Monday, January 31, 2011

The Nitty Gritty of the Academy Awards



With Oscar's favorites announced, it's an exciting time for Hollywood personnel and cinema-lovers everywhere. 

Actors travel the talk show circuit, insisting "it's an honor just to be nominated."  Movie trailers beef up their credentials, bragging about the categories in which they will compete.  And everyone's attention is steadily focused on the red carpet until that fateful day when all will be decided. 

These are the few precious weekends to give the movies you snubbed a second chance-- influenced heavily, of course, by the Academy's opinion. 

And while two films directed by women were nominated for Best Picture, but not Best Director, that was the topic of discussion last week. 

I'm over it-- for now. 

Today, we look forward and optimistically consider the movies of the year for their content, instead of their contributors.

So, even though we're hurting for women directors, Best Picture and Best Director(s) nominee True Grit was an excellent film with strong feminist themes and featured one of the greatest female personas ever created-- one that has Hailee Steinfeld up for Best Supporting Actress.

True Grit is a re-make of the classic John Wayne movie by the same name.  The Coen brothers revived Mattie (Steinfeld) and her vengeful story, but this 19th century character came alive in 21st century theaters with plenty of ass-kicking third wave girl power.

The pint-size protagonist is only 14 years old when she leaves home to handle her family's affairs following the death of her father.  But Mattie has her own agenda, beyond settling debts.  She wants justice.

Her father was murdered by a man named Tom Chaney, the same man Mattie intends to hire a bounty killer to find.  Negotiating with a drunken US Marshall (Jeff Bridges) and an egotistical Texas Ranger (Matt Damon), she stands her ground.  And when it comes time for a real adventure, she refuses to be left behind.

Mattie rides horses across rivers, climbs trees miles high, and always goes after exactly what she wants.  Her only traditional feminine qualities are her two long braids.  And her quick-wit is matched by a quick tongue that'll put anyone in their place.  She's stern, logical, and unwavering from adolescence to middle age. 

True Grit is not a fairy tale-- it doesn't have a happy ending.  It doesn't even end with a wedding.  But there is closure. 

Mattie finishes her story unmarried, and very matter-of-fact about a matter that doesn't seem to matter at all.  No one pities "the spinster" or questions her choices. 

She was able to live and love in the midst of incredible hardships, fully satisfied, without becoming a wife or a mother.  Her strength and peaceful solitude suits the child she was and the woman she's become.

While Mattie sought a man with "true grit," she possesses plenty of grit herself-- true enough to pull the trigger when it counts.

My only question is why the narrating heroine was not considered a leading actress? 

Either way, True Grit should sweep the Academy Awards-- and maybe even take Best Picture too. 

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