Jeff Bridges

True Grit (2010)

True_Grit_PosterHaving just watched the 1969 version of the film starring John Wayne, I thought it was time to see the remake. I usually avoid remakes of favorite movies, and the original True Grit is a favorite. I have always thought it was the Duke’s best performance, portraying a character full of life and humor.

I made an exception for this particular remake. I figured if anyone could do a credible Rooster Cogburn, Jeff Bridges was the guy to do it. So the day after watching the original, we fired up the Roku, popped over to Netflix and selected True Grit.

Ahead of shooting, Ethan Coen said that the film would be a more faithful adaptation of the novel than the 1969 version. It’s partly a matter of the perspective from which we see the story unfold. The book is written from the point of view of a 14-year-old girl. Thus, it has a certain feel to it, very different from th first movie which was clearly skewed to a John Wayne sensibility.

The book is known for being funnier than the original movie … but the remake is not lighter or more humorous than the original movie. It may be more faithful to the book in some ways, but honestly, I didn’t see a huge difference in attitude, perspective or even the story from the first movie. In fact, the two movies are different … but not hugely different. Different scripts, actors and so on with the differences that inevitably arise from these changes, but in fact, the remake is darker and more violent than the 1969 movie. It is not only darker in feeling, it’s visually darker and a great deal of the action takes place at night.

A Grievance – Slight Digression

This makes It hard on the eyes when viewed on television and I really wish the people who press the DVDs would take into consideration that watching on the big screen and watching at home are two very different visual experiences. Lighten it up when you put it on DVD please. And rebalance the audio so the sound effects and music do not completely overwhelm the voices … requiring closed captions to have any idea what anyone is saying. This is especially annoying, especially when I’ve just paid a premium for Blu-ray.

Television does not render darkness as well as big screens do. But movies these days don’t spend much time in theatres. They have them out on DVD faster than a speeding bullet, often before they’ve finished their first theatrical run. Considering that the majority of a movie’s life will be on DVD, shown at home on smaller screens, directors might take that into consideration and brighten these movies up a bit. I don’t want to put a damper on anyone’s art, but shouldn’t the actual viewing conditions under which most people will see the picture carry some weight? I’m just saying.

And now, back to our main feature, already in progress

ht_jeff_bridges_true_grit_101229_mn

Much of the original movie’s dialogue is identical in the 2010 version. The best and most important scenes in both versions are word for word the same. Between those signature scenes, the dialogue is different. The character of Cogburn is very similar in some way, but very different in others. Wayne’s taciturn old marshal contrasts sharply with Jeff Bridges’ loquacious  version whose Rooster Cogburn talks a blue streak.

Hailee Steinfield’s Mattie Ross is more like her original character than Bridges’ Cogburn is like Wayne’s.

None of this is real criticism. This is a good movie on its own merits. It stands on its own legs. Obviously the two movies derive from the same source, but despite large amounts of identical dialogue, the two movies feel very different. If you had never seen the original and didn’t compare them, I would simply say the 2010 True Grit is a good western with fine performances.

But it’s a remake and there’s no avoiding comparisons. It may not be entirely fair, but it’s inevitable. Some of the scenes, when the dialogue is the same in both, are not only played the same way — Bridges even manages to do the “Duke’s walk” — they are shot the same way. Several key scenes are pretty much identical, frame by frame. Then, the movies diverge only to come together again a bit further down the  cinematic path. The convergence-divergence pattern can be disconcerting.

Regardless, you could never mistake this for an old-fashioned western.Its gritty, dark texture is typical of modern westerns. It isn’t necessarily an improvement, but it’s a constant visible reminder that this is a recent film, not an older one.

Characters are less heroic and more ambivalent. True Grit makes a moderately successful attempt to integrate both old and new, moving back and forth, mixing John Ford with Clint Eastwood. Sometimes it feel a bit disconnected and jumpy, leaping from familiar dialogue common to both movies, to completely different dialogue and mood … with no bridge. Whoa, I cry … where are we now? The sudden shifts might actually be a continuity and/or editing issue, but as a member of the audience, I can’t tell the why of it, only discuss the result.

TRUE GRIT

There’s no cheery ending for the new True Grit. It’s not sad, but it’s not happy either.

If I had to choose, I prefer the original, but the remake is a good movie too. Jeff Bridges is a great actor. The entire cast is excellent. Perhaps the comparison is unfair and it’s better to take each movie on its own merits. That being said, I am not likely to watch the 2010 True Grit a second time. Too grim for my taste, though I appreciated the art that went into its making.

How you feel about each movie is of course subjective. Two good films, genetically related. Take your pick. You won’t go far wrong either way.

Garry Armstrong: The Movie Maven’s Take

Reading Marilyn’s review of the True Grit remake, the obvious occurred to me. I am a child of the old school of movies. My heroes and heroines are the stars from the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. My film morality sensibilities have been shaped and nurtured by movies from Hollywood’s “golden era” through the 60’s. Not surprisingly, John Wayne is probably my favorite movie star. “Star” not actor. I thoroughly enjoyed Wayne’s “True Grit”.

His “Rooster Cogburn” was a sum of all the heroes Wayne had played for 40 years. Older, fatter and more prone to corn liquor, Rooster’s sense of morality was still pretty simple. There was good and bad and few in-betweens. Wayne nailed all that with a self-deprecating sense of humor. Wayne was Rooster and Rooster was Wayne. The original’s end with Rooster frozen in frame and time as he and his horse leap a fence is “print the legend” stuff.  Veteran director Henry Hathaway (“The Sons of Katie Elder”, etc), is in familiar territory and gives the original “Grit” lots of traditional, old school western flavor.

All that said, Jeff Bridges’ Rooster Cogburn in the “True Grit” remake is also memorable and can stand alone. Jeff Bridges as an actor can stand alone. He invests his own irascible charm into “Rooster” while paying homage to the Duke. Matt Damon’s “LaBeouf” is much better and more complex than Glenn Campbell’s Texas Ranger in the original. Josh Brolin gives Tom Chaney much more depth and compassion than acting school guru Jeff Corey gave the original villain. I still prefer Robert Duvall’s “Lucky Ned Pepper” but Barry (“61″) Pepper is also pretty good in the remake.

The remake gives us an extended look at Mattie with an ending closer to the book than the original film. Hailee Steinfeld is her own Mattie — equal to Kim Darby’s offering in the original. So, while I can enjoy the “True Grit” remake, I am still very partial to the Duke’s original film. Arguments?? That’ll be the day!!

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Marilyn’s Desert Island Eight – Movies I never tire of!

Eight movies to have on a desert island? So many movies … but if I had to make the choice, here they are!

The Lion In Winter

The Lion in Winter (1968 film)

The Lion in Winter (1968 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Awesome performances by everyone, from Hepburn and O’Toole, to Anthony Hopkins in his first screen role. Wonderful script and matchless screen chemistry. It’s not accurate history … but the interaction of the members of the family is surprisingly close if you want to examine only the emotional content. In the end, it’s all about the performances. From top to bottom, every performance is extraordinary. Hepburn got an Oscar, one of three wins for the film. Many more nominations plus three Golden Globes. All well-deserved.

The Americanization of Emily

Cover of "The Americanization of Emily"

Paddy Chayevsky‘s script is among the best movie scripts of all time. Add superb performances by James Garner and Julie Andrews in her first dramatic role. The whole movie would be worth it just for Garner’s monologue on war. But there’s so much more. It’s funny, sharp, downright brilliant.

The cast knew they’d never have a better job. All of them list this movie as the favorite or as one of the top one or two of their professional lives. Roles like this don’t come along often in any actor’s career. The actors showed their appreciation by working their hearts out. Everyone is at the top of his or her game.

Tombstone

This is one of those movies that I like better each time I watch it … and I watch it often. We can recite dialogue with it. It’s got everything you want a western to have: passion, revenge, violence, humor and brilliant cinematography. It’s Val Kilmer‘s best performance and arguably Kurt Russell‘s shining moment.

This is my go to movie if I need a revenge and violence fix. It manages to have a satisfying body count without the gore. I like that in a movie.

A Mighty Wind

Maybe it isn’t one of the all time greatest films, but reminds me of some of the best of times in my life as well as music I dearly love. It’s funny, often laugh-out-loud hilarious, a loving parody. It’s a warm-hearted and nostalgic look at a time many of us look back on with great affection. The music manages to be humorous and good — a difficult act to pull off.

Casablanca

Not the most original choice, but it’s so good and it has worn well despite the years. We saw it on the big screen not long ago. Wonderful. It’s pure mythology, but it’s the way we wish it had been. I need heroes.

Three Oscar wins — Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay plus nominations for just about every member of the cast. Seeing it on the big screen was like seeing it for the first time and gave me an even better appreciation of the brilliant script.

Blazing Saddles

It’s hard to pick just one Mel Brooks movie, but if I have to choose, this has to be the one. It was a tough choice. “Young Frankenstein,” “High Anxiety,” and “History of the World, Part I” are right up there too. “Blazing Saddles” wins because it’s got some of the all-time great movie lines. That’s HEDLEY Lamar!

Starman

Science fiction movies usually disappoint me because they aren’t science fiction, but westerns in space using spacecraft for horses, featuring millions of dollars of special effects, but no script. This is all acting. A fine script, wonderful performances, romantic, touching and believable. A great performance — underrated — by Jeff Bridges. And I almost forgot to mention the haunting score. Rarely mentioned, it’s the best kind of science fiction … concept and character based. And unforgettable.

The Three and Four Musketeers (1973 – 1974)

I know they were issued as two movies, but they were filmed as one. The stars of the film(s) sued the studios since they had only been paid for one movie, and they won. Nonetheless, both movies play like a single film in two parts. You can’t watch one without the other. They keep remaking it, but none of the others come near this version. It’s fast, funny, and surprisingly true to the books. Dumas would have been pleased. I love the sword fights. I used to fence in college, and this has some of the best choreographed fencing I’ve ever seen. It’s not the elegant fencing you usually see, but brawling — the way men really fought — not to get points for good form, but to win without getting sliced up.

- – -

And that’s my eight. If I could pick a hundred more, I wouldn’t run out of choices. Oh, and I might change my mind tomorrow!

- – -

It’s a Wonderful Life … All Over the Universe!

We were going to visit friends right after Christmas. We haven’t seen them in a while and we have really been looking forward to it. So were they. Except she’s sick. Pneumonia, some kind of resistant intestinal virus and now it has morphed into asthmatic bronchitis. She is clearly in no kind of shape to have guests. She’s in no kind of shape to be out of bed.

I was going to wish her a Merry Christmas, but it seemed inappropriate. She isn’t going to have a merry Christmas and as far as I can see, no kind of Christmas at all. She can barely breathe.

It’s been this kind of year. My husband’s cousin died. They weren’t close, but it’s another reminder that the family is getting smaller, a generation is passing away and we are that generation. Mortality is too close for comfort.

Nonetheless we are making an effort, however feeble, to get some kind of holiday spirit going here. We aren’t doing as well as we might, but hey, we are giving it the old college try or something along those lines.

Its' a Wonderful Life

Which is why I need to see “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I need to believe, if not in angels, that despite everything going wrong, it can somehow be set right in the end. That there can be happy endings, even when everything seems hopeless. Hope is the single component that can overcome everything else. If we lose hope, life loses its flavor. We lose our energy, we stop wanting to do things, we stop caring about each other and ourselves. So we need to hope, we need to care, we need to believe.

Starman_film_poster

I have long recognized that the goals and plans we make are artificial, created by us to make us feel like we are accomplishing something. I don’t need the goals anymore, but I need to feel like I’m a participant in the world on some level. Yesterday, I hooked back up with SETI. Remember “Starman?” The representative from SETI who kind of saved Jeff Bridges so he could return to his home planet? The guy who prevented the government from stopping Jeff from meeting up with the mother ship?

BOINC Manager icon

Well, not only does SETI exist, but you … any and all of you … can participate in a variety of projects, including the original SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) as well as a wide selection of other worthwhile projects. You don’t need to be a scientist. You just need to own a computer or two that you don’t use all the time. You hook up with SETI, fill out a bunch of moderately confusing forms, all of which boil down to letting them use your computer to process data when you aren’t using it. You can specify that they can pop in anytime you aren’t actively using it … or indicate that they can only use it during hours you specify. It is extremely cool, they send you newsletters, you get a special screen saver which tells you in which projects you are participating, and you get to feel … by doing absolutely nothing … that you are involved in a really big and ultimately enormously important set of projects.

To join, you’ll want to start with Seti@home. That’s where you sign up to let them use your unused computer time for processing:

System requirements

  • There is an initial download of about 10 MB.
  • You’ll need about 20 MB of free disk space and 64 MB of RAM.
  • with a typical computer (such as a 2 GHz Pentium 4), you’ll need to let SETI@home run for at least 2 hours per week (slower computers are fine but they’ll have to run proportionally more).

Rules and policies

The rules for participating in SETI@home – read this first.

Download

Download and install the BOINC software used by SETI@home.

Help

Get help installing or running SETI@home.

Tell a friend

Like SETI@home? Email your friends about it.

Porting and optimization

Compile SETI@home for other platforms or with processor-specific optimizations.

Add-on software

Check out add-on software developed by other participants.

Applications

See the latest versions of applications.

Customize graphics

Learn how to change the appearance of SETI@home graphics.

But that’s not all, not by any means. There’s also the SETI Institute where all kinds of other stuff is going on in which you can participate. If you own a telescope. or are a scientist yourself, or just an interested amateur, this is the real deal.

SETI

Maybe it’s a small thing, but it something. And I’m glad to have the chance to be a part of a project that’s busy exploring this world and our universe. Sure, they’ll take donations if you have money available, but if you just have a computer and can donate your unused processing time, that’s fine too. No age limits, not much in the way of rules or regulations. Pretty cool, eh? And you can participate and never have to leave home.

Merry Christmas, happy “The World Did Not End Day,” and Joyous Solstice to you all.

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