So once again we have survived.

True Grit (2010)

tn_truegrit2010Jeff Bridges makes a great Rooster Cogburn – weird froggy voice, sloppy beard, aura of laziness, legitimately kind of disgusting as he’s introduced taking a shit and later casually pisses himself. If you don’t know the character from the novel by Charles Portis, or from John Wayne’s Academy Award winning portrayal in the 1969 version, or from the considerably less Academy Award winning sequel, or perhaps Warren Oates in the TV movie version, or obviously the episode of Scooby-Doo where Rooster has to figure out which Harlem Globetrotter has been replaced by an evil Moon-man, then let me fill you in: Reuben “Rooster” Cogburn is an eccentric, one-eyed civil war vet turned U.S. Marshall who “really knows how to pull a cork” and has a reputation for unnecessary but high quality shootings of suspects. So he’s the bounty hunter of choice for 14-year-old Mattie Ross, who wants to “finish [her] father’s affairs” by chasing down the drunken ranch hand who killed him and fled into Chocktaw territory with the Lucky Ned Pepper gang.

The original had 22-year-old Kim Darby as Mattie, for this one adapter/directors The Brothers Coen found an actual 14-year-old to do it. In many ways their version is closer to the book: it’s told from the perspective of grown up Mattie, and shows what happened to her later on, and despite a PG-13 rating modern man’s more sophisticated bloodlust makes for more appropriately gruesome shootings and what not than an old Henry Hathaway western. The Coens will get credit for some of the great lines and language they just took from the book, but I think some of the good ones are their invention too. There’s some great dialogue, well delivered, as always in their movies.

mp_truegrit2010You gotta hand it to the whole cast. Third most important character would go to Matt Damon as Laboeuf (Luh-beef), the partly full of shit Texas Ranger who has a partnership/rivalry with Rooster. He seems like a vain, primped buffoon but he does turn out to have a certain amount of the titular substance. Damon plays it really funny, an improvement over Glen Campbell in the old one.

It’s hard to top the original’s Robert Duvall as Ned Pepper, the leader of the gang who Rooster’s hoping to catch and who’s more of a threat than Chaney, the main target of the manhunt. So the Coens went for maximum realism. Just like they got a real-life 14-year old to play the 14-year old they got a real life Pepper to play the Pepper, specifically Barry Pepper. They have him with a mouth of twisted, mis-shapen teeth that spray spit in all directions when he flaps his lips, then they shoot him from down low so you feel like it’s gonna get on you. Even in 2-D. It’s a small role, but a good one. Josh “Brolin Thunder” Brolin is also great as Chaney. He captures the “everything is against me!” whiny-baby essence of the character, with an extra dose of halfwit. I wished he was in the movie more.

Since I already read the book and watched the old movie and the rehash sequel and since everybody on the internet already wrote about this new one I feel like we’ve been through this story enough times. I’m not gonna pile too much more on there about what goes on in the movie. But there are a few odd things going on that I thought were worth bringing up.

There’s a scene early on where three men are publicly hanged. The first two are allowed to make little speeches, but as soon as the third – a Native American – starts his sentence they put the hood over him and let ‘er rip. It’s a jokey acknowledgment of the era’s brutal racism that seemed to just bum out the crowd I saw it with instead of get a laugh. Maybe that was the point, or maybe something’s a little off there, I don’t know. I’m even less sure what to think about the movie’s treatment of the Ross family slave (a smaller part in this version) and the black stable boy who says he likes Mattie’s pony’s name “Little Blackie.”

What does it mean? That he’s glad it’s an animal being called that instead of him? That he’s unaware of any irony in her saying that name to him? Or just that the audience shouldn’t read any racial connotations into the name? I don’t even have a guess. Whatever the answer, does this add any extra significance to Rooster’s unashamed past in the Confederate army, specifically with Quantrill’s Raiders? It’s a detail that’s straight out of the book, but it’s definitely emphasized here, and I guess I’m not sure what the movie thinks about it. I mean, they don’t need to underline their point, but do they ever get around to making it? It very well may be too subtle for me. I’ll have to think about it more if I watch the movie again.

A smarter individual than me oughta write a big study of the Coens and race. I assume they’re not racists, they’re too smart for that, right? And I’m positive they’re not some Confederate-sympathizing nutballs. I’m not trying to imply anything like that. I just genuinely don’t understand what their goal is in dredging up these ancient racial attitudes. I’m thinking of the KKK musical sequence in O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU, the outmoded stereotype leading lady of THE LADYKILLERS, even going back to their script for Sam Raimi’s CRIMEWAVE where a cop sees a little boy in an elevator with the corpse of a black man and says, “Where’d you get the Negro, Butch?” In fact come to think of it one of the stories in Ethan Coen’s short story collection kept using the word “Negress.” All are defensible in context I think, but you start noticing a pattern, you gotta wonder what their purpose is with these themes.

Why do they gravitate to that type of humor? If I had to take a guess I’d say that it’s a fascination with these time periods and wanting to be honest about them, not whitewash the horrible shit that was going on, instead pointing it out in a real uncomfortable way. But the meaning of the “Little Blackie” scene still evades me. Must’ve been important to them since they used it in place of one of the funniest parts of the book and the Hathaway version. In that one Mattie names the horse in the middle of the earlier negotiation scene, proudly saying to the Colonel, “I’ll take one of the ponies. The black one with the white stockings. I’ll call him Little Blackie.”

Man, I know I’m gonna catch hell for this, but I want an honest and open relationship with you people, so here it is. As good as this new TRUE GRIT is I honestly prefer the old one. At least on one viewing. Yeah, Bridges is doing more of a characterization than Wayne, he’s probly a better Rooster, and that’s a big thing. Yeah, this one probly has some better old west atmosphere, some of the acting’s probly a little more real, less stagey or whatever. And the snakepit scene is better. And the girl is the right age, and does a good job.

None of those things are small shakes, but then again they are not large enough shakes to surpass the size of the shakes of the original. In my opinion that was a real sentence, so just go with it. What I’m trying to say is that even if the new one is better than the old one in half a dozen ways it’s not better in the one thing that I like best about the story, which is the characterization of and relationship between Rooster and Mattie. To me Mattie is a real funny character and I’m truly surprised that the Coens made her less funny. But that’s what I think they did.

If you’ve only seen the new version, you know that scene where they’re at the campfire and Rooster and LaBoeuf are giving each other a bunch of shit and suddenly Mattie tells them she’s gonna tell them the story of the “Midnight Caller”? To me it seems a little out of character in the new version. In the old version that’s what Mattie’s like. It’s just like her crushing that colonel in negotiation, then thinking it’s worth telling him the cute name she came up with for her new pony. She’s capable enough to browbeat and dominate all these adult men and repeatedly surprise them, but she’s also naive and doesn’t understand how out of place she is. When she says that line at the campfire she seems to really believe that she’ll be able to get these two to stop fighting by proposing they all play a fun storytelling game together.

See, 2010 Mattie Ross seems like a pretty tough little girl from the beginning, and sounds tough from her narrating spot in the future. She already seems to have the true grit, so there’s nowhere to go. 1969 Mattie Ross has to prove she has it. We first see her sitting at a desk being the family accountant. She’s a total goofball from the beginning, with a high-pitched, entitled-sounding voice, and kinda looks like Peter Pan. So she’s more out of place with these scarred, unbathed gunslingers. And there’s a class difference that to me seemed missing in the new one. Maybe I’m just bitter that they ditched my favorite line:

“My name is Mattie Ross, of Near Dardanelle in Yell County. My family owns property, and I don’t know why I’m being treated like this!”

I think because of this comedic side to the character the relationship between Mattie and Rooster is stronger. In the new movie I immediately identify with and side with Mattie. In the old movie I relate a little more to Rooster at the beginning in thinking this girl is amusingly obnoxious. But as he warms to “little sister” I do too. At the same time I think there’s more development in the other direction too, as Mattie hires the meanest asshole she can find despite being disgusted with him, then she learns more about his life and starts to feel sympathy for him.

Less important, but still kind of weird, are all the other funny bits from the book and original that are left out or altered. Lots of great lines and details, lots of talk about “they say he has grit” and “Is that what they call ‘grit’ in Fort Smith? We call it something else in Yell County!” Maybe the Coens just didn’t want to re-do what’s already been done, but to me the story just seems less without those touches.

Another example: in this one LaBoeuf is after Chaney for shooting a Texas senator, and mentions it might’ve happened during an argument over dogs. In the book and 1969 version Chaney shot both the senator and his dog, so Mattie’s disgusted at the idea of him hanging for shooting a dog instead of for shooting her dad.

And it’s not just dogs either. Previous Rooster Cogburns have proudly shared their home in the back of the Chinese man’s store with a roommate named General Sterling Price, who is a cat. Why the fuck would you leave that out, Coens? How am I gonna get my feline-POV spinoff prequel TV series, THE 9 LIVES OF GENERAL STERLING PRICE: A TRUE GRIT TAIL?

Anyway, don’t get me wrong. I’m not against an alternate take on this story. I enjoyed it, and will probly give it a second shot some time. I don’t mind standing at the side clapping calmly while my buddies give a parade for this movie as the greatest thing that ever happened, up to and including that whole breakthrough involving the automated division of bread portions. I can celebrate, I just can’t ride on the float, because my enthusiasm is mildly dampened by my feeling that this is a real smart and well-crafted movie that kind of misses the point.

Also his eyepatch is on the wrong eye.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 29th, 2010 at 12:41 am and is filed under Reviews, Western. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

106 Responses to “True Grit (2010)”

  1. Vern – You have balls, thats one of the reasons why we admire ya buddy.

    Haven’t seen the new one yet, except you surprised at gangbusters its doing in theatres?

    With good WOM and people get to go to theatres without that snow shit in the way, TRUE GRIT within a week or two won’t be just the Coens’ biggest box-office hit of their careers. It could go 100.

    Or to put it another way, TRON LEGACY will limp across 100 as well, which means we have two Jeff Bridges movies go “blockbuster” (in the old antiquated industry term) at Christmas.

  2. caruso_stalker217

    December 29th, 2010 at 1:22 am

    LaBeouf does mention that Chaney shot the senator in this version. It’s in the scene where the three of them are chilling in the hut after the plan to ambush Ned Pepper and his pals goes south.

    Personally, I think this film is way better than the John Wayne version. I think that film really drags and Kim Darby just fucking irritates me. I can name a whole slew of Wayne pictures better than TRUE GRIT and I’m not even a huge fan.

  3. caruso_stalker217

    December 29th, 2010 at 1:26 am

    I misread the portion with the dogs. I need to fucking sleep or something.

  4. Caruso – Can I take a crack at naming 10 better Wayne pictures? And just 10, because 20 would be absurd waste of space here and besides it would over-make the point.

    Stagecoach, Searchers, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Rio Bravo, Red River, The Quiet Man, The Longest Day*, Sons of Katie Edler (later remade as FOUR BROTHERS), 3 Godfathers, The Shootist.

    *=OK a glorified Wayne cameo, but I still quite liked that one.

  5. caruso_stalker217

    December 29th, 2010 at 2:21 am

    I would add EL DORADO and McQ

  6. caruso_stalker217

    December 29th, 2010 at 2:22 am

    I would add EL DORADO and McQ to that list as well. In fact, put me in the “EL DORADO is better than RIO BRAVO” camp.

  7. caruso_stalker217

    December 29th, 2010 at 2:22 am

    Shit-ass double post.

  8. I kind of had the idea O BROTHER had made well over $100million and was skeptical that TRUE GRIT could pass it, turns out it only made $45million? Ah well, this should have no trouble passing BURN AFTER READING’s $60million

    TRUE GRIT’s not out here yet, but I can already tell you it should have beaten LITTLE FOCKERS. I mean I didn’t even think the first was any good, but this one, oi…

  9. _Sceptical_

  10. Portis’ True Grit is probably the best western even written (and I’ve read a shitload of them) and it also has one of the best final lines in history of literature – maybe the next best to Moby Dick.

    “This ends my true account of how I avenged Frank Ross’s blood over in the Choctaw Nation when snow was on the ground.”

    Haven’t seen the movie yet, have they used it in the voiceover or something?

  11. Oh, and the original TRUE GRIT is an extremely well-paced, well-writen and generally well-made movie. Granted, Wayne’s work with the great directors like Ford of Hawks is way ahead of it, but there’s simply no way wooden crap like THE LONGEST DAY is in the same fucking league as TRUE GRIT.

  12. I frankly suspect that Joel Coen first read TRUE GRIT when he was at Columbia or something and it’s been an influence on their entire filmmaking career. Look at RAISING ARIZONA, for instance.

    I think Terence Malick wrote BADLANDS and DAYS OF HEAVEN under the shadow of Portis’ book as well. John Milius has also long-cited it as a major influence, especially on his early scripts like JEREMIAH JOHNSON and THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JUDGE ROY BEAN. I suspect the book had a far bigger impact on American movies, at least, then the first film version ever did. It’s so magnificent–probably one of the greatest works of first-person narrative in 20th Century American literature.

  13. It’s taken years, but I think we may have finally found Vern’s “flames on Optimus.”

    I haven’t seen this one yet for purely monetary purposes, nor have I seen the original. Not trying to start shit here, but does anyone else just not like John Wayne? He just comes off like a bully to me. His movies treat him like he’s supposed to be a lovable lout that we adore unconditionally but to me he seems like an asshole gym teacher or something. Perhaps this makes me unamerican.

    The book sounds pretty great, though. I recently got into reading westerns so I’ll definitely pick it up.

  14. I think Mattie plays better in this version. I had my doubts she would have been taken seriously enough to work with by men such as Rooster and LeBoeuf in the original. (I did think the Midnight Caller scene was a bit out there, though.) To borrow a favorite line from Elmore Leonard, this little girl’s got some hard bark on her, and I like how the two men come to respect her, even more than liking her. One of my favorite scenes is where LeBoeuf leaves and asks to shake her hand.

    I always attributed the Coens’ handling of period racism as providing some of the sense of period. Scenery and equipment can do it, character can do it, language can do it (and does it very well in TRUE GRIT), and racial attitudes can do it. I haven’t noticed a similar thread in their contemporary films, just the period pieces, so i really don’t think it’s them.

    MILD SPOILER ALERT:
    One more thing I loved about the new version is the lack of sentimentality. Rooster doesn’t come to see Mattie after saving her, and she doesn’t get to answer his note before he dies. Not at all the sappy Hollywood ending you’d expect.

  15. Vern, I will paypal you the money to go see this movie a second time, because you’re wrong.

    Especially about the first film even holding a candle to this one, or the book.

    Mattie is WAY WAY better in this version. It’s obvious people are struggling to take her seriously, especially the audience.

    She is absolutely hilarious, especially the way she smiles to herself when she sees her fast talking is actually getting somewhere.

    The negotiating scene is better and funnier here.

    And the business with the dog and the Senator totally came through, even better than in the first film.

    And the game at the campfire killed… At least with the audience I watched it with.

    There is never any doubt what these mean think of her… And she does have to prove she has grit to them… The first real showing of that is her crossing the river… And they STILL look to ditch her.

    I also appreciated the fact that only version in which LeBouef dies is the version in which Glen Campbell plays him. Fitting. The way it’s acknowledged even reminds me of the Poochie episode of the Simpsons.

    As far as the Coens’ movies go, this most reminds me of Miller’s Crossing… And like that one it keeps getting better every time you watch it.

    I’m going for number three this weekend.

    I’m serious about buying you a ticket to see it again, by the way…

  16. I do want to add that the only thing that bothered me about Bridges performance, at least at first, was just how much he sounded like Billy Bob Thornton as Karl Childers in Sling Blade.

    Once I got past that distraction, I loved his performance. He’s just a force of nature that happens to be on the right side of the law in Texas.

  17. billydeethrilliams

    December 29th, 2010 at 7:59 am

    I couldn’t understand some of Bridges’ dialogue.

    SLIGHT SPOILER:
    With the pg-13 rating, I was pretty surprised with the cabin scene.

    And this movie doesn’t hold a candle to any of their best work. You know, Blood Simple, Fargo, and one of the top 3 movies of all-time, No Country For Old Men. (in my opinion)

    Never saw the original, probably never will.

  18. Majestyk: I’m not a fan of John Wayne either. To me, he’s like the Elvis of westerns: where some see something authentic in his performances, I just see an empty posture. But I’m willing to admit that I’m wrong in both cases. Westerns aren’t my forte.

    But I’ll more vigorously defend my dislike for O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU. You always hear about the “infectious joy” of that movie. I don’t know. Sometimes “infectious joy” looks a lot like terminal retardation.

  19. My dad told me that John Wayne was, in Dad’s words, an abusive, drunken, egotistical asshole, but we agreed that he was good in a few movies.  I never understood his appeal, either, Mr. Majestyk & Jareth, but I know that my grandpa on my mom’s side loved the guy & most of his movies.  Luckily for all parties, we have western icon & BADASS of all badasses Clint to bridge the gap & receive respect from all 3 generations.  

    I thought this TRUE GRIT’s Mattie Ross was awesome.  Vern’s complaints, that she starts strong & determined and so never really displays growth or a development arc, are valid, but I enjoyed this character more than, for an example of another young female getting rave reviews for her sand, the girl with the dragon tattoo who lit the hornet’s nest on fire.  

    By the way, “sand” — can we try to make that a thing again?  I remember hearing it in GANGS OF NEW YORK, from the decade before TRUE GRIT’s setting, I reckon, and I remember it sounded a little awkward coming out of Leo’s mouth.  I like the sound of it.  It’s less offensively gender-specific than “balls.”  It’s less Burgessian than “yarbles.”  It’s less pedantic than “heft” or “forcefulness.”  

    As in: Does Mouth have the sand to lead a combatives seminar with Michael Jai White at ActionFest 2011?  

    I’m supposed to be working right now, so I’ll look into this Coen brothers race issue throughout the day in my mind and get back to that.  I’m with Vern that there is something about their portrayals of minorities that is bothersome, but I don’t know if my concerns are worth articulating yet.  I’ve always viewed their films’ characters main line of differentiation as intelligent versus stupid.  In the Coens’ oeuvre, you have educated characters and you have dumbasses, or moments of characters’ overwhelming wit & profundity and moments marked by characters’ staggering ignorance.  I never really noticed before that they were almost all white or whether the treatment of nonwhites was a pattern.  

  20. Mouth: It takes some real sand to stand up to John Wayne like that.

    Also, did Mr. Hands and Equinas have sand?

  21. I wouldn’t say their treatment of race is even “troublesome” though… I’m just saying there’s definitely something they’re trying to do there that I would like to understand more.

    I want to learn!

    I’m glad everybody seemed to like the movie so far.

  22. caruso – Don’t know about “better,” but EL DORADO does have one thing over RIO BRAVO: Robert Mitchum over Dean Martin. Which isn’t exactly saying much.

  23. Guys, can you imagine Clint Eastwood playing Rooster Cogburn? Although he kinda already did in UNFORGIVEN (another movie that owes a great deal to Mr. Charles Portis)…
    Bonus question: which eye would Clint wear the patch on?

  24. Both. That’s how badass he is.

  25. Don’t you think what makes the Coens treatment of race actually troublesome is that the only black & minority characters featured in their films are stereotypes, punchlines and okey-dokes? You can say that something like the infamous deleted “Negroes in the dark heart of Africa” bit in the Hudsucker Proxy is adding authentic period detail because many people at the time were condescending racist creeps… but how to you justify the Stepin Fetchit janitor character? It’s hard not to be baffled by their attitude when the only appearances minorities make in their movies are in questionable contexts… I really think they’re genuinely interested in the “authenticity” of this shit, but they just mainly find it amusing. Which is kinda fucked up.

    Anyway, I am a huge fan of the book True Grit and the Coens and I was a little disappointed by this one as well. I wouldn’t say I prefer the original because both of them sorta screw up the Mattie character, but the new one definitely misses the point of her altogether and she’s almost completely divorced from the really awesome character in the both. It’s fine, I just would have preferred if they nailed the best thing about the book, which is that character…

  26. If anything, Vern, you’ve convinced me to see the original film before seeing this new one. I’ve got the same John Wayne distaste that a few others have commented on.
    I have to mull over the race issue myself, it hadn’t really occurred to me during past viewings of the Coens’ films. Not nearly to the same extent that I’ve been uncomfortable with Tarantino’s gratuitous use of the ‘N’ word here and there (mainly Pulp Fiction I guess though I feel like it’s more widespread than that). I would tend to give the Coens the benefit of the doubt that they’re not racists, but who knows. We’ve all got some hang-ups in us, whether it has to do with race, gender, nationality, or whatever, and I guess those things will invariably be exposed if you’re making honest art, right?
    Anyway, thanks for another great review, Vern, and thanks for another year of great reviews and good conversation!

  27. Mr. Kurt Russell would probably make a decent Rooster too, if they ever though about doing a sequel. He could even do the “Kurt Russell playing John Wayne” thing from BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA and get a Doppelganger Oscar nomination.

  28. “So the Coens went for maximum realism. Just like they got a real-life 14-year old to play the 14-year old they got a real life Pepper to play the Pepper, specifically Barry Pepper.”

    Shia LaBeouf for partly full of shit Texas Ranger Laboeuf?

    No… no, no… NO!

  29. I can see how people have a problem with Wayne, but everyone has to agree, the” fill your hands!” scene is badass.

    Anyone ever read (know where I can read?) the Playboy interview he did? I hear he said some crazy shit, for an American icon.

  30. “A smarter individual than me oughta write a big study of the Coens and race. I assume they’re not racists, they’re too smart for that, right? And I’m positive they’re not some Confederate-sympathizing nutballs. I’m not trying to imply anything like that. I just genuinely don’t understand what their goal is in dredging up these ancient racial attitudes.”

    You got my grey cells firing.

    I would say that what the Coens excel at is the oddball and weird for humorous and jarring effect. The sudden in-your-face dropping of crude, grim, gruesome and nauseating juxtapositions of dialog and images. And it works for them.

    In this sense, their use of crude racism fits into their overall strongest cinematic strength… in terms of design, but not in terms of effect. In other words, I think the Coens consciously use racism the same way they wield a scene of Peter Stormare sticking Steve Buscemi into a wood chipper. But I think the Coens are not aware that the effect they achieve with the use of little firecrackers of racist dialog is not the same as their other oddball weirdnesses. They do not achieve the effect they think they are achieving. I would say the Coens are trying to use racism in a way that does not actually work, and they are not aware of that fact.

    A minor blemish, a blind spot, in otherwise filmatismtastic career arcs.

    That’s my theory anyways.

  31. On the race thing…

    My take was that the little blacky scene did two things.
    1. It shows how little thought those at the time paid to racism; the boy accepts it as par for the course, and Mattie doesn’t even make the connection.
    2. It highlights how important it has become to us as a society because we notice the hell out of it.

    These contradictory messages make you very aware that you are watching a movie about a different time where characters have a different perspective. Its clearly one of the most striking social distinctions between american history and american culture today so it really nails down the “different time / different mind” aspect of a historical picture.

  32. Casual, offhanded racism is emblematic of the kind of characters the Coens tend to highlight in their pictures, most of which are not the kindliest of sorts.

    My favorite Coens movie is Miller’s Crossing and it has, pound-for-pound, the most racist dialogue and characters of any of their films. The difference here is that racial epithets against “micks” and “dagos” don’t seem to ruffle feathers the way a racial slur against a black or Latino would in any of their other films. This has to do with the facts that a) we process racism between caucasians with an air of indifference because of the filmmakers own skin color and b) Miller’s Crossing’s characters are the biggest bunch of ne’er-do-wells the Coens have ever assembled. We acknowledge, almost immediately that this entire film is populated with one big nest of vipers and not a redeemable one in the lot.

    When we get into a lot of their other films, particularly something like True Grit, we hit shades of grey with our players, so a racist or racially charged moment seems all the more shocking. Think the guy laying down the track in “O Brother”. He seems jovial and likable enough that when he makes the statement about not recording “Niggra songs” it comes as a shock. Never mind that we are watching a movie set in the South, during the Depression, and a lot of people at that time weren’t known for being very progressive people, music industry types or not.

    Again, the Coens are drawn to characters and periods in their storytelling that don’t always make for the most progressive discourse on race relations. Staying true to that can be troublesome for many. What that has to say about the Coens may be even more troublesome for others. In general, I always thought that they were simply the smart kids in the room who were into old-fashioned low culture. For my money they’ve never made a prestige picture. They play in the same sandbox as EC Comics, Mike Hammer, Looney Tunes, The Lone Ranger, etc., except they maintain an air of sophistication that gives them a greater credence with the awards crowd, as opposed to their peer and friend Sam Raimi. As such, watching one of their movies always leaves me open to the notion that the stories they tell are gonna be populated with louts, numbskulls, brutes and, yes, bigots.

  33. –John Wayne may have a hell of an ego, but he wasn’t drunken and abusive. People I’ve met in the film industry report he was actually kind’ve a pushover–the kind of guy who was desperate to be popular and part of the in crowd. The abusive drunk was his old buddy John Ford, who kept Wayne around at least partly because Wayne would quietly accept Ford’s drunken abuse, of which he reputedly heaped plenty on Wayne. Same with Ford’s brother, and Ward Bond. The guys who stood up to Ford and told him they weren’t gonna take his shit anymore, such as Henry Fonda, Woody Strode and Ben Johnson, soon stopped getting cast in John Ford films.

    –The old janitor in “Hudsucker” is not a Stepin Fetchit character–c’mon, please. Frankly, he’s closer to the original character of Uncle Tom in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel–a wise old man who acts heroically at the end.

    –Miller’s Crossing is also my favorite Coen Bros. film, but I’ve always thought if there was a concious deployment of racist language in that film’s dialouge, it wasn’t so much the Irish and Italian stuff as it was the casual remarks by both about Jews. Which leads up to the great sight of Irish gangster Leo in a yarmulke at the end.

  34. 2. Anybody else wanna try and come up with a list of films influenced by Portis and True Grit? Looking at everything mentioned so far, I’d start with:

    -Badlands

    -Days Of Heaven

    -The Life And Times Of Judge Roy Bean

    -Raising Arizona

    -Unforgiven

  35. Looking forward to it, but it’s not out in the UK till…FEBRUARY?! FUCK!

  36. CC – RE: Wayne, makes sense to me. I’m reminded of that story when Ford “visited” Wayne when the latter was making THE ALAMO and Ford (if the story is to be believed) almost took over the movie from the director…..Mr. Wayne.

    Which is rude, and sorta awesome.

    Personally I’m shocked nobody has brought up the best line from REPO MAN: “John Wayne was a fag!”

  37. I liked this one much better than the John Wayne one myself but it’s not high up there on the list with my favorite Coen pictures (Miller’s Crossing, Hudsucker Proxy and Lebowski) either. I’d say it’s on their level in terms of execution though and as good as Fargo and No Country For Old Men overall.

    Bridged could be that guy that wins best actor 2 years in a row at the oscars. That’s cool to me considering I always felt he was underrated. It’s nice to see him get some shine.

  38. caruso_stalker217

    December 29th, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    I just don’t think John Wayne was a very good fit for Cogburn. I think Bridges was both funnier and more badass. I would say the courtroom scenes in both films are great examples of the right way to play the character and the wrong way.

  39. I agree with the assessment of the racism. Thats just how it was. If you want to complain about how they showed it, well, read a history book. That poor kid probably liked them calling the horse “Little Blackie” cause it was his name, and it was a cool horse. Its how he wishes he could be…yet ironically its an animal.

    The new one left me cold, because the ending was anticlimactic, and it was so for two reasons.

    1. I didn’t give a shit about the villains. Tom Chaney shot Maddy’s dad. Ok, but I never got to meet her dad, I was only told how he was a nice old man. And then I saw Tom Chaney for about 5 minutes and 4 lines before he got shot. Why should I give a shit about him? It was the same with Ned Pepper. All he did was leave Chaney for Cogburn and not rape Maddy. He actually seemed like an all right guy to me. I didn’t hear many folks complaining about him. The villains were woefully underdeveloped.

    2. Now, I don’t know how the ending in the book went, but this ending did not impress me. I was expecting to see Rooster show a new side of himself. Maybe he’d strike a deal with Ned, and let him go; either as a compromise on his own morals for Maddy’s sake, or because he used to be an outlaw with Ned, or some other interesting reason. Or maybe he would backstab or trap Ned in a very clever manner.

    But nope all he did was send LaBeouf around the back (as soon as he rode away it was obvious this would happen) and then catch Ned on the prairie to do the thing he talked about the whole movie. It was nice of him to ride Maddy back, but I expected a better showdown with some better villains. For a western, where I expect the payoff to be the ending, it was going great until the end. Everybody who tells me they like it, I tell them it was ok and to go rent Unforgiven or Lonesome Dove.

  40. I haven’t seen this or the original “True Grit” yet, but I’ll probably watch the new one and hope it turns out to be as good as a lot of the Internet is saying it is. Hell, I thought “Unforgiven” was fantastic, despite my lack of interest in most things Western. (I can watch and enjoy a good Western, but it has to be very, very good. “Unforgiven” was.)

    On the racism thing – I’d never thought of it in this context, but the one thing that always intrigued me about “Barton Fink” is why (I’m trying to avoid spoilers here, so bear with me) a certain character says the phrase “Heil Hitler” at a critical point. It gives an already brilliant, shocking scene an unexpected “edge”, but the character hasn’t shown any particular Nazi leanings before or afterwards – where does it come from? Is it just put in for ironic shock value or what? I’ve never understood that part of it.

    As for “O Brother”, it’s practically a law that a comedy set in the Deep South has to have a comedy KKK rally, and there also has to be a moment where the Grand Kleagle gets set on fire. Think “Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanomo Bay”, “Bad Boys 2”, “Blazing Saddles”, etc. So you could make the case that the Coens were following a (long) established precedent there.

    Stu – yep, this will be another “Machete” for us Brits.

  41. “I was expecting to see Rooster show a new side of himself.”

    red, the whole point of the book and the first movie was that Rooster is a drunken buffon who tells the girl a bunch of bullshit about riding alone at eight men while shooting two guns. Matty doesn’t believe him, the Texas Ranger tells him he’s full of shit, the audience isn’t supposed to buy it (even though it’s John Wayne we’re talking about).

    That’s why the scene were we see Rooster actually doing this shit is so awesomely badass and one of the greatest western endings of all time. And not only that, after killing the bandits he proceeds to 1) risking his life descending into the cave with the snakes 2) saving the girl while shooting and stomping said snakes 3) delivering Matty to the doctor in the nick of time while riding horses to death and stealing wagons from bunches of armed men.

    Christ, what more greatness could you possibly want from an antihero in a western?

    UNFORGIVEN is a fantastic movie, but David Web Peoples totally stole the ending from TRUE GRIT.

    Oh, and LONESOME DOVE is such a trainwreck of a western… I know it won Pulizer prize and stuff, but it’s such a poor example of the genre when compared with the stuff like UNFORGIVEN, Blood Meridian and True Grit.

  42. As an adult, I’ve never cared about John Wayne’s personal life, but I know that, from the start, I viewed him & his characters skeptically. He never seemed like much of an actor to me, but I can see that the previous generations sort of built up & looked up to his image as some great representative of the meeting of Hollywood star and rough-around-the-edges man’s man.

    Someone with that kind of star power who seems to have that kind of genuine admiration from his fans will never happen again.

  43. John Wayne’s not my favorite western actor by far – he just made some really cool movies during a period when most American westerns where really boring (and those who weren’t where copies of Italian westerns) – but as a western fanatic I can’t resist giving a long and boring answer to why I think he’s such an icon to a lot of people. When you see as many westerns as I do on a weekly basis, you soon learn how to spot a good one from the very first picture by looking at the following;
    1. What does the main character’s hat look like? Too many westerns are ruined by actors and directors who doesn’t know what a cool hat looks like. For instance, Franco Nero and Sergio Corbucci used a whole day to find the right hat for Django, and it showed. Gianni Garko, Lee Van Cleef, Clint Eastwood and Sam Elliott are also in on the secret. And The Duke, of course. No one can wear a beat up, worn out hat and get away with it like John Wayne. He sends out some kind of macho sympathetic signals that’s hard to stay indifferent to.
    2. How does he move? Gary Cooper, Van Cleef and Eastwood are at their best when they’re just standing there. Garko and Nero has to be either fighting or shooting to grab our attention. But no one walks like The Duke! He moves in a sort of feminine-determined way that make you want follow him where ever he goes.
    3. How does he handle a gun? Clint, Lee, Gianni and Franco are all good. But no one uses a gun like The Duke. He looks like he was born with a gun in his hand, and when he hits the target you really believe it’s him that did it.
    But put him in an Italian western from the late sixties and he would get killed in the first scene.

  44. My buddy who I code-named Mr. Armageddon in the Transformers review or somewhere came up with a convincing interpretation of the “Little Blackie” scene. He points out that it’s two children in a very racist time period but they’re able to both be excited about this name for the pony, maybe without the racial connotations even entering their minds. He said maybe this was an example of Mattie’s naivete that I thought was missing from this version. She thinks she understands this world out there but she’s really very innocent.

    I like his interpretation. And he didn’t come up with it until thinking about it after reading my review, so I would like to claim an executive interpreter credit.

  45. CC – RE: Wayne, makes sense to me. I’m reminded of that story when Ford “visited” Wayne when the latter was making THE ALAMO and Ford (if the story is to be believed) almost took over the movie from the director…..Mr. Wayne.

    Which is rude, and sorta awesome.

    Personally I’m shocked nobody has brought up the best line from REPO MAN: “John Wayne was a hag.” Actually that last word is something else, but it rhymes with hag.

  46. The Coen Bros were heroes to most
    But they never meant shit to me, you see
    Straight out racist, them hymies was
    Simple and plain
    Motherfuck them and John Wayne.

  47. Cause I’m Mouth and I’m proud
    I’m ready and hyped plus I’m amped
    Most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamps
    Sample a look at the Coen bros and find
    Nothing but rednecks for 26 years if you check

  48. Did this turn into a rap off? Wasn’t expecting that.

  49. What y’all thought y’all wasn’t gon’ see me?
    I’m the Joel Coen of this shit
    Franco is here forever, motherfuckers
    It’s like this 2011?
    Aight my niggaz and my niggarettes
    Let’s do it like this
    I’ma rub your ass to the moonshine
    Let’s take it back to True Grit (’69)

  50. I guess if anyone asks, we now all know a word that rhymes with “cigarettes” that doesn’t require a Larousse dictionary to understand. For better or worse.

  51. So was that Rap Battle so awesome it crashed the site?

  52. I’m afraid you may be right, RRA. Too much science was dropped.

    Anyway, after seeing this I’d say my interpretation of the Little Blackie scene is more or less the same as Mr. Armageddon’s. From the kids’ point of view the exchange is quite innocent, but modern audiences can’t help but re-contextualize it and perceive some overtones of casual racism.

    Pretty straightforward postmodern irony.

    The Coens rarely flinch when staring into the depths of human frailty, ignorance and cruelty. But they don’t bother to tell the audience how they should feel about those observations; the viewers have to sort it out on their own.

  53. To everyone singing the praises of the brilliant Portis novel, please read ‘The Life of John Wesley Hardin as Written by Himself.’ It’s the autobiography of John Wesley Hardin (obviously), who was the greatest (or worst) gunfighter of all time. He killed between 25 and 50 people during a span of about 9 years, starting when he was fifteen. The writing style of TRUE GRIT is borrowed wholesale from Hardin’s book. Portis takes dialogue, jokes, and even paragraph structure from Hardin. He even has Rooster Cogburn make a reference to Hardin when joshing La Beouf about the efficiency of the Texas Rangers (“Tell that to John Wesley Hardin!”)

  54. The Quiet Man is the best movie ever, in my opinion.

  55. This site claims to embrace the “badass” and so few people cop to even liking John Fucking Wayne!
    The man who essentially made the badass what it is today. Just an actor playing a part my ass!
    Look at the Calvary Trilogy. He was able to embody the frontier spirit, he had what it took to strike out west, carve out land, build legends, and unfortunately, kill Indians. He portrayed all this the only way it could be portrayed-without sentimentality, doing what had to be done, with his eye on the prize-a new land.
    Sure, just stick to VanDamme and Seagal, you suckers.

  56. A throw a little John Wayne love in, Brooks.

    My favorite thing about John Wayne is a joke he told Roger Ebert in an interview: “What’s the thing better than honor? In her.”

  57. If you don’t get the above rapping, either you don’t know classic rap or you haven’t seen DO THE RIGHT THING.

    Sorry about the crash.

  58. Well I for one am also surprised so many don’t like John Wayne here. Cause I never did either. Now maybe it’s because I grew up a PE fan. Or perhaps it’s just because I felt he was in a lot of mediocre films. John Wayne just never clicked with me. Not in the way that the likes of Lee Marvin, Steve McQueen, Charlie Bronson and Clint ever did. Those guys will always be the quintessential cinematic badasses to me.

    Look up badass of cinema and you’d see any of their pics under the definition. Wayne never had the same amount of reserve these guys did. They could just stand there and you’d shit a brick in their presence. Nor did he ever exude COOL the way these guys did I don’t think there is one person who DIDN’T ever want to be Bullit or Harmonica when watching those flicks. They’re superior to him in every way even if I do respect The Duke’s place in American film history. It wouldn’t be the first time I respect something that I just don’t like.

  59. Broddie> I think you just hit the nail on the head about Wayne being a badass but not being as cool as those other guys you mentioned.

    I always liked him in The Undefeated with Rock Hudson.

  60. It’s obvious they cut the mention of Chaney shooting the senator’s dog because Brolin didn’t want to be typecast as a dog-shooter.

  61. This movie is a thousand times better than the terrible Wayne version. I mean, his portrayal of Cogburn was so tailored for him that the character just becomes the typical John-Wayne-in-a-cowboy-hat. Campbell was just laughable. I’ve seen the original many times, mainly for laughs. It would have made a fine t.v. movie in it’s era, but it’s so lame as cinema. Paint-by-numbers. Especially when you realize how rich the novel is.

  62. I think what Broddie might be hinting at is that McQueen, Marvin, etc. were sexier than John Wayne. I can’t really comment on that, but on the coolness factor I think John Wayne came from a time when the men respected toughness rather than coolness. Because that what John was-a tough guy. I know Lee Marvin and Bronson are tough guys too, but they learned from the Duke. Look at Lee Marvin and John Wayne in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. John Wayne out-toughed him, out-cooled him, and probably taught him a thing or two.

  63. TRUE GRIT hasn’t just become the Coens’ biggest hit in theatres ever, its the projected #1 movie of the weekend instead of fucking LITTLE FOCKERS.

    Way to go guys.

  64. Fwiw at the screening I went to, with press, they got the hanging joke. It was totally wrong but true to the time. Surprised it wasn’t in the book though.

  65. John Wayne was not a saint. He was a fine actor when paired with a strong director (Howard Hawks, John Ford) and a great script. He was also a movie star who became identified with an idea of what a real man was meant to act like. His ability to come across as natural, not method, has long been thought of as lazy or uninspired. Rooster Cogburn was his chance to play a more layered character. He gets drunk and falls of his horse, but still faces Ned Pepper and his gang with nothing but a six gun, a Winchester rifle that he spins and cocks and fires all while at full gallop. Oh, and saves the girl’s life too. The 1969 True Grit isn’t my favorite John Wayne film, nor do I feel is it his best acting job. One of his best, yes, but not THE best. For that it would have to be a dead heat between his roles in 1948’s Red River and John Ford’s The Searchers. Ethan Edwards is one of the most complex, conflicted characters in any western. Period.
    Wayne’s character is a racist, who’s rage at Indians is tied into his own failures as protector of his own familiy. He spends seven years trying to catch the band of Indians who took his youngest niece, a girl who may well be his own daughter, and as the years go on begins to feel the only way to save her is by putting her out of her (his) misery. She was a woman by then and must have been taken by a Buck (his term for a Comanche man). But in the end he can’t destroy her. She is still his family and in the end his love for her redeems Wayne’s years lost in hatred. He takes her home where she is safe, but in one of the greatest final shots in film history he can’t cross the threshold. He is still an outsider, and as the door closes on him he is left alone in the wilderness. Perhaps the only home a man like him has.
    That’s who my John Wayne is.

    Also I fucking LOVED the 2010 True Grit and will soon be seeing it a third time!

  66. I reckomend all who doesn’t think Wayne was badass to watch Big Jake, perhaps his most violent film ever. I admit he was primarily a family entertainer, but he got to do some really cool stuff too; the kicking in Liberty Valance, the fight with Marvin in Donovan’s Reef, when he hits George Kennedy with the axe handle in Sons of Katie Elder, the night out with Marvin in The Comancheros etc, etc. It’s true that True Grit wasn’t his finest hour, and that he should’ve won an Oscar for The Cowboys or The Shootist instead, but it’s still a fun movie with some good dialog and cool action. It’s said that Eastwood wrote to Wayne in the early 70’s and said that he wanted to work with him on a movie, and that The Duke wrote back giving him all kinds of hell for his violent movies. This was around the same time (I think) Larry McMurtry was trying to get Lonesome Dove made with Charles Bronson and John Wayne as Call and McCrae. Add Clint Eastwood as Dish or Newt, and we’re talking about one of the greatest unmade projects in history of moviemaking.

  67. I thought True Grit was good, I have not seen the original nor read the book however

    anyway as far as racism goes, being “intelligent” does not make you immune, take Bobby Fischer for example, who was really good at chess, but also really hated Jews, even though he himself was a Jew (ironic eh?), you’d also be surprised at how many morons I’ve seen on the internet say they’re racist because they believe evolution made white people better than everyone else

    but I don’t think the Coens are racist, I think they just depict a harsh reality of the past in a blunt, matter of fact way rather than try to water it down or dance around it, Stephen King does the same thing sometimes, hey now that I think about it, how awesome would a Coen brothers Stephen King movie be?

  68. Ace Mac Ashbrook

    January 2nd, 2011 at 3:55 am

    Jesus Griff, I thought you were dead. So you found your way out of New Vegas then?

  69. I have enjoyed all the John Wayne movies that I’ve seen, although I haven’t seen that many of them. The Western genre holds no great interest for me, although (unlike the whole mafia genre) I can still watch a good western and enjoy it. I do wonder if he could’ve made more classic movies if he wasn’t, as far as his reputation goes, a complete and utter arsehole whose ego would not let him concede any point of control to anybody else. A star’s rampant ego can easily wreck a film, or turn a great movie into a merely good one – hell, look at Elizabeth Taylor’s entire career. There’s definitely times when I’ve seen Wayne in movies and wondered if that had happened – if a small decision had turned out badly because he’d made it.**

    (Plus this is the guy who, in the 1960s, famously told one British film critic [Barry Norman, if you’re interested] that Senator McCarthy was “one of the greatest Americans of the 20th century”, and said that Midnight Cowboy, “a story about two fags”, was “perverse”. John Wayne: bigoted egotistical cockshite, but bloody good at what he did.)

    (**For a more modern example, see also: Tom Cruise’s slow-mo hair in “Mission: Impossible 2”.)

  70. oh my, someone noticed my absence eh? that makes me feel loved

    well what can I say? it’s kind of hard to explain, but long story short I decided to take a bit of a break from the internet for a while (Fallout New Vegas is not the only reason though), however I’m back for good now

  71. also, I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who thought Bridges sounded like Karl Childers in this

    where was True Grit supposed to be set anyway?

  72. on a True Grit related note, I read on Wikipedia that this movie was produced by Amblin Entertainment, however now Wikipedia doesn’t list it as such even though Steven Spielberg is still credited as producer, so is it or isn’t it?

  73. Darth Brooks when it comes to men and sexy well it was you and not I that even thought of such a thing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, just saying. I’m talking about charisma and presence on screen as opposed to looking like a tool on screen a lot of the times. I admire the work of a lot of the guys who not only worked directly with him but were also influenced by him more than I ever did his. They seemed more natural and Wayne always seemed to try to overcompensate at times. Wayne just doesn’t work for me.

    I give him Liberty Vance and I also give him The Searchers but that’s where it stops. I can’t think of anything of his that I’ve ever rewatched as often as The Magnificent Seven, Point Blank, The Getaway, Dirty Harry, For A Few Dollars More, Unforgiven, Once Upon A Time In The West, The Killers, The Dirty Dozen, Bullit or The Mechanic.

  74. caruso_stalker217

    January 2nd, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Having now seen THE COWBOYS, I think Wayne’s Oscar for TRUE GRIT may have been a preemptive win for that film.

  75. Well, I was gonna agree, they’re sexy as hell. I’m kidding.
    I do love those movies and the rewatchability factor is high on ’em. But for me John Wayne when, as someone mentioned, was directed right could bring much more to a role than you’re giving him credit for.
    His John Ford collaborations really seem to me like I’m watching American legends being born and codified. In Rio Grande, Fort Apache, the Shootist, etc. he brought an unmatched wistfulness and melancholic hope to these films that really stay with me more than some of the films you mentioned. But maybe it helps when your cast with the likes of Ward Bond, Harry Carey Jr., and my man Victor McLaglen!

  76. Here’s a copy of the John Wayne interview from 1971 that someone requested:

    http://www.playboy.com/articles/john-wayne-interview

    I’ll let you guys discover the shockingly racist parts for yourselves. Here are a couple interesting excerpts, though:

    PLAYBOY: The reviewers thought you set out to poke fun at your own image in True Grit.
    WAYNE: It wasn’t really a parody. Rooster Cogburn’s attitude toward life was maybe a little different, but he was basically the same character I’ve always played.

    PLAYBOY: Did last year’s Academy Award for True Grit mean a lot to you?
    WAYNE: Sure it did—even if it took the industry 40 years to get around to it. But I think both of my two previous Oscar nominations—for She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and Sands of Iwo Jima—were worthy of the honor. I know the Marines and all the American Armed Forces were quite proud of my portrayal of Stryker, the Marine sergeant in Iwo. At an American Legion convention in Florida, General MacArthur told me, “You represent the American serviceman better than the American serviceman himself.” And, at 42, in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, I played the same character that I played in True Grit at 62. But I really didn’t need an Oscar. I’m a box-office champion with a record they’re going to have to run to catch. And they won’t.

  77. I tried to read that PLAYBOY interview, but it just goes on forever and I had to stop and go look at the naked titties on the other parts of the site

    but I like how he says that he thinks General MacArthur would have been a good president and wonders what would’ve happened, I’ll tell ya what would’ve happened, nuclear fucking war, that’s what would’ve happened

  78. Griff, True Grit is set in Arkansas, right?

  79. that’s what I heard, so Rooster must be Kharl’s great grandpa

  80. Tried to see this last week. Sold out. Saw Tron instead. Going back for a second try tomorrow. Never liked the original, or really anything with John Wayne. My daddy raised me on Clint. There was no John Wayne in little Sixfingers dojo.

  81. Griff – MacArthur, one overrated, egotistical mother fucker. Inchon was brilliant, but then he thinks China won’t invade if we got near their border. Because a nation historically paranoid of foreign invasions, or just coming a few years after the Japanese occupied Manchuria….yeah they won’t do jackshit. No sir.

    What an asshole.

  82. I try not to read to much about actors I like. They’re almost always assholes in real life.

  83. Hey Vern, thought you might find this interesting and on point:

    http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/27/narrative-and-the-grace-of-god-the-new-true-grit/

    It’s written by my favorite literary/legal theorist, Stanley Fish (who also has a once-a-week op-ed column in the New York Times) and I think it’s pretty dead-on. Anyhoo, thought you’d dig…keep up the striving for excellence.

    Don

  84. What’s noticable about the interview to me is not so much Wayne’s (well known and covered) racism and politics so much as his constant self-contradiction. Literally in response to the first two questions he starts off discussing how “censorship” is going to mean they aren’t going to be able to make “a worthwhile picture for adults”, then turns around and says he yearns for the golden age when every movie was “made for the whole family”. Also note how he bemoans the new studio executives for being “in it for the buck”, and implicitly chastises the public for making on screen nudity profitable, but basically says “I’m the best because I’ve made the most money”. Basically, I think the guy was a grump

  85. Thanks for that link, Don. A really good reading of the movie, especially from a guy who apparently can’t appreciate “Fill your hands, you sonofabitch!”

  86. Wait. Rooster Cogburn must have known and ridden with Josey Wales in the same small counterinsurgency group during the Civil War…

    {mind splodes}

  87. I don’t know what scares me the most, Gagliasso compairing the old True Grit to Citizen Kane, Casablanca and The Searchers or Fish making the new one sound like an episode of Highway to Heaven?

  88. roachboy

    well, I haven’t read the book nor seen the first movie. Maybe I’ve seen too many hollywood westerns. But i never saw Rooster as an antihero or full of shit. At no point was he portrayed as incomptent or cowardly, hell, he seemed like a total badass and pretty shrewd (at least to me) the whole movie. Drunk, but pretty bad ass all the same. So the last scene wasn’t surprising to me at all. He did what he said (like he did the whole movie) his plan worked (like it did the whole movie) and he got the job done (as he was reputed to do).

    Based on my viewing of the new True Grit only, I dont see how the ending of Unforgiven. A man becoming the badass he used to be for a friend and for what he thought was right, after resisting the whole movie, is different than a drunk who did what he was supposed to per word of mouth and action.

    In fact I don’t think Unforgiven can even be compared with True Grit the movie II. The villains were undeveloped. I’ll probably read the book in hopes to actually be happy when they get busted by Rooster.

    I dont know anybody that dislikes Lonesome Dove, and I dare say the dialogue was better or at least on par, the characters had arcs, and the stories within a story were well told. I’m not saying its the best, just enjoyable and certainly not a mess nor poor example, unless it realism you are going for.

  89. For what it’s worth I thought there were two small nods to Unforgiven in there — the grave visiting bit at the end, and their little shooting contest where he says “I thought you was gonna say the sun was in your eyes”, which is just what the kid says in Unforgiven as his excuse in the same situation.

    It was a good movie but it was no Unforgiven, can’t really hold that against it though.

  90. I’m pretty sure both are straight from the book, so it might actually be UNFORGIVEN was making a True Grit reference.

  91. I agree with most of what you write. The scene with Little Blackie, to my mind, had two purposes- one was to introduce a little irony for irony’s sake, discussing a horse named Blackie with a black stablehand. I don’t see the racism there, after all the horse is black.
    Secondly and more important to the narrative is that it serves to introduce Little Blackie, who plays an important part in the story later, and without having extablished LB as a legitimate character, his sacraficial death later on would lack a lot of the impact that it does eventually carry.
    I agree strongly with you regarding dialogue that was eventually dropped (“This is a right writ, writ for a rat and duly served!”). I missed certain characters such as Chin Lee and the lazy General Sterling Price I’d say that (GASP!) Barry Pepper did a better job that Robert Duvall, but certain actors were sorely missed as well, such as Strother Martin as the hostler and Dennis Hopper as Moon.

  92. FTopel- The movies take place in Indian Territory, which was west of Arkansas. I can’t speak to where the book takes place, not having read it.
    Indian Territory was under the jurisdiction of the federal district court at Ft Smith. Judge Parker (popularly known as “The Hanging Judge”) and others employed roving federal marshalls, legitimate badasses who’d travel alone or in pairs over hundreds of miles of lawless country, to police the area and round up “bad guys”. The scene in the 1969 version of Cogburn returning to Ft Smith with a wagon full of prisoners is not far off the mark.

  93. Having finally seen the new True Grit, I don’t get why anyone would compare it to Eastwood’s Unforgiven. If comparisons must be made it should be to Clint’s masterpiece The Outlaw Josey Wales.

  94. I’m not sure what to make of this, but some of you might enjoy it.
    Frank Rich on the TRUE GRITs, THE SOCIAL NETWORK, America, etc. :

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/23/opinion/23rich.html

  95. Just got back from it. Really enjoyed it, though I think there’s a few parts of how the story goes feel rushed compared to the original or could have more to them, particularly the epilogue. I’m pretty sure too I’ve seen tv ads that show Rooster mercy killing Moon in the cabin, though that’s not what I saw in the movie. The Bear Guy was a funny, though odd thing to keep in. I actually expected him to show up at the end when they were trying to get to a doctor, but without that it just seems like a weird Coensy thing. Was that JK Simmons as the voice of Mattie’s Lawyer?

  96. Just opened in Ireland. No-one mentioned Rooster booting the mute Indian kids off the porch, and cutting the horse go. was that in the book, thee original? Why?

  97. Jam – Maybe Coens a long time back got ripped off by an Indian clerk at 7-11?

  98. It was in the book. The two kids were watching the mule choke and laughing. That’s why Rooster cut it loose and smacked them around. I’ll agree it wasn’t too clearly established what happened in the movie.

  99. Finally got to see this. It seems unique to me in the Coens’ cannon in that their comedic strengths are fully represented while at the same time it’s got sort of the same bleak, violent underbelly of some of their more serious dramas. This may well become my favorite film of theirs due to that quality. Their masterful use of casting, score, cinematography, locations, etc. just makes it better.
    I can understand how it might be seen as a weakness of the film that Mattie does not have a steep character arc, but in the end I think that by focusing on her point of view rather than her development, it makes for a better film. There are subtle moments where we see her inner struggle, but by focusing on the content of her experiences I think her gradual realization of what it means to possess the titular TRUE GRIT becomes the heart of the film, rather than an outward transformation which her character might or might not be conscious of. I think it’s more important that she realizes through Rooster and Labeof what true grit looks like, in contrast to the bastardization of it by Lucky Ned and Chaney. She starts out the film driven by revenge, which she cloaks in terms of justice. But she wants Chaney to hang in Arkansas, because she wants him to pay for her father’s death, even if he’s committed worse crimes. She knows how to frame her desire in civilized terms, but it’s not any more civilized than the brutality of the Lucky Ned Pepper gang. So what’s the difference between violence committed on one side of the law and violence on the other? Mattie’s arc is that she knows that it’s grit, but experiencing it makes her understand what it looks like. It looks like Rooster, and secondarily Labeof. It doesn’t look like Lucky Ned Pepper, who first escapes Rooster because he leaves behind another of his gang who gets shot, and then later threatens to shoot a young girl to preserve his own safety. It doesn’t look like Chaney, who whines that the whole world is against him, and takes it out on Mattie. True Grit is when you don’t blame anyone else for what you’ve got to do yourself. It goes beyond a mere desire for survival and forms the basis for a greater self-preservation in that it values the human will beyond animal instinct. And even though Mattie begins the film with this head knowledge, she certainly has it deep in her bones by the film’s end, and that’s worth making a movie about.

  100. Thanks Amp. Going to read the book in work later, if I can.

    Jek: I thought the arc worked pretty good – you see the smile on Mattie’s face before she shoots, and is seemingly ‘punished’ for the relish she took in revenge, as opposed to Rooster (or even LaBoeuf), who see the killing for what it is; an unpleasant task that has to be done.

  101. Can we considering this an unofficial sequel? Bridges is basically playing Rooster…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=X07xNrVd7DU

  102. Chopper Sullivan

    April 18th, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    That trailer couldn’t possibly look any more like Men In Black without being an actual sequel.

  103. I IMDB’d the director & writers. Yikes. Not promising.

    On the other hand, it gives me hope that one day I’ll be able to sell a script/screenplay if I ever learn to come across to producers as someone with the wit & taste of a lowbrow lobotomy patient. Just add aliens & PG-13 gun effects, and $$$$$$$.

  104. caruso_stalker217

    April 18th, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    Don’t forget cleavage.

  105. Yeah, that looks like shit.

    Thank God that new trailer for Only God Forgives restored my faith in cinema right away.

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