"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Million Dollar Movie

“True Grit” hits Pay Dirt. The Coen’s remake will be their biggest-grossing movie to date. Also, the classic Charles Portis novel has sold over 100,000 copies since the beginning of November.


1 Matt Blankman   ~  Jan 10, 2011 10:46 am

I was concerned that the epilogue would not sit well with general audiences and keep the movie from becoming a big cash cow. Happily I am wrong; the audience seems to be building week to week.

This is exactly the kind of movie that *should* do well at the box office. Big stars, well-made, handsome film, terrific story. I don't think its a great film, but it's a damned good one. I'm happy its a hit.

2 Alex Belth   ~  Jan 10, 2011 10:54 am

2) Couldn't agree more. Funny how some material just seems to connect with audiences. The Portis novel is a book that a teenager could read and enjoy, but is also very appealing for adults.

3 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Jan 10, 2011 11:06 am

Oh, Matt, I would disagree: I think it is a great film.

No time now to argue for that, but man, I think it was damned near perfect.

4 Alex Belth   ~  Jan 10, 2011 11:09 am

3) I haven't talked to anyone who hasn't liked it, just people who love it or just think it's very solid, very good but not great.

5 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Jan 10, 2011 12:31 pm

The medicine man-bear!

The pacing!

The performances!

The costumes!

The cinematography!

The pathos!

The comic relief!

The uncanny depictions of human frailty!

I'd be so interested to hear from people which elements of the film they found less than great.

6 Matt Blankman   ~  Jan 10, 2011 1:16 pm

(5) Didn't care for the score, at least in the first section of the film. Those solo piano renditions of Rally 'Round the Flag made me think I was watching a Ken Burns doc. Took me out of the film for a moment.

I have other minor quibbles (I didn't at all mind the green screen stuff towards the end that bothered Alex - someone pointed it out that it may well have been an homage to Night of the Hunter), but the real reason I see it as a really good movie and not a great one is that sense of detachment I get from a lot of their films. It felt a bit like a genre exercise, a question of form. As an entertainment, it really works - the cast is excellent and these guys KNOW how to construct a movie beautifully. Just not sure what it adds up to. I'll likely be chewing on this for some time.

7 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Jan 10, 2011 2:07 pm

[6] Got it. I'm not sure what the green screen stuff is you refer to but I definitely thought of Night of the Hunter at least once, though I forget what evoked it.

It's really interesting that you feel detached from their stuff, and this film in particular, because I find the characters so human, so absorbing. I love how they set up characters to be strong and heroic and then deflate them so unceremoniously.

The Woody Harrelson character in No Country is a good example of that. And Jeff Bridges, appearing so heroic in the eyes of Maddy and then demonstrated to be feckless at other times, like his simple pronouncement "I am old and I am fat," instructing Maddy she'd have to clamber up the tree.

I just see so much emotional charge in the relationships of the characters and the personal demons each one wrestles with.

Matt Damon, in making that shot, with simple gestures/facial expressions conveyed such insecurity. All that talk and bravado about shooting and when it came down to it, he had no confidence he'd make the necessary shot to save Jeff Bridges but took a deep breath, focused and made it anyway.

I just think the Coens are masterful at conveying human foibles within the context of genre.

I think the film was formally damned near perfect but I don't think it was just a formal exercise. The characters will stay with me, just as so many other of their characters do.

8 Matt Blankman   ~  Jan 10, 2011 2:31 pm

A minor quibble - wouldn't it have been more fun to cast really well known actors as Younger and James? I think that actually it was kind of called for - there's supposed to be a certain "wow" factor there and that she speaks with them so bluntly, clearly unimpressed. Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones would have been a great call, for example.

The green screen stuff was during that segment with the night ride and the death of Blackie. The phony night sky and so forth. I liked it, although it almost seemed like a different film for a moment.

Don't get me wrong, I liked the movie a lot and I am really pleased its doing so well. Hopefully we'll get more Westerns! I do think No Country and Fargo are better films, though, if we're talking Coens.

9 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Jan 10, 2011 2:57 pm

Fargo??? Really? It's also a great film, but not as deep, I think. And it's quirkier, more "Coen Bros."

I do think this one was on a par with No Country, easily. Every bit as good, for my money. Well, maybe, *maybe* a tad less great, but really, at that level, why quibble? :)

And yes, the little Blackie scene did seem like a different film but I think it was very effective at conveying the necessary emotions of the sequence. The sense of fury and desperation and loyalty and determination.

How 'bout this, Matt, you and I will meet for pistols at dawn and we'll settle the matter like men.

What do you say? You're not yeller, are you?

10 Matt Blankman   ~  Jan 10, 2011 3:05 pm

[9] I think most of the depth of True Grit comes from the source material. That's the detachment I'm talking about. I love that they kept in that epilogue, though. Think of all Mattie winds up losing due to her need for vengeance.

Anyway, this isn't much of an argument: "True Grit is a terrific movie." "No, it's even better than that!"

Now, if we can find someone who just flat-out disliked it.

11 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Jan 10, 2011 3:28 pm


"Anyway, this isn’t much of an argument: “True Grit is a terrific movie.” “No, it’s even better than that!”

Almost sounds like something from the Onion.

12 Alex Belth   ~  Jan 10, 2011 3:37 pm

12) So True. The "Green Screen" is what used to be called "Blue Screen." It is when a scene is shot in a studio with a Blue (or green) screen behind them. This used to be done all the time in the old Hollywood system, and is still done. Instead of shooting on location, a scene, most often in a car, will be shot with the actors in a studio. The blue screen is so that another piece of film can be laid on behind the actors.

The sequence where Rooster takes the girl through the night is mostly shot against a blue screen and I always find that technique distracting because I notice it. But I also worked in editing so it's one of those techy things that registers to me that might not bug most viewers in the slightest. And I'm sure they did it for budgetary reasons.

13 Matt Blankman   ~  Jan 10, 2011 3:49 pm

[12] I disagree, Alex, I think it was done for artistic reasons. It's very expressionistic - which is what made me think of Night of the Hunter. I think it was one of the few really Coen-esque things in the movie. If it was just about the money, it wouldn't have called attention to itself the way it did.

14 Matt Blankman   ~  Jan 10, 2011 3:51 pm

And yeah, I grew up with it as Blue Screen, too...I recall working in our high school TV studio and being confused that the chroma key used green.

15 Alex Belth   ~  Jan 10, 2011 4:13 pm

I know those guys, it wasn't aesthetic. I'll bet the farm it was budgetary. That's the way those guys are.

16 Matt Blankman   ~  Jan 10, 2011 4:17 pm

Did you read the recent Esquire "Things I've Learned" with Albert Brooks. He had a funny bit about learning to write to a budget. "A rainy night? No, no, it can open in the afternoon and its sunny."

17 Matt Blankman   ~  Jan 10, 2011 4:21 pm

I can believe that form followed function there, but some consideration of aesthetics had to follow, because it's so stylized. That black night and starry sky - I mean, i can believe the aesthetic choice came after the realization they wanted to shoot it on a set, but you could have made that look more realistic. That's where the artistic choice comes in.

18 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Jan 10, 2011 5:18 pm

Hey, thanks, Alex. Yeah, I've always known it as Blue Screen.
Damned kids today and their newfangled contraptions. Or oldfangled contraptions with newfangled names, as it were.

19 Matt Blankman   ~  Jan 10, 2011 6:22 pm

[12] There's some blue screen work in Polanski's "Ghost Writer" that's damn near invisible. I would never have caught it had I not watched one of the behind the scenes featurettes.

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