Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Best Conservative Films: Gran Torino

In 2006 I began a monthly Faith and Film Night at my church.  Members have always had confidence in my choice of movies; I have three rules concerning the selections.  First, the films must be critically acclaimed.  Second, they cannot be overtly religious (with very occasional exceptions) because it tends to channel discussion too narrowly.  And third, in order to leave enough time for discussion, they must have a running time of two hours or less.

Here's my article in the church newsletter re December's selection:
In light of the election, a number of church members have expressed an interest in knowing more about the Americans who chose to vote for Donald Trump.  So for the next three months, Faith and Film Night will feature three movies that are both critically acclaimed and routinely listed as among the best films to portray a conservative world view.  The first offering is Gran Torino, a 2008 movie about retired auto worker and Korean War veteran Walt Kowalski (played by Clint Eastwood, who also directed the film).
 An aging widower, the irascible Kowalski lives alone in a Detroit neighborhood that over time has gone from lily white to predominantly Asian, Latino, and African American.  The family next door is ethnically Hmong (a people living in the mountains of Southeast Asia).  Initially wary, Kowalski is soon drawn into their lives, discovering that he has more in common with them than with his own alienated children.  He also discovers that one of them, a quiet teenage boy named Thao, is under heavy pressure from a cousin to become a gang banger.  The heart of Gran Torino is Kowalski’s evolving relationship with Thao and his determination to protect Thao from the gang.

National Review placed Gran Torino #25 in its 2009 list of “The Best Conservative Movies.” With tongue slightly in cheek, it offered this summary: “Dirty Harry blows away political correctness, takes on the bad guys, and turns a boy into a man in the process. . . . It feels so good, you knew the Academy would ignore it.”

Critic Roger Ebert, who gave the film three and a half stars, had a different take:  Gran Torino is about two things, I believe. It's about the belated flowering of a man's better nature. And it's about Americans of different races growing more open to one another in the new century.”

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