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Monday Movies: True Grit

Thank you, Jesus, America, and Adam, for the honor of bringing you movies on Monday. Please know that I am and will always be adorned by my tiara as I discharge my duties.

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Winter’s Bone, discussed previously at The Weblog here and here, tells you up front what’s going on. Watch this short scene, which comes only seven minutes in, after a series of scenes that dramatize that seventeen-year-old Ree is the head of her very poor household. (I wanted to embed it, but youtube sniffed copyright.)

A stark dilemma is invaluable to a screenwriter. Ree has two unpleasant choices: she can find her father and turn him over to the law, or she can lose her house and her family. The former seems impossible (she’s not lying to the sheriff when she says she doesn’t know where he is) and the latter is disastrous. Action is as perilous as inaction, infusing every scene with urgency.

I expected a paint-by-numbers Hero’s Journey, and there are elements of that. John Hawkes (as Harry Dean Stanton, verdad) is Ree’s initially reluctant, dangerous ally. The climax is reached through a quiet boat ride into death’s kingdom. But what surprised me was that Ree has no character arc, so beloved by Hollywood. She’s more of an Indiana Jones figure — she has everything she needs at the beginning of the story, and her journey will test all of her resources, but it never requires her to change, just to persevere.

The way her journey unfolds surprised me in the exact way it disappointed stras. I expected a detective story, a personal transformation, and a concluding bloodbath. None was on offer. Ree’s engine is not the hermeneutic code of detection but her unflinching determination. The last line of the dilemma scene, “Never ask for what ought to be offered,” is precisely Ree’s mission; her kin, all of who to have at least one more clue than she about her father’s whereabouts, ought to offer her help, but instead they put up roadblocks. All she has to wear them down is persistence and what is known in some quarters as grit.

Rango is a funny, clever trifle. There’s a great Hunter S. Thompson reference (executed with a sweet Ralph Steadman quote), extended tributes to Chinatown and Apocalypse Now and all the Sergio Leone/Ennio Morricone nods you could ask for. There’s a shot in the saloon where we view the action from the ceiling, broken up by the blades of a slowly spinning fan — does anyone know what that’s from originally? Neither the conspiracy plot nor the self-referential elements ever quite land perfectly, and the story doesn’t really sing like a Pixar flick, but it’s worth watching, and has some pretty high body count for an animated feature.

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Statistics!

  • Netflix queue, DVD: 66, 9 saved, 3 television. In hand: Paprika
  • Netflix queue, On Demand: 117, 14 saved, 11 television

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Please forgive the late posting hour — I’d hoped to have a timed post at the top of the chute, but a work assignment up against a mini-vacation have forced me to complete this entry poolside in a meticulously-Moroccan themed Palm Desert desert oasis. So much themed that Casablanca is playing on a loop in the sitting room, occasionally replaced, I am told, by Hope and Crosby’s Road to Morocco. What movies would you add to the loop — and what did you see, and what did you think?

 

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March 28, 2011 - Posted by | film, Monday Movies | , , ,

11 Comments

  1. Morocco, surely. Also, The Man Who Knew Too Much.

    Also: K-sky, hurrah!

    Comment by jms | March 28, 2011

  2. Really nice write up on Winter’s Bone. I watched it this weekend as well, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Told my wife that I feel like we’re on the cusp of seeing a full-blooded Godfather for “my people.”

    Comment by Brad Johnson | March 28, 2011

  3. i watched a Georgian movie _Since Otar left_, 4 stars and the 2/3 of _Eat pray love_, thought that it’s boring, if it was not a movie star but a relatively unknown actor maybe it could have been different, but with Julia Roberts the movie seemed like false

    Comment by read | March 28, 2011

  4. Right after I recruited K-sky to write this feature, for which I thank him, I watched a greater number of movies than usual — perhaps feeling free of the duty to write them all up? I completed my Haneke completism with Funny Games, which I found more interesting than I anticipated. I just now finished watching the Dardenne brothers’ Lorna’s Silence, because apparently I let the judges at Cannes determine all my viewing habits. We also watched the original True Grit, which I found to be less good than the Coen Bros. version.

    Maybe that’s not more than usual? I also got a Roku, so we watched a TON of TV this weekend, though I’ll save that for Thursday. And we started ThanksKilling, but found it more ridiculous than you could possibly imagine.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | March 28, 2011

  5. Funny Games original or English?

    Comment by Josh K-sky | March 28, 2011

  6. Lorna’s Silence was good.

    3/21/11 – Bande a Part – Godard
    3/22/11 – Older Brother, Younger Sister – Naruse
    3/24/11 – A Scene at the Sea – Kitano
    3/26/11 – Uwasa no Onna – Mizoguchi
    3/27/11 – Portrait of Hell – Toyoda

    Comment by bob mcmanus | March 28, 2011

  7. Original. I now realize why I was having a mental block on movies — I watched a couple away from home, which is rare. The Girlfriend and I saw I Heart Huckabees at E. Bolden’s, and it struck me as a funnier version of Waking Life. I also saw Adjustment Bureau with a friend, and I probably liked it more than it merits simply because it’s such a good illustration of the concept of divine providence, which I found difficult to get my students to grasp.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | March 29, 2011

  8. I spoke highly of “ThanksKilling” circa last Canadian Thanksgiving. Highly recommended.

    Comment by Craig | March 29, 2011

  9. We went to a historic downtown Toledo theater (the Valentine) to watch the first in a series of classics they’ll be showing at this venue. I’m a little disappointed in myself that it took showing movies (as opposed to the symphony, the opera or the regular live theater shown there) to get me down there, but what are you gonna do?

    Anyway, the movie this week was Some Like It Hot and it was funnier than I expected. I thought Jack Lemmon carried the picture, but what I found interesting was wondering whether what they did in this movie was a close as people at the time were willing to get to gay characters on screen.

    I’m not talking about Tony Curtis, either. I was a little surprised at how willingly Lemmon’s character played the part of a distraction for the millionaire yachtsman. Then, of course, there’s also the final line of the movie where Lemmon reveals to his suitor that he’s a man and his “fiance” doesn’t bat an eye.

    None of this seemed to be a big deal to anybody in the theater I was in, but I’d love to know how squeamish it made people at the time.

    Comment by Matt in Toledo | March 29, 2011

  10. There’s “nobody’s perfect”, but also “Why would a man marry another man?”/”Security!”.

    Maybe we should dig up some contemporary reviews.

    Comment by ben | March 29, 2011

  11. For Hero’s Journey, recommend Kal Bashir’s site at http://www.clickok.co.uk/index4.html ; True Grit is definitely HJ.

    Comment by Max | April 4, 2011


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