From The Desk Of Times New Viking’s Elizabeth Murphy: “Gran Torino”

Times New Viking is an Ohio rock trio that delivers raw rock ‘n’ roll. Jumping from different labels over the years including Matador and Merge, the band has released five proper albums in a little more than five years. On its last album, Dance Equired (Merge), Times New Viking dropped the lo-fi fuzz in favor of more melodious songs. These art-school grads from Columbus, Ohio, are still making music, and the band’s Elizabeth Murphy will be guest editing all week. Read our brand new Q&A with her.

“The thing that haunts a guy is the stuff he wasn’t ordered to do.” —Walt Kowalski

Murphy: Gran Torino is classic Clint Eastwood. He directs and stars as Walt Kowalski in this 2008 film set in current-day Detroit. As a Korean War veteran, retired Ford motor employee and last white man in the neighborhood, Kowalski guards the vestiges of the “good old days.” A modern derivation of the Eastwood archetype, this curmudgeon automatically endears the audience in spite of any knee-jerk PC alerts to his opinions. Edgy without a trace of obligation and unafraid of being earnest, this film stands out not in Eastwood’s catalog but alongside its default contemporaries.

It effortlessly captivates your attention, so much that you wonder what happens off screen. The film cuts as Kowalski is riffing on a buddy or verbally slaying a deserving party, and you know Kowalski had one last zinger in him. As he describes his wife as “the best woman who was ever on this planet,” you wonder what she looked like, how the two of them communicated. It is not for lack of content, the film is elegant in its exposition; this wonderment exists because you care. Acknowledging this, the film gifts us with closure ironically where other film’s tend to fall short: the ending. And it’s a palpable one, stubborn and courageously meaningful. Here, Gran Torino puts its money where the aged, embittered Walt Kowalski’s mouth is, proving the rhetoric of the old guard timeless in its relevance. Linear and succinct with nearly everything folded into the diegesis, Gran Torino operates on minimalism. By using just enough information and nothing more, it assumes an audience of intelligence, one that can assign importance to a film without ostentatious coding.

“Total satire is opportunistic and easy; what’s difficult is to make a movie in which something is taken seriously without making a fool of yourself.” —Pauline Kael, Movie Brutalists (1966)