Author Topic: LoC #112 -Top 50 Western Films  (Read 5363 times)

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Offline George-2.0

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LoC #112 -Top 50 Western Films
« on: October 04, 2018, 02:52:35 AM »
It started here, in 1903…

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In the 19-teens, William S. Hart became its first major star and Hell’s Hinges (1916) was arguably its first great feature. It continued from there, often in B-movie form, with serials and such, and action oriented stars like Tom Mix. There was an Oscar Best Picture win in the 30s (granted that film, Cimarron has not aged well). John Ford was around from the silent era on, to class it up from time to time, and Hawks entered the arena in the late 40s. But it wasn’t until the 50s that the Western exploded. It was a decade of classics, of Anthony Mann and Budd Boetticher - where western lore was de-mythologized, politicized, socialized and reexamined. This continued on in the 60s with Leone and the Italians, and into the violent 70s, marked by the work of Eastwood.

The genre started to fade in the 80s, but never disappeared completely. It even managed to win a few more Oscars.

Yes there is racism, and misogyny and gun violence. And yes John Ford was a mean drunk, John Wayne an extreme right winger and royal jackass (see his 1971 Playboy interview for proof). Those are the Elephants in the room. And there are several ways to approach them. Some apologize, others scold. Me, I just (try to) watch them as cinema. I wont ban talk of such things, it is a present characteristic. But please be respectful of one another, and lets not go overboard and completely derail the thread. Agreed?

In closing: The Western was about exploration, conflict, the bigger than life heroes and villains. It was about an untamed land, and it’s about these 50; er 51 motion pictures you’ve compiled for this list.


Offline George-2.0

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Re: LoC #112 -Top 50 Western Films
« Reply #1 on: October 04, 2018, 02:56:35 AM »
#51 – THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD
”By his own approximation, Bob assassinated Jesse James over 800 times. He suspected no one in history had ever so often or so publicly recapitulated an act of betrayal.” - Narrator


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27 points on 2 of 13 lists - Highest Ranking: #9 (CJones)

Director: Andrew Dominik

Stars: Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, Sam Shepard, Mary-Louise Parker

Subgenre: Outlaw Western

Is The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford an ode to the first of its two title subjects, or a dirge about the second? Is it a loyal and authentic screenshot of history, or a folk-style retelling of historical events? Maybe it’s all of these. It’s certainly more than the sum total of the answers to the questions it poses, but above all else it’s a movie that attained near-instantaneous iconic status on its release. The film’s great achievement is its ease. You get the sense that Andrew Dominik didn’t make this movie as much as it simply flowed out of him, an anecdotal recount of a legend brought to his end by the toxic punch of hero worship and betrayal. The Assassination of Jesse James affixes intimate narrative to wide scope, as befits the commodious quality of the Western genre, and sets about getting to the promise of its name in as leisurely a fashion as possible. We know what’s coming, but the film is in no hurry to get there, and when the trigger is pulled minutes before the credits roll, the shot rings all the louder for it. - Andy Crump, Paste

Trivia:
Unlike most Westerns, the male characters don't wear Stetsons, but more period-appropriate derby and stovepipe hats. Jesse James wears a Homburg.

My Reflections:
As we were coming down to the final day, I was noting a couple of well regarded westerns that hadn’t receive a single vote. This was one of them… until the final 2 lists came in, then “Bippity Boppity Bob” Ford’s suddenly making the grade. And what a great movie to open the thread with.
« Last Edit: October 05, 2018, 02:34:33 AM by George-2.0 »


Offline George-2.0

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Re: LoC #112 -Top 50 Western Films
« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2018, 03:01:09 AM »
#50 – GODLESS
“This ain’t my death. I’ve seen my death; this ain’t it.” - Frank Griffin


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27 points on 2 of 13 lists - Highest Ranking: #5 (MartyS [Gromit])

Director: Scott Frank

Stars: Jack O'Connell, Michelle Dockery, Scoot McNairy, Merritt Wever, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Tantoo Cardinal, Kim Coates. Sam Waterston, Jeff Daniels

Subgenre: Outlaw Western Drama

Summary: A ruthless outlaw terrorizes the West in search of a former member of his gang, who’s found a new life in a quiet town populated only by women.

"Vistas and violence root Godless firmly in traditional Western territory, but its female-driven ensemble sets it apart in a male-dominated genre." - Rotten Tomatoes

"Every moment counts, making for an overall experience as to-the-point as Mary Agnes herself. Even when it appears to be taking some extra time for itself, "Godless" isn't wasting a second." - Ben Travers, IndieWire

Trivia:
The show uses a town La Belle (also known as LaBelle) an actual town that was located in Taos County, New Mexico, USA, around the turn of the 20th century.

My Reflections:
I recently caught this miniseries after Netflix offered me a free month streaming. Godless packed a wallop and -boosted by some top notch, Emmy winning acting- held me in thrall throughout it’s 7 hr run time.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2019, 10:49:58 AM by George-2.0 »


Offline George-2.0

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Re: LoC #112 -Top 50 Western Films
« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2018, 03:03:33 AM »
#49 - PALE RIDER
”And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the fourth beast said: "Come and see." And I looked, and behold a pale horse. And his name that sat on him was Death. [the Preacher rides up on his pale horse] …and Hell followed with him” - Megan Wheeler


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27 points on 3 of 13 lists - Highest Ranking: #8 (MartyS [Gromit])

Director: Clint Eastwood

Stars: Clint Eastwood, Michael Moriarty, Carrie Snodgress, Chris Penn, Richard Dysart, Sydney Penny, Richard Kiel

Subgenre: Revisionist Western

The first mainstream Western to be produced after the colossal critical and financial bust of 1980’s Heaven’s Gate wound up the most successful of its ilk for that decade. Director-star Clint Eastwood’s oater owes as much to Biblical scripture as to the 1953 classic Shane, following another Man with No Name, the enigmatic “Preacher” who helps defend a mining camp from a greedy interloper during the California Gold Rush. Of the title’s referencing the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Eastwood’s character is a supernatural entity lifted directly from the Book of Revelation, Death itself riding in on four legs from the Sierra Nevada—Eastwood called his clerical collar-wearing vigilante “an out-and-out ghost.” Pale Rider paints its not-so-mysterious parable of divine retribution in moody tableaux—sometimes heavenly, others more akin to a hellish, light-starved descent—and with Eastwood’s inimitable economy of dialogue. He’s not on screen here as much as in entries like The Outlaw Josey Wales and Unforgiven, but his avenging loner is felt at all times. Just like the Johnny Cash spiritual “The Man Comes Around,” Eastwood’s preacher man is never not around these parts. - Amanda Schurr, Paste

Trivia:
The first horse assigned to Richard Kiel collapsed the first time he climbed aboard. He was then assigned a stronger horse.


Offline George-2.0

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Re: LoC #112 -Top 50 Western Films
« Reply #4 on: October 04, 2018, 03:07:03 AM »
So that's a taste of what's to come.

I hope to work on write-ups and post a few more on Friday. Not sure about the weekend. Sat is usually my task day (then Svengoolie), Sunday my brother and I are seeing Venom and then catch the Seahawks game. But I’ll see if I can squeeze out a couple.

BTW: We will have a special guest on this LOC. I figure If Anais could invite her mom for her stellar Beatles list, that it would be okay to ask a letterboxd pal to contribute. His name is Travis and he's a good guy with great taste in film - and a fellow Western movie fan. If you'd like to follow him, this is his page... https://letterboxd.com/travis_c/  He could be lurking as we speak, so be on your best behavior. No spittin’, er cussin’ er carryin’ on with the dance hall girls. ;)



Offline MartyS (Gromit)

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Re: LoC #112 -Top 50 Western Films
« Reply #5 on: October 04, 2018, 07:44:24 AM »
Glad Godless made the list, it's amazing on many levels.  I've been a fan of Michelle Dockery since she played Susan in Hogfather.  Jeff Daniels character is nightmare inducing with his casual evilness, he certainly deserved the Emmy he won for it. 


Offline PsychoGoatee

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Re: LoC #112 -Top 50 Western Films
« Reply #6 on: October 04, 2018, 02:53:40 PM »
Cool, good to see the countdown, and good to see Clint show up already. I actually haven't seen that one, or a couple other big American ones of his.


Offline George-2.0

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Re: LoC #112 -Top 50 Western Films
« Reply #7 on: October 04, 2018, 03:48:52 PM »
Glad Godless made the list, it's amazing on many levels.  I've been a fan of Michelle Dockery since she played Susan in Hogfather.  Jeff Daniels character is nightmare inducing with his casual evilness, he certainly deserved the Emmy he won for it.

Yeah it was perfectly cast. and Daniels' character was an interesting mix of evil and at certain times, compassion.

As an aside... while Robert Ford received all its points on the last day of voting, Godless got its on the first.

I'd also seen each of these 3 entries in different ways: On DVD, Streaming and in the Theater (Pale Rider)


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Re: LoC #112 -Top 50 Western Films
« Reply #8 on: October 04, 2018, 03:51:55 PM »
Pale Rider was a bit lower on my list, but it still made it.  It's been a while since I've seen it, though, so maybe if it was fresher in my memory it would have been higher.


Offline MartyS (Gromit)

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Re: LoC #112 -Top 50 Western Films
« Reply #9 on: October 04, 2018, 09:40:06 PM »
Yeah it was perfectly cast. and Daniels' character was an interesting mix of evil and at certain times, compassion.

I haven't rewatched the entire thing but have rewatched several parts of it a few times, and I've come to think there was no compassion in him, he was pure evil.  Anything that seemed like compassion was either a means of control or a manifestation of his preacher delusion.  Make the sick people feel better before you slaughter them was just the part of the messed up value system he had in his head.


Offline George-2.0

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Re: LoC #112 -Top 50 Western Films
« Reply #10 on: October 04, 2018, 11:32:52 PM »
#48 – VERA CRUZ
”Ben Trane. I don't trust him. He likes people, and you can never count on a man like that.” - Joe Erin


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28 points on 2 of 13 lists - Highest Ranking: #7 (Charles Castle)

Director: Robert Aldrich

Stars: Gary Cooper, Burt Lancaster, Denise Darcel, Cesar Romero

Subgenre: Western set in Mexico

Despite informing the look and swagger of ‘The Magnificent Seven’, the scope and violence of ‘The Wild Bunch’ and the arch cynicism of Sergio Leone’s soupy Spaghettios, ‘Vera Cruz’ is not as well remembered as many of its contemporaries. Perhaps it has to do with the departure from traditional western themes. - Adam Lee Davies, Time Out

Highly influential on much of Sam Peckinpah’s work, specifically The Wild Bunch, and many of the Italian Westerns made the following decade, Robert Aldrich’s deeply cynical and pessimistic Vera Cruz is one of the most entertaining and complex of the classic American Westerns. Burt Lancaster—who worked with Aldrich on Apache and later on Ulzana’s Raid—and Gary Cooper play a bandit and a mercenary, respectively, who get involved in a little gunrunning, gold thievery and romance down Mexico way. There are multiple double-crosses between Lancaster and Cooper, and Aldrich keeps things lively while always twisting the tension further. Lancaster’s terrifying sociopathic smile doesn’t convince anyone he’s on the side of good, unlike Cooper’s stubborn insistence to remain pure above all the backstabbing … until he doesn’t any longer. Released in 1954, Vera Cruz eagerly shook off the uncomplicated romanticism that typified so much of the genre up to that point, and anticipated the bloody cinematic mayhem to come. - Derek Hill, Paste

Trivia:
For being made in the mid 1950s, this film has a quite fast cutting rate. In ninety minutes of action, it contains about one thousand one hundred thirty edits and other transitions. This equates to an average shot length of just under five seconds.

My Reflections:
Castle to the rescue! Once again Charles helps get a film on the LoC. His list might have been the last, but it wasn’t the least. As the only other voter for this under-seen gem (from Robert Aldrich, who’s best known for Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?), I was quite thrilled. Seriously, if you’re a fan of the type of Westerns mentioned above, I highly recommend this one.


Offline George-2.0

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Re: LoC #112 -Top 50 Western Films
« Reply #11 on: October 04, 2018, 11:33:56 PM »
#47 – NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
”What's the most you ever lost on a coin toss.” - Anton Chigurh


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29 points on 2 of 13 lists - Highest Ranking: #11 (Johnny Unusual)

Director: The Coen Brothers

Stars: Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Kelly Macdonald, Woody Harrelson, Garret Dillahunt, Tess Harper, Barry Corbin, Beth Grant

Subgenre: Contemporary Western

An American crime thriller film written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, based on Cormac McCarthy's 2005 novel of the same name. The film revisits the themes of fate, conscience, and circumstance that the Coen brothers had explored in the films Blood Simple (1984) and Fargo (1996). - Wiki

But is it a western? Neo, Contemporary, Gothic… or not at all. It’s been debated back and forth, and as wiki points out… even the directors have weighed in. Joel Coen found the film "interesting in a genre way; but it was also interesting to us because it subverts the genre expectations." He did not consider the film a western because "when we think about westerns we think about horses and six-guns, saloons and hitching posts." But co-director Ethan said that the film "is sort of a western," before adding "and sort of not."

Trivia:
In the novel, Sheriff Bell says of the dope-dealers, "Here a while back in San Antonio they shot and killed a federal judge." Cormac McCarthy set the story in 1980. In 1979, Federal Judge John Howland Wood was shot and killed in San Antonio by Texas free-lance contract killer Charles Harrelson, father of Woody Harrelson (Carson Wells).


Offline George-2.0

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Re: LoC #112 -Top 50 Western Films
« Reply #12 on: October 04, 2018, 11:34:58 PM »
#46 – THE GUNFIGHTER
”How come I've got to run into a squirt like you nearly every place I go these days?” - Jimmy Ringo


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30 points on 2 of 13 lists - Highest Ranking: #6 (Cole Stratton)

Director: Henry King

Stars: Gregory Peck, Helen Westcott, Milard Mitchell, Jean Parker, Karl Malden, Skip Homeier

Subgenre: Outlaw Western

If you’re a gunfighter, you schedule your life around shootouts in the wide-open streets of dusty old frontier towns. It’s what you do. But what happens when you leave that life and that life refuses to leave you? What do you do when you are the sum of your reputation, a target for the latest young quick drawin‘ upstart on the block to challenge, and nothing more? Well, you kill those young quick drawin‘ upstarts as they come at you, albeit with a healthy dose of reluctance. The Gunfighter is a doleful little ditty, quick, to the point, jam-packed with incident, and shaped by its tone as much as its action—plus Gregory Peck’s jawsome, bitter, remorseful leading performance. It’s Darwin’s kind of Western, a movie where the fastest survives but in which surviving and living don’t exactly line up with one another. - Andy Crump, Paste

Trivia:
Based on the life and exploits of an actual western gunslinger named John Ringo, a distant cousin of the outlaw Younger family. The real Ringo was a ruthless murderer and survivor of the infamous gunfight at the OK Corral, against (Dr.) John Holliday, Wyatt Earp and the Earp brothers. Also unlike the movie's account, the actual John Ringo--his real name--suffered a severe bout of melancholy following a visit to his family in California in July of 1882 and went on a monumental ten-day alcoholic binge, which climaxed when he sat down under an oak tree, drew his gun and used it to commit suicide.

My Reflections:
I rewatched this after seeing the title pop up on several “Best Of” lists. And while I didn’t add it to mine, it’s a goodie. Henry King was a workman-like director, who struck gold at least twice. With Tol’able David (one of my favorite silent features) and decades later with The Gunfighter.
« Last Edit: October 05, 2018, 02:06:38 AM by George-2.0 »


Offline George-2.0

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Re: LoC #112 -Top 50 Western Films
« Reply #13 on: October 04, 2018, 11:36:23 PM »
#45 – 7 MEN FROM NOW
”All that stands between me and 25 thousand dollars… is you” - Bill Masters to Ben Stride


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29 points on 2 of 13 lists - Highest Ranking: #9 (Fred Garvin)

Director: Budd Boetticher

Stars: Randolph Scott, Lee Marvin, Gail Russell, Stuart Whitman, Walter Reed

Subgenre: Traditional Western

If there’s one job you really wouldn’t want in the Old West, it was the driver of the Wells Fargo stage, its cargo of bullion and paper money so often a magnet for any dirty outlaw in the vicinity. Budd Boetticher casts Randolph Scott as Ben Stride, a melancholy ex-sheriff who’s taken to the prairie to administer lead-flavoured justice to the seven men responsible for his wife’s death during a bungled bank robbery.

On the way, he links up with a lovable couple doing the manifest destiny thing by heading to California and quickly becomes their de facto protector. For a film that barely clocks in at 80 minutes, Boetticher crams the material with ironies, ambiguities and moral conundrums. But the slow release of information and the tentative building of friendships (and enemies) mean that the stakes change minute by minute.

Lee Marvin delivers a stupendous, proto-Liberty Valance supporting turn as a man always open to taking advantage of a yeller-belly, and in one near-unwatchable scene, proceeds furtively to humiliate the husband with the aim of fleeing with the wife. Scott, of course, sees to it that he doesn’t. - David Jenkins, Time Out

Trivia:
John Wayne gave the female lead to Gail Russell, his co-star from Angel and the Badman (1947) and Wake of the Red Witch (1948). He did so despite being warned that she looked twenty years too old to play a character in her mid-twenties. Russell had not made a film in five years and had a serious drinking problem which would later end her life at the age of 36.
« Last Edit: October 15, 2018, 11:36:38 PM by George-2.0 »


Offline George-2.0

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Re: LoC #112 -Top 50 Western Films
« Reply #14 on: October 04, 2018, 11:41:14 PM »
#44 – RANGO
”No man can walk out of his own story.” - Spirit of the West


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30 points on 4 of 13 lists - Highest Ranking: #8 (CJones)

Director: Gore Verbinski

Stars: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy, Harry Dean Stanton, Ray Winstone, Timothy Olyphant, Ned Beatty, Beth Grant

Subgenre: Animated Comedy Neo-Western

Starring Johnny Depp as a neurotic pet chameleon who sets out into the unforgiving desert to discover his true meaning (just how can you stand out when your very biology asks that you blend in?), on paper Rango should be an average children’s film, but in actuality is a hilarious, charming and very Western adventure film that is dream Sunday night viewing. - Finlay Renwick, Esquire

Trivia:
During the scene in which Rango describes the Spirit of the West to the townspeople by drawing images in the sky with a smoldering stick, it is possible to spot the logo of American rock band KISS, Imperial Tie Fighters from Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), a shark fin, a dinosaur, and a "Kilroy was here" drawing for a brief moment.

My Reflections:
If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “Gee, I’d like to watch Chinatown, but with ugly animated animals instead. (and without the incest)” then this is the film for you! It’s a cute flick, with a neat blending of a plot from a classic modern Noir movie with Western stylings, conceits - and many Easter Eggs for fans of the genre.
« Last Edit: October 15, 2018, 11:06:56 PM by George-2.0 »