23 June 2011

"True Grit" (2010) Blu-ray Disc

True Grit
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Hattie Steinfeld
Based on the Novel by Charles Portis
Written for the Screen & Directed by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Blu-ray Disc Release: 7 June 2011
List Price: $39.99
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I reviewed the film in December when I saw it during its theatrical release, so I'll refrain from repeating myself.  I will say that this second viewing of the film felt different to me.  I was still mindful of Roger Deakins's Academy Award-nominated cinematography (terrific lighting and capturing of the gorgeous landscapes throughout), but reduced from the theater screen to my TV I found my attention focused much more on the characters and dialog.  I initially derided Tom Chaney as little more than a MacGuffin, rather than a villain, and this second viewing has made me reconsider that position.  Even though the cowardice of the character is made explicitly clear in the opening narration, I suppose I was simply conditioned to think of the outlaw being hunted as a villain. Chaney is, instead, a narcissistic opportunist driven by paranoia.  Brolin's performance is actually stronger than I realized six months ago.

As for the Blu-ray Disc release, the picture and sound are, as one might expect, terrific.  Maybe a technophile more discerning than I am can find fault with the presentation, but I was entirely satisfied.  The Coen Brothers dislike commentary tracks, so they didn't record one.  I had hoped this meant they were at least part of the handful of bonus featurettes, but alas this is also not the case.  Most of the features are the kind of fluff piece one might find in an electronic press kit (EPK), the kind of promo materials circulated within the industry to drum up interest in a film.

"Mattie's True Grit" focuses on Hailee Steinfeld, who shares the story of her audition and reaction to getting the role.  We see a clip from her screen test, which is interesting but too brief.

"From Bustles to Buckskin - Dressing for the 1880s" spotlights the costume design of Mary Zophres, who was nominated for an Academy Award for her work.  Standard "I did our research, enjoy period pieces and all their challenges" fare.

"Colts, Winchesters & Remingtons: The Guns of a Post-Civil War Western" is a self-evident title.  Gun aficionados will nod their heads and maybe talk to the screen, and then complain this piece is too brief and superficial.  The rest of us will simply nod our heads as though we know the difference between 130 year old rifles.

"Re-Creating Fort Smith" lets us get a glimpse into the research and work of production designer Jess Gonchor.  I hadn't consciously processed it while watching the film, but it's remarked in this piece that there was a concerted effort to make sure that this wasn't another standard Western with swinging door saloons, but rather reflected the more cosmopolitan aesthetic taking hold in the post-war 1880s.  It does make a difference.

"The Cast" is a collection of interview clips of Bridges, Damon, Brolin, Steinfeld and Barry Pepper saying nice things about one another.

"Charles Portis - The Greatest Writer You've Never Heard Of..." is the gem of this release.  Portis has refused to give interviews or promote his own works, and only dedicated readers are likely familiar with his story as a result.  This feature is part biography, part literary appreciation, all told through insights shared by various writers, editors, former colleagues and friends of Portis's and Dwight Yoakam.  Yeah, that's right.  Dwight Yoakam, who really ought to have been cast somewhere in this film.  As you may have gleaned from this blog, I have an unabashed adoration of writers in general, so a 30 minute piece in which a writer is discussed and fawned over by other writers was an elixir.

"The Cinematography of True Grit" - Roger Deakins (who was robbed at the Academy Awards, I say!) shares some insights into his approach to filming True Grit.  It's a very cursory look at his work, and I'm certain that it will not satisfy anyone who might be interested enough in the subject to watch this in the first place.

Theatrical Trailer - I loved the use of Johnny Cash's "God's Gonna Cut You Down" in the trailer, which I thought gave an immediate, recognizable feel and tone to the film.  I had forgotten just how many images and moments from the final act of the film were shown in the trailer, including some stuff from the final 5-10 minutes.  So if you're coming to this Blu-ray release blind, you might want to hold off on the trailer until you've seen the feature.

A DVD is also included, and a Digital Copy can be downloaded from the DVD for use on your iPod or other portable video device.

I loved the film, and while I was underwhelmed by most of the bonus content, I enjoyed the feature on Charles Portis quite a lot.  The list price is crazy, but fortunately True Grit can be found brand new for less than half that right now.

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