this review was first published by the author at blogcritics.org
Saturday, December 3, 2011
this review was first published by the author at blogcritics.org
Thursday, December 1, 2011
The new album finds her conjuring wispy piano chords while musing with her breathy multi-ranged voice on the mysticism of snow. It's an ambitious project that misses very few snowy ideas. Unlike Paul Simon's "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover", we get all 50 words for snow here, assuming phrases like "hunter's dream" and "ankle breaker" constitute words. My favorite here: "poland-sent-it".
The music is often dreary and meandering. An indulgence in mysticism or religion finds her soul deep in her psyche but wallowing in shallow execution. . Opening track "Snowflake" finds the cold white stuff heralding no less than the origin of man with Bush assuming a first-person godlike point of view, "I was born in a cloud", she begins and after trekking the ascent of man allows her son in a choirboy soprano to sing, "I am sky!".
I am tipping my second glass.
This notion, or condition, gets hip deep in the snowdrifts and runs through the entire album. She muses about the man who fell to earth while prancing on simple and amateurish piano chords that seem only the beginning of a creative process. A rough draft of music.
Better is her bizarre take on "Frosty The Snowman". In "Misty" she is seduced in bed by Misty the snowman who apparently is a little chilly in the love department. She sings, "so cold next to me, I can feel him melting in my hand", with all the drama of her most serious work. Here she paints a frightening, maybe enlightening picture of a man made of snow melting in her bed with nothing but the empowerment of women left on the soaked sheets.
But there seems little reason for the distant "Wild Man", the first and probably only single off the album, about the discovery of an ancient man and the attempt to communicate with him. "We found footprints in the snow", the lyrics read, constituting an entry in Bush's snow files.
Her duet with Elton John, "Snowed In At Wheeler Street" is god-awful. A creepy cloying song about a tragic 20th Century love affair that sounds like an old Ashford-Simpson composition set against the backdrop of a concentration camp. Is she truly referencing the Jewish Holocaust in a call and response duet with Elton? - "Then we met in '42 but we were on different sides. I hid you under my bed, but they took you away". Ironically, Elton hasn't sounded this good in decades.
As alluring as 50 Words For Snow seems on the verge of, it is as often a cold affair. Its only intimacy is that we all share some kind of poetic notion about snow. Bush comes close to tapping into that shared consciousness, but never succeeds in conveying that to a great piece of music.
On her official website, there are heaps of praise for the album from several major media critics. I'm glad for that because I've always loved her music. But for me, for now, here's a snowball aimed right at it.
Friday, October 28, 2011
Open mouth and insert foot and swallow whole. I'm at a new job and there was an employee meeting around a large rectangular table. There was a lull so I spoke. I repeated the scene in "Oliver Twist" where he asks for more porridge.
I don't want a friend I want a designated driver.
I won a pack of unopened Topps baseball cards from 1987 with bubble gum intact from Topps.com. I so want to taste that bubble gum but I did a market check on all baseball cards from that year and they need to remain unopened for another thousand years.
The Handsome Family, Don't Be Scared
Poor sensitive Paul lets birds and weather rape him. Sleepy steel guitar ballad from "In The Air" goes nowhere but in the air.
Men Without Hats, Messiahs Die Young
Synthesized horns, a bongo beat box and a pleasant audio drone made this a surprise hit in the American Bandstand of my mind in 1984. Revolution! of the mind.
The Beatles, Can't Buy Me Love
one of the earliest songs I remember loving on the radio but I thought the lyrics were, "Can't Bobby Love". Not until Brian L. and Robert W. staged a mock lyp-synching Beatles concert in an extravagent elementary school 'show and tell' session did I realize the actual lyrics. It's been a lifetime of preferring my original interpretation of lyrics to the actual words - (Elton John's "Rocket Man"- "burning off the shoes of evermore" ... no?). McCartney's raw vocals and Ringo's garbage can top drumming make this a garage rock supreme classic.
Former actor, famed trumpeter, successful songwriter (Ally-Oop, Wonderful World), owner and founder of A&M Records, (he's the "A"), co-producer of the Tony Award winning "Angels in America" on Broadway, not to mention his string of instrumental hits with The Tijuana Brass in the late '60s, Herb Alpert appears to be one hell of a guy. He's the only artist to have two number one songs on Billboard's Top 100 in the category of instrumental : "Rise" in 1979, and vocalist in 1969 with this song, the Burt Bacharach-Hal David written "This Guy's In Love With You". It's pure '60s shmaltz from a guy who really can't sing which lends the song an effective intimacy, like any "guy" can croon to his beloved. Alleged to be one of George Harrison's favorite records, that's two of us.
Sonic Youth, Sunday
A great noisy guitar jam interrupts this laudable would-be hit single from this forever experimenting band. Perfect mental fodder for my second least favorite day of the week. From the album, "A Thousand Leaves".
Kate Bush, King of The Mountain
This British art rocker has some of the worst rock videos I have ever seen and the video for this, with Elvis Presley's famed sequined outfit flapping in the wind like a homeward angel refusing to go home, doesn't jive with this king of the mountian. Kate, the song is about bravely taking on middle age with the energy of a newborn, right? From "Aeriel".
Swans, Weakling - Man vs. machine and man wins but is eaten alive anyway. Industrial noise and man mantra sounds like a typical day in a factory I used to work in. From "Filth".
Man vs. machine and man wins but is eaten alive anyway. Industrial noise and man mantra sounds like a typical day in a factory I used to work in. From "Filth".
Bette Midler, Delta Dawn
After intermission, Midler came back to the stage in this early HBO concert recorded live in Cleveland, Ohio, and delivered a rousing version of Delta Dawn that brought the house down. Midler makes this more than just a popular ballad - it's an Evangelical sweat busting workout. From "Live At Last".
Drive-By Truckers, 72 (This Highway's Mean) and Shut Up and Get On The Plane
Two songs from The Truckers' "Southern Rock Opera" fittingly close this iPod session - a doom mongering, life affirming tribute to Skynard.
Saturday, October 22, 2011
A bird in the hand may be worth two in the bush to a hunter, but to a competitive birdwatcher (a "birder"), a bird in the hand is as worthy a prize as the chirp of a bird on a tree branch a quarter mile away.
That's because the mere sound of a bird, correctly identified, could tally a point of one on a "year list" - a year long count of bird species, a game played as disciplined as a round of gold, by birdwatchers who have advanced their sport to a competitive level.
It is the subject of the new movie, THE BIG YEAR, starring comedy kingpins Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson, and if we are to half-believe the tongue in cheek written opening of the film - "This is a true story, only the facts have been changed", - those privileged or passionate enough to spend an entire year documenting bird species do it for the love of the birds, the thrill of the hunt, and the bragging rights to being hailed Birder of The Year by "Birder" magazine. Plus all that comes with that, which apparently doesn't amount to a sack of birdseed.
Hopping on a plane to Alaska or climbing a snowy mountain peak at the mere rumour of a rare species is commonplace to these obsessed adventurers, yet with all the potential for a wild and crazy chase across the continent snapping pictures of birds, (Can't you just picture Jack Black at the weak end of a tree branch with a camera?), THE BIG YEAR scores its points on its gentle nature, even as you feel the hard scribe of a screenwriter avoiding heavy ventures into screwball and sentiment.
So we get a swath of human detail: marital strife, financial strife, meaning of life strife, as groundwork for three guys racing around the country with the passion of a Herculean task and the duty of an office stenographer. After about the 200th recorded species, you begin to care for these slightly cliched characters, (one's rich, one's poor, one is a cocky king of the birders jock), and envy the freedom and single-mindedness they possess on their seemingly insignificant mission. Following a quaint wintry trail in pursuit of a snowy owl with a sparkling limitless credit card in your pocket, becomes a fitting movie ideology.
The three leads deliver expected solid performances and Black is especially inviting as an aimless (except for birds), thirty-something who abandons life's duty for the chance to wear the crown of birding. There is an eye-popping list of actors, including Angelica Huston, Brian Dennehy, Diane Weist, and others offering strong selfless support.
The screen is often a flurry of computer graphics depicting competing bird counts, maps, and images of species, while the camera trails the birder's wayward paths like a bloodhound in pursuit. The birds themselves, more often than not, are just short of genuine, with a Disney-like touch up, making them appear like a distant naturalized cousin to an actual bird.
It's a breezy yet frantic romp in pursuit of something forever elusive. An attempt to define life by the achievement of a task, in this case the number of birds found and recorded in a calandar year. The critics have been harshly negative to this film but it somehow all works, for me anyway. Then again, I can tell the difference between a hairy woodpecker and a downy woodpecker in a heartbeat.
this article was first published by the author at blogcritics.org.
Monday, October 10, 2011
Found myself unexpectedly at The Sportsman's Tavern on Saturday afternoon watching local musician and ensemble Leroy Townes perform two sets of smart country rock. Townes has a strong vocal range with a commanding sound and his ensemble is a tight jam banging group of local musicians, with special mention to the perfectly nimble slide guitarist, whose name I can't find. Exceptional original lyrical compositions balanced nicely in my beer sipping brain. The passing of my father 12 years ago came to mind. He would have digged this band. Special mention to good friend Al who introduced me to Townes as a "writer". I did a double-take. I could have looked around the room asking, "where's a writer?". His wife once introduced me to someone as an "actor". At least they come up with creative excuses for my poor existance. God luv 'em.
Did the door at Subversive Theatre's production of THE PESECUTION AND ASSASINATION OF JEAN PAUL MARAT AS PERFORMED BY THE INMATES OF CHARENTON UNDER THE DIRECTION OF THE MARQUIS de SADE. A brilliant playful and disturbing production based on a true incident that burrows through theatre's fourth wall and makes you feel you are certainly sitting, maybe rightfully so, in the center of an insane asylum, either rounding up crazies or joining the psychotic conga line. Chris Standart takes the stage of the lunatic asylum as de Sade, a finely balanced blend of lunacy and lucidity.
Saturday, September 24, 2011
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Eggs and beat
i know you're watching
we are so bored
you beat four eggs in a bowl
and served it down my throat.
It was just so freaky
once a year i see her
then i dream her
then i feed her
so i timed it at a minute and a half
and didn't look back.
Bet she's gonna lay a bet on me
Do I lose you now?
I dreamt i woke and started my day
and called out the morning window
"get the willowy girl to sing again"
and me and you and the mathematician
all pinned notes to the back of the bar.
You fucking scare me
You're an anonymity
Killing me softly
but you're wrong about what's inside me
I'm a biological terrorism devotee
with no discipline
Monday, July 4, 2011
"I never said your film reviews suck. I said they were boring."
Blog block and roll. Here are three films I've attached to my soul over the last handful of years. I deem them all worthwhile mental investments.
The decision to abolish capital punishment in Britain in 1965 is partly a result of the wrongful execution of John Evans in 1950, who was convicted of murdering his baby girl and sentenced to death by hanging. 10 Rillington Place (1971) tells that story and the story of the real murderer, serial killer John Christie, who murdered at least eight women in England in the 1940s and '50s, burying some of their bodies in a concealed crawlspace in his apartment after having postmortem sex with them.
The first time I watched this movie online, (I unexpectedly just happened to click it on) I was riveted in my seat like I was 10 years old watching Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho for the first time, my hands clenching the armchairs like I was gripping the safety bar on a roller coaster. It is the dismal, hopelessly horrific dark atmosphere and the snail's pace crawl of it that mesmerized me into equal parts repulsion and fascination.
The horror is heightened considerably by the on-location filming at the very address the main murders took place. 10 Rillington Place is a depressing, very British dark and dingy row of apartment houses with rooms, as the British say, not big enough to swing a cat. The infamous street has since been renamed.
Directed by Richard Fleischer, who directed another fine true murder film, The Boston Strangler (1968), and is the son of cartoon animation pioneer Max Fleischer, the movie boasts an exquisite British cast with Richard Attenborough as serial killer John Christie, certainly one of the creepiest movie villains ever to peer luridly out a window, and John Hurt, as the unfortunate and illiterate John Evans, who rallies a performance that cries out for the abolition of the death penalty. But be forewarned - the film is relentlessly grim.
How I hated The Shipping News (2001). I saw it in the dead of winter in the coldest theatre in western New York, so frigid that the small handful of audience in attendance were hunched over, huddled in winter garb -gloves, scarves, hats - attempting to conserve body warmth, as if we were sitting around a life saving campfire and not looking up at a movie screen. That the movie screen was projecting the winter season in Newfoundland was like experiencing a survival endurance test.
After repeated viewings, (the beautiful blue and white Newfoundland scenery kept getting my attention when it ran on cable), I saw another film entirely. It's a rosy-cheeked black comedy exploring the inherent nastiness of the human condition while mellowing that notion with a life affirming swath of goodness.
Everything that didn't work in the film the first time I saw it nestles into a companionable place when I watched it again and again - the wimpy self-pitying introduction of a boy being taught how to swim by his father who tosses him into the water like he's unloading a sack of unwanted kittens - the mystical subplot of a skinny ghost accompanied by a white dog roaming the stormy nights and seen only by a child with gifted perception - a gay older woman still traumatized by a familial rape in childhood - and several other wayward plot lines which were an attempt at humanist statements but fell short of coherent theme and profoundness.
I was wrong. There is a ghost roaming the stormy night, a special child can hear an old house speak, the scars of childhood can destroy an adulthood, and just because your ancestors were cut-throat pirates doesn't mean you carry the bad seed. The Shipping News is indeed a movie with enough heart and humor to warm the coldest winter, (but apparently not the coldest theatre).
From a popular novel by Annie Prowlx, (Brokeback Mountain) the movie stars Kevin Spacey, no longer too subtle but just perfect as a bewildered man who turns to his new found Newfoundland heritage for guidance, Julianee Moore as a romantic interest with a shameful secret and a recipe for seal flipper pie, and Judie Dench as gay Aunt Agnis.
One thing I didn't miss in that cold theatre was the dynamic portrayal of Petal, the prostitute that marries the protagonist, by Cate Blanchett. All eyes on her in a brief performance that rushes by like a gale wind in hot pants.
There's gay Aunt Agnis in The Shipping News and there's gay Uncle Monty in Withnail and I (1986), a semi-autobiographical British film written and directed by Bruce Robinson. I ran across it one day channel-surfing when Jimi Hendrix's All Along The Watchtower blared out of the speakers sound tracking two English blokes sharing a bottle of whiskey while cruising out of London in an old jalopy. I've been laughing at substance abuse ever since.
Heavy pot smoking, booze galore, delicious decadence, a drug dealer who behaves as though he just stepped off a toadstool in Alice in Wonderland, a week in the country and a soft charming center detailing that special time in life when you know it's time to step up to the plate of adulthood or die. Indulge in this film and enjoy but be prepared to take in a little culture on the side. This ain't no Cheech and Chong pot-o-rama.
p>Two young unemployed British actors at the end of the swinging sixties, living in squalor in a London flat, manage through some manipulation to take vacation in the country in the dilapidated cottage of Uncle Monty.
And that's pretty much it. Except that you may never meet a more comical, pathetic and beloved character than Withnail in all of movie-dom. The would-be Shakespearean actor is a feast for the amused mind made celebratory by the fact that this role was actor Richard E. Grant's debut movie performance.
And at the risk of sounding like just any movie critic, (bad grammar keeps me unique), Richard Griffiths portrayal of Uncle Monty, the queer once thespian, eccentric aging faggot, grieved to the soul with dramatic remorse and wailing to the wind lamenting former lovers, is just about the most assured, perfectly nuanced comedic performance I have ever seen.
And I like the character of "I" too - writer Robinson's injection of his young self, played by Paul McGann, the only solid character, although seeming on the verge of drug collapse, we dare relate to.
It's not quite the perfect movie. The sparks subdue a bit by the time Withnail and I get to the country, but their odyssey is a trip well worth taking. Withnail and I secures a strong cult following with websites devoted to it and a deadly game that attempts to duplicate all the drinks consumed by Withnail in the film. My favorite bit - out of alcohol and suffering withdrawal, Withnail consumes the last remaining lighter fluid in a bottle and then reaches for the anti-freeze when "I" warns, "you should never mix your drinks".
Withnail and I was co-produced by the late George Harrison.
Friday, June 24, 2011
I'm in a mood. With just hours to go before the weekend I find out I have to work tomorrow. Now I gotta race home from work tomorrow and take off for the Elvis Costello concert at Buffalo Rocks The Harbor where I'm serving beer at a booth for Meals On Wheels. I don't know how these things happen. When my brother asked me to do volunteer work at the Costello show for Meals on Wheels, all I could picture was delivering drugs on a scooter to stoned out hippies at the show.
I'm live baby. Let me entertain you with the next 10 random songs on my iPod. Jesus, I wish I had a (martini).Drive-By Truckers, Moved, I hear "I moved on down to Georgia / Where people so nice they got a wild stallion stare" - I don't think that's the actual lyric and I'll be disappointed to find out it isn't. This double album from the Truckers, Southern Rock Opera, shows up a lot on my iPod. I downloaded it in its entirety. Southern fried blues wailing about disassociation in modern culture. Heady or what?
Swans, The Sound, Give this song to a guy standing on a bridge contemplating jumping, and he will certainly take the plunge. So dark, it's dangerous. It happens man. Music like this and drugs are a lethal combination. One minute you're grooving to the tunes, the next you're standing on a street corner flagging down the communist starfleet that is due in your town. Dig the broken glockenspiel tinkling at the end. Groovy, but so cliche Michael. From the album, Soundtrack For The Blind.
The Band, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, I loved what somebody somewhere said about this song. You will not find a more concise description of the anguish caused by The American Civil War in all of history and literature. Sorrow quivers in the singer's voice as he watches his kingdom coming down around him. One of rock music's finest moments. From The Band's self-titled second album.
Steely Dan, The Things I Miss The Most, Steely Dan at their most gentle; a breezy brass infused and oh so melodic ode to divorce. From another ignored album, their most recent Everything Must Go.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Nora's Will, or as translated in the opening credits, Five Days Without Nora, is a Mexican film directed by Mariana Chenillo (the first woman to receive the Mexican equivalent of Oscar for directing), that explores the social issues of death, particularly suicide, without sinking to passionate low-brow levels. No corpse humor or warm hearted enlightenment here. Instead, a nervous amusement prevails as Nora's body is kept cold with ice packs on the bedroom floor throughout the film.
Each of the guests is touched in a profound way by Nora's death, but only her ex-husband Jose (Fernando Lujan), who lives across the street and discovers the body, sees her demise as a vicious manipulative ploy; an attempt to control those around her even in death. So annoyed is he by his ex-wife's decision to kill herself, he switches the cooking instructions of each container in the refrigerator before the guests arrive.
the movie would have us believe that Nora, with a lifelong passion for suicide, is a wise old bird who understood her death would unite long severed binds and challenge the living to confront their own lives. While Nora's sudden departure doesn't tidily resolve all issues, and miraculously cures others, it does bring her family and friends closer together and forces her ex to make funeral arrangements while confronting his misunderstood past.
Even Judaism itself is called upon to answer to Nora who is without a resting place and wears a scarlet letter even in death as her suicide marks her unwelcome in a Jewish cemetery. Hence the ice packs surrounding her body and the scramble to find a place to bury her.
The conflict of what to do with dead Nora allows the film a funny barrage of religious references that finds one character saying to another after speaking with a priest on the telephone, "the Christians will take anybody".
Nora's Will is as gently imposing as attending a funeral with an impatient appetite for the post funeral brunch. A giddy nervousness prevails while a hunger for resolution keeps the film rolling at a steady pace. While the guests teeter about life and death issues and Jose cools his anger at his ex-wife, (she loved him, he learns), there is still this business of a dead body in the bedroom during Passover.
The movie is a modest amusement that seriously champions life and death issues. In Spanish with English subtitles.
Article first published as Movie Review: Nora's Will on Blogcritics.
Monday, June 20, 2011
Due to the sensitive nature of the art, the cave is not open to the general public and great care has been insured to preserve the drawings, including the installment of a large thick steel door blocking the entrance to the cave. German filmmaker Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man), received special permission from the French Minister of Culture to enter the cave and film the drawings under strict conditions. He and his crew were allowed only six days of shooting of four hours each. They were not allowed to touch the walls or floor of the cave, (the camera was placed at the end of a long mechanical arm), and they were confined to a two-foot built walkway traversing the paintings.
The culmination of that expedition is revealed in Herzog's new film, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, a 90 minute film shot with 3-D cameras that record much of the artwork. The 3-D technology is used to magnify the contour and delicacy of the art and successfully brings depth and life to the paintings. Shadows in the cave cast an eerie wavering effect on the pictures as if the play of shadow and light were of the artist's intent. Multiple images of wild horses aligned with one another gives the illusion of the horses running when a light is cast upon them.
As magnificent as it is to view the paintings in the ideal conditions of a dark movie house, Herzog's film is a bit menial in scope for the cinematic movie screen. It's singular photographic effect would be better served on television. Cable TV's The History Channel co-produced the production.
It's also a bit preachy. Serving as philosophical narrative, Herzog, his crew, and several archaeologists and scientists offer their reactions to the paintings, which sometimes disturb the sedate nature of the art. Ideally, one wishes to bask in the pictures with the advantage of Herzog's 3-D technology and ponder one's own historical, spiritual, and philosophical thoughts without a thunderous musical score and idle, maybe even pompous chatter.
It is what the camera does not show where the film leaves its deepest impression. Much of the ancient art and evidence of human activity is unreachable and could not be filmed, and one is struck with wonder as Herzog points to an area of the cave, not captured on camera, where a boy's footprint, possibly the most ancient footprint ever documented, had been found next to the paw print of a wolf. Herzog poses the question, were the boy and wolf walking together, or was the wolf chasing the boy? We will never know.
Herzog's film sheds light on the magnificent etchings of ancient man found in Chauvet Cave. It is the next best thing to being there. Very soon The History Channel will likely be bringing these deeply moving images to the comfort of your own home.
this review was first published by the author at blogcritics.org.
Sunday, June 19, 2011
Sunday, February 6, 2011
And that reminds him of a funny story. It's the one about Waylon Jennings strolling off the set of the Dinah Shore show, (Dinah!), in the 1970s. While taping the show with The Highwaymen and Webb, Waylon kept wandering off camera interacting with his fellow musicians while playing his guitar, much to the dismay of the camera crew who told him to keep still. Being the free spirited outlaw he is, Jennings eventually wandered off camera, off stage, and right out of the building while the band played on.
The night was filled with as many stories as music. My favorite was of a drunken night in a London pub with the late Harry Nilsson. In a slip tongued stupor Nilsson said to Webb, "Do you know what's wrong with your music?". Webb said, "What?". Harry said, "It stinks.".
It seemed Webb felt the need to fill the night with the imagery of celebrities more luminous than himself. An anecdotal story with a famous name, Frank Sinatra, Richard Nixon, and Linda Rondstat to name a few, followed nearly every song. A member of the elite class of songwriters who rose to fame within that perimeter, (Burt Bacharac is another), Webb has been recording and performing his own music since 1970.
His list of songwriting credits is astounding; Wichita Lineman, Galveston, By The Time I Get To Phoenix, MacArthur Park, and countless others including the movie score for the excellent Robert Redford western, "Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here".
Big fat snowflakes could be seen piling up outside the window as Webb warmed the room like a ski lodge fireplace with a 90 minute set that found him in strong voice, (although his singing is not his strength), and fanciful strides on the piano. "Wichita Lineman" stirred the pot of nostalgic A.M. radio gold, a slow and almost religious interpretation, and "All I Know", a hit for Art Garfunkel in 1973, was faintly recognizable as a Christian hymnal, a source Webb gains much of his inspiration from.
Perhaps the most musical moments of the evening came when Webb concluded a song with an improvised soft staccato on the piano, so quiet you could hear the snowflakes dropping. It was a fitting personal signature to the song, and indeed to a wonderful career.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
I was ebay and out of sight
and I thought I might
see if Broadcast was all right
so I hung out at their dormant blog
the next day they whistled in my ear
and their dormant blog
I'll have to pay
to broadcast in my ear
I hate you iTunes
speak to me in my dream machine
have you ever seen Medium
i can't get through 20 minutes of that program
and I'll be goddamned if I'm not cursed
even though she's got it worse
in a chat room written by some jerk
Trish Keenan died at 9 AM this morning.
don't roll over, make some noise
don't roll over, make some noise
don't roll over, make some noise
YouTube - Broadcast - Come On Let's Go
Monday, January 10, 2011
Directors Joel and Ethan Coen trust the big sky hangs overhead and are more concerned with the shadows cast by a small group of people traversing a vast and lonely Indian territory. The camera angles are at eye level here as if the point of view is over the shoulder of characters saying, "you're on your own, partner.". The new country is dark and cold, not sprawling and inviting, guided by human endeavor and what brilliant light there is comes only from the aspirations of the characters.
In the film, fourteen year-old Mattie Ross, (Hailee Seinfeld) arrives in town to claim the body of her murdered father, and hire a gunslinger to kill the culprit, Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), who killed her dad. Wrangling and bargaining as if buying a cow, she chooses aging drunken Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), to track and bring Chaney to justice. Rooster's killing decree is legendary and he'll do it for fifty bucks.
Or so he says. He swipes the fifty bucks, buys her a ticket home, leaves her a note, and hightails it out of town on the trail of a bigger bounty reward for the capture of Chaney. He forms a two-man posse with Texas Ranger La Boeuf, (Matt Damon), also on the trail of Chaney for the killing of a Texan.
But hold on, cowboys. The little lass has got bees in her britches and doesn't take kindly to being left behind. She soon gallops up from behind to join the posse. In traditional western style, the three searchers ride off into a bleak and snowy sunset in search of justice and reward.
And so goes TRUE GRIT, an allegorical western in which the search is a near desperate attempt to connect with humankind. Young Mattie will bargain her dying breath to avenge her father's murder and the two gunmen discover motivation in themselves beyond cash and dutiful reward.
Directors Joel and Ethan Coen, masters of several dark and cynical films, (Fargo, No Country For Old Men), have allowed this film to run free of their cutting edge input, leaving it indebted to the original novel and western genre. At times brutally violent, as you can expect from a modern western, it is often profoundly emotional with a heartening decency we haven't seen from these directors before.
Jeff Bridges as one-eyed Rooster Cogburn is skillfull in recreating a beloved character so recognizable as belonging to John Wayne, (Wayne won his only Oscar for the role). With a steely-eyed smirk, drunken sensibility and rattlesnake reaction to gun play, this wilder and more introspective Rooster Cogburn shakes the boots off any preconceived cowboy.
But beyond Bridges and the entire casts wonderful performances, it is the Coen Brothers' grasp of Americana virtues and violence that make this film memorable and even haunting. I entertained a gulp in my throat as the movie rode into its final sunset.
this article was first published at http://blogcritics.org/video/article/movie-review-true-grit-2010/