Monday, February 28, 2011

Movie That Should Have Won the Oscar

Remaking the western movie True Grit was ballsy. Improving on John Wayne's classic was downright unAmerican. Mel Gibson should keep an eye on directors Joel and Ethan Coen, lest they engage in further subversive activities.

In this film, Mattie Ross travels across the Arkansas/Oklahoma landscape to avenge her slain father. The teen must negotiate the rough physical terrrain of "Indian Territory" and harsh moral terrain of wild frontier. She exudes courage, honesty and fairness - values modern Americans could cultivate more and boast about less.

The scenery is brown, dusty leather and gray, winter underbrush. The soundtrack is a page ripped from grandma's church hymnbook. The dialogue is witty and gritty - not too clever, not too crude, just right.

On her quest, Mattie (Hailee Steinfeld) must resist three deadly sins: greed that makes a citified horse-trader cowardly and apathetic to her cause, lust of the flesh that makes lazy, drunken U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) prone to ethical shortcuts and cruelty, plus self-righteous pride that makes Texas Ranger LeBoeuf (Matt Damon) silly and neurotic.

When Mattie acheives her vengeance, she falls from innocence to be snake-bitten, like the first humans and all since. Her messiah is an unlikely one. As Cogburn furiously carries her horseback thru the night, toward the porch lights of medical care, the choice of background music is astonishing: "Leaning On Jesus' Everlasting Arms" and "Hold to God's Unchanging Hand." Really?

Are we supposed to believe that a lost man corrupted by bad decisions and an ugly world, when confronted with moral obligation in a form as pure as a child and vulnerable as a frontier female, might get back on his horse (from which he fell like Adam so long ago) to become the arms of God for one other person, one last time? If not, what are cowboy movies for?

This film offers the quirky American suggestion that God's hand might not always be soft, cloistered and resting on a bible but sometimes worn, calloused and fingering a gun. It may be bullshit, but it's glorious American bullshit. We aren't surprised that the Academy preferred stammering Brit to American Grit, but we're sad for them. We remember why our ancestors came to an uncouth new world and we are proud.


  1. Good analysis from writer Lyn Fuchs talking about with the underlying spiritual themes of the movie. Something that he does so well and it's nice to read his insight here.

    One of my favorite scenes is when Mattie was negotiating with the business man in town - typical fun dialogue from Coen Brothers.

    Supporting characters were also nicely played by Damon and Brolin. Brolin was not quite the "evil" villain I was expecting and with Damon you could actually forget that you were watching "Matt Damon" as he disappeared into his role, which is rare with him.

  2. I agree with you, Lyn. When I first heard they remade True Grit I thought it sacrilege. Then I saw it... twice... and enjoyed the witty dialogue, strong performances and cinematography. True to the Coen brothers, all of the characters were memorable, even the crazed doctor, the sheriff in town, even the three men getting hanged. Wonderful film.

    But true to Hollywood tradition, an historical piece won. I saw it the week before True Grit and although I enjoyed the movie, it was a bit slow in parts. I thought the lead up to the final speech a bit weak as it jumped ahead to the climax missing a chance for further character development.

  3. I am actually glad that The Kings Speech one, but I also liked True Grit (mainly because I am a fan of Jeff Bridges), but I also thought the young girl did a amazing job.

  4. De Jesus P.(flower)March 8, 2011 at 1:40 PM

    The history of this movie is good.
    I'm going to the cinema with my frends.

  5. I haven't seen the movie, i should check it out since it sounds quite interesting