And no, Cowboys & Aliens can't count.
Real men don't wear shoes with tassels
Chivalry is not dead as long as one man is willing to respect women.
Founding member: Chicago South Side Mobsters
I tell it like it used to be.
Good article. As I've stated here before, Liberty Valance is my favorite western, so I was happy to see it get such a big writeup.
The western myth simply no longer speaks to young Americans. Today's popular films are nearly all based on science fiction, comics superheroes, fantasy, and modern-weapon action with cops and soliders. I think it reflects the zeitgeist having moved away from the mythic American Frontier to a more technology-based mindset. It's hard to believe now that there were something like thirty western TV series running at once in the late fifties, the days of just three networks... But that was when the winning of the west wasn't even a hundred years in the past. Now, it's so far in the past as to be nearly incomprehensible (especially if you don't live in the west and have a sense of the landscape and history) and it's lost its resonance, especially to the young.
My own college-student kids, who I've successfully shown virtually everything from silent two-reelers to heavy Ingmar Bergman films, have no interest in or patience for westerns. They grudgingly admit that films like The Searchers and High Noon are important for their influence, but don't like them. They made me turn off The Magnificent Seven halfway through! Even a more modern film that's about the mythmaking itself - The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (which I think is brilliant, if a bit too long and draggy in the second act) - left them cold.
Yes, it's a sad time for one of the great, truly American art forms...
Last edited by Doctor Strange; 05-16-2012 at 12:10 PM.
Sad to say but true. The commentary sums it up quite nicely and neatly. But why have we become so averse to that kind of "frontier justice" he hints at it but doesn't nail it. To harken back to those stories of violence and revenge is dangerous for there are many here that view such tales with lust and envy. Here in America we are only a razor's width removed in time from the days of posse's, lynch mobs, vigilante violence armed mobs roaming the streets and may be returning to those times if truth be told. Indeed, if recent news stories and events are to be believed we are regressing in this regard as a good portion of America arms itself to the teeth over fears real and imagined. In vast portions of the south and southwest grown men are no longer playing dress up but pursuing perceived threats and issuing "frontier justice" and are often widely praised when they do.
No, I may be sad for the demise of Western but I do not long for a return to the days of sudden death by the whim of needlessly scared or the offended. No thanks.
Movie aliens are easy, convenient enemies. They’re not real (as far as we know). Nobody has to like them. No one has an excuse being offended by anything done to them. Today’s special effects technology naturally lends itself to making them look menacingly convincing on screen.
Movies such as the new release of Battleship allow many different people on this planet to come together to battle a completely different enemy that we can line up against together and fight. Indepenence Day was another of these titles. With the world fracturing as it is these days, this is one of Hollywood's 'feel good' tactics.
Westerns don’t need any of this technology. Although not an alien movie, I knew something was horribly amiss when the Will Smith version of Wild Wild West (1999) was released. What a mess that was. Modern technology was used to bring ‘era-appropriate’ steampunk to larger than life ‘reality.’ That movie was a huge slap in the face to the traditional Western.
I haven’t seen Cowboys and Aliens. I’m afraid of what it has done to further erode the traditional Western.
Last edited by scottyrocks; 05-16-2012 at 08:46 AM.
'There is a fine line between art and fondling.'
I think some concepts have always been with us. The only difference is that the imagery has changed and the concept has been rebranded. What used to be called "frontier justice" is now known as "street justice."
"I'm playing all the right notes but not necessarily in the right order."
...Eric Morecambe, OBE
I had always considered Independence day, Cowboys and Aliens, Aliens, and all of the Star Wars movies as Westerns. Good guy, Bad guys, good guy wins and rides off into the sunset (usually with the girl). Remember that great Western Rustlers' Rhapsody where the hero is required to be "a confident heterosexual", and couldn't just ride off anymore.
Groucho Marx said it best:
“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying all the wrong remedies.”
Looking at it that way, then many cops-n-robbers movies could be considered Westerns, too. I think a Western has to take place in the American West within a certain period of time, say from post-civil war through the early part of the 20th century, although these parameters are not absolute. The costumes are cowboy-like, at the very least.
Take two movies such as High Noon and Bad Day at Black Rock. Both place the protagonists in small Western towns, into positions where they have to fend for themselves with most of he people around them either against them or afraid to stand up to the antagonist(s). High Noon is a Western. Is Bad Day a Western? It's contemporary for its time. The hero is not a Westerner. It doesn't have many of the trappings of a Western, other than its location. It could have taken place in any small drinkwater anywhere in the country.
High Noon has all the trappings. The location, the characters, the time period. I feel all these are necessary for a film to be a proper Western.
'There is a fine line between art and fondling.'
To my wife's chagrin, I'm a huge Western fan (to her credit, however, she's not enamored by "chick flicks").
The latest Western I watched was 3:10 to Yuma, with the updated True Grit just prior to that. I find many of the more modern Westerns beset by violence, although in truth the West just before and after the Civil War was a violent place. I really liked the new interpretation of True Grit, but I also revere the original with the Duke.
In years past, I enjoyed Tombstone and even Dances with Wolves. I loved the banter and colloquialisms in
The Long Riders. I have not seen Cowboys and Aliens, that just doesn't compute with me as a Western.
In the long run, while I enjoyed some of the newer films, the older ones with Wayne, Stewart, etc. to me are just unbeatable. I believe like the article's author, that unfortunately the genre is on it's way out.
You can have my girl, but don't touch my hat!
I personally prefer my westerns to be different and free of the cliched trappings of the 1950s-60s great white (and unusually clean) hero saving the day. "Deadwood" and "Dead Man" spring to mind.