The Academy Award nominations for 2010
have been announced, and I think True Grit is the Best Picture of the Year.
Granted, it has a lot of competition because some pretty good movies came out last year.
The other nominees are:
-Toy Story 3
-The Kids are Alright
-The King's Speech
-The Social Network
Now, I confess: of these, I have only seen Inception, Toy Story 3 and The Social Network. And those were all pretty good, and I bet the others are too. But here's why, for me, True Grit really stands out.True Grit differs from typical Hollywood fare in the weight of its themes.
All the Best Picture nominees are a little deeper than a popcorn summer blockbuster (though I like those too), but True Grit offers us a commentary not only on where we are today (as all movies do), but on where we've been. We get a hard look at the old West, where justice was a rare find and a good man was a needle in a haystack. As pure Americana, it offers us a story about ourselves: a country yesterday, where we came from, that had struggles and values.
Most of our characteristic American determination and quest for righteousness is personified in Maddie Ross, the 14 year old girl portrayed by Hailee Steinfeld, seeking to avenge her father's death. This tenacious little thing just won't give up in the pursuit of justice.
But it goes somewhere she doesn't expect. The time-weary and alcohol-bleary Marshall Cogburn, played by Jeff Bridges, doesn't seem to be the man she thought she was.But this is a tale about justice, retribution and perseverance that seeks the good.
The character shifts in Cogburn's actions towards the end, reveal a heart of gold and nerves of steel that are buried under his wizened exterior.
All of which gets me to the point I've been holding off on: True Grit is overtly spiritual
. Biblical quotations pepper the film, both in the speech of the characters and in the opening screen. Old Testament values such as retribution factor into the story. The film ponders what justice is is in a wasteland of lawlessness; whether comeuppance will meet us on this side of life or the next, and just what is the purpose of pursuing justice in the end. How good is it really? I think the ending leaves it open for the audience to decide for themselves.
True Grit, in contrast to the Coen Brothers' last Best Picture No Country for Old Men,
is not nihilistic. It ponders the great questions and speaks to real value. And it is far less snarky that usual Coen Brother fare such as Burn After Reading
Lastly, the Coen Brothers' cinematic mastery is profound. From the genius of the script writing, to the selection of hymns to compose the film's score, and to the filming itself, True Grit is technically masterful.
For deep questions and an honest spirituality that holds up a mirror to us in America today, I vote for True Grit as picture of the year. It truly represents film as an art form. Have you seen the films nominated for Best Picture? Which do you think was best? Do you agree with the author about the moral and spiritual weight of True Grit?