Academy Awards Best Picture Focus: 'True Grit'
In Yidio's Academy Awards Best Picture Focus section, we take an in-depth look at all 10 films nominated for the 2011 Oscar. Today we take a look at the Coen Brothers stunning classic-style Western featuring Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld, "True Grit."
About the Film
Hailee Steinfeld plays Mattie Ross, a fourteen-year-old girl whose father is murdered and decides to exact revenge by hiring a U.S. Marshall to hunt down and kill the murderer. The catch is that she gets to join him. The catch for her is the Marshall, Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), is teaming up with a Texas ranger named LaBoeuf (Matt Damon), who has his own plans once they find the man.
With this simple set-up, writers/directors Joel & Ethan Coen have crafted the best recreation of classic films of their career, which has seen its share of attempts to emulate the films of the 30's and 40's ("Miller's Crossing," "Intolerable Cruelty," "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" and "The Man Who Wasn't There").
What they captured was the simply joy of watching movies, joy that came not from "adrenaline-pumping action" or the slew of formless insults that marks most modern comedy, but from watching incredibly entertaining, bold characters interact in genuine ways with terrific dialogue.
Why the nomination for Best Picture?
For many of the reasons stated above. Voters were transported back to a time when filmmaking this fine was not terribly unusual, when every character was real person, and not simply someone to read dialogue. Three outstanding lead performances - Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, and Matt Damon - kept us glued to our seats, and a bevy of tremendous supporting turns - from Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper in minor roles, all the way down to Ed Lee Corbin as the Bear Man - kept things interesting and surprisingly hilarious at every turn.
While, most of the time, such claims would be attached to a movie that nobody saw, in this case they turned "True Grit" into the most successful film of their career, taking in over $160 million at the domestic box office and (hopefully) reigniting the Western.
Other Awards Nominations
While "True Grit" will have a tough time in the major categories, largely because Joel & Ethan Coen saw such success with "No Country for Old Men," it's hard to imagine the Academy not showing them some love in one of the TEN categories they're competing for. Jess Gonchor and Nancy Haigh were nominated for Art Direction, Mary Zophres for Costume Design, Skip Lievsay and Craig Berkey for Sound Editing (Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland joined them for Sound Mixing), Hailee Steinfeld was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, Jeff Bridges for Best Actor, the indomitable Roger Deakins for Cinematography, and the Coen Brothers themselves for Directing and Adapted Screenplay.
What are the chances?
Too low. The Coens wiped the floor with "No Country for Old Men," and the Academy is sort of the anti-Emmys in that they like to give awards to as many different people as possible, regardless of the achievement for which they're nominated. "True Grit" did really hit the sweet spot for a lot of people, so I'm sure it will garner a few votes, but not enough. The battle lines have been struck, and this is strictly a "The Social Network" or "The King's Speech" year.