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Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here. I plan to write about this film this week, but I’ve got two others to post first. Still, I’m looking forward to finally getting into my thoughts on this one, and I know that not everyone’s loving this, but I’m excited to have the conversation with people who do and people who don’t alike. For now, check out this spy's passionate report on the film:

Dear AICN Crew, I was lucky enough to see THE ASSASINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD last night and I wanted to write in to express a few thoughts. I want to emphasize that this is less of a film review and more of an announcement because this film is a watershed moment for two people: Andrew Domink and Casey Affleck. This is simply one geek talking to a room full of geeks about some shit that they need to understand. Over the coming months as we wade into awards season, you will hear a lot about the performances that Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck give in this film, and more about them later, but the man that I want to bring to your attention is Andrew Dominik. Many of you are probably familiar with or have at least heard of his first feature CHOPPER which introduced Eric Bana to the Hulk makers and Munich makers of the world. But here we have Andrew’s American debut, and for a second feature, the sure hand with which he directs this film is scary good. Each and every performance in this film, no matter how small, is significant and powerful. I was flattened by the strength of the smaller roles –Sam Shepard, Paul Schneider, Mary-Louise Parker, Zooey Deschanel, Garret Dillahunt – Flattened. And that credit has to go to Andrew for both his ability to cast the picture and then to go out and get the very specific moments that he needed. For example, I am convinced that Zooey was hired for one look. ONE LOOK that she gives Casey Affleck after they have their pictures taken. Dominik and Deschanel went out there and nailed her entire performance which is very short but extrememly important in Robert Ford’s character progression throughout the film. Then there are the three main roles, Dominik’s masterwork – Pitt, Affleck, and Sam Rockwell. No one mentions Rockwell when they’re talking about this film and I don’t know why. He plays Charley Ford and every strength that you’ve ever admired him for in other films is on display here. He’s the funny brother and the more trustworthy brother and the more mature of the Ford brothers and because of this, he’s asked to carry the powder keg of Jesse James around with him always afraid that it’s about to blow up in his face. The way that he laughs at Jesse’s jokes while being deathly afraid of the man is complex. It’s almost as complex as Affleck’s performance and there are times when I think that Charley is the more cowardly of the two brothers just because Affleck’s character is so naively sure of himself. For a fan of the Brad Pitt we came to love in movies like SE7EN, 12 MONKEYS, and FIGHT CLUB, he has returned. This time, however, he’s older and more mature. There’s pain behind Pitt’s eyes now and I can see why he won the actor’s award in Venice . He is the revered man that Jesse James was and carries the same burdens. And we can imagine that he allows a little of that poison to seep into his veins as he’s playing this part. He’s crazy and ready to go off at anytime. The only thing that seems to hold Jesse together is his family, the only group of people that he knows won’t betray him. There is a moment in which Pitt and Rockwell stand at the edge of a frozen pond, all alone in the whole world, and Pitt just says, “Have you ever thought about suicide?” And we know that the thought doesn’t just cross his mind, it plagues him with every breath he takes. What this does for Andrew Dominik, it will also do for Casey Affleck. This film will have the same ripple effect for him that Dominik’s first film had for Bana. You will not believe the intricacy that he brings to this role and the trust that Dominik must have put in him to become so sickly twisted. He is a geek. Robert Ford is a Jesse James geek and he cannot handle the fact that he is sitting with his idol. He’s like the sickening version of the SNL Chris Farley character saying, “Remember that time when you robbed that train? That was cool.” In close-up after close-up, Affleck goes from one end of his character’s spectrum to the other, and we see it all slide across his sick yellow smile in such a sweet character turn as we don’t often see. Besides Andrew’s work, congratulations must be given to Plan B and Scott Free for putting together an amazing crew that includes Roger Deakins work, Dylan Tichenor and Curtiss Clayton’s work, Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. This is like a dream team of people you would want to work on a western drama. Don’t know who these people are? IMDB them and you will shit your pants. THE ASSASINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD is the best film that I’ve seen this year and I look forward to Andrew Dominik’s next. THE RIDER
Readers Talkback
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  • Sept. 17, 2007, 6:27 p.m. CST

    Brad Pitt for Best Actor

    by CarmillaVonDoom

    Start the campaign early....

  • Sept. 17, 2007, 6:40 p.m. CST

    Oscar Push?

    by MCVamp

    Okay, but it will be tough to beat out: Nicolas Cage--GHOST RIDER; Ice Cube--ARE WE DONE YET?; Larry the Cable Guy--DELTA FARCE; Kevin James--I NOW PRONOUNCE YOU CHUCK AND LARRY; and my current 2-1 pick, Cuba Gooding Jr--DADDY DAY CAMP. HA! Good luck Mr. Pitt. Stock up on tissues, loser!

  • Sept. 17, 2007, 6:42 p.m. CST

    are you kidding?

    by harold_maude

    shouldn't a best actor award go to a best actor? just because he can play one type of character does not make him the best actor. he is limited and downright terrible in most of his movies, yes brilliant in 12 monkeys but that doesn't make him great, although the movie was. a best actor nod should go to people who prove time and again how awesome they are, not to someone who now and then proves they might have some skill, come on 7 years in tibet, a river runs through it, good grief. also there is a difference between a good actor and a performance that was so expertly pieced together by the editor.

  • Sept. 17, 2007, 6:57 p.m. CST

    harold_maude you couldn't be more wrong...

    by trojanwilliams

    Your criteria for awarding Academy Awards is exactly what is wrong with the Oscars today. The Oscar is not meant to be a lifetime achievement award for your entire body of work (there's separate award for that). It's supposed to be an award for your performance in one film in that single year. All your performances up to that point aren't being judged. Just because you go onto have an awful career after you win (Cuba Gooding and Marissa Tomei I'm looking at you) doesn't mean that for that one instant you didn't earn the award. By your rationale no first time actor should ever be considered. It's the reason it took Martin Scorcese so long to win one and it appears that it'll be the reason Brad Pitt won't win one till he has one foot in the grave.

  • Sept. 17, 2007, 8:18 p.m. CST

    so much for a true account eh?

    by HypeEndsHere

    calling the man that blew away the biggest scumfuck in american history (present administration excepted) a coward is pure bullshit. read, people. READ.

  • Sept. 17, 2007, 9:20 p.m. CST

    Actually, I was kidding

    by CarmillaVonDoom

    Just trying to get in the way of 1st posters. :^)

  • Sept. 17, 2007, 9:55 p.m. CST

    Looking forward to this one

    by PotSmokinAlien

    westerns are the Batman of the american movie scene---- you can't get em to come out and save society unless they are really needed. SERAPHIM FALLS was fucked but well intentioned, 3:10 TO YUMA blew my ass away and i am all set for this shit to be the meditative character piece that convinces hollywood that now is the time to finance this kind of thoughtful shit. Seriously Motherfucks--- just think of them all as really loose remakes of UNFORGIVEN. and ask no more questions until awards time rolls around.

  • Sept. 17, 2007, 10:12 p.m. CST

    Saw it last night, too

    by slone13

    Loved it. Very slow movie, but I wasn't bored once. Truly great performances. Affleck's portrayal of Ford is so creepy at times.

  • Sept. 17, 2007, 10:15 p.m. CST


    by Trader Groucho 2

    I wish TAOJJBTCRF was the meditative character study that you're pinin' after. Given the length of the film and the relative parsity of dialogue, you should certainly have no problem finding time to meditate while you're watching this.

  • Sept. 17, 2007, 10:17 p.m. CST


    by Trader Groucho 2

    I wish TAOJJBTCRF was the meditative character study that you're pinin' after. Given the length of the film and the relative parsity of dialogue, you should certainly have no problem finding time to meditate while you're watching this.

  • Sept. 17, 2007, 11:38 p.m. CST

    cant wait for this one

    by movieman742

    Ive been waiting for this movie for at least a year before it was pushed back and delayed tons. Sounds like a kind of movie ill love. Hope it gets wide release.

  • Sept. 18, 2007, 2:41 a.m. CST

    Mori, please also give analysis to 3:10 to Yuma film

    by BDuncan

    Mori, it will be great reading your analysis of this film and please also give analysis to the 3:10 to Yuma film.

  • Sept. 18, 2007, 7:57 a.m. CST


    by moon.moth

    Why did you bother to print this 'announcement'? Its obviously a marketing plant designed to deflect attention away from Brad Pitt who most aicn readers would avoid. I liked Chopper and I think this could be a cool movie but you guys need to weed this kind of s**t out.

  • Sept. 18, 2007, 8:07 a.m. CST

    Upside Down Johnson

    by HypeEndsHere

    guess you're new around here. 1st, i wasn't calling you anything horrible. unless you are a member of the current administration. 2nd, explain how "cow·ard /ˈkaʊərd/ –noun 1. a person who lacks courage in facing danger, difficulty, opposition, pain, etc.; a timid or easily intimidated person" applies to Robert Ford. if it helps, call me an idiot a few times while doing it. (it would be nice if you didn't because i think you're better than that) your pal, Hype PS, i avidly read the dictionary following your post. SPOILER - the zebra did it.

  • Sept. 19, 2007, 8:23 a.m. CST

    Blate a plant

    by DannyOcean01

    You can accept someone being enthusiastic about a film, but when you describe some random crew as the best crew to have for a Western you know someone's not paying attention to anything but a plant.

  • Sept. 24, 2007, 1:52 p.m. CST


    by Johnny California

    If you liked Malik's The New World, you'll probably like The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. It's a very slow paced view of Jesse James' last year from his final train robbery (the last time he sees his brother Frank) to his death at the hands of Robert Ford, possibly Jesse's greatest admirer (with friends like those...). Pitt brought both Jesse James' charisma, villainy and psychopathy into clear focus - he really is the best physical actor since Steve Mcqueen. Jesse James is a self-admitted bad man, a kook in many ways and he is a rash, impulsive killer who makes everyone in the room very nervous even while he charms them. However, really the movie belongs to Robert Ford played extremely well by Casey Affleck whose normally known for fairly innocuous roles providing comic relief as sidekicks. This must've been perfect practice because Robert Ford's greatest desire is for he and his brother (Rockwell) to become sidekicks to Frank and Jesse. Events, as they do, conspire to thwart Bob's desires from the outset as they first join Jesse and Frank for the last caper of the James' Gang's career at the Blue Cut train robbery. From then on, Jesse who at first takes Bob under his wing, then antagonizes the young sycophant so much that something nasty starts to turn inside the young man's belly. Part of this may be due to the fact that Jesse is a dark and nasty man himself. During their first conversation after the robbery, the dialogue between Jesse and Bob matches Hansen's novel almost word for word except for one essential line -when Bob reads Jesse a particularly flattering passage from an newspaper article praising the outlaw, Jesse responds, "I'm a bad man, Bob, not Jesus Christ." No one is completely good or evil in the movie, but Jesse is the most violently brutal and his paranoid suspicion of betrayel at the hands of one of his cohorts leads him to make snap life or death decisions. One particular scene points out this combination of sadism, suspicion and insanity as he beats a young boy he suspects knows the whereabouts of a known traitor in the gang. He holds his hand over the boys mouth so he can continue beating and tormenting the child. He doesn't so much want to find the traitor as he wants to take out the anger, confusion and frustration growing inside him on some innocent victim. Jesse James is a bad man, and Robert Ford's problem is that he wants to be Jesse, but as Frank James (Sam Shepard) points out from the beginning, "You don't have the ingredients." Jesse James is close to Ang Lee's Ride With The Devil that details the lives of similar men at the end of the Civil War - heck, even Outlaw Josey Wales is a romantic view of the same group of men - but the quality of the acting in Jesse James takes this to a much deeper, more personal and unexpected place. These men are ill cultured and craven pretenders to culture and class, ill-informed scientists and dime-store theologians and cowardly heroic outlaws - in short, they are Americans. Sam Rockwell has been overlooked for another understated but crucial performance as the somewhat brain-addled but mostly sympathetic brother Charley Ford. In the novel, the essential ignorance and brutality of the Ford brothers is made much clearer. These are boys who tortured cats for kicks; Bob even shot a cow for kicking him in the shins during a milking. Even without the various details of their past lives, it's clear that these two young men are representative of the time in the reconstruction following the Civil War and leading to the settlement of the West. At the same time, this is really a "Midwestern" set mostly in the distances between Kentucky and Missouri. Only the brief chaos after the Civil War allowed former Confederate irregulars (murderous guerilla fighters) to pursue any sort of "career" as outlaws. Jesse and Frank left the war and chose a lifestyle that they knew would be short-lived, and unlike the vast majority of their confederates, they were lucky enough to stay alive to the end of the Time of the Outlaws. Like most Americans, the Fords were followers who thought that they could follow their heroes footsteps into the future. In the end, Robert Ford followed Jesse James into a dead end where he provided the final punctuation to the lifestyle he so admired and desired.