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Friday 15th Dec 2017

There are a lot of plusses and minuses associated with today's piece.

  • I don't like sequels, as a rule.
  • I am a big fan of the Coen brothers.
  • Books are always better than the films they are based upon.
  • I love westerns.
  • I don't really like to go to movies in the theatre.
  • I do love movies, and watching them at home with surround sound and HD.

Truth be told, TCM is my movie vehicle of choice, because sadly, I don't find contemporary films to have the same character or plot development as older films (although there are current films that do, like Slumdog Millionaire and City of God, and I even found It's Complicated ok).

Furthermore, I am not one to do things like Netflix, or use a DVD player. I am not sure why save I like to watch what I like to watch in my own time. For example, I did not see Slumdog Millionaire till about a month ago for various reasons. Same with Avatar, which I avoided because I thought it would be to long and drawn out. It was both of those, but it was also a fun story and pretty well realized, so I was surprised that I liked it more than I thought I would (and it was better than I feared it would be).

Well, for the past few years Diane and I have had a New Year's Eve date with Cathy's brother's family. We meet in their home town of Walnut Creek for lunch somewhere fun, and then we go to the movies (which is my one and only yearly trip to the theatre).

Two years ago we saw Marley and Me (which was both awful, and not close to the book, which I did like). Last year we saw Sherlock Holmes which was sadly disappointing, considering the star and director. In fact it was pretty much like I imagined Avatar would be: long and convoluted, and sadly, and action movie. Whatever else be said about that remake, it was nowhere close to as entertaining, as either Conan-Doyle, or the Basil Rathbone treatment of Holmes.

But, my sister-in-law Jill is as much a fan as the Coen's as I, so when I begged for the True Grit remake as our film this year, the request was met with approval all around.

I read the Charles Portis novel the film is based upon when it was first published, over 30 years ago, and I have seen the John Wayne version of the film a number of times. In fact I watched it just a couple of weeks ago when TCM ran 24 hours of John Wayne, and the more I see it, the better I like it.

So, the idea of the Coen's dark vision deconstructing this tale of right and wrong and doggedness appealed to me, as much as did Jeff Bridges grabbing the juicy role of Rooster Cogburn and truly making it his own (which he did). Of course Bridges has done other work with the Coen's, most memorably as The Dude in The Big Lebowski, a character as iconic as is Cogburn.

Bridges Cogburn is not really as soft as Wayne's. Wayne refers to the heroine, Mattie Ross, as "little sister" on a regular basis, and when the impetuous 14-year old swims across a river to catch up with him and the Texas Ranger LeBouf (played much better by Matt Damon than previously by Glenn Campbell), the Duke's Cogburn smiles and says, "she remindes me of me."

Bridges' Rooster is not as reachable, though he has been married at least twice we find out during the film (and I have not re-read the novel over the past three decades, so I don't remember those details). Bridges' Cogburn is a tenacious drunk who kills because he is proactive, and probably, that is a good reason he remains alive.

As for the Coen's treatment, I think it is somewhat closer to the book, especially with the ending, but none of that really matters.

The real question is whether I enjoyed the film, and the answer was very much so. For the Coens are very good at this dialogue, and the brothers are able to parlay Portis' dialect into one-liners that fall somewhere between the Marx Brothers wisecracks and the understated commentaries of Jane Austen.

Happily, I can announce that The Dude does indeed still abide.






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