Steve J. Moore

More Westerns? Yes, Please.

In Film on August 6, 2008 at 11:55 am

I’m not sure at what point in my childhood that I decided Westerns were not for me. Perhaps it was somewhere between my taped-off-of-local-TV VHS copy of Back to the Future III and my friend’s mom watching Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman when I was over, but one can only be so sure of such obscure childhood details. What I do know is when I decided that Westers were amazing.

How could I have overlooked this genre of film for so long! Gunslingers were not just dueling, robbing banks, and flirting with lady bartenders for nothing. These epic, and sometimes tragic, heroes were a part of the American literary narrative in film and I’d let them go by the wayside because why? They had no spaceships? They had strange music? I can’t explain what I thought back then, but I can recount the movie that changed my mind:

That’s right.

Clint Eastwood had always represented the genre I didn’t understand and didn’t care for. When I saw him in Million Dollar Baby I thought, “wow this guy is good” and “why haven’t I seen more of him?” I set out on a mission to find Eastwood. Naturally, I have a slew of film buff friends to bother, so I sought out Ed who has a particularly sensitive sweet tooth for Westerns.

I was given the Über Deluxe Magnifico Director’s Cut Limited Collectors Edition (case pictured above) which I think contained some of Sergio Leone’s blood or something as well. With all the begrudging hope of a gold panning 49er, I jumped feet first into the saucy spaghetti western world.

Drunk on Ennio Morricone’s warped and wonderful scores, I arose from my state of shock as the tumbleweeds blew between my ears. My jaw was dropped and I clapped at the end of the movie even though I was watching it alone on my copmuter. How… how… can a Western be so incredible? How did I live before I’d seen this? It was a major revelation for me akin to… well there aren’t many revelations I’ve had as great as this (in terms of art and culture) but I can draw comparison to:

Beautiful. No one quite says it like xkcd. Now I can continue on knowing that you understand the true weight of my revelation.

Yes, Westerns had arrived, in the brain of Steve at least, and life was good. Next I watched Jeremiah Johnson , Unforgiven, and Once Upon a Time in the West. JJ was a suggestion from my father-in-law, and not technically a western per se, but certainly in a similar vein. Robert Redford plays a loner mountain man who catches bears and drifts, not my favorite movie, but an entertaining and manly frontier piece for sure.

Given my new Westernophile status, when I saw the preview for James Mangold’s 3:10 to Yuma starring Ben Foster, Russell Crow,  Christian Bale, and the great Peter Fonda, I simply could not refuse. I called up my movie fanatic cousin Kiel and said, we’re going to see this right now. It did not disappoint. I won’t ruin any of it for you, but let’s just say that Foster was sorely overlooked for Academy recognition in 2007 for his role as the insane villain, Charlie Prince. I highly, highly suggest that you see this film.

And now, we have Ed Harris directing the remake of Appaloosa starring the gruff-voiced Viggo Mortenson, the gruffer-looking Jeremy Irons, and the epiphetless Renée Zellweger. They’re even pulling the androidish Lance Henrikson out of storage for this one (were there flamethrowers in the Old West?). I think movie makers have been prodding the public timidly for the past few years to find what they want in new films. What hasn’t been done in this new generation? Westerns.

My hope is that, as I’ve seen the comic book film industry boom, we don’t see a few fantastic Westerb remakes of old classics and then thirty drag-me-behind-the-horse failed attempts hoping to break the bank and beat the Sherrif out of town.

That being said, do yourself a favor and go rent a Western.

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  1. Welcome to the club Steve, it’s about time. I have long loved Westerns, and Eastwood’s in particular. I will also recommend for you:

    1. Hang ’em High
    2. Pale Rider
    3. The Outlaw Josey Wales
    4. High Plains Drifter
    and of course: 5. Unforgiven

    Other great ones:
    1. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
    and if you haven’t seen
    2. Tombstone
    remedy that right away.

  2. Thanks Brian! I’ve been meaning to see Butch Cassidy for a while and High Plains Drifter, but your suggestions are now duly noted!

  3. You post way too much, amigo 🙂

    How do you find the time? Nice graph, cheesemonger.

    Anyway, I’d have to say that the Westerns are making a great comeback.

    My top five, in no particular order…

    1) Once Upon a Time in the West
    2) Unforgiven
    3) The Searchers – see immediately.
    4) Good, Bad, and the Ugly
    5) 3:10 to Yuma (2006)

    I also recommend McCabe and Mrs. Miller…Robert Altman’s style reinterprets the western in a very indie style. I love it.

  4. Also, OPEN RANGE is a must see.

    I’m glad you saw Jeremiah Johnson, which is one of my favorites. Sorry you didn’t necessarily enjoy it…might be worth watching a second time now that you now what to expect.

    What I find really interesting is to watch other genres of movies and note how and where the distinctives of the Western are used. I think of a movie like Bladerunner, for instance, which is essentially a space-western. Anywho…just something else to think about.

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