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#198- Little Big Man

Quick recap: A 121 year old man recounts his various adventures growing up in the wild west.


Fun (?) fact: I’m sure there’s some really interesting stuff out there about this movie, but what stuck out most to me was that Dustin Hoffman is 78 years old. No one else seems to think anything of this, but I’m still trying to wrap my head around it.

I don't see him looking like this at 121, but you never know

I don’t see him looking like this at 121, but you never know

My thoughts: As with anything Native American related, it’s usually very difficult to pull off anything that isn’t completely offensive, so I didn’t have high hopes going into Little big Man. In fact, I had already planned some of the snark I would say on this post related to such insensitivity. Alas, that version won’t happen because I thought everyone did a really good job (impressive, even) with the subject matter, managing to create something hilarious and heartbreaking and giving me the motivation to learn more.

Little Big Man is mostly about Jack Crabb’s (played by Dustin Hoffman) relationship with the Cheyenne nation. As a child, his entire family was wiped out from the Pawnee tribe, except for him and his sister, and a member of the Cheyenne took him in. His sister ran away, but he stayed until he was a young adult and became an honorary brother. Sure, there were some questionable things like the manner of speech the Cheyenne had and their various traditions, but overall, they were seen in a very positive light. Crabb fights with white men at some point and once he is discovered as one of them, he is shipped off to a town to learn some religion. It’s from here that the movie begins to bounce back and forth. He goes through every Western cliche you can think of ( helper at a medicine show, gun fighter, helping a woman at a whorehouse, and so on), but that’s what made the movie funny. This is a tall tale, you see, and I never really got whether or not we are supposed to believe it ( think Big Fish), but it was very entertaining, nonetheless.

One of my reasons for liking this movie so much is the way Crabb always finds his way back to the Cheyenne. He is white, yet it is with these people that he connects with the most. There were several stereotypical characters, but they were portrayed with compassion, especially compared to the white people Crabb encountered elsewhere.  The scenes where Custer and his men tore through the villages killing women and children were very difficult to watch and it was shocking, compared to the lightheartedness of the rest of the movie. This movie was made in 1970, at the height of the Vietnam war so there were many parallels to what was going on in that part of the world at the time.

The movie isn’t perfect and my biggest annoyance was how Forrest Gumpy the plot felt at times. For example, Crabb meets up with Wild Bill during his gun fighter stage, and sees him accidentally kill a man. Seven years later, the two meet up again at a bar and out of nowhere, a kid comes in and shoots Wild Bill dead. It turns out the kid was the son of the man Bill killed earlier and Crabb just happened to be there when it all went down. I have nothing against Gumpy, but it got old after awhile knowing that some ironic thing was about to happen.

Final review: 4/5. For a long film, I didn’t get bored once

Up next: Orphans of the Storm

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