Monday, March 7, 2011

Joel McCrea Appreciation Day

Following what I wrote in my Touch of Evil post, Colorado Territory and Bad Day at Black Rock are both good examples of the Noir/Western cross-pollination that was fairly common in the 40s-50s. They're also both great, great movies. I suspect that I'll be agreeing with Brandon 9 times out of 10 as I continue down the 40s-50s path.

Colorado Territory is a thinly veiled High Sierra remake, which works even better as a Western. Bad Day at Black Rock is a contemporary Western that is too smart to be a message movie despite its powerful message. It's all about the delivery. Both movies made me think of Brandon's response to Ignatiy and his defense of classic "movie predestination.". Is it bad that I know Joel McCrea, the outlaw, has to die? Or that the drunk sheriff will find some sort of redemption?

Contrast these two films with two others that I've seen during the past week, Devil and The Adjustment Bureau. What's funny about both of these films is that they both, to different degrees, are about "free will." Yet they are both so ham-fistedly stupid that the outcome is inevitable, even if both have obligatory little twists. In these movies that insist on free will, the characters seem to act like they're the one-dimensional product of a bad screenwriter. As ironic as it may seem, the characters in the two above-mentioned Hays Code era films act like flesh and blood people, constantly surprising us afresh with their mixed motives and complex actions. Both Devil and Adjustment also feel the need to explicitly state their morals, while the older films are smart enough to let the audience do their own thinking.

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