Author Topic: Once Upon a March in the West - 2019  (Read 15286 times)

Antares

  • Godfather
  • *****
  • Posts: 5011
Re: Once Upon a March in the West - 2019
« Reply #20 on: March 04, 2019, 08:30:58 PM »
A Fistful of Dollars (1964) 74/100 - I do find it difficult going into watching this film, without comparing it to Kurosawa's Yojimbo. But this time, I made an effort to view it with a clean slate, as if I'd never seen that film. But as hard as I tried, I just couldn’t do it. At this juncture in their respected careers, the two directors are very far apart in level of artistry. There are moments where Leone shows signs of the brilliance that would come to the forefront, in the next few years. But here, the screenplay kind of just plods along, and it does come across as a pale version of Kurosawa’s seminal film. One scene that really doesn’t work is the cemetery scene. All these bullets are flying through the air, yet the two soldiers just “sit” there calmly, as if nothing is going on around them. At what point does either side realize they’ve been duped by Joe? But on the other side of the coin, the scene with the exchange of Marisol and the Baxter’s son, plays out more tragically in Leone’s film, while Kurosawa played the similar scene comically in Yojimbo. When you get down to it, it’s a great place to begin the ascension of the spaghetti western over the next few years. And Leone will set the bar higher and higher, with each successive release. I did find myself, raising my review by a few points over at Criticker.
Masterpiece (100-91) | Classic (90-80) | Entertaining (79-69) | Mediocre (68-58) | Cinemuck (57-21) | Crap (20-0)

1SO

  • FAB
  • Objectively Awesome
  • ******
  • Posts: 36099
  • Marathon Man
Re: Once Upon a March in the West - 2019
« Reply #21 on: March 04, 2019, 08:49:23 PM »
The Naked Spur (Anthony Mann, 1953)
★★ - Didn't Like It
This is interesting because most people love The Naked Spur, putting it up there with Winchester or even above it. That's why I watched it twice, because it's my least favorite Mann/Stewart western. I love how it starts, the way Mann uses the geography and the small cast. (I think it's just the 5 people, with not even any background.) Just, like you said, it falls flat, and I lose all interest in it about halfway through.


here’s to hoping their next installment is much improved.
Curious now because The Far Country is often cited as the worst of the bunch, but I like it. It has problems which I won't get into beforehand, but it also has Walter Brennan.

1SO

  • FAB
  • Objectively Awesome
  • ******
  • Posts: 36099
  • Marathon Man
Re: Once Upon a March in the West - 2019
« Reply #22 on: March 04, 2019, 08:59:14 PM »
Antares, I'm with you on Fistful, except that I first watched it BEFORE Yojimbo, and it was the Kurosawa film that took some time for me to appreciate on its own. (I now prefer it.) Overall there's a lot here that's just limping along, but those moments of Leone are amazing and along with the score make the viewing ultimately worth it, if just barely.




Do you know about A Genius, Two Partners and a Dupe (1975)? Leone directed the opening scene, which is basically a really long set up to a Leone-style punchline.
« Last Edit: March 04, 2019, 09:30:18 PM by 1SO »

1SO

  • FAB
  • Objectively Awesome
  • ******
  • Posts: 36099
  • Marathon Man
Re: Once Upon a March in the West - 2019
« Reply #23 on: March 04, 2019, 10:12:58 PM »

South of St. Louis (1949)

Because I've seen most (all) of the best-known Westerns, I'm looking in a lot of strange corners for recommendations. For balance, I also have a lot of Joel McCrea films to see. (According to ICM, I have more McCrea westerns unseen than seen.) With these films, I expect a more square, hopefully rootin'-tootin' adventure. I chose this one in particular because it features Alan Hale (The Adv. of Robin Hood) as a saloon owner. He's great, always ready with an unscripted look or whistle whenever the dialogue is done.

This also is now on HD, with beautiful 3-strip Technicolor, which emphasizes the bold costume design. Saloon gal Alexis Smith wears a dress that looks like oil, all black with greenish shimmers when the light catches it right. The clothes are a highlight because Smith is not interesting.


Pictured... A Blonde

This got me thinking that while I usually like Alexis Smith, I can't think of a signature role that only she could do well. Not entirely her fault, the whole film is pretty lousy, except for Hale. It's a lot like those Universal quickie Westerns I try to avoid but can't because they often star Audie Murphy or Walter Brennan. (This one comes from Warner Bros.) Like those films, this is short but feels very long. There are the expected shoot-outs and betrayals and a final blast of bullets, but much like the three friends who all wear a tiny bell on their spurs, what's unique does nothing to raise up the entertainment.
RATING: ★ ★

Corndog

  • Objectively Awesome
  • ******
  • Posts: 17025
  • Oo-da-lolly, Oo-da-lolly, golly what a day!
    • Corndog Chats
Re: Once Upon a March in the West - 2019
« Reply #24 on: March 05, 2019, 07:29:09 AM »
at least not in the print I saw on TCM, which I assumed would have the best existing print of the film.

Actually, with TCM, the opposite end of the spectrum tends to be true. A lot of times, they're using old, faded prints, instead of pristine remasterings.

Really? That's pretty disappointing. I have a few more recordings lined up, perhaps I should seek out the DVD/Blu instead.

The Naked Spur (Anthony Mann, 1953)
★★ - Didn't Like It
This is interesting because most people love The Naked Spur, putting it up there with Winchester or even above it. That's why I watched it twice, because it's my least favorite Mann/Stewart western. I love how it starts, the way Mann uses the geography and the small cast. (I think it's just the 5 people, with not even any background.) Just, like you said, it falls flat, and I lose all interest in it about halfway through.


here’s to hoping their next installment is much improved.
Curious now because The Far Country is often cited as the worst of the bunch, but I like it. It has problems which I won't get into beforehand, but it also has Walter Brennan.


I noticed on Letterboxd that you were basically the only other one that didn't really like it. I'll be curious about The Far Country then too to see just how much our tastes align.
"Time is the speed at which the past decays."

Corndog

  • Objectively Awesome
  • ******
  • Posts: 17025
  • Oo-da-lolly, Oo-da-lolly, golly what a day!
    • Corndog Chats
Re: Once Upon a March in the West - 2019
« Reply #25 on: March 05, 2019, 11:54:52 AM »
Shane (George Stevens, 1953)

I knew only three things about Shane before watching it. 1) The ending of the film is discussed in The Negotiator, a film I haven’t seen for a while but for some reason always remember the Shane reference. 2) There is a meme from the kid in Shane where he looks shocked and the meme reads “God Almighty”. And 3) It is held as a classic western. It doesn’t usually get mentioned in the same breath as Stagecoach, The Searchers, or The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, but it is definitely mentioned as a second tier western classic. So I was obviously curious to behold the film myself and see how all the dots connected. While I enjoyed the film for what it was, I would stop short of including it in any “classic” list. Perhaps it was just a hit during its time.

Shane (Alan Ladd) is a weary gunslinger who happens through the farmland of Joe Starrett (Van Heflin). Initially met with trepidation from Starrett, Shane soon finds a home with Joe and his family (Jean Arthur, Brandon De Wilde). But the more Shane finds solace in hanging up his gun for the simple farm life, the more he comes to realize the tensions in the area between Joe, the other farmers and Ryker a rancher who wants to gobble up all the farmland for his cattle. Ryker is aggressive in his actions, calling in enforcers (Jack Palance, Ben Johnson) to help him get his way. Shane eventually realizes that Starrett and the other farmers need his expertise more than he needs to let it go.

Right off the bat the first thing I want to mention is how beautiful a film Shane is, visually. I was able to watch a pristine Bluray version of the film, and it was definitely a wonderful example of how beautiful you can make a western film; certainly a strength of the film. As for the story, the screenplay is rather sharp as well, exploring what it means to move on from your past life, or rather the inability to escape it. I also appreciated a great deal how the film handles the hero worship of Joey, the Starrett’s son. He finds Shane to be a fascinating character, and much more admirable and interesting than his father.

While that aspect of the story is very strong and fun to explore, the child performance from Brandon De Wilde is rather grating. I can’t imagine how many times Shane is addressed by name in the film, mostly by Joey, but also by all the other characters. We get it, his name is Shane, though I suppose that is part of putting his character up on a pedestal. De Wilde, who somehow managed an Oscar nod for the performance, is the worst kind of child performance: overdone and obviously performing. There is nothing natural about what he puts on screen.

But as I said, the story is certainly strong, and grew on me quite a bit. I think I was on the fence about most of it all the way up to the ultimate climax of the film, where it finally won me over. While I certainly disagree with much of the sentiment of the farmers (why they wouldn’t just move away) I can also appreciate their heart and steadfastness. I’ve mentioned the hero worship here, and I think seeing Joey look up so much to Shane, while mostly ignoring the real hero, his father, is a little disappointing. I guess Shane had to “move on” for him to finally realize it. And I’m not sure how I feel about the ending. Does he die at the end or just ride off? The ambiguity is intentional I’m sure.

★★★ - Liked It
"Time is the speed at which the past decays."

1SO

  • FAB
  • Objectively Awesome
  • ******
  • Posts: 36099
  • Marathon Man
Re: Once Upon a March in the West - 2019
« Reply #26 on: March 05, 2019, 03:23:01 PM »
It is held as a classic western. It doesn’t usually get mentioned in the same breath as Stagecoach, The Searchers, or The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, but it is definitely mentioned as a second tier western classic. So I was obviously curious to behold the film myself and see how all the dots connected. While I enjoyed the film for what it was, I would stop short of including it in any “classic” list. Perhaps it was just a hit during its time.
You've probably noticed at this point there are two types of Western Classics. Filmmakers like John Ford and stars like John Wayne live and work in this genre all the time, establishing the norms and sometimes tweaking the formula. You haven't seen George Stevens since 1935's Annie Oakley and will only see him again with Giant. Those two films are dramas set in the west, while Shane is a more traditional Western. So, Stevens as seen as an outsider, like Fred Zinnemann with High Noon. Stevens doesn't work here, but instead comes in with his big budget and big Hollywood scope, which draws more attention because it's not like the John Ford or Howard Hawks or Sergio Leone movies that have a familiar feel.

While that aspect of the story is very strong and fun to explore, the child performance from Brandon De Wilde is rather grating.
Some of his scenes are also pretty good, but once you notice how often he says "Shane" it hurts the film. By the end it's laughable.
Also, did you notice how Shane rides into town and Joey follows on foot, yet Joey manages to arrive before the shoot out. How fast was that kid going?

And I’m not sure how I feel about the ending. Does he die at the end or just ride off? The ambiguity is intentional I’m sure.
Which way are you leaning? When I was young, I was certain he was alive. Now I'm just as certain he's dead.

Corndog

  • Objectively Awesome
  • ******
  • Posts: 17025
  • Oo-da-lolly, Oo-da-lolly, golly what a day!
    • Corndog Chats
Re: Once Upon a March in the West - 2019
« Reply #27 on: March 05, 2019, 03:43:23 PM »
Also, did you notice how Shane rides into town and Joey follows on foot, yet Joey manages to arrive before the shoot out. How fast was that kid going?

I just kept thinking why is this kid trailing along with Shane all the time and the parents aren't freaking out!? Like, shouldn't they know where he is at all times during a fued like this? It happens a couple times throughout the movie!


Which way are you leaning? When I was young, I was certain he was alive. Now I'm just as certain he's dead.

I feel compromised because had I known nothing about the film, I think my natural reaction would have been that he's alive. The "slump" isn't actually very slumpy, so I don't know that I would have picked up on that. But with all the discussion I've seen/heard/read, I'd definitely vote that he dies. It's better for the story that way too.
"Time is the speed at which the past decays."

Antares

  • Godfather
  • *****
  • Posts: 5011
Re: Once Upon a March in the West - 2019
« Reply #28 on: March 05, 2019, 03:43:54 PM »
And I’m not sure how I feel about the ending. Does he die at the end or just ride off? The ambiguity is intentional I’m sure.
Which way are you leaning? When I was young, I was certain he was alive. Now I'm just as certain he's dead.

I've always tilted towards Shane's fatality at the end. He has the discussion with Ryker about both their time, being at an end, as they're both anachronistic in the evolving west of the future. He rides off because he knows his wound is mortal, and he doesn't want Joey to witness his final moments. And IIRC, the final shot is of Shane, with the brim of his hat, shrouding his face, as he climbs over the pass in the mountains. Almost like Stevens' is conveying Shane's leaving mortal Earth and passing into the unknown. I don't know, just my take on it.
Masterpiece (100-91) | Classic (90-80) | Entertaining (79-69) | Mediocre (68-58) | Cinemuck (57-21) | Crap (20-0)

Antares

  • Godfather
  • *****
  • Posts: 5011
Re: Once Upon a March in the West - 2019
« Reply #29 on: March 05, 2019, 03:46:24 PM »
For a Few Dollars More (1965) 77/100 – I’ve always felt that this was a worthy sequel to Leone’s first outing A Fistful of Dollars. But whereas, that film was “adapted” from an outstanding screenplay by Akira Kurosawa, Leone’s first attempt has troubles with pacing and some murky plot lines. A few changes here and there and it probably would be considered a bonafide classic of the Spaghetti western genre. But what holds it back is its length, which could have easily come in at less than 1:50 minutes. A better choice to play the villain, as Volonte is almost cartoonish at times. I can understand why he wasn’t around again, for the next Leone outing. A few less double-crosses, and finally, the ridiculous theme of Indio and the marijuana cigarettes, which kind of got annoying when repeated for the umpteenth time. So that’s about all the complaining I’ll do because when it shines, it radiates. Lee Van Cleef steals every scene when his character is onscreen. I firmly believe that if he had played the main Baxter role in Fistful, that film would have been better. He just exudes badassery in every glance, smirk or motion. And you can almost sense that Eastwood sees this, and will emulate a lot of what Van Cleef does in this film, on the next one, when they are paired up again. Morricone’s score is once again, every bit as important as any of the characters. It’s fluid, and when the need arises, subtle in its conveyance of the atmosphere and mood of the story. One thing I did notice this time, which I never noticed in my previous viewings, was one mistake Leone made in the screenplay, concerning the El Paso bank robbery. When Mortimer uses the acid to open the safe, and opens the heavy safe door, Leone goes in for a close up of the contents. If you look closely, most of the paper cash is Confederate notes, which would be worthless eventually. There’s no time frame associated to any of the story, so I can’t understand why Leone chose to do this. There’s no mention of the American Civil War in the plot, so it seems out of place in the screenplay.
Masterpiece (100-91) | Classic (90-80) | Entertaining (79-69) | Mediocre (68-58) | Cinemuck (57-21) | Crap (20-0)