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Eastwood Scores With Gran Torino

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood December 11, 2008 at 9:28AM

The last time I cried on the way home from a movie was Million Dollar Baby. As I drove, I thought about the movie's battered girl in the hospital bed, surrounded by heartless relatives, and the coach who who loved her like a father. Down came the tears.
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Eastwood_2The last time I cried on the way home from a movie was Million Dollar Baby. As I drove, I thought about the movie's battered girl in the hospital bed, surrounded by heartless relatives, and the coach who who loved her like a father. Down came the tears.

Clint Eastwood knows what he's doing. On my way home from Gran Torino, which made me laugh until the end, I started crying again. I suspect that the range of reactions to this spare movie, which Eastwood is releasing within a year of having first read the script, has to do with how people feel about Eastwood and his characters over the years, from Dirty Harry and The Man with No Name to Pale Rider's Preacher or the angry gunslinger bent on revenge in Unforgiven. Gran Torino's cranky Korean War vet Walt Kowalski consciously calls up an entire career of performances.

It's also generational. How we feel about the 78-year-old actor-director, who represents the values of an entire generation--good values, not just the prejudices he makes fun of in the movie--will also have an impact on our reaction. No matter what you think of Gran Torino--over-the-top though it may be--the Academy will respond well to this performance. This wily old codger could even give Sean Penn a run for his money.

Time's Richard Corliss lays it out here. And the WSJ's Joe Morgenstern likes it too.

[Originally appeared on Variety.com]

This article is related to: Directors, Awards, Oscars, Clint Eastwood


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.