Thursday, December 30, 2010

Three Nights At The Movies: The New 'True Grit' Is Excellent

By Manifesto Joe

I've been studiously ignoring politics until the New Year arrives. Being the hardworking sort that I am, I don't make it to the cinema nowadays as much as I once did. But lately I've been going a little more.

True Grit

I was very pleasantly surprised that the new True Grit is an excellent movie. This is the one they should have made in the first place. The old one, with John Wayne and directed by Henry Hathaway, seems like Hollywood gloss in comparison. This one, by the Coen brothers, has a very "gritty" and authentic feel to it.

Jeff Bridges' take on Rooster Cogburn is most interesting. Rooster is a 53-year-old drunk with a literal hair-trigger temper, a guy who has obviously spent about as much time on the bad side of the law as on the good. Matt Damon pretty well matches him as LeBeauff (sp?), the Texas Ranger. He comes across as a lot more authentic than Glen Campbell (In the 1969 flick, I remember Glen still having that perfect hairstyle, mutton chops and all, when he's supposed to be dead of a head injury).

And when it comes to the 14-year-old girl, there's no comparison. Hailee Steinfeld is great, totally lacking the stilted pomposity of Kim Darby. A star may be born here.

The Black Swan

This one is an art film that's doing far better at the box office than art films usually do in America. I thought it was decent. My wife was far less impressed.

The gist is that Natalie Portman plays a ballet dancer who gets cast as the lead dancer in Swan Lake, but must tap into the dark reaches of her psyche to be able to dance as the dark side of the lead character. She's just not ready for it, and becomes hallucinatory and unbalanced as she has to reach into that side of herself. I won't tell more so as not to spoil it for those who want to see it. My wife and I both mused that the only thing this lacks that would gratify film snobs is the subtitles.

Being male, it did not escape my attention that Mila Kunis, in a supporting role, is a very sexy woman.

And, the music from Swan Lake, by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, is an earwig in the best sense of the term.

Boxing Gym

Frederick Wiseman is one of America's great documentarians. He's going on 81, so this may well be his last film.

He took his camera to Austin, Texas, to film at a boxing gym owned and operated by Richard Lord, a one-time pro boxer who also happens to have a degree from the University of Texas. Lord's gym is open to anyone who can pay $50 a month. There were people there who were obviously just trying to lose weight. Fred does most of his work in the cutting room, so he gradually builds a crescendo up to a gym war between two of the pros who work out there.

Meanwhile, you get a good slice of life. Lord tells a person who's becoming a member that, basically, everybody is welcome there. One woman who comes in here is 68, he says, and she hits the speed bag better than some of our pros do.

Wiseman has made many superb documentaries, but is perhaps best-known for Primates in 1974. I remember that one for the disturbing images. They have a box on top of a research monkey's head, with electrodes that penetrate his brain. Activating the electrodes induces all kinds of behavior. They can make him fuck, then stop; fuck, then stop; and so on. By the time the movie is over, you'd like to join the animals in a revolution to kill all the researchers. But, Wiseman never judges -- he just records.

His camera is very unobtrusive. At one point in Primates, he's in a boardroom with the researchers, with a couple of them raising objections and asking if this sort of research is really necessary.

Anyway, Boxing Gym is a good one, as all of Fred's are. Catch it if you can. It's pretty much an art house film.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.


Marc McDonald said...

I stopped going to the movie theaters years ago, with the exception of the occasional Michael Moore film.
I just decided that Hollywood is creatively bankrupt. I got sick to death of movies in which the target audience appears to be 12-year-old boys.
Lately, my cup of tea has been horror. Mind you, I'm talking about REAL horror, not stale, predictable Hollywood "horror."
Lately, Japan, South Korea and France seem to excel in this genre.
I really enjoy East Asian cinema in general---it appears to be going through a Golden Era at the moment, with brilliant directors like Takashi Miike and Kiyoshi Kurosawa.
I also enjoy indie film, but not because I'm a snob---simply because I find it is superior to what the major studios are offering. Also, I'd rather give my money to the small indie producers, rather than the likes of Fox and Time Warner.

Cletis L. Stump said...

That's pathetic, Mark, and exactly why we (liberals) are viewed as tightasses by people who might otherwise reconsider their positions when we debat with them. I bet you also refuse those pedestrian American beers, except, of course, Sammuel Adams. If you aren't a snob, you do a passable impersonation.

Marc McDonald said...

Where, exactly, in my comment do you detect any sort of anti-American bias? I expressed a preference for independent film over Hollywood. How is that "snobbish" or anti-American?

Incidentally, these days, Hollywood isn't really even an "American" industry any more. (For example, Sony Pictures, one of the largest studios, is Japanese). Most big movie productions (like "Avatar" and "Lord of the Rings") are multi-national.

Maybe you're happy with the superhero crap that Hollywood often churns out. But frankly, I'd prefer a film that doesn't come with an associated McDonald's Happy Meal. That doesn't mean I'm a "snob." It means I'm a thinking adult over the age of 12. In your view, I guess if someone prefers Beethoven to "American Idol," then they're a "snob."

I find it real rich being described as some sort of elitist snob. In reality, I'd bet you money I came from a poorer background than you did. I grew up in crushing, bottom-of-the-barrel, abject poverty. I know first-hand what it's like to be hungry. My dad went to prison. I worked my way through college, working two grueling manual labor jobs, and also supported my poverty-stricken mother and younger sisters at the same time.

I've never had any illusions that I'm any better than anyone else. In America's "fuck the poor" culture, I'm aware that I'm the lowest of the low. In fact, the next time you take a shit, take a look in your toilet bowl. See the lowest turd floating in your toilet bowl? That's me.

For you to call a trailer-trash turd like me a "snob" is real fucking rich.

Frankly, you sound like the sort of person Al Franken described when he wrote about how Republicans view America.

"(Republicans) don't get it. We love America just as much as they do. But in a different way. You see, they love America the way a four-year-old loves her mommy. Liberals love America like grown-ups. To a four-year-old, everything Mommy does is wonderful and anyone who criticizes Mommy is bad. Grown-up love means actually understanding what you love, taking the good with the bad, and helping your loved one grow."

Cletis L. Stump said...

Marc, you can slice it and dice it all you want. Your post reeked of affect and snobbery. You want to match poverty stories? I grew up in the coal camps of Harlan County, Kentucky. Most years we couldn't afford roaches. Ive seen your act. It's old, it's trite, and no number of big words is going to change what you wrote. "Quo scriptus scriptus", my lad.

By the way, I'm not a Republican, but I have friends who are. We even attend a matinee together on occasion. Don't worry you will not be bothered by my comments regarding this matter again so you can save your pretentious, stinging rebuttal for the next time your called out.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Cletis,
You know, in my years of blogging, I've seen a lot of attacks from right-wingers. But frankly, your attacks on me are just plain odd. I have no idea why, exactly, you're posting these harsh attacks on me. Your reasons seem awfully vague.

>>"Your post reeked of affect and

Huh? I can take criticism all day long. Hell, I've gotten death threats from wingnuts, so I have pretty thick skin. But frankly, your attacks are just bizarre. Actually, I'm more baffled than offended.

>>>I bet you also refuse those
>>>pedestrian American beers

You mean, like the homophobic, anti-union fascists at Coors? I'll tell you something that I DON'T do: that is, put flag-waving jingoistic "patriotism" over solidarity with my working-class brothers and sisters worldwide. I'd rather drink a beer from a union plant in Europe than a beer from a non-union plant here in the U.S. But I guess, in your view, that makes me a "snob," right?

BTW, if you're going to attack someone on the Web, I advise you to at least have a coherent reason.