I finally saw True Grit today. There was a man standing behind me at Redbox, and when he saw me choose that, he stepped closer and said that he had to know, did I actually rent this for myself? His eyes about popped when I told him that yes I’m renting for me because I loved John Wayne movies and especially this one’s original. I think he was expecting me to say ‘Ug, my husband/boyfriend is making me get this’. Course, I was wearing my glasses and still had my hair in braided pigtails from biking, so who knows what he’d been anticipating! His eyes popped and he shook his head and laughed, saying he was pretty impressed. We already know I was never a normal child- add black and white pirate movies and John Wayne westerns to the list of reasons why. Think I saw almost every one of John Wayne’s (except for his really early stuff) over and over and over again.
Come on, though, how can you remake John Wayne? Which is a concern I voiced to Redbox man. As a J.W. fan himself, he’d assured me it was good, and actually it almost surpassed the original. The way they revamped Mattie’s wit and banter was hysterical. Thank god for closed captioning, cause I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to keep up with her. Wish there was more of Josh Brolin, who I know from Young Riders, a family Western series I’d watched obsessively when I was young. But I gave the movie a try because you can never argue against Matt Damon (except that other Coen movie, The Informant? which I just couldn’t keep on). Gotta say, though, that the signature John Wayne riding into battle with the reins in his teeth needed to not be redone. Some things should remain attributable only to the original person, with no tribute attempted. Jeff Bridges did great otherwise, though.
However, watching this movie, and enjoying it, made me think about how many westerns I watched as a child and how many I’ve seen as an adult. Come to think of it, the last one I saw was The Missing, another John Wayne revamp (from his The Searchers), which was also pretty amazing. Can never argue Tommy Lee Jones, either- I did watch and read Lonesome Dove. Many times. But, the other thing that struck me is that my kids have never watched a western. The other western out now is Cowboys and Aliens, and I don’t really know if that counts. Aliens? Fighting cowboys in a western with high-tech alien weapons? I just dunno. These days, everything must have aliens involved. My boys know Mr. Jones from Men in Black. Yes, aliens.
That’s the way of things, though. Every generation has it trademark theme. Pirates of the ’40’s. Westerns of the ’60’s. Rambo and I think Vietnam in general of the ’80’s. Now we are into aliens: Transformers 1 through 3, Cowboys vs Aliens, Aliens in the Attic, and the upcoming game board adaptation of Battleship. Yes, navy v. aliens. What’s 2020 have in store?
Is this good, though, the bad guys now aliens? Should we mourn the loss of westerns? Or maybe it’s good. Maybe it is more acceptable to portray that only aliens could cause such cold, uncaring death and destruction. Maybe this will build in our children a better sense of all-human unity. It’s nice to see that current global struggles aren’t being continually over-dramatized in movies- after the Cold War, all the villains were Russian. Japanese after WWII? After the Gulf War, Middle Eastern. But now, entering the second decade of the 2000’s, let’s make it completely neutral and claim aliens as universal, globally affecting villains. I guess it could be good. Maybe it is way too late and I am over thinking this 🙂