So, I am working my way through the 10 movies nominated for Best picture in the Oscars. I have seen 4 out of 10 now.
I recently saw the movie True Grit. I don’t know about you but I wasn’t impressed - what with straining my ears to make sense of the thick broguish southern accents, the unattractive cast and scenery - I wished I had waited for the DVD. It would have subtitles at least...
The plot: Mattie (Hailee Steinfeld) a 14 yr old is determined to avenge the death of her father by the cowardly hired hand Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin) and imposes on a dead bit drunk reprobate Marshall Rooster (Jeff Bridges) who has a reputation for ‘getting the job done’ to help her do it.
Holes - The writers never made us understand /appreciate why she ‘loved her father so’ that his death should make her so determined to see justice done. I did see she wasn’t the sentimental sort. So for her it was all about crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s of the circumstances of his death. an eye for an eye? Okay.
Other holes - where was her mother? I find it hard to believe that a mother leaves her 14 yr old to waltz off to another county to take care of her father’s funereal business -including identifying the dead body and arranging for its transport back - without making sure there was somebody looking out for her. Moreover the villain of the piece(Chaney) was ..…a joke like all cowards are and totally forgettable. Mattie lost more than she gained from this adventure and yet I felt little sympathy.
On the plus side it had undeniably witty dialogue and the acting was stellar but ... there was just something lacking.
Mattie to Rooster: ‘People say you a man of true grit’. Rooster was supposed to be the chief character but, I think they all had their grit tested in the end, especially Mattie and I guess that’s what the story was about. But it just wasn’t enough reason for this movie to garner 10 academy nominations. IMHO.
I have an alternative ‘True Grit’ – The Way Back.
The plot: the movie follows the epic journey of 7 escapees (starring Jim Sturgess, Colin Farrell, Ed Harris) from the Siberian gulag in Stalin’s Russia to India by foot. A 4000mile journey that leaves you in awe of nature - from the snowy wilderness of Siberia, to the aridity of the Gobi desert to the craggy heights the Himalayas (nomination for best cinematography???) These men were led by a most unlikely hero Janusz. A man fuelled by only this determination: to return to his wife and free her from her guilt of betrayal. Like a friend commented about it ‘If you have a strong enough reason to live for, nothing can kill you, nobody can stop you; you just keep walking until it is over’!
On some levels one could watch that movie and be like ‘okay so they escaped so what??’, OR you could be awed by man’s capacity for endurance in the face of impossible circumstances.
True Story?? – Well, some unknown number of men did escape a Siberian gulag and arrived in India by foot. A book written by one of them (The Long Walk) bears testament to that. But there is some controversy surrounding the author who may or may not have been one of the true survivors. Urban legend? Never. One of the Survivors did tell us what drove him – revenge for what the Germans and Russians did: "I thought: I'm going to get a plane, train as a pilot, and then I get high, fly to Moscow, look for the Kremlin and blast it out of the ground," he said. "That was my ambition. This was the driving force inside me.
Director Peter Weir read the book, thought it was an amazing story and ran with it. Why this movie did not get Oscar nominations, is a big puzzle. A critical consensus is that 'the movie isn't as emotionally involving as it should be' and I ask ‘What character was developed around the 33 Chilean miners to made us empathise with their situation? They were just ordinary men living heroically in impossible circumstances. Compared to the character development of True Grit, I’ll take The Way Back anytime.
p.s. Oh, one more thing, it is annoying to see the posters for the movie TRUE GRIT with only the names of the three main male actors boldly written. At the risk of sounding feminist (not that I care) without the superb performance of 13 yr old Hailee Steinfeld, I wouldn’t have bothered to see this movie to the end. So there Coen Brothers!