YOU KNOW, FOR KIDS! - Nordling rides along with TRUE GRIT!
YOU KNOW, FOR KIDS! – Nordling rides along with TRUE GRIT!
Hello everyone, Nordling here, with what I hope will be a regular column here at AICN – YOU KNOW, FOR KIDS! Let me explain.
One of my favorite things about being a movie geek is, as a parent, you get to share your obsession/dementia/life’s joy with your kids. I’ve pushed a lot of movies on my daughter, and some she took to, and some she didn’t. That’s okay. She’s her own person, and I want her to develop her own tastes. Most recently she’s become obsessed with SCOT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD and proud papa I am for that.
However, as a parent, I try to steer away from movies that aren’t exactly nutritious. I’d much rather her see a Miyazaki or a Pixar animated film than some of the other films that pass for family entertainment these days. But I also don’t want it to be work. I’d rather her come to these quality films on her own and not be pushed by her old man. Otherwise I’ll push the “cool” right out of these movies.
With that in mind, I thought it would be fun and informative to review family films from this perspective – sift through the trash and find the pearls. As movie geeks, we know what we like and what is simply pandering and manipulation. To that end, I’m starting this column, entitled YOU KNOW, FOR KIDS! Films that the entire family can enjoy, and not feel guilty about it. Quality films that challenge the young as well as the young-at-heart.
The filmmakers that inspired this column’s title are first up for review – the Coen Brothers’ TRUE GRIT. Based more on the original novel by Charles Portis than the John Wayne Oscar-winning film, at first blush, you might not consider this a family film, and I would say up front that for the little ones, 8 and under, the film may not be appropriate. It’s rated PG-13, for some violence and some adult situations. You know your own children best, and know what they can handle, and one scene depicts some fingers getting severed, but it’s very fast and there isn’t a lot of blood. The gunfights are fast and fairly blood-free, much like the gunfights of older Westerns. I wanted to let any parents know that up front, and I’m not wishing to spoil the film for anyone. There are scenes of children being threatened, but it’s no worse than the adventure films that Disney used to make.
Those Disney films from yesteryear are actually the closest to the feel of TRUE GRIT. Although it’s a Coen film through and through, it might be their most accessible work since RAISING ARIZONA. Mattie Ross (played wonderfully and without fear by Hailee Stansfield) is one of the most compelling child characters to come along in a long time. Spirited, intelligent, and brave, she commands your attention whenever she is onscreen and I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall for her screen audition. It’s one of the best performances of the year.
Mattie comes to town to seek justice for her father, who was cold-bloodedly shot dead by Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). Only 14 years old, she already bears the weight of the world, taking care of her family and the funeral arrangements for her father. When it becomes clear that local law enforcement will not help her, Mattie seeks the aid of Ruben “Rooster” Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to track Chaney down. Cogburn, a federal marshal, was a formidable foe but now seems to know more about killing a liquor bottle than any bad guys. Also after Chaney is Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon), who chased Chaney out of Texas after Chaney killed a state senator. Cogburn knows the territory and the people in it, and LaBoeuf knows Chaney, so Mattie is forced to bring both of them along to find the man who killed her father. Unfortunately for the three of them, Chaney has fallen with Ned Pepper (Barry Pepper) and his gang, and taking Chaney down may be more difficult for the three of them to handle.
Now, what makes this a quality family film? First, the dialogue, which is rich and lyrical. Like MILLER’S CROSSING, another film that has dialogue that pops off the page, I could listen to TRUE GRIT for hours, along with Carter Burwell’s gorgeous score, except I’d miss out on Roger Deakins’ beautiful cinematography. The characters speak as if the contraction hadn’t been invented yet. Parents should also know that while the verbiage may be complicated to hear, it’s remarkably easy to follow and has only a few instances of harsh language (although people familiar with the original film should know that Wayne’s great declaration remains). What’s more, the dialogue is funny, engaging, and smart. Kids should have no trouble following it and in fact it’s quite stimulating listening to the back-and-forth between the characters. A particular scene comes to mind when Mattie haggles with the local horse dealer – it’s practically an algebra word problem, except it’s done humorously and it’s very well-acted.
Mattie Ross is a wonderful role model for kids. She’s bright and won’t be taken advantage of and I think girls would relate to that. It’s rare that 14-year-old girls are the centerpiece of a film like this, especially a big budget Western, but she holds her own with Bridges, Damon, and Brolin. Little girls seeing this would do worse than emulating Mattie Ross. I wouldn’t mind my daughter taking a page from Mattie’s book, actually. She’s strong-willed and not afraid. Jeff Bridges’ Cogburn is rough around the edges, and you sense he’s haunted from the life that he’s led, but he can’t help but see a kindred soul in Mattie and despite himself finds himself getting attached. LeBoeuf also admires Mattie’s spark. There is one awkward moment in the film when LaBoeuf tries to steal a kiss from Mattie but it’s played innocently and for humor. Josh Brolin plays Chaney as a goof, although a dangerous one.
The action sequences are thrilling and the film is never dull, even with all the dialogue. Deakins’ cinematography is jawdropping, although he doesn’t go for the large vistas like so many other Westerns do. Deakins’ TRUE GRIT looks lived in, unpolished, and thus more believable. Kids will marvel at the gunfights and the scenery. Most kids don’t really appreciate Westerns as a genre, but I think Mattie as a character is a great entrance point for them, and I imagine many girls in particular would see themselves filling Mattie’s shoes.
TRUE GRIT never talks down to the audience. I think kids would find the action and the characters engaging. And they would root for Rooster as he rides the countryside helping this little girl get her justice. This wouldn’t be the first film that the Coens have made for a wide group of people. I’d go so far to say that RAISING ARIZONA, with its slapstick humor and hilarious dialogue, would play well to kids too. But I feel that parents and kids together would bond over TRUE GRIT. I can’t wait to take my daughter to see it when it opens this Christmas, and I can’t wait to see it again. When I say family film, for TRUE GRIT, I mean not just your children, but your parents as well. Take the whole crew. I am. I’m going to trot out the cliché, but in this case it’s very true – they really don’t make them like this anymore.
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Dec. 16, 2010, 10:43 p.m. CST
YOU KNOW, FOR KIDS! – Nordling rides along with TRUE GRIT!
Dec. 16, 2010, 10:54 p.m. CST
Thank you so much for this. Great idea, well executed.
Dec. 16, 2010, 10:54 p.m. CST
Am I wrong?
Dec. 16, 2010, 10:54 p.m. CST
Dec. 16, 2010, 10:55 p.m. CST
I am bummed that, being a Coen flick, there isn't hyper violence.
Dec. 16, 2010, 10:59 p.m. CST
Love the article and love the idea. Though I would argue that Raising Arizona has a bit too much adult humor than I would allow a kid to watch. The swinger joke, the grenade and blown up biker, the armed robbery. But that may just be me.
Dec. 16, 2010, 11:02 p.m. CST
and be able to share movies with them for the first time. Letting them see stuff like Star Wars and not knowing that Vader is Luke's father, and seeing their reaction, would kind of be like reliving it well actually it would be like living it for the first time since I was born in 1990, meaning that the media made it virtually impossible NOT to know Vader was Luke's father. Shit, I just ruined my own future memory.
Dec. 16, 2010, 11:11 p.m. CST
Long time movie geek and a father of a 9 year old girl. She is a HUGE Scott Pilgrim fan. My father took me to see The Warriors when I was 5 and I am none the worse for it. Although, I am not too keen to drop her off at the doorstep of the the Baseball Furies and The Rogues, I am always looking for something that challenges her narratively. I was extremely curious about the possibilities of True Grit. Given your review, I am almost certain it will be something she will love.
Dec. 16, 2010, 11:18 p.m. CST
by D o o d
by movies with huge hype like Tron Legacy is that there's always something like True Grit just around the corner to sweeten the pain! Really looking forward to this!
Dec. 16, 2010, 11:25 p.m. CST
I Know, Right?!!!
Dec. 16, 2010, 11:26 p.m. CST
As a father of a 13 year old girl, I can tell you the difference is like night and day. It's really depressing. Not that every kid is going to go through the kind of personality change ours did, or as abruptly--something about those hormones--but, wow, I miss that 9 year old little girl with a vengeance. It's an absence that breaks my heart. And when I say breaks my heart, I'm not kidding. Not even sure I really understood that idea, at least not viscerally, 3 years ago. Fortunately, I've also got a 5 year old daughter who I am enjoying all the more, for having been schooled on how brief that time is. I'm tearing up, just thinking about it. The little girl who went to see King Kong with me and cried at the end is gone (and would rather not see movies with me, period). I took her to see Scott Pilgrim (and she had to be cajoled, to go with me and not have me drop her off with a friend) and she was "meh", because she's over all that. I'm actually tearing up over a Talkback post. And then admitting it. It's very embarrassing. Well, just make sure get the maximum enjoyment out of every moment. Just in case. I feel a little like I missed something, somehow, without meaning to, that I'm never, ever gonna get back.
Dec. 16, 2010, 11:41 p.m. CST
Dec. 16, 2010, 11:51 p.m. CST
by frank cotton
Dec. 17, 2010, 12:16 a.m. CST
the site now lists that article as 'unpublished'.
Dec. 17, 2010, 12:48 a.m. CST
by frank cotton
part of frank's internment here on your planet involves the delivering of hot pizza to your door, for your convenience and, of course, corporate profit. the focus of this evenings discourse is your responsibilty as a recipient of the aforementioned service. to get to the point, after you order the pizza, LOCK YOUR GODDAMNED DOGS UP! JUST HOW FUCKING STUPID ARE YOU? you know i'm coming, and you know your precious little piece of shit is going to a) attempt to escape - b) attempt to attack me - c) bark, jump around, and/or just generally get in the way and complicate the delivery process, so why don't you put it in another room, or the basement, or the backyard? is this really that difficult to figure out? are you really that dumb? it's bad enough that your house isn't clearly marked, or you didn't turn the light on, or forgot to mention that you're down the dirt road just past the red barn, and it's cold, maybe even raining or snowing, and there's ice on the road or your driveway that i can't see because of the light thing, and/or you live in a $300,000 house and aren't planning to tip, even tho it's Christmas, and the roads are icy, and i'm risking my fucking life to bring you your fucking pizza, but on top of everything, you are then going to fuss and whine like the overpriveledged little snot that you are about the dog getting out? well, tough shit. fuck you, and your little dog, too. did you know that those cute widdle things were originally bred to attract the fleas off of their owners? they are just one small evolutionary step above rats, and it's all most of us can do just to keep from stomping them into lifeless mush, yet you don't have either the common courtesy, or the common sense, to put the filthy, vicious little monsters out of the way for ten lousy minutes so we can transact our business in peace. fine. let them run all over you, and your friends, family, neighbors, etc. you know do know that everyone else hates them, don't you? no? well, now you do. and just as a heads up, let me tell you this: from here on out, i'm not going to stop bubu from bolting into the street. i'm going to encourage it. and if someone else doesn't run the useless waste of fur over, i might just have to do it myself. or maybe i'll just kick it to a pulp, and swear to the police, and my lawyers, and the judge (the lawsuit judge) that the ratty little bitch bit me. how does that sound?
Dec. 17, 2010, 12:53 a.m. CST
by frank cotton
that stupid chick and her 'scottish terrier'
Dec. 17, 2010, 12:58 a.m. CST
eek...that's not good.
Dec. 17, 2010, 1:12 a.m. CST
he did. I do not know why.
Dec. 17, 2010, 2:52 a.m. CST
Tron Legacy article like 10 times in a row now and it says "I don't have access." I got into this article fine, but not the one on Tron. Looks like those hackers are still fucking with your site Harry.
Dec. 17, 2010, 3:04 a.m. CST
by Motoko Kusanagi
What's happening here?!?!?!!?!?
Dec. 17, 2010, 5:40 a.m. CST
Gonna pass it along, see if I get takers because there's not a ton of movies my family wants to see. So yeah I'm seeing Tron Legacy solo in less than 12 hours. Didn't see the whole original Tron until the d23 expo last year, but quite happy I waited to see it with a crowd of fans instead of watching the DVD by myself earlier. Still would have stewed and obsessed over it, that's the kind of geek I am, but it was an Event, a discovery this way. Even if my parents were the sort to have taken me to Tron as a kid, I was barely 2 years at the time. And here's lautaro's review with talkback, courtesy of moneyspider. Because you know you're hardcore geek when you're going to hit pirates 4 in one piece cosplay. Equal time, y'know? http://tinyurl.com/38o5y3f http://tinyurl.com/38o5y3f
Dec. 17, 2010, 6:30 a.m. CST
I see the road ahead for my little one. It won't be long till she feels she's "over it" and would rather spend time with friends than dad. In the meantime, I plan to make the best memories I can with her and hope she grows up to be the woman she wants to be. Sounds like your kids are on the right track.
Dec. 17, 2010, 6:36 a.m. CST
Even though my youngest is 19 and in college, I like the idea of viewing movies from what could be a fun family viewing experience. When my kids were growing up, I was always dragging them to 'geek' movies. The pinnacle was taking my son to a midnight showing of Star Wars III and then let him miss school the next day. That was the passing of the torch. It was easy to remember what it felt like sitting in a darkened theater hearing that fanfare and seeing "A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy far, far away..." appear on the screen for the first time. To be sharing that same experience with my son for the first local showing of the last film in the franchise was special. I did feel that it was kind of difficult to feel what would have appropriate for the whole family to see together that each person may have enjoyed. For those with young children, enjoy and cherish every moment you can with them because life goes by so very quickly with them and it's easy to miss it. Looking forward to future installments in this series.
Dec. 17, 2010, 7:36 a.m. CST
Saw this film at a sneak preview Tuesday night, and was blown away by Hailee Stansfield's performance. I went in expecting a serious, bloody Coen film. Instead, the film ends up being one of the most entertaining (and quite funny) movies of the year. Bridges is, of course, brilliant as Rooster Cogburn, but the smaller parts are studded with great performances, especially the scenes involving the horse dealer. Like Nordling, I can't wait to take my 16 year old daughter to this film. It's about time a movie features a young girl as something other than a nymphette in a sex romp.
Dec. 17, 2010, 8:10 a.m. CST
It avoids any issues. Also, I don't have dogs. But if I order from Pizza Hut or Dominos, I go pick it up. I don't think I've gotten delivery in 5 years and, even then, it's against my will. But it's pretty easy to convince the family now--I can go pick it up and be back in under 15 minutes, or we can wait an hour and 45 minutes for Frank Cotton to show up. Screw that!
Dec. 17, 2010, 8:21 a.m. CST
Great idea here... wouldn't hurt to expand it not only to new movies but to review some older ones as well.
Dec. 17, 2010, 8:23 a.m. CST
It can always change. But, she's very smart and just crazy Mean Girls-level beautiful, but neither vain nor superior. And we get along pretty well, because I understand that it's time to be her own woman (she would dispute this--I am an oppressor when I won't let her spend all night, unchaperoned, at some New Years Eve skate party with no age limit, but I digress) but still, last night I went to bed thinking about King Kong and the last time I read her a story--it was Dutch Sneakers and Flea Keepers by Calef Brown--and how I didn't know, at the time, that that would be the last time. After I wrote that post last night (while watching my youngest go to sleep while we watched Labyrinth), I leave her room and just stood in the hall looking at my oldest's closed door, remembering how hard it was to get her to sleep in her own room. How she often would sneak in with us, how she had to have the door open, how she had to have a light. Now that door is closed (and the room is dark, unless she's left her TV on), because she's growing up, and it's all natural, and all good, and it feels like someone plunged an ice-cold knife through my heart. When we first started talking about having children, this part was not in the brochure. ;) Of course, I treasured my independence as a teenager (closed doors and all), so I'm only getting back what I dished out. My, how perspective changes. Alas, my youngest daughter is too young for True Grit, and my oldest would have zero interest in it.
Dec. 17, 2010, 8:38 a.m. CST
I'm proud as can be of my daughter. While I'd like a little better behavior towards her parents (especially her mom: mother/daughter relationships can be very strained and estrogen-fueled), I'm proud of how smart and mature she is, how well she does with other people, and understand why she may not be the social butterfly she was when she was 8--but then, I was an asocial teenager, so I understand where that comes from. Although I was overweight and geeky, and she could be a model, but, even so, I can understand wanting to keep social interactions to a minimum, keeping them familiar, keeping them in control . . . But, I knew the day would come. It happened a little bit every day. No surprise. But, a few months ago, I was in her bedroom cleaning the ceiling fan, looking around at the mix of remnants of her old life and the encroachment of the new, and how all the old things--pictures of us as a family, hand drown pictures of mommy and daddy--were all gone. And at that moment, the over abundance of estrogen in the house overwhelmed me (at least, that's my excuse). Like a knife through my heart. A few weeks ago, I came home early, and my wife was outside, waiting for the youngest to come home from school (she had just, at her insistence, started taking the bus). And my wife looked distraught, and so I started talking to her, and some argument with my oldest daughter (of course) had led her to that feeling of her little girl being gone forever that had hit me so hard a few months prior. After talking for a while, I was going to go ahead and go in to change, and she told me to wait. "This will make you feel better," she said. Then the bus pulls up, and out gets my youngest. We wave at her, she sees us, and starts running towards as fast as those little legs can carry her, laughing and smiling and jumps right into my arms for a hug. And it did indeed make me feel better. I don't know what I'm going to do when she goes teenager.
Dec. 17, 2010, 10:12 a.m. CST
that I watch during the days while their mom's at work. So much of what I get to watch these days has to be kid friendly. And I have told my 4 yr old daughter that I think we should see True Grit together. Maybe next yr on dvd. She's a big fan of King Kong -1933. And she and her little brother love Clayton Moore's Lone Ranger and the '67 SpiderMan cartoon. They've got the '66 Thor themesong memorized. It is a joy introducing them to things that will make their life richer. I'm not looking forward to either of them getting to those teenage years.
Dec. 17, 2010, 10:14 a.m. CST
I hear you man. I delivered pizza for 5 yrs. I could tell you some stories.
Dec. 17, 2010, 10:22 a.m. CST
As a dad of a 7 and 3 year old, I love the idea of this colum. Just introduced my seven year old Daughter to "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and she was in awe.
Dec. 17, 2010, 10:22 a.m. CST
As we geeks get along in the years, and want to share our passion for great films, we can use some help to pick the cinematic gems from the garbage. I'll be eagerly looking forward to more of your "YOU KNOW, FOR KIDS!" reviews.
Dec. 17, 2010, 11:07 a.m. CST
Dec. 17, 2010, 11:30 a.m. CST
I would have never considered taking my boys (10 and 8) to see True Grit. I had it on the schedule to see with a buddy. Now I know better. We're there. Just a random suggestion for other parents: A Town Called Panic, currently streaming on Netflix. My boys didn't even mention the subtitles until I brought it up, and they both laughed like loons the entire time. I must admit, I laughed quite a bit as well. Give it a shot. Goofy fun.
Dec. 17, 2010, 2:40 p.m. CST
by Le Vicious Fishus
Good review--nay, terrific review! Just a suggestion, though: "YOU KNOW, FOR KIDS" is an awkward, confusing article series title. Please rename it.
Dec. 17, 2010, 2:52 p.m. CST
because... they made this one.
Dec. 17, 2010, 3:29 p.m. CST
There are very few columns out there with this perspective, and even fewer that can manage to discuss "appropriateness" without providing massive spoilerage. Fantastic idea. And great review. REALLY looking forward to TRUE GRIT.
Dec. 17, 2010, 4:36 p.m. CST
Do a review of Rare Exports next- a scary Santa movie for kids!
Dec. 17, 2010, 4:36 p.m. CST
Do a review of Rare Exports next- a scary Santa movie for kids!
Dec. 17, 2010, 5:39 p.m. CST
Great start, looking forward to reading more of these from Nordling!
Dec. 17, 2010, 6:51 p.m. CST
Please keep it up, for us aging geeks with families. Being 40 now ... sigh ... I don't want my 8 year old daughter to turn into kevinwillis' 13 year old!
Dec. 17, 2010, 7:47 p.m. CST
by barry convex
I remember the Mad Magazine satire of the original True Grit pointed out Mattie's verbal lack of contractions.
Dec. 17, 2010, 9:05 p.m. CST
@nordling Are you going to be reviewing "Family Films" like SKY HARD or is this column for or is it a column for "Grown-up Films that your kids might like". I'm not asking you to go see films like YOGI BEAR with your daughter [although that might be cool], but we definitly have a dearth of actual FAMILY Film reviews on the site that are not somehow nerd related. Hell. Even Massa isn't going to take the bullet & see/review the mainstream family films that no one wants to see anymore. Considering the average age of this website nowadays, a family film column just might fit the bill. Personally, if a labled "Family film" is good; it becomes timeless. I almost want to watch ET right now....*joytear*
Dec. 17, 2010, 11:03 p.m. CST
Wow. Your posts have me verklempt. I have two small girls as well and being a movie dork, it really has been a joy showing great movies to my kids
Dec. 18, 2010, 10:29 a.m. CST
by Ninja Nerd
Man, my heart goes out to Mescal, Kevin Willis, and dockealy. Here's some good news for all of you; your kids grow up, leave, and then come back. My son and I devoured movies, comic books, anime, and music...until he turned 16. Our relationship changed dramatically. The little boy who loved Star Wars and had to have a story before bed referred to Dad as "a dick". My heart was broken, for sure. Then, he finished growing up around 20 and became a young man who remembers and appreciates his father and the great times we had. We go to movies together again...going to see Tron:Legacy in IMAX 3D next week. And best of all, EVERY time he sees me, he says "I love you, Dad" Yours will too....
Dec. 18, 2010, 6:18 p.m. CST
Hang in there guys. Your problem isn't a new one. Mark Twain wrote this over 100 years ago."When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years."
Dec. 19, 2010, 11:21 a.m. CST
Great idea for a column. My wife actually suggested that we take our kids to see this (daughter 10 1/2, son 9). She says she hates westerns, but loved the original True Grit and loves the look of this one. And I've been a Coen fan since I saw Raising Arizona when it was released in the theaters.
Dec. 20, 2010, 12:05 a.m. CST
Dec. 20, 2010, 12:40 a.m. CST
But see.. that isn't artsy fartsy... so The Big Lie is you're *really* adapting the original novel. LOLZ. Guarantee you when this was pitched, nobody in the room even knew there was a novel, and the pitch consisted of 'lets remake True Grit'.
Dec. 21, 2010, 8:07 a.m. CST
By all this parental crap.
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