Alistairm's Blog

With Reference to your chosen American films, compare to the extent their messages and values reflect the times in which they were made

Posted in Uncategorized by alistairm on April 19, 2010

Gran Torino – 2008 film directed by Clint Eastwood, and Odds Against Tomorow – 1959 film directed by Robert Wise are the films I have chosen to reference. The large time gap between the production of both films reflects the change of attitudes in American cinema between the two different generations. Odds Against Tomorow is quite modern for the time in which it was made as it’s narrative addresses racism in a degrading way. However, it still contains racial slurs and other discriminative features which would be unacceptable to a present day audience but would have been part of the zeitgeist thus accepted as the norm. Gran Torino still uses the same degree of racial slurs, but they serve to debase the character of Eastwood, Walt, by portraying him negatively. His views are outdated with the ever-evolving America, welcoming a larger immigrant population and pushing his dated attitudes aside. His redemption in the penultimate scene, by sacrificing himself for the Hmong, shows his change of attitude an amendation of his regrets, such as Vietnam.

Odds Against tomorow is strongly influenced by the Cold War, which occured during the time the film was produced. The apocalyptic-esque explosion in the penultimate scene reflects the cold war threat, but also juxtaposes it with racism. The lack of co-operation with the black protagonist, Johnny Ingram, leads to the death of the main characters. Though the film is mainly concerned with the heist, several other factors come to surface such as gang culture and gender roles. Gang culture is reflected in a more organised way, as opposed to the roguish gangs portrayed in Gran Torino. Gang culture is also shown as revolving through generations in Gran Torino, as Thao is forced to join the gang by the Hmong gang members by attempting to steal Walt’s Gran Torino – this is ironic as it leads to them becoming attached, the gang’s demise and ultimately, Thao’s reposession of the Gran Torino. The gang is also pervading in Odds Against Tomorrow,  by becoming involved in Johnny’s gambling and compelling him to join the heist and fits in with gangster films by mocking the American dream, which was popular at the time as America was suffering economic decline. Earl’s reasons to join the heist draws upon the American dream as he says ‘I want to make it’. His feeling of being belittled by the reverse gender role in his and Laurie’s relationship also compells him to do the heist – the mirrored shot of Earl and Laurie show’s his self reflection of this. The American dream is also drawn upon in Gran Torino, portraying the son of Walt as a successful business man living in a typical modern middle-class American house. This depiction also has a sinister side, as the children are portrayed as disrespectful and the family’s relationship is fragmented.