In Contention

The Coens’ no-frills ‘True Grit’ hearkens to western heyday

Posted by · 10:00 am · December 1st, 2010

I’ve seen the Coen brothers’ “True Grit” twice now, and it’s not because the film is some “Inception”-like, mind-bending narrative maze. Quite the opposite, actually. I saddled up to it a second time yesterday morning because I wasn’t quite anticipating what I got the first time around and I wanted to consider it further knowing what it was.

You see, this isn’t really “a Coen brothers film” to me. Outside of an opening act bathed in their usual trappings, the film feels almost anonymous, lacking the fingerprint stirringly present in each and every one of their efforts. And it’s all very much by design, by the way.

“True Grit,” in its second screen iteration, is a classic western cut from traditional cloth. With its wide vistas, simple narrative and focus on character dynamics (as well as a handful of unrefined horse-back riding effects shots), it’s fair to say it bears more of a resemblance to the work of Anthony Mann, John Ford and Budd Boetticher than it does that of the Coens. The film isn’t focused on being as tight and complete as most of their films, and indeed, inchoate was very much a goal here.

I wasn’t expecting that. I was expecting a style exercise, something that would allow for Roger Deakins to sink his teeth into the scenery and come away with some of the most inspiring images he has ever captured. I was expecting theme to noticeably and boldly course through the mise en scène as it craftily does in every Coen enterprise from “Blood Simple” through “A Serious Man.”

But that lack of artistic intrusion is ultimately the film’s virtue. This is a throwback, and a reminder that the western need not necessarily function as progressive storytelling (a notion that would have delighted late author Robert Parker). It’s very much about time, place and character, and all else need defer to that and fade.

These particulars are filtered through the vision and language of Charles Portis, whose novel seems tailor-made for Coen interest with its mundane dialogue and somewhat vacant thematic canvas. As regards the former, I was reminded of Cormac McCarthy while reading it over the summer. But unlike “No Country for Old Men,” which was adapted with fussy visual swagger, “True Grit” is tackled in a straight-forward manner, allowing for the players and their actions to solely convey the experience.

In that light, perhaps it is very much a Coen film after all. What they exceed at is perfectly casting their films, knowing what they want from their actors (something generally quite unique, which is what makes them unique as filmmakers) and providing a visually interesting space for them to perform.

This has lead to countless memorable walk-ons over the years, whether it’s Steve Park in “Fargo,” Stephen Root in “O Brother, Where Art Thou?,” Gene Jones in “No Country For Old Men,” Amy Landecker in “A Serious Man,” the list is endless. And we can add the likes of Joe Stevens, Ed Corbin and, most certainly, Dakin Matthews to that list now.

Additionally on the cast’s periphery, Josh Brolin brings an odd energy to outlaw Tom Chaney while Barry Pepper is doing his best Robert Duvall impression in the “Lucky” Ned Pepper role Duvall originated. But the film is mainly focused on a carefully assembled trio in Jeff Bridges (as ornery U.S. Marshal Rueben “Rooster” Cogburn), Matt Damon (as prideful Texas Ranger La Boeuf) and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld (as headstrong vengeance seeker Mattie Ross). And what a delight they are, fully immersed in their characters at every turn.

The film opens with a calm and beautiful tracking shot depicting the fallout of the tale’s inciting incident (the murder of Mattie’s father, Frank Ross) with Portis’s words laid over top. This breaks from the novel (and Henry Hathaway’s original film) by disregarding the opportunity to get to know Frank early on, and it’s probably better for it, thrusting Mattie even further to the front as the driving element of the narrative.

And in Steinfeld, a star is born. The Coens exhaustively auditioned countless young girls for the role and they turned up a real gem here. Steinfeld delicately plays off of stalwart steadfastness, pent-up mourning and even awakening romantic longing on the way to crafting a completely realized character.

(Which brings me to an aside.  Paramount’s official Oscar position on this performance is supporting.  That’s where it will be campaigned, and I gather that it has to do with it being presumptuous to campaign a young actress’s debut performance as a lead. My opinion: nonsense.  This is a performance worthy and deserving of a lead actress nomination.  That having been said, I don’t know who else could win in the supporting actress category, so perhaps the studio is seizing an opportunity that Sony Pictures Classics has ignored with Lesley Manville.)

Bridges, meanwhile, gets under Cogburn’s skin more fully, dare I say it, than John Wayne in the original adaptation (the role that won The Duke his Oscar). And while his chemistry with Steinfeld is vibrant and authentic, the waters are never muddied by shoehorning inauthentic fatherly relationship or connectivity dynamics.

And Damon has, quite simply and perhaps even quietly, developed into one of the finest actors of his generation. He isn’t doing anything particularly sensational here, but that is rather the point of his performance’s brilliance. It’s in the eyes, the tambour in his voice at the whose-is-bigger goading of Bridges’s Cogburn, and the otherwise stoic pride of a confidant lawman.

The Coens’ approach to the film also gives way to a period authenticity that must be respected. Jess Gonchor’s production design and specifically Nancy Haigh’s set decoration is of the highest quality and precision. Mary Zophres’s costume design gives the film an identity unto itself in the canon of western cinema. Deakins’s camerawork gracefully captures the landscape while the hair and makeup serves each character fully and uniquely.

Most impressive, though, might be Carter Burwell’s humble contribution as composer. His themes soar and trickle with equal measure and have remained in my head since I first saw the film.  They are also nicely balanced with crisp effects into a sound mix that becomes part of the experience.  (There is, however, some discussion as to whether the reliance on hymns of the period might disqualify the score for Oscar consideration, but it is nevertheless perfectly suited to the film.)

It wasn’t my intention to go on so long here, but “True Grit” has proved to be a bit of discovery for me over the last couple of days, and I don’t know how to convey my thoughts on it without inviting you into that discovery process. It’s a warm and welcome addition to a vital genre that couldn’t ask for better torch bearers than the Coens and producer Scott Rudin, and one can only hope it helps keep the embers stoked on an art form consistently endangered.

[Photo: Paramount Pictures]

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85 responses so far

  • 1 12-01-2010 at 10:08 am

    mikhael said...

    finally, a full review. Now you make me wonder how amazing the music score will be. This year is full of amazing music score

  • 2 12-01-2010 at 10:13 am

    Loyal said...

    While I’m not a fan of the Coens, I am a huge fan of all things westerns and I can not wait to see this film. Thanks for giving us your thoughts.

    I know you’ve already given your December predictions but is there any real chance of a back to back repeat for Best Actor for Jeff Bridges?

  • 3 12-01-2010 at 10:15 am

    Mike_M said...

    Nice review, can’t wait to check this out and to listen to the score…

  • 4 12-01-2010 at 10:17 am

    Lance McCallion said...

    All the reports have pointed toward the film being exactly the sort of classical throw-back that it is for a while now. Which still strikes me as just slightly disappointing coming from the Coen Bros. My favorite films of theirs have been their unique, inspired genre riffs (Miller’s Crossing, No Country For Old Men), so I was hoping for something along those lines. I’m sure True Grit still delivers something any big Western fan has probably been craving for years though, as the only truly great classical Western I can recall in about a decade has been Costner’s Open Range. So yeah, I’m looking forward to this on that base.

  • 5 12-01-2010 at 10:19 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Loyal: If Bridges had not won last year this would have been a cake walk.

  • 6 12-01-2010 at 10:19 am

    James C said...

    Hmmm. Interesting. Sounds like a film I have to see for myself to fully grasp your understanding and review. Of course that was my intention all along so I can’t wait to see it. Great review.

  • 7 12-01-2010 at 10:21 am

    the other mike said...

    we have our Best Picture winner people. sounding like a classic.

  • 8 12-01-2010 at 10:28 am

    Matthew Starr said...

    This really is a banner year for film scores. Of course the disappointing aspect of this is that some of the best scores probably will not be nominated (Clint Mansell, Trent Reznor, Daft Punk).

  • 9 12-01-2010 at 10:32 am

    Graysmith said...

    Nice, and I appreciate that the review isn’t hyperbolic either.. Good for keeping my expectations in check, although this is the first review I’ve read and I’m sure the web is swamped with them right now.

    For those of us hankering for the score, from what I understand it’s being released just next week, so at least there’ll be that to keep us occupied while we wait, and wait.

  • 10 12-01-2010 at 10:34 am

    red_wine said...

    The first half of your review almost reads like a pan but it comes around by the end. The floodgates have opened, and every single review I have looked at has called it one of the year’s best. I guess this is just what people were waiting for.

    And now I believe you when you predicted Steinfeld in the other post, the reviews she is getting are earth-shattering.

    OT: Peter Bradshaw has become the first major critic to post his Top 10 and declared Another Year to be the Best Film of the Year.

    1. Another Year
    2. Kick-Ass
    3. The Other Guys
    4. Uncle Boonmee
    5. Enter The Void
    6. Of God And Men
    7. The Headless Woman
    8. Dogtooth
    9. Toy Story 3
    10. The Social Network

    He has also posted Top 10 picks for directing, acting and documentary but thankfully not for foreign language.

  • 11 12-01-2010 at 10:41 am

    Maxim said...

    Kris, having seen the film, do you still think Coens have a shot in directing and adapted screenplay categories?

    And if you will indulge me, do you them getting a DGA nom for this work?

  • 12 12-01-2010 at 10:44 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Shot at nods or winning? Definitely in for nods. Winning is highly unlikely. DGA nod is probable, I’d say.

  • 13 12-01-2010 at 10:44 am

    Matthew Starr said...

    How could someone have Another Year as their top film of the year and then follow that with Kick Ass and The Other Guys? Just bizarro.

  • 14 12-01-2010 at 10:48 am

    Maxim said...

    Sorry for not being clear enough. I meant nods. And just to follow up, what about editing?

    As an offside, the fact that you think they will make it in the Adapted Screenplay category really speaks volumes of the film’s quality. It’s pretty rare for a Western to do so, especially a Western of this kind.

  • 15 12-01-2010 at 10:49 am

    JJ1 said...

    Kris, can you see Damon uprooting the Rush/Bale party?

    Now that Hailee is going Supporting, Manville (being campaigned Lead) went from possible Supp. Actress WIN to shaky ground to even be nommed in Best Actress, no?

    How long is True Grit?

  • 16 12-01-2010 at 10:49 am

    Brie said...

    If Hailee Steinfeld is this good in a big role, I really hope they campaign her as a LEAD actress. I’d hate to see a Keisha Castle Hughes incident where you only see her as lead come the Oscars.

  • 17 12-01-2010 at 10:50 am

    Lanie said...

    I can’t wait to see this!!!

  • 18 12-01-2010 at 10:53 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Maxim: I still think editing is in the cards. And as for the screenplay race, they’ll owe plenty to Portis in that regard. But I anticipate they will get a lot of credit for the dialogue by those who aren’t aware of it being present int he source material.

    JJ: It was about 1:45, actually, Definitely under two hours. And no, I don’t think Damon will be winning that race. It’s Bale’s to lose.

  • 19 12-01-2010 at 10:53 am

    red_wine said...

    This is the kind of list that reeks with individuality, not calculated to predict the Oscars or win academic approval, the best kind that is.

    Manville is simply too good and too memorable in AY to not be nominated. Of course the same could be said about Hawkins in HGL but that film died with the Academy while AY is right up their alley.

    True Grit is 110 mins I read somewhere, they seemed to complain it was short, they wanted more. :)

  • 20 12-01-2010 at 10:54 am

    Maxim said...

    “As an offside”. Aside. Jeez.

    Lots of “offside” contenders on the mind, I guess.

  • 21 12-01-2010 at 11:00 am

    Mark said...

    Sounds terrific, can’t wait to see it. Nice write-up Kris.

  • 22 12-01-2010 at 11:02 am

    Matthew Starr said...

    I agree lists should be personal and not swayed by others but having seen Another Year and Kick Ass, one is just so superior to the other that to place them side by side baffles me. I guess as more individual top tens come out in the next few weeks I will continue to be taken aback.

  • 23 12-01-2010 at 11:05 am

    red_wine said...

    You might find it still more baffling that I liked Kick-Ass more than Another Year then. : )

    But like you said, the fun’s in people showing their individuality and not sticking films in there just because they are supposed to or because something is a “film of the year”.

  • 24 12-01-2010 at 11:08 am

    Keil Shults said...

    According to Anne Thompson, the score is ineligible for Oscar consideration, because it’s based on hymns of the period.

    Any truth to this?

  • 25 12-01-2010 at 11:09 am

    red_wine said...

    Burwell’s one good chance ruined then? I really loved the theme that Kris posted, it was so beautiful and classic western sounding.

  • 26 12-01-2010 at 11:13 am

    Dooby said...

    I think it’s gonna be Lesley Manville vs. Michelle Williams for the last Best Actress slot.

    I remember thinking about who could possibly win supporting actress and I remember Kris you mentioned the supporting campaign for Steinfeld, and I though that would be exactly right for the win.
    Bonham Carter – More about the film than performance
    Leo / Adams – Split voting?
    Weaver – Australian
    Richardson – Doubt she’ll even get nommed
    Wiest – Won’t campaign

    Steinfeld is frontrunner I think. Most likely competitors the Fighter ladies.

  • 27 12-01-2010 at 11:13 am

    Dominik said...

    Kris, normally you rate the movies you review. Not this one. Why? Is it that you are not sure about it´s quality already?
    I sense a vibe of respect for it, but certainly no love.

  • 28 12-01-2010 at 11:13 am

    Andrej said...

    Sounds very nice, can’t wait to check it out ☺

    But between the craftier movies, I’m still leaning closer to Inception, only because it’s an original screenplay.

  • 29 12-01-2010 at 11:14 am

    Matthew Starr said...

    Burwell’s score being ineligible would actually make perfect sense in accordance with the Academy’s music branch.

  • 30 12-01-2010 at 11:21 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Some of the score is taken from hymns of the period, yes, and there is some discussion about it at the moment, but I don’t think it’s officially disqualified yet.

    Dominik: I stopped rating movies (outside of the festival circuit, which I really did out of habit more than anything) this summer. I don’t want to bother with it anymore because it doesn’t really matter where a film falls on an arbitrary scale, IMO.

  • 31 12-01-2010 at 11:22 am

    Keil Shults said...

    I think a lot of these initial reviews will be a bit guarded or vague, simply because it sounds like the Coens have delivered something quite unexpected. Regardless, they are two of my most revered filmmakers and I remain incredibly anxious to see this.

  • 32 12-01-2010 at 11:22 am

    Ella said...

    Interesting review, Kris. I take it you liked it better the second time around? Nice to see new blood in the Supporting Actress race, too.

  • 33 12-01-2010 at 11:23 am

    julian said...

    thanks for a really well thought out review! In my opinion No country was the Coens’ least coen-like film by a mile, so If True Grit is even less coen-like, who knows? They might win again…;)

  • 34 12-01-2010 at 11:29 am

    Graysmith said...

    Most of the best scores of 2010 that I’ve listened to are either turning out to be ineligible or in the “highly unlikely to be nominated” category. You’ve got The Social Network and Tron Legacy in that latter category, and I’m pretty sure Clint Mansell’s gorgeous score for Black Swan is going to be ineligible like perhaps True Grit will.

    There are certainly some great scores still in the running, but it’s a shame so many of the year’s best aren’t in the mix.

  • 35 12-01-2010 at 11:38 am

    Keil Shults said...

    I don’t know that the film could win this year, regardless of quality. And it’s sad that people seem to be referring to it as either “the film that will go all the way” or just another Coen Brothers film. With too many people in that mindset, it seems like its merits could get lost in the shuffle.

    Of course, we all know that the Academy rarely chooses the very best movie of the year as their Best Picture winner. And we also know that the Coens often make films that don’t fully register with even the most intelligent, devoted audiences until time has passed and the films have been viewed multiple times. Who was heaping praise and affection on Miller’s Crossing in late 1990? Very few people, especially on the awards circuit. But if you poll Coen fans today, you’ll find that many feel it’s one of their best and easily one of the top 5 films of 1990.

    All I know is that I’ve been dying to see this for ages, and I think I may be even more eager after reading these initial reviews, despite their somewhat tentative nature. I love the Coens and I’ve been singing the praises of Damon for years (alone in my car, but it’s not my fault you weren’t there). I sincerely hope that critics and pundits who screen this will keep their expectations at bay, or at the very least, see the film more than once and let some time and serious thought take place before offering their definitive statement on the film and its Oscar chances.

  • 36 12-01-2010 at 11:46 am

    Keil Shults said...

    I don’t think three of my favorite scores from the past decade (Amelie, Waking Life, and The Assassination of Jesse James) were nominated either, but I don’t recall if they were just left out or ineligible. Either way, it just adds up to another category designed to piss people off.

  • 37 12-01-2010 at 11:52 am

    Drew said...

    So Kris, would you rank this above or below Unforgiven? Would beed more time to decide? Or are they merley just not comparable enough?

  • 38 12-01-2010 at 11:54 am

    julian said...

    amy adams is a threat to hailee steinfeld…third nomination in a short timespan…she is probably considered overdue! But then again, IF hailee is as good as it sounds, nothing can stop her (hopefully not adams, anyway…GOD, I hated her in the atrocity that was Julie and Julia!!)

  • 39 12-01-2010 at 12:00 pm

    DylanS said...

    Kris, I know you have Damon on your mock ballot, but do you think Brolin is also worth considering? I ask this given that he’s playing a villian (which the academy has favored in this category recently) and his own recent successes lately.

  • 40 12-01-2010 at 12:01 pm

    Derek 8-Track said...

    @ post #7,
    In 2,122 hours, WE’LL be accepting YOUR apologies.

  • 41 12-01-2010 at 12:03 pm

    Derek 8-Track said...

    … in a John Hammond voice of course.

  • 42 12-01-2010 at 12:04 pm

    M.Harris said...


    “If Bridges had not won last year this would have been a cakewalk.”

    Wow! Itching to see this that much more; considering what I saw with Franco’s performance; and what I’m hearing about Firth’s.

    Bridges is that incredible huh?

  • 43 12-01-2010 at 12:21 pm

    Maxim said...

    Oh, I have a brand new question!

    Kris, did you catch any references to “The Big Lebowski” in this film? Be they verbal, visual or otherwise.

    I’m expecting a “No” but it’s a fun question to ask and is certainly something to watch for if it does happen.

  • 44 12-01-2010 at 12:22 pm

    billybil said...

    I don’t have time to read all the comments above so if I’m repeating what everyone else has said – forgive me. But you have truly made me want to see this film! Great, evocative review! Thanks

  • 45 12-01-2010 at 12:24 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    I’ve confirmed it’s not officially ineligible. It hasn’t even been submitted to the Academy yet so it’s all speculation at present.

  • 46 12-01-2010 at 12:25 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Dylan: Brolin is barely in the film.

  • 47 12-01-2010 at 12:27 pm

    DylanS said...

    I figured that might be the case. That’s kind of a shame, I always enjoy watching him.

  • 48 12-01-2010 at 12:33 pm

    Keil Shults said...

    I’ve already gotten a transcript from one of the early screenings of True Grit, and the following lines seem to be possible nods to The Big Lebowski:

    1) Obviously, you are not a rancher.
    2) Fetch me a sasparilla, girlie.
    3) That gingham really tied your outfit together.
    4) At least the kid is housebroken.
    5) You tell Cogburn, we got a date Wednesday.
    6) If I come back and your still here, I will be taking one of them toes you got there. Starting with the little one.
    7) Fourteen-year-olds, man.

  • 49 12-01-2010 at 12:42 pm

    Maxim said...

    Good stuff, Keil.

    Considering the source, #6 could easily have been about fingers though.

  • 50 12-01-2010 at 12:43 pm

    Squirrelman said...

    OT: Sundance announces full 2011 festival lineup in all competing categories:

  • 51 12-01-2010 at 1:00 pm

    Roy said...

    Very nice review, Kris. It’s raised my already high expectations.

    Simply put, can you see the Academy voting for it as Best Picture over the King’s Speech or not?

  • 52 12-01-2010 at 1:05 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    The remake thing will, I think, hurt it for the win.

  • 53 12-01-2010 at 1:10 pm

    Roy said...

    Do you mean being a remake, or being a remake of such a regarded film? (I presume it’s well-regarded..purely on the basis of it’s oscar win, but maybe not)

    My feeling on the Departed winning despite being a remake was that it was Scorsese’s time, the original wasn’t that well known (certainly nothing on the level of True Grit), and, well, the Academy just liked the movie a lot.

    I still see it as King’s Speech to lose, but it’s nice to have a horse race.

  • 54 12-01-2010 at 1:17 pm

    Derek 8-Track said...

    There are too many AMPAS members who love The Duke too much to ever let this win.

  • 55 12-01-2010 at 1:24 pm

    Keil Shults said...

    I haven’t seen the original True Grit yet, and I’m not sure if I should bother doing so before I see the Coens’ version. But I have a hard time believing that John Wayne is really that great in it. I like very realistic acting, which is part of why I’m not a big theater buff, and many of the older actors tended to deliver their lines and carry themselves in a way that made it very clear they were performers. Of course, some of my favorite films are old ones, but I just haven’t seen much of John Wayne at all…basically just The Searchers and maybe one or two others I’m forgetting at the moment.

  • 56 12-01-2010 at 1:29 pm

    JJ1 said...

    If I’m being honest ….. no one hit me ….. I thought the John Wayne win was totally lifetime acheivement. I don’t think he was particularly great in that role, at all.

  • 57 12-01-2010 at 1:32 pm

    JJ1 said...

    If I’m being honest ….. no one hit me ….. I thought the John Wayne win was totally lifetime achievement. I don’t think he was particularly great in that role, at all.

    John Wayne had a magnetic, iconic screen presence. My mom LOVED him. But a great “actor”? He never was.

  • 58 12-01-2010 at 1:40 pm

    JJ1 said...

    sorry for the double

  • 59 12-01-2010 at 1:54 pm

    Keil Shults said...

    at least Midnight Cowboy won Best Picture that year

  • 60 12-01-2010 at 1:58 pm

    amanda said...

    Wells totally hated it..he seems so cranky about it.

    and can we talk about how underrated Matt Damon is for a second? He never gets the credit as an actor that he deserves. I think it is mostly due to the fact he is a very subtle actor and doesn’t do over the top, so he tends to get overlooked. Even when kicking ass as Bourne he is quiet.

  • 61 12-01-2010 at 2:25 pm

    El Rocho said...

    Cannot wait. Good Westerns are few and far between. I did enjoy Appalooza, though. Ed Harris is a capable director.
    And Carter Burwell is a very underrated composer.

  • 62 12-01-2010 at 2:40 pm

    Keil Shults said...

    I loved Appalooza too. Perry Farrell looks awesome in spurs.

  • 63 12-01-2010 at 3:05 pm

    Marc R. said...

    i only hope that Deakins finally wins the Oscar so that we can all move on w/ our lives

  • 64 12-01-2010 at 3:24 pm

    Keil Shults said...

    Marc R:

    I feel the same way about jennifer love-hewitt appearing topless

    in an adult feature

    for really sick adults

  • 65 12-01-2010 at 3:24 pm

    Keil Shults said...

    i now realize that you can’t leave a big gap between your lines of text, even if you want to


  • 66 12-01-2010 at 3:29 pm

    DylanS said...

    On the note of Deakins. Kris, I certainly agree with you in that after 8 nominations, Deakins will finally win for his work here, but your review seems to suggest that his work here isn’t particularly special. Do you believe his winning would be a pure lifetime achievment or is this actually some of the best cinematography this year and career work for him?

  • 67 12-01-2010 at 3:35 pm

    JJ1 said...

    Good question, DylanS

  • 68 12-01-2010 at 3:57 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Dylan: It’s unremarkable, and again, by design. And in fact, the interiors are more interesting visually than the exteriors. But it’s still pretty, if only because of the landscape.

  • 69 12-01-2010 at 3:58 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    One of the shots will make it to my year-end collective, though.

  • 70 12-01-2010 at 4:01 pm

    DylanS said...

    It looked so visually impressive from the trailers, that’s strange. I guess it was my love of landscape photography.

  • 71 12-01-2010 at 6:47 pm

    Keil Shults said...

    Most people don’t know the difference between great cinematography and pretty images, so it doesn’t matter. Even I don’t know what’s what…and my wife’s been cheating on me with Vittorio Storaro for years.

  • 72 12-01-2010 at 7:12 pm

    Jake g said...

    Kris!You never get to the point in this review? Did you like or not like it! It seems like you didn’t like it but your going to wait to see if critics like this film, and if they like it then your going to like it!

  • 73 12-01-2010 at 8:13 pm

    JJ1 said...

    It seems to me that Kris liked it a lot, but needed 2 viewings to firm up a definitive opinion on things. It doesn’t sound like a gamechanger to me (and most critics), but a very good film; a solid homage to a dying genre with great performances in it. No?

  • 74 12-01-2010 at 9:24 pm

    Bryan said...

    It’s true that John Wayne was more of an icon that wasn’t thought of as a great actor, but he was a good actor. Some of his performances were actually great, though. My favorite is actually his final film, “The Shootist.” His part in “True Grit” is probably not the best part he ever played, but I thought he was fine in it. Bridges, already an Oscar winner, is viewed differently than Wayne was in his time. However, people forget that Wayne was nominated 20 years prior to his win, for “The Sands of Iwo Jima.” He should have been nominated for “The Quiet Man” or “The Shootist.” Some think he could have been nominated for “The Cowboys.” So while he wasn’t the Laurence Olivier of Westerns, he became a somewhat respected actor as well as a popular star.

  • 75 12-01-2010 at 11:51 pm

    Katsat said...

    Thanks for your thoughtful review. I enjoyed reading it, but I was irritated that both you and Anne Thompson (today, at least) don’t seem to know that “led” is not spelled “lead.”

  • 76 12-01-2010 at 11:56 pm

    Katsat said...

    Thanks for your thoughtful, insightful review. I enjoyed reading it, but I was irritated that both you and Anne Thompson (today, at least) don’t seem to know that “led” is not spelled “lead.”

  • 77 12-02-2010 at 6:15 am

    M.Harris said...

    It’s pretty obvious to me; as to what Kris thought about the movie.

    The review reminds me of the reviews that are written in The New York Times or Villige Voice-where you have to use comprehend a little bit more.

    No grade needed here.

  • 78 12-02-2010 at 6:35 am

    Maxim said...

    “Wells totally hated it..he seems so cranky about it.”

    And Harry Knowles called it year’s best. And both opinions are worthless.

    And Wells didn’t hate it. He’s always cranky too.

  • 79 12-02-2010 at 12:18 pm

    Brian said...

    I discovered the Portis book this fall. What a pleasure to read that — and what a pleasure to read this review. On to 12/22!

  • 80 12-02-2010 at 12:20 pm

    Brian said...

    @ Jake g: He likes it.

  • 81 12-03-2010 at 10:12 pm

    David Hammon Schwartz said...

    I can’t wait to see the new TRUE GRIT. Kim Darbys’ performance in the original TRUE GRIT will be hard to top! Still looking for SNAKEBIT, TEXAS, a western graphic novel floating around the internet somewhere..

  • 82 12-04-2010 at 10:51 am

    JR said...

    I second Amanda. I’ve long felt that Damon is truly under-rated. Yes, you rarely see him “act,” and he’s just as fine in prestige films as he is on SNL and 30 Rock. He reminds a lot of Paul Newman – personally and professionally, a man of great intelligence and, most of all, integrity.