No Country for Old Men, Unforgiven, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, and Country Strong just to name a few. Ok, I was absolutely kidding about Country Strong! I just want to make sure you're reading;)!
If you also know a thing or two about me, you know the Cohen brothers can do no wrong in my eyes: Fargo, the aforementioned No Country for Old Men, Miller's Crossing, Raising Arizona, and O Brother Where Art Thou are also found on my favorite movies list.
True Grit, remade by the Cohen brothers, had the perfect equation for me to LOVE this movie. Throw in some amazing performances by Jeff Bridges and Barry Pepper, I was supposed to have gotten the vapors 15 minutes in. But I kept getting hung up on the character of Mattie, the 14-year-old girl who had hired Bridges character, Rooster Cogburn, to avenge her father's death. While Rooster, Matt Damon's Texas Ranger, and the "villains" were portrayed as complex and human, Mattie remained an unwavering Pollyanna-esque spirit and a smart-mouth, with nary a hair out of place from her tightly wound braids.
Mattie's character probably wouldn't have bothered me so much had her supporting cast not been so multifaceted and complex. I could almost SMELL Rooster and he was not a hero, like John Wayne was in the original True Grit, but a human. He has a horrible drinking problem, two failed marriages, and a son that hates his guts. Pile that on top of a bank-robbing history, a painful-looking beer gut and only one good eye, it's a wonder Rooster (who's real name is Rueben, how wimpy does that sound?) gets any work at all as a U.S. Marshall.
The "bad guys" were also complex and almost difficult to dislike. Barry Pepper, who looks like he's a million years old in his role as Lucky Ned Pepper, is a smart and, if I can say this, honest crook. He worries about Mattie's well-being and sticks to his word when agreements are made. Tom Chaney, played by Josh Brolin, the poor schmuck with the bounty on his head, is just a bumbling idiot who makes rash decisions, not the criminal mastermind many bank-robbers and Wild West bad guys have usually been portrayed in Westerns past.
The overwhelming sense of how stinkin' tough every single living being had to be in this time period just to survive resonates in almost every scene. Rooster's wisdom and experience, Mattie's horse that rides full bore through the night, the Texas Ranger who continues to chatter even though he's bit halfway through his tongue, and, darnit, even Mattie who has to be a man, woman, and child all at the same time: all of them are made of true grit. Sounds cheesy, but that was one of the things that made me like this movie.
So, of course, being a Western and a Cohen brothers' creation, I ended up liking the movie, weak spots aside. I'm getting predictable in my old age, but if I'm as wily and tough as Rooster when I reach his age, getting old doesn't seem so bad.