Author Topic: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons  (Read 15077 times)

Junior

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #20 on: November 21, 2015, 10:38:45 PM »
What I like so much about The Searchers comes down to two things (that I guess are really just one thing two ways). The first is Ford's direction. The guy is going all out here. I like many of his other movies as well, but I think this one might be the most technically brilliant one of them all. From the deep focus in many of the shots (even dark night shots!) to the fantastic action scenes and his ability to capture the beauty and barrenness of the Monument Valley, the guy is firing on all cylinders here.

But better than all of that is that he is doing it for very specific reasons. As I've said here before, The Searchers is the culmination of all of his pet themes, especially those of the necessity of community and the need for an outsider to keep the integrity of the community intact. It is the first element which speaks towards the non-Ethan stuff that happens in the film (though I can't point to specific examples because I haven't watched it super recently), and the latter speaks to the way that the film handles the Ethan character, which is admittedly strange.
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Sandy

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #21 on: November 22, 2015, 09:05:07 PM »
Excellent points, Junior. Yes on this! "the guy is firing on all cylinders here." :)


Quote
especially those of the necessity of community and the need for an outsider to keep the integrity of the community intact.

There is an essay waiting to be shared from this thesis statement. Has it been written yet, or would you like to write it sometime? :)
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Junior

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #22 on: November 22, 2015, 09:20:50 PM »
Yeah, there's an essay there. I know, because I stole it from an essay written by another student in my John Ford class.  8)
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Sandy

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #23 on: November 22, 2015, 10:29:16 PM »
 :D

Well, would you ask him if it's okay if I read it?
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Junior

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #24 on: November 22, 2015, 10:32:03 PM »
Yeah, I'd be happy to. Just need a flux capacitor and a long enough stretch of road.

But seriously, here's a rundown of it as far as I know

John Ford movies about community:
Judge Priest
Steamboat Round the Bend
Wee Willie Winkie
Young Mr. Lincoln
The Grapes of Wrath
How Green Was My Valley
They Were Expendable
My Darling Clementine
The Quiet Man
The Sun Shines Bright
The Searchers
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Now, look for the ones that have a big ol' dance scene. That's basically all of them. The town comes together to affirm their togetherness. This is subverted in stuff like My Darling Clementine and The Searchers when the heroes don't actually join the dance and in some cases stop it with their antics. But they're always working towards the dances happening because they want the town/fort/whatever to work, even if they can't or won't dance themselves.
« Last Edit: November 22, 2015, 10:41:41 PM by Junior »
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Sandy

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #25 on: November 22, 2015, 11:17:09 PM »
Haha! I'll meet you at the clock at 10:04 pm. :)


You can add Fort Apache to your list!

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x817u_fort-apache-officers-dance_news

You're right, the community dance is a big thing for him, isn't it? If I had an abundance of time, I'd love to make a montage of Ford's dance scenes. :) That idea of needing "an outsider to keep the integrity of the community intact" made me think of Shane, which could start a whole other list!
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DarkeningHumour

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #26 on: November 23, 2015, 04:50:50 AM »
I agree with the nice things Junior has said too (mostly). Except for the stealing part. Stealing is wrong kids, unless done at an institutional level by loophole-exploiting financial organisations. That or Robin Hood.

I maintain that the movie suffers from the character arcs though.
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Teproc

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #27 on: November 25, 2015, 05:35:33 PM »
Stagecoach (John Ford, 1939)



Adam & Sam's take (starts at 20:13)

I'm having a hard time finding things to say about this film. It has a very simple yet compelling premise : a disparate group of characters are stuck together in a stagecoach while Apache riders are roaming about, drama ensues. I like the economy of storytelling that Ford employs here : every character is quickly introduced, we get what their deal is, and we move on. He gets a little heavy-handed with the social conflict involving the hooker (with a heart of gold of course), but it works. And unlike in the Searchers, the comic relief mostly works, in part because there are darker undercurrents to it, with the drunken doctor, who seems to be drinking at least in part to avoid thinking about the way he was rejected by the town at the start, not to mention the threat of getting killed by Apache riders.  And of course John Wayne appears in his first starring role, and he's unsurprisingly good, instantly bringing a tenderness to his jailbird character.

The standout scene is clearly the scene where the stagecoach gets attacked. Gorgeous, impressive, exhilarating : a template for any action scene. In many ways, watching this film, I felt like I was watching the template for action movies in general, though I'm sure that's exaggerated and many of those conventions were already there.

I don't have anything to say against Stagecoach (aside from the music, which was pretty terrible and overused), and I did like it quite a bit, but I can't say I find it great either. I'm  not sure why, but there it is. Maybe it's the ending, where it becomes entirely John Wayne's movie, which... his character is great, but getting away from the eponymous confined space took some energy away. It feels a bit like an afterthought, though there is a pretty great moment just as the shooters see Wayne when they all walk in rythm. The shootout itself is a bit of a letdown after that.

7/10

Teproc

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #28 on: November 26, 2015, 10:15:37 PM »
My Darling Clementing (John Ford, 1946)



Adam & Sam's Take

The difficult transition between a wild, lawless world and civilized society : that theme is present in basically every western I've encountered, and there's a reason this isn't titled "Showdown at O.K. Corral" : Clementine, or rather what she represents is what's at stake here. We recognize the names Wyatt Earp and Tombstone, so we know where this is all going, but what makes this the best film of this marathon so far is how patient Ford is. He takes the time to have the town feel lived-in and for the characters to grow past their initial broad characterization.

The characters of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday are key in that they are both somewhere in between the Old West and the New West. Earp is a classic old West character on the surface, in that he's a gunslinger looking for revenge, but he does so within the boundaries of the law, and he always seems intent on defusing every situation. I strongly disagree with the FS guys on Henry Fonda : I think he's very good here at straddling that line. We get the sense that he longs for a quiet life, a more civilized life. The scene where he's swinging on the chair sums this all up rather amusingly, as do the jokes about his perfume. Adam notes that he doesn't think he's being sincere at the end when he tells Clementine he'll come back : I absolutely think he means it.

Doc is a bit of a mirror image to Earp. He is obviously educated, able to finish Hamlet's "To be or not to be" tirade, but he's clearly running away from society, displeased as he is to see Clementine show up, and seemingly making plans to run away to Mexico with his prostitute (I'm guessing) girlfriend. Once again I have to disagree with the FS guys, I thought Victor Mature was great, especially in that first confrontation with Fonda in the saloon. We immediately sense the melancholy of the character, even though he's at first set up as a clear adversary of Earp.

And then we get to O.K. Corral. I love the parallel drawn between Earp and the Clantons : both are seen leaving their quarters blowing on a oil lamp. I'm probably reading too much into it, but added to the rather prominent lamps in the saloon (the place of community), it seemed to me like another sign that the shootout is a thing of the past, something that has to be done one last time but doesn't belong in this new world. The shootout itself is pretty good, relatively tense though... it's hard for me to really love these, as I can't help but compare them to those in Sergio Leone's films. Unfair, I know, but there you have it.

Now, I do have to agree with Adam & Sam with regards to the narrative problems of the film. The conflict between Earp and the Clantons is set up immediately, then forgotten until it becomes necessary to bring it up again to get to the conclusion.

8/10

Teproc

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #29 on: November 28, 2015, 09:14:26 PM »
Rio Bravo (Howard Hawks, 1959)



Adam & Sam's take (starts at 6:51)

Rio Bravo is the longest of the films featured in this marathon so far, yet it is also the slightest. There's no thematic depth, no exploration of the western town as a place where wilderness and civilization clash, no clear attempt to shed a new light on the human condition... and yet it is my favorite, at this point.

I think the scene pictured above, where our heroes are just talking and singing songs while waiting for the final showdown, is the epitome of what makes the film work. There's a warmth there that makes you wish you were in there with them. It's the western version of a hangout sitcom (like Friends or HIMYM), and I like those. Wayne is very good as the proud sheriff, obviously, but I also liked Dean Martin a lot as the recovering alcoholic "Dude". Dude's relationship with Wayne's Chance is very well done, understated but warm. Ricky Nelson on the other hand, looks a bit out of place, though Hawks wisely keeps his screentime to a minimum.

I'm still trying to figure out that romance between Wayne and Angie Dickinson. She's obviously way too young, but she plays her character with such charisma and confidence that it mostly works... mostly. Clearly Hawks/Wayne must think it unmanly to say "I love you" because the final scene between those two has her practically begging him to say it, and then taking a "I don't want you to expose your legs in public" as an acceptable replacement, which... it really shouldn't be.

I just realized I haven't said anything about the opening scene yet. It's a great silent sequence that serves as an in medias res introduction, very quickly establishes the main characters (and some of their conflicts, such as Dude's alcoholism) and effectively sets off the plot. Up there with the one in Once Upon a Time in the West as far as openers go. Well, maybe not quite that good, but close. Speaking of Leone, Hawks also uses music very well here, with the menacing "El Deguello" theme used by the bad guys.

8/10, would be 8.5 if I did half-rankings.
« Last Edit: December 04, 2015, 09:44:05 AM by Teproc »