December 28, 2010

"True Grit"

From my review in Taki's Magazine:
The new True Grit doesn’t get as many laughs in the theater as the genial 1969 version, which was powered by John Wayne’s happy-to-be-alive status as America’s most famous lung-cancer survivor. Shortly after the Surgeon General’s 1964 Report on Smoking, Wayne, a six-pack-a-day man, had to have his left lung and four ribs cut out. At a time when the word “cancer” was assumed to be a death sentence, to most everyone’s surprise (except his own), Wayne, although diminished, was ready for fun on True Grit.

Jeff Bridges, who received his own de facto Career Achievement Oscar last year for playing a drunken country singer in Crazy Heart, does his usual competent, creative job. Still, The Dude doesn’t quite have The Duke’s screen presence. For a force of nature large enough to fill the legendary boots of that “one-eyed fat man” Rooster Cogburn, the Coens might have turned instead to Bridges’s co-star in The Big Lebowski, Walter Sobchak himself, John Goodman.

Read the whole thing here.

68 comments:

Anonymous said...

I thought this was an insult to the memory of John Wayne.

Anonymous said...

No Country for Old Men deservedly won 2007’s Best Picture.

"No Country" was possibly the most depressing, bleakly nihilistic movie I've ever seen.

It made "Terms of Endearment" seem like a Disney musical.

Sheesh - if "No Country" is the best we can do, then no wonder our nation is going to Hell in a handbasket.

TGGP said...

I also liked The Hudsucker Proxy. Though I was rather young the last time I saw it (I don't think I saw another Coen movie until a decent number of years later when I rented Blood Simple). On the other hand, I laughed my head off at Burn After Reading. Perhaps I'm a soulless snot.

Shawn said...

Just saw the movie tonight. What struck me immediately was the improbability of the mixed raced dynamics (Africans & Asians were in the film).

Further, am I the only one who noticed that the lead blue-eyed actress, Steinfeld, appeared to have some African ancestry? The shape of her nose along with her lips gave it away; apparently, when someone barley has Black ancestry those are the last signifiers.

adfadsfadsf said...

The 1969 version of True Grit wasn't much of a movie but it's remembered for Wayne's oscar winning role. It's sacrosanct in Western lore for that reason, so the idea of a remake may seem like an affront to the memory of Wayne. Though far from his best movie, it's seen as his last hurrah.
It's his movie, especially because it was effectively his swan song--though he made several more movies. Though Shootist was his final movie, True Grit is the one people think of when they think of old Wayne. And the emotional impact of the final scene where Wayne--okay, his stunt double--jumps over the fence simply cannot be duplicated. It belongs to Wayne as much as 'win this one for the gipper' belongs to Ronnie.
Wayne defined American manhood for decades, and his fans were sad to see him fade. But he was still the duke in True Grit, and it was great to see him kick young butts--especially in the late 60s when hippies and the like were trashing the values of Old America.

Maybe this remake is a better movie but I wonder if there's a symbolic meaning or ulterior motive to remaking a film that's been so closely identified with the duke. And though I love Jeff Bridges, the dude aint no duke.
(I just hope the Coens or anybody decides to remake RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY or THE WILD BUNCH.)

adsfasdfasf said...

NO COUNTRY is well made but just an empty exercise. It's TERMINATOR for art house people or an art movie for people who generally don't like art movies.

Anonymous said...

The best piece on TRUE GRIT with Wayne.

http://tinyurl.com/322p7yf

Anonymous said...

The depressing thing about this fine film has been watching the cultural Stalinists on various conservative websites bleating about how they won't won't won't watch anything with Matt Damon or Barbra Streisand's son-in-law in it, no matter that it's a Bible-quoting fairly unapologetic celebration of the hard-nosed Protestant determination that settled the West.

And I'm not sure why a Chinese merchant and black servant and stableboy would be out of place in the old west.

Anonymous said...

Mike Royko had true grit too. Sad to see him go.

Steve Sailer said...

"NO COUNTRY is ... TERMINATOR for art house people"

True, but Terminator is a helluva movie.

adsfasdfasfd said...

"NO COUNTRY is ... TERMINATOR for art house people"

"True, but Terminator is a helluva movie."

I agree, but the refreshing thing about TERMINATOR is its B-movie unpretentiousness--unlike Cameron's later bloated movies.

I enjoyed the action part of NO COUNTRY but refuse to believe that it's ABOUT anything. But the movie PRETENDS to have a point--about politics, society, evil, etc.

Anonymous said...

True, but Terminator is a helluva movie.

The difference being that in Terminator...



[SPOILER ALERT]



...the good guys win!!!

Anonymous said...

Shawn: Interesting. I noticed it too. Although she has brown eyes, not blue.

Anonymous said...

"(Africans & Asians were in the film)."

Uh, where? There was one older black guy (some kind of chaperone) accompanying the lead girl at the beginning, and a black kid at the stables. Total they had about 10 lines and about a minute of screen time. The only Asian was the Chinese grocery owner, who had maybe 15 seconds of screen time and 3 or 4 lines.

Wes said...

I thought the movie was worth seeing, given the poor quality of movies today. Having said that, I don't understand how people can praise dark, depressing, demoralizing stuff like this. Watching a one-armed childless woman at the end does not make me think, "Gee those Protestants were made of tough stuff!". It makes me want to crawl into a casket and shut the lid. The spirit of America was much, much more positive back in those days and movies like this fail to capture it.

Again, I know a lot you guys revel in the malevolence of Saving Private Ryan - all that depressing, Man-hating pointless gore - and somehow that's what passes for wisdom these days. But the bigger story is the intellectual and psychological inability of today's writers and audiences to project or contemplate a vigorous, masculine, uplifting, benevolent, successful, victorious image of human beings.

All we get are boys with their guts ripped open on the beach crying for their mothers, or a mirthless one-armed childless women failing to catch a dying man in time

Anonymous said...

From Wikipedia:

"Steinfeld's father is Jewish and her mother is of Filipino, African-American and European-American descent."

Fred said...

Wes,

You know what I find depressing? People like you who give away the endings of movies I haven't seen yet.

Wes said...

Sorry Fred good point. ***spoiler alert***. Well too late now, but I think half way through the movie the bleak tone would let you know where it's going.

guest007 said...

Why not mention that both versions of True Grit refused to use either Arkansas or Oklahoma as the filming locaitons. The John Wayne version used Colorado with snow capped mountains to represent relatively flat Oklahoma. The Coen brothers used West Texas instead.

Do not moviemakers believe that Americans will refuse to watch a movie that is film in an area that acutally looks like the setting of the movie?

Zed is Dead said...

Maybe this remake is a better movie but I wonder if there's a symbolic meaning or ulterior motive to remaking a film that's been so closely identified with the duke.

Translation: The Coens are Jews and thus smarter than me; perhaps they're really poking fun at the Duke and it's over my head.

Watching a one-armed childless woman at the end does not make me think, "Gee those Protestants were made of tough stuff!". It makes me want to crawl into a casket and shut the lid.

Really, Wes? I guess you didn't get very far through Moby Dick before you threw it down in disgust.

Steve, one of your best reviews. Unfortunately your commentators on cultural matters are pretty weak. I think your more analytical readers tend not to comment on such posts, leaving only your vulgar white nationalist readers to comment.

Mr. Anon said...

"Ethan Coen explains: “We made a movie about Jews [2009’s mordant A Serious Man], so we decided to make a movie about a Protestant.…Mattie is even more of a schoolmarm in the book—such an old Protestant at the age of 14, which is why the book is so funny.”"

And the only actress they could find to play a protestant is named Steinfeld.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

But the bigger story is the intellectual and psychological inability of today's writers and audiences to project or contemplate a vigorous, masculine, uplifting, benevolent, successful, victorious image of human beings.

Correct. And if I were an auteur, I'd respond by making films about people having to confront the evil unleashed by our pathetic, defenseless, aggrieved, entitled culture. So I like the Coen brothers.

stari_momak said...

Of Wayne's late work, I've always liked The Shootist better.

""(Africans & Asians were in the film)."

Uh, where? There was one older black guy (some kind of chaperone) accompanying the lead girl at the beginning, and a black kid at the stables. "

You know, recently some old footage of San Francisco's Market trolley, circa 1906 (pre-Earthquake) was being linked all over the internet. Of the identifiable people, there are probably about 1-2% non-whites. There just weren't a lot of non-whites, even Chinese, in the West in the late 1800s.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IKRbTF5afSE

Anonymous said...

The new "True Grit" plays it safe, mostly. Smart remake on the Coen's part. Girl Hero (PC), somewhat revisionist but not too much, & the novel is so good, the script practicably writes itself. And any lefty critic (i.e. all of them except for Steve) will praise the remake because it implicitly disses John Wayne.

And "Terminator" is a heck of a mindless action movie with no pretense of being anything but. "No Country for Old Men" is really a horror movie with a few bones thrown to the pseudo-intellectuals.

Kylie said...

"Wayne, although diminished, was ready for fun on True Grit."

I think it would be more accurate to describe the post-cancer Wayne as Cather described a middle-aged Antonia, "in the full vigour of [her] personality, battered but not diminished".

Cancer didn't diminish Wayne, it just slowed him down. Even death didn't diminish him, it just stopped him. He remains as large in memory as he was in life; battered, yes, but not diminished.

I'm okay with a remake of True Grit. I just hope the day never comes when I have to learn of George Clooney or someone else of his ilk playing Ethan Edwards.

And no, it's not about politics. It's about stature. It's about looking as monumental, as elemental, as the land on which you stand. Today's crop of actors simply can't cast shadows long enough.

asdasdfasf said...

"Just saw the movie tonight. What struck me immediately was the improbability of the mixed raced dynamics (Africans & Asians were in the film)."

There was a Chinese guy in the original too. I guess white folks back then needed Chinese to do the laundry.
And I read once that nearly 1/4 of all cowboys were actually black.

Anonymous said...

"Just saw the movie tonight. What struck me immediately was the improbability of the mixed raced dynamics (Africans & Asians were in the film).

Further, am I the only one who noticed that the lead blue-eyed actress, Steinfeld, appeared to have some African ancestry?"

You know, of course, that there were in fact both black and Chinese people living in the U.S. in the late 1800s, right? There were also no lack of people of mixed black/Euro/Amerindian heritage who were alive at that time too, right?

The main Actress has one Jewish parent and one parent who is a Euro/black/Filipino mix. She has a slightly mixed look to her, but there have always been mixed people who have passed for white.

Here's a more dolled-up photo of Hailee Steinfeld: http://www.bookpage.com/the-book-case/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/hailee-steinfeld.jpg You can see some sign that she's mixed if you're really looking hard, but if I took a momentary glance at her on the street, I'd think she were white.

Anonymous said...

"All we get are boys with their guts ripped open on the beach crying for their mothers"

I am sorry that WWII existed?

what do you want here

You want a feminized cinema where everything works out and droll things are said by women sipping cosmos? Is that what you want, nancy?

Anonymous said...

The Duke took a pass on serving in the armed forces during WW2 - the so-called "good war".

Wes said...

Zed is Dead, Moby Dick was nothing I would have gone through if not forced. I can't think of anything of value to be gleaned from that book.

Wes said...

And the whole purpose of movies like Saving Private Ryan seems to be lost on their fans. Saving Private Ryan is explicitly an anti-war movie. The purpose of that film was not to celebrate or honor American soldiers in WWII. It was to show the horror of the war and the smallness of the men who served in it, from the view of the director.

We get the sense of helpless trapped creatures caught in a chainsaw --- and that's it. You could go see one of the Saw movies for more edification. How this gets over the head of so many viewers is beyond me.

Saving Private Ryan specifically avoided attributing any higher motives to the American soldiers. They are not shown to be patriotic, they are not lovers of freedom, they are not particularly concerned with dictatorship ... they are just kids caught in an episode of Saw. The purpose of the movie is to make you feel nausea at the thought of Normandy - and nothing more. The purpose is to demoralize you. That so much time and money would be spent by writers and directors to undermine the true heroics of Normandy is bad enough. That people who are without a doubt pro-American praise this movie, represents a complete failure of critical thinking.

Harry Baldwin said...

And the only actress they could find to play a protestant is named Steinfeld.

They auditioned something like 5,000 actresses for the role and picked her. She was the best thing in the movie, as far as I'm concerned. Would it have been better to use a less engaging performer who had proper Protestant credentials?

BTW, saw saw the movie of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" last night. Not bad, but I now understand why why my lefty friends love it so much--it's "Dirty Harry" for liberals.

The heroes: Lisbeth, a violent, bisexual, pierced and tatted-up woman; and Mikael, a left-wing crusading journalist, slightly effete like Julian Assange.

Their enemies: a business tycoon who runs guns in Third World countries; a creepy, sadistic rapist; a serial killer who targets Jewish women, inspired by bible verses; a serial killer who rapes and kills immigrants and prostitutes; fathers who molest their daughters; and, of course Nazis. (They're elderly, granted, but still an indispensable element of liberal revenge fantasies.)

All the right buttons were pushed to guarantee liberal satisfaction, but they should have squeezed an evil Catholic priest in there somewhere.

Anonymous said...

"Of the identifiable people, there are probably about 1-2% non-whites. There just weren't a lot of non-whites, even Chinese, in the West in the late 1800s."

1-2% is about what the Coen Brothers' movie depicted.

Anonymous said...

A poster says, "I read once that 1/4 of of all cowboys were actually black." This is a liberal falsehood that was started for obvious reasons.

ricpic said...

There is a scene early in the film in which the Steinfeld girl matches wits with a sharp as a tack businessman (the issue is proper recompense for the horses rented by her murdered father from the businessman) and BESTS him, totally unrealistic. In fact why she has to be painted as some kind of supergirl escapes me.

Bridges' relatively unheroic interpretation of the Cogburn character is a relief in comparison.

The black stableboy may be on the screen for only seconds but no black stableboy in that era would dare address a middle class white girl as an equal. It's the PC override of that era's social norms that's offensive.

Anonymous said...

Wes, you're a shitty critic and one of the right wing cultural Stalinists I complained about above. You watched Saving Private Ryan and only seemed to have understood the justly famous first twenty minutes on Omaha Beach, because after that it's a fairly conventional WW2 movie that celebrates different white ethnics coming together to beat the Nazis. While paying lip service to questioning the wisdom of risking a squad of highly trained Rangers to save one soldier, the film unironically celebrates the heroism and self-sacrifice involved, hammering home the themes rather unsubtly with the "Earn this" line as well as the framing device.

Also, in an allegedly liberal propaganda film, the most heroic and competent character is a Bible-quoting white Southerner, the token liberal intellectual is a coward, and the film seems to believe you really ought to kill prisoners of war. There's a lot more in it for a liberal to dislike than a conservative.

adsfasdfasdf said...

"And the whole purpose of movies like Saving Private Ryan seems to be lost on their fans. Saving Private Ryan is explicitly an anti-war movie."

No, SPR uses anti-war tropes to make a "pro-good-war movie". SPR isn't pro-war but it is clearly on that says US fought and won a 'good war' in WWII. Spielberg shows the horror of war not to denounce war but to make us appreciate those good decent white Christians who sacrificed their lives to defeat evil Hitler in WWII. It's PASSION OF THE GI. Just like we are guilt-baited to sympathize with Jews who suffer unspeakable horrors in SCHINDLER'S LIST, we are supposed to appreciate the greatest generation even more for having suffered horrors we'd never imagined.
And if Oscar Schindler is the good German who risks all to save Jews, the GIs are all little Schindlers who risk their lives to save Europe from tyranny. Just as Schindler started out cynical but became idealistc, we see the transformation of the GIs from reluctant soldiers to wonderful guys who are willing to risk their lives to save Ryan. Spielberg's point is that Nazis don't value individual human life; they're all about killing and dying for the fuhrer. In contrast, America does value the individual human life and ordinary folks. Since Ryan family lost 4 sons, the military goes out of its way to save the last Ryan, and the GIs come to realize they are doing the good thing.

James Kabala said...

I don't know enough about the subject to know whether it was really one quarter (let alone even higher estimates such as one third that I have also heard), but clearly authentic photos of black cowboys (sometimes in mixed groups, sometimes in all-black groups) can be found on the Internet pretty easily. Texas was part of the South, you know.

ben tillman said...

Do not follow the link to the Hailee Steinfeld photo.

It caused an attack on my computer.

travis said...

There is a scene early in the film in which the Steinfeld girl matches wits with a sharp as a tack businessman (the issue is proper recompense for the horses rented by her murdered father from the businessman) and BESTS him, totally unrealistic. In fact why she has to be painted as some kind of supergirl escapes me.

It's simple. She's an Ulster Presbyterian, which means she's one of God's chosen people. Tom Chaney is one of the damned ("I never have any good luck"). As an instrument of God's judgement, she won't be denied.

It's all very funny. Especially when you consider that Mattie is as every bit as dogged and ruthless in her search for Josh Brolin as Anton Chigurh was searching for him in No Country for Old Men.

As for the discussion of the physical features of the female character, it misses the point. What matters is that she's got the right spirit for the role. It's Mattie who says to the undertaker when he informs her that she can kiss her dead father, "his spirit is flown." The physical world is all death and decay. And there's a lot of dead bodies, animal flesh, open wounds, blood, bones, missing body parts and one old man in True Grit. But there's also a lot of spirit. The Scots-Irish believe in almost the transmigration of souls, which maybe be impossible to understand unless you've sung "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" with your kin.

Below are the last lines of No Country for Old Men, when the character played by Tommy Lee Jones tells of a dream he had about his father. I don't want to give away the ending of True Grit, but consider the dream in relation to the last time we see Rooster Cogburn:

The second one, it was like we was both back in older times and I was on horseback goin' through the mountains of a night. Goin' through this pass in the mountains. It was cold and there was snow on the ground and he rode past me and kept on goin'. Never said nothin' goin' by. He just rode on past... and he had his blanket wrapped around him and his head down and when he rode past I seen he was carryin' fire in a horn the way people used to do and I could see the horn from the light inside of it. 'Bout the color of the moon. And in the dream I knew that he was goin' on ahead and he was fixin' to make a fire somewhere out there in all that dark and all that cold, and I knew that whenever I got there he would be there. And then I woke up.

asdfasfasdfas said...

"Also, in an allegedly liberal propaganda film, the most heroic and competent character is a Bible-quoting white Southerner, the token liberal intellectual is a coward, and the film seems to believe you really ought to kill prisoners of war. There's a lot more in it for a liberal to dislike than a conservative."

Hehe, "there's a lot more in it for a liberal to dislike than a conservative". It may seem true enough BUT WWII is the exception to the rule. That's one war where any amount of Allied atrocities have been rationalized and justified--even nuking Hiroshima and mass rape of German women by Russians--because Nazis were really really bad.
As with Girl with Dragon Tattoo, all the violence in the world is justified in fighting evil 'racism' and Nazism. Even the ultra-rightwing George Patton got a positive nod by Hollywood because he fought evil Nazis. And there have been plenty of ultra-violent Hollywood movies made by liberals where villains are 'evil Aryan' types. And Indiana Jones could be a gungho American as long as he was killing a whole bunch of Nazis. So, the usual rules of liberalism always get suspended when it comes to WWII and fighting the Far Right(and defending Israel and Jewish interests in the Middle East).
In other words, liberals are not ambuiguity-loving and empathetic open-minded people when it comes to fighting evil 'racists'. We know from political correctness that even the most liberal Jew wants to clamp down on freedom of speech and enact 'hate speech' laws.

The Bible quoting Southerner is a good guy BUT WHY? Because he's unquestioningly devoted to fighting the FAR RIGHT. In other words, he's a white Christian Southerner who doesn't seem to have the racial/political hangups that most Southern white males have. He could be a young Jimmy Carter. Devout but liberal. It doesn't seem to bother the Southern Christian boy that US is allied with atheist communist Soviet Union in fighting Nazi Germany. So, Spielberg isn't praising what we usually associate with southern white christians but putting forth a liberal Jewish idealization of what a southern white christian should be: someone who kisses his crucifix before he shoots every Nazi. It's about turning Christianity as a hammer against Nazism. Same reason why neocons like Podherotz appreciates Christian Zionist dummies who are so eager to send their sons to fight wars for Israel.

And what do you mean by 'token liberal intellectual', as if there's only one liberal character in the movie? Tom Hanks character seems pretty liberal and sensitive too. He's no coward. And the Jewish soldier, presumably a liberal, is no coward either. Liberal or not, they all seem revved up to kill Nazis.

Steve Sailer said...

Dear Travis:

Please go ahead and give away the end of True Grit. I look forward to your analysis.

Steve

adfasdfasdfasfd said...

Finally, why would killing GERMAN prisoners of war bother liberals, especially liberal Jews? Again, liberals have ALWAYS made an exception of WWII. FDR's internment of Japanese-Americans has never been condemned like other violations of civil rights; Victims of rightwing McCarthyism got far more sympathy. Truman has never been denounced to any real extent by liberals for nuking of Japanese cities. Bombing of Dresden and Hamburg, war crimes, have often been rationalized time and again by liberals. Mass torture of German prisoners has never been condemned like US atrocities in wars against communism. Even now, we have book after book about WWII which says Germans and Japanese pretty got what they deserved, and these books are mostly written by liberals. Though liberals condemned US plots to assassinate Castro, they've condemned the US for not doing enough to take out Hitler and his regime.

Sure, SPR says Germans cannot be trusted and it's better to kill a German than trust one, but this view applies ONLY to WWII. A liberal has always had double standards.
A liberal will scream about the evil of Pinochet but praise Castro and Che. A liberal will scream Bush's war crimes and Nixon's bombings but then shrug his shoulder about the indiscriminate Allied bombings in WWII. Liberals will remind us constantly of the Hollywood blacklist as the darkest period of American history but brush off Japanese-American internment as, uh well, 'so sorry and unfortunate'.
SPR is very much in this liberal tradition where WWII is the great exception to the rule since US was allied with the Far Left to destroy the Far Right. Also, even conservative soldiers in the war fought the far right. So, it's one time when even conservatives have been praised(for siding with liberals and the far left to crush the far right).
Rightwing cultural stalinism is stupid but you're a sucker of liberal Alinsky-ism. Spielberg wants to you think exactly the way you are thinking. You are confusing Spielberg's specious manipulation as irony and complexity. It's really tripe.
That said, SPR is a masterpiece of action filmmaking, the most advanced film of its kind as pure cinema.

PS. Liberals who were so shrill about Bush's wars are suddenly so quiet about Obama's. You see, as long as a liberal is in charge, war is okay.

MQ said...

As people have pointed out, there were lots of races in the old west -- Chinese were imported to do a lot of the grunt labor in building the trans-continental railroad. (Someone needs to do a movie about the Big Four and the Central Pacific).

Surprised to see Steve diss "Burn After Reading" in his review. I regard it as one of the great Washington movies. It really captures the dismally bureaucratic nature of DC culture. Many DC movies fail by trying to import some theatrical liveliness from less bureaucratic cultures that rings false.

Wes said...

It’s incredible to me that otherwise patriotic Americans can’t see that Saving Private Ryan is an anti-war movie. Most of the critics who reviewed it stated so and if I am not mistaken, Spielberg himself alluded to it being anti-war. I don’t like dishonest anti-war movies. If he wants to highlight the pointlessness of all wars, then let him focus on some Soviet adventure. All the positive stuff people imagine seeing in SPR is just their own assumptions and context which they bring to the movie. The movie itself is, again, is an episode of Saw. Nothing more. Well except it denigrates the warriors of WWII.

The Hanks character explicitly states he could care less about any of the official motives for the war – he just wants to save Private Ryan so he can go home. In other words, he has something close to a mercenary motive. Here in fact is his sole motivation that he reveals in a speech:

"I don't know anything about Ryan. I don't care. Man means nothin' to me. It's just a name. But if -- you know -- if going to Ramel and finding him so he can go home, if that earns me the right to get back to my wife -- well, then, then that's my mission.
You wanna leave? You wanna go off and fight the war? Alright. Alright, I won't stop you. I'll even put in the paperwork. I just know that every man I kill the farther away from home I feel."


Whoo hoo! He really loves America! How noble! He supports the war effort! C’mon guys. You are so starved from some movie that is vaguely noble about WWII that you make a purse out of a sow’s ear. This is as pro-American and honors veterans the way Bruce Springsteen’s song “Born in the USA” honors America – not at all. In fact, just the opposite.

lesley said...

"You know, recently some old footage of San Francisco's Market trolley, circa 1906 (pre-Earthquake) was being linked all over the internet. Of the identifiable people, there are probably about 1-2% non-whites. There just weren't a lot of non-whites, even Chinese, in the West in the late 1800s."

In Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House on the Prairie" the Ingalls family members are all down with the "ague" (probably malaria.) One Dr. Tan shows up with medicine (probably quinine) and they recover. If that scene were to play today, we'd say it was PC to include a humanitarian black doctor, but in fact that was in her book, and was true, and he really was black as Laura recalled, not "tan." Dr. Tan had indeed earned a medical degree (don't remember where) in the 1960s and worked among Indian tribes in Kansas.
So, the moral of that is, never say never.

Anonymous said...

"Barbra Streisand's son-in-law in it, no matter ,,"

Her son-in-law? Her only offspring was a son. Any offspring-in-laws would be female--unless it be a product of gay marriage.

Lisa said...

My favorite Jeff Bridges movie is “The Fisher King.” Hands down. But I knew he was special when I saw him in the terrible “King Kong” remake.

JSM said...

And I read once that nearly 1/4 of all cowboys were actually black."

Huh. Being a Wyomingite, I'd like to know where they all went, then. Plenty of descendants of White cowboys still round these parts, but where's all the black cowboys'? Our black population is about 1%.

Chinese laundries? Seriously? They must not have had good ad agencies, then, because the pioneers all washed their clothes in the Laramie River. (And the cavalry posted at North Laramie Station hired white laundresses to wash their uniforms. Which the turnover was huge because the soldiers kept marryin' 'em.)

Mr. Anon said...

"Wes said...

It’s incredible to me that otherwise patriotic Americans can’t see that Saving Private Ryan is an anti-war movie. Most of the critics who reviewed it stated so and if I am not mistaken, Spielberg himself alluded to it being anti-war. I don’t like dishonest anti-war movies."

I would agree that it is an anti-war movie. Spielberg's great triumph in making saving Private Ryan was in making one of the few - perhaps the only - anti-war movies that really works as an anti-war movie. As someone once said, I forget who (it might have been Stanley Kubrick), most anti-war movies don't work because they end up being too exciting. "Apocalypse Now" was made as an anti-war movie, and a more thrilling advertisement for going to war is hard to imagine.

Spielberg, by actually showing the carnage of war, was attempting to do something different. Yes, war is exciting, but it can also lead to you - not just somebody - but you getting your head popped open like a melon, or having your guts spilled out all over the ground, or simply being blasted into bits by 20 mm cannon shells. I think this film should be shown to every 16 year old boy who imagines that war is glorious. Spielberg should get a Nobel Peace Prize for making it.

And I disagree with your belief that it is somehow subversive. the soldiers in WWII were not scripted caricatures from a propaganda movie. They were real men, who had thier own motivations, chief among them to get home alive. I saw nothing strange in the movie's portrayal of the soldiers motivations.

That being said, apart from the attempt at verisimilitude, it wasn't that great a movie. The story was made up, and the script, in my opinion, weak. "Band of Brothers" (co-produced by Spielberg and Hangs) was a much better production. One should also note that neither SPR nor BoB presents the german soldiers as evil comic-book villains, but rather also as soldiers doing thier duty as they see it.

My one point of contention with Spielberg and Hanks in having made these paens to the "Greatest Generation" is the implied patronizing insult that it casts at that generation - that they were only interesting because they fought and suffered and died - not for what they stood for. Both Spielberg and Hanks are doctrinaire Hollywood liberals. Most WWII vets are not cool with the sort of standard liberal views that Spielberg and Hanks espouse - gay marriage, or forced school integration, or the coddling of illegal aliens. Thinking that those vets were such great men, you'd think that Spielberg and Hanks might actually be concerened with what they thought about those matters - that they might have some respect for the traditional America to which those old guys swore thier loyalty.

adsfsadfasdf said...

And I read once that nearly 1/4 of all cowboys were actually black."

"Huh. Being a Wyomingite, I'd like to know where they all went, then. Plenty of descendants of White cowboys still round these parts, but where's all the black cowboys'? Our black population is about 1%."

I think Texas had the bulk of them as it was the major slave state of the West.

It's something I read in a book in the 80s(though the book was written in the 60s).

I don't know if this site is reliable but:

http://www.vincelewis.net/blackcowboys.html

dsfadsfadsfa said...

"Chinese laundries? Seriously? They must not have had good ad agencies, then, because the pioneers all washed their clothes in the Laramie River. (And the cavalry posted at North Laramie Station hired white laundresses to wash their uniforms."

I don't know. I saw a Chinese laundry in ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST.

Saving Private Aafasdfa said...

'Anti-war' is not the same as 'pacificism'.

And one can acknowledge war as hell but still believe in the need to fight.

Harry Baldwin said...

JSM said...Chinese laundries? Seriously? They must not have had good ad agencies, then, because the pioneers all washed their clothes in the Laramie River.

There was, of course, a huge influx of Chinese into San Francisco at the time of the gold rush--1849. It was quicker to get to California by sea from Asia than to get there from the East Coast by land or sea.

Chinese panned for gold and also worked as cooks and did laundry.

I don't know how far into other Western states they traveled--I suspect not too far.

The Chinese in San Francisco congregated in Chinatown, which was the only part of the city in which they were permitted to own land that could be transferred to their heirs. If there weren't many Chinese visible in the film of Market Street, it may be because it wasn't their neighborhood. (Just a thought.)

Anonymous said...

No, the site about the "black cowboys" isn't reliable.

Anonymous said...

I loved The Great Lebowski and re-watch it often, but for me John Goodman's performance was what made that film so special. So I heartily approve of your notion of Goodman as Rooster.

I'm afraid I don't understand why you - and everyone else - liked No Country for Old Men so much. Brolin's character was so stupid that he lost my sympathy immediately. But Burn Before Reading was genius and Brat Pitt's part was the role of a lifetime.

Albertosaurus

Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wW12Jlxz98U

Family values movie criticism?

Wes said...

Mr. Anon

Briefly, a movie is not a documentary. A movie always has a theme (or should) and a particular point of view – it’s not just a camera rolling. So what Mr. Spielberg selects to put in the movie is what he feels is important. Now you could probably find a bunch of guys in WWII who could care less about the reason for the war , but honestly, I doubt as many as you imply. This was the US military remember, not the Italian. The US fighting forces had spirit. There were huge numbers volunteers after Pearl Harbor. If their chief motivation had simply been to get home alive, then the better approach would be to never sign up in the first place

And why are we so preoccupied with making sure 16 year olds don’t think that war was “glorious”? Do we really have some problem with kids in high school being way too patriotic? In a practical sense, that just means they hold the men who served in very high esteem and that they think service to country in wartime is noble. We need to destroy that? People often mistakenly believe that by making something look horrible, they are honoring it. But people like Spielberg know better. It makes it repugnant. And you actually lose respect for the soldiers involved. It is their rightful glory that Spielberg spits upon.

Better yet, ask yourself this: If you were trying to induce young men to protect the United States against an actual mortal threat, is this the movie you would show them?

Svigor said...

I agree, but the refreshing thing about TERMINATOR is its B-movie unpretentiousness--unlike Cameron's later bloated movies.

Funny thing about Terminator, I like the glimpses it gives into the post-apocalyptic war against the machines much better than the actual post-apocalyptic war against the machines we see in Cameron's later films. They show something much more claustrophobic and tense than anything that followed. True of T2 as well.

Something bad happens to filmmakers when they get really famous. They get their way too often. The normal collaborative checks and balances are less effective. Lucas and Star Wars - 'nuff said. Cameron and Avatar, lol. I notice all kinds of little things. Like the "revamped" T2; anyone else notice how they redid the sound, and the new sounds are inferior? Now that I think of it, the same is true of Terminator. Someone went back in and made the laser gun sounds go from awesome to "teh suck." Why? Why go back and "improve" something for the worse? Han shoots second? WTF? The action figure sell-out has to be retroactive?

Svigor said...

Black cowboys: the part of "black cowboys" that puts a smile on liberal faces does not seem to be the kind of "black cowboy" that you can run a G**gle image search for.

Right? Liberals want a couple of black cowboys to sprinkle throughout a group of white cowboys, have one screw a blond cowgirl, etc. They don't want a bunch of black cowboys over there, a bunch of white cowboys over here, which is what "black cowboys" probably amounted to, right? Just an educated guess, there.

How do you run a G**gle image search for that? "Multicultural cowboys + blacks on blonds"?

Mr. Anon said...

"Wes said...

Mr. Anon

The US fighting forces had spirit. There were huge numbers volunteers after Pearl Harbor. If their chief motivation had simply been to get home alive, then the better approach would be to never sign up in the first place."

Yes, that's true. Get home alive and perform thier duty, I meant to say. I'd be willing to bet however that survival weighed heavily on thier minds. And a lot of the "Good War" nostalgia was retrospective - it only came later, after allied victory was achieved. Going into the war, a lot of people assumed it would be like WWI, which was not widely viewed as a "good war".

"And why are we so preoccupied with making sure 16 year olds don’t think that war was “glorious”? Do we really have some problem with kids in high school being way too patriotic?"

Yes, we do. White kids who sign up for the soldiers life are being asked to fight for causes and peoples - not thier own, by cowardly political masters who cynically use them as game pieces in thier endless geopolitical wankathon. They are being used up - killed, or mutilated and cast off as garbage.

"Better yet, ask yourself this: If you were trying to induce young men to protect the United States against an actual mortal threat, is this the movie you would show them?"

If I were trying to induce young men to protect the United States against ACTUAL mortal threats, I would not casually waste thier lives in imperial wars that purport to protect us from non-existent threats.

By the way, do you know any combat veterans from WWII who have seen "Saving Private Ryan" and were offended by it? That would be a test of your thesis, I would imagine. The one data point I have in that regard - my uncle - liked the movie, and thought it respectfully honored the memory of his fallen comrades.

travis said...

Dear Travis:

Please go ahead and give away the end of True Grit. I look forward to your analysis.


Ok. Here goes. Cogburn rescues Mattie from the snake pit. He whisks her away to find treatment. As her condition worsens, their journey progressively takes on the feeling of a dream, as if dying is like slowly falling a sleep. When Mattie's horse can go no farther, Cogburn shoots him. For the first time we see Mattie cry. She's afraid. Death approaches. But she's not alone out there in all that dark, in all that cold. Cogburn never quits her. And then, when all hope appears lost, a fire appears in the distance. Her life is saved.

For me, at that moment, Jeff Bridges is John Wayne. He's Mattie's dead father. He's sheriff Ed Tom Bell's dead father. He's my dead father. He's God the Father. The Dude abides.

To abide. To endure, no matter how bleak the circumstances, is the primary theme of most Southern literature. In Cormac McCarthy's The Road, for example, a father and son, simply named "man" and "boy," wander a post-apocalyptic landscape attempting to keep the fire alive. Rooster Cogburn and LaBeouf are also keepers of the fire. As I understand it, the fire is our inheritance from our fathers. It's not something physical that can be measured. It's something immaterial -- true grit -- that sees us through the difficult times and inspires us to live.

The Coens were interviewed on the Charlie Rose Show. Joel Coen said that he got the idea to make the movie after reading the novel out loud to his son. After doing a little research, I learned that Joel Coen and Frances McDormand have an adopted son. I once read on iSteve, not sure if it was Steve or one of his commentators, the theory that actors and directors often choose to make movies their own children would want to see. That makes sense. It certainly easy to understand why Joel Coen was attracted to this story of surrogate fatherhood. (Who says the Coens have no heart?)

Harry Baldwin said...

Travis, glad you provided your interpretation. It was worth it.

Wes said...

Mr. Anon,

I do not know a WWII veteran that has seen it. I know some WWII veterans, but they haven't seen the movie, as far as I know. But I've seen some WWII veterans say that aspects of the movie were realistic, I'll have to concede that. The horror, the sudden random nature of death, etc.

What's interesting is that in a deeper sense, we actually agree. You like the movie specifically because it might dissuade White kids from signing on too quickly for military service. And I must say, kids, especially White ones going into combat roles, should consider whether the nation is worth them risking their lives. But this proves the point that it is a very anti-war movie and one, which in a sense, is anti-American. You may be comfortable with that because you think of the America that Spielberg implicitly bashes as the imperial multicultural America. Of course, I doubt that is what Spielberg had in mind. I think it is broader anti-Americanism he displays. . On the other hand, I am still associating the America of WWII with a basic goodness.

Wes said...

Travis makes an interesting comment about this film being similar to a lot of Southern literature ... Southern Gothic I suppose. And I think that is the point for some of us. I hate Southern Gothic - lol. I imagine most people from the South dislike it. The intellectuals love it because it portrays Southerners as grotesque figures in a dying culture. It also reflects their depressing sense of life.

And apparently that Cormac guy wrote No Country For Old Men. I haven't read or seen it, sense I don't have access to Prosac, but I assume it has the same point: existence is hell, man is doomed, if your children knew what awaited them they would put a bullet in their head, etc. I know a lot of guys love to wallow in the misery of life - it's almost a macho thing - but art like this is the sign of a dying culture.

Mr. Anon said...

"Wes said...

But this proves the point that it is a very anti-war movie and one, which in a sense, is anti-American. You may be comfortable with that because you think of the America that Spielberg implicitly bashes as the imperial multicultural America. Of course, I doubt that is what Spielberg had in mind. I think it is broader anti-Americanism he displays."

Respectfully, I guess we still do disagree then. I don't view it as being anti-American. I don't sense that Spielberg is virulently anti-American. Quite the contrary, he strikes me as a liberal patriot - someone who really does love this country, despite what he sees as it's flaws. As a liberal, moreso even as a Hollywood liberal, he has absorbed all the standard liberal conceits which I, and I imagine you too, find to be so much nonsense - that America's history of slavery and Jim Crow were some special kind of evil for which we must atone, that there was such a thing as a "Red Scare" and that McCarthyism was some kind of horrible midnight of the soul for this country, etc. But despite himself, he really seems to like this country, and even it's past. I don't sense from Spielberg that he is an especially intellectual guy (I'm not saying he's stupid, just that he's perhaps not that reflective), but he is an exceptionally gifted intuitive film-maker.

lesley said...

"Dr. Tan had indeed earned a medical degree (don't remember where) in the 1960s and worked among Indian tribes in Kansas."

Correction
I meant 1860s.

dfasadfafds said...

http://boxofficemojo.com/people/chart/?view=Director&id=joelcoen.htm


Now you know why they really made it.