AWARDS

Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino Gaining Strong Oscar Buzz

by
November 28, 2008

Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino

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.

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  • matt
    its motherfucking clint eastwood, he will win.
  • kris
    The trailer wasn't cut poorly. It's a terrific trailer as far as it goes but the rule is you don't give away all your surprises in a fucking trailer. As for the jerk at HE who says GT is 'heavy-handed & clunky', that seems to be the default line of attack for Eastwood haters now. They've exhausted every other idiot accusation they could think of & come up empty-handed. Given Eastwood's restrained & subtle directorial style they won't be any more successful with this one. Oh, btw, saw Changeling yesterday. An absolutely superb film & completely gripping from start to finish. One of Eastwood's finest.
  • Dr. Malo
    "The trailer wasn't cut poorly." I agree. The first trailer was great
  • Red Buttons
    Great choice of picture. Looks like he is going for "Best Actor in a Constipation ad"
  • Liz
    Everything about the trailer just looks so cheesy to me, from Eastwood's acting to the dialogue to the way it's cut, that I continue to boggle at the Oscar buzz it's getting. I'm hoping it's just a case of this being a really terrible trailer for an excellent movie, but I continue to remain unconvinced.
  • Dave Lister, JMC
    Comparing it to Million Dollar Baby doesn't really say much. That film was a touch over-hyped, I thought. It had good performances which goes without saying really; but the script was very derivative (Rocky and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, for starters, even a little Karate Kid-Daniel-san/Miyagi element thrown in). The best film Clint Eastwood has directed recently was Letters From Iwo-Jima; which was far superior to it's sister project Flags of Our Fathers.
  • Betterchill
    Trailer looks great. I don't think Changeling got the attention it deserved. I thought it was really great. Hopefully this film will be as good as the trailer is.
  • Marco
    I guess it's a possibility that "Gran Torino" will sneak into the Best Picture race but based on the little bit of footage I've seen (the badly cut first trailer), the movie looks terrible. Eastwood has come from behind to a Best Picture nomination twice in his career (Million Dollar Baby, Letters From Iwo Jima) so it's smart for WB to play the same card here. At this point I still say "Seven Pounds" (sight unseen) has the best shot to overcome TDK for Best Picture but we'll see after WB screens "Gran Torino" for critics.
  • Itri
    Remember The Pursuit of Happyness guys? Same idea with Will Smith and that didn't get any attention...fast forward to now, what has changed? Seven Pounds is unlikely to get nominated, but if it is anything like TPoH then I certainly wouldn't mind it getting recognition.
  • Marco
    You make a good point Itri, "Seven Pounds" has a lot of the same pedigree and buzz as "Pursuit of Happyness" but the big difference is this year there is less competition. The same formula wouldn't work if there were several Oscar contenders to choose from but that's not the case so far. Then again, Gran Torino, Reservation Road, Doubt, Benjamin Button and a few others could change all that. But for now I'm sticking with "Seven Pounds." Will Smith (biggest star in the world) + sappy mainstream story + older academy voters who love sappy mainstream stories = a pretty good Oscar bet :)
  • The_Phantom
    I posted this before on an earlier topic of this but, you can read the script GranTorino at simplyscripts.com, it's pretty good.
  • JimD
    I personally would not consider Dark Knight best picture. I mean it was good but it wasn't THAT good.
  • Samer R.
    WOW! Clint Eastwood is back for more! I can't wait to watch this GREAT to be MOVIE!
  • Clint eastwood.
    Amazing acting by Clint, perfectly exacted plot.
  • MrAngry
    Too bad it didn't even get a nomination...it was a really good movie. I think "closet" racists might have had a problem with the movie...the kind that nominate movies for Oscars.

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