Category Archives: true grit

Catching Up with the Oscars

Due to some family troubles I have not been keeping up with my blogs as I probably should have, and neither have I gotten out to see all the films up for the Oscars tonight, but I wanted to take a few moments to breeze through the few I have seen.

The King’s Speech ~ This by far is the best of the litter of the Best Picture nominees I have seen this year. That’s not to say it will win, although it might. I have heard that The Fighter is better, but I really can’t speak to that.

This fascinating film about the heir to the throne of England conquering his speech problem is one that many can understand, and it has the key handicap feature that wins Oscars so often. It’s time for Colin Firth to win and this is the perfect role. Geoffrey Rush is also in the running, having himself won in a similar handicapped role in My Left Foot. There is also an interesting nod to Rush’s character from Shakespeare in Love with his love of the Bard. Another nice smirk comes from the appearance of Derek Jacobi, whose best known role is that of the title role stutterer in PBS’ “I, Claudius.”

Even Helena Bonham Carter is entertaining here and got a nomination. I usually find her freakish and over the top. Here’s proof that she can reel it in and give a great performance. There’s really nothing not to like about this flick, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it swept the Oscars. I had always thought the more compelling story of the royal family of this time was Edward and Mrs. Simpson, but here I am proven wrong. Bravo, recommended.

Animal Kingdom ~ This one is very slow but it shouldn’t have been. Based on the synopsis, I expected an Australian gangster flick but got a somewhat quiet drama, with a few shocks and bumps along the way, instead. Disappointing but good. Jacki Weaver is up for Best Supporting Actress, and she’s good, but I thought that James Frecheville was better, and quite possibly should have gotten a Best Actor nod. But what do I know?

The Town ~ I really kinda dug this Boston heist flick, and I think Jeremy Renner definitely deserves his nomination for Supporting Actor. This is a different character from last year’s The Hurt Locker, a much more complex and darker portrayal, and it gets my vote. Jon Hamm does little more than show up and draw in the “Mad Men” fans however. The real star is Ben Affleck, who co-wrote, starred and directed this flick. I think it’s a shame that he is apparently still on the Academy’s hate list, because I think he deserves recognition for his triple threat performance here – he is the star of this one. Where are his nominations?

How to Train Your Dragon ~ I could bitch about where Tangled and Megamind were in the animated feature category, but I’ll refrain. This one was a surprise, not the best animated feature this year by a long shot, but a lot of fun. It’s predictable, but compelling and entertaining. Recommended.

My predictions for tonight are as follows. King’s Speech for Best Picture, David Fincher for Best Director, Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush for Actors, Natalie Portman and Hailee Steinfield for Actress, Toy Story 3 for Best Animated, Biutiful for Best Foreign, and Exit Through the Gift Shop for documentary.

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Oscar Noms 2011

Well, better late than never, right?

The Oscar nominations for the 83rd Annual Academy Awards were announced early this morning. There were a few surprises, but not many. Here are the main awards…

Best Actor – Javier Bardem, Jeff Bridges, Jesse Eisenberg, Colin Firth and James Franco.

Best Supporting Actor – Christian Bale, John Hawkes, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo and Geoffrey Rush.

Best Actress – Annette Bening, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lawrence, Natalie Portman and Michelle Williams.

Best Supporting Actress – Amy Adams, Helena Bonham Carter, Melissa Leo, Hailee Steinfeld and Jacki Weaver.

Best Animated Film – How to Train Your Dragon, The Illusionist and Toy Story 3.

Best Foreign Film – Biutiful, Dogtooth, In a Better World, Incendies and Outside the Law.

Best Director – Darren Aronofsky, David O. Russell, Tom Hooper, David Fincher, and Joel Coen and Ethan Coen.

Best Film – Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit and Winter’s Bone.

Hmmm… now let’s not always see the same names, shall we? I can’t really make official guesses at this point, having not seen all the films and performances nominated yet, but I do have some thoughts. I was fully unimpressed by both True Grit (other than Hailee Steinfield) and Inception, so I doubt they will get much more beyond the noms. I liked Hailee quite a bit. It’s time for a win for Colin Firth. And I wouldn’t underestimate the dark horses like The Kids Are All Right and 127 Hours.

Speaking of horses, where was Secretariat? Where was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in the foreign category? Where were Waiting for Superman and Despicable Me for documentary and animated film? Major snubs here, folks.

Check out the complete nominations here, folks, and I’ll be back with my predictions in a while, once I’ve caught up on all the flicks.

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The End of the Western

When I heard that they were remaking True Grit I was very conflicted. The original True Grit – the one with John Wayne’s first Oscar, Kim Darby playing much younger than usual, and nowhere near as annoying as usual, non-actor Glen Campbell and his terrific title song, along with Robert Duvall and the late Dennis Hopper – that movie is a classic, and I love it. It’s in my top twenty movies of all-time, and my favorite western, period. There’s no way a remake could do it justice.

And then I heard who was doing it. I also love the Coen brothers. Ethan and Joel are among the best filmmakers of our time. The problem is that as absolutely brilliant as they are, the Coen brothers unfortunately can be hit or miss. For every Big Lebowski and O Brother, there’s a Ladykillers and Burn After Reading. While I can’t think of anyone better to remake it if it had to be remade… it still bugged me. Why did it need to be remade anyway? I just bet if they released the original to the theaters, it would be doing just as well as this new one.

The story, based on the novel by Charles Portis, in which the lead character was incidentally based on John Wayne, has young girl Mattie Ross seeking revenge on Tom Chaney, the man who killed her father. To this end she hires Marshall Rooster Cogburn and Texas Ranger LaBoeuf. Fourteen year-old and age-appropriate to the story, Hailee Steinfeld shines as Mattie Ross. I might even see an Oscar nod in her future she’s so good, and a far cry from Kim Darby. The problem is that’s about the only advantage this remake has over the original.

The number one problem is that the Coen brothers have clearly forgotten what makes a western a western. The western is a great American artform which has over the last three or four decades been forgotten in favor of the grim, gritty realism of what the old West may have really been. Like the concepts of cyberpunk, and rocketships and rayguns, this may have not been how it was, it is how it is done. Westerns have sweeping panoramic landscapes, big orchestral soundtracks, hokey country title songs and reasonable hygienic cowboys who are easily identifiable as the good guys and the bad guys. The new True Grit has none of these things.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not dissing realism, nor am I dissing terrific stuff like “Deadwood” or Unforgiven, it’s just that not all westerns have to be like that. One critic said of Unforgiven that it was a proper eulogy for the American western. If that’s so, then the Coen’s True Grit is the final nail in that coffin. Any of the old timey brightness mentioned above that signify the westerns of old could have saved this flick in my opinion.

The movie is also very slow, a cardinal sin when it comes to action flicks of any genre, but that’s not where the rest of the problems lie – that would be in casting. As I said, Steinfeld is fine, and may yet be headed for Oscar-land, and Josh Brolin almost makes up for Jonah Hex as Tom Chaney, but the two male leads are near disastrous.

Matt Damon’s LaBoeuf is two-dimensional and boring, and when he does break free from the cardboard, he is more than a little bit creepy, especially in his interactions with his fourteen year-old employer. It was just a touch too much “To Catch a Predator” for me. Jeff Bridges is most unsatisfying filling the Duke’s shoes as Rooster Cogburn. He is neither heroic nor charismatic, or even interesting. He also mumbles and grumbles throughout, as if he had taken Batman lessons from Christian Bale. Honestly, if he had done The Dude in this flick like he did in Tron: Legacy, it would have been more tolerable.

I am stunned that this is on several folks’ top ten lists for 2010. I can only imagine they haven’t seen the original. I can only recommend this new True Grit as a curiosity or to see Hailee Steinfeld’s performance. I did not like it. See the original version, it’s far superior.

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