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Lessons of an Old Geezer

Lessons of an Old Geezer

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Published by Shirley
English 101
Winter 09
Film Review
Grade: 97%
English 101
Winter 09
Film Review
Grade: 97%

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Published by: Shirley on Mar 09, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Ortega 1Shirley OrtegaChad HelderEnglish 101 January 26, 2009Lessons of An Old Geezer
Gran Torino
is an awe inspiring tale of one mans journey to happiness andcompassion. Producer Clint Eastwood collaborates with writer Nick Schenk to createthis real-life narrative. Eastwood also plays the main character, Walt Kowalski, a 78year old decorated Korean War veteran who just lost his wife. Mr. Kowalski raised hisfamily in urban Detroit, and retired from the Ford Motor Company assembly lines.Kowalski’s two prized possessions are his 1972 Gran Torino, a relic symbolizing hisperpetual service to Ford; and his M-1 Garand rifle he carried in the Korean War. Thismovie has all of the elements of a good film; controversy, violence, relativity,character sacrifice, and comedy. Prior to viewing the film, I prepared myself for adramatic and merciless film. However, shortly after the film began the wholetheater was in stitches. Walt Kowalski is a quick witted old bat who could care lessabout anyone but himself. His family thinks that he is racist and cannot accept thechanges of modern times. Now with everything changing around him and the loss of his wife, Walt is forced to subdue his prejudiced views.Controversy comes in all forms; unfortunately racism is a real problem withwar veterans. Neighbors that Walt once knew and appreciated have moved orpassed away. Now the community is filled with Hmong immigrants who don’t speakEnglish. Walt has no respect for his new neighbors whatsoever, often referring tothem as “gooks” or “chinks.”I thought about all the people in the audience thatwould be offended by this language. What must they be thinking? Producer andfriend of Eastwood, Robert Lorenz describes the profanity, “”It was left really raw,”
Ortega 2he said. “It sounded like those people you know, or your uncle saying somethingreally bad at a wedding”” (Headlum 2). When Hmong gang bangers come aroundand try to initiate his juvenile neighbor named Thao it causes quite a commotion forWalt and the rest of his neighbors.Each violent scene leaves you longing for more. Walt takes on this role of avigilante to stop the gang activity from consuming his neighborhood. It all beginswhen the gang orders Thao to steal his Gran Torino. He is reluctant, but the gangmembers would not take no for an answer. Walt catches him red-handed with hisrifle in hand; he has to fight back flashbacks of the Korean War. Roger Ebert defendshis character, “Walt is not so much a racist as a security guard, protecting his ownsecurity. He sits on his porch defending the theory that your right to walk throughthis world ends when your toes touch his lawn” (1). After Thao’s attempt backfireson him, he tries refusing to join the gang. Unfortunately, these notorious gangmembers are very persistent in making Thao’s life a living hell. To make mattersworse, his mother forces him to pay homage to Walt by working of his debt. Waltagrees, but not without a scowl.Viewers are more suspended in a film when they can relate to the actors.With a different perspective, I learned the same lessons that Walt did. Theinfiltration of Asian communities in America is often misunderstood. Our countries’fighting against each other in war is not an effective way to make peace. Once theKorean War was over a lot of retired veteran’s felt hostility toward this culture. Awriter from the New York Times states, “The writer [of the film], Nick Schenk, whoworked in a Ford plant years ago, based the character Walt on the men he metthere, many of them Korean War veterans. “I’d talk a lot to these guys, and they’dtell me stuff they wouldn’t tell their wife and kids,” Mr. Schenk said” (Headlum 2).It’s wasn’t until a special moment in the film when Walt finds clarity and
Ortega 3understanding about the Hmong culture. Roger Ebert describes the moment likethis, “What with one thing and another, his life becomes strangely linked with thesepeople, although Sue [Thao’s older sister] had to explain that Hmong are mountainpeople from Laos who were U.S. allies and found it advisable to leave theirhomeland” (1). I was pleasantly surprised to learn from Wikipedia that “The filmfeatures a leading cast made up almost entirely of Hmong actors, unprecedentedfor mainstream American Film. Open casting calls for Hmong actors were held inHmong communities in Saint Paul, Fresno, and Detroit. All but one of the ten Hmongleads was acting in a film for the first time, as many were Hmong extras” (Gran Torino 2). I was in disbelief when I read this information, because all of the actorsdid an amazing job. You would never know that it was their first time acting in afilm.For me, the most amazing part of this film is all the sacrifices that Walt made.In the beginning of the film he was a mean old man who wanted nothing to do withanyone. Without any warning he comes out of his shell and takes Thao under hiswing, and becomes his hero. Nobody would have expected this in the first hour of the film, but in the end his Asian neighbors are coming over to his house forbarbecue. Roger Ebert remarks, “Walt makes no apologies for who he is, and that'swhy, when he begins to decide he like his neighbors better than his own family itmeans something” (2). He realized that the “chinks” next door were real peoplethat he could love and appreciate. He learned that life was more than just about himand his hardships; it's about other people and other cultures with the samehardships.I would recommend this movie to everyone, even a stranger on the street.We have a lot of decorated war veterans that have issues with racism. Some warveterans wouldn't have thought twice about shooting Thao when he broke into the

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