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piranesi

Hey, Huckleberries: All Things American Western

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It all ending with Al cleaning a bloodstain off the floor still seemed so fitting though.

 

I always kinda figured they didn't just kill Hearst because of how famous and powerful he is; it'd be like killing the President or some shit. You take him out and it attracts all manner of unwanted attention from cocksucking law and the Bosses and whatnot.

 

Also, I always loved just how badass some of the lines in Westerns are. I don't want to list a bunch of quotes but as a youngster shit like 'looks like we're shy one horse...ya brought two too many' and 'he shoulda thought about arming himself before he decorated his saloon with my friend' and 'you're gonna look pretty silly with that knife sticking out your ass' were all fucking awesome.

 

Overall, it was pretty much Clint Eastwood in general. My grandad liked The Duke too but my dad was all about Clint and I was the same because he was way cooler and more bad to the bone. I recall a random story about John Wayne working with Don Siegel and Wayne being annoyed and refusing to do the scene after Siegel said his character would shoot a dude in the back because Wayne thought no cowboy with any self respect would ever shoot anyone in the back. So Siegel annoys him further by saying that Clint Eastwood would have done it.

 

And that's one of the reasons why I prefer Clint. He doesn't give a fuck about shooting you in the back.

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Episode 7, you say?

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HE'S COMING SOON.

 

Duffy and Dewey Crow are my two favorite secondary characters.

 

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Jesus CHRIST, but the finale of The Wild Bunch is an even bigger, meaner beast than I remembered. It's as if Sam Peckinpah had seen the end of Bonnie and Clyde (in which two human beings have their bodies utterly vivisected by a devil's rain of machine-gun fire in hideously graphic slow-motion that just seems to go on and on and on until the end of time itself), and then said to himself: "Yeah, that was pretty cool. But it'd be a lot cooler if you did it to TWO HUNDRED people. And made damn sure to show women and children being involved on both sides of the gun, too. And pretty much kill every single individual character in the most shocking and depressing manner possible." It's one of those rare action sequences which is thrilling and exciting beyond belief, BUT is simultaneously so intentionally depraved, so hauntingly pointless and gratuitous in its motivations, that it makes you feel guilty for enjoying it so much even as the balletic-kinetic kaleidoscope of death permanently stamps itself into your memory forever.

Even aside from that, it pretty much is the ultimate End-Of-The-West Western. Others around that period were also trying to write the Western's obituary, from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid to practically the entire nation of Italy, but I prefer Peckinpah's unbelievable apocalyptic and caustically unapologetic version of the end. And it even outdoes John Wayne pictures in using such a paucity of dialogue that Hemingway might find it underwritten; but "Let's go." "...why not?" says just as much in its own animalistic way as any of Deadwood's monologues. Hell, the dialogue is often so scant that the legendary final line feels downright wordy: "It ain't as good as it used to be, but it'll do."

I don't have a hell of a lot to say about the original version of 3:10 to Yuma, it's just a plain good-ol'-fashioned horse opera and morality tale and character study. If you've seen the remake, the basic plot is identical; a bankrupt farmer is reluctantly forced to escort a silver-tongued prisoner to the train which will eventually take him to jail, while the farmer's family creates drama and the outlaw's henchmen scheme to free their boss. Of course it's much less of an action movie than the modern version, although it's still got enough gunplay to keep you awake. Still, the main focus is just on the peculiar relationship between the farmer and the outlaw; which in the 1957 version is much less chummy and cordial, with the visibly weak-willed farmer desperately trying not to be tempted or intimidated by the nearly Mephistophelian villain. There were a few bits which were WAY too obviously ripping off High Noon for this to be considered any kind of all-time masterpiece, but the performances are good (Glenn Ford's dead-eyed, empty-smiled version of outlaw Ben Wade is head-and-shoulders above Russell Crowe's much more ambiguous attempt at the same part, imho) and it's always nice to see a sober, mature Western from ye olde days which truly had a brain in its head and didn't talk down to the audience.

Next up: Once Upon a Time in the West, my first viewing ever. Somehow, the movie has done this incredibly weird thing for the first five or ten minutes where absolutely NOTHING is happening... and it's absolutely fascinating. We're literally doing nothing but watch a bunch of total strangers with no apparent personalities while they sit around in a train station and fritter away the afternoon, and I almost wish that Charles Bronson DOESN'T show up so I could just watch this shit all day. It's like those moments in the best Herzog films, where jack-fuck-all is actually occurring in terms of inciting incident, but the construction of the images itself and the deliberate pacing of the cuts all conspire to hypnotize you to the point where you wish you could sit here and enjoy watching Nothing Happen Forever. (Irrelevant tangent: did I really see a credit that said "cowritten by Bernardo Bertolucci and Dario Argento", what the fuck?!)

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They showed The Wild Bunch in one of my undergrad film classes and that was the week my girlfriend came with me to the screening.

A poor idea in retrospect. :)

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They showed The Wild Bunch in one of my undergrad film classes and that was the week my girlfriend came with me to the screening.

A poor idea in retrospect. :)

 

I think I was in that same class.  You should have had her visit when they played IMITATION OF LIFE.

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I'm glad she did not go the week we had the very bad print of Nashville. It was so bad our professor apologized the next class.

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You guys get PRINTS screened in your undergrad classes?! We've literally got nothing but plain old DVDs projected on screens that are too big for 'em (if not actually resorting to Netflix streaming) at my school, and they look like shiiiiiiiit when blown up onto a fifty-foot canvas.

And yeah, The Wild Bunch is probably not a great date movie. Considering that literally every individual female character we see is 1.a prostitute, 2.shown topless, and 3.brutally murdered (usually by a man who'd recently loved them). The only other women in the movie are the various anonymous old villagers and spinsters who don't get any of their own dialogue or close-ups. I've heard some call Peckinpah a misogynist, but on the evidence in this film (I haven't gotten around to any of his other stuff yet) I wouldn't agree. I'd say it's more that he tends to tell stories about this one time and place where the men had very little use for women, except as sperm receptacles; but these men had very little use for anything ever, except for the next payoff and the next whiskey bottle. There's a big damn difference between telling a story and BEING the story, which far too many amateur critics never seem to remember.

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I've said before that I'm pretty sure you could remove an entire hour of Once Upon a Time in the West without losing a single line or plot point.  You would be a monster of the worst kind, but you could do it.  Maybe more than an hour.

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You guys get PRINTS screened in your undergrad classes?! We've literally got nothing but plain old DVDs projected on screens that are too big for 'em (if not actually resorting to Netflix streaming) at my school, and they look like shiiiiiiiit when blown up onto a fifty-foot canvas.And yeah, The Wild Bunch is probably not a great date movie. Considering that literally every individual female character we see is 1.a prostitute, 2.shown topless, and 3.brutally murdered (usually by a man who'd recently loved them). The only other women in the movie are the various anonymous old villagers and spinsters who don't get any of their own dialogue or close-ups. I've heard some call Peckinpah a misogynist, but on the evidence in this film (I haven't gotten around to any of his other stuff yet) I wouldn't agree. I'd say it's more that he tends to tell stories about this one time and place where the men had very little use for women, except as sperm receptacles; but these men had very little use for anything ever, except for the next payoff and the next whiskey bottle. There's a big damn difference between telling a story and BEING the story, which far too many amateur critics never seem to remember.

Well, it was the 1980s-1990s and it was a fairly prestigious film department (IU), so we had prints. We did also see stuff in class on laser disc.

I definitely had a (woman) film professor who thought Peckinpah was misogynist. We had a discussion about it after i wrote possibly a too-positive article about Straw Dogs in my film column.

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Another log on the fire: I've started watching Justified as well and this shit is really corny. For a series on FX, I was expecting something along the lines of the Shield, SoA, the Americans, Rescue Me, and so on. Instead, like piranesi said, it feels like such a second rate USA Network series. Olyphant also has none of the anger or volatility he had in Deadwood, which is disappointing. His portrayal of Seth Bullock is one of my favorites because it was so believable. His Seth Bullock felt, in a few ways anyway, similar to his character in The Girl Next Door. In Justified, he's acting far too lovable.

 

Olyphant is at his best acting like a complete unpredictable maniac dick. So far, he's been a bit of a white meat babyface. I'm at episode 7 of season 1, so we'll see how things turn out.

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Oh shit! MC Gainey! It's a fucking party now!

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As someone else has mentioned, season 2 of JUSTIFIED is where it's at. Just a well-crafted season of TV.

 

The rest of it ... eh, it's OK. 

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It's so weird...What happened with that first season of Justified because so far it's in a vacuum, but episode 8, and really, episode 7, are tonally different from the episodes that preceded it. It feels less like a USA Network show and more like a FX show.

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Deadwood is the only time I've seen Olyphant be any good at all. He was a completely forgettable non-entity in all the movie parts I've seen him in, like the sort of expressionless bad actors you got back in the 1950s who left absolutely no impression on you. So that may just be a case where a mediocre actor stumbles into their One Good Part (which I personally believe every actor has, at least one).

I've been told I need to see Justified, and intend to at some point or another. It certainly features enough actors that I'm quite fond of, including my perennial supercrush Alicia Witt. But, wait a sec, isn't that show set in the present-day? How's it qualify as being a Western?

And maaaaan, Fowler, you weren't kidding about Once Upon a Time in America. The glacially slow pacing of the first scene was charming, but that charm quickly shrivels and dies as EVERY SCENE is done the exact same way. It's like Leone is trying to make an entire movie with the style of the infamously prolonged buildup to the final duel in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. It feels like 98% of the film is just endlessly-held closeups of someone staring into the camera lens. (And the lousy sound mix doesn't help, with terrible-sounding gunshots and lots of dodgy dubbing; and what the hell is the deal with Bronson's harmonica literally sounding like it's supposed to be nondiegetic music on the soundtrack, rather than something the other characters can actually hear?) I eventually got bored, stopped watching and went to do other stuff after... shit, I have no idea HOW long I've been watching this movie, but it feels like days.

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I think the idea was (like most Joss Whedon shows, actually) to set up the premise with a bunch of "bad guy of the week" episodes before attempting some "big picture" serial storytelling. In a way I found it refreshing from so many current TV shows that are basically just one story chopped up into hour-long slices, but in season 2 it's one big story arc and it really is much better than season 1.

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Justified is discussed in here because I feel it's a modern day take on a Western. Shit, the premise for the show is Olyphant's character being a 19th century lawman in a modern day setting.

 

Also, the start of episode 9 has drunk Raylan picking a fight with two rednecks in a bar, he gets the shit kicked out of him, and he's pretty surly throughout. So that's nearly three straight episodes of surly Olyphant, the best Olyphant. I'm hooked. I also think there's a Justified thread, but I'm afraid to wander in there because of spoilerz.

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Oh, no, no, no, Jingus, you get your ass back in there and finish Once Upon a Time in the West.  It's a fucking masterpiece, and I won't hear of you complaining about it.

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Fuck, Jingus, I'm with you on this one. ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST and DUCK YOU SUCKER! are both so glacially paced that they're almost intolerable. I have the utmost respect for Leone as a visual storyteller, but those films strain even my attention span (and I just sat through, and enjoyed, BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO and UNDER THE SKIN).

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Fuck, Jingus, I'm with you on this one. ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST and DUCK YOU SUCKER! are both so glacially paced that they're almost intolerable. I have the utmost respect for Leone as a visual storyteller, but those films strain even my attention span (and I just sat through, and enjoyed, BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO and UNDER THE SKIN).

 

I finally watched Once Upon a Time in the West for the first time last night, and I honestly did not feel the run time of that movie at all. The first hour or so of the film definitely is not the easiest of sits, as Leone drops you in and then helps you figure out what exactly is going on as the movie progresses, but the performances, beautiful visuals, great score, and great sound editing really put that one over the top for me.

 

Also,  Charles Bronson is a man's man in the movie.

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I will hear no besmirching of OUATITW.  That first scene might be my favourite scene in any movie ever, with the three baddies waiting for Bronson to show up and he does and delivers the immortal badassiest of badass lines: "You brought two too many."

 

'Once Upon A Time in America', I will grant you is very slow (That scene with the phone ringing in the opium den drives me bonkers!), but there is no way to not love 'OUATITW'.

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OATitW is top 5 all time movies for me.  I can pick it up and watch any scene and be transformed for the rest of the day.

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OATitW is top 5 all time movies for me.  I can pick it up and watch any scene and be transformed for the rest of the day.

I'm doing an All-Time Film list for another board and it ended up slotting in right at #4 for me.  (The next ones were at #18,  #21 and #22 (The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Rio Bravo and Ride the High Country respectively)

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After posting that and perusing the thread, I'm pretty shattered at the realization that neither 'The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance' (Which is the best old school vs. new school Old West hero movie there is!) nor 'Ride the High Country' (The manliest of Westerns!) have come up and 'Rio Bravo' was only mentioned once.  For shame!

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What are people's opinions on Rio Bravo versus El Dorado? I mean, they're basically the same movie. So which do you prefer and why?

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