True Grit

The Nominations:

  • Actor in a Leading Role
  • Actress in a Supporting Role
  • Art Direction
  • Cinematography
  • Costume Design
  • Directing
  • Best Picture
  • Sound Editing
  • Sound Mixing
  • Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

The Black-and-White:

A review by spacedcowboy:

According to critics and viewers alike, this is one of the better entries in 2010.

Here is the plot synopsis from imdb.com:

Following the murder of her father by hired hand Tom Chaney, 14-year-old farm girl Mattie Ross sets out to capture the killer. To aid her, she hires the toughest U.S. marshal she can find, a man with “true grit,” Reuben J. “Rooster” Cogburn. Mattie insists on accompanying Cogburn, whose drinking, sloth, and generally reprobate character do not augment her faith in him. Against his wishes, she joins him in his trek into the Indian Nations in search of Chaney. They are joined by Texas Ranger LaBoeuf, who wants Chaney for his own purposes. The unlikely trio find danger and surprises on the journey, and each has his or her “grit” tested.

Overall, this is a solid film: well acted, beautifully shot, edited (sound and visual), and powered by an interesting script. On all fronts I would say this is a very good movie, worth watching, and one of the best of 2010.

Having said that, I am not sure this is a film for the ages. Given that it is a remake of a 1969 film that is regarded as a film-for-the-ages, and is adapted from a classic novel, it has a tall order to fill. Maybe an impossibly tall order.

There are aspects that work wonderfully. It shrugs off the past film and literary incarnations effortlessly; while watching I never once missed  John Wayne (sorry Marion – no disrespect intended at all). The updated twists on the story, and the deep dives the actors take, make this a new adventure for the viewer. I was thoroughly engaged in this film.

Yet as I write this review, I am burdened by the fact that it received, count ’em, nine (9) Academy Award nominations. We’ll examine them one-by-one below and I’ll argue that, yes, individually they are well deserved. Still, my general impression is one of slight unease. Is this really a film that deserves nine nominations by the Academy, in the context of the history of 83 years  of the Academy Awards? Is this one of the best films of all time?

The nominations:

For acting: no doubt both Jeff Bridges (as U.S. Marshall Reuben J. “Rooster” Cogburn) and Hailee Steinfeld (as Mattie Ross) deserve their nominations.

Bridges, the ultimate Dude (whether cowboy or not), can act the pants off almost any actor working today. In True Grit, he added to his impressive and authentic portfolio – he dragged us through the mud as a conflicted, distracted and inebriated U.S. Marshall – not so much seeking redemption as engagement. Bridges was again willing to be vulnerable and even despised in his role, and he did it with conviction and aplomb.

Unfortunately for Jeff, his performance in Grit is perhaps shadowed by his tour-de-force in Crazy Heart, in a similarly boozy cowboy portrayal. If he hadn’t been so damn good, Oscar-winning and convincing in that film, another Oscar win may have been a lock here. As it is, I predict a second-place finish, behind Colin Firth in “The King’s Speech”.

For Supporting Actress, nominee Hailee Steinfeld (as Mattie Ross), did a remarkable job. She joins the ranks of other child actors who have charmed and impressed in their breakout roles. She was fantastic, and had a very demanding role as an important character in almost every scene. Helena Bonham Carter in “The King’s Speech” deserves a special shout-out, but I think the night will belong to Hailee.

For the Art Direction nomination, I think this may be the one category where True Grit stumbles. It’s a worthy entry, but the level of effort required doesn’t compare to The King’s Speech or even the combination CG/live-action films. A worthy entry, but, among the nominated movies, the award should go to The King’s Speech. (ps. note however that the most deserving film was not nominated in this category and is Blue Valentine).

In the sound categories (sound editing and sound mixing), the movie was subtle, yet deserving. Too often the blam-blam action movies dominate these categories, if only for the overwhelming overwhelmingness of what they present (and not their art – see Bourne series). This year, however, the playing field seems level. The nomination to True Grit is deserved, if only for the masterful way the delay between the gunshot and the report are filmed. Inception and The King’s Speech will be in play in these categories, but I think Grit may deserve the award – Inception is the easy choice.

Skipping over Costume Design (which was solid, but won’t prevail in this heavily competitive category), we come to Director, Picture and Adapted Screenplay nods.

I don’t think this incarnation of True Grit stands among the film icons. As such, while nominations for Director and Picture are deserved, I don’t think Grit will, nor should, hold the night.

For Adapted Screenplay – The Social Network and Aaron Sorkin have been almost anointed as the champions here. While I am not sure I disagree, I would put Grit high in the mix – pulling this story from its weighty past was no small feat, and it did evolve into one of the best films of 2010.

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