Gran Torino

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Postby Sabin » Fri Dec 12, 2008 8:51 pm

I have no idea how this song is used in context with the film but it's wonderful.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Postby jack » Fri Dec 12, 2008 8:39 pm

I thought Eastwood's performance was fantasticly bad. His character had two traits - mad and less mad. The scene where his son and his wife come over on his birthday and try to convice him to more to the retirement village was one of the most unintentially funny scenes I've seen this year.

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Postby Mister Tee » Fri Dec 12, 2008 8:31 pm

I don't have the energy to write fully about this right now. I'll say I'm extremely ambivalent about it, and I don't see how anyone could be anything else.

It's the sort of movie where a thoroughly decent scene is almost always followed by one that makes you wince...and vice versa. There's a lot of Haggis-ism in it -- racist insults smuggled in under cover of humor, any number of cartoonish supporting characters a la the trash relatives in Million Dollar Baby. The overall story, in fact, creaks, with many jacked-up confrontations and predictable turns (even including a sort of predictably unpredictable ending). But there are also a good many grace notes in it -- scenes that seem about to grease prejudices end up toppling or satirizing them. Some of these positives can be credited to the writer (as well as the flaws), but alot you assume is Eastwood improving a less than stellar script. He also gets fine performances from Bee Vang and especially Ahney Her (as the sister), and his own is amusing/entertaining (though he stole the growl from Marge Simpson).

Eastwood in the last 15 years seems to have been attracted to scripts that offer a chance at revisionism on his two archetypal film characters, Dirty Harry and the Man with No Name. This film is definitely in that vein. I appreciate the revisionist stance, but I can't help feeling the film also uses the formulaic aspects of those earlier films to goose the audience; it's like he wants to be both a reactionary and an open-minded modernist, and the result is sometimes complex but sometimes just a muddle. Hence my ambivalence.

Oh, I liked the title song, which is in the cool jazz, Erroll Garner tradition Eastwood has always -- like me -- favored.

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Postby Zahveed » Wed Dec 10, 2008 2:46 pm

The reviews on Metacritic so far quote it as being "funny" and a "dramatic comedy". Has anyone on the board seen this film yet?
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Postby Sabin » Wed Dec 10, 2008 1:53 pm

Lisa Schwarzbaum gives it an "A-".

Gran Torino takes its title from a 1972 Ford beaut parked in a driveway — a fetish object and memento mori in this curious, striking drama directed by and starring Clint Eastwood. He plays Walt Kowalski, a widowed, retired autoworker alienated from his grown sons and just about everybody else. Walt spends most of his time growling, tinkering, mowing his postage-stamp lawn, and raging against a world that's changed and won't change back no matter how hard he glares. Change has certainly come to his run-down Detroit neighborhood: Hmong immigrants with strange, foreign ways have moved in. Next door, there's a fatherless, multigenerational family that includes a quick-witted daughter (Ahney Her) and an uneasy younger teenage son (Bee Vang) who struggles to steer clear of the local Hmong gangbangers pressuring him to join them.

Walt thinks people stink. He's obnoxiously rude to a baby-faced Catholic priest (Christopher Carley, with the puss of a young Spencer Tracy) who, fulfilling the dying request of Walt's late wife, urges the SOB to go to confession. And the character regularly lets loose with such a vile spew of racist epithets that it's clear Eastwood is looking to inflame the PC ears of a contemporary audience.

Then, when someone attempts to steal Walt's prized car, the coiled Korean War vet reaches for his weapon. (A different Eastwood in a different movie might have rasped ''Do you feel lucky?'') But in the aftermath of his rage — as if breaking and entering were the only way to open the old man's emotional door — this twisted, post-9/11 version of Dirty Harry warily develops a relationship with the strangers next door. The connection leads to — well, to a shocking spiritual salvation, in fact. And to gang warfare. And to a movie at once understated and radical, deceptively unremarkable in presentation and ballsy in its earnestness. Don't let the star's overly familiar squint fool you: This is subtle, perceptive stuff.

Eastwood has devoted his recent work to refracting the image of American men in decline. His movies, pared and sinewy in both production and performance style (with the exception of the 2008 showpiece Changeling), meditate on compromises and losses, and even (most memorably in Million Dollar Baby) on serious questions of religious faith. Gran Torino, though, grafts those signature late-career preoccupations onto a story that's got the energy of a gangly youth, right down to the naturalistic performances by the mostly nonprofessional Hmong cast. The inquisitive script is by newcomer Nick Schenk, from a story by Schenk and fellow first-timer Dave Johannson — two talents lucky to dodge the indie virus that would surely have hit them had they aimed their script toward Sundance cred, tidy and full of lessons. Hey, punks: Do ya think many Sundance smoothies would dare set Dirty Harry among the Hmong? Well, do ya?!
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Postby Eric » Tue Dec 09, 2008 11:13 pm

Ed did jot a capsule in the blog:

Gran Torino (Clint Eastwood). Fifty years from now, when Eastwood's talents will be respected as highly as John Ford's, we may recognize Gran Torino as the Man with No Name's version of The Searchers (please, try to tune out those easy comparisons everyone's making to True Grit). In short, Eastwood applies some interesting formalist strategies (he uses light to perpetually convey the feeling that his character has absolutely nowhere to go but up) to material that's pitched at the broad level of an '80s culture-clash comedy, and if the result isn't a masterpiece, the artistic friction on display here is delirious to behold. This is a less funereal, more self-conscious vision than the schizophrenic style Eastwood brought to Changeling, and it's one that pushes a poignant message about redemption and living for someone other than oneself.

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Postby Sabin » Tue Dec 09, 2008 7:57 pm

Remember when Ed Gonzalez used to review movies?

GRAN TORINO **1/2/****
Bill Weber

Stewing in the poison of a half-century of post-traumatic stress disorder, Clint Eastwood's ornery bigot Walt Kowalski, the antihero of this western-like tragicomedy set in a contemporary Michigan suburb, sits on his front porch pounding cans of PBR and bemoaning the influx of "zipperheads and gooks" in his formerly white neighborhood. Sparring with his late wife's earnest young priest (shades of Million Dollar Baby), Walt spits contempt at callow platitudes about life and death, but since his return from the Korean War the vet has led an emotionally disabled existence. Combative with his weary, self-interested adult children and retired from a career assembling Fords, he lives for little more than maintaining his home and his beloved '72 Gran Torino until Thao (Bee Vang), the introverted Hmong teenager next door, is goaded by a cousin's gang into attempting to steal the vintage car.

Gran Torino being a Clint showcase helmed by the Last Movie Star himself, Walt's reformation is nearly inevitable, but skirts being cloying on the strength of the 78-year-old icon's raspy brusqueness; he flavors the sentimentality with a dash of bitters. Nick Schenk's screenplay is an archetypal one, full of broad strokes, that could've emerged in some form in earlier Hollywood history (the ambivalent racial melodrama of The Searchers comes to mind), but it's a serviceable frame for Eastwood's possible valedictory as an actor. To its credit, throughout Walt's evolution from leveling his rifle at Thao to defending the youth and his high-spirited, fearless sister (Ahney Her) against local gangbangers, the old man's torrent of slurs never flags. What the movie loses in some of its labored comedy of invective—Thao being tutored in the Caucasian jerkwad dozens during a barbershop visit—it gains in its refusal to make Walt as cuddly as late-era Archie Bunker. (Though in relentless close-up, to see this curmudgeon curl his upper lip and emit a disgusted groan fulfills the Oscar-night joke from In & Out: "And the nominees are…Clint Eastwood in Coot.")

Tom Stern's cinematography often forgoes its usual deep shadows in favor of bright sunlight that gives Walt no place to hide, whether obsessively grooming his cherished property with a manual mower or glowering through a grim birthday party where his kids look to nudge him into assisted living. Both of the young supporting principals appealingly hold the screen in their interplay with Eastwood, but it's his show once a predictably violent turn offers a chance to further refine the image-revising endings of Unforgiven and A Perfect World. Eastwood's portrayal of Walt echoes a career capper of his predecessor John Wayne, but rather than the self-parodying True Grit it's the similarly mournful The Shootist (directed by Clint mentor Don Siegel). If Gran Torino's climactic showdown is the erstwhile Dirty Harry's last as a leading man, conducted with a strategy at the polar opposite from the Man with No Name's, it's a final lament that the way of the gun is a guarantor of self-destructive pain.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Postby Sabin » Mon Dec 08, 2008 6:08 pm

Jeffrey Wells weighs in. I don't like him anymore, I think.

No offense, but the people who've been slamming Gran Torino have their heads up their posterior cavities. Or maybe just broomsticks. They sure don't seem to understand the legend and the mythology of director-star Clint Eastwood, which is what this film is mainly about (apart from the sections having to do with love, caring, guilt, moral growth and father-son relations). But to watch and fail to get this thing is to admit to a failing -- a void -- in your own moviegoing heart. Anyone who mocks this film, I mock them back double.

Set in a lower middle-class Detroit neighborhood, Gran Torino is a plain, straight, unpretentious...okay, a tiny bit hokey-here-and-there racial-relations drama by way of an older conservative sensibility -- Clint's, obviously, but also, it seemed to me, John McCain's. Get off my lawn, etc. McCain needs to see it and review it for the Huffington Post -- seriously. That would be perfect.

It's an old-fashioned film in that the pacing is gradual and methodical in a good 1962 way, but primarily this is a clean, disciplined, older-guy's urban western -- a kind of growly, sardonic, at times lightly comedic racial-relationship drama. But also a sad and fatalistic Shane movie about a morally compromised guy facing down the baddies at the finale. Light and darkish, brusque and kindly, spitting up blood. Old-guy angst, doubt, warmth, uncertainty, fear-of-death, fear-of-life, family-- the whole magillah. What's to dislike?

Popcorn-wise, this is a doddering Dirty Harry vs. evil-ass gangbangers conflict piece, except it takes its time getting to the Big Showdown parts and there aren't that many of them to begin with. Like Shane, GT keeps the guns holstered and makes every shot count.

But the confrontation scenes in this vein are awfully damn satisfying because we're watching the same old Harry, a little weathered but just as fierce as he was nearly 40 years ago, standing up and refusing to take any shit from any cheap-ass punks. But at the same time Walt Kowalski -- i.e., Clint's character -- is the kind of guy who's always letting slight little shafts of light in as he deals with and talks to others. The kind of light, I mean, that comes in odd underhanded ways. Blunt honesty, kindliness, vulnerability, consideration, and tender-gruff father-son conversations, etc. Tough sentiment, but not sentimentality.

Either you get and cherish the Clint thing, or you don't get and cherish the Clint thing. There's no third way. Either you understand that he makes films that sound a certain way, share a certain pictorial signature, are cut a certain way and unfold at a certain pace -- the same way Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby, Letters From Iwo Jima, The Bridges of Madison County and all the rest of them played, looked and unfolded -- or you don't understand that.

I understand that. I got it. I admired it. Gran Torino knows itself, is true to itself. And there's nothing the least bit embarassing or short-fally or Razzie about it. Not in the least. David Poland, hang your head.

Under-30s are advised to stay away. Seriously -- you'll just be wasting your time. Especially younger women. But over 35, over 40 and especially over 50 types are welcome. Guys who've been around for the long Clint ride and know what it's always been about I've seen it twice now and GT is about as good as this sort of thing can get. You just have to know what "this sort of thing" really and truly means.

I'll get into it again tomorrow, most likely. The other actors, the jokes, the warmth moments -- there's a lot that's rich and rewarding in this film.

Is Clint's performance likely to draw a Best Actor nomination? Most likely, yeah. Partly a gold-watch thing, partly for the acting itself. The current inside his acting is quite strong, his whole life running through it. It'll feel weird if a nomination doesn't happen -- put it that way.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Postby kaytodd » Thu Dec 04, 2008 10:43 pm

A comedy?! I have seen the trailer for Gran Torino a few times and I never imagined it as a comedy. The Dirty Harry films and some of his other police dramas have some over the top moments that were funny for a lot of people and some dark ironic humor but they would never be classified as comedies like the Every Which Way films. If Honeycutt walked out of the screening thinking this film is meant to be primarily comic or satirical I think Clint and Nick Schenk laid one great big egg.

Of course, I have no inside information but I strongly suspect Clint set out to make a serious film about urban violence and race relations that would have its share of laughs as the crotchety old man throws out some sharp one liners and as he moves from hostility, to exasperation and finally respect and affection toward his Asian neighbors. If several reviewers other than Honeycutt think Clint intended this to be an actual comedy Gran Torino could join Australia as a major player at the Razzies.
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Postby Mister Tee » Thu Dec 04, 2008 9:48 pm

Hollywood Reporter below, a bit less enthused.

Here's what this reminds me of: Back in college, you go out to a movie, you're sitting there thinking, this is the worst piece of shit I've ever seen...and the person next you you says, No -- it's a comedy!

Two possibilities here:

1) It is meant satirically, and the people who hate it are just too uptight to catch on

2) It's just a bad movie, but some people have a (quite justifiable) artistic investment in Eastwood and can't bring themselves to acknowledge he's stumbled. I have to lean toward this one.

I honor Eastwood's many recent accomplishments -- Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Letters from Iwo Jima -- but I think Flags of Our Fathers is seriously weak, and True Crime is abominably bad. I don't see why it's difficult for some to acknowledge an occasional stumble from a favorite. Even Homer,as they say, nods.


Review: Gran Torino
By Kirk Honeycutt, November 30, 2008 11:00 ET

Bottom Line: Clint Eastwood delivers one of his rare comic performances in a film that otherwise doesn't measure up to his recent outstanding works.
So now we know what became of Dirty Harry.

In "Gran Torino," Clint Eastwood plays a retired auto worker in Michigan who could literally stand in for his iconic character a quarter of a century later. Crotchety as hell and a gun never far from his side, Harry -- sorry, Walt Kowalski -- lives a sullen, solitary life in a deteriorating blue-collar neighborhood where nonwhite and immigrant faces constantly irritate him. Indeed everything from the rundown funk of the 'hood to his blase grown children and their punk kids irritates him. A scowl chiseled into his gruff, stony face, he spits foul-mouthed commentary and racial epithets from the side of his mouth about everyone he sees.

Eastwood has always had the gift for comedy in his acting repertoire, but he indulges in it only rarely. His fans might embrace this return to comedy, but those expecting something more in the vein of recent Eastwood incarnations as an actor ("Million Dollar Baby") or director ("Changeling," "Letters From Iwo Jima") may be in for a disappointment. So it's up to Warner Bros. marketing to make that distinction prior to release for "Gran Torino" to gain boxoffice traction.

The movie itself, directed by Eastwood and written by Nick Schenk (from a story he wrote with Dave Johannson), is an unstable affair given to overemphasized points and telegraphed punches. It lacks the subtlety of Eastwood's recent efforts, but then again, the film must be seen in the mode of "Dirty Harry reunites with his 'Every Which Way but Loose' orangutan" -- only this time it's an aging dog named Daisy.

Seated on his immaculate front porch with a steady supply of beer, Walt stews in the bile of his own hatred of anything contemporary seasoned with bitter, soul-shattering memories of the Korean War. He acknowledges Hmong neighbors only with a sneer until the next-door kid tries to steal his beloved 1972 Gran Torino.

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Postby Sabin » Thu Dec 04, 2008 7:57 pm

I'm to detour from this fascinating conversation for a moment...

TODD McCARTHY

At 78, perhaps the only actor in the history of American cinema to convincingly kick the butt of a guy 60 years his junior, the hard-headed, snarly mouthed Clint Eastwood of the 1970s comes growling back to life in "Gran Torino." Centered on a cantankerous curmudgeon who can fairly be described as Archie Bunker fully loaded (with beer and guns), the actor-director's second release of the season is his most stripped-down, unadorned picture in many a year, even as it continues his long preoccupation with race in American society. Highlighted by the star's vastly entertaining performance, this funny, broad but ultimately serious-minded drama about an old-timer driven to put things right in his deteriorating neighborhood looks to be a big audience-pleaser with mainstream viewers of all ages.

In his first screen appearance since 2004's "Million Dollar Baby," Eastwood revives memories of some of his earlier working-class characters; Korean War vet Walt Kowalski suggests a version of what Dirty Harry might have been like at this age, and there are elements as well of the narrow-minded, authority-driven figures in "The Gauntlet" and "Heartbreak Ridge," as well as those films' humble settings and plain aesthetics.

His wife freshly in her grave and his two sons' upscale families uncomfortable around him, Kowalski has impeccably maintained his modest suburban Detroit home while every other house nearby has gone to seed. A lifelong auto worker after his Army stint, Kowalski has seen his contemporaries die off or move on, replaced by immigrants and assorted ethnics he despises. His racist mutterings, which employ every imaginable epithet for Asians, are blunt and nasty, but Eastwood grunts them out in an over-the-top way that provokes laughs, and his targets are no less sparing of him. (oh good. that way you can have your cake and eat it too - because people leaving the theater will be quoting lines from Clint's redemptive third act, not "Listen, Eggroll.")

Particularly irksome is the family next door. To Kowalski, they are generically Asian, but they are specifically part of the sizable local Hmong population, mountain folk from Laos, Thailand and elsewhere who sided with the U.S. during the Vietnam War and understandably fled when the Yanks pulled out of Southeast Asia. Residing in the rundown house are a granny, a mother and two teenagers, retiring boy Thao (Bee Vang) and more assertive girl Sue (Ahney Her).

Visitors often congregate at the home, and Kowalski imagines them eating dog (he has one) and pursuing other unwholesome activities. But the sole genuinely unsavory element is a bunch of Hmong gangbangers hot to recruit the leader's cousin, Thao. "Get off my lawn," Kowalski menacingly snarls when some commotion spills onto his property in what will no doubt become one of the film's trademark lines, and the cagey coot makes it clear he'll be gunning for the hot-rodding hoodlums if they bother him again.

The pivot in Nick Schenk's lively, neatly balanced screenplay (which was allegedly not written with Eastwood in mind, although it's a mystery who else could have played the lead) has the gangstas forcing Thao to prove himself by stealing Kowalski's cherry 1972 Gran Torino. When the alert old soldier catches him at it, Thao's tradition-minded family insists he work off his shame at the victim's pleasure. Reluctantly at first, Kowalksi has him make repairs around the neighborhood, thereby initiating a quasi-father-son relationship between extremely unlikely prospects.

More melodramatically, Kowalski also becomes a protector of sorts to Sue, whom he rescues from some taunting black street kids in a scene that echoes previous scenes in Eastwood films in which the hero dares badass types to take him on. Beginning to take an interest in his young charges, Kowalski learns from Sue that, among Hmong kids in the U.S., "The girls go to college and the boys go to jail." Once he spends more time with the siblings and sees their desire to raise themselves up, Kowalski admits that, "I have more in common with these gooks than with my own spoiled, rotten family."

Thus is launched a character arc that will strike some as so ambitiously long as to seem far-fetched for such an old, mentally entrenched man. But Eastwood makes it appear plausible -- as if, once Kowalski has seen the light, everything that comes afterward is clear, almost preordained. Religion hovers in the background; a very young priest (Christopher Carley), determined to fulfill the final request of Kowalski's wife to get her husband to confess, keeps getting the door shut in his face, the old man feeling he knows a lot more about life and death than this green seminary product. Climax is heavier and more sobering than expected, but it's quietly foreshadowed by narrative and character elements.

While "Gran Torino" is entirely of a piece with Eastwood's other work, it also stands apart from his artful films of the past six years in its completely straightforward, unstudied style. To be sure, there are themes and understated points of view, most fundamentally about the need to get beyond racial and ethnic prejudice, the changing face of the nation and the future resting in the hands of today's immigrants. In a way that clearly could not have been intended, Eastwood could be said to have inadvertently made the first film of the Obama era.

Eastwood has dealt very intelligently and matter-of-factly with race throughout his career -- in "Bird," "Unforgiven," "Million Dollar Baby," "Flags of Our Fathers" and "Letters From Iwo Jima," among others -- and in this respect, the key scene here is one in which Kowalski takes Thao to an Italian barber and, with the intention of making him "man up," teaches him the relevant ethnic insults, which, in his world, everyone should be able to withstand and humorously throw back at the perpetrator. For the two older adults, it's a game -- a rite of passage that incorporates a healthy, if superficially abrasive, acknowledgment of their differences.

Eastwood's initial vocal rasp moderates over time, just as his character softens toward the seeming aliens who surround him. There is probably no leading Hollywood actor with less ham in him than Eastwood -- just compare him to Jack Nicholson or Al Pacino, for starters -- but by his standards, this is a real barn-burner; grumbling under his breath or merely looking askance at the perceived lowlifes that litter his existence, Eastwood clearly relishes this role and conveys his delight to the audience, to great satisfaction all around.

Hmong roles were filled by nonpros and quite adequately so. A bit characterless at first, Vang ultimately comes into his own as a 16-year-old forced into life's crossroads, while Her capably embodies a girl with more spirit than judgment. Carley plays right into his priest's naivete, while John Carroll Lynch has fun as the old-school barber.

Shot over five weeks in Detroit's Highland Park neighborhood, the pic is efficient and modest in all production departments. Editors Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach brought it in crisply at under two hours.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Postby rolotomasi99 » Thu Dec 04, 2008 4:07 pm

Greg wrote:rolo, what's a "mean gay?"

like a mean girl (thank you tina fey), only nasty little gay boys who all try to be like (and sleep with) one queen bee gay boy, who has an enemies list and tries to destroy anyone that does not fit their idea of cool and pretty.

regina george, blair waldorf, heidi montag, the heathers, etc., are in fact female versions of gay men (much like the characters in WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF).

just like lohan's character in MEAN GIRLS, i was delusional enough to think the "A gays" (as in the best...and yes, they actually called themselves that) liked me, when in reality they were just hanging out with me because they liked the way i fawned all over them -- especially when i was drunk.




Edited By rolotomasi99 on 1228424900
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Postby Greg » Thu Dec 04, 2008 3:43 pm

rolo, what's a "mean gay?"
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Postby rolotomasi99 » Thu Dec 04, 2008 2:49 pm

flipp525 wrote:
rolotomasi99 wrote:for a truly scuzzy scene though, nothing beats the fireplace. a nice married man with a wife and kids at home wanted to give me a ride home, and only asked for a little "favor" in return. yuk!

Gross! My friends and I went to the Fireplace once for a "field trip" night. It was frightening for reasons I won't go into here. I have a good friend who bartends at Omega, but that place is rather sketch as well (although the porn playing on the floor is fun).

I've actually never been to the Eagle. Usually stick to the standards: JR's, Nellies, Town and, lately, Duplex Diner on 18th and U which is now only blocks away from my new pad ;)

when i used to hang out with the "mean gays" we woud always go to apex (right across from the fireplace) on thursday/college night!

sorry oscarguy for taking this post way off topic. we are just bored, and have nothing better to do until all the oscar bait films come to a theatre near us. :cool:
"When it comes to the subject of torture, I trust a woman who was married to James Cameron for three years."
-- Amy Poehler in praise of Zero Dark Thirty director Kathryn Bigelow

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Postby flipp525 » Thu Dec 04, 2008 9:58 am

rolotomasi99 wrote:for a truly scuzzy scene though, nothing beats the fireplace. a nice married man with a wife and kids at home wanted to give me a ride home, and only asked for a little "favor" in return. yuk!

Gross! My friends and I went to the Fireplace once for a "field trip" night. It was frightening for reasons I won't go into here. I have a good friend who bartends at Omega, but that place is rather sketch as well (although the porn playing on the floor is fun).

I've actually never been to the Eagle. Usually stick to the standards: JR's, Nellies, Town and, lately, Duplex Diner on 18th and U which is now only blocks away from my new pad ;)
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