Category Archives: True Grit

What I’ve Been Watching: True Grit

true_grit_poster7.jpgThe Coen Brothers remain two of the most influential directors of the past twenty years or so. Their mixture of dark comedy, memorable characters, and smart dialogue influencing a lot of the types of films that premiere at Sundance every year.

Recently with No Country For Old Men, they had a dark, modern take on a Western. It won them their first oscar, and remains their most ambitious and expansive piece.

True Grit, a remake of the 1969 John Wayne classic, is a much more traditional take on the genre. Jeff Bridges plays an alcoholic ranger, Reuben “Rooster” Cogburn. He gets hired by Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld). She’s a young girl completely driven by the murder of her father by a thief known as Chaney. She hires Rooster on the condition she can go along with him and see the man responsible for the death of her father hanged.

Before she even starts her journey, she meets Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) who is also on the trail of her father’s murder for crimes committed in his home state. The three do their best to follow the trail of Chaney through the harshness of the Choctaw terrain.

Within the film there are some great individual moments and scenes. Whether it’s seeing Mattie’s own grit in shrewdly dealing with a local businessman; the exchanges between Rooster and LeBoeuf; or the shoot-outs one normally associate with the genre; all these elements expertly handled and a pleasure to watch.

The problem I have is that I don’t understand why the Coens have made this film. The story is fine, but lacks the originality and flair of a lot their earlier films. The characters are memorable, but much less so than in films like The Big Lebowski or Fargo. Finally, the message of the film is unclear beyond the obvious need for justice, and the way some encounters we have we carry with us for the rest of our lives.

Perhaps I would be able to sing its praises more if it had not received such wide plaudits from critics everywhere. It seems as though the Coens have such high regard in Hollywood, that if they make a film that does nothing wrong, it is considered a masterpiece. My main problem with True Grit is that it feels too safe. It’s as though now the Coens have got their oscar they no longer feel the need to push any boundaries.

True Grit is a movie a lot of people will like, and maybe even love. My opinion, however, is that it is a movie easily forgotten; and when people talk about great Coens movies in ten years time, True Grit will be top of no one’s list.

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Top Five Most Anticipated Movies Of 2011

2010 has had its time (and its Top Five Lists). Now it’s 2011’s turn. So here for you are my Top Five Most Anticipated Movies Of 2011:

5. The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
(October 2011)

The talent behind this film is such that I can’t help but be excited. The screenplay comes courtesy of Edgar Wright, Steven Moffat (Doctor Who), and Joe Cornish (off of Adam and Joe). It’s produced by Peter Jackson, and is directed by Steven Spielberg.

If that doesn’t get you excited enough, the motion-capture in this film is supposed to be something pretty special. As yet, there’s no trailer, although hopefully this still will give you an idea of the visual feast on offer:

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4. X-Men: First Class
(June 2011)

Given the disappointment of the last two X-Men films (X-Men 3: The Last Stand and Wolverine), I’d understand why some people may not be too overjoyed by the prospect of another.

This one, however, comes courtesy of the same writer-director team (Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn) that brought us Stardust and Kick-Ass. Expect plenty of fast-paced dialogue and visuals as we meet Professor X and Magneto before they called themselves Professor X and Magneto.

3. True Grit
(11th February 2011)

The Coens’ last movie, A Serious Man, was my favourite movie of 2009. Their next film is True Grit, a remake of the 1969 Western which won John Wayne an oscar.

The Coens showed they could handle the genre in a modern setting with the superb No Country For Old Men. True Grit is set during a more traditional timeframe as Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon help a 14-year old girl hunt down her father’s killer.

2. Super 8
(August 2011)

Not much is known about Super 8 beyond that it’s written and directed by J.J. Abrams, and is intended as a throwback to Spielberg’s sci-fi films of the 70s and 80s. The title also suggests it may be based on ‘found footage’ from a Super 8 camera. (cf. Cloverfield, Blair Witch Project, etc.)

Any more information than that you’ll have to glean from the teaser trailer. Like the original trailer for Cloverfield, this is a masterclass in giving us just enough footage to leave you confused, intrigued and excited about the film:

1. Black Swan
(21st January 2011)

Darren Aronofsky has become one of the most exciting directors of the past decade or so. Films like Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain have given the audiences experiences unlike anything else in American cinema.

Black Sawn seems to use a lot of the fantastical and psychological elements from these two films. We follow Natalie Portman’s tormented ballerina, desperate to take centre stage from her rival, played by Mila Kunis. Those who have seen Requiem for a Dream will know no one does ‘central character going insane’ better than Aronofsky.