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Tag: True Grit

The Real West From the Smithsonian

True Grit (2010 film)

True Grit (2010 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


This is a documentary about the factual side of the novel, True Grit, and its two movie versions. I found it illuminating and I think you’ll enjoy it as well.


In America, we often assume that in the past was a nation of bedrock religious belief, hardworking, nose to the grindstone solid citizens and just general goodness. It wasn’t like that. It was messy and cruel – and for much of American history, religious beliefs were simply not that big a deal. Lincoln, for instance, was elected in spite of the fact, he was not a church goer, did not believe in life after death and possessed many other beliefs disturbing to the religious minded. Robert Ingersoll stood a good chance of being elected to the Presidency in spite of the fact, he is also known as the “Great Agnostic.” Don’t believe me – look these things up – find that reality that is American history. The Real West is not the West we have been seeing on our televisions, it’s far more complex and nuanced.


Here’s my promise: if you study American history in detail and with a determination to understand from the point of view of a regular citizen, you will find a complex story full of sex, scandal and intrigue; and you will also find an incredible saga of courage and determination to build a nation unlike any other. I promise you that will love this country more as you work to understand it.


James Pilant



From around the web.


From the web site,




I can’t recommend reading the novel highly enough – both films fail to
capture much of the story, although because it’s a short book with vivid
dialog, both do follow it faithfully far better than Hollywood usually
follows an original novel.  The novel is dense with fictional details
that just don’t come out in the movies.  Also, the novel is all about
the voice of Mattie Ross, and neither movie captures that.  Movie makers
consider voice over narration the kiss of death, but I wish they could
have put more of book Mattie’s thinking into movie Mattie’s
performance.   And strangely Portis sense of the dramatic appears
superior to each set of movie makers because when each film diverts from
his plotting and scene setup they suffer.  Portis had a keen sense of
plotting and drama that both films wisely copy fairly thoroughly. 



The True Grit Era

This is from a Frank Rich column analyzing America in the light of the two True Grit films –

That kind of legal and moral cost-accounting seems as distant as a tintype now. The new “True Grit” lands in an America that’s still not recovered from a crash where many of the reckless perpetrators of economic mayhem deflected any accountability and merely moved on to the next bubble, gamble or ethically dubious backroom deal. When Americans think of the law these days, they often think of a system that can easily be gamed by the rich and the powerful, starting with those who pillaged Lehman Brothers, A.I.G. and Citigroup and left taxpayers, shareholders and pensioners in the dust. A virtuous soul like Mattie would be crushed in a contemporary gold rush even if (or especially if) she fought back with the kind of civil action so prized by the 19th-century Mattie.

Frontier justice. That would send the Wall Street gamblers packing, wouldn’t it? Of course, right now, I’d take just about any kind of justice. The current situation in the finance world if analogous to a movie would be Heaven’s Gate. In that film the villains after a murderous spree are tracked down by a posse from the local people and rescued by the cavalry on direct orders of the governor. That’s about the situations we have here.

James Pilant

What’s Ethical At The Cinema?

David Gushee has some thoughts. He analyzes several recent movies for their virtuous elements. Here’s his view of True Grit

True Grit is certainly the only movie in living memory that starts with a biblical quotation and has a musical score drawn from old Baptist hymns like “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” and “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” This Western of fierce retribution and family honor is indeed one of the most explicitly religious major films in a long time. (If you leave out the Left Behind movies, or anything with Kirk Cameron in it.)

But this is a religiosity of law and retribution, of wrath and justice. This is eye-for-eye religion; it’s about the price in blood and sweat and risk one is obligated to pay to avenge the unjust death of a loved one. True Grit teaches the virtues of, well, true grit, courage and toughness and unflinching justice. And yet the score hits grace notes in the margins, perhaps a reminder that frontier religion mixed justice in the street with grace in the sanctuary, a paradigm that is still with us.

I have a passion for movies. Last night, my wife and I watched I Hate Valentine’s Day, a romantic comedy. The film carried no great moral weight. It was sweet and funny. I can work with that. Not to mention the fact, that while I am watching a Korean film like Cyborg She, my wife is dozing in the background. So, fnding common film ground is important if she is to remain conscious or not flee the room.

I Hate Valentine’s Day

Cyborg She

I try to watch at least one film a night. I don’t manage it as often as I like.

Many films are just entertainment. But the great films like Ikiru, The Seven Samurai, The Apartment, Lawrence of Arabia, etc. often carry a great deal of moral weight.

Movies tend to bypass our analytical abilities and go straight to our emotions and unconscious. Sending moral and ethical messages more or less unconsciously has serious ethical implications. Nevertheless, since it is already a common practice, using this unconscious loading factor we can manipulate our own morality and the morality of others through film choices.

James Pilant

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