Monday, December 27, 2010

True Grit

First off, I want to say that I have never seen the original, 'John Wayne' version of True Grit. If you're looking for a comparison, it ain't here.

The movie rightfully centers on Hailee Steinfeld's 'Mattie'. Without her in this role there really wouldn't be anything else to spend your money on, and it's pulled of stupendously. The last time I seen one so young pull it off with so much at stake was Leon: The Professional (and is why I am still a fan of Natalie Portman.)

It's a classic style western tale about a young woman of 14, Mattie (Hailee Steinfeld) who hires a marshall named Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) (a character that I am familiar with through other movies) to track down her father's killer and bring him to justice.
At about the same time, a Texas ranger named LeBeouf (Matt Damon) enters the picture and joins them. Damon is so realistically annoying as the ego-driven Texan that there was at least one occasion during the film that I wanted to shoot him myself.

Dialogue in movies of this particular contain a certain patois about them. I haven't the slightest idea if folks back then really did speak like that, but I like it just the same. This one didn't disappoint in that respect.
The icing on cake, though: Jeff Bridges' portrayal of Cogburn. I much like this one better than the Wayne version. Maybe it's the advances in film making since the days the original earned an Oscar for it's star, but this time I got a real feel for the filthy, drunken, crass and heartless bastard Cogburn is supposed to be. Bridges is not only able to show a deeper range of emotions than his counter part, and, I don't know... maybe make-up and costuming is better, but this guy is dirty and unkempt to the point where you smell him the moment he appears onscreen.

My only complaint: a determined crew traversing what was supposed to be hostile and lawless Indian country encountered very few Indians (final count: one adult, two kids) who were neither hostile, nor lawless.

It's a good movie that starts out at a solid pace, moving the story along while going flat near about 3/4 of the way in, with a climax not nearly as climatic as I was hoping for. It was worth the effort, but it ain't no "Unforgiven", if you know what I mean.


my name is Amanda said...

(Did you see the John Wayne version? At the top, you say you didn't, but farther in, it sounds like you did. Just trying to see what you are saying!)

I saw the movie a couple days ago myself, and I loved it. You're right - the character of Mattie totally makes the movie, and Bridges does a knock-up job. I actually did like the 1969 version, but in that "old western" kind of way - I don't expect as much substance, probably because those old westerns are quite often pretty hokey. Matt Damon as LaBoeuf was excellent, too - one of the few films where I forget that this is "Matt Damon acting."

Although I will have to diverge with you about this film not being better than "Unforgiven" (and though my boyfriend would probably side with you, his favorite is actually "Tombstone") - I liked this better. But then again, I'm a Coen Brothers fan - I have loved, or at least liked, everything they've ever done. (I was actually planning to write a snippet about this movie, and "A Serious Man," which I watched a couple weeks ago for the first time, but I haven't done it yet.) It's traditionally amusing, absurdly funny, and even funny in ways you didn't think could funny. That's what I love about the Coens.

All this, and it's actually a rather Feminist film!

my name is Amanda said...

In thinking about your comments about hostile Indians, though, it seems that the American Indians depicted were more realistic than even the propaganda from the time period - wouldn't it, after all, serve the US government's purposes to depict this population as savage, violent murderers? Not that Indian attacks didn't exist, but that perhaps they are merely not relevant to the plot?

I have to say that one thing that grieved me during the show, was the way the audience laughed at depictions of violence that I didn't particularly find amusing. Like, when Rooster violently pushes that American Indian kid off the porch a couple times. I get that there is a slapstick humor about showing that, but I feel that the Coen Brothers weren't saying just that - after the laugh, it just seems kind of nasty. To me, this demonstrated the subjugation of American Indians by US law officials of the time, but the audience thought it was hilarious. It would have been hilarious to me, if I would have been watching a cartoon.

Gino said...

i found it hilarious. but the experiences i have had with indians who are annoyingly indian kinda helps.

more to the movie point: it depicted the disdain indians were often viewed with at the time.

my comparison to waynes version of cogburn were in relation to other movies (two, i think) that i had seen in which he'd played the character.

my name is Amanda said...

must you ruin a perfectly decent movie experience for me????

Sorry Gino! ;)

Gino said...

" ...and it's actually a rather Feminist film!"

i will credit the lead character for her moxy and bravery, but these are hardly feminine traits.

i also noted that she realized that a big tough job that needed doing, needed manly men to get it done.

but when she sought aid from women, they let her down.

and when she struck out on her own, she failed to the point of needing her men to come to her rescue.

thats what i saw...

Gino said...

i adjusted my response... lol

my name is Amanda said...

*WARNING FOR OTHERS: Spoilers in this comment!*

Oh well, if you want to go there! Let's do it!

(Just kidding. This isn't a big argument or anything. This is just why I see it differently from the way you see it.)

i will credit the lead character for her moxy and bravery, but these are hardly feminine traits.

Nor are they "masculine" traits. Though they are particularly applied to men rather than women; which is why Feminism is about respecting women as "people," not celebrating "feminine" traits.

i also noted that she realized that a big tough job that needed doing, needed manly men to get it done.

She needed a US Marshal, specifically. Not a man. So for the 19th century, her only options of course, were male US Marshals. Also, she wanted a nasty, mean US Marshall, but I wouldn't necessarily commend men for being portrayed as more likely to possess those trait. ;)

(For the record, I don't think men are naturally nastier, but they are more allowed by society to be mean and violent than women, because it's considered "masculine.")

Although, there is of course the caveat that this film takes place in the 19th century. It's not like she's going to have an abortion and start voting in the movie or anything - she is special, and that's what makes her interesting to watch. Other women of the generation WERE more repressed than that - which is why the representation, the portrayal of confidence in herself and display of intelligence, is what strikes me as Feminist.

but when she sought aid from women, they let her down.

I can't recall when this occured. When she wanted to change her sleeping situation at the inn?

and when she struck out on her own, she failed to the point of needing her men to come to her rescue.

Owing to inexperience rather than femininity! A boy-version of Mattie, raised on a ranch all his life, may have had just as much trouble with a faulty pistol. And yes, she didn't have enough physical strength to overpower Chaney, as a young boy *might* have had (though still iffy), but that's owing to the fact that is a woman, and has less physical strength, not because of her "feminine instincts letting her down."

But whatever. Like you, I loved the film. It's been fun talking about it tonight.

Gino said...

a nickle for a used flour bag.

of course its all fun. life is too short, otherwise. :)

Brian said...

I'll definitely see this b/c it's the Coen Bros. But I'll probably wait for DVD, like I do for nearly everything.

Though I might have to go see Tron on the big screen.

kr said...

:). Sounds like this lived up to it's trailer, which is more than a lot of movies do :). I'll tick it on my list of DVDs-to-watch. Yay!

kr said...

Yarr, Amanda, please don't list "have an abortion" as if it is something one must do (or even approve of) to be feminist.

Lots, probably most, of the late 19th c/early 20th c feminists (those ones that got us the vote finally), as well as many (although maybe not most anymore--although more recent surveys suggest tide is turning back across American society) current feminists, were/are vocally and dedicatedly anti-abortion, perceiving it (as I do) to be one of the greatest possible evils a society could inflict upon itself. Yes, the oldtimey ones were mostly religious in a traditional sense, like me (well, if you can assume Spiritualism and a bunch of decidedly secular Idealisms as not having deeply affected all intellectually activist members of society at that time)--but there are lots of non-traditional or non-religious feminists who are against abortion nowadays as well.

Anyhows. Just including the required-by-my-conscience objection to the proceedings judging Feminism/feminist traits :).

Gino said...

seeing two self-proclaimed feminists discuss what feminism means is like seeing two fundementalists arguing over biblical interpretations.

bring out the popcorn boys...

my name is Amanda said...

Haha, Gino.

I wrote this response in notepad (as I often do), but then left for dinner with friends before posting. So it was funny to see your comment.

That's okay, kr. Though I think that saying I used the abortion example as something one must do/approve of in order to be a Feminist is a false equivalent. In the former comment, I was just using two examples that make up aspects of modern Feminism that wouldn't be possible for 19th century Feminism (though they were fighting for suffrage back then). Getting an abortion doesn't make a person a Feminist at all. Supporting equality/respect/autonomy for women is what makes one a Feminist. It's perfectly possible for one to be a misogynist, and still get an abortion.

Supporting the pro-choice movement does not mean that one "approves" of abortion, either. I think people can actually think that about pro-choicers, without being disingenuous, so I'm writing this - You can be morally opposed to abortion and STILL be pro-choice, because you believe in autonomy. Pro-choice is about CHOICE, and other people's right to make it for themselves. Which is another reason why the phrase "pro-abortion" is incorrect.

It was an off-hand example for me to make, because I see support for the pro-choice movement as a matter inextricable to Feminism. Feminism to me, and many people (arguing over what the majority of Feminists think would make this comment even more convoluted, so I'm relying on the fact that support for abortion rights is *very commonly* believed to be a Feminist cause), involves unadultered support for bodily autonomy. Since the abortion decision is often a religious decision, this means that Feminism embraces people not being allowed to use their religion, or anything else, to decide what women do with their bodies. (Or what anybody does with their bodies, for that matter.)

So a Feminist is more likely to accept abortion as a viable option for herself over a non-Feminist. (Thus, why I used that example.) Further, a woman who has actually experienced having to make a decision to abort/keep/give up a baby is more likely to become a Feminist later on. (This doesn't mean "every woman who has ever been pregnant," but every woman who wasn't ready to be a mother/never wanted to be a mother, and/or feared that they literally couldn't support themselves and a child, and/or who was pregnant with a fetus/baby that would die soon after being born, etc. Women with harder choices than "I am in a relationship and have a stable income, my fetus and my body are healthy, and I wanted to have babies soon anyway.")

Empathy -

This is why more women than men support abortion.
This is why more women than men are Feminists.
This is why having a gay family member or friend is more likely to get straight people to support gay rights.

(And, just to repeat - I said "more likely." Not "all.")

I don't mean (before I'm accused of this) "all people who oppose abortion across the board lack any empathy at all." It just means, "this is something you understand, because you've experienced it yourself."

Having to experience these decisions oneself, or witnessing the hardship experienced by a loved one, usually makes a person less misogynist, less homophobic (and really, less anything that preaches that a segment of humans on our planet don't deserve to be treated as fully human).

I know you feel completely differently, and I'm not saying that your form of Feminism isn't valid. It's just not what Feminism is to me. We overlap in a lot of ways in the whole spectrum of Feminist beliefs, but as far as abortion goes, we're always going to diverge, I guess.

kr said...

Amanda: indeed we will always diverge. I wrote an unbelievably long response to this ... too long even by my standards. I will try to condense.

Essentially, I don't see abortion as a gender rights issue, I see it as a human rights issue. From the need for women (and men) to be respected about sex (their needs, their desires, their capacities, their learning curves), to the reasonable need for all humans to be honestly educated about sex (and many other things that would help them to make responsible, caring, and careful choices) before they get sexually involved, to the often denied right of the father to his fatherhood, which denial directly contradicts his often imposed responsibility, when he doesn't have a choice in either case, to, yes, being entirely against the deliberate destruction of an individual human life for the convenience of others ... abortion is not just about the woman, does not only affect the woman, doesn't even affect only the woman and the baby. I do not see how anyone justifies that women have a special right to decide these things--a unique perspective, yes, a unique right, no. It is not just about my body or my life choices, it is a bunch of social stuff leading up to the pregnancy, it is at least two other human individuals directly involved (however positively or negatively), and it is a society that has to absorb the impact of my choices and its choices that affected the existence of the pregnancy.

"Pro-choice" is not a feminist stance, either: it is simply one aspect of the overall (non-gendered, humanistic) thought experiment our nation and probably every Western or Westernizing nation is currently conducting ... perhaps the great modern thought experiment, actually: is it in fact possible to be a human and be completely individuated? I think the answer is pretty clearly no, and I have little patience with those who try to sell me on deeply self-referential microcosmic authoritarianism, whatever the eventual "benefit," and I don't care if the "benefit" is to a class of people to whom I happen to belong. In fact, being told there are rights that benefit me over and to the exclusion of other people merely makes me suspicious of what the party granting those "rights" is doing with their other hand--and I assert that your week of feminist blog posts pretty well demonstrates that the other hand is probably still conducting business pretty much as usual.

(continued below)

kr said...

(continued from above)

And I assert again that women being given *and accepting* (no victim mentality here!) life or death power over unborn children is both a continuation of the traditional power structures (based on I win/you lose) and a feel-good (well, feel-powerful) distraction from all the fundamental ways we are still on the "you lose" side of an equation where some other "I"(s) is(/are) in power and defining what we are allowed to do and be.

So yeah, even ignoring the "it's murder" set of assertions, you and I will diverge on abortion, because I cannot support any movement that asserts the individual has the right to--or even the ability to--stand in moral isolation from all the people they are going to affect, as if, what? the effects didn't matter? or it's just everyone else's responsibility to deal with the effects (ironic)? or there were no affects to others (plainly ridiculous)? It's illogical, at minimum: unsupportable by the observable interconnectedness of humans. In its denial of the fundamental (connected and interdependent) nature of humanity, I'd further classify it as immoral, and in any case pragmatically unsustainable.

As may be apparent, my long response really clarified for me why I have so little patience with the assertion that "a woman's right to choose an abortion" is somehow secularly sacred or inherently correct.

And so I will object, probably at length, when you associate the "right" to choose abortion with feminism, which I more or less take to mean, in the end (although, yes, clearly there needs to be a push from the women's side on many issues right now), that women and men must be treated as equals.

(additional thought below)

kr said...

(additional thought)

in my longer versions I also pointed out, and I think it is interesting to note it even sans segue here, that young men are denied the right to their bodies in our society and have been nearly since our inception (and certainly were prior to America's founding): the draft, when enacted, endangers a male's body and long term life choices far more and for longer than pregnancy (+early childhood, if she keeps an nurse the child) endangers a female.

Even if the draft were repealed, there are and presumably always have been all sorts of expectations that humans will sacrifice themselves, in small or big or fatal ways, for other humans as needs arise--this is found in the animal world in general to my perception. I can't see how it is not fundamentally necessary for humanity (/any species) to survive, this attitude of self-sacrifice and charity--giving of oneself or one's resources--and I can't see how heading down the path of self-entitlement can possibly improve things overall.

I object to the underlying assumptions that opened the possibility of an assertion of "a woman's right to choose an abortion," not just abortions themselves.

(yes, this all is still massively shorter than the first two drafts)

my name is Amanda said...

I only need one explanation for why I used the abortion example in the previous comment, which I already stated: Pro-Choice support is commonly associated with the Feminist agenda.

What you have here, is your argument with that philosophy, but not anything proving that the example is erroneous. I mean, it's easily Googlable - we don't need a big comment about it. Google this phrase, in fact: "feminist pro-choice."

But, whatever, I have no objection to going back and forth about it! So the rest of this pretty much devolves into the abortion argument. (And I just want you to know - I am typing this parenthetical after the fact - that I get quite passionate and emotional-sounding in this response. But I *like* you, and your blog! We just completely disagree on this, is all.)


Abortion is not a human rights issue for anyone who opposes legal abortion. If it were, then you would consider women to be human. You wouldn't rank the growth of a nonthinking blastocyst above the importance of the life of the woman that you want to FORCE to grow said blastocyst into an embryo*, and then fetus, and to care for it along the way. Because it's not just "not getting an abortion," is it? It's eating the right things, it's not drinking alcohol or doing drugs, including legal, over-the-counter drugs, it's everybody's business, when you're pregnant, isn't it?

It's a TON of a physical/emotional/financial obligation - it's not about "waiting nine months and then it will be over." Anyone who insists that that's all that is requirement is being disingenuous. It changes your body forever, and it's potentially mortal.

If you believe that women with ovulatory reproductive systems should be forced to do all of this, then you are saying that women deserve to be medically and lifestyle-wise, enslaved. And slaves are not considered to be humans.

What you are asking for, is impossible. It's not possible to ask that the needs etc of women be respected, and also insist that this can be done in a world where you want to force them to grow and care for babies in their uteruses against their will. You just can't! Which is why the "pro-life" movement is irreconcilable with Feminism.

As to the reference made to "the right of the father to his fatherhood?!" Uh. That is a suggestion that I cannot countenance. The right?! It goes something like this? "She KILLED my future son (because it's always a son, right?!) and I'm SO MAD I couldn't FORCE her to undergo almost a year of physical enslavement, boo-freaking-hoo!!!" Notice to all men: you're not going to get my sympathy for that, not ever. Want to know what's even more unfair than that? The fact that women have to be the ones to have babies. The fact that men bitch about them being fat afterwards! The fact that it fucking hurts. Life? and being Unfair? - these things usually go hand in hand. Too bad. If you want to get yourself a uterus and implant some embryos in it, etc. HAVE AT IT. Guess who has two thumbs and would NOT object to that? This lady.

(*Here's an example of the Catholic Church ranking the life of a woman below the "life" of an 11-week old fetus - stripping a hospital's Catholic status because they ended the life of a fetus in order to complete a procedure on a woman who would have DIED without it. The Catholic Church actually wants BOTH the woman and the fetus to die. Whereas allowing the woman to live? So maybe she can even get healthy and maybe even pregnant again and have another baby?! They're not fans of that. I'm sorry, but that's incredibly fucked up. It does NOT sound like human rights to me. Also? She'd already had FOUR babies. That's four young children that a Catholic Bishop thinks should be motherless.