DID YOU READ

“True Grit,” Reviewed

“True Grit,” Reviewed (photo)

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It’s remarkable how different Joel and Ethan Coen’s “True Grit” is from the 1969 version starring John Wayne even though the two have all the same characters, nearly identical narratives, a lot of the same dialogue from Charles Portis’ original novel. The biggest difference is the Coens themselves and the attitude they bring to the material. The original “True Grit” is a sentimental story about the Old West and a girl who has lost her father and who, in her quest to avenge his death, finds a new one. It has dark moments and themes, but overall it’s a light-hearted film; at times it plays more like boozy frontier comedy than a Western revenge thriller. In contrast, the 2010 “True Grit” is a far bleaker and more severe portrait of life in the West, a place the Coens portray as sad and scary even as it is exciting and beautiful. Their version has comedy as well, but it’s much a much darker kind. To call it gallows humor would be entirely accurate, particularly since in an early scene the Coens turn a public hanging into a enormous punchline.

Though the commercials make it appear like Jeff Bridges is the film’s hero, that title actually belongs to a 14-year-old girl named Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld), who hires Bridges’ cantankerous U.S. Marshal, Rooster Cogburn, to help her find her father’s killer. Later they’re joined by a egotistical Texas Ranger named La Boeuf, who is hunting the same man on a different charge. Cogburn and La Boeuf are reluctant to deal with the headstrong Mattie, and then even more reluctant to take her along into “dangerous Indian territory” when she demands to accompany them. But the charmingly bull-headed Mattie will not be swayed. By focusing on this unstoppable, empowered young woman and showing her to be the equal of her more seasoned gunfighter partners rather than a damsel in distress, “True Grit” plays sort of as a chick flick/Western hybrid, and a highly satisfying one at that.

One key element of that satisfaction — and another key difference between the “Grit”s — is casting. Kim Darby played Mattie in Henry Hathaway’s 1969 production, and though she had a charmingly warm relationship with Wayne, she was 22 when she played the part and looked it. Steinfeld, on the other hand, was 13 when she shot “True Grit,” and the tininess of her pre-teen frame enhances every scene; accentuating the humor when she bullies around businessmen who underestimate her intelligence and the danger when she’s held at gunpoint by outlaws. Damon, hilariously impressed with his own abilities as a Texas Ranger, is also a major upgrade over the original cast (sorry, Glen Campbell).

The highest compliment you can pay Bridges is that he draws no comparisons to Wayne’s Rooster Cogburn, a performance that earned the actor his only Academy Award. Bridges’ Cogburn is a totally different guy, more ornery, more surly, more in touch with his film’s dryer sense of humor. It’s also interesting to note how different Cogburn is from The Dude from “The Big Lebowski,” the last character Bridges created with the Coens. Other than the fact that both men are introduced on or around the toilet, they have almost nothing in common. The fact that one man could so convincingly play two disparate men is yet another impressive feat by Bridges, one of our best actors.

The Coen Brothers’ “True Grit” may not be a better movie than the original but it’s certainly a better production. The cinematography by Roger Deakins, who shot the Coens’ “No Country For Old Men,” stunningly recreates the sepia-toned texture of old photographs and the production design by Jess Gonchor immerses us in one of the most believable Western settings I’ve ever seen onscreen. I liked the John Wayne “True Grit,” and I liked the Coens’ “True Grit” too. They’re similar in some ways, different in others, but both work on their own terms.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.