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.
Post Reply
Message
Author
User avatar
Mr Sausage
Not PETA approved
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Canada

Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#826 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Nov 28, 2016 6:25 am

I didn't mean the ending, (which, while I didn't like it, your reading does a lot to improve it in my eyes). I more meant the general way this highly unusual female character is done a disservice by being slotted into one more banal, self-sacrificing love interest role, one that doesn't seem properly motivated. Her loathing for the man doesn't shade ruefully into love so much as jump suddenly into it wholeheartedly because...? I can see how it could've been done well, but that just leaves whether it should've been done at all.

User avatar
knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#827 Post by knives » Mon Nov 28, 2016 10:49 am

That's fair and like I said something doesn't seem to work even for me though I can't place my finger on it.

User avatar
Mr Sausage
Not PETA approved
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Canada

Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#828 Post by Mr Sausage » Thu Dec 01, 2016 5:51 pm

Mild SPOILERS for The Keeping Room

Day of the Outlaw (Andre de Toth, 1959): An incredibly atmospheric film about the almost constant threat of sexual violence. Forget The Great Silence, this is a cold, bitter, snow-bound movie that captures the sheer exhaustion of moving through snowdrifts. Like many other Westerns, it's about the intrusion of violence into what had become an increasingly civilized and contained landscape dominated by farmers from the East. Robert Ryan seems to be a transitional figure, and his journey at the end is meant, I gather, to be a final exorcism of that violence from the land. It would've been a stronger movie if the Ryan character
SpoilerShow
hadn't come back. He seems to leave his violence behind and comes back prepared to let things change, to be left behind. But I don't think the purgative element quite worked. I was much more willing to buy that journey as a sacrifice than a learning experience. The rest of the film seemed to make clear that he needed to sacrifice himself, too, that he was the final element sowing discord and violence, and that this element in him was not simply going to go away (see, for instance, the gang leader's comments to that effect). But he returns and we get a Hollywood ending of sorts.
Still, with that criticism aside, this is a strong, exciting film filled to bursting with dread and menace. Will figure high on my list.

The Keeping Room (Daniel Barber, 2014): Domino called this a conservative feminist film, and I kind of see what he took to be conservative. But what struck me was how the movie rejected something that's not just one of the central motifs of the western, but a central concept and motivating force in conservative ideology: property and home, and the protection of those spaces. Any comparison of this movie to Straw Dogs is facile since that siege was the result of a misplaced desire to assert a bruised male ego by defending its symbols. Here, the home no longer exists except as an idea or memory. The house is empty and quiet, going mostly unused; the social roles it helped partition and maintain have broken down out of both necessity and a lack of social structures to police them. Vestiges of those roles remain: when Louise is injured, Augusta, angry and needing an outlet, turns instinctively on the former slave for something that was not her fault, a ghost of how the anger was vented on the powerless slaves because it could be. But this is rebuffed, brazenly, and Augusta's shock comes less from the act itself than a sense of being reawakened to reality. When the violence comes, the women have to take stock of themselves, and this is where I think Domino finds the conservative element: trauma is acknowledged, but contextualized, too, and used as something on which to build strength and connection. The movie doesn't turn trauma into victimhood, but something more like William Faulkner's endurance. The ugliness does not give anyone the excuse to stop going on. And it's here that the characters debate and then reject the idea of home and property that they had clung to when it had so obviously ceased to have value. So many Westerns are about founding and property and the need to defend it against all that would destroy it. Here, traditional social ideas, social roles, have fallen away, leaving our characters either to choose to bear them out as empty, delusional rituals, or to acknowledge their emptiness and move on. Their choice, to me, is not conservative. This is an apocalyptic movie in its quiet way, but it ends with a mild hopefulness. A really surperb film I'll be putting high on my list. Thanks for the recommendation, Domino.

Backlash (John Sturges, 1956): Richard Widmark is such a weird actor. His casting here is inspired because he is quite willing to be off-putting and somewhat unlikeable when playing a character who may have to live up to an ugly family history. You feel his life has been hard and unpleasant, and the revelations sting deeply not because they reject his self-conception but because they confirm his fears. A tight and surprisingly grim movie.

Bend in the River (Anthony Mann, 1952): This was a lot of fun. All the Mann/Stewart films are. Granted, the moral attitude of the film reduces to an easy binary and never really gives us a reason to feel Stewart is in any danger of being swayed towards evil. But it's nonetheless very entertaining watching Stewart battle a version of himself from an alternate reality where he'd never changed (culminating with a baptism in a river to signify his freedom). A very fine Western of the simplistic variety.

The Far Country (Anthony Mann, 1954): There's some stuff here that doesn't work, mainly the Ruth Roman/Corinne Calvet stuff. Roman especially, who never seems properly motivated by anything, to the point where she's good or bad on a whim, and is dismissed unfairly from the movie in favour of a Calvet who'd done nothing to earn the position she's suddenly gifted. The rest, the corrupt border town and sherrif and the lawless power politics of the Alaskan mining town, were wonderfully realized. And if Stewart is stuck playing a rather simple archetype, he plays him as well it can be played.

Stagecoach (John Ford, 1939): This was on tv so often growing up, but I don't know if I ever actually sat through it from start to finish. So I did just that. What's to say? Exciting and dramatic; beautifully simplistic; has a sense of humour I'm not quite sure I appreciate. So a typical John Ford film. My most vivid impression is of the sound, tho', or rather its lack. This is a really quiet movie. When everyone walks into the street, you hear nothing but their voices. It took me a few minutes to figure out what was bothering me about the outdoor scenes until I figured it out: no babble, no hoofbeats, no wagon rumbles, nothing. Very surreal after so many later Westerns. Granted, I haven't been watching a lot of 30's films these days, but 1939 seems a bit late for that kind of minimal sound design. I more associate that with the early-to-mid '30s. But that could just be my memory.

Seven Men From Now (Bud Boetticher, 1956): Lee Marvin makes this movie. He takes a minimal side part and blows so much life into it with postured, slightly fey mannerisms that clash with his predatory heterosexuality, and a weird honour and sense of duty that clashes with a bunch of his other actions. Very strange and effective performance that unfortunately makes Randolph Scott look stolid and one-note in comparison. This was my first of the Boetticher/Scott westerns, and while I liked it well enough, it didn't capture me the way the Mann/Stewart westerns did/do. I'm planning to watch the rest of the sequence, so my opinion may change as I get a handle on what they're doing.

The Homesman (Tommy Lee Jones, 2014): Tommy Lee Jones makes weird movies. There are lots of things, plot and character-wise, that I did not expect, and those things I did were always approached slant-wise. Much like his earlier film, this one encompasses such a range of tones, from still, formal beauty, to low humour, to grotesquerie, to sentiment. And it manages to marry those tones, too, without coming unstitched or feeling over-weighted. The film has such a precise physical sense of the world as well; it feels so harsh and empty and cold, colder I think than any film I've seen recently, including The Revenant and Day of the Outlaw. Much like The Keeping Room, this is about the cruelty and the harshness that women have to endure in the West, emblemized by three women who have been driven insane by it and must be carted across the winter plains to be deposited in an actual town. There are smaller, more subtle cruelties waiting along the way, and one twist that I doubt anyone expects. An impressive movie, perhaps as impressive as Jones' first. Hailee Steinfeld shows up again, seemingly making a career out of appearing in Westerns.

User avatar
Cold Bishop
Joined: Tue May 30, 2006 9:45 pm
Location: Portland, OR

Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#829 Post by Cold Bishop » Thu Dec 01, 2016 8:49 pm

I don't know if I agree about the ending to Day of the Outlaw: I think the violence is still very much there... See my long write-up a few pages back.

Glad to see another fan of The Homesman which still strikes me as one of the most memorable American films of the last few years. I still need to respond to warren oates' complaints about it. One of these days...

User avatar
Mr Sausage
Not PETA approved
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Canada

Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#830 Post by Mr Sausage » Thu Dec 01, 2016 9:13 pm

Cold Bishop wrote:I don't know if I agree about the ending to Day of the Outlaw: I think the violence is still very much there... See my long write-up a few pages back.
You're probably right. I've been slowly reading back through this thread. Hopefully I'll get to your write up soon.

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#831 Post by domino harvey » Thu Dec 01, 2016 11:12 pm

Some great thoughts on the Keeping Room, Sausage! I like the idea that it can appeal to both conservative and anti-conservative readings. To be fair, I think this flexibility is present in a lot of Westerns-- it's why something like A Bullet for the General may have more limited appeal over a film (like, well, Stagecoach) that has legitimate claims to being both right and left wing and can therefore appeal across the board.

User avatar
colinr0380
Joined: Mon Nov 08, 2004 4:30 pm
Location: Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire, UK

Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#832 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Dec 02, 2016 6:00 pm

And that conservative and anti-conservative reading of the same film is a style that probably only Clint Eastwood keeps going now.

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#833 Post by domino harvey » Fri Dec 09, 2016 1:14 pm

It Can Be Done…Amigo! (Maurizio Lucidi 1972) I’m not sold on the merits of Spaghetti Westerns, but I do have a large allotment of titles to try and give my due diligence to the subgenre for our redux. Like a lot of SW’s I’ve seen, this one has a few solid ideas in search of a rewrite: “Big boy” Bud Spencer, refusing a gun at all times (!), instigates fistfights by getting out his granny-style cheaters and then walloping opponents in the head like a bear! Spencer finds himself caring for a little boy who has inherited valuable land, all the while on the run from Jack Palance’s furious pimp, who wants Spencer to marry his deflowered sister. After Spencer marries Palance’s sister, then he’ll kill him, to keep the honor of his sister safe as a widow. That’s a great comic premise, and there’s a lot of fun in the first two acts with Palance being the one to save Spencer from various villains merely because he wants to be the one to kill him. Even though the eventual plot mechanics are driven by some remarkably dumb plot holes (Why does the Reverend hire Palance instead of just shooting Spencer himself?) and the ending button is the little kid laughing merrily at a husband beating the shit out of his wife, I still sort of liked this? Proof that a little novelty can go a long way.

the Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (John Huston 1972) John Huston films John Milius’ (presumably sincere) script as overblown hagiography, undercutting any messages of moral collusion with the infamous Western figure (to the chagrin of famous right-winger Milius, no doubt). Paul Newman is miscast but game as Bean, and the cast is populated with bizarre cameos and performances, none stranger than Stacy Keach’s albino baddie “Bad Bob”:

Image

I especially appreciated the casting of Jacqueline Bisset as the daughter of Newman and Victoria Principal, as no one has ever looked more like the (imagined) offspring of Newman and Principal!

For a while it looks like the film is going to be another of Huston’s regrettable odes to grotesqueries, especially after the first shootout. But despite being both a revisionist western (Strike One) and a comedy (Strike Two), the overall effect does manage to produce some intriguing results. While there is absolutely no reason to bother with this film when we already have the Westerner, this movie does something sneakily clever in its construction: By the time it’s over, we realize we’ve just seen the entirety of the Western tradition depicted from start to finish, from desolate outlaw-riddled undeveloped land to an incorporated township to the railroads to the discovery of oil and boom and then bust and finally nostalgia and museum-pieces celebrating the sanitized version of all we’ve just seen. While unfunny and overlong, the film does manage some degree of epic brushstrokes and the elegy is halfhearted and uninvested in a manner that makes it slightly more intriguing than the same material may have been if taken seriously. I’m not sure Huston’s facetious take is entirely successful, but I am certain Milius’ reverential take would have been worse.

War Paint (Lesley Selander 1953) Another practical example of why you should always watch the entire movie before forming judgments. This one starts with a cruel showdown between two indians and two Calvary members in the desert, and for a while it looks like this is going to be a standard issue Indians Are Evil Western. But as Robert Stack’s Lieutenant leads his weary men through the desert in order to deliver a peace treaty to a war-ready Indian chief, the number and manner of complications they encounter grows more varied and intriguing, until the film reveals itself to actually be pro-Indian. There are some delicious criticisms lobbed out, and I love the cleverness of having the captured Indian woman promise to lead the men to water, only to instead lead them to a gold mine, knowing the worst of the men will suddenly change priorities and turn against the rest (and she’s right). Overall the film never quite rises about its b-movie programmer status, but I got my eighty-one minutes' worth out of a film I mainly sought out for its great tagline of “You will never see your woman again!”

Image

User avatar
knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#834 Post by knives » Fri Dec 09, 2016 2:17 pm

While both will likely make my list at the moment I think I'll be placing the Huston over the Wyler. I can completely understand why you'd prefer the Wyler though as it is such a great example of the classic western boiled down to a few base parts. A rewatch is definitely due, but that won't be happening as my old copy got burnt down a few years ago.

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#835 Post by domino harvey » Fri Dec 09, 2016 2:34 pm

I find the factual Lillie Langtry aspect of both of these Judge Roy Bean films is fascinating, as it shows how personality-driven stardom wasn't invented by the movies, only exploited and perfected. It's incredible to me that a stage actress could gain notoriety on the level she and other pretty faces did in the 19th century almost wholly on the strength of well-circulated prints and pics in cigarette packs &c. It shows that the Hollywood star system was tapping into something long existent and deep in the veins of many Americans (and makes me want to pull Picture Personalities down from the shelf for a reread). And of course, Bean's obsession with Langtry ends up spelling his doom in both of these films, though via wildly different means, so maybe there's some implicit criticism of the star system there as well.

User avatar
knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#836 Post by knives » Sun Dec 11, 2016 10:21 pm

Cheyenne Autumn
I'll agree with the general tenor for this film that it doesn't reach its goals, but in having goals so high where it does manage to fall is still a mostly respectable place coming across far better than other epic films of the era. The film clearly doesn't right the wrongs of the past even in just the narrow context of Ford's own films. It does though push the western in the right direction by allowing whites to be blatant villains without any serious Native equivalent and a few other small things here and there. In a fashion this is a film that couldn't have been released even a day later as its fusion of the classical to forward looking ideas would be leapfrogged in some respects that very year by Leone though think this film has more admirable aims than most of the Italians I've seen.

The biggest problem is probably that the film just runs counter to everything that really works about late Ford. Regularly during this era it seems like he was developing into a proto-Linklater or Hong type where the characters just exist to shoot the shit. There's still an element of that here which is probably the most successful part of the attempt at a corrective. The film though falls a bit under its own weight as a specifically Hollywood style epic of excessive seriousness. This leaves a lot of potentially great elements that never quite get worked out. The narration for example suggests alternatively a parody of ethnographic films and an almost experimental ultimate epic ala the larger Rossellini history films. These compelling flourishes get choked up partially through competition with one another and partially through an inability to avoid treating the film with a type of seriousness that even in The Searchers Ford never bothered with.

All of this said the film is pretty enjoyable. Dodge City aside Ford never completely becomes unwieldy with most having a reasonably compelling set of character interactions with some pretty memorable lines. Also Widmark's performance is a bit odd even by his standard. It plays almost like Ford wanted Wayne in the role but just didn't bother farming out to him.

Revelator
Joined: Tue Feb 24, 2009 11:33 pm

Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#837 Post by Revelator » Mon Dec 12, 2016 6:17 pm

knives wrote:All of this said the film is pretty enjoyable. Dodge City aside Ford never completely becomes unwieldy
For me the Dodge City sequence is the best and most memorable part of the film--the rest is well-meaning and unexciting, but the Dodge sequence is full of low-down comedy and satirical zest--its does a better job of establishing white racism, hysteria, stupidity, and cupidity than anything else in the film and could have been a feature of its own. Jimmy Stewart is a wonderful Wyatt--a cool, cynical observer of human idiocy who knows just how rope to give the townsfolk but is also a fundamentally decent man (look at the rage is Stewart's face when the Indian scalp is dumped on the table).

User avatar
knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#838 Post by knives » Mon Dec 12, 2016 8:06 pm

I can see that, but like I said the problem for me is how out of control it is. All of the pieces are very nice for just the reasons you say, but it seems to instantly lose focus with a lot of the comedy just stopping the film dead.

User avatar
knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#839 Post by knives » Thu Dec 29, 2016 3:04 pm

Distant Drums
This regularly threatens to be a fairly sorry B movie with an aging star among a cast of nobodies and a sense of characterization which also is beginning to show its age. Thankfully there is enough novelty here and Walsh is just that good that even in the face of some potentially very off putting stuff and even worse SFXs this is a briskly enjoyable film. The best thing is the re-contextualization of the western as a Florida southern right down to Mogambo style cinematography. Just the act of seeing classical western tropes like the siege of a fort or men on horseback in the incongruous setting of the Everglades is enough to make the first chunk of the film enjoyable on its own.

The second half can't sustain that obviously, but it runs so quickly that there isn't any time to realize there isn't a whole lot here. Early on there's a suggestion that we might be getting a Joseph Conrad story in the vein of The Brute, but a few moments of danger here and there aside Cooper plays a very straightforward hero who, despite a complex backstory waiting for the other shoe to drop (I'm shocked one character didn't die that the film basically gives a death sentence to), is left more clean and sterling than even most John Wayne heroes.

Jane Got a Gun
For all of its production woes and worries this has seemed to have come and gone without nary a whimper. The film itself is a more self important Shane no more no less. Given Portman's interviews and the fact that she is much more firmly the point of view character you'd think some sort of feminist anything would be going on, but her character is treated almost exactly like Jean Arthur's in the earlier film. Thematically there's nothing much here especially in comparison to the fleet of films that actual tackle the horrors for women in the west. Only for external reasons does that really come up as a talking point at all though as this film unfortunately has even bigger problems then the question of if it is anything more than an ordinary oater.

Portman's performance is set in the truth of the Black Swan criticism to a level almost reaching parody. She's clearly putting forth a lot of effort and thought into this role, but it adds up to a bunch of nothing for the most part. She seems too clean and exacting with the perfect accent to be convincing as this character. Perhaps with a better director to kick her around and challenge her the character here would be more lived in, but that's not what we have. A few of the other performances are a bit weird, like a villain modeled on Daniel Plainview that I think might be played by Ewan McGregor, but enjoyable so at least. There's also some real sloppy filmmaking on display which suggests some severe post work to me. That gives the film this terrible sense of having too much filler through the flashbacks and something missing in the actual story. This is also the sort of movie where everyone is a magically talented marksman until they aren't which renders no tension in any scene.

The Quick and the Dead (Robert Day)
This is interesting pretty much only for how basic it was. There's a few bits here and there that suggests that the genre had lived past 1939 such as the kid's love of fantastical dime novels, but for the most part it is as commercial an oater as possible. That's a little refreshing after watching a strong handful of '50s and beyond westerns though the charm of a genuine throwback wears off quickly as the movie itself is mediocre even by its early pay cable origins. Sam Elliott is a load of fun consistently at least though the plot forces him to be rather obnoxious with a conception of masculinity lame in a Rocky V sort of way.

User avatar
knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#840 Post by knives » Mon Jan 09, 2017 12:13 am

Run of the Arrow
This is as weird yet genius as a Rod Steiger starring Sam Fuller civil war western should be. Had it been made a decade or two earlier this tale of a confederate vet who rejects American citizenship to join the Lakota would at least make a sense as a sympathetic look at them, but that is definitely not what Fuller is up to. Before that though something has to be addressed that always has to be the first order of business in any film featuring Steiger and that is what the hell was he thinking with this performance? He is supposed to be sporting a southern influenced Irish accent, but comes across with a slurred variation of Tyrone Powell's Irish accent. It's really weird and distracting; probably Steiger's worst performance n the vocal level which is unfortunate as the film itself is such a maddening gem otherwise.

The sympathies for the south is one of the uglier parts of the early western (really American cinema on the whole) legacy and Steiger's character is very straight forwardly is living through that never giving up the fight against the union. To compound this horrible legacy the film goes full tilt into one that was in its nascent stage, Last of the Mohicans aside, of the white man who goes native. Perhaps most wisely of all Fuller does not allow Steiger to believe in that transformation. So with two hands that could result in one deadly film Fuller seems to have a laugh at it. Steiger comes across as a hero only by designation with his alliegence to southern ideas laughed at and described as hopeless, futile, and stupid at various points by various people. He seems a decent man, but one with a toxic idea of history. That's important with his relations with the natives which often comes across as born out of his hatred of the union than any genuine love of the Lakota. The union boys aren't treated hagiographically though with at least one genocidal fellow as a mirror to Steiger's worst traits. It also seems a little cheeky, though I suspect too early to be an intentional parody, to desexualize the situation totally by having Steiger's son be adopted.

Fuller's love for an adventurer and outsider seems to prevent him from going all the way on treating Steiger with the complexity that his situation begs for. He is redeemed, more or less, by the end of the hour with the rest of the run time dedicated to his already earned atonement. Fuller doesn't entirely abandon his rewrite of the South's rewrite and there are some nasty moments (such as the quicksand which I genuinely thought as going to end worse than it did), but the film just doesn't tear apart Steiger's ideology strongly enough. Than again given the beauty of the talk about an hour in maybe Fuller's philosophy is one of attracting bees with honey rather than vinegar which is certainly a lesson the left could relearn. This is a messy , somewhat contradictory movie, but also one of the best uses of Fuller's political side I've seen with some of his best aesthetic decisions.

User avatar
jorencain
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 1:45 am

Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#841 Post by jorencain » Mon Jan 09, 2017 10:08 am

knives wrote:Run of the Arrow
This is as weird yet genius as a Rod Steiger starring Sam Fuller civil war western should be.
There is a recent Projection Booth podcast about this film, including great interviews with Fuller's widow and daughter.

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#842 Post by domino harvey » Sat Feb 04, 2017 1:46 am

I watched fifteen new-to-me westerns in the last week and a half and I kept telling myself, "I'll wait to write these all up 'til I see a good one." And a good one never came. Even the law of averages should have panned out at some point. I think this genre, for as wide-ranging as it is, is also the most arid and least full of hidden treasures of all comparable genres. I believe Paul Schrader was onto something when he posited that noirs offer the biggest return on investment and in contrast placed westerns on the other end of the spectrum. Even my years of purgatory in the Horror List yields interesting failures and oddly watchable messes. A bad western is just a bad western. The recurrent themes a lousy western holds are rarely enough to keep interest afloat, especially since precious few programmers seem to hold any ambition higher than recycling the same scenarios sans artistic merit, cultural relevancy, aesthetic pleasures, or so on.

It seems increasingly probable that despite the vastness of the genre and the huge amount of unseen films out there, I've likely already seen the supermajority of worthwhile westerns. Sure, there are probably some great discoveries yet to be made, but do they balance with the sheer number of wastes of time they are competing with, seemingly indiscernible from the outside looking in? No wonder Richard--W went mad, he probably watched a thousand lousy programmers and finally snapped one day!

I reckon I'll still work through my remaining unwatched pile, but it seems far less likely that I'll add much to it going forward, unless I hear a strong compelling argument for an unseen film from someone with taste I trust. The days of blind buys of westerns are over for me. And that's kind of sad, because this genre stands in the doorway alone among other genres on that count. For now, at least!

Is this arrogant? Realistic? Commonplace? Another word?

User avatar
Rayon Vert
Green is the Rayest Color
Joined: Wed Jan 08, 2014 10:52 pm
Location: Canada
Contact:

Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#843 Post by Rayon Vert » Sat Feb 04, 2017 2:02 am

Good post. I'm sure I've seen only a tiny percentage of the westerns you've seen, but I was frequently disappointed when a while back I went through a significant chunk of the better known and rated westerns in the Classic Hollywood period (c. 1930-62). And I do love the genre and the best of the output - but if I was to wager, I'd bet on the truth of what you're saying. Of course, as you allude to, it's a genre known for its B-feature "programmers". For curiosity's sake, if you're able to come up with a quick and rough estimate, what's the percentage of the westerns you've seen that are American vs. other, and Classic Hollywood vs. all other?

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#844 Post by domino harvey » Sat Feb 04, 2017 2:20 am

I've watched at least thirty Spaghetti Westerns (including many of what I gather are the most well-regarded) and while a few were okay, none did too much for me. That German western with Old Shatterhand I wrote up earlier in the thread was easily better than any Italian production I've seen. I've seen a lot of westerns, so that percentage in comparison is low overall, but I'm okay with that at this point. Considering recent films and post-studio system westerns (most of which are dreadful), maybe 85% of the westerns I've seen are classic Hollywood? Overall, if I had to estimate, I'd say less than a hundred of the westerns I've seen fall on the great-to-excellent spectrum, maybe another hundred are in the okay-to-good range, and the rest range from Snoozeville-to-firing curses at the TV. So I still believe there's a lot of value and worth in the genre, but the overlooked treats to tricks ratio as I investigate deeper and deeper cuts is dire and going on like this on my end will soon become the equivalent of hoping to pay rent by purchasing a scratch-off ticket!

User avatar
Satori
Joined: Sun May 09, 2010 10:32 am

Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#845 Post by Satori » Sat Feb 04, 2017 8:00 am

Interesting- I've noticed a similar lack of payoff in my western viewing, especially when compared to noirs (and judging by your writeups, I have seen a fraction of what you have). I assumed that it was my own taste in classic Hollywood cinema: while there are many westerns that I love, the genre as a whole doesn't appeal to me nearly as much as noir does (to say nothing of melodramas or screwball comedies). I can't imagine that it is just due to the fact that they are B programmers, either. I mean, so were most noirs, right?

The other related thing that I noted is that my taste in westerns tends to be far more auteurist. I mean, Hawks is my favorite American director, so it makes sense that I am completely in love with all of his westerns (I even like Rio Lobo, although I'll contain myself from voting for it). But my preliminary list also has a half dozen Fords and Manns plus multiple Boettichers, Tourneurs, Walshs, etc. This was not at all the case with the noir list and I've seen more westerns overall than noirs.

User avatar
FrauBlucher
Joined: Mon Jul 15, 2013 8:28 pm
Location: Greenwich Village

Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#846 Post by FrauBlucher » Sat Feb 04, 2017 10:22 am

Domino, you're a better man than I for making it through your Western week. I love the really good to great Westerns, but I find the bad Westerns dreadful. Will not even watch for kicks. This genre lacks any middle ground.

Thank god for Ford, for setting into motion the period we're the Hollywood Westerns became a significant part of film history. Although Wellman could get some credit for The Big Trail's size and scope that laid groundwork for later films.

The themes for Westerns are very narrow and often repeated over and over again. These themes can and have been fruitful under the guise of the auteur. Ford, Hawks, Mann and a few others are a handful of directors that have skillfully turned out the best of this genre which can compete with the best of the best with other genres. But the depth of volume of good to great Westerns is non existent. And that's what makes the western a bit challenging to totally appreciate as an art form in cinema, when in fact it should be put on a pedestal for that very reason. The great ones standout immeasurably.

User avatar
swo17
Joined: Tue Apr 15, 2008 10:25 am
Location: SLC, UT

Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#847 Post by swo17 » Sat Feb 04, 2017 12:13 pm

So basically what you guys are saying is that Deadwood should be eligible.

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#848 Post by domino harvey » Sat Feb 04, 2017 2:02 pm

Satori and FrauBlucher, I think you're on to something about the auteur being a needed component for the genre to excel. I crunched the numbers on my preliminary ballot and here's what I came up with:

Approximately 80% of my list is composed of works by directors generally considered to be auteurs. To wit: Robert Aldrich, Richard Brooks, George Cukor, Delmer Daves, Edward Dmytryk, Allan Dwan, John Ford, Howard Hawks, John Huston, Elia Kazan, Henry King, Fritz Lang, Terrence Malick, Anthony Mann, Sam Peckinpah, Arthur Penn, Sam Raimi, Martin Ritt, George Sidney, Douglas Sirk, John Sturges, Quentin Tarantino, Raoul Walsh, William Wyler

That leaves ten films on my working list not directed by an auteur:

A Big Hand for the Little Lady (Fielder Cook)
A Ticket to Tomahawk (Richard L Sale — made at least two masterpieces, but much of his other output, including in this genre, is too dire to reconcile with his hits)
Arrowhead (Charles Marquis Warren)
Calamity Jane (David Butler— known for his work in WB musicals, but hardly an auteur)
the Keeping Room (Daniel Barber)
Law and Order (Nathan Juran— studio director responsible for multiple inconsequential programmers)
Little Big Horn (Charles Marquis Warren)
Lonesome Dove (Simon Wincer)
the Tall Texan (Elmo Williams)
the Violent Men (Rudolph Maté)

Several of the above directors have name recognition, but I think an argument for their auteur status would be a stretch

User avatar
swo17
Joined: Tue Apr 15, 2008 10:25 am
Location: SLC, UT

Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#849 Post by swo17 » Sat Feb 04, 2017 3:06 pm

Malick made a western?

User avatar
Rayon Vert
Green is the Rayest Color
Joined: Wed Jan 08, 2014 10:52 pm
Location: Canada
Contact:

Re: The Western List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proje

#850 Post by Rayon Vert » Sat Feb 04, 2017 3:25 pm

domino harvey wrote:Approximately 80% of my list is composed of works by directors generally considered to be auteurs. To wit: Robert Aldrich, Richard Brooks, George Cukor, Delmer Daves, Edward Dmytryk, Allan Dwan, John Ford, Howard Hawks, John Huston, Elia Kazan, Henry King, Fritz Lang, Terrence Malick, Anthony Mann, Sam Peckinpah, Arthur Penn, Sam Raimi, Martin Ritt, George Sidney, Douglas Sirk, John Sturges, Quentin Tarantino, Raoul Walsh, William Wyler
Mine would be similarly, but would also include Boetticher, Tourneur, Curtiz, De Toth, Hathaway, Ray, Fuller, Stevens, Vidor - auteurs all.

Post Reply