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