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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

99 Cent Tacos and Clint Make For a Great Date!

Give me the late afternoon sun, a comfortable 1960s era steel porch chair that rocks a little and a cooler full of Pabst, and I still won't look one-tenth as cool and tough as Clint Eastwood. In Gran Torino we see a lot of Clint, as Walt Kowalski, on his porch. Sometimes with a cup of coffee and the paper, sometimes with some Pabsts, sometimes just smoking a cigarette, and sometimes with his M1 Garand rifle from his tour in Korea. Walt Kowalski is equal parts Archie Bunker and "Dirty" Harry Callahan, and Eastwood does an incredible job as actor and director blending the two into a sympathetic hero you want to dislike--similar to most of Eastwood's heroes through his career.

Last Tuesday night on Date Night Leslie and I went for the dinner and a movie on a budget. El Torito for Tuesday Tacos at only $0.99 each, Happy Hour brews and we were set with about a $15.00 dinner and then a short walk to the Cineplex for some Clint. The el cheapo taco at the El Torito is good, the service is not since Tuesday nights in the cantina are packed affairs with college students and cheapskates like me dining their ladies.

As for Gran Torino is definitely worth the price of admission. From Firstful of Dollars to The Good, The Bad and The Ugly to the Dirty Harry series, Eastwood has always been the bad guy with his own set of rules that make sense and in doing so make him the good guy. As Walt Kowalski, Eastwood brings his rugged Western youth and his bad-ass-my-own-rules Dirty Harry Callahan together for a great performance. In today's world of over-sensitive political correctness Kowalski's 1970's racial bigotry and slurs come across as comedy and pathos. Many of my generation watching are reminded of parents or grandparents as they see Kowalski struggle with retirement, the loss of his spouse and more importantly the loss of his era. Much like Bunker, Kowalski struggles as he learns his labels do not fit his neighbors when he begins to know them as people; and while he clings to his outward predjudice his personal experiences manifest in the dramatic conclusion of the film.

What really put the movie over the top for me was Eastwood's co-stars portraying his Hmong neighbors. The scene where Ahney Her, playing Kowalski's young neighbor, is walking around her family's dining room table laden with food for a party, and fills Kowalski's plate while telling him about her culture is wonderful. Throughout the movie the unknown actors portraying the Hmong community carry this movie, and Eastwood, forward to its dramatic conclusion.

Hard to beat tasty ninety-nine cent tacos, especially when followed by Gran Torino. The only disappointment for me with the movie is that it has no nominations for any of the major Oscars; I feel it should be nominated for Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor (Eastwood) and Actress (Ahney Her) at a minimum. Perhaps the movie was hurt by the crude and racial language of Kowalski, if so nominees have missed the point of the movie.

This movie is worth not only the price of a ticket but also popcorn, soda and candy--for two.

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