Author Topic: Westerns  (Read 15119 times)

Corndog

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Re: Westerns
« Reply #360 on: August 27, 2018, 01:32:34 PM »
High Noon (Fred Zinnemann, 1952)

Classics are the classics for a reason. Even in the face of unrealistic expectations, these films are the ones which are forever revered and yet somehow live up to those lofty expectations, they accomplish the impossible. It's one thing to be in on the ground floor of such a film, but it's quite another daunting task to have to go into the film knowing its reputation, knowing that you're supposed to love it. It's not an easy feeling, and often I feel when I'm in such a situation I'm overly critical, looking for anything and everything to discredit it. This isn't always the case, as I am a true film lover, looking for reasons to love something rather than hate it more often than not, but when faced with nowhere to go but down from such a pedestal, sometimes it's all too easy to be critical. All of this is just a roundabout way of saying that High Noon is a classic, one very worthy of its status.

Town Marshal Kane (Gary Cooper) is getting married to the young and beautiful Amy Fowler (Grace Kelly), with plans to retire and move along from a town he worked very hard to turn around from wild west town to a respectable, peaceful town where people could be proud to raise their families. But after their nuptials, it's learned that notorious outlaw Frank Miller, whom Kane put away as part of his clean-up, has just been released and is scheduled to arrive on the noon train, awaited by his posse (which includes our first look at Lee Van Cleef). Kane is compelled to stay and stand his ground against his nemesis, but struggles to find support from the mayor (Thomas Mitchell), his deputy (Lloyd Bridges), and the other townspeople. With the clock ticking down on his time as Marshal, Kane finds that time may also be ticking on his marriage and even his life.

There are certain elements in filmmaking that, when perfected, come across as nearly unnoticeable, and then there are the ones that stick out like a sore thumb, but instead of being sore, the thumb is actually covered in chocolate and I'm more than happy to lick that deliciousness up. Okay, so that was weird, my apologies. But what I'm trying to say is that Fred Zinnemann, his composer Dimitri Tiomkin, and his editor Elmo Williams have put together a film which should be taught in every film class for its use of percussive pacing, taut storytelling, and suspense and tension building because it's a master class in all respects. There is an impending doom, a palpable rhythm to this experience which makes it a truly remarkable journey. This film feels lightyears ahead of its time, especially within the genre. Something Leone surely borrowed from.

But that's not all, the cast is brilliant too, led by Gary Cooper, that up and down performer, that man whose deadpan delivery is either a fit or its not. In this case, it's a fit for Marshal Kane. He's exactly the type of wholesome and just Marshal you would expect to have cleaned up the town, exactly the type of man who would have the pride and courage to stick around to defend it one last time. He is the star, the central intrigue, but Gracy Kelly, Lloyd Bridges, and Katy Jurado also give good performances around Cooper as well. Even the town seems a notable star, as the narrative is so taut that it takes place entirely one morning in this town. The geography plays a role, and is masterfully handled by Zinnemann and company.

If I had one qualm with the film, it would be that the climax shootout is nowhere near as exciting as the lead up, and perhaps that's where the unrealistic expectations I opened this review talking about come into play. This film just builds so much tension and excitement by its character work and pacing, that when it comes time to see the actual shootout, it's like I expected the most masterfully filmed shootout in film history, but that's not what this film is, that's not where its strengths lie. It's a small film, one which feeds off the unknown, the tension. To release that tension is a little bit to let the air out of the room, which on the surface can appear disappointing, but it has to happen, it's the logical conclusion to the story. But High Noon is certainly much more about the lead up than the actual climax. That showdown at High Noon is a MacGuffin. That thing which everyone in the film is bracing for. But the film is really all about the leadup, and it's brilliant for it.

★★★★★ - Masterpiece
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1SO

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Re: Westerns
« Reply #361 on: August 27, 2018, 02:07:27 PM »
Since you’re doing a thorough Western marathon I want to get your opinion of Cooper asking the town for help. Did you notice what an unusual story choice it was? I say that because Howard Hawks and John Wayne despised it. Wayne would call High Noon "un-American.”  Howard Hawks went on the record saying, "I didn't think a good sheriff was going to go running around town like a chicken with his head cut off asking for help." Wayne and Hawks teamed up deliberately to rebut High Noon by telling a somewhat similar story their own way: portraying a hero who does not show fear or inner conflict and who never repudiates his commitment to public duty, while only allying himself with capable people, despite offers of help from many other characters.
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Teproc

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Re: Westerns
« Reply #362 on: August 27, 2018, 02:20:38 PM »
As much as I like Rio Bravo, knowing that it was made for that reason makes me uneasy, because it's such a ridiculous argument to me.

Also, isn't the subtext of High Noon about the blacklist ? Guy asks for help from everyone in his town, but can't get it ? Not overt obviously, but it somewhat works.

Corndog, I agree about the climax not being all that, but I guess we've been spoiled by spaghetti westerns in that regard. It seems to me that most classic westerns aren't that great at gunfights, but surely you have some counterexamples from this marathon ? The action in Stagecoach is pretty exciting, but I'm thinking specifically of O.K. Corral-type shootouts.
« Last Edit: August 27, 2018, 02:23:28 PM by Teproc »
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Corndog

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Re: Westerns
« Reply #363 on: August 27, 2018, 02:30:35 PM »
I hadn't really considered that to be honest. But since you posed the question, I suppose I'm fine with it. I don't find it selfish in any way, Kane is defending the town more than he is himself. Sure, Miller is after him for putting him away, but the implications if Miller comes out victorious is that he would run the town once more and drive it into the ground. This is more than just a personal spat where if Miller wins he moves along and the town stays the same. I don't find it unreasonable for him to ask the town to help defend itself. I think it is telling that he doesn't get much support since some people (notably the hotel owner) don't like the fact that its a clean town since his business isn't what it once was. It's an interesting social experiment to see who cares about "saving" the town and who doesn't. So many turn a blind eye with the philosophy that it's not their problem, why should they risk their neck, which had social implications in the 50s (Civil Rights movement), and still have implications today with current political climate. Who is willing to stick their neck out for someone else? Who is willing to see that what affects someone else might affect themselves?

Perhaps I'm digging too deep on this one, but totally disagree about the "un-American"ness of him not going it on his own. What, so being American is about being a loner, not about building a community, a safe place, isn't that what the Revolution was about? The Civil War? Being a "true American" to be is exactly about coming together to fight evil. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
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1SO

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Re: Westerns
« Reply #364 on: August 27, 2018, 05:00:08 PM »
It never stuck out to me either. John Wayne makes a certain type of Western and others do different things. Rancho Notorious has a more subversive feel to it, but I’m guessing Wayne wouldn’t even consider that type of horse opera. Perhaps his problem with Noon is that it has just enough of a John Wayne plot that it struck a nerve.

As for the politics, Gary Cooper was just as unbending a Conservative Republican as Wayne, but I think Cooper knew a good part when he read it while Wayne was more into the part being a good fit for his screen persona. Later on the genre produces Clint Eastwood, another uber-Republican. Yet I can’t imagine a more different type of Western hero from Wayne. Or Cooper.

I asked because my Western education was never chronological and I thought maybe in that context, High Noon stands out as a radical break from tradition.
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Corndog

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Re: Westerns
« Reply #365 on: August 28, 2018, 07:52:30 AM »
It really never struck me as odd, or different from past westerns, though as you point out it largely is. But I wonder whether that has to do with the way the story is written. It makes sense to me that he would ask the town for help for the reasons I previously stated, but also because they're there, why not ask them? What I mean by that is a lot of the Wayne westerns are not built around a community, he plays a loner character come to the rescue. There's not a whole, large group of people to call on to help, and I think that's a lot of the westerns to this point. An isolated wagon train, or stagecoach, an isolated outpost. They're telling different stories than High Noon. It's not that High Noon is telling the same story differently, so it might offend Wayne/Hawks, et al., but rather it's just telling a new story.
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Sam the Cinema Snob

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Re: Westerns
« Reply #366 on: August 28, 2018, 01:15:06 PM »
I don't really have a standard when it comes to screenshots. I typically don't think of a particular shot and seek it out. My process is as simple as doing a google search on the film with a large resolution and finding something that's presentable and not watermarked by Alamy Stock Photos.
I probably spend too much time looking for the ideal screenshots for my reviews.

smirnoff

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Re: Westerns
« Reply #367 on: August 28, 2018, 09:51:24 PM »
I don't really have a standard when it comes to screenshots. I typically don't think of a particular shot and seek it out. My process is as simple as doing a google search on the film with a large resolution and finding something that's presentable and not watermarked by Alamy Stock Photos.
I probably spend too much time looking for the ideal screenshots for my reviews.

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Corndog

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Re: Westerns
« Reply #368 on: August 29, 2018, 08:08:16 AM »
Corndog, I agree about the climax not being all that, but I guess we've been spoiled by spaghetti westerns in that regard. It seems to me that most classic westerns aren't that great at gunfights, but surely you have some counterexamples from this marathon ? The action in Stagecoach is pretty exciting, but I'm thinking specifically of O.K. Corral-type shootouts.

Just seeing this additional comment. There are certainly examples of a better executed shootout scene from previous installments in this marathon. I would point to both Devil's Doorway and The Plainsman off the top of my head.
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Corndog

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Re: Westerns
« Reply #369 on: December 06, 2018, 08:10:50 AM »
Another round up of backlogged reviews like I did yesterday for my football marathon. Since I was concentrating so much on that one, there aren't nearly as many to catchup on here. But this will also be on hold until about February as I catchup on 2018 movies in the meantime. And while I know I've been on this trail for a while now, proud of myself for having gotten to 80 titles thus far!

Son of Paleface (Frank Tashlin, 1952)
1SO asked if I was planning on keeping this title on my list after struggling to enjoy Bob Hope's brand of humor in the original The Paleface, but I guess I can report back that I am mildly happy that I stuck to it. While the majority of the movie is a rehashing of more of the same from both Hope and Russell, the addition of Roy Rogers to the cast and plot was a boon! I'm not sure whether these two stories are supposed to be directly connected, whether Hope's character is really Hope's son from the first? I certainly hope not with the inclusion of Russell's character. Overall the plot of the film seems silly and dumb (unsurprising), but I really have to say any time Roy Rogers was on screen I enjoyed it. He really elevates what is otherwise a pretty terrible movie. Unfortunately, he's not in it enough to make it a recommend.
★★ - Didn't Like It


The Big Sky (Howard Hawks, 1952)
Despite being a Howard Hawks film, and one which stars Kirk Douglas, I can't really remember much of anything notable about this one. I think it was fine, but obviously nothing noteworthy to report. I was generally put off by the racism of this one, which depicts the Blackfoots in a not so favorable light. Given the main outfit essentially kidnaps a female Blackfoot and forces her to be a bargaining chip for them to be able to infiltrate Blackfoot lands and trap/hunt. It's a very selfish and irresponsible plan looking back from 2018, but I'm sure at the time most people viewed it as the white man's right to go into their land for profit. I think generally the film is fine, but this aspect of the film really sunk it for me.
★★ - Didn't Like It


The Lusty Men (Nicholas Ray, 1952)
This was a very nice surprise overall. Not really a classic western, as it takes place in present day (1952) so far as I can tell, but it depicts the life of a once great rodeo man (Robert Mitchum) and his protege (Arthur Kennedy), who is looking to make a lot of money fast to buy a nice piece of land for him and his wife. It's a scathing narrative about the greed of man and features amazing performances all around by Mitchum, Kennedy and Susan Hayward. Great story, masterfully directed by Ray, incredible black and white cinematography. Probably remember it in an even more positive light than when I first saw it.
★★★★ - Loved It


Hangman's Knot (Roy Huggins, 1952)
*Googles what this movie was about*
Never a good sign when I remember literally nothing about this one. It's been a month since I watched it, but that's not that long ago to not remember it at all. Let's see...oh, okay, now I recall. Randolph Scott as a confederate soldier who robs a Union wagon of a bunch of gold just after the war has ended (they didn't know it had ended), then they end up holed up in a cabin surrounded by a bunch of greedy mercenaries. Not a bad idea overall for a film really. It has that exciting, enclosed space aspect to it, but I feel like it never really goes anywhere. I think the biggest problem I had with the film is how forgiving it is to the whole band of confederates. They never express that much regret for what they did, and they're generally bandits and yet the film basically celebrates them. The romance side story between Scott and Donna Reed doesn't work for me at all either. It seems way too much Stockholm syndrome for my liking and never once believed she would fall for him. It has some good qualities to it, but in general, more bad ones.
★★ - Didn't Like It


Calamity Jane (David Butler, 1953)
An exceedingly pleasant musical. That's the greatest compliment I can give this one. It'd be easy to sit here and criticize this for being way too sugar-coated and glossy when the real Calamity Jane, Bill Hikock, and Deadwood were really nasty people and a really nasty place. But this is meant for entertainment and not for a history lesson. Doris Day is fun. Howard Keel is fun. I don't know that there was really anything that stuck with me from this film, but I enjoyed the journey as it unfolded and often times that's more than enough to win me over and appreciate something as a good, solid, entertaining piece of filmmaking.
★★★ - Liked It
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