THE SERVANT (JAMES C.HUNTER)
In this absorbing tale, you watch the timeless principles of servant leadership unfold through the story of John Daily, a businessman whose outwardly successful life is spiraling out of control. He is failing miserably in each of his leadership roles as boss, husband, father, and coach. To get his life back on track, he reluctantly attends a weeklong leadership retreat at a remote Benedictine monastery. To John's surprise, the monk leading the seminar is a former business executive and Wall Street legend. Taking John under his wing, the monk guides him to a realization that is simple yet profound: The true foundation of leadership is not power, but authority, which is built upon relationships, love, service, and sacrifice. Along with John, you will learn that the principles in this book are neither new nor complex. They don't demand special talents; they are simply based on strengthening the bonds of respect, responsibility, and caring with the people around you. Perhaps this is why The Servanthas touched readers from all walks of life—because its message can be applied by anyone, anywhere—at home or at work. If you are tired of books that lecture instead of teach; if you are searching for ways to improve your leadership skills; if you want to understand the timeless virtues that lead to lasting and meaningful success, then this book is one you cannot afford to miss. ABOUT THE AUTHOR James C. Hunter is principal consultant of J. D. Hunter Associates, a labor relations and training consulting firm located near Detroit. He is a sought-after public speaker and trainer primarily in the areas of servant leadership and community (team) building. He resides in Michigan with his wife and daughter and can be reached online at www.jameshunter.com.
GRAN TORINO' REVIEW
Sometimes I really think critics, maybe unknowingly, buy into the hype surrounding a film and thus are inclined to view it in a more positive frame of mind than if they'd heard nothing about the movie going into a screening. This may just be the case with Gran Torino, an okay film that has a few moments of brilliance but for the most part is a mediocre drama. If it weren't for the fact it hit theaters in a few cities in time for awards consideration and had generated 'award-worthy' talk before many even saw the film, Gran Torino might have gone quietly in and out of theaters without much fanfare at all. It's not the masterpiece of acting you'd want from Eastwood if in fact this is his last film, and it's certainly not his best film as a director. Of Clint Eastwood's two films from 2008, Changeling is by far the better piece of work. Angelina Jolie delivered a compelling, intense performance as a mother whose child goes missing and who is mistreated and lied to by the LA police in an effort to make their department look better. Eastwood only directed Changeling and his care and attention behind the camera is evident in every frame of that dynamic drama. I wouldn't venture to presume dividing his time behind the camera and in front of it as the main actor – and one of the few lead characters with acting experience – is what makesGran Torino feel less than the professionally polished project normally associated with Eastwood. But there is definitely something off about the film. It's not just the fact the story feels dated or the fact Eastwood's channeling Dirty Harry again (much older and retired, but just as ornery) that gives Gran Torino a missed opportunities vibe. There are so many little problems that plague Gran Torino that it's difficult to take it seriously. The Story Eastwood stars as Walt Kowalski, a cranky racist introduced to the audience on the day of his wife's funeral. How cranky is he? Walt's sons don't even like hanging around the old guy. He doesn't filter his thoughts and feelings. Whatever he thinks, he says, and it doesn't matter one iota how racist or inappropriate his opinions may be. Walt's a Korean War vet who's retired from Ford after years of putting together automobiles and now that his wife's passed away, he's all alone in the home in which they raised their children. Overall Walt's lived a long and full life, but it's some sort of miracle that he hasn't been murdered by one of the many people he's insulted over the years. Walt's racism runs deep, and he's unafraid of calling his neighbors every possible hateful word you can use to describe someone of Asian descent. He despises the fact most of his neighbors are now Hmong immigrants and he rails at them whenever one gets within earshot. Yet despite what can only be described as deep-set hatred for anyone not a WASP, he begins warming up to the teenage Hmong girl who lives right next door. After saving her from gang bangers, he begins a weird friendship with her that eventually expands to include other members of her family, in particular her younger brother. When a local Hmong gang threatens the family, it's Walt who stands up for the same people he spent years putting down. The Acting Eastwood is a fine actor and, truth be told, it's hard not to take into account all of his past work in evaluating his performance as Walt. His reputation can't be ignored. I, along with millions of
moviegoers, appreciate what the 78 year old Oscar winner's accomplished in front of the camera over the last five decades. But I think it's a shame this role is the one he's ending his acting career with. It's not his finest hour. Grumbling and mumbling and yelling…maybe I could get past that if the rest of the story's developed enough to make up for it and if Eastwood was doing something we haven't seen before. But the plot didn't counterbalance the grumbling and Eastwood's not doing anything new here. Ahney Her and Bee Van, the newcomers who consume most of the time onscreen alongside Eastwood, tackle their first real acting gigs with Gran Torino and the result is less than pleasing. Her and Van are trying hard and you can tell. Eastwood was going for realism in his casting of the main Hmong roles, and it's to the detriment of the film that he wound up with two actors who needed more training before jumping into such pivotal parts. Their acting at times is amateurish. Lines are delivered as if read straight from the page and it's distracting. The Bottom Line Walt's constant use of ethnic slurs gets old, but it's what the character's all about so it does make sense even if it's uncomfortable. But what doesn't make sense and what really pulled me out of Gran Torino was how this retired autoworker all of sudden becomes this crime-fighting, physically skilled do-gooder. Walt's in his 70s and yet he has street punks scared to death of him, even after he puts away his gun. He's old; he doesn't look like a weightlifter. He's not buffed up in the least, so why are these young men (who are in great shape) shook up by his very presence? The gravelly voice isn't that intimidating. If you or I met up with an elderly man rasping at us and calling us by names that won't be repeated here, we'd be angry and ready to kick some serious old guy butt. But not the thugs in Gran Torino. When Walt 'races' off of a porch, grabs a 200+ lb gang member, throws him to the ground and proceeds to punch him in the face, the guy doesn't even fight back. Huh? How does that happen? Clint Eastwood played Dirty Harry but Walt's not Dirty Harry. Not once do we see any indication in the film that Walt's ever worked out since his days in the Korean War yet he can take down a much younger, much stronger, and much more inclined to violence gang member like he's wrestling with a small sack of potatoes. Gran Torino also seems to have a hard time figuring out exactly how it wants the audience to react, which means as an audience member I was left confused over the message. I was also confused over the film's shift in tone and left completely nonplussed by the weird twist near the end. Gran Torino didn't do it for me and I'm still wondering what it is everyone else sees in Eastwood's performance that earns it such high accolades and awards nominations. I never once saw Walt – I always saw Eastwood…or an elderly Dirty Harry.
“It’s a helluva thing, killing a man. You take away all he’s got, and all he’ll ever have.” “Well, at least he had it comin’.” “Kid, we all got it comin.” It is with this quote that the heart of Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven can be found. This is a film about perspective and how it is relevant in terms of morality. It is deeply thematic yet also entertaining, making it one of our greatest pictures. Here is one of the best American Westerns. Big Whisky, Wyoming is a town ruled with an iron fist by its legendary sheriff, Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman). Little Bill is not an evil man, just at times a sadistic one. He is one of the last great living sheriffs of the Old West, coming from the dangerous towns of Cheyenne, Abilene and Hays. In Big Whisky, Little Bill establishes a town with a city ordinance that is almost incredulous in the Old West- no firearms allowed. This ordinance should have limited knives, too. The film begins when Delilah (Anna Levine), a sweet, young prostitute at the local brothel, is brutally cut up by passing cowboys. Little Bill sees no immediate danger with the cowboy, after all, Delilah is simply a whore. He convinces the cowboys to pay the tavern owner (Anthony James) a payment of seven horses in order to compensate him for “damaged property.” The women feel slighted, to say the least. T hey pool together their resources and come up with 1000 dollars in bounty to the men that kill the two cowboys that cut up Delilah. Will Munny (Clint Eastwood) once lived a life of wickedness. He drank, beat animals, and killed many men, women and children. For the last decade he has been living in a small home as a widower with his 2 small children- his wife now dead for two years. It is clear that Will loved his wife deeply; she saved him from his drinking and murderous nature. A common motif in the American Western is the redemptive power of women, and Unforgiven is no exception. Will now lives his days as a hog farmer, albeit a horrible one, attempting to raise his two children in what appears to be a daily struggle for survival with their nearly destitute living conditions. Will is now in his sixties, and has not picked up a gun in over 11 years. It is in this situation that Schofield Kid (Jaimz Woolvett) comes calling. The Schofield Kid has heard about the bounty and has also heard about the notorious Will Munny, killer of women and children; a man with a soul as cold as snow. The kid, cocky and arrogant, appeals to Will’s newly saved side by explaining that the victim in the crime is a woman, and embellishes the story to Will by explaining that the cowboys cut her face, ears, and eyes out. “They even cut her teats,” the kid says. It is only a matter of time before Will leaves his children to go join The Kid in a hunt for the cowboys, bringing along his good friend Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) for help. It is agreed that the bounty will be split three ways. Little Bill finds out about the bounty. Determined not to have assassins in his town, he sends a message through English Bob (Richard Harris) a former gunfighter that happens to be traveling through the town. English Bob is accompanied by WW. Beauchamp (Saul Rubinek), a writer of pulp Westerns. Beauchamp is enamored with the Old West and is chronicling the tales of English Bob for a biography. It is at this point when Little Bill finds Bob and beats him in front of the entire town. He takes Beauchamp as his own biographer and sends Bob away battered and beaten.
Will, Ned and The Schofield Kid eventually make their way to Big Whisky. It is a recurrent theme throughout the picture that Will and Ned are over the hill when it comes to work like this. Will has long put past his evil past having been saved by his wife, and Ned his own. There is a running joke that Will can’t ever even seem to mount his horse on the first try, and at the beginning of the film he is seen trying to shoot a tin can with his pistol, and failing. The Kid has a secret of his own as well- he is nearly blind and can only see up to 50 feet in front of him. He also has never really killed a man, although he lies and says that he has. The dilemma of murder is the heart of Unforgiven. The three killers slowly ride towards an act that they all do not want to do, but need to do. In the end, Ned (the only person that never commits murder) is the one that is killed by Little Bill. Little Bill publicly displays his body in town and the Will of old comes into the town for vengeance, like a great angel of death. Released in 1992, Unforgiven marked the return of the Western to the silver screen from which it had been absent for decades. It was labeled by critics as the “Anti-Western” due to its strong anti-violence messages. This makes Unforgiven one of the deepest and most satisfying films in the genre. Every kill in the film is felt on a moral as well as visceral level. There is no honor in what these men are doing- it is just the only way they know how to work through their issues. The performances are all superb. Gene Hackman won Best Supporting Actor in the 1992 Oscars for his portrayal as Little Bill. At first glance it is the most straightforward performance in the film. Hackman plays the character with his perspective always in mind. Little Bill does not see himself as the villain in the story, but the hero- which is exactly the way that Hackman plays him in each scene. Even the scenes featuring the character at his most sadistic have a sort of calmness due to the way Hackman works the performance. It is kind of brilliant. The female roles are without a doubt the strongest in the genre. Francis Fisher is outstanding as Strawberry Alice, the Madame that decides that the dignity of a woman is worth more than some horses. She has an excellent scene early in the picture where she rallies her troops. “Just because we let them smelly fools ride us like horses don't mean we gotta let 'em brand us like horses. Maybe we ain't nothing but whores but we, by god, we ain't horses.” Morgan Freeman is pretty much always great in everything he does. He brings a certain dignity to Ned that gives the character resonance. We get the feeling that Ned and Will have been through a lot together. Nearly all of the supporting class is played in vivid detail. There is not a performance that misses a beat. Clint Eastwood is a national treasure. He is currently one of a very few cinematic legends that have been actively working since the golden age of Hollywood. Starting out his career on TV with Rawhide in the 1950’s, he went on to be the great Man with No Name in the great Sierra Leone spaghetti westerns, only to find fame as Dirty Harry in the 1970’s. His work in the 1980’s wa s primarily action oriented, with the exception of his great film “Bird” based on jazz musician Charlie Parker. Unforgiven was Eastwood’s first great film performance and directorial effort. It was the first film to win him a Best Director Oscar, and it is still Eastwood’s finest accomplishment. Since his work with Unforgiven, Eastwood has created several other masterpieces in Million Dollar Baby (another Oscar winner), Mystic River, The Bridges of Madison County, the great Letters from Iwo Jima and the underrated Gran Torino. I have not had the chance to see Eastwood’s latest, the Nelson Mandela biopic Invictus, but it is certainly in good company. Eastwood brings a certain confidence to everything he does. He knows what he wants and what he is doing. He is a straightforward man that loves the art of film- a true role model for filmmakers to come. It is amazing that at the age of 79 (nearly 80) he is still working and making these great pictures. He is iconic as an actor, director and composer. The score
for Unforgiven was arranged by Lennie Neihuas, but the main theme of the film (“Claudia’s Theme”) was written by Eastwood. It is one of the movie’s great scores, and elevates the material with a sense of beauty. It is one of the few scores that I have on my iPod, it is beautiful. When I think of Unforgiven, I always see the same several images. I see a tree, a house, and a man standing by a grave in the sunrise. I see two friends riding horses through a field of wheat with breathtaking mountains in the background. I think of Clint Eastwood, standing in the wind next to The Schofield Kid, talking about the finality of murder. I think of the terrifying Will Munny, killer of women and children, with a gun to Little Bill’s chest - agreeing that he will see Little Bill in Hell. These are images of great beauty. I would strongly recommend viewing Unforgiven in high definition, if possible. This is one of the best looking Blu-Ray discs I have in my collection. All of the colors are defined and crisp. I appreciate the vastness of the country and the images more upon every viewing. Words cannot describe some of the moments of sheer beauty here, with three men riding horses through fields and across streams, with that wonderful Eastwood score in the background. An excellent framing device is used at the beginning and end of Unforgiven. The first scene in the film is of Will’s house, with Will standing underneath a tree, next to his wife’s grave. The sun is rising and the opening narration is not spoken, but written across the screen. The opening narration sets the tone of the picture and describes the setting. The film goes on until the climactic shootout in Big Whisky, only to end with the same image in reverse. Now there is only a house, a tree, and a grave. The sun is now setting and the man has long moved on. This brings us back to the importance of perspective. It truly is the key to the film. Will kills in order to save his children from starvation, but also because of his need to avenge a woman that he sees his wife in. Little Bill kills to preserve order and protect his town. Will knows he is the villain, but is really the hero, while Little Bill is the opposite. In the end, they both have it coming. The best scene in the picture lies at the very end. Little Bill looks at Will: “I was building a house. I don’t deserve this.” “Deserves got nothin’ to do with it.” “I’ll see you in hell, William Munny.” “Yeah.” Little Bill is destined to die. William Munny is destined to live on with the horrible guilt of what he has done. In the end, the killing is all just the actions of men attempting to be nobler than they are. It never really resolves anything. I guess that explains the title. Review and Analysis by Shaun Henisey