This Scene Alone Should Win 'True Grit' Cinematographer Roger Deakins an Oscar
Roger Deakins' ninth Oscar nom should be the charm. Watch True Grit's greatest scene, and hear Deakins explain the effect his art was after.
Deakins, Oscar-nominated for No Country for Old Men, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Fargo, Shawshank Redemption, The Reader, Assassination of Jesse James, Kundun and The Man Who Wasn't There, is most folks' pick to win the cinematography Oscar for True Grit. This clip shows why. It's got several scenes, but my favorite is the same one chosen by Coen friend and player Tim Blake Nelson, who read with Hailee Steinfeld, Chloe Moretz and the other girls vying for the Mattie role that may well earn Steinfeld an Oscar.
"I love True Grit. The restraint of it is its greatest strength," says Nelson, who stars in Flypaper and hosted the Sundance Awards on Jan. 29. "That's what's gorgeous about True Grit, it doesn't [go] for stylistic flash, whereas Big Lebowski does, O Brother, Where Art Thou? did in its use of Digital Intermediate [technology], and Raising Arizona did. My favorite scene is the boldest from a stylistic point of view, the most difficult, the courtroom scene where you first meet Rooster (Jeff Bridges). The whole shooting strategy revolves around Jeff in the center, and you hear these voices of lawyers and the judge in the background barking jargon at one another without ever cutting to those people, or minimally. And always moving around Jeff at the center of the staging. It's just really a bold, funny and quite long scene that is always engaging."
In the subtlest way, it shouts out Deakins' genius as well as the Coens' and Bridges'. "Cinematography ... it should be as simple and as submissive to the script as possible," Deakins says in the clip above. "I love the idea of seeing Rooster for the first time from Mattie's point of view but not gettting a clear view of him, and gradually as she came into the courthouse and moved around him, he's sorta released. And then I wanted to feel these sorta shafts of sunlight just blasting through the lower parts of the blinds in the windows. But I also wanted to feel the darkness and the feeling of the oil lamps in the room, or the gas lamps."
There are a couple more scenes to savor, but this one should open your eyes to why it's finally Deakins' time.
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Scott Feinberg, the lead awards analyst for The Hollywood Reporter, is one of the entertainment industry's most experienced and trusted experts about the Oscars, Emmys and Tonys. He started on the awards beat in 2001, writing for independent websites including his own ScottFeinberg.com before joining the Los Angeles Times and then THR, for which he writes “The Race” blog, which won the LA Press Club’s National Entertainment Journalism Award for best entertainment blog of 2012-2013. A voting member of both the Broadcast Film Critics' Association and Broadcast Television Journalists Association, he is also writing a book about film history for young people for which he has interviewed more than 500 high-profile Hollywood figures whose careers span the silent era through the present.
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