Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino Gaining Strong Oscar Buzz
by Alex Billington
November 28, 2008
Last Sunday I predicted that The Dark Knight would be a big Oscar contender because there wasn't anything else that was gaining strong buzz. Fellow critics had all seen the other big Oscar contenders like Doubt and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and were all saying "good but not great" things about them. However, it seems we forgot about one of them - Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino. Eastwood already had one movie hit theaters this year, Changeling, but it didn't fare too well at the box office or with critics. But numerous early reviews of Gran Torino have started trickling in are already proclaiming it as one of Eastwood's best performances and a definite Oscar contender. Could this be the big sleeper hit of 2008?
First up, a reader at Hollywood Elsewhere sent a few comments over to Jeffrey Wells: "It's clunky and heavy-handed at times, but very effective. Eastwood the actor has never been better in a moving and often hilarious performance… the out-of-nowhere Gran Torino completely works." That caused me to raise an eyebrow, but wasn't enough to convince me. However, Entertainment Weekly writer Dave Karger also chimed in, saying, "though Gran Torino probably won't end up a top-five Best Picture possibility (the competition is just too stiff), Eastwood's performance seems to me like a good bet for a Best Actor nomination." Another eyebrow-raising comment, but not enough to tell me that this was really it. That is, at least until Michael Russnow of The Huffington Post wrote up his thoughts.
"Eastwood's voice is not suddenly full of fire. It is equipped with an old man's crackle and doesn't often shift no matter the emotion of the moment. But in this story by Dave Johansson and Nick Schenk and with the spare and pointed dialogue in Nick Schenk's screenplay, and with those ever haunting eyes that always made you believe Eastwood would kill you as Dirty Harry, it all comes together and works." Russnow finishes up his brief review with this poignant comparison: "John Wayne found True Grit towards the end of his career and now Clint Eastwood has done the same with an unforgettable performance in Gran Torino, a film that is so simple in its telling that it almost slips by how powerful it really is."
According to at least two prominent journalists (and one regular joe), Gran Torino is on par with Million Dollar Baby (which won Best Picture in 2005) and potentially one of Eastwood's greatest performances, which says a lot considering he's been acting for 53 years. Sounds like this is on its way to gaining a lot of last minute buzz - at least more than those other "good but not great" Oscar season films. Apparently the trailer was cut pretty poorly, or at least they left out elements that made it look like an Oscar contender. I even saw a different trailer on TV a few days ago and was amazed at how much better it looked. Hopefully I'll be able to catch a screening of Gran Torino next week and chime in with my own thoughts.