True Grit (2010)

Food:

In the interest of making some puns, I will leave (below) an enticing recipe for Millet Grits with Goat Cheese and Chives.

http://www.asageamalgam.com/2013/11/millet-grits-with-goat-cheese-and-chive/

It is a delicious recipe that allows its leftovers to be reworked into a myriad of new dishes. Enjoy!

Western Film Series #15:

“True Grit” (2010) directed by Ethan and Joel Coen, is the second on-screen adaptation of a novel written in 1968 by Charles Portis. The original film adaptation, starring John Wayne, Kim Darby and Glen Campbell, was made in 1969 by Henry Hathaway and was met with a fair amount of praise. This newer version was written for the screen by the Coen Brothers, who have a knack for creating uniquely comedic characters and providing dark humor to even the most harrowing of situations. This is a film where they magnificently do just that.

The film stars Hailee Steinfeld, as Mattie Ross, in her breakthrough role which earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. She is paired with the illustrious and frequent Coen Brothers collaborator, Jeff Bridges, as Deputy U.S. Marshal Reuben J. “Rooster” Cogburn, and Matt Damon as the goofy, but sincere Texas Ranger LaBoeuf. Ross is determined to avenge the death of her father, who was mugged and murdered by his hired hand, Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), in Arkansas while he was there to purchase horses. She pays and convinces Cogburn and LaBoeuf to accompany her on her quest, a journey where the unlikely trio find themselves unexpectedly forming a bond that would outlive their own existence. It is an incredibly well-paced, determined and beautiful film.

The Coen brothers were officially green-lighted for the project in 2009, and speaking about their decision to remake the classic film, and re-adapt the book, Ethan Coen said, “It’s partly a question of point-of-view. The book is entirely in the voice of the 14-year-old girl. That sort of tips the feeling of it over a certain way. I think [the book is] much funnier than the movie was so I think, unfortunately, they lost a lot of humor in both the situations and in her voice. It also ends differently than the movie did. You see the main character – the little girl – 25 years later when she’s an adult. Another way in which it’s a little bit different from the movie – and maybe this is just because of the time the movie was made – is that it’s a lot tougher and more violent than the movie reflects. Which is part of what’s interesting about it.” One of the most triumphant elements of this film is its humor, which relies so heavily on the delicate portrayal of Mattie Ross’ perspective. Like so many of the most beloved heroines in literature and cinema, Ross is difficult, but admirable, and her charm works as the driving force of the story – an element of the film that was elevated by Steinfeld’s sharp performance. She matches the characters naivety with determination and her lack of experience with bravery.

This version of “True Grit” is deeply grounded in the traditional themes of classic Western cinema, as the directing duo did not want to disrupt the naturally compelling aspects of the book, and decided to lean in to the adventure that already existed within the material – the journey, the experimentation with good vs. evil and the character journey that toys with those labels. It is delightful to watch Damon in such an amusing and self-deprecating role and there is no one better than Bridges to play the mumbling and grumbling Marshall, and the dialect of all of the characters serves as what the films producer, Scott Rudin, at one point called “the love language” that permeates throughout the film. (Like when Damon’s LaBeouf says, “Adios” while pronouncing the typical “Ah” as “Ay” in the commonly used Spanish phrase).

The film is fantastic. It is resolute, endearing, fierce and fun. When embarking on the quest of moving through the films of the American West, this is a piece that should not be missed. Not only is it one of the better Westerns that exists in the history of American Western cinema, but it is also one of Joel and Ethan Coen’s best. Roger Ebert, who praised the film, said, “”What strikes me is that I’m describing the story and the film as if it were simply, if admirably, a good Western. That’s a surprise to me, because this is a film by the Coen Brothers, and this is the first straight genre exercise in their career. It’s a loving one. Their craftsmanship is a wonder”, and also remarking, “The cinematography by Roger Deakins reminds us of the glory that was, and can still be, the Western.”

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