Oscar Moment: “True Grit”

12 11 2010

Unlike “The Fighter,” which seems Academy-appealing on premise, “True Grit” is appealing on pedigree.  It comes courtesy of the Coen Brothers, who each have three statues thanks to their work producing, writing, and directing “No Country for Old Men” in 2007 and another for writing “Fargo” in 1996.  Including the nominations they have received for editing under the alias Roderick Jaynes, Joel and Ethan Coen have each received a whopping TEN Oscar nominations.

Beyond just their own history, the Coen Brothers have roped in some phenomenal talent to make this look like one heck of an Oscar contender on paper.  “True Grit” is an adaptation of the novel by Charles Portis, NOT a remake of the 1969 film starring John Wayne.  According to sources, the two are very different, and those expecting a remake are in store for something entirely different.  However, John Wayne’s leading turn as Rooster Cogburn won him an Academy Award for Best Actor, so keeping in the same vain wouldn’t be such a bad thing for Jeff Bridges.

Bridges is hot off his Best Actor win for “Crazy Heart” last year and looks to be in striking range of a second trophy.  The “too soon” political argument will surely be a factor, but it’s not a novel concept for an actor to be nominated the year after they win.  It happened twice over the past decade with Russell Crowe nominated in 2001 for “A Beautiful Mind” after winning for “Gladiator” and Penelope Cruz nominated in 2009 for “Nine” after winning for “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.”  Then, of course, there’s the once in a lifetime case of Tom Hanks, who won back-to-back Best Actor statues for “Philadelphia” and then “Forrest Gump” in 1993 and 1994.  The only other actor to pull this off was Spencer Tracy back in the 1930s.  While I think Bridges has the respect to achieve this massive distinction, I doubt the politics of Academy voting nowadays will allow it.

Bridges isn’t the only threat the movie has in the acting categories.  Two-time nominee Matt Damon looks to make an entry into the Best Supporting Actor category, as does prior nominee Josh Brolin.  The race still has no clear frontrunner (hard to believe), and either of them with enough buzz when the movie screens around Thanksgiving could lead to a major shake-up.

My money is on Damon, the more respected actor in the eyes of the Academy.  He was nominated just last year for “Invictus” and has history with the Oscars dating all the way back to 1997 when he won Best Original Screenplay with pal Ben Affleck for “Good Will Hunting” and also received a Best Actor nomination.  2010 has been yet another banner year for Damon, starring in Clint Eastwood’s “Hereafter” and narrating Charles Ferguson’s “Inside Job.”  He has also been recognized as a great humanitarian and just a general class act.  It’s hard to judge his chances without anyone having seen the movie, but I think Damon could easily win the whole thing.

Brolin, on the other hand, has only recently emerged as an actor to be reckoned with thanks to roles in “Milk,” which earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, and “No Country for Old Men,” the Coen Brothers’ Best Picture winner which earned him a SAG Award for Best Ensemble.  He has a more volatile personality, and this could harm him.  In “True Grit,” he plays the outlaw Tom Chaney, another villainous role that he has gained so much notoriety playing.  Unlike the Best Supporting Actress category where double nominees from the same film are common (see the Oscar Moment on “The Fighter” for statistics), the feat hasn’t been accomplished in Best Supporting Actor since 1991 when Harvey Keitel and Ben Kingsley were both nominated for “Bugsy.”  So if I had to pick one of the two “True Grit” supporting men, I take Damon at the moment.

Then there’s also the easy Oscar nominations that the movie will pick up since is this is a Coen Brothers movie that happens to take place in the 1880s Wild West.  Best Cinematography, Production Design, Costume Design and Film Editing are certainties.  The movie could bomb and those three nominations would still be in the bag.  Best Adapted Screenplay should be an easy nomination to net given that they have been nominees four times in the category and winners twice.  Best Director will be interesting for the same reasons that it will be interesting for Danny Boyle, but if “True Grit” is a huge hit, there’s no way the Coen Brothers won’t come along for the ride here.

But perhaps the movie’s biggest wild card is the spunky teenaged heroine Mattie Ross, played by newcome Hailee Steinfeld.  She will be a more central figure in the 2010 version of “True Grit” since the novel focused more on her perspective. Still, Steinfeld will likely be campaigned for Best Supporting Actress where the field is thin and the category is more hospitable territory for young actresses.  In the past decade, 13-year-old Saiorse Ronan and 10-year-old Abigail Breslin have been nominees for “Atonement” and “Little Miss Sunshine,” respectively.  The category has also seen pint-sized winners like Tatum O’Neal for “Paper Moon” at the age of 10 and Anna Paquin for “The Piano” at the age of 11.

Steinfeld is in good company, but we have nothing other than a trailer and the confidence of the Coen Brothers to indicate whether or not she has the capability to execute this role.  Their word is good, as most actors who have worked with the duo state that they are perfectionists obsessed with precision.  All signs point to this being an inspired casting, and it won’t be hard for Steinfeld to make it a pretty meager Best Supporting Actress category this year.  But still, like everything else about “True Grit,” we still have to wait and see the critical reaction – just to make sure.

BEST BETS FOR NOMINATIONS: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Bridges), Best Supporting Actor (Damon), Best Supporting Actress (Steinfeld), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, Best Film Editing

OTHER POTENTIAL NOMINATIONS: Best Supporting Actor (Brolin), Best Original Score


Actions

Information

2 responses

17 11 2010
Harry

This looks amazing.

PS: The song in the trailer is perfect.

20 12 2010
James

Interesting article. i wonder why no one seems to know that marshal only has one “L” as opposed to say someone’s name with two, You’d think that the people actually promoting the film might know that. Even if the film isn’t technically a remake, the trailers certainly indicate that it is. I like Jeff Bridges but John Wayne is a tough act to follow and that’s a fact. I am very interested in seeing how Damon reprises Glen Campbell’s character of the Texas ranger. I am also interested in seeing how the movie does up against the movie Marshals, I.T. which is more historically based and is still in post production.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s




%d bloggers like this: