Sofa Cinema

The movies selected for review are the choice of the reviewer. Suggestions for DVD titles are welcome. Enjoy the movies.


"Gran Torino," rated R

Walt Kowalski makes Archie Bunker sound like Mother Teresa. "Gran Torino" is directed by Clint Eastwood and he uses his best skinny-eyed stare and racist insults to define his role as Walt, a retired Korean War vet.

A widower who refuses to move out of the old neighborhood, he does his best to torment the Hmong neighbors that look different than he does and speak a different language (or English with a thick accent).

In Walt's garage is a cherry Gran Torino that the local gang has dared Thao, Walt's Asian neighbor, to heist against his will. Unsuccessful in his attempt, Walt decides to make the young boy work off the damage costs and an unlikely relationship develops.

As a director, Eastwood has perfected the editing process. Supporting roles by the Hmong family are flushed out without the necessity of dialogue and the parish priest (played by a rosy-cheeked Christopher Carley) struggles with establishing a relationship with the irascible senior citizen.

"Gran Torino" should not be confused with Eastwood's Dirty Harry persona. There is violence because Walt lives in a violent neighborhood but far more important is the understanding and friendship that unfolds as Walt sips beer on his front porch.


"A Face in the Crowd" 1957, unrated, B&W

Technology may have changed dramatically since "A Face in the Crowd" was released in 1957, but human nature is still the same.

Marcia Jeffries (Patricia Neal) creates her own version of "man on the street" radio interviews, talking to colorful locals live on air. She struck ratings gold when a jailed drifter grabbed his guitar and agreed to sing on air with the promise of early release from the slammer. Jeffries tags the colorful, self-proclaimed "country boy," Lonesome Rhodes (Andy Griffith) and the show quickly becomes a nationwide success.

How Lonesome handles his fame and power and how Marcia handles him is a study in human behavior that is timeless. Elia Kazan directed "A Face in the Crowd" and writer Budd Schulberg was given a screenwriter credit above the title, which indicates how important his words were, and are, to the movie.

Griffith is mesmerizing in his film debut and Neal is nothing short of brilliant as his beleaguered mentor.

Since its release 50 years ago, "A Face in the Crowd" is eerily on target in demonstrating the manipulative powers of the media and the people who are in control.


"Live and Become," unrated


Based on the 1980's exodus of Ethiopian Jews to Israel, "Live and Become" focuses on Schlomo, a young boy who must live a lie to survive. Fearing that her young Christian son will die if left in a refugee camp in Africa, his mother gives the boy to a Jewish woman whose son has just died. The "new" Schlomo is bright and memorizes his fictitious family genealogy in order to "pass" in this strange land.

Adopted by an Israeli family, Schlomo encounters racial bigotry and religious challenges all the while longing for his mother in Africa.

"Live and Become" is almost two and a half hours long chronicling the boy's transitions into manhood, his education in France and his first love relationship, with an adoring, white classmate. Her father is anything but pleased about the racially mixed couple and questions Schlomo's Jewish heritage.

The value of a good editor is clearly apparent in that "Live and Become" is overly long. The actors playing Schlomo as a child, Moshe Abebe, and as a young man, Sirak M. Sabahat, give commendable performances portraying frustration, loneliness and fear in a land far from the home they love.

Rebecca Redshaw can be reached at

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