#305- Man of the West

Quick recap: Gary Cooper plays former outlaw, Link, who must go back to his wild west gang when his train leaves him and two other passengers behind.

probably thinking about why he keeps getting thrown into roles he is too old to play

Fun (?) fact: Gary Cooper was 10 years older than Lee J. Cobb, who played his surrogate father, Dock Tobin.

And these two were supposed to be the same age, according to characters in the movie

My thoughts: As you have probably picked up on, Gary Cooper’s age was an issue for me in Man of the West. Now, before I get into my spiel, I just want to go on record and say that I am not ageist. There are plenty of  actors who have played meaningful roles, if not some of the best roles of their career when they were in their 50s and 60s. Gary Cooper did a fine job in this film, in fact. But the role shouldn’t have been given to him. And it really wasn’t his to begin with, looking at trivia. Jimmy stewart was originally cast but he had a falling out with the director and seeing as how there were literally only two men in Hollywood at the time, Cooper was chosen. I don’t know, maybe this is Gary Cooper’s thing, being in a role meant for a much younger man. He did the same thing in Sergeant York, but that was mostly because the real Sergeant York insisted on him. A few years after Man of the West Cooper would be dead so maybe he wanted one last role. I don’t know, but it really took away from the impact of the film, seeing him fit into something not meant for him.

Story wise, Man of the West was no better or worse than other Westerns I have seen. It was darker than I expected, especially that rape scene at the end.  A lot of innocent people died and in the end, good triumphed, so no surprises there. What did surprise me was that I thought I was going to see a buddy movie, from the synopsis I read. The singer Billie and the Gambler Sam were Link’s companions when he was stranded by the train. I thought the three of them would become best pals and fight the bad guys together, but that’s not at all what happened. As soon as Link introduced him to his old gang, Sam was told to dig a grave and Billie was told to strip. Zero fun was had by all. I really did like the role of Link, despite his age. Cooper added a lot of depth to the character and there was this melancholy mood of his that really resonated with me. I’m glad there was a happy ending, but with almost everyone dead, I don’t know how happy it really was.

Final review: 3/5

Up next: Forrest. Forrest Gump

#298- Once Upon a Time in the West

Quick recap: A mysterious harmonica player seeks revenge for the death of his brother and also protects a widow who has lost the only family she has ever known.

Henry Fonda as Frank

Fun (?) fact: When Henry Fonda was chosen as the bad guy, he arrived in Italy with dark contacts and a mustache. Director Sergio Leone made him get rid of the costume because he wanted the audience to recognize his blue eyes and be shocked Fonda was a bad guy.

Some of the scenes in this movie were some of the most beautiful I’ve experienced so far

My thoughts: Once Upon a Time in the West is a Western, but it’s on a different level of Western than our American versions. Think of Shane like Caillou and Once Upon a Time in the West as Game of Thrones. That’s actually a perfect analogy because that’s about as much as I hated Shane.

Sergio Leone directed this movie as well as The Good, the bad and the Ugly, so I knew what I was getting into, but still, this movie seems much darker. In one of the first scenes, bad guy Frank shoots an entire family, including a young boy. I thought Frank might take the boy in or something or at least let him fend for himself until someone discovered the massacre, but nope. The following scene as the widow looks at each body of her family was incredibly hard to watch. I’m not sure what I imagine when I think of the Old West (mainly because I don’t think about it too often) but it’s something darker than Rio Bravo but not as dark as this.

It’s difficult to put into words what I loved about this film because everything just fit together so well. It’s a masterpiece. The music is perfect and as I’ve mentioned above, the scenery is beyond amazing. Sergio Leone captured the desolation of the West in a way no one else has. The only thing I didn’t love was the plot. It was too complicated for what I’m used to for a Western. At the end of the day, Frank was a bad guy but also just a henchman for the powerful and rich. It’s a great metaphor for today but I guess I was wanting something a little more simple. Still, it’s an essential film. At the very least, watch the first 15 minutes or so as the bad guys wait for the train. You just can’t get better filmmaking than that.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. You better believe there will be plenty of Simpsons GIFS for that review.

 

#296- Blazing Saddles

Quick recap: A politician is out to destroy a western town so that he can take over their land. He sends them the scariest thing he can think of- a  black guy.

Biden always knew how to cheer Obama up

Fun (?) fact: At the end of the movie, when the crowd pours out of the studio lot, a random guy in a sweater can be seen just standing there. He wasn’t supposed to be in the movie but director Mel Brooks couldn’t get him to leave. He finally gave up, gave the  man waivers to sign and let him stay.

and there’s Trump and Bannon. god, this movie is more topical than I realized

My thoughts: You know what kinds of movies I hate reviewing? Classics. And do you know what is even worse than a classic movie? A comedy classic, which Blazing Saddles definitely is. Add to that the untimely death of Gene Wilder and you’ve got the perfect combination of a film I wouldn’t touch with a 10 foot pole.

So, since I went ahead and lowered expectations for this review accordingly, I can freely say that I didn’t think Blazing Saddles was all that funny. I’m not really sure why. I sound so old saying this but I just don’t think vulgarity for the sake of vulgarity is all that funny. There’s that one scene when Hedley gets so excited he starts humping a statue and I’m sure people fell out of their seats when they saw that, but it just didn’t do anything for me. Trying not to sound to much like a school marm, I will say that the dialogue was snappy and there were some silly moments that made me smile. Not laugh,mind you, but smile. Also, Gene Wilder was wonderful.

I think some of my hesitation from this movie comes from all the racist stuff. I know it’s supposed to be satire but that’s kind of become a big deal again lately and seeing a bunch of white people hating a black guy just wasn’t the humor I wanted. It hit too close to home. It’s not like I can look at those scenes and laugh and think, ‘oh those silly people back then in the west. They were so backwards!’ because that’s literally what’s going on in this country right now. Not everyone, of course, but enough that watching Blazing Saddles just made me uncomfortable. That’s certainly not Mel Brook’s fault and if anything, I applaud him for thinking that we’d be able to watch this movie in 2017 and look at how silly everyone was.

Final review: 3/5. Sorry

Up next: A Night at the Opera

#247- Rio Bravo

Quick recap: John Wayne plays Sheriff Chance, in charge of a small town that has been taken over by the Burdette brothers. The only people who can help him are a disabled guy, a recovering alcoholic and worst of all- a woman.

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Fun (?) fact: The set was built 7/8 scale so the characters could seem ‘larger than life’

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To celebrate his 18th birthday, John Wayne bought Ricky Nelson a pile of manure and then threw him into it, because that’s his thing?

My thoughts: I’m still not a huge fan of John Wayne, but boy was this a lot of fun to watch. It’s a Western that you don’t really have to think through. They even made the good guys wear white hats and the bad ones black ones! How much easier can you get? I guess maybe naming John Wayne’s character Goody McGood but that’s really unnecessary. Hilarious, but unnecessary.

There isn’t anything that stands out about Rio Bravo, which is maybe why I liked it so much. It’s not boring at all, which is saying something since the run time is almost 2 1/2 hours.It’s also not just an action movie from beginning to end. There was plenty of time to get to know the characters, of whom I especially liked Dude, played by Dean Martin. None of them were overly complicated or anything, because as mentioned before, all you need to know is who is bad and who is good. John Wayne was the star, but I think I liked his character the least. He was more good natured than Red River and definitely less murdery, so that was nice, but he was just some older guy doing his job. He seemed to genuinely care about Dude and Stumpy, but in a fatherly way, not like friendship.

Which is what makes the love story REALLY not work for me. At the time of filming, John Wayne was 51 while his love interest, played by Angie Dickinson was 26. It’s not that she looks all that young, but that John Wayne looked so old. If there is ever a time in your life that you need to think of something unsexy, might I suggest John Wayne making out? That’ll do that trick, guaranteed. The couple of songs also seemed out of place but considering Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson were cast, I guess they had to throw a bone to the audience.

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That’s one way to flirt? I guess?

Final review: 4/5. A badass female lead would’ve been nice but this was still a great movie

Up next: Possibly The Jerk