You might need subtitles to understand what Jeff Bridges is growling at you in True Grit, Joel and Ethan Coen’s adaptation of the 1968 Charles Portis novel.
Here, reprising John Wayne’s 1969 role as irascible U.S. marshal “Rooster” Cogburn, Bridges doesn’t try to fill The Duke’s boots so much as he gives them a new shine, his ornery, whiskey-voiced grumblings a far cry from Wayne’s unmistakable drawl. A character actor rather than a Hollywood monument, Bridges so thoroughly cloaks himself in Cogburn’s darkness that he threatens to disappear altogether.
The last time Melissa Leo was nominated for an Academy Award, in 2009 for the blue-collar drama Frozen River, she was perhaps a sentimental favorite among critics but a decided longshot to beat out Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway and eventual winner Kate Winslet.
Anything could happen between now and February’s Oscar telecast, but Leo, 50, is already earning accolades for her supporting role in The Fighter, David O. Russell’s biography of hard-knocks Lowell, Mass., brawler Micky Ward. (The San Francisco Film Critics Circle ranked her nuanced portrayal of a domineering mother as among the year’s best.)
The journey to TRON: Legacy would have to wait just another minute — early audiences were asked to check their phones at the door, lest they attempt a little techno handiwork of their own — but after 28 years, what’s another 60 seconds? Besides, the last thing this digitally dazzling sequel needed was extra circuitry in the theater.
The 1982 original, so prophetic in its fascination with the virtual world of computers, would seem an obvious choice for a follow-up, and perhaps there is no better time than now, when technology has almost caught up with the vivid imaginations of creators Steven Lisberger and Bonnie MacBird.
Early this year Jeff Bridges won his first Oscar, for last year's Crazy Heart, after four previous nominations yielded no hardware. Now, he is returning to the scene of one of his most unusual and iconic adventures – Disney’s TRON (1982) – in a sequel, Legacy, opening Friday, that the 61-year-old Los Angeleno never expected to see.
Sure, you've only got eight days of Christmas shopping left, but rather than subject yourself to the bustle of the department stores, take refuge in a theater. Happy holidays!
1. Vincent: A Life in Color
Where: Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight St., 415-668-3994
When: Dec. 16
The weather outside is frightful, the fiery resurgence of Mike Singletary's 49ers so delightful, but if you've no place to go, check out one of these fine films at the city's venerable collection of indie theaters.
Where: Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., 415-621-6120
When: Dec. 9
Steven Russell is living a lie – several of them, in fact. Given up for adoption in his infancy by an indifferent mother, he is living a Norman Rockwell version of the American dream, with a worshipful, Jesus-loving wife, an adoring daughter and a quaint home in the Georgia suburbs. He even plays piano for the church choir.
But Steven is no angel, nor does he aspire to be. The family, the job, the evangelical zeal – it’s all a front for a shifty, rudderless man searching for an identity, bored by the simple life and hiding his homosexuality behind a studied veneer of old-fashioned American values.
Virginia Madsen had plenty to celebrate this Thanksgiving. Last month, she was an official honoree of Hollywood’s LA Femme International Film Festival, an annual celebration of films written, directed or produced by women, for her achievements during 27 years in TV and film, and also for her recently formed production company’s maiden offering: I Know a Woman Like That, an acclaimed documentary about the lives of women 64 and older whose youthful vigor remains defiantly undiminished.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson became a World Wrestling Entertainment legend not because of his extraordinary physique or his technical proficiency. He made himself memorable at the mic, tearing his opponents down to size with colorful trash talk and a challenging glare, punctuated by his cocked “people’s eyebrow.”
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