I haven’t always agreed with the choices made by the academy, but if they continue to overlook Eastwood, I may lose all respect for them entirely.
Clint Eastwood bears two Oscars to his name. One for Unforgiven, and another for Million Dollar Baby. Both for directing. Brilliant as those films are, Eastwood has forever been snubbed for his acting talent. Sure, one could argue that his roles are quite typecast, but what one cannot pass up is the undeniable feeling his roles plant into the heart of the American male. Eastwood exemplifies what all American males either are, or wish they could be. Grizzled, with a rough exterior, never once letting down his guard or shedding a tear, his characters are tough and rugged, a real man’s man with unparalleled combat skills and strength to boot. From The Outlaw Josey Wales to the newly founded Walt Kowalski, Clint has us either being proud to be us or wishing we were him.
Gran Torino is a phenomenal ‘aging with grace’ story. The character of Walt Kowaslki is that of a Korean War veteran living in a now economically dry Detroit. Walt has owned his home his whole life and refuses to leave it, even if it means watching the world change around him much to his chagrin. The film opens up at his wife’s funeral where Walt’s disgust with the youth of America is apparent right away when he spies his disrespectful grandchildren appearing in church wearing less than desirable clothing. It is topped off by a eulogy given by what Walt calls an ‘under-qualified, overeducated virgin’ who claims to know about life and death even though he is only in his mid twenties.
The role is a perfect culmination of all of Eastwood’s bad-asses. The rasp of his voice is undeniable and unforgettable. It makes one reminiscent of lines like, “Do you feel lucky?” and, “It’s a hell of thing, killin’ a man.” It is classic Eastwood and possibly, as stated by the actor, his final role.
The world is a place that disgusts Walt, not only in the way America is turning, but the lack of respect from the youth has left him bitter and angry at everyone and everything that differs from his own perspective. Through all of his racism and bigotry, he still sees the core of a person and their value as a human being as he befriends a Hmong family that lives next door. He takes the fatherless young man, Tao (Bee Vang), as his understudy for lack of a better term, and teaches him the ropes of being a man and earning an honest living. His attempt to keep Tao from his gangbanging cousins, leads up to a twist ending that allows Walt to exorcise his demons without easy violence or some lame redemption.
A lifetime of films and hardass roles, courses through the performance by Eastwood in this soon to be classic. You can’t get away from this one. Best Actor 2009, Clint Eastwood. That’s right. Making that call in January. See it.