The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
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knives
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Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#426 Post by knives » Thu Jun 02, 2011 12:47 am

You're going to be a lone shark on this one Nothing. I had basically the same problems mentioned though I utterly love Heston's horrible acting. There's something in the highs and lows that make the character seem more unhinged than the script or direction really allows for.

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Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#427 Post by knives » Thu Jun 02, 2011 6:53 pm

Well Stranger on Horseback is dull at best. The usual suspects of Carradine, Meyer, and McCarthy keep a base level of entertainment flowing through all of their scenes. The MVP of these supporting players though has to be new to me actress Miroslava who plays her part with all the sensuality and crassness possible in an attempt to topple even Rita Gam's King of Kings performance in those regards. I seriously for a second thought if this were made a few years later they would have just let her rape McCrea when she first confronts him. Any scene without them though, and there are far too many, just stops dead with McCrea giving a performance that doesn't even seem to be on life support when he's not throwing punches. Generally I like the guy, but here is nothing to the point where some scenes seem to suffer because he is present.

If all the pros are in the cast than it's Tourneur's limp and misplaced direction over a by the numbers script that really spells murder for the film. If you've seen a western before than you've seen this movie as the plot takes the Wyatt Earp mold and does diddley-squat with it. You're going to know everything about the next hour within the first five minutes. It doesn't offer even the slightest change from the usual being as milquetoast as possible. All that really leaves is the direction which is looser than Tourneur usually is and also seems a better fit for one of the Val Lewton films than a colour western. The film may have survived in black and white, but the colour process is just wretched and ugly here. It's overly bright and makes the film look like one of those Turner colorization jobs. It makes everything feel off, but not in a good way.

The whole film would be worthless without it's supporting cast (I was howling when McIntire was mocking Cornthwaite), but even than it doesn't muster the stuff needed to be even a compellingly bad western. In the end this non-entity is just dull.

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Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#428 Post by colinr0380 » Thu Jun 02, 2011 7:26 pm

Re: Major Dundee

I'm with Nothing on this one and think this film has Heston's best performance and is one of my favourite westerns overall. Its scrappy, butchered qualities are in a strange way part of its charm. It has 'Major' flaws (all the Senta Berger love-triangle stuff feels shoehorned in just to get a rather incongruously well-groomed woman and some romance into the film), but I find that rather than weakening the film they work in the film's favour to add a kind of chaotic, unpredictable quality so it is difficult to relax secure in the knowledge that this film knows where it is going to take you as an audience member. Which is appropriate for a film about someone in command who does not appear to know where they are going and what they are going to do when they get there (rely on blind luck is the conclusion I've drawn from every viewing I've had of the film!), and how they will get back after that!

And there are some jaw-dropping scenes, such as that beautifully staged return to the burnt out camp at the opening, maximising the emotive feelings of righteous retribution to pay for the atrocities committed; or that perfectly judged sequence of escalating tension between the Yankees (prison guards) and the Confederate (prisoner draftees) during one of the camp fire scenes that gives that amazing sense of an off hand insulting remark building to an almost impossible to return from conflict, underlining the knife-edged tensions (both petty quarrels and ideological differences getting folded into the argument as each character steps forward to thow their hat into the ring and join a side) between all the parties.

I like the way that nobody is particularly heroic here (James Coburn's one armed character who appears to have 'gone native' is perhaps the closest to a sympathetic character, and he has his own reasons for being there) - everyone is selfish, so when Warren Oates' character deserts/escapes from his captors/runs off for some nookie and then is going to be executed for it it is not just his character standing trial but the whole legitimacy of the fractured command. Hadley isn't important - he is just being used as a symbol in the tug of war between Tyreen and Dundee, which basically comes down to who will get the honour of putting him down. Will Tyreen let one of 'his men' be executed to keep the peace (since as domino said, he did desert) or has Dundee crossed the line that is keeping the fragile coalition together? Is Dundee, by excluding the Confederates from serving on the firing squad, using Hadley as a show-trial to show how the Yankees put the Confederates in their place? Will 'Tyreen's men' rebel against the person who presumes to lead them if he allies himself too much to Dundee's cause by offering up a sacrifice? All of these complex undercurrents are simmering away in that scene.

This all plays into the way that the film, perhaps counter-intuitively, sets the Yankees characterised by the single-minded, pompously officious to the point of blinkered idiocy Heston and his blundering, buffoonish, yet endearingly puppy-dog eager Lieutenant against the Confederates who are often able to take the moral high ground in this situation, but are mainly able to do so only because they are simply there through force, not willingness to join the cause.

The central conflict is between these two groups fighting over their ideas of how 'America' should be governed, set during an incursion into a foreign country for changeable goals (a rescue mission turning at the mid-way point into one of pure vengeance without the sugar-coated pretexts). The surrounding 'outsider' groups are used more as general symbols of threat - Sierra Charriba is the boogeyman of the piece (the film's Osama Bin Laden figure, if you will!) but is off handedly and intentionally anti-climactically dispatched during the final battle, not by Dundee or Tyreen but by the young bugler/narrator figure (It is very significant that this very minor character is elevated to such prominence simply by being utilised as the narrator of the film - he will be the naive historian figure of the piece, and I have to wonder how much he is understanding what is going on at the political level when he is being preoccupied by throwing in little colourful details about his first shave and losing his virginity!) Set against Charriba's group the French are the colonial rather than the indigenous threat that the Confederates and the Yankees have to band together against, yet similarly they are treated in an casual, off-hand manner as shown by their 'surprise' final act reappearance.

Only the conflict between the American groups is important here, and in the end Tyreen's restoration of Dundee to command following the Major's 'lost weekend' sequence and Tyreen's subsequent death/sacrifice is the act that unites the command and allows Dundee to blithely ride back into US territory as a superficial thoroughly respectable hero. Does Dundee even recognise the unnecessary strife that he has put himself and everyone around him through for self-aggrandisement purposes? Does he acknowledge how close he came to total self-destruction? Or does his single-mindedness combined with a seeming total lack of insight or self-analysis, or calculated show of the same, make him a 'perfect' leader of men and a true American archetype?

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Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#429 Post by domino harvey » Fri Jun 03, 2011 7:19 pm

the Texas Rangers (King Vidor 1936) As genial a western as I can recall, with grinning Fred MacMurray and Jack Oakie turning good as they face off against their old partner, the always enjoyable Lloyd Nolan. This film has no auspices to be anything higher than entertainment, and on that level it succeeds wonderfully. Is this a great film? Nope. But it's greater than many so-called great ones. Such as

Canyon Passage (Jacques Tourneur 1946) I know for a fact that there are people on this very board and elsewhere who consider this one of the greatest westerns ever made. Had I not known that going in, I would never have guessed any such reaction while watching. This is a competently crafted film, with a couple briefly interesting moral queries, but it wasn't even the best film on the disc it shared with the previous bit of western marshmallow.

Kansas Raiders (Ray Enright 1950) An interesting take on the James Gang as filtered through their experience with Quantrill's Raiders. Tony Curtis is about the last name I think of when I think of Westerns, but Brian Donlevy is quite suited to the stiff villainy of the counterfeit commander.

the Lawless Breed (Raoul Walsh 1952) An epic tale told compactly and smartly by Walsh. Rock Hudson plays to his strengths, as per usual, but I think character actor John McIntire shines the brightest with his dual roles as John Wesley Hardin's father and uncle. Julie Adams makes a good stand-up gal too. Wrongfully accused films like this have an innate narrative worth for me, as these kind of movies just wind the viewer up and up with the injustice, and we keep watching for that release. Somewhat perversely, the catharsis here is so half-hearted and meek that the film continues its interest far after it ends by virtue of its continued injustices being played out in memory. This is, as far as I'm concerned, the only "classic" in Universal's Classic Westerns Box.

the New World (Terrence Malick 2005/8) While I'm still not 100% sold on Malick's general approach, this extended cut is to my eyes his best film yet by a country mile (have not yet seen Tree of Life, so we'll see). I have some slight qualms about Malick's reduction of the indians to quasi-infantalism, but I can forgive this because I believe Malick's approach is one borne of naivete, not superiority. Indeed, said childlike naivete serves his heroine well, and her performance is ideally suited to the film and the role. If I'm not mistaken, is the name "Pocahontas" even mentioned in the film? I think too "indian" was only said once, in what sounded like an ad-lib by a child actor. I suppose some sticklers will argue that this one doesn't belong in a Westerns list, but isn't the story of the Virginia Colony literally one of the first tales of western expansion in America and its effects on the natives, the settlers, &c? It's got my vote.

Shalako (Edward Dmytryk 1968) Here's a great practical example of how something can sound great when pitched and utterly fail on delivery. A group of European bourgeoisie have gathered together on an Indian reservation under the protection of a US Senator to track and hunt big game. Only the senator didn't give much mind to the fact that they'd be breaking a treaty with the Apaches. Think about the possibilities, as these effete animal hunters must hunt the most dangerous animal, break out of their social barriers, and fend for their lives against insurmountable odds. I want to see that movie!

But instead I saw this, a lousy Euro production starring Sean Connery as the ex-army knowitall that tries telling a bunch of Euro fops that their plan to just shoot at any savages who dare to interrupt their fun is pretty dumb. Speaking of dumb, every victim in this film operates under such childish arrogance that it's hard to muster up any energy in caring what happens to their little hunting party. The film also stumbles with its heavy-handed Marxist commentary-- one particularly tasteless example being the rich trophy wife who runs off with a gunslinger for protection, only to be raped by a band of indians, who end their fun by causing her to fellate her precious diamond jewelry until she suffocates. "Great." Brigitte Bardot's presence here, a few years past her sell-by-date, doesn't help anything.

Arrowhead (Charles Marquis Warren 1953) While watching this film, it occurred to me that despite the spate of colorful heavies I've seen in so many westerns lately, it's been a really long time since I've actually been unsettled by an onscreen villain. So I welcomed the sensation as I watched Jack Palance, an actor I have nearly as many qualms about as star Charlton Heston, walk away with one of the most unnerving and threatening villains in not only all of westerns, but cinema. I think one reason his portrayal of the diabolical indian Toriano hits so strongly is that while westerns will on very rare occasions (and usually in liberal westerns, which this is definitely not-- but hold that thought) offer up a colored-in indian character, rarely are the villainous indians allowed to be anything more than just Evil Redmen. But here is a wholly disturbing character, a young Apache once-friendly with whites who arrives back from indian college looking every bit like Death himself, Palance's skeletal features jutting out to threaten all who look upon him. As his character positions himself among his people as a prophesied undefeatable leader destined to lead the Apaches, there's a growing sense of dread that is compounded by the remarkably negative tone of this film. The only other western that comes close in terms of almost unbearable bleakness of message is Man of the West, though this earlier film cannot resist a "happy" ending, if you can call it that after all that happens.

A central crux of the film, and one that can't be discussed without spoiling key plot points, is the very brutal political message at the core of the film.
SpoilerShow
Here is a strongly anti-Communist film that actually manages to convince rather than elicit light mocking and chiding. Heston's character is, and I'm sure many here will automatically relate, a total asshole that the film refuses to make the least bit likable. Indeed, his very brusqueness against all in his path, and his unrelenting negativity towards all indians and indian sympathizers seems like a set-up for a rebuttal that never comes. Heston is convinced that all the "friendly" indians, such as Katy Jurado's sweet washerwoman and the Apache scout, are really dormant traitors lying in wait to strike against the good of the whites-- and in a truly horrifying series of events, he is proven correct. This is a nightmare come to life and this film makes real the Red Scare and how it could effect otherwise rational people better than any other film I've seen. And thus Heston's dickishness becomes analogous to Joseph McCarthy-- sure, the film argues, he may be unpleasant and unlikable, but that doesn't mean he isn't right!
A chilling ideology, for sure, but surprisingly effective in cinematic terms. This film is a key discovery from this project, and one that deserves to be reevaluated by all.

Man in the Saddle (Andre de Toth 1951) A lightweight Randolph Scott film that keeps hinting at darker possibilities that someone like Mann could have really done wonders with. Scott's rival, a fussy egotist who refuses to share anything with anyone, and youbettabelieve that means his wife's affections, could have been more than a one-dimensional plot necessity, but alas he isn't given much to do beyond the necessary.

the Stranger Wore a Gun (Andre de Toth 1953) Slightly better Scott/de Toth pairing, with Scott fleeing his mistaken participation in Quantrill's Raiders, the folly of which starts the film off with an appropriately morbid note. The plot mechanics of this one are pretty creaky as it struggles to stretch itself out to a-feature length (Hey, let's add another stagecoach heist!), but it's not without its pleasures: the pic was originally filmed for 3-D, so we get great sights like a marauder throwing a torch at the screen, or Ernest Borgnine aiming his gun directly at the audience. Silly, sure, but it's something.

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Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#430 Post by Nothing » Fri Jun 03, 2011 10:52 pm

domino harvey wrote:Canyon Passage (Jacques Tourneur 1946) I know for a fact that there are people on this very board and elsewhere who consider this one of the greatest westerns ever made. Had I not known that going in, I would never have guessed any such reaction while watching.
Indeed. The setting is quite unique and the pace/structure is certainly unusual, prefiguring the 'hang out' feel of Rio Bravo in a way, but this remains a pretty dull film when it comes down to it.
domino harvey wrote:the New World (Terrence Malick 2005/8)... this extended cut is to my eyes his best film yet by a country mile... I suppose some sticklers will argue that this one doesn't belong in a Westerns list, but isn't the story of the Virginia Colony literally one of the first tales of western expansion in America and its effects on the natives, the settlers, &c? It's got my vote.
Yep... agreed on all fronts, and Tree of Life has a lot to live up to. I was hesitant to include this at first, yielding somewhat to the argument that the film takes place before the formation of America, yada yada, but - frankly, if Black God, White Devil is a western then so is this... which means it'll be ranking very highly on my list. I'm still very tempted to include Days of Heaven too, tbh, which does admittedly fall somewhere inbetween the western and the depression-era outlaw picture, both temporally and in terms of tone, although this refusal to be neatly categorized is of course one of Malick's many strengths.

Was left unimpressed by Hombre and The Shootist yesterday. The former comes roaring out of the gate, with a solid mise en scene and some great and unusual characters, especially Richard Boone, who steals all of his early scenes, but the film then squanders the advantage by descending into a drawn out and self-important morality play filled with plot holes and squeezed into a moldy Robert McKee arc. As for The Shootist... lol, a mad right-wing fantasy if there ever was one, where Ron Howard takes on the mantle from the Duke and Jimmy Stewart and a man gets to go out 'the right way' by killing a bunch of folks for no particular reason. No, the Siegel that gets my vote (albeit a way down the list) is Two Mules for Sister Sarah, with Boetticher's fertile hook held for ransom and transformed into a highly entertaining Leone-clone (oh the insult...)

I've already mentioned A Bullet for the General (the best non-Leone spaghetti, imho) and Aldrich's superlative, memorable Ulzana's Raid, but since time is drawing short I'd also like to mention Deadwood, at least the first season of. It may be television (but Lonesome Dove is going to figure, right?) and it may have flaws - especially the Calamity Jane character, who only seems to exist to pander to a demographic demand - but a unique, nuanced and engaging portrayal of the west this remains, and the final scene of the first season, with Brad Dourif (in his greatest role) dancing with the caliper lady, is really a great place to end it, there's no need to go on after that.

I'm still stuggling to make 50 picks right now, to be honest (or, rather, 50 that I really care for), although I do have some last minute contenders on the way: Taza Son of Cochise (huge Sirk fan, so...), The Last Sunset, The Big Trail (70mm), Companeros, A Big Hand for the Little Lady + hoping the Coen's version of True Grit will make it in time too...
Last edited by Nothing on Fri Jun 03, 2011 11:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#431 Post by knives » Fri Jun 03, 2011 10:58 pm

Deadwood's not eligible otherwise it would have been the only thing talked about here.

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Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#432 Post by Nothing » Fri Jun 03, 2011 11:09 pm

? Why not? It better be eligible... I'm voting for it.

p.s. I'm going to add a general plea please NOT to vote for the superficial Michael Bay-does-Peckinpah POS that is The Proposition...

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Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#433 Post by knives » Fri Jun 03, 2011 11:34 pm

It's television and as a general rule there's no voting for television unless it's a made for movie or labeled as a mini-series on IMDB. If that rule wasn't in place these lists would look a lot different. Going to give my thoughts on The Big Trail soon and will probably just edit this post for that.

Edit: Setting up my list I realized I hadn't even seen a Walsh western yet and that needed to be cured right quick. The Big Trail just so happened to be the cheapest going (and with two other films that I'm sure are not worth the $5 I paid) and it's a real nice look back if nothing else. it's an erratic film as anything of this scope is going to be and that unevenness between the big picture and the cracks in between are going to keep it off my list, but shoot does it ever come close. Where Walsh works best on the picture is those moments of documentary style realism. The movie looks like Grass and has a handful of heightened scenes showing how man overcomes nature that got me to bite my lip. The bit when they're scaling the vertical cliff is the most intense with a feeling like even the actors are actually in mortal peril.

Of course all of that reality breaks with John Wayne and his fluffed hair. The man has yet to become The Duke and just comes off as what he is, a failed pretty boy football player, instead of the hardened man of the west that the film tries to convince you he is. An other acting goof for the film is the villain who looks big and frightening enough, but once he opens his mouth, boom, any chance of taking him seriously goes out the window. He's as much a threat as those giant oafs that Chaplin used to kick in the pants. In turn the one legitimate villain of the film takes several interesting story turns that ends in a mixture of genius and anti-climax.

This next part would be better for the '30s thread, but I really love the use of intertitles here. Even though they are all very obvious they manage to benefit the film by throwing out all reason for exposition. Instead you just get these characters stewing together in a fascinating pot. Too bad that much of the interaction feels robotic and unnecessary. Instead of the obligatory love interest or the painfully nonthreatening villain if Walsh had used these moments to show off the sort of people that survive in this environment, something he does touch on during the processional odd bit, this film might've made my list. Rather it's getting kicked off by Rango. Hopefully one of the man called horse films is great or else I'll die of embarrassment.

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Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#434 Post by Nothing » Sat Jun 04, 2011 9:22 am

knives wrote:It's television and as a general rule there's no voting for television unless it's a made for movie or labeled as a mini-series on IMDB. If that rule wasn't in place these lists would look a lot different.
That seems like a pretty arbitrary 'rule'... Assuming that Lonesome Dove, etc, qualify as 'mini-series', then this is the only title likely to be excluded from the list as a result (because, what, it's too long?). I'm still voting for the first season - which stands alone, whatever the imdb says - and suggest others do too if they like it.

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Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#435 Post by domino harvey » Sat Jun 04, 2011 10:01 am

Long-standing lists rule: episodic or series television excluded, miniseries and TV movies/specials eligible

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Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#436 Post by swo17 » Sat Jun 04, 2011 10:49 am

Nothing wrote:
knives wrote:It's television and as a general rule there's no voting for television unless it's a made for movie or labeled as a mini-series on IMDB. If that rule wasn't in place these lists would look a lot different.
That seems like a pretty arbitrary 'rule'... Assuming that Lonesome Dove, etc, qualify as 'mini-series', then this is the only title likely to be excluded from the list as a result (because, what, it's too long?). I'm still voting for the first season - which stands alone, whatever the imdb says - and suggest others do too if they like it.
What about Gunsmoke? The main problem with voting for TV series is that you'll want to vote for the first season, someone else will want to vote for the whole series, someone else will want to vote for everything but a couple of episodes, etc. and how on earth do you tabulate those results?

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Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#437 Post by Nothing » Sat Jun 04, 2011 9:48 pm

A 'rule' set by whom? And, in this case, what does it achieve other than to 'disqualify' Deadwood (as if we were voting for the fucking oscars or something...) I would also argue against the notion that it is 'episodic', at least not in the manner of, say, Miami Vice or Star Trek. Each episode has a structure, of course, but the same can said of Lonesome Dove or Assayas' Carlos, or, indeed, the individual acts of any narrative feature. However, the first season has a strong narrative arc (and is also shorter than Warhol's Empire, btw) and then seasons 2+3 are part of a single arc, a kind of ludicrously drawn out remake of McCabe & Mrs. Miller which sadly was never completed. Anyway, If you treat each season as a separate entity - just the same as one would vote separately for each film in the Dollars trilogy - then it's easy to tabulate.

Re: Lonesome Dove this ALSO had two follow-up seasons, so would you consider this eligible? I guess the answer is 'yes' to the first two seasons, since the imdb categorizes these as 'mini-series', but no to the third season, which is categorized simply as a 'TV series'... Do you not see how completely arbitrary this is?

Summary: If a work of the moving image is good enough to merit inclusion then it should be included, it doesn't matter how long or short it is, or how it happened to premiere.
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Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#438 Post by swo17 » Sat Jun 04, 2011 10:01 pm

Deadwood isn't a great example of why TV series generally aren't tabulable because it maintained a relatively consistent standard throughout a moderately brief run, but how could common votes be counted for something like The Simpsons?

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Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#439 Post by knives » Sat Jun 04, 2011 10:10 pm

In addition to that genre is much more loosely defined on television in regards to this list and by year for the other set. Could we put Community on the action list because a few episodes fit in there? Any rule will have a handful of unfortunate exclusions (I know I'll be shedding many tears over not being able to put episodes of The Twilight Zone on my Sci-fi list), but they are there to keep things easy and fun way to get new experiences which the main point of participating in these lists is.

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Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#440 Post by Nothing » Sat Jun 04, 2011 10:14 pm

re: The Simpsons, stick to the season rule for this as well, it's better than arbitrarily (and anally) 'disqualifying' a whole great category of moving images. If someone wants to vote for a You Tube video I'd be happy with this as well.

If someone doesn't follow the format, then tabulate as follows: a vote for an episode constitutes a vote for that season; a vote for the whole show constitutes a vote for the first season of the show. As long as this is made clear then it's by far the best compromise on the table. This also neatly clears up the issue of the production year.

Re: knives other point, I can think of no examples where genre is 'loosely defined' on television. The Twilight Zone is a sci-fi show and to exclude it from the sci-fi list is as silly as to exclude Deadwood from the western list. Anyway, a Domino said at the beginning of the thread: "if you THINK it's a western then include it" - and that's what I'm doing.

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Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#441 Post by tarpilot » Sat Jun 04, 2011 10:20 pm

Nothing wrote:f someone wants to vote for a You Tube video I'd be happy with this as well.
I'm not going to be voting for Once Upon a Time in the West itself, but that Arcade Fire mashup is pretty neato

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Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#442 Post by domino harvey » Sat Jun 04, 2011 10:22 pm

No television series has ever been eligible in any list on this board. I'm more opposed to something like this being proposed now, two weeks before the deadline, than the merits of such an argument (an argument I'm not unsympathetic to, I might add)-- we could back and forth on this forever, I'm sure, but when was there any question that a TV series would not be eligible for a movie list? If the rules were getting altered, they should have been so at the outset-- people participating might have sought out and recommended series television, discussion would have occured (the main reason for these list anyways), and none of that is possible now. But of course this happening now is not really about whether television should be eligible, it's just a way to backdoor Deadwood onto the list.

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Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#443 Post by Cold Bishop » Sat Jun 04, 2011 11:12 pm

There's more than just Deadwood... Wanted: Dead or Alive and Have Gun, Will Travel also had their high-points. But I also agree that the distinction needs to be drawn somewhere. I agree its not perfect (the last episode of Twin Peaks would certainly make a 90s list; some of the self-contained arcs on Wiseguy and Crime Story could pop up on the 80s list; plenty of British comedies), but cinema is still largely defined by the theatrical experience. In fact, if it wasn't for Berlin Alexanderplatz, Scenes from a Marriage and Fanny and Alexander, I'd be surprised if we would have ever allowed the mini-series exception.

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Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#444 Post by Nothing » Sat Jun 04, 2011 11:47 pm

Tarpilot: So you persuaded me to re-watch Canyon Passage and, I must admit, my recollection was a little hazy. It's a strong and interesting film, although not likely to trouble my Top 10 (for reasons I shall get to).

Despite initial impressions, and the offputtingly cheerful opening scenes that are in some ways reminiscent of Lynch's Blue Velvet, this isn't a film that seeks to reinforce the nostalgic reactionary myth of the Great American West - setting Tourneur's 'project' dramatically aside from that of Ford or Hawks, or pretty much any other classical western of the period. Instead, what we have are a collection of mostly flawed indiviuals trying to survive in difficult times; the suggestion that 'life in America' was, is and always will be hard - and, in this sense, it has far more in common with the film noir, for which Tourneur is of course better known. And, yet, to package this in cheerful all-singing, all-dancing Technicolor wrapping is a stroke of genius of sorts - both the film's greatest strength and its greatest weakness (although to call it the "most sophisticated and striking use of light and colour" in a Western is overdoing it a tad, just as there is no such as thing as 'noir lighting in colour'!)

That the film, superficially at least, does appaear to walk and talk like its more familiar brethren makes it all the more subversive - and is also the reason, presumably, that it managed to navigate the stringent and hypocritical censorship of the period. On the other hand, for the majority of the running time, this means that one still has to suffer many of the cliches of the time: the ridiculously clean wardrobe, the overbearing and relentlessly upbeat score, the morally-impervious hero who always does what he thinks is right (including rescuing the gambler, not because he disregards the murder, but because his friend has been convicted on flimsy evidence by a kangeroo court - the gambler nevertheless dies for his sins, in line with Hays dictats, before the film is over), the preposterously cheerful settlers and the comical, semi-retarded 'Indians' who harrass their wellbeing. The violence of the west is also radically underplayed, despite the barfight, which is indeed striking in the context of the Hays Code but otherwise not so remarkable (the implied moral condemnation of mob mentality and blood lust wouldn't be out of place in a Ron Howard picture). Ultimately, then, I think this is a film that succeeds more in theory - as a prototype revisionist western of sorts - than as an actual cinematic experience. It is a sanitized version of Deadwood or McCabe & Mrs. Miller - but, the thing is, I like Warren Beatty's whoring and Ian McShane's cussing, I like the corpse-eating pigs and the cold amorality of the mining corporations writ large and clear. Make no mistake, this is also still a film with clear good guys and bad guys - I think you're extrapolating far too much from the brief comments that an evil card sharp character makes about 'the worthlessness of humanity' - and, as such, it is still very far behind the moral relativism and gritty stylisation of Peckinpah and Leone, whose work represents the very pinnacle of the genre as far as I'm concerned (unless one were to argue with dom for the inclusion of Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian!).

What one has here then is still, ultimately, a sentimentalised fantasy. That no-one would blink twice at a miner (or two, or four) lying facedown dead in the mud at the end of the night; that no man would spare much thought to the honour of an unmarried settler girl; that the murder and rape of the native population would be so commonplace that none of their women would be bathing within 100 miles of the camp... These are just a few of the realities that Canyon Passage passes over - and, as such, perhaps Tourneur isn't so far away from Ford and Hawks after all.

My final thought then is that, if you really find this film to be "horrifying" and "searingly nihilistic", I'm genuinely concerned as to how you may respond to the end of Heaven's Gate 8-[
Last edited by Nothing on Sun Jun 05, 2011 2:16 am, edited 1 time in total.

Nothing
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Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#445 Post by Nothing » Sun Jun 05, 2011 12:12 am

dom, I didn't mention it before because I never anticipated a problem. This is what it says at the head of the thread:
domino harvey wrote:If you're not sure it's a western, vote for it.
I consider Deadwood 1 to be a western and I'm going to vote for it... If you want to exclude it that's up to you, but the thread asks for a list of the 50 best westerns and that's what I'm going to give you...

And to repeat, I honestly don't see how you can accept the first season of Lonesome Dove (included on the Time Out list, btw) but refuse the first season of Deadwood. Each is as cohesive and self-contained as the other - and if you're going to let the imdb have the final say then shouldn't it also be obligatory to vote for The Shawshank Redemption?

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Yojimbo
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Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#446 Post by Yojimbo » Sun Jun 05, 2011 3:33 pm

Just watched the first film in the 'Lone Wolf and Cub' series; surely this must be eligible?
(even if its not from the accepted time period?)

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knives
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Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#447 Post by knives » Sun Jun 05, 2011 3:43 pm

I've been avoiding putting Asian movies on my list unless they're very specific and deliberate pastiche (not that any that fit that description are good enough for the list). I'm just going to slap all of them onto the action list since mine will probably just be a bunch of Asian movies plus Die Hard anyways.

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Yojimbo
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Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#448 Post by Yojimbo » Sun Jun 05, 2011 4:00 pm

knives wrote:I've been avoiding putting Asian movies on my list unless they're very specific and deliberate pastiche (not that any that fit that description are good enough for the list). I'm just going to slap all of them onto the action list since mine will probably just be a bunch of Asian movies plus Die Hard anyways.
how do you reconcile excluding 'Seven Samurai', then, without accepting 'The Magnificent Seven' as eligible?

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Anhedionisiac
the Displeasure Principle
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Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#449 Post by Anhedionisiac » Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:01 pm

knives wrote:Edit: Also has anyone seen a Mexican western by the name of The Strange Son of the Sheriff by Fernando Duran Rojas. Any of his western work would be cool, but I'm most heavily interested in that one.
You asked a page ago but I believe it my duty to warn knives if it's not yet too late. Whatever you do, do not watch it. I repeat, do NOT watch it. It's a pretty bad movie, the kind of bad that became standard fare in Mexico long ago since this is a country whose major industry are rotten soap operas. If you 're not familiar with this kind of drivel, it may have some value as something to point and laugh at MST3K style but otherwise avoid it like the plague.

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Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#450 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:02 pm

Or Rashomon/The Outrage? :wink:

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