Assessing the year's best films, according to my refined tastes and, as usual, in no particular order (except this one). These are the top 10 movies I would select on my ballot for a Best Picture Oscar nomination.
I still have yet to see a few movies that I suspect might edge out a movie or two in my fake Oscar ballot (Never Let Me Go, The King's Speech and The Fighter to be exact). When I get to those movies, I'll let you know. True Grit is one of those movies that would probably get the cut.
True Grit (PG-13)
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld
Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
After what some considered their most personal work to date, A Serious Man, the Coen brothers come back with what is arguably their biggest and most accessible movie to date. I won't say they've brought the western back from the dead, but they've certainly made the genre more appealing to a younger generation. And while I really did not like the first movie with John Wayne, I knew I was probably going to enjoy this truer adaptation of Charles Portis' novel. And it certainly was worth the wait - this movie is highly entertaining. It was a lot funnier than I expected it to be. Jeff Bridges is pretty good as Rooster Cogburn, but sometimes I felt like he was hamming it up too much for the camera. But of course, the best part of the movie, much like the first, is Mattie Ross. She's more empowering in this version of the film and I feel like she won over Rooster's respect throughout the movie. She's smart and I've heard quite a few people say her performance is more rehearsed, like she's reading lines instead of acting. I would have to disagree - I'd say it's more that her character really does talk that way - she's a very educated girl that probably learned to talk through writing very formally and that's all she knows how to talk. Either way, newcomer Hailee Steinfeld gives a great performance against some truly great actors. Another great part of the movie was the banter back and forth between Rooster and the Texas Ranger played by Damon. He's pretty much an asshole with a badge, but Rooster seems to get the best of him most of the time. As for the film as a whole? It's beautiful and there's a quiet sense of menace throughout - this is not a pretty picture of the west. Things get really creepy and weird when an grizzly old man lumbers on horseback up to Rooster with a whole bear suit hanging all over him. He looks like death himself and I wouldn't have been surprised if he went crazy and tried to kill them with a battle axe or something. But that's what the Coen brothers are great at - creating awkward moments with the macabre and it pays off in this movie well. The movie is well-paced too - I never really found myself checking my phone. The plot is straightforward as it can be, so the movie's more about the characters and their journey together and the Coen brothers do a good job of keeping us entertained, whether it be some funny moments or truly riveting suspense. This is probably the Coens' most accessible movie they've ever made and it's superb. Maybe not an instant classic, but a solid movie and quite wonderful.