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Posts tagged ‘John Wayne’

I Finally See “True Grit” A Wordy Woodpecker of a Western

Well, I guess Paramount did hear my blog screams and they sent me quite unexpectedly a DVD screener of “True Grit.” FINALLY!

“True Grit” is the latest oeuvre from the redoubtable Coen Brothers, and it’s…Ok…sort of…I mean, it’s good. Although some parts of it strain credulity. Especially the overwrought, arch script, which Jeff Bridges manages quite, quite well. And Matt Damon, too. But poor 13-year-old newcomer Hailee Stanfield has the most demanding role, verbally, that perhaps has ever been written for a tween actress.

It is to her credit that she ALMOST pulls it off. But I was always aware that it was DIALOGUE being written and spoken, and not the character’s own voice speaking.

Her child/woman dichotomy is also, paradoxically, the most unusual part of this western. Yes, the Coen’s are doing a Western. A real traditional attempt at the genre in the classic John Ford manner. And Roger Deakins’ masterful cinematography is up the task at hand. And so is Bridges. But Ms. Stanfield…well, I’m of two minds about her “performance.”

Either it’s one of the most impressive screen debuts of an ingenue ever in a very challenging role that has already netted her a SAG nomination for Best Supporting Actress, though she is ostensibly the lead. OR it’s a career ender. It’s the beginning AND the end for her. Which one is it?

Like her or not, and I’m not totally sure that I do, you can’t get away from her in this film that is mostly, as the British would say, a  three-hander. That is a three person play. And again, the script does seem overly theatrical, for a Western. The three hands being Bridges, Matt Damon and Ms. Stanfield.

We’ve never seen or heard any Oater where people talked in such highfalutin rhetorical terms. Sheesh! They could’ve almost been in a Restoration Comedy some scenes are soooo over-written. Especially at the beginning of the film. Which is very slow getting started and a lot of that is due to the clusters of almost unspeakable, and certainly almost unpronounceable verbiage  the  Coens have saddled their three leading actors with. Or in Ms. Stanfield’s case, crippled with. I know we’re supposed to believe that SHE has “True Grit.” But talk about overkill!

With the surprise SAG nomination for Stanfield, her fellow actors are obviously Haillee-ing her arrival, big time. You do feel sorry for her in that she has scene after scene after scene where her voice is Woody Woodpeckering the screen, with its’ rat-a-tat ryhmns. And you feel like I always felt like with Woody Woodpecker that I need to watch his cartoons like a need a hole in the head.

Let’s face it, the Coens are not known for their work with child actors.

But they have to take pains at the beginning of the film, to established her hard-headed, stubborn as a mule character, so that we believe and care about her all the way through the film. It’s her journey. And the coda at the end of the film, which I won’t give a away as it’s a semi-spoiler, but the film visual images are striking. And rather unforgettable.

And then there is the unvarnished delight of Roger Deakins’ breath-taking scenic vistas of the wild west. Between this film and “Meek’s Cut-Off” I feel like I’ve actually BEEN there and back this filmic fall season.

Matt Damon is very funny as a Texas Ranger named Le Bouef, but which they all pronounce “Le Beef” as in meathead. He’s the comic relief. And Bridges’ scenes with Mr. LeBeef are just terrific stuff.

I don’t know WHAT the John Wayne version of this was like. I’m sure this is a thousand times better and Rooster Cogburn won Wayne his only Oscar and it is to Bridges’ everlasting credit that he really does excel in this part, as well.

It’s sooo close to his Oscar-winning turn as Bad Blake in “Crazy Heart.” A has-been boozing singer v. this time a has-been boozing gunman. That Bridges’ makes the Coens stick-in-the-mouth dialogue that HE has to say look and sound effortless as a horses’ snorting. Well, that’s the sign of a consummate actor at the top his craft.

Is it almost tongue-twistingly unprounceable? Well, Bridges attacks each line like his eating a mouthful of steak. Chewing the scenery has never been such a sumptuous meal. And if Oscar remembers “True Grit” for anything, it’s bound to be Bridge’s excellent crowing Rooster of a performance.

If SAG, the Screen Actor’s Guild, hadn’t voted l’il Miss Woodpecker a Supporting Actress nomination, I would say she didn’t have a chance. She knocked out Jackie Weaver of the dreadful Australian “thriller” “Animal Kingdom.” But since the 2ooo plus members of the SAG nominating committee hadn’t included her, I would say she didn’t have a chance in hell of getting in. She’s no Sairose (sp?) Ronan.

But they do like nominating under-age actresses, esp. in this category and especially lately. Think Abigail Breslin of “Little Miss Sunshine.” as well as the aforementioned Ronan.

I think Roger Deakins’ superb cinematography is the strongest  award element here as well as Jeff Bridges stellar performance. Deakins could actually win in this category and I’m also sure that “True Grit” as mixed as my reactions were to it, is going to be nominated for one of the Ten Best Picture slots.

No, though, to Best Director chances of the Coens, for this Western mishmash. But if they can get nominated for “A Serious Man” last year, then they could get nominated for this — in a field of Ten, sure. Why not?

Hollywood, unbelievably, has come to love the Coens. But you can’t help compare this too well-spoken Western to their other trip West which was “No Country for Old Men.” Now, THAT was a masterpiece and won the Oscar…But “True Grit” is not NCFOM. Not by a mile there, pard’ner.

Sasha Stone’s Latest Oscar Piece. A Real PickMeUp on this Election Night.

Sasha Stone, the reigning Oscar goddess of the Internet, NOBODY CAN TOUCH HER! Does it yet again with a penetrating, insightful “State of the Race” article, in which she lays out the HISTORICAL perspective, with dates and winners and runners-up and graphs(well sort of) of how, now that the Academy is allowing Ten Nominees for Best Picture yet again, as they did last year, and did also in the ’20s and ’30s how there’s a very real possibility that there will be a split between the Best Picture winner and the winner of Best Director.

She does SUCH a great job of it. At www.awardsdaily.com.

I wouldn’t be typing this here today, if it wasn’t for her support and inspiration and influence. She’s soooo insightful and for me, AwardsDaily is simply MUCH MORE EXCITING, inevitably, than the actual awards show itself!

How she keeps doing it and doing it, writing so well, and so interestingly and refreshingly and with NEW insights on what is basically the same story over and over again.

Especially this year.

In Toronto it was “The King’s Speech” vs. “The Social Network” and that hasn’t changed. “The Social Network” hadn’t opened yet, but we Oscarologists knew it was coming.

And I notoriously HATED it, and Sasha loves it, as do most of my critical brethren and sisteren. But the Academy doesn’t. Or won’t, IMHO.

And now at the last minute comes the Coen Brothers “True Grit” as a possible spoiler. The trailer(and I saw it in the theater where I nearly SLEPT through “Hereafter”….zzzzz…….) did NOT impress me as it seems to do others.

It looks like Jeff Bridges is doing his Bad Blake character from “Crazy Heart” all over again as Rooster Cogburn, the part that won John Wayne his Oscar late in his career. And the trailer looks like the Coen’s are doing a more mainstream “No Country for Old Men.” THEY just won the Oscar for Best Picture a couple of years back and Jeff Bridges just won LAST YEAR!

I don’t see this film repeating that success UNLESS—well, UNLESS it’s a real crowd-pleaser and makes a gagillion dollars and that young girl in the braids seems irritating to me…

But trailers can be decieving.

And Paramount just upped the opening day by three days! I guess they like it. They really like it. I’m not impressed. It remains to be seen…

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