday.

If you think the actor has played tough guys before, wait until you meet Walt Kowalski.

 
 
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LEARNING EXPERIENCE

Eastwood has said that he learns something new with every movie he makes, and Gran Torino was no exception. His character lives in a Detroit neighbourhood where there are a lot of Asian immigrants, mostly Hmong, and Eastwood says he learned a lot about that culture.

"But you also learn something about yourself, too," he said. "With every picture, you think, 'I wonder if I can pull this off?' but then you go ahead and dive into the pool. I always wonder if I'm the right guy to be doing this.

"I've played similar characters before," said Eastwood, mentioning Sargeant Highway, his tough vet character in Heartbreak Ridge, and Frankie Dunn from Million Dollar Baby. "But I've never played anyone quite like Walt."

As for Walt's bad habits, "I never did smoke much, except in films, but I did like to drink a few beers, so drinking those Pabsts on the front porch was no strain for me."

Eastwood laughs out loud. He laughs again at the Internet posting that describes him as a vegan.

"You find all kinds of things written about you that you don't have the foggiest notion where they came from. I'm not a vegetarian. I love sushi and stuff like that. I do have to watch my fat intake, because I'm 78 years old."

Eastwood operates professionally in exactly the way you'd imagine -- with a sort of zero B.S. level. Gran Torino was filmed quickly and in a no-frills fashion, adding to the mystique of Eastwood's work ethic. Talking about movies past and present, Eastwood said of films now, "They're sort of the modern-day written word, in that people can revisit the work many, many years from now."

Eastwood said he is interested in the fact that some actors just get bigger with time, mentioning such stars of his youth as Rita Hayworth, Hedy Lamarr or Bette Davis. "Maybe it's because somewhere along the line they jumped into a classic movie, like a Casablanca," he said.

"It's the same with music. When you look at some of the singers today, you think, 'Ah, it really was great back then.'" An accomplished jazz pianist himself, he laughs again.

"I was listening to some current pop singers the other day, and I thought, 'I was so lucky that I got to grow up listening to Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan and Sinatra and Nat King Cole. And they were all musicians and they all sang every night, even the lesser musicians, so they were always on top of their game. You didn't have to put them together in the studio with splicing tape. It was a wonderful time, and people had their favourite musicians. Now it's all light shows."

Laughing again, he added, "I don't want to sound like Walt Kowalski."

For the past 15 years or so, Eastwood has composed music for almost all his pictures. He directed Bird, a biopic of Charlie Parker in 1988, and produced Straight, No Chaser, a documentary about Thelonious Monk the next year. Eastwood is about to work on a documentary about Tony Bennett and, according to Vanity Fair, another about Dave Brubeck
 
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MANDELA MOVIE

On the non-music front, Eastwood said he will make a movie about Nelson Mandela: "Not a whole biopic, just covering the time when he got out of prison." Morgan Freeman will star.

With all that on his plate, does he listen to all the talk about Oscars? Eastwood has, after all, 10 Academy Award nominations plus that honorary Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for lifetime achievement in film producing.

"I think it's nice," he said, "but you kind of have to take it all in stride. An awful lot of good movies have not won any awards, and plenty of bad ones have won awards, so you have to keep that in mind.

"I'm not making a lot of CGI movies, or remakes or sequels. It's always nice to know that somebody else is interested in (storytelling and original characters) besides me."


 
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« Reply #48 on: December 17, 2008, 05:14:12 PM »

 :)  "  Local cast and crew of Clint Eastwood's "Gran Torino" walk the red carpet at Birmingham 8 "

         http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20081216/ENT02/812160458

         
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A bright red carpet and flood lights grabbed the attention of passersby at Birmingham's Forté restaurant on Tuesday night.

Inside, cast and crew of the film "Gran Torino" mingled during a party prior to the screening of the Clint Eastwood film at the Uptown Birmingham 8.

Eastwood, 78, directs and stars in the movie that was filmed in and around Detroit this summer. The Oscar-winning star portrays a cantankerous Korean War veteran, named Walt Kowalski, who decides to make a change in his neighborhood after his prized car, a 1972 Gran Torino, is stolen.

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While Eastwood didn't attend the pre-party, his name was on the lips of those who worked with the legendary actor.

Conor Callaghan, 12, plays one of Eastwood's three grandsons in the movie. The Rochester Hills resident, dressed in a suit and tie, sat with his mom amid the party chatter. He said he was a big fan of Eastwood's "Dirty Harry" films but, according to Conor, Eastwood is in no way likethe famous iconic character.

"We had lunch and talked about the day on the set," Conor said.

Conor's mom, Maureen Callaghan, was on the set with her son. She said Eastwood was down to earth and put everyone at ease.

"In one scene at a mansion, he came in and started singing a little song about how he was the guy that got things done," she said. "The experience was like a dream. It was a one in a lifetime opportunity."

Austin Douglas-Smith, who also plays one of the grandsons, said Eastwood has a soft side.

"When I asked him if I could get him a gift," said Austin, 9, "he (Eastwood) said 'You don't have to get me a gift; just having you on the set is a gift.
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Carlos Guadarrama, who plays the leader of a Latino gang in the movie, said he was hand-picked by Eastwood out of 100 other actors from Los Angeles and New York.

"I am a big fan," said the 25-year-old Guadarrama. The Southwest Detroit resident is also a rapper known as Sol, whose next album will feature cameos by Detroit rappers Obie Trice and Trick Trick.

"Out of all the people I have worked with in the industry," Guadarrama said, "he (Eastwood) is the nicest, most down-to-earth guy I have known."

Anthony Wensonchief, operating officer of the Michigan Film Office, said films like "Gran Torino" have been a shot in the arm for a somber local economy. He said 25 films have been made in the state over the last nine months, generating $100 million in revenue for the state.

Wenson said producers and directors have marveled at the various locations and the dedicated work ethic of the people of the state. "Jobs are being created," he said. "The film industry is like the New Deal for the state."

"Gran Torino" will hit movie screens on Dec. 25 in Detroit, New York and Los Angeles. It will open nationwide on Jan. 9.

 
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« Reply #49 on: December 18, 2008, 12:46:49 PM »

Roger Ebert has finally posted his 3.5 star review of Gran Torino.

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I would like to grow up to be like Clint Eastwood. Eastwood the director, Eastwood the actor, Eastwood the invincible, Eastwood the old man. What other figure in the history of the cinema has been an actor for 53 years, a director for 37, won two Oscars for direction, two more for best picture, plus the Thalberg Award, and at 78 can direct himself in his own film and look meaner than hell? None, that's how many.

"Gran Torino" stars Eastwood as an American icon once again -- this time as a cantankerous, racist, beer-chugging retired Detroit autoworker who keeps his shotgun ready to lock and load. Dirty Harry on a pension, we're thinking, until we realize that only the autoworker retired; Dirty Harry is still on the job. Eastwood plays the character as a man bursting with energy, most of which he uses to hold himself in. Each word, each scowl, seems to have broken loose from a deep place.

Walt Kowalski calls the Asian family next door "gooks" and "chinks" and so many other names he must have made it a study. How does he think this sounds? When he gets to know Thao, the teenage Hmong who lives next door, he takes him down to his barber for a lesson in how Americans talk. He and the barber call each other a Polack and a dago and so on, and Thao is supposed to get the spirit. I found this scene far from realistic and wondered what Walt was trying to teach Thao. Then it occurred to me Walt didn't know it wasn't realistic.

Walt is not so much a racist as a security guard, protecting his own security. He sits on his porch defending the theory that your right to walk through this world ends when your toe touches his lawn. Walt's wife has just died (I would have loved to meet her,) and his sons have learned once again that the old bastard wants them to stay the hell out of his business. In his eyes, they're overweight meddlers working at meaningless jobs, and his granddaughter is a self-centered greed machine.

Walt sits on his porch all day long, when he's not doing house repairs or working on his prized 1972 Gran Torino, a car he helped assemble on the Ford assembly line. He sees a lot. He sees a carload of Hmong gangstas trying to enlist the quiet, studious Thao into their thuggery. When they threaten Thao to make him try to steal the Gran Torino, Walt catches him red-handed and would just as soon shoot him as not. Then Thao's sister Sue (Ahney Her, likable and sensible) comes over to apologize for her family and offer Thao's services for odd jobs, Walt accepts only reluctantly. When Sue is threatened by some black bullies, Walt's eyes narrow and he growls and gets involved because it is his nature.

What with one thing and another, his life becomes strangely linked with these people, although Sue has to explain that the Hmong are mountain people from Vietnam who were U.S. allies and found it advisable to leave their homeland. When she drags him over to join a family gathering, Walt casually calls them all "gooks" and Sue a "dragon lady," they seem like awfully good sports about it, although a lot of them may not speak English. Walt seems unaware that his role is to embrace their common humanity, although he likes it when they stuff him with great-tasting Hmong food and flatter him.

Among actors of Eastwood's generation, James Garner might have been able to play this role, but my guess is, he'd be too nice in it. Eastwood doesn't play nice. Walt makes no apologies for who he is, and that's why, when he begins to decide he likes his neighbors better than his own family, it means something. "Gran Torino" isn't a liberal parable. It's more like, out of the frying pan and into the melting pot. Along the way, he fends off the sincere but very young parish priest (a persuasive Christopher Carley), who is only carrying out the deathbed wishes of the late Mrs. Kowalski. Walt is a nominal Catholic. Hardly even nominal.

"Gran Torino" is about two things, I believe. It's about the belated flowering of a man's better nature. And it's about Americans of different races growing more open to one another in the new century. This doesn't involve some kind of grand transformation. It involves starting to see the "gooks" next door as people you love. And it helps if you live in the kind of neighborhood where they are next door.

If the climax seems too generic and pre-programmed, with too much happening fairly quickly, I like that better than if it just dribbled off into sweetness. So would Walt. 

http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20081217/REVIEWS/812179989
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« Reply #50 on: December 18, 2008, 12:53:46 PM »

Clint Eastwood did an interview with Leonard Maltin of Entertainment Tonight. In it, he said a couple of interesting things. He said he wouldn't miss acting if he didn't do it again, and in response to whether or not he'd consider working for someone else, acting in a movie which he did not direct if a filmmaker he admired came to him and offered him a good part, he said "oh sure. Yeah, I would do that." I was pleasantly surprised by that.

The interview is currently up online, though as new stories are added rather quickly, I'm not sure how long it may remain. It's currently on the second page (I believe) of their stories:

http://www.etonline.com/index.html?page=2&tag= 
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« Reply #51 on: December 18, 2008, 12:56:27 PM »

A few video clips have been released. I originally saw them on the Yahoo movies page, but I can't get them to work there, so I am linking to an IMDB page where many of the same clips appear. I haven't seen them all. I hope those of you who are unable to see the film for some time enjoy them:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1205489/trailers
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« Reply #52 on: December 19, 2008, 04:10:44 AM »

 :) " Clint Eastwood, America's Director "

       http://www.laweekly.com/2008-12-18/film-tv/the-searcher/

       
Quote
“You’ve made the first movie of the Obama generation!” exclaimed an audience member, as he rushed up to Clint Eastwood after a recent screening of Gran Torino. “Well,” the 78-year-old actor-director replied, without missing a beat, “I was actually born under Hoover.” It was an ironic juxtaposition, given that Eastwood’s Torino character, widowed Korean War vet and former Detroit autoworker Walt Kowalski, has earned comparisons to TV’s Archie Bunker, for both his politically incorrect racial epithets and his general hostility toward a modern world that seems to have left him — and his old-fashioned American values — out in the cold. “We could use a man like Herbert Hoover again,” Bunker sings at the start of each All in the Family episode. But it’s change, not nostalgia, that sets the tone in Gran Torino, as the belligerent Walt ventures first across the property line and then deeper into the lives of the Hmong immigrant family living next door
Quote
The movie, Eastwood tells me the day after the Torino screening, appealed to his own personal philosophy of “never stop learning. If you never stop learning, then you never stop growing as a person, you never stop taking in new information and changing. People ask me, ‘Have you changed?’ And I say, ‘I hope so,’ because over 10, 20, 30, 40 years, you’re supposed to change all the time. You’re supposed to expand.”

Quote
One of Gran Torino’s most memorable sequences involves Kowalski giving advice on “how to be a man” to a shy, gang-victimized Hmong teenager (newcomer Bee Vang). It’s fitting, because in the 40 years since he first donned The Man With No Name’s desert poncho, Eastwood has defined a kind of squint-eyed, low-voiced, impermeable macho cool for several generations of moviegoers — and, even in today’s fickle youth culture, can still be found gracing the cover of men’s lifestyle magazines like Esquire. It’s a status that Eastwood, like Gran Torino itself, both embraces and gently mocks, fully aware of the anachronism of being a “man’s man” in our supposedly gender-neutral society.

“The idea that men and women are the same is crazy, because they’re not,” Eastwood says with a chuckle. “They’re equal under the eyes of the law and they’re equal in a lot of ways — in fact, women are superior in a lot of ways and men are superior in other ways. So the more we recognize that, the more we can use those superior aspects of the gender. But being a guy now is a strange thing, especially a Caucasian male. Who’s the biggest @#!hole? It’s the white guys. You can attack them without hurting anybody’s feelings, because they’re the buffoons of society at the present time. But I always figure: what the hell, they can take it.”

And true to form, Eastwood, who has four Oscars under his belt and is now well past the age at which almost any major star or director has still been actively working, isn’t going anywhere just yet. In the spring, he begins production in South Africa on The Human Factor, a sports drama set during the first year of Nelson Mandela’s presidency, starring his old friend Morgan Freeman as the celebrated leader.

“He’s just won the presidency when it starts, and it’s about how he unites the country,” Eastwood says. “The country is going every which way at that time. All these different groups are at each other’s throats. And he takes this really bad white rugby team and takes an interest in them. The blacks can’t figure it out: What is he doing with these guys? But then he talks them into winning the World Cup, and they win it. It’s sort of a fairy-tale story, but it’s one of those truth-is-stranger-than-fiction kind of things. And it shows how brilliant he was, in a way. He knew that if he could make this happen, blacks and whites would come together in genuine enthusiasm.”

Which sounds like the second movie of the Obama generation.

 







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« Reply #53 on: December 19, 2008, 07:27:49 AM »

Thanks, Higashimori. This is a great interview (it's by Scott Foundas). Here's another quote I liked:

Quote
“I go for the sideline effects of it all rather than, ‘OK, here we are in the factory that’s shutting down,’” Eastwood explains. “The obvious stories, the Norma Rae kind of stories, those are hurdles, but they’re kind of right out there in front. It’s the hurdles that are inside that you have to deal with to make characters interesting, I think.”
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« Reply #54 on: December 19, 2008, 08:26:31 AM »

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« Reply #55 on: December 20, 2008, 11:43:27 AM »

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/21/arts/21letters-CLINTEASTWOO_LETTERS.html

Letter
Clint Eastwood: Contrasting Career Arcs

To the Editor:
Re “The Films Are for Him. Got That?” by Bruce Headlam [Dec. 14]:

Quote
The late-career soaring success of Clint Eastwood as both director and actor stands in contrast to the mixed fortunes (or misfortunes) of another star, Marlon Brando. It appears that the tortoise has prevailed over the hare, as Brando’s early brilliance and promise gave way to numerous professional disasters — with the glorious exception of “The Godfather.” Mr. Eastwood, working steadily, morphed from spaghetti westerns and “Dirty Harry” into a motion picture legend.

The only question is: Does Mr. Eastwood recognize the contrast? Is that why his hero in “Gran Torino” is named Walt Kowalski, perhaps a reminder of and successor to Brando’s protagonist in “Streetcar Named Desire,” Stanley Kowalski?

Isidore Silver

New York

Related
Film: The Films Are for Him. Got That? (December 14, 2008)
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« Reply #56 on: December 20, 2008, 11:52:11 AM »

http://sfluxe.com/2008/12/19/gran-torino/
SFluxe

Gran Torino
Posted on  19 December 2008

Quote
While I can appreciate Clint Eastwood’s talent as a filmmaker, I’ve never been a big fan of his films. I enjoy the Dirty Harry series and dig his westerns, but his recent directorial efforts, such as Flags of Our Fathers, Million Dollar Baby and Mystic River, never did anything for me. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed his latest, Gran Torino, and can safely say, thanks to a great script and an entertaining performance from Eastwood – it’s one of the best films of 2008. ...

Overall, Gran Torino proves Eastwood still has what it takes in front of the camera as well as behind it. It isn’t playing everywhere right now, but once it expands - I highly recommend you check it out.





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« Reply #57 on: December 20, 2008, 12:21:50 PM »

http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2008/12/19/grantorino/

Hmong get a mixed debut in new Eastwood film
by Laura Yuen, Minnesota Public Radio
December 19, 2008

Quote
Much of the hype surrounding the new film "Gran Torino" has focused on director and actor Clint Eastwood -- and whether he'll win an Oscar for what is rumored to be his last acting role.

But many Minnesotans are eager to see the movie for another reason: It's the first mainstream film to prominently feature Hmong-Americans.

St. Paul, Minn. — It didn't take much to excite Tou Ger Xiong when he learned about the making of "Gran Torino."

"I think we heard two words, 'Clint Eastwood' and 'a Hmong movie,'" Xiong said. "I was like, 'What? Clint Eastwood and a Hmong movie?' So you know, that's cool. Because you know Clint Eastwood isn't going to be low-budget, right?"

Xiong, of Woodbury, is a well-known Hmong storyteller and performance artist in the Twin Cities. ...
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« Reply #58 on: December 21, 2008, 08:27:55 AM »

http://www.moviehole.net/200817072-clint-on-clints-gran-torino
Clint on Clint's Gran Torino
Author: Clint Morris    Date: Saturday, December 20th, 2008 Time: 10:46 pm

Quote
I've just walked out of what's undoubtedly one of the most enriching films of the year... and shock horror, it don't star Will Smith! (More on his latest later)

When it was initially announced, there was an inexplicable pall of concealment when it came to the plot for Clint Eastwood's new film - so much so that everyone just assumed it must be the long-awaited final installment in the legendary actor's ‘'Dirty Harry'' series.

And though that didn't turn out to be exactly true it ain't exactly that far from the mark. ...

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« Reply #59 on: December 21, 2008, 05:07:11 PM »

 :) " Hanging tough with the old master Clint Eastwood "

       http://www.miamiherald.com/entertainment/story/819778.html

       
Quote
Eastwood recently talked on the phone with The Miami Herald about Gran Torino, his return to acting and his thoughts about the possibility of finally winning a Best Actor Oscar.

Q:The character of Walt Kowalski is in a way a summation of many of the iconic characters you've played in the past -- men with violent pasts at odds with the world around them. What was your reaction when you first read the script?

A: I liked the whole message of it, the whole idea that you're never too old to learn tolerance and take an interest in other people. I've met a lot of people like Walt in my life, older people who were set in their ways and didn't want to be a part of anything or anyone new. At the same time, that's an obvious message, so you have to bring it in from a really far distance and make it dramatic. Otherwise it's just a guy who goes ``Oh, they're just people, too.''
 
Quote
Q:The filmmaking in Gran Torino has the feel and rhythm of Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby. It looks from the outside fairly effortless. Has telling stories of this kind of small scale become second-nature to you over the years?

A: If it looks easy, that's good. Whether it's easy or not, I don't know. I think it's easier for me now than it was years ago because I'm just enjoying myself now, telling the stories I want to tell with no regard for anything else. The one thing about getting to the age of 78 is you figure, ''Well, you know, people can get mad at you, but what can they do to you?'' [laughs] All they can do is call you an old guy and obsolete. That's no big deal.

I'm at a time in my career when I can tell a lot of stories like Letters from Iwo Jima and Changeling and things they wouldn't expect [me] to do. Younger directors have to worry about a good Friday night opening and having a strong opening weekend. But I don't have to worry about that. Naturally, I'd like the film to open well and for people to see it. But it's not the main consideration.

Q: You're somewhat of an anomaly among Hollywood filmmakers in that you've continued to direct -- and receive great recognition for it -- way beyond your supposed prime.

A: That's true. People being put out to pasture has happened a lot in the past. Billy Wilder stopped directing in his 60s. Here's a guy who had done some wonderful films and lived well into his 90s. What the hell did he waste all those years for? I knew Frank Capra pretty well socially: I always liked him a lot. He was a lucid guy as an older man. He made some wonderful films, and I always wondered why it couldn't just go on. But once he did Pocketful of Miracles, and that didn't do very well, he just backed off. You can't be discouraged if one thing doesn't work.

Q:You've won Oscars for Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby, but you've never won one for acting. If Gran Torino really is your swan song as an actor, then this is your last shot at a Best Actor prize. Is that something that's important to you?

A: I suppose I wouldn't mind. [laughs] I've gotten a few for directing and producing. But I suppose most would love to have one in their first profession, which for me is acting. But you don't really think about that. It's hard to say. Naturally, you don't want to be disingenuous and say, ''Who gives a crap?'' But just the fact that someone is saying we appreciated that, and that's fine. Yeah, that's OK. I don't put people down for that. Then again, an awful lot of bad films have won Oscars. . . . It's just a matter of what captures people's imaginations at the time and who campaigns the best. And having just watched a two-year presidential campaign, the idea of launching another campaign myself is a bit much.

 
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