Saturday, December 4, 2010

West of the Stream

Yesterday morning, I was up really early and watched Broken Arrow, which I already wrote about. After cooking breakfast for the girls, I went back upstairs and watched Henry King's The Gunfighter, starring Gregory Peck. It's a really good little film that doesn't seem to get the attention it deserves. If any of your friends are considering the gunfighter lifestyle, have them check out this film first. Yes, that was a joke, but this examination of celebrity and power and the younger generation gunning down the older one is applicable to more than the not-so-often-chosen career of gunfighter.

Last night, I worked an afternoon into overnight into this morning shift sitting with a guy at Wilson Hispital. Wilson has wireless. I have an iPod with a Netflix app. I understand that my criticisms of Watch Instantly are seeming weaker every day.

I watched The Searchers and The River of No Return. I can't say anything about The Searchers that hasn't already been said better. The Searchers is one of those few films that everyone has seen whether or not they've actually seen it. Like Casablanca or Gone With the Wind or a select few dozen other films, The Searchers is part of American identity at this point.

So let's talk about The River of No Return.

The film stars Robert Mitchum and Marilyn Monroe and is directed by Otto Preminger. If that's not enough to get you excited about a picture, then I don't know what is.

The narrative situation is pretty straightforward. A father picks up his young son that he hasn't seen since the boy was a baby. The mother is dead now. The father, played by Mitchum, has just been released from prison. They try to make an honest life as farmers. Monroe plays a barroom singer trying to make good with a no-good card shark by filing a gold claim that the gambler has won in a shady card game. They all end up on the river of no return! I won't go into any further detail except to say that everything plays out just as you'd expect it to; except that it always does so in a way smarter than average.

Love is a traveller on the river of no return!

After getting out of work this morning, I made it to a 10:15am matinee showing of The Warrior's Way.
Ever since I saw the trailer for this film a couple of weeks ago, I've been excited about it like I've been for no other film since Jonah Hex. And we all know how that one worked out for me. [Related: check out Dennis Cozallio's defense of Jonah Hex]

The Warrior's Way was everything I was hoping it would be and more. I was immediately reminded of the America of Lars Von Trier's Dogville and Dear Wendy (he wrote the script). Imagine those films as re-written and directed by the Terry Gilliam of Time Bandits and Baron Von Munchausen. Then filter that mix through a Sergio Leone matrix of operatic violence and shake it all together with some Wachowski Brothers sensibilities. I'm sure there are Asian influences that I'm totally missing, but I'm mostly ignorant of the martial arts genre and Korean and Hong Kong cinema as a whole.

There is a lot of violence in the film. The violence seems necessary to the over-the-top nature of this cartoonish abstraction of a story. Which is of course to say that the violence is completely unnecessary. Warrior's Way shares in some of the same explorations of lives consumed by violence that The Gunfighter does. If Warrior's Way lacks The Gunfighter's maturity and understanding, it makes up for it with ridiculous ninja vs. cowboy shoot 'em ups, slice 'em ups.

When I got home, I watched Son of Paleface with the girls. Son of Paleface is twice as silly as Paleface. I really like it and a few moments are much better than Paleface, but on the whole I think I prefer Paleface to Son of Paleface. The dentist jokes beat the Harvard jokes. Still, Son of Paleface delivers lots of fun.

Broken Arrow. The Gunfighter. The Searchers. The River of No Return. The Warrior's Way. Son of Paleface.

Wow, I love Westerns.

Less than 3 weeks now until True Grit!

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