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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

entry arrow2:10 AM | A Girl and Cowboy Story

There are three types of film stories I always hesitate to screen: torture porn, westerns, and boxing films. It's just a matter of my preferences/biases, although I know I sometimes surprise myself for liking a few titles from these genres. (Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby and Unforgiven would be perfect examples just from one director.) Well, for the past two days, I've watched the latter two types in the name of being conversant with what are being flouted around to be last year's best of cinema. I've seen David O. Russell's The Fighter, which was all right, but I saw it more as a dysfunctional family movie rather than a boxing one. Tonight, I watched Joel and Ethan Coen's True Grit [2010], and I came away with no more love for the western than a resurgent admiration for the cinematography of Roger Deakins.

Because this is essentially a film about sumptuous photography, and that is that. I've always had a fondness for the stylistic quirks of the Coens' brand of filmmaking, but that is largely absent here. None of the ballet of violence, the startling fancy of storytelling. In fact, Roger Ebert praises the film as an exercise of form and genre for the brothers, a departure for them. And so be it. I couldn't bring myself to care for the story though, and that may be due to the fact that Hailee Steinfield, who plays a girl in the Wild West who hires a man with "true grit" to bring in for some justice the fiend who murdered her father, somehow rubs me off the wrong way. She is supposed to be plucky and feisty as Mattie Ross, and she does exactly that with acceptable professionalism others might mistake as genius. But there is no emotional resonance to her performance at all. She does it with a mechanical connect-the-dots effort that may be charming for some, but proves ultimately irritating for me. Oh, look she's trying to be grown-up precocious. Oh, look, how adorable the way she speaks with withering grown-up sense. But it didn't work for me.

And so I settle instead with an admiration for the way Roger Deakins captures the wild lands out west with such beauty. And this is a beautiful film, no doubt. And perhaps that is enough.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich