Monday, 3 December 2007

My Favourite Westerns

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In November 2007 I decided to explore western films, for a variety of reasons ranging from wanting to define what a spaghetti western was, to having a month to focus on a topic and post every day (see my original thoughts here). One thing that was interesting that I found was that I didn't not spend a lot of time researching other than watching the films, looking and commenting on trending and pouring though a lot of the 'trivia' notes on imdb. I can now say that a spaghetti western is one that is lower budget, higher violence and produced by Italian studios (see wikipedia western link here, and don't go to the spaghetti western link unless you've seen all or most of them). So there was my 'real' research for the month.

Overall I found I liked the majority of the films that I saw. The ones that hold a special place in my heart are those which had great characters. They were not always 'good' people, but they were always charismatic and highly skilled. Often they were stand up folk, and a consistent theme was that of protecting the innocent or 'regular' people and that will always win me over.

Other themes that thread through the films are stories of money and power. This often involves a whole town but can also be between just a few people. These films were sometimes good but on the whole were not a sure-fire win for me. And one notch down from that were the films that were so strong on the violence that it's almost the only thing I can remember about them.

So, after 30 days of pouring through a film genre that on the whole I would say has the longest films, from shoot outs to stand offs here is a list of my favourite, and not so favourite, westerns. So far. Giddy up.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
The Magnificent Seven
Seven Samurai / Shichinin no samurai
Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The
The Ox-Bow Incident

Once Upon A Time in the West
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
El Dorado
My Darling Clementine
A Fistful of Dollars

High Noon

Proposition, The
High Plains Drifter
Wild Bunch, The
The Outlaw Josey Wales

Dances with Wolves
The Searchers

Click here to see reviews by genre and here for more western reviews.


Suzie Ridler said...

I didn't see Pale Rider on that list. I'm not sure how much you would like that one Shannon. Seven Samurai is amazing! I think that's the one with "Siiffuuuuu!!!!" in it that gets so stuck in my head. Perhaps not. I remember liking it very much.

Westerns do make me nervous since it's always about lawlessness which scares me but they can have such a powerful message.

I think the spaghetti reference could also be that there are a lot of Italian actors playing Mexican roles but yes, they are definitely Italian-made.

Shannon the Movie Moxie said...

Hey Suzie!

It's been so long since I've seen Pale Rider that I'd have to see it again to be able to place it. I'd gander as 'enjoyed' though.

Seven Samurai rocked! And, I included a few subgenre films... as Seven Samurai is really a Samurai film, and Outland is space western... but I think they all fit the spirit of it.

Good call on the Italian actors! You are on to something there...

Anonymous said...

I am super impressed with your commitment. At some point, when more time permits, I'll have to do a marathon like this one.

Shannon the Movie Moxie said...

Thanks Marina! That means so much to me :) It's been quite the journey!

Jamie said...

First of all, that picture ROCKS!

I haven't seen a lot of westerns but I definitely know that the ones that appeal to me are character-driven.

I'm definitely going to check out your 'loved' list.

Shannon the Movie Moxie said...

Thank Jamie! That pic was thanks to a co-worker who graciously lets me continue to deplete donkey's lollipop supply!

José Sinclair said...

You really need to add (and see):

McCabe and Mrs. Miller - Robert Altman's atmospheric 'new age' western with Warren Beatty and Julie Christie

Open Range - Costner's best, better than 'Wolves' even, and one of Rob't Duvall's best also, who considers this along with Lonesome Dove and Broken Trail to be his "great western trilogy". Broken T is also good, but a 3 hr tv miniseries...

I'm sure you realize that Outland was based on High Noon... and For a Few Dollars More was based on Yojimbo?
..the Jman...

José Sinclair said...

The Searchers gets too much acclaim, was remade as "The Missing" by Ron Howard (and with Cate Blanchett!). I like John Ford's She Wore a Yellow Ribbon more, and that actually won a cinematography Oscar... te other part of that trilogy is Fort Apache (also the only b&w one).. Stagecoach hasn't aged very well either, slow, primitive looking...

was How the West Was Won on the list somewhere? Not great but super-widescreen (3 cameras?) and expensive, maybe the best buffalo stampede in film history - you can see 3-4 cameras get trampled...

Don't think I saw Lawrence Kasden's (author of Star Wars, dir of Big Chill, Body Heat) Silverado on your list either... worth a watch, with Costner, Danny Glover, others - very entertaining

very good recent western:
The Claim, I believe its Canadian, very good story about a mining claim, ownership, romance, etc, high in the Canadian rockies or maybe Montana

that's about all the westerns I know!
ps - Sergio Leone's best film by far is the 4-hr Once Upon a Time in America, with Robert De Niro, James Woods, even a young Jennifer Connally... make sure you don't get the short US version though!

José Sinclair said...

OMG, just thought of ONE more, and a great small indy film:
The Grey Fox, true story of the last train robber in North America, expertly played by Richard Farnsworth, a Philip Borsos film...

also: The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez, another true story, of a Mexican in Texas who b/c of a language barrier, had to flee and had about 500 Texas rangers chase him all over the Rio Grande... it's now a folk legend with songs about him and everything; first movie for James Edward Olmos (later el jefe onMiami Heat, the l.t.) - heck, I don't even see this one at Netflix yet! unreal, it's terrific, made Olmos a star.

If you're gonna include it as a Western, of course The Seven Samurai is the best one listed! The long battle in the 2nd half was ground-breaking...

I would also say Hidalgo is a western, certainly looks like one, and has a real cowboy in a long distance horse race! what else do ya need, and one of Viggo Mortensen's best performances...

José Sinclair said...

Here's my Westerns list at my site (I have every genre broken out), I have about 20-25:
World's Best Westerns

there are some more there that I haven't mentioned: Into the West, Comanche Moon, Heartland, The Three Burials of Malquiades Estrada, The Long Riders, The Man From Snowy Ridge

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