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March 15, 2009

Best movie so far in ’09, Sister says

By Sister Helena Burns, FSP


Get off my lawn!” is the new “Make my day!” And old is the new cool, thanks to Clint Eastwood in my favorite movie so far this year.

The trailer makes this movie look so serious while it’s actually funny. I could not stop laughing. Not cheap laughs, but bubbling right up from the characters we are getting to know. And yet, the film is mighty grim. Not as grim as the Holocaust, but think “Life Is Beautiful.”

Eastwood is laughing at himself in this film. Yeah, he’s cool — even with his old guy, hiked-up-to-his-ribs pants — and scary (he’s got a gun and he’s not afraid to use it), but more than anything he’s a grumpy old curmudgeon in love with his Pabst, his dog and his car.

He would like nothing more than to be left alone. But this man runs deep. He lives by a code of honor, decency, hard work and valor, which makes his materialistic, shallow son and his family look like caricatures. But he is also troubled, fighting demons of deeds done in war time, deeds that commanding officers did not order.

Eastwood’s character, Walt, is a Korean War veteran, so his relationship with Asians is ambivalent. Of course, a Hmong family moves in next door.

“Gran Torino” is a kind of urban Western. An ailing senior citizen standing on his porch as a gang of young thugs ominously drives by is this depressed Michigan neighborhood’s best hope.

“Gran Torino” proves my theory that Hollywood has been watching us (the Catholic Church) for a very long time, and chronicling us rather accurately, especially our foibles. Tell me if the young priest in this movie isn’t representative of our new priests?

Yes, he’s fresh-faced, green and idealistic, but he can’t help that, and he’s not backing down. He knows who he is, and he will roll up his sleeves, get in there and learn. Notice how Walt, the old man, calls the younger man “Father” or “Padre,” and the young man calls Walt “son” because that is their relationship and they both understand that. Hooray for Hollywood.

The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is L, limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling.

Burns, who ministers in Chicago, has a philosophy/ theology degree from St. John’s University, N.Y., and studied screenwriting at the University of California.