A documentary about Jeff Bridges is airing tonight on PBS (it’s part of their “American Masters” series). The documentary is called “Jeff Bridges: The Dude Abides,” and it’s a 90-minute look at the actor. I didn’t think it was possible to be this excited about a PBS documentary but, y’know, there you go. We’re obviously big fans of the Bridges and the Dude around these parts, as you can tell from the picture atop the blog. It premieres tonight at 8 p.m.
For me, as well as countless other devotees of the Coen Brothers, it’s exciting to see them returning to the Western, a genre they so cleanly streamlined, modernized and reconfigured in 2007′s Oscar-winning “No Country for Old Men.” Of course, that’s minor nonsense, just a piddling subplot compared to the major thing exciting folks like myself. Namely, the Coens are reteaming with Jeff Bridges for the first time since 1998′s “The Big Lebowski” (as you can tell from the image atop this site, I am a fan of that movie).
It’d be one thing if it were just the Coens and Bridges doing another movie, any movie, any movie at all. But because it’s “True Grit,” it takes on an added significance. The novel by Charles Portis (who has only grown in notoriety since the book’s publication) was first made into a movie in 1969, a star vehicle that wasn’t wholly faithful to the source material because it had to be faithful to the requirements of a John Wayne film. It wasn’t a bad movie by any means, and Wayne wasn’t bad in it (his performance could best be described as “very John Wayne-y”), but he was 62 and had another decade to live (as it turned out), so he was rewarded with the Lifetime Achievement Oscar in the form of a Best Actor trophy that year (besting Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight, both nominated for “Midnight Cowboy,” as well as Peter O’Toole and Richard Burton). The movie was fine, but the source material remained, almost as if waiting for a proper and fitting cinematic translation. It was waiting for an adaptation that nobody was really clamoring for, yet in the right hands could be perfect.
The notion of remaking a film that had an iconic John Wayne performance doesn’t seem so perverse with the Coens involved. The premise, bare and simple, seems custom-fitted for their particular whimsies and devices: a 14-year-old daughter hires an alcohol mess of a U.S. marshal to help her find the man who murdered her father. Add to that the presence of Bridges, for whom they crafted his indelible role as the Dude, and toss in Matt Damon (as a Texas Ranger who joins the hunt) and Josh Brolin (as the murderer being hunted), and this thing takes on a particular mystique to a particular segment of the populace. That the Coens are not three years removed from winning an Oscar for adapting another vengeful Western is fine, but that Bridges just won a long-denied Best Actor for “Crazy Heart” helped stoke awareness and anticipation to the highest levels possible.
There is also the very real and (to certain folks, like myself) vital fact that this is the last of 2010′s true Oscar contenders to hit theaters. While this movie is a long shot for actually winning any awards — not with “The Social Network” and David Fincher, “The King’s Speech” and Tom Hooper, Colin Firth and James Franco, Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Helena Bonham Carter all frontrunners for the categories in which this movie will contend — it is nonetheless the final piece of the Oscar puzzle.
For me, personally, it represents the final must-see film of 2010 hitting wide release. There was a relative paucity of these big, interesting-looking-to-me mainstream movies this year — some form of the list would include “Inception,” “Toy Story 3,” “The Social Network,” “TRON: Legacy,” “Black Swan,” “127 Hours,” “The Town,” “The Fighter” and “Somewhere” (the last two have not opened everywhere, at least, but “The Fighter” is in many theaters and “Somewhere” also debuts today) — but this one was always high on the list.
In the only review I really care about, Ebert says he’s “surprised the Coens made this film, so unlike their other work, except in quality.” Other reviews mirror this point of view, that this is as straightforward a movie as we’ve ever seen from the Coens. As Ebert puts it, “[T]his isn’t a Coen Brothers film in the sense that we usually use those words. It’s not eccentric, quirky, wry or flaky. It’s as if these two men, who have devised some of the most original films of our time, reached a point where they decided to coast on the sheer pleasure of good old straightforward artistry… So let me praise it for what it is, a splendid Western.”
This has been an odd, up-and-down year for the movies. Long stretches have gone where I have not seen anything worth leaving the house, while other brief windows have been packed with multiple must-see films hitting theaters (beyond this, I still need to see “The King’s Speech,” “The Fighter” and “Somewhere”). Even if this is the last truly great film of 2010, it still sounds like a hell of a conclusion.
To change things up a bit, here’s a Q&A review of the No. 1 movie in the country, “TRON: Legacy.”
Q: So what’s this all about?
The movie is “TRON: Legacy,” Disney’s new $170 million blockbuster-in-waiting. It stars Garrett Hedlund, Jeff Bridges, Olivia Wilde and Michael Sheen.
Q: How does it relate to that old movie that nobody can rent or buy?
It’s a sequel to 1982′s “TRON,” which was a financial misfire for Disney but nonetheless had an exceedingly big impact on contemporary cinema. It represented the first time CGI was extensively used in a movie, and while you could argue all day about whether that’s a good or bad thing, it’s nonetheless an historic thing.
Q: So do I need to see the 1982 original to understand this one?
Oh, definitely not. I’d never seen it, if that helps, and I followed this thing fine. My knowledge of the original “TRON” is limited to what I’ve seen in the various parodies over the years. Lots of lights and grids and a guy trapped in a computer and all that.
A documentary about Jeff Bridges, part of the “American Masters” series on PBS, will air on Jan. 12 at 8 p.m. It’s called “Jeff Bridges: The Dude Abides,” because, of course it is. Speakeasy has a clip, which is predictably terrific. I already love the whole thing.
As part of our somewhat obsessive coverage of “True Grit” (opening Dec. 22!), we direct you to this profile of Hailee Steinfeld, the 13-year-old actress who beat out 15,000 (!) others for the role of Mattie Ross. As you well know, the story of “Grit” revolves around a young girl (Ross) enlisting the help of Rooster Cogburn (played in the original by John Wayne, here by Jeff Bridges) to find and kill the man who killed her father.
Choice quote: “I felt that I wanted to bring that to the role of Mattie Ross: holding my own next to the Dude.”
This being a Coen Brothers movie, to say nothing of a Coen Brothers movie with Jeff Bridges, I am obviously a wee bit excited. But every single tidbit about this thing just makes me want to see it even more, so, yeah, I kinda wish it would come out already.
Here’s your requisite “True Grit” update, since I will cover any and all news about my sure-to-be-favorite-movie-of-2010. It’s going to open on Wednesday, Dec. 22, as opposed to the original date of Saturday, Dec. 25. This is pretty sensible, since opening a movie on Saturday (even Christmas, a big moviegoing day) is pretty stupid. Opening it on Wednesday gives it a big jump on the weekend, lets it build buzz with its target audience (older people who might hear it’s good and trek out a few days later) and also more readily capitalizes on the Young People Interest in Jeff Bridges thanks to “TRON: Legacy” (opening Dec. 17). [Deadline]
Jeff Bridges will host “SNL” on Dec. 18, the day after “TRON: Legacy” hits theaters and a week before “True Grit” comes out. Bridges hosted once before, with his brother Beau in 1983. Over/under on “Big Lebowski” sketches? Whatever, this is probably the only “SNL” I will watch all the way through this year, I don’t care if it’s all dumb “TRON” jokes. [LAT]
[UPDATED: Embedded trailer added above.]
There’s a newer, longer “True Grit” trailer that Paramount Pictures just unveiled. It gives you a better idea of the story’s scope and shape, if you weren’t already aware, along with better sketches of the characters played by Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld.
It looks downright magnificent. As I’ve blogged before, I am an easy target for this movie. My favorite movie is “The Big Lebowski” (which is why an image from that film adorns the top of this here site). My favorite directors are the Coen Brothers. The prospect of the Coens reuniting with Jeff Bridges would have been enough to guarantee my purchase of a ticket. Adding in Damon, Brolin and the concept of doing a sterner, harsher and more faithful adaptation of the book (I’m trying so very hard to avoid saying “grittier,” if you can’t tell) — not to mention the Coens doing a Western, a legitimate Western, after what they accomplished with their neo-modernistic take in “No Country for Old Men” — and I couldn’t be more excited. This has been on my Must See List for as long as I’ve known of the project; every glimpse only serves to deepen that excitement. Can’t. Wait.
Yahoo! Movies has a new “TRON: Legacy” trailer, which fleshes out what we got from the brief teaser earlier this year. Sorry, I can’t get it to embed (maybe the IT department wants to help with that? Right, he’s out of town). It looks damn intriguing. I never saw the original, but like so many influential pop culture touchstones, I feel like I’ve seen it (the delightfully dated trailer for the original film is here, and despite that corniness I’ll be checking out the first one before December).
This new trailer gives us a better idea of what we’re in for, which is to say, dual Jeff Bridgeseses. The CGI de-aged Bridges — the film’s technological centerpiece, with respect to the other bells, whistles and creations of this world — remarkably brings The Dude back to his 1982 visage. It’s not perfect — there’s still a little of that plastic-face, only-the-mouth-moves cartoonishness — but it’s still July, and there’s going to be tweaking it until the release. I can’t wait to see it on screen, because I’m confident it’s going to look pretty astonishing. Young Bridges versus Old Bridges? Groovy.