MCN Blogs
David Poland

By David Poland

Review – True Grit (2010) (Spoiler-Free)

True Grit is a true Coen Bros film. Its answers breathe in its seams.

The movie opens with a quotation from Proverbs 28:1. Well, half of a quotation.

“The wicked flee when no man pursueth”

That’s a western.

The rest of the quotation, which they chose not to include… “but the righteous are bold as a lion.”

That’s a Coen Bros movie.

Because True Grit is a movie about bold lions who are sometimes righteous, sometimes not. They pay for their self-righteousness in tangible ways that, perhaps, are not so comfortable for audiences. They leave aside their righteousness when it suits. They step beyond animal boldness, reactive and immediate, and sometimes decide to play God.

The first image in True Grit is a blur… a face, made of light, as a voiceover tells us a story about the past. Slowly, the shot comes into focus. It is a house. Mattie Ross’ house. The snow falls over the dead body of her father. Everything has a cost.

We meet Mattie for the first time in Fort Smith, far from home, seeking to settle arraignments for her murdered father. She is accompanied by a black man, a servant of some stripe, to whom she is polite, but feels, at 14, completely comfortable dismissing when she is no longer in need of him.

It’s a remarkable portrait by Hallie Steinfeld. At first, her speech is a bit off-putting. The Coens wrote the film in a kind of period dialect. I have no idea whether they were going for some kind of authenticity or not. But start with extremely limited use of abbreviation and go from there. Steinfeld is a young actor working through this stylized language. Phrases that will eventually pepper conversation include, “You give out very little sugar with your pronouncements,” “There is no clock on my business,” and “This ain’t no coon hunt.”

But Steinfeld is also playing a character who is using every tool she can to convince others that she has control of her circumstances. She’s also trying to convince herself. The journey will turn her into what she is trying to embody, for better or for worse.

The scenes between Mattie Ross and Colonel Stonehill (Dakin Matthews) are some early comic relief and a show that Mattie is already good enough at Jedi mind tricks to drive weak-minded men to distraction. The scene, while very similar to the one on the earlier film version of Grit, is dynamic in a way that the first film – in which the Stonehill role was played by the great Strother Martin – can’t touch.

If you take a look at the 1969 film, this will be a recurring reality for you. It’s remarkable how much of the dialogue seems to be exactly the same in both films, almost as though The Coens made an exercise of it. But you rarely can see a glimmer of similarity between the two movies. It is, to over simplify film history, like color and black + white. Henry Hathaway’s True Grit is basically classic filmmaking, a testament to film up until that point. The style was so often imitated in television westerns, it has lost a layer of cinematic umph. It can be a bit creaky. It relies a lot on John Wayne being John Wayne. Glen Campbell is not bad… but not very good. Even Dennis Hopper is a bit lost. (His battles with Hathaway are legend.) Only Robert Duvall raises the bar. But Ned Pepper is also one of the best-written characters.

This is Mattie’s story, 100%. But Reuben “Rooster” Cogburn is the Han Solo to her Leia/Luke. He’s funny, dangerous, and in a terribly odd way, almost sexy. He is not an anarchist. He’s a drunk and a cynic, but he has a code (left unspoken, for the most part) and he pays death no mind. He is maturity.

(ADD. 8:14a, 12/9) Jeff Bridges puts on Cogburn like an old shoe. Bridges is a very unusual performer, as he has had this quiet ease with characters for most of his career, but when he was younger, his ease was almost uncomfortable. He’s not really a straight character actor. He is uniquely himself and that singularity is the singularity of a movie star. But he fully embraces weird, Dusting Hoffman but with movie star looks. He has a grand old time here, but without ever one-eyed winking to the audience, never demanding that we love him, never trying to steal the scene. Remarkable.

Of course, there is no romantic element in a film about a 14-year-old girl and a man in his 60s. But this is not a romantic film. It’s a coming of age film. And though Leia and Han end up together, Luke’s maturity is shaped as much by Han as by Obi-Wan and Yoda. They teach him what kind of man to be while Han teaches Luke how to be a man.

On the other side is Matt Damon’s La Boeuf. Sure to be the most underappreciated – at first – performance in the film, Damon carves out a comic gem. Again, he is another character is righteous and wicked at the same time. He shows himself to be capable of terribly inappropriate behavior towards women and a disregard for morality. But he also is, at times, a real hero. In some ways, he seems to be the young Cogburn, before the challenges that truly seasoned him… and in some ways crushed parts of his personality.

One of the things I find fascinating about The Coens’ True Grit, which is not true of Hathaway’s, is the lack of any women in the film of child-bearing age, except for Mattie. I don’t mean a lack of significant female characters. I mean a void of any women 13-45 other than background players. There are two women of post-menopausal age and two girls who are pre-menstral. Is the entire film, perceived through Mattie’s eyes from the very first frame, a tale about how Mattie sees men in the world, both defining her perception and explaining it? Maybe. Ask me after I have seen it a few more times.

Another element of this is a disconnection from the emotion of death. Yes, it was a different time. But the matter-of-factness of some of it, the recurring theme of Mattie finding herself sleeping in the presence of death, should not be take for granted. It is clearly both text and subtext.

Unlike Hathaway’s Tom Chaney (Jeff Corey), The Coens don’t bring Josh Brolin and his character into the film until it is time for confrontation, midway into the third act. In The Coens’ world, Tom Chaney is the MacGuffin. It isn’t the result of the confrontation, but the journey that matters. Of course, being the genius contrarians they are, the Coens make a “classic western” moment out of the confrontation… but it’s more than that.

This dichotomy in the film mirrors the dichotomy of the film. It does all the things it is supposed to do to be a classic kind of entertainment. Late in the film, as a confrontation develops, two characters watch and the Coens’ frame is much like a drive-in theater… a natural upside down proscenium.

But the film also, without often declaring its intentions, is subverting the genre. Retribution is not a happy thing. Cogburn knows this. La Boeuf is still learning. Mattie is a precocious child who has lost her guiding force in her father.

And did I mention, it’s hella entertaining too?

Barry Pepper kills, literally and figuratively, as “Lucky” Ned Pepper. I mentioned Dakin Matthews already. Side characters like “Bear Grit” (played by Ed Corbin), the town Sherrif played by Leon Russom, the Undertaker (Jarlath Conroy), and the dynamic duo of Emmett Quincy and Moon, played by Paul Rae and Domhnall Gleeson… all gloriously specific and odd and engaging.

And need I tell you, it’s the most beautiful damned western, probably ever. As I said before, the technology is so different; it’s almost apples and oranges. And this isn’t The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, which was also shot by the amazing Roger Deakins. It’s not style that you would notice. And it’s not Unforgiven (shot by Jack Green), that was beautiful and used the modern technology to its advantage, but was also revisionist, so never too beautiful, except when around dead bodies and torch light. This film is lush, but realistic. Deakins’ ninth Cinematography nomination may finally be the one he wins… too long in coming.

The Coens, dealing in some cases with the imagery of chases and gunfights which they haven’t really done before, are masters of simple elegance. There are a couple of sequences built around a small house in the middle of nowhere. The patience they show, allowing the audience to follow the action, never anxious for more, is wonderful.

I still don’t have “the answers” to True Grit. I know that each time I have seen it, I spent much of the rest of the day in no small sadness. Emotion comes late to True Grit, unless you have already seen it and are experiencing it again. But it refuses to offer the audience the out of experiencing the story through simple perspective of Cogburn. That would be a John Wayne movie. This is a Coen Bros movie. It’s Mattie. We’re Mattie.

More when people have seen the film and we can get into a good spoiler-heavy chat…

Be Sociable, Share!

95 Responses to “Review – True Grit (2010) (Spoiler-Free)”

  1. LYT says:

    “It’s remarkable how much of the dialogue seems to be exactly the same in both films, almost as though The Coens made an exercise of it.”

    It’s almost as if they both adapted the same book, or something…

  2. IOv3 says:

    yeah yeah yeah… TRON!

  3. David Poland says:

    I haven’t read the book, Luke. Yes, there is the possibility that 70% of the dialogue is directly out of the book. I would imagine that if that is the case, it was also an exercise.

  4. LYT says:

    Indeed, about 70% of the dialogue is out of the book. The older film added some that was rather blatant exposition (rather than have a voice-over, I assume), while the Coens add some that is in-character (and omit some to make more of a punchline out of lines that were less so originally).

    The older film is truer to the book’s plot. The newer one is truer to its tone.

  5. Joe Leydon says:

    But is the ending of the new movie the same as the ending of the book? Because if that’s the case — well, I suspect that will piss off more folks than were pissed by the very idea of a remake of a John Wayne movie…

  6. Jen says:

    I believe the opening shot is of Mattie’s father recently killed at the Monarch boarding house – not at his own home.

    I’m with you on a lot of these musings. Have seen it twice now and keep finding more to chew on each time…

  7. Drew McWeeny says:

    David, you’ve got two different versions of it’s/its in your opening line, and one of them (the first) is wrong.

    And you refer to Hans Solo? Singular, not plural. Han Solo.

    The language of the film is one of the things that I believe attracted the Coens to the material. The Portis book is an exercise in voice, and that’s always been one of the strong points of the Coens’ work. They love dialect and slang and oddly formal speech and regional accents, and “True Grit” is a feast for all of their linguistic fetishes.

  8. LYT says:




  9. IOv3 says:

    Joe, why would that ending piss people off?

    ETA: after reading a review at another site, yeah, don’t fuck with the movie that got the Duke his Oscar. The Oscar they gave him over RICHARD FUCKING BURTON! Seriously, Coens, what were you thinking? (Somewhere Jeffy Mac is going; “But you haven’t seen the movie!” It’s not about the movie with me but about this film and what it meant for the Duke. Remaking True Grit, no matter whose doing it, is rigoddamndiculous.

    If the Duke were not involved in the original True Grit. If it were someone else that all the online film geeks and reviewers loved, this remake would be getting slammed left and right but seeing as it’s the Duke, the most misunderstood movie star in the history of the world, it’s okay to remake this film. Sure it’s not but let’s just act as if doing so is okay and give the Coens all sorts of slack for having the audacity to believe they can out do John Wayne.

  10. IOv3 says:

    People who have not seen Star Wars really creep me out. It’s like these people some how missed out on kit-kats, pizza, and socks and ARE OKAY WITH IT! Pure and utter weirdness.

  11. Kerry Frey says:

    So David – Can True Grit enter the conversation with Social Network and King’s Speech?

  12. hcat says:

    Wayne fans getting upset about someone remaking True Grit would be like Pacino fans getting upset over someone remaking Scent of a Women. It was a lifetime acheivement award. Now if someone wanted to remake the Searchers or Liberty Valance I would be outraged right alongside you, but True Grit? Why not remake True Grit.

  13. Bob Burns says:

    True Grit is in the conversation already…. any film that is getting 2-3 acting noms, a screenplay nom and cinematography (and probably more) is in the game.

    Loved reading this review, David

  14. Keil Shults says:

    Can we expect a Coen Brothers DP/30 in the near future?

    Or even one with Hallie Steinfeld?

  15. IOv3 says:

    Hcat, we disagree because remaking Scent of a Woman would piss me off just as much :D!

  16. David Poland says:

    True Grit has been the most likely winner in my book for a while. My basic take is that it’s a three horse race… and you have one horse in it that I don’t think is actually in the race to win.

    And no, there will be no Coens DP/30. They won’t do video, even if we shoot a wall while we talk.

    And we’re working on Hailee.

  17. IOv3 says:

    A three horse race and the horses in the race are?

  18. hcat says:

    I’m thinking he’s counting Grit, Network, and King’s Speech with King’s Speech not being as competitive (that they will be concentrating on Best Actor race).

    Pitch the Coens the idea of using hand puppets for the interview, they might go for it.

  19. IOv3 says:

    No love for Nolan once again by the man who rocks the Clayton Forrester hair. Shameful. Absolutely shameful.

  20. Paul MD (Stella's Boy) says:

    Remakes just don’t really bother me anymore. They’re not going to stop and after awhile I got tired of getting worked up about them. Might as well just accept them as a major part of the business and judge each remake on its own terms. I will be seeing True Grit 2010 as soon as I possibly can. Easily looks like the best wide release in December.

  21. hcat says:

    Paul, this is like in the late eighties/ early nineties when there were all the television show adaptations. Everyone would grown when they heard a new one was being developed but nobody was complaining about creative bankruptcy when they released The Untouchables or The Fugitive. Any film no matter what its origin should get a fair shake and simply be judged on its end quality.

  22. Paul MD (Stella's Boy) says:

    I completely agree hcat.

  23. hcat says:

    IO – Did you know that Scent of a Women was a remake itself?

  24. Erik L. says:

    I can’t wait to see it. I am a big Coen Brothers fan. I am always interested in what underlying tones they are going to bring out next.

  25. IOv3 says:

    Hcat, remaking an Italian film from the 70s, is a lot different than remaking TRUE GRIT. Especially when, according to people who love westerns and the Duke, this film is basically the Coens’ GUS VAN SANTING it. Seriously, it’s a pointless remake no matter how good it is.

    Paul, I would agree with that except that CHUD has a great series going on over there referred to as SACRED COWS, and those movies you just do not remake. True Grit’s remake is sort of like the Dawn of the Dead remake. Sure, it might be great, but is it necessary? At all?

    Oh yeah, enough with the Academy bending over for to the Coens. It’s been done. If Nolan and Inception do not get the dap it deserves. Here’s hoping Sorkin and Fincher get a good rogering from the Academy because it will be about damn time that they got it.

  26. mutinyco says:

    You know, I liked Inception in the theater. But watching it on DVD, it doesn’t work as well. I’m much more aware of how Nolan uses editing to compensate for his lack of skill with the camera. Also, I’m having a hard time getting past how seriously the characters are acting about a plotline that’s really quite ridiculous. And also, how all of the dialogue is exposition. But I’ve also decided that I don’t think any interpretation is correct or wrong — I think Nolan’s intent was to create a sort of cinematic MC Escher: It’s illogical, but it seems to work no matter which angle you look at it from.

  27. Paul MD (Stella's Boy) says:

    I was under the impression that True Grit is not a Van Sant-like remake. Probably best to see it before drawing definitive conclusions. My dad is 61 and a huge fan of westerns, John Wayne, and the original True Grit. He could not be any more excited to see the remake. He thinks it looks fantastic and is always happy when a western makes it to theaters.

    We could spend an eternity debating whether or not a remake is “necessary.” I am always happy when I see a good movie, remake or not, necessary or not.

  28. IOv3 says:

    Paul, I am sure it will be a fine film but it’s totally unnecessary. Sure that can work for a lot of films but remaking some films, is absolutely ridiculous to me. Again, this is just a ME thing, I have nothing against this film, and I hope it gets all sorts of dap since Westerns do not always get dap from the Academy.

    Mco: the world of Inception seems to be a world where invading people’s dreams is a reality, so that could explain the seriousness of Cobb and his associates.

  29. Paul MD (Stella's Boy) says:

    A lot of remakes are probably unnecessary, but sometimes they’re really good. I’d rather see an excellent True Grit than a crappy How Do You Know.

  30. IOv3 says:

    Paul, what we were looking for with your answer is “GUESS WHO?”. Sorry, no points this round, but better luck next time.

  31. Paul MD (Stella's Boy) says:

    Say again? Not trying to win or lose anything either. Just talking.

  32. mutinyco says:

    I think the seriousness is there to sell the audience…

  33. IOv3 says:

    Paul, I am being silly, and referencing one of the absolute pointless remakes in the history of remakes… GUESS WHO?!

  34. Paul MD (Stella's Boy) says:

    Gotcha. Haven’t seen that one. I’m sure it was an unnecessary remake.

  35. LYT says:

    There’s a difference between remaking a movie, and re-adapting source material, in my book. Had Tim Burton actually been any good at it, the Planet of the Apes and Chocolate Factory movies might have fallen into this latter category, but Burton was every bit as unfaithful to the books, in worse ways.

    Basil Rathbone fans probably think the Robert Downey Jr Sherlock Holmes is a travesty. But both are valid interpretations of a literary character. Rooster Cogburn is likewise a literary character, and not just something John Wayne invented. Imagine if the Schwarzenegger RUNNING MAN were actually a really good movie and well-liked; it’d still be valid to go back to the well and do a faithful adaptation someday, and you wouldn’t be “remaking Schwarzenegger.” (hell, Stephen King got THE SHINING re-adapted in a way that better suited him. It wasn’t as well received, but the act of doing it wasn’t a travesty).

    True Grit is in almost no way a “remake of a John Wayne film” — it’s a re-adaptation faithful to the tone of the original novel, and one I daresay the author might have enjoyed. The only person in the movie channeling the original is Barry Pepper, who sounds just like Robert Duvall.

    Oh, and Jeff Bridges is actually the THIRD actor to play Rooster Cogburn…Warren Oates took the role for a TV sequel.

  36. IOv3 says:

    LYT, you raise that hand, and I will raise you this hand . You are pretty much the person I have a problem with in terms of this remake because you are drawing a line of demarcation, that’s simply not there. It’s a remake of the film for John Wayne. It might not be the Searchers but it’s the film in which he got his only Oscar and a character he played twice. It’s remaking a John Wayne film no matter how you want to convince folks that it’s not.

  37. David Poland says:

    IO… someone’s obsessive unwillingness to see a movie as what it is and not primarily a reflection of something else they loves is not a virtue.

    Even the idiot you link to is pretty much saying that this is not a remake of the John Wayne film. He’s just assuming that they somehow wanted to make a film that would stand beside that version.

    And for the record, The Missing is one of Ron Howard’s best films, but was brutally slaughtered for encroaching on The Searchers, as though the history was more important than the film being seen. Gross.

  38. chris says:

    …and also this “True Grit” is a hundred times better than the Wayne one. Why would anyone not want a movie world without it in it?

  39. Keil Shults says:


    I haven’t seen the original True Grit, largely because I grew up not caring much about westerns or John Wayne. In recent years I’ve come to appreciate certain westerns (Unforgiven, The Proposition, 3:10 to Yuma, Assassination of Jesse James, etc.), but I haven’t really gone back to watch old classic westerns (apart from The Searchers, which I’ve owned for years).
    Anyway, I am a huge Coen Brothers fan, despite their one or two misfires, and their remake of True Grit has been high on my must-see list for ages. At this point, I’m thinking I will just see the film cold, without viewing the original first. Do you think this is the best idea, or, given that I am a pretty avid cinephile, would it be right for me to do my homework and see the original before the remake? I feel like no matter how or when I see them, I will prefer the Coens version, simply because it will be better crafted and better acted.

    Also, I’m typically opposed to remakes, but given that I don’t have a history with either the original True Grit or John Wayne in general, it doesn’t bother me as much that the Coens took this on. Also, they don’t seem like the type of filmmakers that would tackle a project without being able to really make it their own, even if through subtle methods. I was already wowed once this year by a remake (Let Me In), so nothing would surprise me at this point. Of course, it’s not a trend I’m eager to see become the norm. Also, I should add that if the Coens are indeed going back to the novel as their primary source, this could be considered “another adaptation,” rather than a “remake” of the 1969 film. Of course, keeping the title makes it harder to view it as such, but I suppose they wanted either the inherent marketability or it was a legal stipulation.

  40. Krillian says:

    Good remakes – The Departed, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, 3:10 to Yuma, etc.

    Bad remakes – Psycho, The Manchurian Candidate, Love Don’t Cost a Thing, Nightmare on Elm Street, etc. ten more times

    All depends on the end product.

  41. Hopscotch says:

    Great review DP, I’m salivating to see this as soon as possible. Roger Deakins is, for my money, one of the most over-looked artists in terms of Oscar attention ever.

    I half-agree on you with The Missing. Extremely well-made and rather brutal for a Ron Howard film. But some of the relationship scenes never quite worked for me. I saw it as mostly a thriller set in the West. But you are also correct it was unfairly compared to The Searchers, which is one of my all-time favorites. Both have kidnapping plots as the central story line. Both feature long lost relatives showing up at the old homestead in the beginning. Both involve renegade indians. But it ends basically there, and those elements are in many westerns.

    I’ve seen John Wayne’s True Grit once, and it’s ok. I disagree that you think Glenn Campbell is “not bad…but not good.” I thought he was distractingly awful.

  42. LexG says:

    The Missing = Evan Rachel Wood.


  43. IOv3 says:

    David, you know why you never catch a whiff? You call someone for being an idiot for make rather good points that you, being the big angry geek that you are, piss you off. That’s what you are so special and wonderful, and worthy of a tussle of your hair. Chris and Keli do go out of their way to make my point and prove why that guy is not an idiot.

    One last thing… The Departed is a fine film on it’s own but as a remake of Infernal Affairs, it’s total fucking shit. You slamming a Glenn Ford movie is also worthy of raspberry.

  44. David Poland says:

    IO… I have no idea what you are talking about.

    Keil, I would just dive in. I went and got the Wayne version after seeing the film, which really was homework for me. And then, I saw the Coens film again.

    I don’t think it’s Van San-ian. But some of the time, it is weirdly familiar. I think they are VERY different films, not just in image quality and performance. I think they are about different things in many ways. But the Wayne version is an interesting artifact.

    AND… I think it’s funny that no one have invoked Ladykillers yet.

  45. IOv3 says:

    David, of course you don’t but that’s alright, you are still worthy of a hair ruffling.

    Oh yeah, the LADYKILLERS remake is so bad, that Alec Guinness should come back from the beyond, and start smacking motherfuckers around!

  46. David Poland says:

    The guy is an idiot because he’s on Breitbart’s blog. That’s plenty for me.

  47. Hopscotch says:

    Ladykillers isn’t that bad. And frankly, the first one isn’t that good either. Kind Hearts and Coronets, The Lavender Hill Mob are much better films from the Ealing Studios days.

    I remember watching Abre Los Ojos, remade into Vanilla Sky, and my wife walked into the room when the doctor character is talking with the main character and she said, “Jesus, did they use the same fucking set?” Yeah, talk about pointless remakes.

    I’ve always been curious if Spielberg or Scorsese would remake The Searchers. They are both wildly obsessed with that film. Though, I feel Taxi Driver, is Scorsese’s and Paul Schrader’s modern take. But a true remake of The Searchers…who’d they cast? Tom Hanks is getting too old… Jon Hamm would be perfect.

  48. IOv3 says:

    David, when a brother needs a job. He needs a job but yeah, that is an idiotic job position to have.

  49. hcat says:

    When everyone was talking about Van Sant I didn’t even think about Psycho. I thought they meant that Grit had a 30 minute unbroken shot of everyone wordlessly riding their horses over the plains.

  50. IOv3 says:

    Hcat: that’s a good one.

  51. Keil Shults says:

    Ladykillers is the only Coens film that I would consider a “bad movie,” but I only saw it once. And yes, I’ve seen everything else they’ve done (including Intolerable Cruelty, which I’m still not crazy about, but did like a bit more after seeing it a second time years after my initial viewing).

  52. Jive Dadson says:

    I am a huge fan of all the Coen Brother’s films (The Hudsucker Proxy excepted, of course). I am 64, and I do not ever recall anticipating a movie this keenly. Could we just skip forward two or three weeks? That would be great. It would skip all the Christmas carols in the elevators too.

    As for John Wayne, I say fooey. I never saw a John Wayne film I liked, (The Searchers excepted of course.)

  53. christian says:

    “As for John Wayne, I say fooey. I never saw a John Wayne film I liked”

    Then you must not like film…Come on, STAGECOACH? RIO BRAVO?

  54. eck says:

    Three horse race? I don’t think so. Social Network & True Grit will be cutting it up. Two outstanding major studio movies vs. an art house english import, you make the call!

  55. IOv3 says:

    Do not count out the Swan. Seriously, depending on the screen count out there, if the Swan gets a moderate sized wide release. I could easily see it tearing it up over Christmas and well into next year.

    Oh yeah, 64 and not giving dap to the Duke? Gosh darn shameful but you seem to be an older geek, and that explains the Coens love.

  56. David Poland says:

    Hudsucker rocks.

    For the kids!!!

  57. cadavra says:

    Most unnecessary remake: PELHAM 123. Did we really need a third version of a movie that was perfect the first time?

    If you want to see Wayne run the gamut from A to Z, nothing’s better than THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE. Goes from happy-go-lucky cowpoke to bitter drunk in well under two hours. Plus working with Stewart and Marvin (not to mention Ford) really makes him bring his A-game.

    Note to Lex: that’s JAMES Stewart.

  58. leahnz says:

    the coens have made a shitload of bloody good movies. in anticipation of the grit, i just completed the other night my re-viewing of their complete feature filmography (tho not strictly in order in a couple places) with ‘a serious man’, which i’d only seen once before; what a weird fucking movie, just such a sliver of life in such a specific time, place and culture, i’ve never seen such a quiet storm of restrained conflict and jewishness (that’s not really saying much, but) and the end just trips me out. i’m not ever sure i entirely like it, but i admire it for having the nerve to be what it is.

    i honestly can’t think of any other film-maker(s) who’ve had such a long, consistent winning streak of originality and flair and weirdness, even with a few stinkers along the way – whichever coen movies don’t happen to do it for you and there are bound to be a couple – they’ve made so MANY good movies, by sheer force of volume alone the missteps are so outweighed by their numerous unique visions and nervy odd-duckness and originality in vision and storytelling with impeccable production values and performance even at very low budgets, so as thier ‘lesser’ efforts don’t even dent their abject, freakish awesomeness in my eyes.

  59. IOv3 says:

    Leah, his name is David Fincher, and I speak his name. He even took a turd of a freakin Alien sequel and made it tolerable. The Coens are great and all but… they are the Coens. Unless you are a cinephile or a geek, they may not be your bag. This is why I am going with the Swan over the Grit. Why? I got weird faith in the Swan movie and see it breaking out for some reason, and what would be weirder than the filmgoers of this country embracing a weird ballet movie?

    One last thing: HUDSUCKER PROXY FOR THE WIN! It remains my fave Coens Bros film to this day.

  60. leahnz says:

    io, you can have both the swan and the grit, the bros and the finch. that’s what’s so great about movies, there’s a lot to love

    i’m a huge fincher fan, but he’s only made 8 features (that i can think of right now), the coens have made a whopping 15 over 15-odd years, that really is a prolific output of weird any way you slice it (and i LOATHE alien 3 with every fibre of my being, one of the few movies i seriously detest, bah humbug! but i don’t necessarily place the blame squarly on fincher’s shoulders for what was apparently a troubled, fucked-with production from vincent ward onward)

  61. leahnz says:

    duh, over 25-odd years obviously, apologies for silly typos

  62. Samuel Deter says:

    I HATE this awards season. I don’t get the love for either sorkin’s sorkinesque-self-aware-surprisingly-one-note script or fincher’s let’s-awakwardly-tilt-shift-this-race-sequence direction.

    Oh well. Love them both. Good for them. It’s not like my favourite film of the year (Uncle Boonme who can recall his past Lives) is going to be in the competition anyways.

  63. Keil Shults says:

    The Hudsucker Proxy, like several other Coen films, took me a few viewings to really get into the flow of what they were trying to accomplish. It’s certainly not my favorite, but I enjoy and admire it for various reasons. I saw Miller’s Crossing at least 3 or 4 times before I finally fell under its spell. Now I consider it one of their very best movies (probably Top 3 material). Here’s my tentative breakdown of the Coens’ filmography (by letter grade):

    A = The Big Lebowski, Fargo, Miller’s Crossing, No Country for Old Men

    A- = Barton Fink, Blood Simple, The Man Who Wasn’t There, Raising Arizona, A Serious Man

    B+ = The Hudsucker Proxy

    B = Burn After Reading, O Brother, Where Art Thou?

    B- = Intolerable Cruelty

    WORST = The Ladykillers (it’s been too long to give it an accurate rating, but i’m sure it would still be my least favorite by a wide margin)

  64. Tim DeGroot says:

    The Hudsucker Proxy isn’t quite as hilarious as you might want(though Newman is funny) but the production design and photography are truly beautiful.
    The quote is actually “You know, for kids!”

  65. Geoff says:

    I used to find the Coens smug and pretentious, but for some reason, Burn After Reading and A Serious Man have made me a hardcore convert. Also love Fargo, Millers Crossing, Lebowski, and the first 2/3 of No Country for Old Men.

    Now… I the only one that just found The Man Who Wasn’t There a complete mess???? I remember I saw it in theaters and we were all beyond jazzed for it – half of us fell asleep. Incredibly dull and just no real focus to it.

    But on the online blogs, EVERY ONE raves about it as one of their best – I just don’t get it. Yes, it’s nicely shot and Billy Bob Thornton is very good in it. But there really is no point – where the hell did the UFO stuff come from????

  66. IOv3 says:

    Geoff: it is a mess.

    Leah: everything is a competition at some point and while I appreciate the Coens. I have never lost my shit over them like most people do online. It’s not that I do not understand why people lose their shit but look what Geoff wrote above. When you have people going bat shit about the other crap film the Coens have made. It’s pretty easy for me to realize that while I am a fan of their films, they are no where close to my fave filmmakers unlike they seem to be for most people online.

  67. Paul MD (Stella's Boy) says:

    I love The Man Who Wasn’t There. Love Thornton’s performance, his narration, the cinematography, the music, the black humor, the supporting cast (“Have you ever heard of dry cleaning?”). I think it’s wonderful. Looking over that list Keil made, I’m reminded of how many absolutely fantastic films they’ve made over the years. That is quite a track record.

  68. cadavra says:

    Am I the only one here who doesn’t hate THE LADYKILLERS? And I say that as someone who adores the original.

    INTOLERABLE CRUELTY is also sadly underrated. One of the rare modern attempts at a screwball comedy that comes close to holding its own with the classics of yesteryear, and Clooney is just perfect.

  69. Paul MD (Stella's Boy) says:

    I think The Ladykillers and Intolerable Cruelty play better at home. I was somewhat disappointed by each in theaters, maybe due to unreasonably high expectations for a Coen Bros. movie, but found them to be very enjoyable home viewing, especially Intolerable Cruelty.

  70. LexG says:

    The best thing about MAN WHO WASN’T THERE:

    VINTAGE Johansson in her hottest form (ie, pre becoming a Yenta) hitting on Billy Bob. Can I get two words?

    Oh, yeah… YEP YEP. Other than INTO THE WILD, I can barely think of another instance where I was practically on my feet rooting for the leading man to take a young chick up on her offer.

  71. Paul MD (Stella's Boy) says:

    ScarJo is quite fetching in The Man Who Wasn’t There.

  72. Keil Shults says:

    It is indeed an incredible filmography, and there are several films in the A- range that I could easily see reaching “A” status at any given time (Barton Fink and Blood Simple, for example).

    I should probably see The Man Who Wasn’t There again, though I know I’ve probably seen it at least 5 or 6 times (though most of those viewings would have been in the early 2000s). I shouldn’t speak out of turn regarding the UFO, because it’s really been too long since I last saw it, but was it maybe thrown into the narrative by Thornton’s character because he was trying to make the autobiographical story he was selling to those 1950s pulp magazines more fascinating to the readers. Or it might have simply been a reference to the fact that UFOs were of great interests in popular culture at the time. I’ll need to see it again to have a more definite response. But I should add that my affection for the film is not merely based on what critics have said, or because of anything else I’ve read about the film. I really recall enjoying it, and obviously was a big enough fan to see it many times over a 2-3 year period following its release.

  73. leahnz says:

    whose affection for a film is ever based on what critics have said?

    just to say i’m also a fan of ‘intolerable cruelty’, the coen’s screwball comedy. clooney is bonza.

    you fffffffffascinate me
    tenzing norgay…

  74. We’re all keen to see the movie for ourselves. Thank you for not including any spoilers…

    I have, by the way, included a quote from your post on my new page about both of the True Grit movies. I’m curious to see which one will be the people’s favorite.

  75. LYT says:

    IO, have you actually read the original novel TRUE GRIT is based on?

    Because if you have a problem with my take, it’d be good if you knew how I came by it.

  76. arisp says:

    True Grit = B.

    It was good, these guys rarely misfire. The material isn’t anything special though. If they wanted to adapt something, they could have chosen anything. Why this?

    Mattie was great. Bridges was great. The story was cliche. And for the first time in my life, I felt a Coen Bros film was predictable.

    After No Country and A Serious Man, this was a letdown.

  77. scooterzz says:

    fwiw — if you’re a fan of the novel, ‘true grit’ is just about as good as it can get…the coens ‘got it’…so funny and so true to the book….i’ve watched it twice and will probably watch it again…really nice work….

  78. Monco says:

    I just wanted to throw in support for the ladykillers. I liked it.

  79. Joe says:

    Now that “True Grit” has been remade… can’t wait for the remakes of “Gone With the Wind”, “Shane”, and “Grapes of Wrath”. Soooooo much better to “cover” classics from the past than to come up with original ideas… with both movies and music! Personally, I would love to see Adam Sandler and Madonna in the lead roles of a “Casablanca” remake. Can’t wait!

  80. hcat says:

    Spot on Joe, Madonna in Casablanca is completly comparable to the Coens remaking True Grit with Jeff Bridges.

    Glad you resisted any attempt to stack your arguement.

  81. Rowland Jackson says:

    The worst Coen Brothers film I have ever seen. Good actors but bad acting. Sounded like they were reading their lines. My wife and son (23)were also extremely disappointed. Total misfire. Too Bad!

  82. Patrick says:

    Just saw True Grit. So is the guy at the end of the movie drinking from the bottle suppose to be Josh Brolin (Tom Chaney)? Seemed like there was a lot of communicating between him and adult Mattie but not too many words said. I didn’t quite get what adult Mattie said to him, but I thought this was in response to her comment about him getting away when she was becoming delirious from the snake bite.

  83. LexG says:

    ^^ The state of the Hot Blog.

    Like, what is going thru someone’s head when they post that shit here to a weeks-old thread? Or is it just a bot?

  84. Triple Option says:

    Well, he did say he just saw the flick. The film has been brought up recently in multiple threads, so it could be a question of knowing the proper place to put the question. If you remember one dedicated to the movie itself and not the hype surrounding it, this is probably the most sensical place to drop it. Plus, it wasn’t Patrick who bumped the thread. I get what you’re saying, in general, Lex, but this doesn’t seem to be a case so out of the blue.

    Per Patrick’s question, I kinda wondered why so much time (relatively) was spent on those guys but I don’t know if that’s the case or not. Maybe check the credits to see if there’s like an “older Tom Chaney” listed??

  85. Eric says:

    Tom Chaney had a huge hole shot into his torso and it flung him off that cliff. Was it really ambiguous if he had survived or not?

    (I’m honestly not trying to be dismissive, but as I remember it he was, like, comically dead.)

  86. Triple Option says:

    Oh, I couldn’t remember who was who. I was thinking the “Tom” being mentioned was one of the bad guy pose. Yeah, no ambiguity there.

  87. David Poland says:

    The guy at the end is one of the James Brothers… Frank, I believe.

  88. hcat says:

    It was Frank James, she gave him a scolding “Don’t bother standing up, Trash.” when he did not follow decent etiquette when she approached or left.

  89. Marty1234 says:

    Will go down as a classic..the original could of been a made for tv movie..had it never been made it would of been no loss..a life achievement Oscar would of been more appropriate Wayne..

  90. D. Thomas says:

    I just saw the new “True Grit” and although I went to it with a little prejudice because I had a crush on Glen Campbell (yes, I’m over 50) and just loved everything about the original movie when I first saw it in 1969, I was blown away by eveything about this new version. I fell in love with Hallie Steinfeld’s “Mattie”, and felt for her as though she were my own daughter. She is a fine actress, and can really assume a role and become her character. John Wayne was an icon, and the orignal movie revolved around him, Kim Darby was a fine actress but she was Kim Darby (short haircut and all) throughout the whole original version, and Glen Campbell was a good singer and very cute, but not really an actor. In the new version, each of the actors made their characters real people, and people that I could sympathize with and feel emotions for. As for the treatment of the Native Americans, as unpleasant as it is, that’s how they were treated in those days (and probably worse), so I salute the movie makers for opting to show reality instead of politically correct sugar-coated untruths. I do hope the movie wins come Oscars, and especially Ms. Steinfeld. Baby-boomers, go see this movie — you will love it!!!

  91. Perfumeria says:

    Can au contraire expect this series! Thank you!

  92. In this great scheme of things you actually receive a B+ with regard to effort and hard work. Where you lost everybody was first in the details. As as the maxim goes, details make or break the argument.. And that could not be more correct here. Having said that, allow me inform you exactly what did deliver the results. Your text is definitely incredibly persuasive and that is probably the reason why I am making an effort in order to opine. I do not make it a regular habit of doing that. Secondly, despite the fact that I can easily see a leaps in reason you make, I am not confident of exactly how you seem to unite your points which produce your conclusion. For now I will, no doubt subscribe to your issue but hope in the future you actually link the dots better.

  93. Rett says:

    GREAT MOVIE! Incredible acting by everyone. I’m becoming more and more of a fan of Damon.

The Hot Blog

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon