|Shootouts, murder, cowboys, and gangsters...why don't more Westerns get Oscar nominations? True Grit is a remake of the 1969 film that finally won John Wayne an Oscar, 20 years after his first nomination. Written, produced, and directed by perennial Oscar favorites Joel and Ethan Coen (No Country for Old Men, Fargo), this film hopes to go where few have gone before: only three Westerns (Cimmaron, Dances with Wolves, and Unforgiven) have ever won Best Picture. True Grit follows a young woman, Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) who hires a U.S. Marshall named Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to track down her father's murderer and bring him to justice.|
The entire cast is fantastic, and the film is so action-packed, it flies by. Jeff Bridges has mighty big shoes to fill, but as the gruff, alcoholic Cogburn, he would make John Wayne proud. He turns in a multi-level performance, seemingly looking out for his own interests at all times, but if you watch carefully, you'll see that behind the facade, he has Ross's best interests at heart. The real revelation here is Steinfeld, though. In her feature debut, she makes a big impact as the daughter bent on finding the man who killed her father. She is everything the role demands: brash, intelligent, intimidating, and calculating, yet she still shows signs of being a little girl at heart.
As I hinted in the intro, this film has everything you'd want from a Western, from exciting chase scenes to thrilling gunplay. The dialogue is witty, the action is engaging, and the plot is both easy enough to follow and complex enough to hold your interest.
Jeff Bridges is the incumbent Best Actor, having won last year for Crazy Heart, so he is extremely unlikely to repeat (the last time anyone pulled off back-to-back acting Oscars was Tom Hanks for Philadelphia and Forrest Gump in 1993/1994). Also against him: no one has ever won an Oscar for a remake of an Oscar-winning performance.
Hailee Steinfeld, on the other hand, may have a chance at eking out a win. For one thing, many believe she should have been nominated as Best Actress, and leading roles in supporting categories tend to do well. Secondly, she has received heaps of acclaim for the role. Additionally, younger actresses have won this category in the past; look at Anna Paquin, who was only 11 when she won for The Piano, and Tatum O'Neal was 10 when she won for A Paper Moon. Finally, though it seemed as though Melissa Leo had this category locked up just a couple weeks ago, she has received some flak in recent days for her shameless campaigning. What better remedy to her overzealous pursuit of the award than to give it to this unassuming young woman?
Besides Steinfeld, don't expect to see True Grit garner much Oscar gold; up against heavy hitters like The King's Speech and The Social Network in every category makes it highly unlikely to succeed.