True Grit

Because I squeaked into the Writer's Guild I sometimes get invited to special screenings and previews and stuff. For True Grit it was a 'premiere' at the Ziegfeld in midtown. I asked an old friend of mine to come along. We go way back with me to early Cone addictions. I didn't know what to expect for the event because the invite said there was "red carpet" and the Cone Brothers and Jeff Hodges (Beau Hodges's brother) and the gang would be there! Coolio!

We met up way early at the Heartland Brewery around 6 for some drinks and nachos and fried pickles and stuff before heading over to make sure we get in/good seats. We get to the Ziegfeld and it's all lit up. Press is there and stuff. I was pretty psyched up. It was a bigger deal than I thought. We got there way early, got the tickets, and were quickly hustled around the red carpet (not down it. around it.) and soon we're inside and upstairs. The one perk is free popcorn and soda. And usher asks if we need help finding our seats and my heart sinks when I realize the seats are 'assigned'. I look down at my ticket. B-12. ... B?! As in Rows A... B... C? Gah! We were in the second row! And off to the side! 12! That was our punishment for being the noob roobs showing up all early! We got the neck craner section! It was almost the worst seat in the house (the worst being A-12). The other 'writers' around us filling our nerdy section joked about how showing up 'fashionably' late is probably a good idea for stuff like this. When Mr. A-12 arrived he caught tons of flack which made us all feel better about our near-as crappy seats..

After an hour, a thing of popcorn, buzz about the people who may or may not be in the audience--(+  a totally fascinating conversation with an Iraq War vet/security usher). This movie starts up and I'm immediately floored by how much I hate my seat. The screen is huge and everyone's face looks distorted and warped. The sound is off-center and dull-- and the movie is filled with Jeff Hodges mumbling. It took me a solid 15 minutes just to get over my outrage for being punished for being a good earlybird citizen. If it wasn't a whole fancy pants situation I would have totally bailed.

But soon like a foreign film I adjusted. I heard the movie better. Watched it straight. And I slowly clicked into the classic-mood-but-funny-dialogue new jar hiss feel of the movie. Long story short. The story is about some 14-year old girl is all pissed about her dad being killed for no good reason blah blah and she's all aggressive and headstrong about her revenge. Yadda. Mike Damon and Jeff Hodges are leading the pursuit of the no-good do-no-gooder. The plot wasn't that thrilling for me going in. The only western I've ever truly loved (or honestly-- even liked) is Unforgiven. Which holds up to this day and is a five-cookay movay in my book. So the idea of Cone Brothers re-making some crusty old "classic" film (that probably deep down sucks nuts) wasn't that appealing. I wasn't sure what to expect-- but what I was expecting wasn't that good.

But good news! This movie is VERY friggin funny. It's thankfully a straight up whiskey low-key comedy. And some of the cracks are so mumbly goodsome they were like hot cookies is my brain belly. Chomp! After Crazy Heart, Jeff Hodges is all boozed up again proper and he does a friggin lolish job of being grumpy and drunk. If there was a 'Best Movie Drunk' Oscar he'd make the best drunk speech. He's super good in this with one eye tied behind his back. And is Mike Damon did a funny disappearing act as a semi-wooshy (that's a western doosh) Texas Ranger. The chick was good too. Whatever though. It's hard to fully emotionally buy into a 14-year old superhero girl who not only can powpow negotiate with the best of them-- but also stare down the worst bad guys-- ride a horse across a river -- and sleep in a coffin next to her dead dad's coffin (not a spoiler). All the while passing out worldly whiplash barbs without missing a beat. Sort of makes her too superhuman-- but she was entertaining and fresh.

The truth of it is-- this movie isn't a life changer nor a game changer-- but I dug watching it straight through and laughed out loud a ton. (And I like the fact that I missed a bunch of Hodges mumbles too so on the rewatch I think it'll open up with some new giggles too).  And the Coen's mercifully don't waste time dicking around. They burn through this at a good clip. And they don't lean on cliché crescendo style moments which in this case works well (unlike No Country which thudded when it skimped on payoff). Anyway, this movie immediately ranks with my three top westerns of all time. The only three that I really like-- Blazing Saddles and Unforgiven.... now this. So there's that... pardner.

Three Good Things About this Movie

- Jeff Hodges is funny whether he's talking funny or not.
- Some of the back and forth were so zinger sharp it was like bipbop funny tennis.
- The grey-bearded bearheaded doctor.

Three Bad Things About this Movie

- It leans very hard on Jeff Hodges.
- The bad guys coulda been badder.
- I felt more for the horse than I did for any of the characters.

All in all, all the Cone brother movies are comedies on some level-- some are more buried or dark than others-- but usually when they really go hard at funny (Ladykillers, Burn After Reading, Inwatchable Cruelty)-- they kinda brick. In this case this was a great clean jumpshot. Three pointer style. They seem to always boner up with a crowd pleaser when it's time to cut the sht and make something people really want to see. And in this case I wanna see this thing again. Asap. Granted, this movie probably won't call for annual revisits. But it's no question good for a solid two viewings which is 1.5 more worthwhile than most friggin flicks out there.

Oh! Btw! As we walked out we saw Giuliani with his wifey or whatever walking along! I got to walk next to him down a flight of stairs at the Ziegfeld! I could have totally slapped his bald head or shoved him! Or yelled, 'Floorriiiddaaa....' Or said something! Anything I wanted! I did none of those things! I just kept glancing at him and thinking... 'Yup... sure as sht that's him...' He seemed happy to be him.

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