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western #28, 'high plains drifter.' [another day, another movie.]

I loved this movie. It was awesome.

Unfortunately, I can’t say much more than that without ruining it. Part of what I loved was slowly coming to realize what my take was on the film, as it developed.

It was basically one big metaphor, although, like all good metaphor, it was filled with layers of nuance and mystery. If you’ve seen it, I’d love to discuss it, but I’m not going to spoil it for everyone.


western #27, 'the outlaw josey wales.' [another day, another movie.]

Yes. Yes. Yes!

Everything that frustrated me about High Noon, The Wild Bunch, and Duck, You Sucker was remedied in this movie, as well as a really refreshing response to the American Western’s portrayal of Native Americans.

It is a sampling from early in Clint Eastwood’s directorial career, and only the second Western he directed (we’ll get to his first later).

I loved it.

The story is basically about a man whose family is brutally murdered by a guerilla terror squad working with the Union army.

He teams up with some bushwhackers to get some revenge, and thus begins the story of Josey Wales. He ends up becoming an avenging angel of sorts, protecting the innocent from harm, but the story is far better than that makes it sound.

The badass outlaw with a heart of gold, as we have seen many times before, but this time, there are different themes at work than there were before.

One of my favorites so far!

Also, young Clint Eastwood looks awesome with a beard.


western #26, 'duck, you sucker.' [another day, another movie.]

Duck, You Sucker, also known as, A Fistful of Dynamite, is more Leone. Sadly, it is the first time in my brief relationship with him when he completely let me down.

This movie was nonsensical. Rambling and at times incoherent, it was missing much of what I normally love about Leone.

Also, can anyone explain to me why two guys were watching as the other made out with the same girl? Those flashbacks were just inane, far too long, and mostly pointless since they never really explained how the girl played into the whole thing. I guess we are supposed to guess.

This one left Brian and myself scratching our heads that Leone could make something like this.


western #25, '3:10 to yuma (2007).' [another day, another movie.]

I know I’ll lose the movie fan version of street cred for hating The Wild Bunch and loving this, but that’s just the way it is. I really enjoy this one. I own it actually.

The performances are all strong, but more importantly, the filmmakers do a great job paying homage to the great shots and views of the classic Westerns. You can see Leone, you can see Eastwood, you can see Peckinpah’s better moments. It certainly isn’t a perfect movie, but that would be a silly thing to hold against it.

It’s a tight, well-crafted Western for the double zeroes.


western #24, 'the wild bunch.' [another day, another movie.]

This film is another uberclassic. Another one of those ‘greatest movies of all time’ type films. I have a confession to make… I pretty much hate it.

I know, I am in the minority, which is odd, because I have seen it twice, with three different people, and all of us hated it. I get that the editing for the action scenes is a big deal, but the editing for the rest is just absurd. I sat there thinking, “Ok, why is this scene so long? We get it, their horses are falling down the hill, are we going to move on with the story at some point today?”

I also didn’t understand why I was supposed to care about any of these characters. Was it just because they were the main characters? I’m supposed to want them to succeed and survive even though they let innocents die for profit, and use women as human shields, etc? I didn’t want to spend 2.5 hours with these guys.

Also, most irritating of all, the bizarre fits of laughter that ends about half the scenes in this movie. I’m not kidding, at least ten times all the character laugh raucously at something which isn’t really that funny, and they fade out on that to end the scene. In addition to that, the film ends with a montage of laughing scenes from earlier in the movie, in case we missed it early on. For those of you who haven’t watched it, I’m not kidding, that really happened.

I must be missing something that others love. Some reviews I read said it takes a genre which was ‘morally simplistic’ before this, and uses loads of violence to turn that on its head. Whoever feels the genre was morally simplistic before just isn’t watching closely enough, and they are missing the messages of ambiguity and confusion concerning violence , morality and corruption that fill so many of the Westerns I have watched so far.

I guess I’ll just have to be in the minority on this one, I tried to like it, and failed.


western #23, 'high noon.' [another day, another movie.]

This one is considered an uberclassic. A huge deal. In my experience, it was hit or miss.

First off, the huge miss… the entire film includes a terrible, overly literal theme song that basic just tells you the plot of the film. Horrible!

Other than that, the film is good through almost the entire thing. I enjoyed Gary Cooper as the lead, Grace Kelly played the hottest Quaker in history, and throughout the film the story built really great tension, both between the characters, and in general as things looked more and more hopeless for our poor lawman.

Yet, all that tension leads to a pretty lackluster finale. It was the western equivalent of the woman who waits until marriage for sex, only to have her husband fire his pistol early on their wedding night. I was left with a, “THAT is what we have been waiting for?” feeling.

I used to give old movies the benefit of the doubt, assuming that over the generations since their release, something got lost in translation. However, Kurosawa changed that. Not only was he making movies around the same time as this one, he was also making them in Japan, so there was far more translating to do, and his films were brilliant just the same.

High Noon is good, don’t get me wrong, but in my experience it pales in comparison to a bunch of these other films I’ve been watching.


western #22, 'once upon a time in the west.' [another day, another movie.]

It is debated by many whether this or The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly should be considered Leone’s masterpiece. That all comes down to preference, because they are both masterpieces.

The opening scene is long, and brilliant, but after that there’s some time where it’s too slow and even a bit melodramatic. Fortunately, once it gets going, it’s pretty fantastic. More of the typical Leone artistry.

It’s long and epic, with multiple stories which interweave nicely. Yet, the visuals and score are where it’s really at. With so many absolutely stunning shots, and Morricone up to his old tricks, I could probably watch the movie without the dialogue track and be just fine (also, Claudia Cardinale doesn’t hurt in that regard).

Just Kurosawa and Leone are more than enough reason to be glad I did this!

Here is six minutes from the opening sequence.


western #21, 'the outrage.' [another day, another movie.]

Another punch for punch American adaptation of a Kurosawa movie. It takes the subtle musings about truth in Rashomon and instead works the word ‘truth’ into as many lines as possible to jam the concept down our throat. Most of the writing is pretty weak. Although, Shatner’s last line is pretty great. (That’s right, William Shatner is in this movie!)

The majority of the great moments lost their effect on me because they were just lifted directly out of Rashomon.

So far, Leone is the only guy who could adapt Kurosawa in a way that felt like art in its own right, as opposed to art translated to the big, dumb masses. Adaptation can still be a wonderful artistic medium, even Kurosawa was adapting novels much of the time. The problem is when all you are doing is refilming each scene in a different language with different actors, stealing shots and themes, while never offering anything new, offering nothing of yourself. That is what most filmmakers seemed to be doing when they adapted Kurosawa for America.

Also, Paul Newman was the worst Mexican ever. I love the man, but he should have never, ever played a Mexican. Plus, the decision to make the bandit a Mexican really can’t be seen as anything but racist. If people suspected an innocent man as guilty because he was Mexican, then you would have something, but simply making the infamous, treacherous bandit Mexican is lazy and racist.

Oh yeah, one more thing, that poster at the top of the post, with the line ‘was it an act of violence or an act of love?’… yeah, that wasn’t even kind of  a question asked in the movie. Throughout the course of Hollywood history, I often wonder if those who create ads for films have ever seen the film in question.