New York Times Applauds MOVIEGUIDE(R)

February 13, 2009

L.A. Dispatch: Keeping the Faith in ‘Gran Torino’

By Brooks Barnes

Thank heaven for the Faith & Value Awards: “Gran Torino” has finally been honored with something.

Movieguide, an organization that reviews movies according to Christian principles, presented its crystal teddy bear trophies at the Beverly Hilton on Wednesday, naming “Gran Torino” as the second best movie of the year in the mature audiences category. No. 1 was “Iron Man,” perhaps the ultimate indication that moviegoers of all stripes have forgiven Robert Downey Jr. for his days as a drug addict.

But if for any reason Mr. Downey Jr. cannot fulfill his entertainment duties (say, at the local DVD-rental store or on pay cable), Clint Eastwood will be standing by.Ted Baehr, the publisher of Movieguide and chairman of the Christian Film & Television Commission, admitted that Mr. Eastwood’s R-rated “Gran Torino” might seem like a counterintuitive movie to spotlight at first glance. It does feature a brutal rape, non-stop swearing and loads of racist commentary.

“If you look at it broadly, however, it becomes quite clear that ‘Gran Torino’ is one of the most redemptive films of the year,” Mr. Baehr said. “The priest in the movie brings Clint around and, ultimately, Clint – or I should say his character – gives up his life for others.”

“Gran Torino,” overlooked by the Oscars, sadly lost the night’s big movie prize to a more obvious pick: “Fireproof,” the Samuel Goldwyn hit that stars Kirk Cameron as a man trying to save his marriage. “Fireproof” won in the most inspiring, or epiphany, category. That one came with a $100,000 check given by the John Templeton Foundation.