Tag Archives: Clint Eastwood

Invictus (Clint Eastwood, 2009)

by Guest Contributor Geo, originally published at Prometheus Brown


Morgan Freeman: the kind of black dude even an old white racist can’t hate. Which is why he was cast to drive Miss Daisy, free a man from prison, become president (twice), help Batman, and become the literal, physical embodiment of God. Apparently has magic in his melanin.

Matt Damon: the kind of white guy maybe a Panther can love. Plays the peckerwood douchebag role convincingly while managing to assure us he’s a real compassionate, progressive guy offscreen.

Clint Eastwood: the guy who brought Dirty Harry out of retirement last year in Gran Torino and killed him once and for all. One of maybe two or three big Hollywood directors (Martin Scorsese is the other) with a 1970’s movie style that still manages to work.

South Africa: A country with social and political contradictions similar to America but far away enough to not have to think about it if you don’t want to. And close enough, unlike an imaginary planet in the future, to feel empathy for. Once upon a time used to dominate the World News section of the nightly news.

Invictus (2009): the film directed by Eastwood and starring Freeman as Nelson Mandela and Damon as a rugby player. Opens with a 40-minute set-up story of Mandela’s election and transition to President of South Africa. Obama/Mandela parallels everywhere. Although Mandela is played like a funny-accented black Confucius, the racial tension and political drama make for entertaining historical fluff. Along comes a whole ‘nother story about the South African rugby team, which Mandela recruits to unite the country by winning the World Cup. Like Eastwood recruiting a tiring formula to add some action to a political biopic.

Because a movie about Mandela himself, particularly the parts of his life we haven’t seen on TV before, is worthy of its own two hours. And so is the rugby team’s story, which would’ve probably made yet another one of those decent inspirational sports stories. The ones that do an awesome job of convincing us that sports is a matter of life and death.

Sometimes, we’re convinced. But when it’s tasked with something like, say, healing the wounds of Apartheid, it’s a cinematic gamble that loses. Not to mention the audacity of the American movie industry to make a movie about another country’s history in its own image, or the way we eat it up like that’s not some seriously fucked up shit. Plus, we all know Mandela had a much thicker accent than that.

Gran Torino [Counterpoint]

by Guest Contributor Geo, originally published at Prometheus Brown

Three reasons that Gran Torino is more than just another movie about some white person “saving” people of color:

1. It rejects the idea of a “post-racial” society.

While Hollywood tripe like Finding Forrester, Freedom Writers and the like either minimize, or try to resolve, racial tension, Gran Torino confronts them head-on. Those who tout political “correctness” over honesty (however brash) might decry Walt Kowalski’s (Eastwood) blatant racism. The last white person in his run-down midwestern neighborhood, he bitterly throws out every slur imaginable, and I can’t front – it was unsettling to hear. However, an interesting juxtaposition is made between Walt and his supposedly more “liberal” son, who protests his father’s bigotry but lives a decidedly more sheltered, suburban existence in contrast to his father’s working-class life as a Korean War veteran. Without excusing Walt’s distasteful views on race, Eastwood explores where such bitterness may have come from, exposing it as something that is bigger than just him (unlike Mike Douglas in Fallling Down). With a class consciousness absent from similiar film templates, Gran Torino asks the question: who is the real racist – the working-class white dude who tosses slurs around but actually interacts – sometimes friendly, sometimes bitterly – with these communities? Or the bourgeois white dude who has learned not to use these words but never has into interact with communities of color? Perhaps both are racist, but at least one is honest about it.

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Gran Torino and Hmong Gangs in the Midwest

by Guest Contributor Joanna Eng

In Gran Torino, Clint Eastwood plays a bitter old man who’s basically the only white person left in a run-down neighborhood somewhere in the Midwest. He (reluctantly, at first) gets to know his Hmong neighbors, and ends up getting intricately involved in their lives, as they deal with issues caused by a local Hmong gang that some of their relatives are a part of.

There are plenty of things about the movie that might make for great posts on Racialicious:

1. Like most Hollywood movies that are about a community of people of color, Gran Torino features a white protagonist who not only saves the day, but also has the most layers of complexity to his personality.

2. As the first major Hollywood film about Hmong Americans, how did it do at depicting this community? Does the exposure of Hmong culture and the opportunity for Hmong actors outweigh the possible inaccuracies and negative representations? (See some of the commentary about this on AsianWeek.)

3. Clint Eastwood’s character’s constant racist remarks serve as a running joke in the movie. Just because he uses outdated and blatantly un-P.C. language with an “equal-opportunity discrimination” approach, is it OK to use this deeply offensive language as comic relief?

But I don’t really want to write about those things. I want to write about another reaction I had. Continue reading