Browser: Horton’s hot air. Gran Torino. Bruce Springsteen. Razzies. Shaun Tan. A shirt. An action figure.

1.
A few weeks back I got around to watching Horton Hears a Who. I’ve been putting together a review in bits and pieces since then, and I posted it today. In short, I wanted to turn it off at the halfway point.

And speaking of thumbs-down reviews, what’s going on with reviews for Gran Torino? I haven’t seen it, but the split amongst critics is bewildering. And most of the film critics I know and admire are giving it a good thrashing. Maybe I’ll wait for DVD.

2.
Here’s Andy Whitman, longtime Bruce Springsteen fan, lamenting Springsteen’s new album:

What to say about Bruce Springsteen’s latest product? For starters, I never thought I’d be using the words “Bruce Springsteen” and “product” in the same sentence. But the clichéd title of Springsteen’s new album – Working on a Dream – should have clued me in to the generic framework. Perhaps only Born to Run in the U.S.A. would have been more pandering.

God only knows what led to this New Jersey Transit train wreck. Magic, Bruce’s last album, was as fine a late-period arena shaker as could have been expected. But this time Bruce forgot the tunes, the hooks, and the lyrics, and he mistakes the usual first-rate songs about common men and women for common songs about Bruce.

3.
Razzies!

4.
If you haven’t experienced Shaun Tan‘s extraordinary body of work, from graphic novels to lavishly illustrated children’s books, then you’ve been missing out. His graphic novel The Arrival is a brilliant work of illustration and a moving meditation on immigration. (How many “-tions” can *you* get into one sentence?!)

I’m absolutely thrilled to discover that he has a new book for 2009. (Unfortunately, after teasing us with a “seven-page excerpt”, NY Magazine has failed to provide a link to said excerpt.)

5.
This guy is a genius.

6.
And finally…

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  • http://www.xanga.com/thedubbs Chris

    Gran Torino would be getting much better reviews had it not been preceded by Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Flags of our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima. It is a fine film (and filmed in my hometown–go Detroit!) but it is very derivative of themes Eastwood has tackled before. There’s a bit of “Dirty Harry’s” personality, a bit of “Million Dollar Baby’s” spiritual questioning and just standard Eastwood tropes. That doesn’t make it bad…but coming after a string of classics I can see why that and “Changeling” may seem underwhelming.

    But I can also see why audiences are being affected by it–yes, everyone loves the old “racist curmudgeon” sterotype, but Eastwood really brings a bit more depth and honesty to it. He does solid work and, if it’s his last acting role as he’s hinted, it feels like a summation of the characters he’s played throughout this career. His relationship with the Hmong family may have a whiff of cliche, but it’s endearing, funny and believable. And the final scenes may strike some as overwrought, but for me it speaks about sacrifice, grace and redemption–themes Eastwood enjoys tackling. It’s not a fantastic film, but it’s very solid. The problem is that many critics, especially around Oscar time, don’t want solid. They either want a home run or a strike out.

  • http://evanburchfield.blogspot.com Evan T. Burchfield

    The reason Gran Torino is getting such a harsh split-vote is because it has the worst acting in a major film I have ever seen. Some people are able to look past this, but I simply cannot. The cast is entirely non-professional (being a story about a specific ethnic group in Asia, the producers didn’t want to “fake it” I guess), and even the pro actors (like the priest) are terrible. Clint’s perf got some attention because its as gruff and mean as any of his previous on-screen gruntfests, but in comparison to the rest of the film’s performances its a tour-de-force. The actors constantly talk over each other, stand around awkwardly, have no physical presence, and read lines like I read nutritional information on milk cartons. When the young lead boy is required to emote, I had flashbacks to high school drama class. Simply wretched.

    The terrible acting throws off the pacing of the film, as we’re constantly jolted away from Clint’s camera angles and editing structure (which flows well enough, I guess). Also, even Clint has some ham-handed tendencies, and the “unloving family members get their comeuppance” scene is a pathetic attempt to win me over emotionally (Million Dollar Baby, which I love, has a couple of scenes that cross this line), with obvious religious imagery and an embarrassing song to top the whole thing off. I walked out frustrated at the film’s potential, but was met by a spontaneous eruption of applause, coming from the over-50 set that dominated the audience (and talked through the entire film). They loved it, I guess, because it gave them a place to openly laugh at imaginative racial slurs (its beyond embarrassing when Clint calls some black guys “spooks” and the audience roars with laughter; why is that funny?), but by the end justified itself by claiming moral disgust at racism. Whatever.

    Flow and pace matter to me because I see movies as something to experience; when the acting rings emotionally false and the film feels highly calculated, then the experience is nothing more than a math problem.

  • http://www.paradoxqueen.net Cori

    Gran Torino was so poignant, so human, and so redemptive it left me unable to speak. I immediately coerced several friends to return with me the next day to see it again. And the second time, I left the theater *still* in tears. The redemption and the beauty of human interaction in that movie is beyond words. I can’t imagine what critics don’t like (other than the rampant racist terms utilized) about it. It’s endearing and heartbreaking.

    Point being, you should probably go see it, since it’s well worth your time. :3

  • http://frightfullypleased.blogspot.com Stephen

    “what’s going in with reviews for Gran Torino?”

    I think the split reflects the fact that this one pushes the envelope more than any of Eastwood’s previous films. The script and performances (especially Clint’s) walk a fine line between B-movie fare and brilliance. I go with Ebert, Kenneth Turan and Manohla Dargis that it’s a success.

  • Gaith

    Egad. Say it ain’t so, Bruce! Too peppy too soon?


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