18 January 2011

I went to the movies and saw... True Grit.

Also a superb film.  I am a complete sucker for both the Brothers Coen and for Jeff Bridges.

Great cinematography by DP Roger Deakins. Simply fantastic work.

The Coens were the first to digitally color grade every frame of a feature film, with O Brother?. Sadly this has given way to the insidious cancer of Teal & Orange Disease. But it also gives us the beautiful, dusty, wild look of this film.  This is how it ought to be done.

Hailee Steinfeld held her own with Bridges and Matt Damon.  That's saying something for a fourteen year old rookie.  Kim Darby was 22 when she played the same role in the 1969 version.

Bridges' take on Rooster Cogburn would have seemed like a John Wayne imitation in the hands of a lesser actor.  As is, it was engrossing.

I complained along with many others that the "traveling through the wilderness" scenes in the latest Harry Potter movie were interminable. They could take notes from True Grit about how to get across the message of a long and boring journey in the wild without boring the viewer in the process.

I agree with what Matty Robinson and Steve Prokopy said last week: this a film which is so effortlessly good that you sort of forget how good it is. It doesn't have a lot of bravura, but it's solidly, unimpeachably good throughout.

The only complaint I had was the ending. I don't know how much to say without giving things away, but I felt it was lacking some of the emotional payoff it should have. You go through the whole movie waiting for our heros to track down the murdered, and they do. Then things play out very quickly.  There's a instantaneous shift to confronting a new challenge, and the whole matter of Tom Chaney is forgotten.  The new challenge is dispensed with in relatively short order, and then things wrap up. Special Lady Friend thinks this is a fitting commentary on how unsatisfying revenge is.  I think that's a valuable point, but I still wanted at least one shot to communicate the "mission accomplished" feeling I had been hoping for the whole time we were busy tracking Chaney.

PS  I learned in the wake of Jared Loughner's assassination attempt that it is a crime distinct from murder and attempted murder to kill/attempt to kill a federal employee.  On the one hand this makes sense, because killing a federal judge or a member of congress has a different impact on society than does killing a plumber.  On the other hand, a man's a man for a' that.  I get instinctually uneasy when there are different laws concerning our rulers, even when they make some sense.

This may seem triffling of me (not to mention unrelated), but consider how Mattie Ross wants to make sure that Tom Chaney is not hanged for killing a Texas state senator but for killing her father.  It is important to her (and to most people in the audience, I presume) that killing a man of relatively little consequence be treated with an equal gravity to killing a VIP.  I know we're always going to treat the killing of a grocery store clerk differently from the killing of a congressman.  But I'm uncomfortable with the embrace through codification of that reality.


  1. With respect to the law against killing a federal employee:

    It's actually sort of a jurisdictional issue.

    Look, it's against the law of each state to murder anyone. It's against federal law to murder anyone in a place the feds have jurisdiction. The feds don't have jurisdiction to make it against federal law to murder anyone, anywhere. But they do have jurisdiction -- a federal hook -- to make it against federal law to murder a federal employee. There's a fairly good reason for that: historically, states might not prosecute for killing feds in some circumstances.

    So it's not necessarily a judgment that the life of a federal employee is worth more than the life of a non-employee. It's that the feds CAN'T make it against federal law to kill the non-employee, absent other jurisdictional circumstances.

  2. I suspected jurisdiction had something to do with it. This is one of those things that's probably entirely justifiable but still gives me a mild case of the willies.