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True Grit (December 18, 2014)

What I loved about True Grit, at first watching, was the 19th century, definitely pre-modern, diction. We’ve heard this kind of speech before in the Coen brothers’ dialogue, in Raising Arizona, where H.I. spoke of his wife’s “insides where my seed could find no purchase” and in O Brother Where Art Thou?, where the blind seer tells the three escapees “I cannot tell you how long this road shall be, but fear not the obstacles in your path, for fate has vouchsafed your reward. Though the road may wind, yea, your hearts grow weary, still shall ye follow them, even unto your salvation.”

The film was made in March and April 2010, and released the following December. It was based on the Charles Portis novel, previously filmed in 1969 with John Wayne. The Coen brothers wrote, produced, edited and directed. Roger Deakins was the cinematographer, Carter Burwell wrote the music. Production design was by Jess Gonchor, art direction by Stefan Dechant and Christina Ann Wilson, set decoration by Nancy Haigh, and costume design by Mary Zophres. It starred Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Josh Brolin, and the young girl Mattie was played by Hailee Steinfeld. It was nominated for ten Oscars, but won none. The list was – best picture, the brothers for best director and best screenplay, Bridges for best actor, Steinfeld for best supporting actress, Deakins for best cinematography, Zophres for best costume design, Skip Lievsay and team for best sound mixing and best sound editing, and Gonchor and Haigh for best art direction. The film made $250 million worldwide in theatres on a budget of $37 million.

Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times wrote “The cinematography by Roger Deakins reminds us of the glory that was, and can still be, the Western.” Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times wrote “Clearly recognizing a kindred spirit in Portis, sharing his love for eccentric characters and odd language, (the Coen brothers) worked hard, and successfully, at serving the buoyant novel as well as being true to their own black comic brio.” Colin Covert in the Minneapolis Star Tribune called it “their first classically made, audience-pleasing genre picture.” Richard Corliss in Time Magazine said about Hailee Steinfeld’s performance, “She delivers the orotund dialogue as if it were the easiest vernacular, stares down bad guys, wins hearts. That's a true gift.” And Peter Travers wrote in Rolling Stone: “True Grit is packed with action and laughs, plus a touching coda with an older Mattie, but it's the dialogue that really sings. Great filmmaking. Great acting. Great movie.” I hope you enjoy watching it with me tonight.