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  • Writer's pictureThomas Duncan

Gran Torino (2008) ft. Kieran B.


Guest: Kieran B., Host of the Best Picture Cast


Cast:

  • Clint Eastwood as Walt Kowalski/Director

  • Dave Johannson and Nick Schenk, Writers

  • Kyle Eastwood and Michael Stevens, Music

  • Bee Vang as Thao Vang Lor

  • Ahney Her as Sue Lor

  • Christopher Carley as Father Janovich

  • Doua Moua as Fong "Spider"

  • Sonny Vue as Smokie

  • Elvis Thao as Hmong Gangbanger No. 1

  • Brian Haley as Mitch Kowalski

  • Brian Howe as Steve Kowalski

  • Geraldine Hughes as Karen Kowalski

*Recognition:

  • Gran Torino was released on December 12, 2008.

  • It would go on to gross over $274 million at the worldwide box office between 2008 and 2009, and was the #21 grossing film of 2009.

  • Receiving mostly positive reviews among critics at the time, Gran Torino was recognized by the American Film Institute as one of the Ten Best Films of 2008.

  • Clint Eastwood's performance also garnered recognition as he won an award for Best Actor from the National Board of Review.

  • The film, however, was ignored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences at the 81st Academy Awards when it was not nominated for a single Oscar, which led to heated criticism from many who felt that the Academy had also deliberately snubbed Revolutionary Road and Changeling (which Eastwood also directed) from the five major categories.

  • The film has since drawn some backlash for its noted inclusion of Walt's racism, and for the stereotypical portrayal of the "White Savior" trope.

  • Gran Torino currently holds an 81% among critics on RT, a 72 score on Metacritic, and a 3.8/5 on Letterboxd.

What is this movie is about?/Elevator Pitch: Life evolving past you, coming to terms with your life and your choices, embracing change, and redemption for all your past sins.


Plot Summary: Clint Eastwood stars in a poignant and thought-provoking drama which unfolds in a changing American neighborhood where the echoes of a bygone era collide with the realities of modern life. Walt Kowalski (Eastwood) is a cantankerous Korean War veteran and retired auto worker. His world is a small, rundown neighborhood that has evolved around him, becoming a haven for Hmong immigrants. Despite his deep-seated prejudices and gruff exterior, Walt finds himself reluctantly drawn into the lives of his Hmong neighbors after witnessing a violent incident involving a teenage boy named Thao (Bee Vang). As Walt reluctantly becomes a protector and mentor to Thao, he confronts his own demons, challenging his long-held prejudices and uncovering unexpected common ground with his new neighbors.

Eastwood's portrayal of Walt is nothing short of extraordinary. He brings a complex character to life, imbuing him with equal parts vulnerability and defiance. The film beautifully explores themes of redemption, reconciliation, and the power of human connection in the face of cultural and generational divides. "Gran Torino" is a masterful exploration of the evolution of a man's soul set against a backdrop of a changing America. It's a reminder that even in the twilight of our lives, we have the power to change, to heal, and to find unexpected friendship in the most unlikely places.


Did You Know:

  • Walt's dog, Daisy, is Clint Eastwood's beloved family retriever in real life.

  • In terms of box office, this movie is the most successful Clint Eastwood movie ever, both in the U.S. and the U.K, but not with inflation. Taking inflation into account, his most successful movies are Every Which Way But Loose (1978) and Any Which Way You Can (1980).

  • Clint Eastwood's character is a Korean War veteran, which he has played in other movies such as Heartbreak Ridge (1986) and Absolute Power (1997). In real life, the actor's penchant for dropping ambiguous Korean War references is considered audacious by those who know him, because for his entire stint in the Army, he was a lifeguard at the Post Swimming Pool at Fort Ord, California. He never set foot in South Korea.

  • Walt Kowalski's gun collection seems to consist of weapons he used in the military. His rifle is an American M1 Garand, a nine and a half pound .30-06 gas-operated rifle. It was first issued during World War II, then re-issued in Korea before being phased out by the M14 selective fire .308 rifle. His pistol is an M1911A1, a .45 ACP semi-automatic handgun also issued during the Korean war.

  • According to Bee Vang (Thao Lor), the Hmong actors and actresses for this movie were isolated from the rest of the cast and crew. According to Vang, efforts by the Hmong actors and actresses to correct the portrayal of Hmong traditions were ignored. He has also refuted claims that the Hmong actors and actresses were encouraged to improvise. According to Vang, when he tried to improvise, Clint Eastwood told him to "stick to the script." Vang also stated that the cast and crew had attended a baseball game, but the Hmong actors and actresses were not invited. It was assumed that the Hmong actors and actresses were immigrants and did not know about baseball, but the majority of the Hmong actors and actresses were U.S. natives. Bee Vang later participated in a parody of this movie, Thao Does Walt: Lost Scenes from Gran Torino (2010), in which he played an elderly Hmong man to a teenage Caucasian boy, highlighting perceived racial stereotyping in the original scene.

Best Performance: Clint Eastwood (Director/Walt)

Best Secondary Performance: Hmong Gang/Ahney Her (Sue)/Christopher Carley (Father Janovich)

Most Charismatic Award: Ahney Her (Sue)/Hmong Culture/Clint Eastwood (Walt)

Best Scene:

  • After Funeral

  • Rescuing Thao

  • Rescuing Sue

  • Mingling

  • Retirement Community

  • Thao Montage

  • Being a Man

  • Fallout

  • Confession

  • Walt's Last Stand

  • Epilogue

Favorite Scene: Mingling/Fallout/Being a Man

Most Indelible Moment: Walt's Last Stand/"Get Off My Lawn"


In Memorium:

  • Billy Miller, 43, American actor (The Young and the Restless, General Hospital, All My Children), 3x Daytime Emmy winner.

  • Michael McGrath, 65, American actor (Nice Work If You Can Get It, Spamalot, The Secret of Kells), Tony winner (2012), originated the role of Patsy in Spamalot.

Best Lines/Funniest Lines:

Walt Kowalski: [sneering and aiming his gun] Get off my lawn!


Walt Kowalski: Would it kill you to buy American? Jesus!


Smokie: Are you fucking crazy? Go back in the house.

Walt Kowalski: Yeah? I blow a hole in your face and then I go in the house... and I sleep like a baby. You can count on that. We used to stack fucks like you five feet high in Korea... use ya for sandbags.


Walt Kowalski: Ever notice how you come across somebody once in a while you shouldn't have fucked with? That's me.


Walt Kowalski: I'll have a Pabst, a shot of Jack, and whatever he's having.

Father Janovich: I'll have a Diet Coke.

Walt Kowalski: Bullshit! This is a bar; you'll have a drink.

Father Janovich: Um, I'll have a Gin and Tonic.

Walt Kowalski: Atta boy!


Father Janovich: What can I do for you Walt?

Walt Kowalski: I'm here for confession.

Father Janovich: Holy Jesus, what did you do?


Walt Kowalski: Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone.


Walt Kowalski: [to Su] Get me another beer, Dragon Lady! This one's running on empty.


Walt Kowalski: [to Father Janovich] I think you're an overeducated 27-year-old virgin who likes to hold the hands of superstitious old ladies and promise them everlasting life.


Walt Kowalski: You wanna know what it's like to kill a man? Well, it's goddamn awful, that's what it is. The only thing worse is getting a medal... for killing some poor kid that wanted to just give up, that's all. Yeah, some scared little *** just like you. I shot him in the face with that rifle you were holding in there a while ago. Not a day goes by that I don't think about it, and you don't want that on your soul.


Sue Lor: There's a ton of food.

Walt Kowalski: Yeah, well just keep your hands off my dog.

Sue Lor: No worries, we only eat cats.


Walt Kowalski: [to Father Janovich] The thing that haunts a guy is the stuff he wasn't ordered to do.


Walt Kowalski: You got your whole life ahead of you, but for me, I finish things.


Walt Kowalski: Why does everyone want my car?


Father Janovich: [eulogizing Walt] Walt Kowalski once said to me that I knew nothing about life or death, because I was an over-educated, 27-year-old virgin who held the hand of superstitious old women and promised them eternity. [the congregation chuckles politely and somberly] Walt definitely had no problem calling it like he saw it. But he was right. I knew really nothing about life or death, until I got to know Walt... and boy, did I learn.


Walt Kowalski: These guys don't want to be your bro, and I don't blame 'em.


Father Janovich: That's it?!

Walt Kowalski: That's it? That's bothered me most of my life.


The Stanley Rubric:

Legacy: 5.33

Impact/Significance: 7.5

Novelty: 6.83

Classic-ness: 5

Rewatchability: 6.5

Audience Score: 8.9 (88% Google, 90% RT)

Total: 40.06


Remaining Questions:

  • With all those guns, how did the police take all of Spider's crew alive with no injuries?

  • Is the confessional vow broken to ease the pain of Walt's sons?

  • Isn't it a little complicated that Walt so easily locked someone in the basement?

  • Who got Walt's tools in the end?

  • Is Thao out of the woods with the gang?

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