Among the stream of movies I've been switching between for the last week, only one manages to enthrall me as much now as it did when I first viewed it - 2008's Gran Torino.
This movie never fails to elicit a range of emotion from me the likes of which isn't common when I'm in the middle of a film, whether it be on my lappy or in a fuckin' IMAX theater with booming audio surrounding us.
It is one of those rare instances in media where blatant racism, offensive jokes, and stereotypes not only abound, but are actually meant to make up a huge part of the appeal factor. No doubt it's the type of script designed for a film great like Clint Eastwood, who certainly doesn't fail to make our day with his knack for casting off all the kitch and delicate PC bullshit that sullies our media, in favor of the raw responses and true-to-life aspects of confrontation that actually make up the real America.
Eastwood plays Walt Kowalski, a cold, crude, prejudicial widower who doesn't take kindly to the changes taking place within his semi-ghetto, Michigan neighborhood. He hates blacks, Jews, Asians, Italians - even his friends - and makes no secret of it, whether these groups like it or not.
A Korean war veteran, Kowalski loves to refer to piles of bodies and the horrors of war as his main excuse for why he hates his family, distrusts the Church, and refuses to move - even though he complains constantly about the gross number of "sewer rats" that have just moved in next door.
These neighbors are actually an extended Hmong family, that includes a young teenager named Thao, an insecure loner pressured by his gang-member cousin to earn initiation by screwing over his crotchety neighbor - by stealing his mint-condition, 1972 Gran Torino.
He is caught, of course, but isn't let off the hook until he makes it up to Kowalski, and in the process, is actually able to teach the old man a range of values that transcend his petty hangups with the Hmong people - and that definitely doesn't mean warm and fuzzy, politically-correct, nice, cute teachings - this is Eastwood we're talking about, here.
He may be 100 years old, but the guy still is, and will always be, a legend. If you haven't seen this film yet, consider it a requirement to view it at least once - whether you enjoy emotional epiphanies or simply love watching black people being called every racist name in the book, I guarantee there's something for everyone here.
And might I say, in three years, actor Bee Vang has blossomed into one scrumptious little Hmong...