Friday, 2 November 2007

Westerns - why did I pick them for November and what are they?

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So, let's get to the skinny of it, why did I pick westerns for November. There are a few things that have sparked my interest in them recently. First was finally getting to see The Good, The Bad and the Ugly of my 101 Films list. I was flabbergasted by the quality of the film. I enjoyed it so much that I watched it twice in two days - and it's 3 hours long! Second, at the TIFF 07 screening of SUKIYAKI WESTERN DJANGO my friend Danette asked me what a spaghetti western was, and my moment of pondering nothingness led me to realize, I had no idea what a spaghetti western even was. Those two things together got the pot stirring that westerns could be a fun thing to explore and then it cemented all together when I saw the Tanner Adams short The Bullet during the Toronto After Dark Film Festival 07, where the genre is capture with such beautiful simplicity in a mere 11 minutes. If I needed any more convincing it could easily be done with the subtle resurgence of westerns, we have already seen a minimum of two released in 2007 with 3:10 to Yuma and Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

So the question is, what are they all about? I am going to give my first and very newbie impressions today, and throughout the month discover how close these impressions are to the western. I bet it's even likely that I'll end up with a favourites list by the end of it.

The Good
Characters. They can be a surly bunch but at least they have attitude and make things happen! There is usually a good character and numerous bad, but usually they are the bad you love to hate.
Story. Whether the story is simple or complicated it is always interesting, often a tale 'against all odds' and who doesn't like those?
Atmosphere. Be it the sound, setting, costumes or all three, a very distinctive feel is created to bring you to another time and place

The Bad
Violence. Not my favourite thing by any means, however it tends to an essential element to the genre. Now, I like a good action movie and watch a surprizing about of horror films, but on the whole I have a low interest for anything over the top violent.
Women do not tend to fair well. Usually the roles of women in westerns are limited to prostitutes, an occasional wife and very seldom a barkeep. Often there is violence or the threat of violence against them.

The Ugly
Length. They are freaking long. 2 I've seen recently were pushing 3 hours, and that is quite the time investment. Not that it isn't worth it but wowza, that is a lot of time.
Sub-genre galore! This is necessarily an ugly thing but it might make the journey a little foggy, considering that films can split into subgenres like: spaghetti, comedy, space and more
Meanness. Tales of revenge, depictions of racism, crime and all around selfish behaviour

One other thing to mention why they don't tend to fly on my radar: Americana. With notable exceptions such as The Proposition, they tend to be set in the States. Being Canadian myself, I don't feel an affinity to that.

Those are my impressions on the onset, I wonder what will change come Nov 30/07.


Sacred Suzie said...

Excellent points Shannon and you're right, the threat of violence against women is always there and there have been some movies I actually refused to watch as a result of that. I made quite a scene over a Clint Eastwood movie one night which didn't go over well. Now we look up movies ahead of time if R hasn't already seen them as a result.

I would leave the more-recent "Unforgiven" at the end of your western marathon, I personally think it would be a good finale for many reasons. Of course you don't have to! It's just a suggestion.

Shannon the Movie Moxie said...

Unforgiven is a great film! I think it won't make it on my posts this month because I will reviewing only films I've seen for the first time.

However, I'm considering doing a Favorite Westerns list, either myself or as something people can contribute to... still deciding on that.

Sacred Suzie said...

So you're seen it! Did you know it's considered the opposite of a traditional western? Now that you're really delving into the genre it'll be interesting to see what you think of it.

I'd love to hear about your favourite westerns. Would you consider Cat Baolou a western I wonder?

Jamie said...

What a great post. I love the way you divided your thoughts on the Western into the Good, the Bad and the Ugly! It will be so interesting to explore Westerns with you this month!

Jamie said...

Oh, and awesome pic!

Shannon the Movie Moxie said...

Thanks for the comments ladies! I thought putting The Good, The Bad and the Ugly together really worked for this month!

Suzie, Cat Ballou is listed as a western on imdb, so that is good enough for me! I've not seen that one, I wonder if I can sneak it in!

Sacred Suzie said...

I hope so Shannon, that's a classic!

I agree with Jamie, fabulous way to organize your reasons for doing this. I loved that too!

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