Winnie The Pooh Season 1

Posted by julian On 8:03 PM 0 comments
Winnie The Pooh Christnas Season
















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thinkgreenthursday

Posted by julian On 12:50 AM 0 comments
Welcome to thinkgreenthursday

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Stay in the Now!

Posted by julian On 8:47 PM 0 comments
If you've come here by way of an old link or a google search result and you're looking for news about the Oscar season, you'll want to head over to the new digs where pre-season has just begin. If you've ever linked to The Film Experience on your own webpage, please consider changing the link to...

http://thefilmexperience.net

It'll only take 15 seconds. Easy! 


We're new and improved over there and the weekly Oscar charts are up... and you'll want to catch recent interviews and reviews and more. It's been exciting.

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Tony Nomination Day

Posted by julian On 2:40 PM 0 comments
Remember how awesome it was when these two won the Oscar for costume design in March 1995. Now they're nominated at the TONY AWARDS


If you're still hoping this old blog will be updated, it won't. We're feeling totally at home at the new place so please come and join the new site. It's 2011! Renovate. If you're late at making the switch get caught up with the best of  January, February, March and April.

THE NEW BLOG
THE 2010 FILM BITCH AWARDS
APRIL SHOWERS
MAY FLOWERS (just begun)
NEW EPISODES OF FIRST AND LAST

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Posted by julian On 11:00 PM 3 comments

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LIVE BLOGGING OSCAR TONIGHT.

Posted by julian On 8:18 AM 0 comments
If you've come here and you're not a regular. we've moved to a beautiful new site.
OSCAR CRAZINESS ALL WEEK and live blog / tweets tonight.

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Another Suitcase...

Posted by julian On 1:36 PM 0 comments
Where am I going to....?



To the new site silly. It's totally oscar season.
Don't miss anything! Final Predictions, Film Bitch Awards and all of that.

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We were so attached to this ol' blog that we refused to leave it.


So we uprooted it for a new adventure.

So float over yourselves. There's room for everyone in the spacious new blog (now with Oscar charts, top ten lists, screening log, galleries and NEW FILM BITCH AWARDS all in the same spot. It's the whole works!

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We've moved over to a new site that's a combo of this blog you love and the old site, freshly renovated. Things are really picking up so check it out. We've started the Best of the Year countdown!




Honorable Mentions (#24-14)
Runners Up and Top Ten Pt. 1 (#13-08)

All that plus awards news, Christian Bale's body, Michelle Pfeiffer's new project, Guild Awards, Natalie Portman discussion and much more. So move over with us. Can't wait to see you there.

Psssst. the Film Bitch Awards start any minute (okay, late tonight)

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We've Moved.

Posted by julian On 8:09 AM 0 comments
Where do you want these boxes?


Come see the freshly renovated blog & site. Everything* in one place. Happy 2011!

*still working on importing the archives and the contents of this blog but daily posting and Oscar charts and everything are over there.

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Previous Desplat Goodies: "Breakfast with... Desplat", "How to Watch Movies" and Random Quotables

As promised here's the profile and interview I did for Tribeca Film...

If you're a regular moviegoer, you're familiar with his work. Even if you only get to the movies on special occasions for an Oscar hopeful like The King's Speech or an event film like the latest Harry Potter, you’ve heard it. Alexandre Desplat, the gifted 49-year-old French film composer is in demand. He scored five movies this year alone, with just as many on the way in 2011.

I had first scheduled an interview with Alexandre Desplat a full year ago, when he received his third nearly consecutive Oscar nomination for the whimsical score for the animated film Fantastic Mr. Fox. One year later, his voice finally materializes on the other line...

Read the rest at Tribeca Film
Wherein Desplat talks about his crazy workload, collaborating with Roman Polanski and composing around brilliant performances like Nicole Kidman (Birth) and Colin Firth (The King's Speech).

The Linky City

Posted by julian On 8:35 PM 0 comments
Two bits from Chicago
Roger Ebert the eclectic international and intergenerational cast list of the new Roger Ebert Presents At the Movies. Congratulations to all! This can only be a gazillion times smarter than the previous short run with the Bens.
Wall Street Journal saddest movie news of the day: a classic cinema shut down in Chicago.

General Linkage
Cinematical Matt Damon's "abs double." A funny quirk of crediting.
Show Tracker What are Mad Men cast members up to between seasons?
The Social Network's official site overfloweth.
Ferdy on Films announces her favorites of the year. It's almost exclusively a festival list but she considers going by theatrical release like we do a hegemonic. Ouch!

Confession/Question
Weird reader question coming, so bear with me. Before you interview a star, the publicists almost always say "no personal questions!" and I'm always like "uh, why would I ask one of those?". I am so tied up in the celluloid that it honestly never occurs to me to say something like "so tell me who you're screwing." The only time this interests me is when it has curio above/below the line value -- for instance, I love knowing which costume designer or art director is married to which actor or actress -- or when its part of the overarching Hollywood Mythology (superstar couples like Brad & Angie, Newman & Woodward, Matt & Ben, Liz & Dick, Warren & Annette, etcetera). But sometimes my lack of interest in offscreen celebrity dating shocks even myself. I was reading on PopBytes that Macauley Culkin and Mila Kunis just broke up and I didn't even know they were a couple. Or if I knew it, I never committed it to memory. And they've been together for 8 years! I blame this ignorance on having next-to-no Mila familiarity until she started working on the big screen regularly a couple of years ago. (I have only seen, like, 2 episodes of That 70s Show.) Whenever a TV star is suddenly in demand in the movies, I have that damn info-lag.

So my question is this: Which specific aspect of celebrity life or the movie industry or whatnot do you have almost zero interest in, despite your interest in everything else???

Why so glum Christina?

"and you're in my mirror AGAIN?"
Oh right, you suspect that a Razzie nomination is coming your way for Worst Actress for Burlesque? Happily the movie, though, is not on the longlist for a potential Worst Picture bid.

Worst Picture LonglistThe Bounty Hunter, Clash of the Titans, The Expendables, Grown Ups, Jonah Hex, Killers, The Last Airbender, Little Fockers, Sex and the City 2, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, Vampires Suck and Yogi Bear.

Nominations will be announced on Monday, January 24th. You can still join up and be a voter for $25 [begging] but if you have $25 to throw around, I'd prefer you donate it to The Film Experience. I work hard for you all year and the Razzies only spring up once! [/begging]

The Razzies are rarely discussed in a serious way on the web as it's mostly an opportunity for free-form mocking. It's good that Burlesque missed this longlist. Burlesque is NOT a bad movie; it's fully aware of what it is and it's totally entertaining. If you get a good helping of entertainment out of a movie, it is not worthy of Worst Picture gong.

But in some ways, the Razzies reflect just as much laziness in groupthink voting as any of the "Best" focused precursors do year in and year out. Both actresses are on the longlists for Worst Actress. There is nothing about Cher, as an actress, that one could conceivably view as worst; she's fully aware of what she's capable of and she's totally entertaining (I'm sensing a repetitive theme here). More inexplicably, since Cher is an easy/visible/lazy target, is that Cam Gigandent is on the longlist of Worst Supporting Actor for his best performance to date... which is not saying much, but throw a guy a bone! If you can watch Easy A and Burlesque and think he's worse in the latter, you are probably missing your eyeballs altogether. (In which case: How are you watching movies, silly!?)

Curio: Dawn Dudek's Filmscapes

Posted by julian On 4:00 PM 0 comments
Alexa from Pop Elegantiarum here with your weekly art break.

Reading the opening to Nathaniel's interview with Kirsten Dunst ("one half expects her to flicker when one meets her, as if she's being projected still", lovely!) reminded me of this painting by Dawn Dudek.

M escapes to dream.
2007, acrylic on canvas


Dawn creates magical split-frame paintings that go beyond merely imitating the atmosphere of a film; her paintings capture feeling of watching a moment at 24 frames per second. Her subjects range from more obscure films to the (slightly) more commercial. One of the fun things about looking at her work is figuring out what film inspired each painting. Some I recognized immediately, others took longer, and for many, I needed help. But not knowing doesn't detract from the experience at all. A selection of some of my favorites, below.

Cleo wears her new hat on Tuesday.
2007, acrylic on canvas


Su waiting for Chow
2006, acrylic on canvas


William in pursuit
2007, acrylic on canvas


El Paso
2010, acrylic on canvas


The twilight of Cathy Whitaker
2006, acrylic on canvas


My Udo My Udo What Have Ye Done

Posted by julian On 2:00 PM 0 comments
JA from MNPP here. Have you read this phenomenally odd and delightful interview with the actor Udo Kier at The AV Club? Odd and delightful are the two words I'd always use whenever mentioning Mr. Kier, but he really brings it this time around.

Over at MNPP  I picked out my fifteen favorite quotes from the interview, but I'm so oddly delighted in this chat's wake I've got to just keep on thinking about Udo, and what better way to do that then to mercilessly pick apart the work he's done over the years with a completely frivolous list. He's worked so much in such a vast array of projects that there are dozens of his performances that I've missed (I don't know how this is possible but it appears I've never seen any of the films he's done with Fassbinder, for example), but out of the many I have seen here are my five favorite performances of his.

5 Favorites



Lee Meyers, My Son My Son What Have Ye Done - I don't think it's often that Udo gets picked to play a straight man to somebody else's nuttery, but when stacked up against a way out there Michael Shannon it's not only possible, it's enthralling.

NSFW image after the jump





Hans, My Own Private Idaho - I think he sums it up best: "Amazing to have sex with Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix!"
.

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Count Dracula, Andy Warhol's Dracula - It's hard choosing between his Dracula and his Dr. Frankenstein in the previous year's (superior) Andy Warhol's Frankenstein, but his sickly Drac casts an enfeebledly hypnotic spell I can't quite shake.


Aage Krüger / Little Brother, The Kingdom - You haven't truly lived until you've seen Udo's face emerge from the vital space of a birthing mother.
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Franz Hess, Grindhouse's fake trailer for "Werewolf Women of the SS" - Sure I could've picked something from his other classier works, like all the stuff he's done with Von Trier (he's Lars' most commonly used actor, ya know), but I think this one about sums it all up in a nice tight insane bow.

Runner-up: He played a character named "Wolfgang Herzog" on an episode of Nash Bridges. I haven't seen it, I don't need to see it, without knowing it demands a place upon this list.
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Mo'Nique to Announce Oscar Nominees

Posted by julian On 12:15 PM 0 comments
I'm riffing on a conversation from Facebook (sorry Matt & Erik!) here but since Mo'Nique will announce the Oscar nominees on January 25th with AMPAS president Tom Sherak, can she please do it in character as Mary Jones!!?!

Frankly, no matter which wonderful film or actor gets a terribly unjust snub that morning (and I know a handful who are in danger), it'd still be the greatest Oscar morning of all time if Mo'Nique will rip down one of those 5 screens that hang behind the podium as soon as she's displeased with one of the names uttered.

I know you know the set I'm talking about...

the general setup each year.
Just rip down one of them screens, Mo'Nique!

Hurl it at the sea of reporters, caught off guard. You'll be all anyone talks about that Tuesday even though you didn't even have a movie this year.

This is my new favorite Oscar nomination morning fantasy of all time! If you share this fantasy, pass it on. We can will it into happening. Hear us oh great Mo'Nique!
*

The Writers Guild members have spoken. Though their tongues were kinda bound by their rules which prohibit, as I understand it, non-members from receiving nominations (AMPAS members can vote for you even if you aren't affiliated with them or with an American guild). So for what it's worth, here are the nominations.

"I heard you were an MTV girl"
Alice in The Fighter

Original Screenplay

Black Swan, Screenplay by Mark Heyman and Andres Heinz and John McLaughlin; Story by Andres Heinz; Fox Searchlight
The Fighter, Screenplay by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson; Story by Keith Dorrington & Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson; Paramount Pictures
Inception, Written by Christopher Nolan; Warner Bros.
The Kids Are All Right, Written by Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg; Focus Features
Please Give, Written by Nicole Holofcener; Sony Pictures Classics
  • Last year and the year before this category had very little overlap between WGA and Oscar (2 and only 1 similarity respectively). You have to go back to 2007 to get a year with a lot of agreement (4 of 5). 
  • Oscar contenders that were not eligible for the WGA prize for various reasons are The King's Speech, Blue Valentine, Biutiful and Another Year. You'd be foolish to count the first and the last out especially, since Speech is a frontrunning film of sorts and Another Year comes from Mike Leigh whose process has long fascinated the writers branch within the Academy. I suspect the Black Swan and Please Give screenplays aren't safe, the former because it's viewed as a director's film and the latter because it's profile is low, though it's very clever in terms of dialogue. my current screenplay predictions.
"You don't look like you belong here
Phillip."
-Steven Russell to
(I Love You) Phillip Morris

Adapted Screenplay
127 Hours, Screenplay by Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy; Based on the book Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston; Fox Searchlight
I Love You Phillip Morris, Written by John Requa & Glenn Ficarra; Based on the book by Steven McVicker; Roadside Attractions
The Social Network, Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin; Based on the book The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich; Sony Pictures
The Town, Screenplay by Peter Craig and Ben Affleck & Aaron Stockard; Based on the novel Prince of Thieves by Chuck Hogan; Warner Bros.
True Grit, Screenplay by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen; Based on the novel by Charles Portis; Paramount Pictures
  • Major Oscar contenders that were not eligible include Winter's Bone, Toy Story 3 and The Ghost Writer as well as a few longshots that could theoretically appear if their fanbases buck current precursor trends and rank them #1 on their ballots en masse: The Way Back, Never Let Me Go, and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. (This category has stronger overlap with Oscar nominations than their Original category. But I expect this to only line up 3/5 this year with Winter's Bone and Toy Story 3 being very strong Oscar contenders.
  • Snubbed: Rabbit Hole. It's just having trouble catching on.
  • How about that I Love You Phillip Morris citation? Surprise! It's a fun inclusion. Too bad the movie didn't get a wider release. It's comic enough that you'd think they would have risked a wide release. It's only at 68 theaters currently and will be Jim Carrey's lowest grossing major role since Earth Girls are Easy (1989) well before he broke out as a major star.

Documentary Screenplay
Enemies of the People, Written, Directed, Filmed and Produced by Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath; International Film Circuit
Freedom Riders, Written, Produced and Directed by Stanley Nelson; International Film Circuit
Gasland, Written and Directed by Josh Fox; HBO Documentary Films and International WOW Company
Inside Job, Produced, Written and Directed by Charles Ferguson; Co-written by Chad Beck, Adam Bolt; Sony Pictures Classics
The Two Escobars, Written by Michael Zimbalist, Jeff Zimbalist; ESPN Films
Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?, Written and Directed by John Scheinfeld; Lorber Films
  •  No, I'm not sure why there are six nominees. Perhaps there is no tiebreaker system. Interesting that this list, like the PGA nominees earlier today, contain so few Oscar finalists...

The box office for New Year's weekend was little changed from Christmas weekend when Jeff Bridges double dipped and I had a creepy 90s flashback (that whole post still applies) so instead of sharing their grosses in that banal way you can get anywhere, let's share their gross minus their budget. This is an inexact science for sure. It doesn't include the $$$ of worldwide grosses but it also doesn't include the $$$ of advertising costs so we like it as a vague snapshot of how the movies are doing.

Top Ten Box Office
key: red (budgets way too big) black (passed their budget) green (heading towards significant profits.)
  1. Little Fockers + $2 million (second week)
  2. True Grit + $48 million (second week)
  3. Tron Legacy -$39 million (third week)
  4. Yogi Bear - $15 million (third week)
  5. Chronicles of Narnia -$69 million (fourth week)
  6. The Fighter + $21 million (fourth week)
  7. Tangled - $93 million (sixth week - not as disastrous as it looks since Disney is its own franchise. People really like this gargantuanly expensive movie so it might restore some faith in the faltering "brand" and help the next movie. Plus it adds another "princess" to their merchandise line. Ka-ching!)
  8. Gulliver's Travels -$85 million (second week)
  9. Black Swan + $34 million (fifth week)
  10. The King's Speech + $7 million (sixth week)
This is far less depressing than just regular ol' box office reporting right? The good movies aren't as expensive to make and they're making significant money. [Tangent: Let True Grit (review) and Black Swan (plentiful posts) be a lesson to filmmakers and studios: these movies look sensational and feature movie stars. How on earth is your movie so much more expensive?]

One more list. How about the best per-screen averages? Naturally this favors movies in very few theaters that have withheld themselves for several months of buzz whilst waiting for Golden Globe and Oscar fever to kick in. From my throne armchair that looks like distributors just throwing money away while people talk about product they can't spend money on for 3 to 12 months. This only increases the likelihood of piracy and/or likelihood that people might be sick of you in the abstract when you're finally available for tangible purchase. Yes, I live in NYC and seeing movies is easy but I remember quite well what a trial it was before I moved here. I'm still, I'm still Jenny from the block.

That list goes like so...

Top Per Screen Average
  1. Blue Valentine (4 theaters) $48,000+ (debut)
  2. Country Strong (2 theaters) $20,000+ (2nd week)
  3. Another Year (6 theaters)  $18,000+ (debut)
  4. Somewhere (8 theaters) $17,000+ (2nd week)
  5. The Illusionist (3 theaters) $15,000+ (2nd week)
  6. The King's Speech (700 theaters) $11,000+ (6th week)
They must be partying at the Weinstein Co. right now (#1 and #6)

I can't fathom why Country Strong, built to appeal to an enormous market of people who love country music, didn't just open wide? If the film isn't very good -- which they keep saying -- why not make all your money up front before word of mouth doesn't kick in? Naturally this chart is very good news for The King's Speech since it's already gone wide and it's still filling plentiful seats wherever it plays. But here's the sad news: It's rough going out there for Rabbit Hole which has only a $4,000+ average on 34 screens in its 3rd week. Now that's a better number than most of the top ten movies but it's not generally enough to get distributors excited about spending more money to release you winder. Sniffle. Rabbit Hole is not half as depressing as Blue Valentine so if the "depression" factor is keeping people away, they're being silly. It's a really good movie. Why can't Nicole catch a break? Sigh.

What did you spend your money on over New Year's? (I mean, besides booze)
*

PGA Nominations: No Winter's Bone

Posted by julian On 7:28 AM 0 comments
And for best Pro Golfer the nomin--- er, oh yes yes.
The Producers Guild of America. Righty-o.

Best Picture
127 Hours Danny Boyle, Christian Colson
Black Swan Scott Franklin, Mike Medavoy, Brian Oliver
Inception Christopher Nolan, Emma Thomas
The Fighter David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman, Mark Wahlberg
The Kids Are All Right Gary Gilbert, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, Celine Rattray
The King's Speech Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, Gareth Unwin
The Social Network Dana Brunetti, Cean Chaffin, Michael De Luca, Scott Rudin
The Town Basil Iwanyk, Graham King
Toy Story 3 Darla K. Anderson
True Grit Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Scott Rudin

The snubbee here in terms of Oscar buzz is Winter's Bone. But it's a tiny indie and maybe that's not what the PGA wanted to value? Still it's absence reminds us that the Best Picture race, is really down to those 11 films. Last year, there were only about 12 films standing before Oscar nominations were announced. Is it always going to be this simple to predict with the new widened Best Picture field. If so, sadness. Predicting should be tougher. But at least it's tough to say which of the 11 is getting the Oscar boot.



I'm currently assuming that it's either 127 Hours or The Town on the outs come January 25th but who knows? Maybe it'll be something that breaks my heart more like The Kids Are All Right or --GASP-- how will the internet go on living if it's Inception? When there is just one too many strong precursor candidates in any category (see also supporting actress) sometimes the person/film left out is not the one everyone thought was most vulnerable.

Animated Pictures:
Despicable Me John Cohen, Janet Healy, Christopher Meledandri
How To Train Your Dragon Bonnie Arnold
Toy Story 3 Darla K. Anderson

Despicable Me eh? I guess you have to give the producers credit for how good that looked and how successful it was despite a budget that was far lower than most of the animated films that were hits this year.
Documentary Pictures:
Client 9 Awaiting final credit determination
Earth Made of Glass Reid Carolin, Deborah Scranton
Inside Job Charles Ferguson, Audrey Marrs
Smash His Camera Linda Saffire, Adam Schlesinger
The Tillman Story  John Battsek
Waiting For 'Superman' Lesley Chilcott

I'm proud of them for not restricting themselves to only Oscar finalists here. Though I still don't really get the enthusiasm for Client 9, Inside Job and Waiting For 'Superman'... as they seem to be such straightforward docs. I guess I'm drawn to more creative / surprising let's informational documentaries.

Episodic TV, Comedy
30 Rock
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Glee
Modern Family
The Office

Episodic TV, Drama
Breaking Bad
Dexter
Lost
Mad Men
True Blood

Longform TV
Murder on the Orient Express
Pillars of Earth
Temple Grandin
The Pacific
You Don't Know Jack

I sometimes have nightmares that in the year 2014 people will still be nominating Temple Grandin for prizes. Isn't that already like 3 years old?

NonFiction TV
Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations
Deadliest Catch
Intervention
Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List
Undercover Boss

Live Entertainment and Competition TV
The Amazing Race
The Colbert Report
Project Runway
Real Time With Bill Maher
Top Chef

Dating a Semi Sadist

Posted by julian On 10:00 PM 0 comments
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OFCS Winners

Posted by julian On 6:56 PM 0 comments
The Online Film Critics Society announced their winners this morning. It's the expected winners who've 'worn a groove' as Sasha has been known to say. So everyone votes for them and shall for the rest of the season. For the most part. Hopefully supporting actress will shift towards Leo, Adams or Weaver for the win... all of them actually supporting players, and amazing ones at that. It's been a good year for actresses it has.

Is this awards season all a dream? It's happening on a loop.
No surprises in the winners so I had to goof off a little in the listing. Just trying to keep it fun.

Picture: The Social Network
Director: David Fincher, The Social Network
Lead Actor: Colin Firth, The King's Speech
Our Leading Lady of Ubiquity: Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Lead Actor Who Supports The Other Lead Actor: Christian Bale, The Fighter
Lead Actress Who Supports Entirety of Her Movie: Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
Original Exposition: Christopher Nolan, Inception
Adapted Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network
Cinematography: Roger Deakins, True Grit
Editing: Lee Smith, Inception
Animated Feature That Cures Cancer: Toy Story 3
Foreign Language Film: Mother
Documentary: Exit Through The Gift Shop

A Second Look At "True Grit"

Posted by julian On 11:00 AM 0 comments
Last night, I began what I thought would be a live-blog of True Grit. I scrapped it without posting as it was basically a series of line quotations; presumably you don't come to the blog to watch me take dictation.


It's a testament to the Coen Bros singular voice and gift with language that they can launch a movie with a particularly evocative scriptural quotation
"The wicked flee when none pursueth."Proverbs 28:1
...and begin topping it straightaway with their own words. Or what one assumes are their own words since this is an adaptation. Confession: I have not read the Charles Portis novel or seen the John Wayne film. I've been allergic to John Wayne for as long as I can remember and the only successful antihistamine I've yet encountered is Montgomery Clift (see Red River. Literally. See it. What a film!)

True Grit is an extremely mannered film. That's not a qualitative judgment, just an observation. As I stated in my 7 word review "even the horses act with meticulous predetermination." Which is to say --  here comes the qualitative judging -- this particular movie could stand to breathe in a little of its cold night air or just to stumble from its saddle, the way Rooster does once he's fallen to drink. True Grit doesn't feel entirely human. No Country For Old Men benefitted enormously from the Coen Bros machine-like control of cinema. It made the whole film feel malevolent and underlined its thematic death march. That level of inhuman control is not as much to your advantage when you're telling a story about a little girl out to avenge her father's death.

The plot setup, in case you haven't yet seen it, is that Cheney (Josh Brolin) has killed Mattie Ross's (Hailee Steinfeld) father and fled. Since the law doesn't seem to care Mattie hires a Marshall Reuben "Rooster" Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to track down her daddy's killer. A Texas ranger (Matt Damon) accompanies them. Mattie admires men with grit and she's got the stuff herself, but none of the characters (including Mattie) have much in the way of emotional depth. Some, like the villains, are straight up types / cartoons.


 The performances are often amusing but these roles are but tiny sandboxes in which the actors can play. Matt Damon is quite funny in that casual fraternal way of his. Josh Brolin and Hailee Steinfeld don't fare as well, especially on second viewing, adding a stiff "I'm acting now" vibe to the film's already overt mannerisms. These can't be the easiest lines to say -- think for a moment on how hard it is to speak naturally without contractions -- but sometimes, particularly with Steinfeld, the dialogue is spoken as if it were lines rather than verbalized thoughts. Even in two-character scenes, she's monologuing rather than conversing. I continue to be bewildered by the intense praise and awardage Steinfeld is receiving for what is, at best, a solid performance of an endearing lead role, and what is, at worst, an adequate reading of a role that could have elevated the film if there were more complex subtext. There's precious little nuance or backstory teased out which keeps the role in its one dimensional origin space. Arguably Steinfeld also hits those non-verbal notes to convey Mattie thinking or scheming a bit too hard. Is she telling us that Mattie is less clever than she thinks she is or is this merely overplaying?

Best in show, and by an enormous margin with a star turn that deepens on second viewing, is Jeff Bridges as the sozzled Rooster Cogburn. The actor knows that this already iconic role is a rich opportunity for showmanship and understands its imitations otherwise, so he zeroes in on the voice and the physicality, both of which can be readily aped at home to further endear people to the character and actor. (Pop culture statisticians tell us that "I can't do nuthin' for you, son" has already been quoted with amateur approximations of Rooster's voice at least 36,230 times since December 22nd from people of both sexes and of all ages in over 4 different countries. I'm rooting for "performin' his necessaries" to also hit it big.)

Bridges' best decision is that tilted stare, sometimes with his head just slightly yanked backwards; is Rooster trying to refocus his eyes? 'I mean his eye.' He continually holds that stare a shade too long. There's just so much humor in the way Rooster sizes up each character. Even better is that Rooster has the same reaction to surprising lines that are lobbed his way. He treats them like verbal pistol-cocking and he'd best locate a target.

The Coen Bros are beloved of cinephiles and it's not hard to understand why. Filmmakers like the brothers force you to think about the construction of films, because you suddenly notice that every shot, every cut, every moment represents a choice. The dark side of this is that the mannered films perpetually risk devouring themselves like an oroborus or, be they less aggressive or more pretentious, merely sticking their head up their own arse. Excessive stylization is also anathema to viewers who don't like to be confronted by the man (or men) behind the curtain while they're watching films. But on second viewing, the belabored filmmaking proves more boon than bane though and makes the movie quite a lot funnier.

And as everyone has noted, the technical elements are lovely. Roger Deakins' cinematography is beautifully expressive as well as just being plainly beautiful and the editing is top notch. (It's less discussed than their writing skills but aren't the Coens just as gifted in the editing bay?) Nick once called the dissolve a more "soulful" option than a cut and the Coen Bros lean on it a lot here. It works well for the film.  What True Grit lacks in heart and warmth it nearly makes up for in cool soul.

Best line in the movie? It comes during a fade to black near the beginning of the picture as Mattie crashes at the local undertakers before beginning her trip with Rooster.
"If you would like to sleep in a coffin, it would be all right."
It's a comic line in direct context but it's so much more, too. Could there be a slyer preceding line for such a willful march towards vengeance? And could there be a more perfect line to illustrate the often morbid comic sensibility of the Coen brothers?

Speaking of death...



True Grit really sticks its landing which is so important and so hard for movies to do. [VAGUE SPOILER] The climactic nighttime run, which needs to be the most operatically emotional moment in the movie, is just that. Bridges lends the scene natural gravitas and the brave surreal length of that race against the clock is superbly handled. The 25 years later coda, which we also need, is more surprising but ends the movie on just the right note of starch. Mattie (now played by Elizabeth Marvel, the acclaimed stage actress who we're betting is the new Coen regular) has never been a particularly emotional or fun-loving girl and though "time gets away from us" we know it hasn't actually changed her all that much.

B (up from B-)

LFF

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