Saturday, January 10, 2009

Oh, he also sings the theme song at the end. In character. That was, uh, interesting.

You know that old cranky guy in your neighborhood, the one who has a flagpole with both the American flag and a flag representing the branch of the Armed Forces he served with? You know, the same scary old dude who sits outside on the porch all day, reading the paper, drinking either coffee or beer behind his incredibly well-maintained front yard?

Well, Gran Torino is HIS movie.

Like young Wall Street types probably jerk off to the movie Wall Street or salesmen probably genuflect in front of a framed photo of Alec Baldwin's character in Glengarry Glen Ross every morning before work, or servers in restaurants probably cheer and clap as they watch Ryan Reynolds-Johansson in Waiting spit in some overdemanding cunt's food, or Honda rice-burning street racers probably showed up in droves at theaters to watch the first Fast and the Furious or geeks probably nod in agreement with the shit the characters in Free Enterprise say or stoners undeniably dig on the Cheech & Chong and Harold & Kumar flicks, Old Cranky Porch-Sitters are probably going to see a lot of themselves in Clint's character, or at least what they ideally see themselves as, and they're gonna love watching one of their own smack some of these darn young'uns around and show them a thing or two about a thing or two.

If your local Old Cranky Porch-Sitter didn't care for Clint Eastwood before, well then after this flick, good ol' Clint is gonna be that old cranky dude's bro. Except he would never use the word Bro, because that kind of slang is only used by spooks.

Yup, I said "spooks". Just one of the many racial epithets used by Clint in Gran Torino. There's a lot more, too. Pretty much all races and ethnicities get theirs, except for our good friends, the Arabs. And while Clint throws out "spade" and "spook" at the brothas, he knows better than to use "the N-word". But everyone else? Fair fuckin' game, baby. Oh, wait -- I don't remember him calling anyone fag or queer, but that's okay, I say that enough on my own.

You know how fucking awesome Clint Eastwood is? Shiiiit, I don't have to tell you, you already fuckin' know. But I'm gonna say it anyway. He's so awesome that at 78-fucking-years-old I never doubt him as someone I didn't want to fuck with. People make jokes about Sly Stallone still trading punches or bombs as Rocky or Rambo, and by the time Arnold became governor, people said he might as well have run for office because nobody was going to buy him as the Terminator anymore. But NOBODY will talk shit about Clint. Not just because of the motherfucking respect homeboy deserves, but because I think most of us really believe that if we do, a short while later Clint will fucking knock on our door and when you or I answer it, he will have with him a .357 caliber retort to our shit-talking. Which we'd deserve.

So yeah, in this flick Clint's wife just died and because he's a fuckin' Man, you ain't getting any tears from his eyes because of it. The only emotion you get from him during the funeral is a couple long growls he gives out when he sees that his chubby sons didn't even have the fucking decency to tell the grandkids to dress at least somewhat properly for the occasion. After the funeral, another chubby dude, a young one, shows up and it turns out he's a priest who became close with Mrs. Clint a few months before her death. She asked Father Youngdude to keep an eye on the old man, you know, make sure he doesn't keel over from being such a hardass and maybe, just maybe, get a little bit into the Jesus thing. Clint doesn't make it easy on Father Youngdude, though, so there's some pretty funny shit between them in the movie.

Clint's annoyed at everything but one of his annoyances is how his neighborhood has changed, what with all the other White people gone and "these chinks" taking their place. So the rest of the movie involves the relationship between him and his Hmong neighbors, in particular a brother and sister duo. The sister is kinda cute, but the brother is so quiet for the first 20 minutes, I thought he was retarded or traumatized or both. Turns out he's just shy, which is an easy mistake to make. Anyway, Clint doesn't so much soften up during the flick as he just gradually becomes more cool with them. There's also the occasional run-in with Hmong gang members, Latinos who haven't yet upgraded to semi-automatic pistols and black homeboys who love chicks who say No.

I don't think this is really that great of a script. The way I figured this is, if you cast like some other old actor, this shit would most likely play on the Hallmark channel or Lifetime, not on the silver screen. Some of the dialogue sounds a little hokey. I swear, at least twice Clint actually says "why these kids today...". It doesn't help either that pretty much any other actor in the movie who isn't named Clint Eastwood kinda lags it in the acting department. I'm guessing he picked non-actors for the Hmongs, but even some of the actual actors seem like they could use another take or two. I understand Clint's style is to shoot fast and only allow two takes maximum, and that didn't seem to hurt people like Sean Penn or Hilary Swank or Morgan Freeman or Angelina Jolie. They all gave great performances in his movies and won awards for them (well, Jolie hasn't but the Oscar noms aren't out yet, and I'm betting she will), but maybe with this one he could've taken a little more time with these dudes. I know, who the fuck am I to give Clint any advice? I think it just shows how good the actors in Clint's movies are to begin with for them to pull off the quality shit they pulled in under two takes, whereas motherfuckers whose previous experience was a local middle school production of Our Town might need a little more hand holding. The only other pretty good performance in this flick would have to be the barber, played by Potential Zodiac Killer, otherwise it's a little ehhh with the rest of them.

It's also melodramatic as fuck which I'm usually fine with and even love sometimes, except here I get the sense maybe it wasn't supposed to be. The whole movie balances between dead fucking serious and really fucking ridiculous. I ended up laughing quite a bit during this movie but half the time I wasn't sure if that shit was supposed to be funny. There's a scene in particular where Clint takes Shy Hmong to the barber shop and halfway through the scene, the barber does something that made me and the audience laugh, but then right afterwards I questioned not only the logic of his actions, but the sanity of the screenwriter. It's a simple 3-letter question: WTF?

I'm not giving Clint any shit though, because in addition to being an awesome screen presence, he's also a damn good filmmaker and elevates this shit the best he can. Seriously, I think if the man was known only for the movies he directed, he would still deserve major props. Some of my faves from the past twenty years: White Hunter Black Heart, Unforgiven, A Perfect World, Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Letters from Iwo Jima, and I really liked that Changeling flick a lot too. He seems to have developed a style in the past ten years or so that I fucking love, I guess I'd call it "Old Man Emo"; lots of darkness, with only the occasional shaft of light filling the frame, and slow melodic tunes in the background that were composed by the man himself. If I can sound more like a douche, I'll say that it's almost like a reflection of the dude's soul -- a dude who knows all too well that he's a lot closer to the end than he is to the beginning, you get me? He really gets that tone and mood through to the screen.

There's a sequence in Flags of our Fathers -- which I liked but didn't love -- that takes place on one of the ships headed for Iwo Jima. There's Marines all around, some playing cards, some standing around and bullshitting, some in their bunks. Then a song comes on the radio, called "I'll Walk Alone" that plays through most of the ship. The movie cuts to all of these Marines, either in groups or by themselves, as all the fucking wind just goes out of their sails and they become quiet when they hear it. They're just standing there, listening to this fucked up song about a chick who will wait for as long as it'll take for her man to come back from the war. It's like they were almost just about to kinda put the war and their current situation out of their minds for a short while, and then that fucking song comes on and now that shit is front and center again. The scene ends with some dude sadly strumming along on his guitar and another dude next to him staring at his Zippo lighter, closing it shut when the song ends. I forgot my point other than I thought that was a fucking great scene. But if there's a Movie Heaven, then I'd like to think that Sergio Leone and Don Siegel are up there, smoking fat cigars and talking about what a great fucking filmmaker their boy Eastwood has become.

Allow me to get completely off-topic and let you know that I am completely fucking wired right now. I got a coffee maker for Christmas and it's been a long time since I used one and I put way too many spoons of the coffee in the motherfucker and I'm feeling the fucking effects. It's really fucking bad. I can hardly type now. I actually had to take a break after the last sentence to rapidly punch the air while doing a medium-volume Bruce Lee kind of screech for half-a-minute. I WISH I was joking about that. Fuck I'm gonna do it again. I just rapidly Kung-Fu-punched the air and did the noise again. I am SOOOO not kidding. Fuck. I feel like I should be sitting cross-legged on a bed across from Julianne Moore and Heather Graham, with the state of mind I'm in. No fucking joke, I would not look out-of-place AT ALL if I was in that scene right now. So let me just say if there isn't another blog after say, a couple of weeks, then I probably dropped dead of apoplexy.

Toomanythingstoomanythingstoomanythings. Too many things.

Ok. I'm back from a forced break, and now I actually feel tired. I'm gonna water down the coffee a tad and have another cup.

In spite of all the flaws, Gran Torino is still an entertaining flick you should check out. Wait. Let me take the opportunity to rephrase that and fuckin' Gene Shalit that shit: "Even though it's been built with some faulty parts and has occasional engine trouble, this Gran Torino is a ride worth taking!".

Seriously, for all the shit I just gave the movie, I feel I got my money's worth anyway because it's an old-school Clint Eastwood movie that features homeboy talking shit to everyone and taking shit from no one -- and it feels good to get another Clint movie like that. Whether it was supposed to be this funny or not ultimately doesn't matter, because I still enjoyed it. My sister-in-law's friend saw it and cried at the end. I went over to a couple message boards and some of those dudes say they think it's one of the best movies they've seen in the past year. Another review online says it's so bad, it's good. I listened to a couple people at the Onion A.V. Club this morning and their opinion is a bit closer to mine. No review I've checked out considers Gran Torino boring. Good times is good times, I say.

I saw this at a matinee show. It was a pretty packed crowd comprising of all ages, mostly men of course. But I'd say half of the audience was people of a certain age, meaning you had a nice share of people walking on crutches, along with people who take 5 minutes to walk up or down an aisle. It was the best crowd to watch this movie with, in the same way that when I saw Menace II Society in Inglewood, I was watching it with the best crowd.

There will be people, regardless of age, who will dig the fact that Clint never stops with the racist language. Some will dig that Clint was being true to the character, because people don't magically change overnight. Some will dig the fact that these words are not just being said, but by the hero, no less. And some will just dig hearing those words. That's their problem. I'm reminded of that show All in the Family. The idea was supposed to be that the bigoted shit Archie Bunker said was funny because he was so ignorant. But you just fucking know there were people out there who were probably all "Atta boy! You tell 'em, Arch!" and that's sad, but again, that's their fuckin' problem. You know what MY fuckin' problem is? My inability to make a point. Wait, I think what I'm trying to say is that much like All in the Family, I'm sure there will be people who will enjoy Gran Torino for the wrong reasons and you'll probably hear from people who think this movie is the Devil because of those assholes. But you shouldn't fault the product, fault the consumer. Or something like that, I don't know, I'm stupid.

Halfway through the movie, a red-haired dude in the audience stood up and walked over to a dude who was wearing a cap. He then loudly asked Cap Dude to take his cell phone conversation outside. I didn't even know, because I was into the movie and I was too far to have noticed anyway, but apparantly Cap Dude had been talking to someone on the phone for god knows how long. Cap Dude looks up at Red Hair and yells "NO!" and goes back on the phone. Red Dude says "I'm not going to ask you again, get up and take your conversation outside". Cap Dude gets up, still on the phone and says "Make me!" and Red Dude says "Leave!" and Cap Dude starts to walk away, looking at Red Dude the entire time. Cap Dude is wearing a leather coat and has a mustache. He looks like he could be raza, which makes me a little ashamed and angry at him. As Cap Dude leaves the auditorium, he loudly complains to whoever is on the other line that someone is giving him shit for talking on the phone. Just as he nears the exit hall, he looks back toward the Red Dude and yells "COME ON!", then leaves the room while complaining on the cell phone. I loved how upset Cap Dude got about the whole thing, like he was the wronged party, not Red Dude and everyone else in the audience who paid to watch a movie and not to listen to some cell phone conversation. Why the nerve of that gentleman for demanding that I leave for speaking loudly on a cell phone in a movie theater while a movie was playing! I'll say! The only thing that would've made this funnier/scarier was if homeboy with .380 in his sweatpants was in the audience. It took me about five minutes afterwards to calm down and get back into the movie.

In a previous blog I talked about how all the real Cinematic Tough Guys, the ones we actually believed in, are all gone. But I forgot about Clint. How the fuck could I forget about Clint? That's my bad, I'm sorry. I was probably inebriated when I wrote that shit, that would be my excuse. But I realize that Clint is the last one, man. After he dies, that's it. No more genuine Badass Motherfuckers in movies. Goddamn. I wasn't born yet when John Wayne died, but I fear when the day comes and it's Clint's time to go, I will know that fucked up feeling I'm sure lots of people got when the Duke went. You gotta appreciate the time you have left with these badasses, and since word on the street is that this is Clint's last acting performance, you should check this shit out when you can. Just leave the cell phone and .380 in the car, please?