GRAN TORINO:

When Clint Eastwood departs this life, he’ll surely be remembered for being an excellent filmmaker (LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA, MYSTIC RIVER). But the former Dirty Harry is just as formidable in front of the camera as he demonstrates in this drama playing a racially intolerant retired autoworker who becomes a reluctant mentor to a Hmong teenager (Bee Vang) that he rescues from a gang initiation. The storyline itself is one familiar to movie audiences who know that Eastwood’s grumpy old man will start to mellow as he gradually makes a connection with some of the Asian immigrants changing the face of his blue-collar Detroit neighborhood. Eastwood, the director, revisits many of the themes he explored in MILLION DOLLAR BABY (2004), such as alienation from family, aging and spiritual conflict which morphs into a character’s search for redemption. However, rather than limiting his imagination, Eastwood appears to me to be working toward a kind of artistic expression that represents a refinement of his ideal movie. It’s the reason I think he continues to work effectively with the same production crew, like cinematographer Tom Stern, whose camera accurately depicts the urban decay that is Motown, and son Kyle Eastwood, with whom he co-writes and scores his musical soundtracks. Even if this film doesn’t attain the perfection it’s shooting for, it’s more than above average from both a narrative and technical standpoint because of the many subtle devices that are incorporated in crucial scenes. If you pick up on them, your enjoyment of the movie will be enhanced. If you don’t, what’s on the surface will more than just merely have your attention throughout the movie.

HERE ARE THE 5 MOVIES I THINK WILL BE NOMINATED THURSDAY FOR THE ACADEMY AWARDS’ BEST PICTURE: THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON, THE DARK KNIGHT, FROST/NIXON, MILK, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE

…AND 3 THAT COULD BREAK THROUGH: DOUBT, WALL-E, and THE WRESTLER