Couple Weeks’ of Westerns

I think I fell into a tailspin of rewatching—and watching for the first time, in some cases—Westerns over August because of a couple of things, that happened right close to each other: I read Joe R. Lansdale’s Paradise Sky, which was and is amazing, and I rented Forsaken, which is also really, really good.

Anyway, instead of trying to thumbnail-review each, I’ll put covers of what of them I can remember below, here. The two standouts for me are The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and the original 3:10 to Yuma—but this reminds me: the real reason I guess I watched these. It was research. I needed to know a lot about John Wayne movies, for a big thing I was writing (done with now). So I watched way too many John Waynes. Can’t remember them all, quite. What I found? I still so, so hate The Searchers. How can a movie that ends with just riding through an Indian encampment and plugging Indians be at the core of American pop culture?

He said ironically.

And, Shane. It’s kind of good innocent fun—do I remember correctly that it was the first movie to use wires to simulate the effects of gunshots?—but what’s especially revealing to me, it’s the dynamic between the free-range, ‘old’/original ranchers and the homesteaders. We’re of course supposed to side with the homesteaders, as they’re wholesome and underdogs and have cute kids and nice dinners and all that. But, those old ranchers, who are resorting to underhanded ways to keep their ranges unfenced? In a landscape without Indians, they’re the Indians. So, watching Shane, the movie’s telling me my loyalties are in one place, and my heart’s telling me to tear down those stupid fences, and pull some Scar tactics: lure these homesteaders out into the empty, such that they don’t come back.

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And, it hadn’t been that long since I’d watched both Young Guns—I keep them handy—and the Dollars-ones are in my head pretty good as well, and I just watched Tombstone not long ago as well. I didn’t rewatch High Noon, though, and I think I should have. Should have gone back through Unforgiven as well. And I couldn’t find Winchester ’73. And I don’t consider Dances with Wolves. End of that sentence. I haven’t seen They Call Me Trinity in about forever, either. Hardly remember anything about it, except it had some chuckles.

I should say too: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly—whoah. Been better than twenty years since I’d cued this one up. Still amazing. However, Once Upon a Time in the West? I really dig both Henry Fonda’s cool outfit and his tall horse, but otherwise this one . . . it’s kind of like how sometimes when you read Pynchon, you feel like Pynchon’s doing Pynchon? That’s what this feels like: lot of style, lot of cool set-pieces, but not much at the center of the story, finally.

And, always and forever in love Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, of course. However, the first time I watched it, I don’t think I’d seen the Ocean’s 11 remake yet—meaning, I never knew that the movie it was actually remaking was Goldman’s. It’s the obvious formula, that every once in a while works: get the two prettiest male actors, who can also actually act, and pair them up. Newman and Redford. Clooney and Pitt. Chocolate and peanut butter, right? Really, I’m surprised Clooney and Pitt haven’t been lured into a remake of BC&SK already. I mean, 3:10 got redone. Grails can be touched, it turns out—which reminds me where this Westerns nosedive maybe really also started: I caught a trailer for Magnificent Seven, and figured I’d better watch the original, right quick, so I don’t go into the theater all uncultured.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure those above aren’t all I watched—I was coming home from all my libraries with stacks of DVDs every day (already a couple I forgot to put up there: Blackthorn, The Timber)—but these are the ones I remember, anyway. Kind of makes me want to write a western, really. I mean, I know I can’t do a Lonesome Dove, but I could maybe do a Shalako.

Oh, and the project I was doing all this research for: Memorial Ride. More on that someday, I hope. And: this is the end of this, for now. Not inhaling every Western (“western?” I don’t even know the proper conventions) I can for the time being. Back to horror. Last night I mainlined two—They Look Like People (solid—verymuch Clean, Shaven) and The Boy (a domestic Phantom of the Opera)—and am ready for The Darling and They’re Watching and all the other ones I missed while touring frontiertown. Really excited for Fender Bender and Lake Nowhere. And the Shock Waves and Chewing the Scenery podcasts are keeping my to-watch queue pretty full as well. Luckily I just wrapped a horror novella I had due and a deadline story, so, for a few days, maybe even a whole entire complete week, it’s whatever I want to do (not counting class starting, of course). Which, I think that’s going to be Bad Moms and Hell or High Water, then, finally, please: Don’t Breathe. Been so waiting for that one.

However, really? I’ll likely just end up Netflixing Deadfall some more. For a few years now, that’s been a movie I can turn on at any time, and all the time, and be completely happy. It’s my new Switchback, I guess. Is it just because it’s got Kris in it? Quite possibly that’s exactly it, yes.

  • JesseLawrence

    Tombstone will probably forever be my favorite western. Yet, Young Guns, that first one, it’s right there, too, and in some ways surpasses the others: that peyote scene. Hollywood would never have a scene like that these days. Too European. Not fast enough. And from what I recall, Appaloosa (sp?) was good, too.

    • Stephen Graham Jones

      yeah, Appaloosa was fun. had forgot that one. also, one of my most favorite of all westerns? it happens in Australia. Quigley Down Under. but, Tombstone, man. I remember going to see that Christmas day in Midland, Texas. one of the best theater experiences I’ve ever had—right up there with Twister (on the biggest screen in Texas) and Saw III (just a great crowd) and Grindhouse on opening night at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, where our cups were special-made to match the cups on-screen. guess I’d put Cabin in the Woods up there too, since Drew Goddard and a lot of the cast were there. got to see Psycho in 35mm recently too, which was about excellent.

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