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Bloviating Zeppelin: Favorite Westerns

Bloviating Zeppelin

(in-ep-toc'-ra-cy) - a system of government where the least capable to lead are elected by the least capable of producing, and where the members of society least likely to sustain themselves or succeed, are rewarded with goods and services paid for by the confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of producers.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Favorite Westerns

Yes, I know today is Easter; I'll let you all celebrate and honor as you will. In the meantime my mind wandered (as it is wont to do on occasion) and I recalled Ranando making a post about the film "The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford," which was a very good, detailed but moody character study on the topic.

And that brought me to a question: what were MY favorite Westerns? Perhaps not my "ultimate pedestal" Westerns forced on me by opinion, but the ones I like to watch over and over -- that's my benchmark. In no particular order but only as they come to mind:




1. The Long Riders
Made in 1980, the movie featured the brothers Carradine, Keach, Quaid and Guesteach. There is something remarkably alluring about this Walter Hill film. It never seems to lose its fascination for me. I could watch this DVD weekly and find something eloquent about its presence.




2. The Wild Bunch
How classic can it be? The quintessential Sam Peckinpah movie, with slo-mo and all. Despite that distracting tool, TWB (1969) featured prototypical performances by, primarily, William Holden. Who'd'a thunk WH pigeonholed as a Bad Guy? Few, then. Plus stellar performances by Warren Oates, Ernest Borgnine (already saddled by alcohol, as was Holden), Robert Ryan and Edmond O'Brien. Classic western filmmaking!




3. Unforgiven
Eastwood made hordes of fabulous Westerns. Hell, it could be said that his entire career was proffered on the back of Westerns. This film, in my opinion, supercedes them all but not necessarily by design. A culmination of every film aspect he'd yet learned to date, Unforgiven simply shines in its darkness. Somehow Eastwood, in the guise of William Munny, seems to focus and focus and focus. It is spare and dense and thin and sparse and evocative and beautiful and ugly.




4. The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean
This 1972 film featured Paul Newman as the Judge His Own Se'f. I cried at the demise of the Watch Bear. I absolutely loved Stacy Keach's albino Bad Bob. Ava Gardner was classic as Lily Langtry. Heavy sigh.




5. Jeremiah Johnson
Am I stuck in 1972? Or is it co-inky-dink? This was the benchmark film that clearly pushed Robert Redford over the Liberal Top. He connected with the land and, because he could, purchased thousands and thousands of acres for his future Sundance Ranch. Hell, he snaked away hundred of acres for a couple of thousand dollars. Despite that, JJ is the quintessential Mountain Man film, despite the film itself called The Mountain Men (Charleton Heston and Brian Keith). I find this film watchable again and again. Simply good film-making and captivating story-telling.


6. Tombstone
Kurt Russell was a far distant second choice for Wyatt Earp. And, in my opinion, this film kicks the living ass out of Costner's Wyatt Earp. In 1993, director George Cosmatos had a striking film in his mind. And with Powers Booth, Val Kilmer, Bill Paxton and Sam Elliott; it doesn't get any better than that. Russell is the better Wyatt, plain and simple. And any western without Sam Elliott is, well, pretty much diminished.

There are, of course, many others:

  • Little Big Man;
  • Wyatt Earp;
  • Silverado;
  • Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid;
  • Dances With Wolves;
  • The Outlaw Josey Wales;
  • Stagecoach (original);
  • Open Range;
  • Hombre;
  • Lonesome Dove (series);
And even more. Plus this: you can be guaranteed that any western film containing Sam Elliott will be excellent, to include "The Quick and the Dead," "The Desperate Trail" and "Conagher." Certainly Mr. Elliott has made more, but I particularly enjoy his starring roles. An aside: I can't write that of other actors known for westerns such as John Wayne or Clint Eastwood; yes, Sam Elliott is an actor that quintessentially good.

What are YOUR favorite Westerns?


BZ

9 Comments:

Blogger Ranando said...

These are all great but you left out the Greatest....

The Magnificen Seven (1960)
Yul Brynner
Eli Wallach
Steve McQueen
Charles Bronson
Robert Vaughn
James Coburn
Brad Dexter

Sun Mar 23, 01:22:00 PM PDT  
Blogger TexasFred said...

Our lists pretty much match up BZ, and of course I loved anything with John Wayne...

Tombstone was awesome, I went to see it in the theater, didn't wait for it to come out in stores but bought it as soon as it did, didn't like Costner's version at all...

Sun Mar 23, 03:52:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Dave Murray said...

Winchester 1873. Jimmy Stewart, Dan Duryea, Shelly Winters, Will Geer as Wyatt Earp for crying out loud.

Gunplay, bad guys that get exponentially worse as the movie progresses and a rivalry that also ripens as it is exposed.

Thanks, Ranando, for the shortstop regarding the Magnificent Seven which is a tribute to Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai.

Sun Mar 23, 04:27:00 PM PDT  
Blogger A Jacksonian said...

Definitely a lot of the faves:

1) Unforgiven
2) Magnificent Seven
3) Pale Rider
4) Stagecoach
5) High Noon
6) Treasure of the Sierra Madre
7) The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
8) Tombstone
9) The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
10) The Gold Rush

Very tempting to put Blazing Saddles in 10th, but Chaplin gives us the ordinary man's view turned slapstick... plus if you are really hungry, would you eat your own boot? As the Tramp misplaced, there is nothing of the high mindedness about him, no matter what his final end is.

Yes the 'Spaghetti Western' actually did keep the genre alive and working well... hard not to pack High Plains Drifter in there, but Pale Rider is so similar, you can't just put them both in. But TGTBTU, is a must for the sheer forcefullness of it... and its brutal outlook. Somehow one pictures the west a bit differently with this film, and reminds us of how passions run.

The line of films from The Seven Samurai was undiminished, although shortened, for M7 and it remains one of the better transitions of the theme to this day.

Stagecoach I loved as a child and still remember warmly, if sketchily...

How can one leave out High Noon? Impossible, really, for its classic scenes and the dread silence as High Noon approaches... Sean Connery's space remake in Outland is excellent, and it was brilliant casting a tough woman as the doctor in that.

Then there is Bogart and the Treasure... mmmmmm.... gold dust... drifting, drifting... so much for so little.

Tombstone, for me, is one of the best of the modern 'group flicks', and Val Kilmer does an outstanding role for once, as Doc Holliday.

TMWSLV is, perhaps, the first US coda of the western genre before the Italian films... a highly moral tale, and one that is surprising for its twists.

That puts Eastwood as the culminating spirit of the western in cinema, to date, taking the brutality, morality, and homage to the spiritual in Unforgiven. A poignant and deeply moving film, re-echoing so much that was done before and yet making it so very plain, so very human... no matter the age, the spirit of the west will not die. And comes at life... Unforgiven.

Sun Mar 23, 05:39:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Bloviating Zeppelin said...

You know, Ranando, I was THIS far from including that one, and I shoulda -- I have that and its sequels.

TF: yup, in my opinion (and evidently your!) Tombstone was simply the better film, yet it had production and time problems.

Dave: clearly I need some spooling up because, "guilty," I don't think I've ever seen "Winchester 73." However, that DOES make me want to go visit the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose again. See, I knew everyone would come up with great films that I'd forget -- one of the hazards of making a post like this! Drat!

AJ: I'm with you also, I'd have to put "Pale Rider" ahead. And "Treasure of the Sierra Madre" -- dang, another CLASSIC that had escaped me!

Val Kilmer was THE cinematic Doc Holliday, period.

BZ

Sun Mar 23, 06:49:00 PM PDT  
Blogger shoprat said...

I don't generally enjoy westerns but I do like Unforgiven and some of Clint Eastwood's work and some of John Wayne's. Sadly most great Westerns were made before I was even born. I just love the Western spoofs staring Terrence Hill and Bud Spencer They Call Me Trinity and it's sequels.

Sun Mar 23, 07:23:00 PM PDT  
Blogger cary said...

Being late to this party, I can't add anything to these fine lists.

I sure wouldn't sell any copies of these movies at a garage sale, that's for sure.

And you hit the Sam factor spot on.

Mon Mar 24, 11:12:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Just John said...

I'm hard pressed to come up with any others that outshine those already mentioned. I would certainly have to include The Shootist though; the irony of it being Wayne's last film about a retiring (and dying) gunfighter is just too damned good.

Mon Mar 24, 03:12:00 PM PDT  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

There are many...

but ones I'd like to mention are

Shane
I have a soft spot for this one. I also enjoyed Pale Rider, which is a kind of reincarnation of the story, with a spiritual/ghost-like twist to it.

Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Horse Soldiers, because it's what I remembered as a child, making me want to wear a cub scout uniform and pretend like I was a cavalry soldier.

High Noon. Simply a classic.

Thanks, Ranando, for the shortstop regarding the Magnificent Seven which is a tribute to Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai.

Which, in turn, was inspired by westerns. Fistful of Dollars was also based on Yojimbo.

Unforgiven was brilliant.

Suddenly, I find myself yearning for the return of great westerns.

Tue Mar 25, 11:05:00 PM PDT  

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