June 8, 2021
FAVE WESTERN FILM – True Grit (2010)
Participating in this movie draft has been a blast, and with this pick, has sadly reached its conclusion. It is certainly no surprise that I have left choosing my favorite Western or War film as my final selection. Neither genre has ever been a part of my move-watching regimen. Nonetheless, after giving you some brief background about why this is such, I will get to my choice, albeit in an around about way.
When it comes to War flicks, after seeing all the major Viet Nam war movies in the 70s and 80s, I came down to the realization that this subject was one that I’d just rather forget. One thing I didn’t forget however was the time that a co-worker and I went to see the epic The Deer Hunter while out-of-town on business. The part I remember is that neither one of us spoke a single word on our 30-minute drive back from the theater. Tough stuff. I also recently gave up after a short investment in Dunkirk after feeling the same way.
As for Westerns, plain and simple, they just don’t interest me. Growing up watching New York City television, in addition to the then three networks and PBS, there were three local stations (Channels 5, 9 and 11). I so much recall turning the dial and passing through what seemed like a countless number of Westerns on those local channels. The old ad slogan of “Don’t touch that dial” didn’t hold true for me when it came to these films that I perceived as stereotyped boredom.
So, in wrapping this series up, I found a way to make amends for failing to include a Coen Brothers film among my earlier choices. And while I certainly favor their unique spins at first-time screenplays, there was so much that I did love about their 2010 updated screenplay and directorial remake of the 1969 John Wayne classic of True Grit.
Before I get into my lovefest about Joel and Ethan Coen’s movies, here’s a thought about Westerns. As I started to play the DVD for Grit, after first navigating through several previews of 10-year old movies that never made it, I came upon the logo for its PG-13 rating. At the top of the list below the rating was the term “Western violence!” How odd that this would have a categorization of its own. This got me thinking how Western and Mobster movies are so alike in that killings are so commonplace that it makes you wonder how the people in the film have managed to survive as long as they have!
It’s hard for me to put in words what make a Coen Brothers film so magical. Perhaps it’s the fact that no one can use a camera as masterful as they can. The angles, effects and palate of their work is simply remarkable. Then of course there is the element of the bizarre unexpected scene. Avoiding spoilers, for this one let’s just say fingers, snakes and dead bodies. Then there’s the casting.
Jeff “Lebowski” Bridge just killed it in taking over Wayne’s lead role. Gosh, he was just so curmudgeonly gnarly while still somehow managing to be proficient in his less-than-desirable occupation. Another Coen-regular, Josh Brolin did justice to being a bad guy you loved to hate. And the teenage Hailee Steinfeld in her film debut was just awesome as the way smarter-than-her-years little girl. Even Matt Damon wasn’t too bad in taking over Glen Campbell’s role in the original.
True Grit received 10 Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Director and Screenplay (for the Coen’s) and Actor for Bridges and Supporting Actress for Steinfeld. That great camera work that I mentioned earlier was also honored with a Best Cinematography nomination. But, for some reason, True Grit didn’t win any. Wayne won Best Actor in the 1969 original which was more focused on his story compared to the young girl’s perspective in the 2010 version.
Lack of awards withstanding, I still think the Coen remake is well worth a watch. And with it fresh on my mind, I think I will go back and watch John and Glen in the original again. If only to hear Glen sing the title song “True Grit” (not reprised in 2010) which was nominated that year for Best Song but lost to “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head.”