Brandon, I find it remarkable that you haven't seen Before Sunrise. Ben's right that a part of what's so wonderful about Before Sunset is that we'd been waiting for so many years, not knowing what had happened to the two would-be lovers. It's one of the few "arty" films I'd seen close to when it came out (I watched it on HBO back in the day), and the fact that all they did was talk (mostly, anyway--heh) and it was still entertaining made an impression on me. Before Sunset has the advantage of all those years of subliminal longing--the fans of the first are ripe for picking. So I find it interesting and encouraging that you enjoyed the sequel without the benefit of the first, because it says something about how well the film stands on its own. But, really, man, watch the first one. You wouldn't let it stand if one of us had seen Aliens but not Alien, would you? Get on it, man.
I watched True Grit last night. Not the Coen brothers' version. That's today or tomorrow, I hope. Adrienne actually *answered* the question I'd posed to all of you about whether or not to see the original first. I really liked it. I will probably be scolded for it, but it was my first John Wayne film, so it was a treat to see what all the fuss is about. Some comments in the special features mentioned that his performance in True Grit is a special one, that he put a little more of himself into the part. He really did a fine job. But I have to tell you that I don't think it would be the same movie--and I'd even go so far as to say he might not have gotten that Oscar--were it not for Kim Darby's really unique performance as Mattie. The chemistry between those two was fantastic. That Mattie's propriety contrasted Rooster's impropriety in addition to their chemistry created an emotional dynamo of sorts--an alternator that provided near continuous energy to the film. It was a classic straight man-funny man dynamic, except that they took turns with the roles. I was surprised to see that Dennis Hopper was in the film; I really enjoyed his performance as Moon. The scene involving him and Quincy was shockingly violent for a rated G film. Let's not forget two instances of "bastard" one "son of a bitch" and several hells and damns. Even more evidence that the ratings system is a load of crap (have any of you seen This Film is Not Yet Rated?). I mean, I wasn't bothered by it necessarily, just really surprised. Of course, it was pre-Temple of Doom, which is a distinction we make at the house now since I told my son that Temple of Doom was one of the films that prompted the created of the PG-13 rating in the first place.
On a side note, what is it with westerns and theme songs that sing about the plot? So far I've seen three: High Noon, Gunfight at the OK Corral, and now True Grit. It's amazing that the music can be so incredibly cheesy in some of these old westerns.
P.S. I loved your story about watching movies with your dad. I'm envious of your film education, I must say, though it is something to be discovering some of these classics as an adult, when I have the ability to appreciate them more. I hope Ethan feels as nostalgic about me showing him Seven Samurai and High Noon as you do about your own father's film influence. Is your brother into film like you are?