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Once Upon a Time at BOT: Top 50 Westerns Countdown TOP 5 REVEAL TODAY

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Number 9

 

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"Oh no, don't do that, don't do that. If you shoot him, you'll just make him mad."

 

The anti-racist classic 'Blazing Saddles,' the race-class narrative, and how to beat Trump in 2020

By Ian Reifowitz

 

"My friend Rich throws a holiday party every December, and has for many years now. This year, a bunch of us were talking about movies, and the conversation turned to ones from our childhood that we might not show our kids because values have changed—for the better—in ways that rendered certain films no longer appropriate. Someone mentioned Blazing Saddles. That’s when I jumped in (I wrote a post about this movie in 2008, although today I’m going in a different direction). Wait a minute, I said. That movie contains one of the most powerful anti-racist messages of any in Hollywood history. The racist slurs you hear aren’t thrown around for their entertainment value, but to mark behavior as racist so that, when the harm that racism causes is ultimately punished, the viewers—who are also laughing their behinds off—fully understand the power of the storyline. Blazing Saddles still resonates and works now because, in today’s terminology, it “punched up.”

 

Directed by Mel Brooks, the movie is set in the Old West—1874, to be exact, and the protagonist is a black man named Bart, played by Cleavon Little. He starts out as a railroad worker, and the movie depicts the brutality of his bosses as well as their racism. When Bart fights back against this abuse, striking the foreman, he ends up sentenced to hang. Just before his execution, however, the movie’s chief villain, the corrupt state Attorney General Hedley Lamarr, decides to use Bart to carry out a complex scheme to commit grand larceny. Because of quicksand (which almost killed Bart, thanks to his boss), the route of the planned railroad has to be shifted to run through the town of Rock Ridge. This would drive the value of that land through the roof. Lamarr figures a way to drive the town’s residents out and buy up the land dirt cheap. How, you might ask? Use his power, and that of the dim bulb governor who is his puppet to appoint Bart the new sheriff of Rock Ridge (the previous one was killed after the town was sacked by hooligans Lamarr had sent in an initial attempt to get the townspeople to abandon their land). Lamarr assumes that the all-white population of Rock Ridge—the people who Sheriff Bart’s racially progressive white deputy Jim (played by Gene Wilder) memorably characterized as: “simple farmers … people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know … morons”—will be so offended by the notion of living under a black sheriff that they will give up and leave.

 

At first it looks like that’s exactly how it will play out. The corrupt rich guys win by using the fear of and revulsion toward black power felt by the townspeople to oppress the little guys of every race, while vacuuming up all the money for themselves. In the end, however, Bart discovers Lamarr’s plot and comes up with a brilliant plan to defeat the bad guy and save the town. However, the only way it can work is if the white residents overcome their racism and work with the railroad men Bart recruits—black, Chinese, Irish, etc.—to foil the scheme. As part of their alliance, the residents of Rock Ridge guarantee each of the workers a piece of land to homestead. Long story short, Bart’s idea succeeds. The moral of the story is that the only way to defeat the corrupt millionaires is to create a coalition of the middle class and the working class of every ethnicity—and, notably, one that ensures proper compensation for those who had previously been denied access to opportunity. That last part is vital. There’s also a tactical lesson to be learned.

 

Playing on white racial anxiety and hate is what Republicans have long done, with the white nationalist-in-chief only embracing such tactics more openly than his predecessors. But I have a more subtle point to make than to simply point out those connections. Earlier this fall, Berkeley law professor Ian Haney López published Merge Left: Fusing Race and Class, Winning Elections, and Saving America. I reviewed the book and interviewed the author for Daily Kos when it came out. López and his team carried out multiple surveys and found that what he termed the ‘race-class narrative’ was the most successful way to reach both persuadable whites and voters of color.

 

As I wrote in the review: “this narrative connects racism and economic inequality by emphasizing to voters that conservative politicians like Trump, but also those in previous decades like Ronald Reagan, have used racially divisive language to pit white Americans against Americans of color and exploit those divisions to win power and implement policies that benefit the economic elites.” López’s research demonstrated that this kind of message performed significantly better than either a ‘color-blind’ economic populist message emphasizing only economic inequality, or one that centers on racial justice in isolation, as a moral imperative. On the specific matter that relates to Blazing Saddles (namely, that progressive victories occur when middle- and working-class whites are shown that the wealthy elite are practicing white identity politics and using racial fears to divide them from Americans of color), here’s López on how that played out among the respondents he surveyed:

 

'Assuring voters that whites will benefit from activist government proved to be an essential element in generating enthusiasm. Expressly stating that whites benefit seemed to cut against two core themes of the Right’s story: that talking about racism really means blaming whites; and that addressing racism reflects concern for people of color but not for whites. [snip] Clearly the race-class messages work best when they indicate that whites, too, suffer because of racism and stand to gain from cross-racial solidarity and progressive policies….Most whites now perceive themselves to be a racial group and wonder at least implicitly who threatens their group. The Right’s answer is people of color and their liberal enablers. The best Left answer is the billionaires using racism to divide us, white, Black, and brown.

 

[snip] We found that whites reacted more positively to messengers of color compared to white messengers when they heard a race-class message. The differences were often slight and more research is needed….An invitation to join a multiracial coalition as a welcome ally seemed more persuasive and reassuring when extended by a person of color. For nonwhite politicians and for organizers of color, this is important. It suggests they may gain rather than lose credibility with white audiences by talking about racism, but only when framed as a divide-and-distract weapon against all racial groups, whites included. [snip] Naming whites as beneficiaries of cross-racial solidarity also increases support from people of color. Recall that we tested this statement: “We need elected leaders who will reject the divide-and-conquer tactics of their opponents and put the interests of working people first.” And then we tested it again, adding at the end “whether we’re white, Black, or brown.” Looking at the racial breakdown, support for the racially inclusive version went up by 8 points among whites. It shot up by a remarkable 21 points among African Americans.

 

Why might people of color respond more positively to a message of cross-racial solidarity that emphasizes benefits to whites in addition to themselves? People of color seem to have more confidence in cross-racial solidarity when they understand why whites have their own clear stake to join in coalition.'"

 

 

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Number 8

 

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"I like the way you die, boy."

 

The Racial Slurs in ‘Django’ Aren’t Racist, But the Racial Violence May Be

By Kelli Goff

 

"Just before Christmas I spent some time doing what a number of African American filmgoers have done over the last few weeks: debating the use of the “N-word” in Quentin Tarantino’s latest film Django Unchained. In my case, I was not just debating the issue with friends for the sake of doing so. The subject was one of the topics of discussion during a roundtable on the BET program Don’t Sleep. During the segment, my friend, HuffPost Live host, Marc Lamont Hill, and I disagreed on the “I’m black so I get to use the N-word whenever” pass that some members in our community believe we are entitled to, while simultaneously expressing outrage when a white person attempts to assert the same pass in certain circumstances, like when writing dialogue for a film such as Django Unchained. One thing we seemed to agree on though is that Tarantino is talented, so wherever you came down on the “N-Word” argument, the film itself would, cinematically speaking, be a work of art. As a longtime Tarantino fan, I will admit I was a bit nervous though. I was hopeful that despite Spike Lee, and others’, previous high profile critique of the filmmaker’s use of the “N-word” as gratuitous and racially insensitive, that I would, at the end of the day, simply be able to enjoy a well-done film.

 

But in the end I couldn’t. Not because the use of the N-word was gratuitous, but because the explicit, ongoing violence directed at African-Americans — and only African-Americans — was. To be clear, there are plenty of white people who face violence in this film. After all in a Tarantino film violence is a given. So is revenge. But there is not a single scene of violence experienced by a white guy — good or bad — in this film that is remotely on par with the extended scenes of violence in which black men are on the receiving end. One scene in particular (spoiler alert) involving a slave and dogs is so graphic and disturbing I found myself covering my eyes for the first time in a theater, although it was not the last time before the film’s conclusion. And I’m someone who considers the artistry demonstrated in the fight scenes in Kill Bill on par with watching ballet. The definition of “gratuitous” according to Merriam Webster is “not called for by the circumstances.” Based on this definition there is a valid argument to be made that the use of the N-word in Django Unchained is not gratuitous. I couldn’t think of a single instance in which the word was used in the film in which I didn’t consider it realistic, given the circumstances. (I was not around for slavery but I doubt many slave owners referred to my ancestors as African Americans.) But when it comes to the violence depicted in the film — specifically the incredibly creative and disturbing violence born out against black people — that’s another story.

 

One could argue that all Tarantino violence is gratuitous. But the question I couldn’t help asking myself during Django Unchained is what motivated Tarantino to kick things up a notch in this particular film, with these particular characters? Tarantino revenge films tend to follow a predictable trajectory. Some bad person does something bad. Some good person — or at least better person — comes along to make him pay for it. The worse the person, the more we want him to pay, and the more painful we want the payment to be. But here’s the thing. I didn’t need to see Jewish people tortured in Inglorious Basterds to know I wanted the Nazis to pay. Tarantino seemed to know that too, so we didn’t see any Jewish characters tortured. We know some were killed, but their killing was not in any way, shape or form graphic, explicit or prolonged. Similarly, while we saw the aftermath of the attack on Uma Thurman’s bride in Kill Bill, we didn’t see Uma Thurman tortured for an extended period of time. Yet somehow we still knew whom to root for during her fight scenes.

 

So my question is why in Django Unchained did Tarantino feel it was necessary to depict black men being pummeled and tortured in such graphic, gory, and yes, gratuitous ways? Yes, slavery was brutal, but when films like Roots depict a slave being maimed it is not done in a voyeuristic way that goes on for several minutes, and that film was not any less effective in conveying the institution’s brutality. To be frank, I have a hard time believing that if a black director — let’s say Spike Lee — directed his first ever film about the Holocaust and there were a few scenes that lasted for several minutes depicting Jewish males being tortured in some creative and prolonged ways, that someone wouldn’t compare such scenes to his previous films and ask tough questions about what inspired Lee to get so “creative” in such a brutal fashion with this particular group of people. We would probably endure endless articles and television debates about Lee’s suspected animosity against white males, or perhaps Jewish Americans in particular. And I’m not sure in such circumstances such questions would not be warranted.

 

In the same way, that I believe such questions about Tarantino’s motivations must be asked now. Particularly, when Tarantino already has a controversial reputation in Hollywood when it comes to his depiction of African Americans, and not just in terms of his use of the “N-word” (which does constitute gratuitous in some of his other films, such as Jackie Brown). For years the director and Denzel Washington were estranged because of the actor’s concern that dialogue pushed by Tarantino during his work on the script for Crimson Tide, was racially insensitive. Few have ever accused Denzel Washington of being some paranoid racial militant. (The two men have since reconciled and Washington’s daughter appears in Django Unchained.) But perhaps even more damning for me in terms of wondering whether or not Tarantino, and his fans, need to ask for greater accountability of Tarantino when it comes to his depiction of African Americans, particularly men, in his films, is a conversation I had with a white friend before writing this piece. When I expressed my concern at the level of brutality in this film, he replied, “Well don’t forget Reservoir Dogs is pretty brutal and so is the sodomy scene in Pulp Fiction.” He was referring to the scene in which a black male character is sodomized with an object. But being a Tarantino film, a white guy saves him."

 

 

 

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Number 7

 

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"We all dream of being a child again, even the worst of us. Perhaps the worst most of all."

 

The Revolutionary Violence of 'The Wild Bunch': W.K. Stratton on Sam Peckinpah's Masterpiece, 50 Years Later

By Mary Kaye Schilling 

 

"W.K. Stratton was 13 when The Wild Bunch was released in 1969. In that pre-internet time, movie theaters were a prime option for escape, and in director Sam Peckinpah's radical Western Stratton was transported to a landscape of "agony and dirt...The way the violence was portrayed really got my attention," says the author of The Wild Bunch: Sam Peckinpah, a Revolution in Hollywood, and the Making of a Legendary Film (Bloomsbury). Visceral, bone-crunching brutality is so common now that it's hard to fathom the effect The Wild Bunch had on its first audiences. The film was polarizing—equally reviled (a few early viewers reportedly left the theater to throw up) and celebrated. Many in a new generation of filmmakers, including George Lucas and Martin Scorsese, were thrilled by it. Kathryn Bigelow, who would go on to direct the Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker, described its effect as a paradigm shift: "It took all my semiotic Lacanian deconstructivist saturation and torqued it." Quentin Tarantino has called the final shoot-out "a masterpiece beyond compare."

 

Peckinpah's innovative quick-cut editing (of a staggering 330,000 feet of film) and his use of slow motion introduced a new vocabulary to violence, with that final sequence a near ballet of bullets and blood. And though Sergio Leone had introduced what's come to be called the dirty Western in 1964—with A Fistful of Dollars starring Clint Eastwood—Peckinpah's Oscar-winning screenplay (written with Walon Green and Roy N. Sickner) added existential layers: the angst of encroaching corporate America (via the railroads) and the ultimate meaninglessness of the lives of the film's central outlaws: Pike Bishop (William Holden), Dutch Engstrom (Ernest Borgnine), Deke Thornton (Robert Ryan), Sykes (Edmond O'Brien), the Gorch brothers (Ben Johnson and Warren Oates) and Angel (Jaime Sanchez)—as merciless a bunch of "heroes" as American cinema had produced. The movie, Peckinpah's fourth, takes place in Texas and Mexico in 1913, on the eve of World War I, when technology is beginning to transform the West. As critic Roger Ebert, an early devotee, wrote: "The mantle of violence is passing from Pike and his kind, who operated according to a certain code, to a new generation that kills more impersonally, as a game, or with machines." Stratton's book examines the history of the Western and details the ambition and, at times, lunacy of making what has become an American classic. Newsweek spoke with him about the film's legacy and Peckinpah's complicated genius.

 

You write that The Wild Bunch "placed a tombstone on the grave of the old John Wayne Westerns." What are some examples of how he did that?
 

'Peckinpah took the revisionist Western to its ultimate home. As one of his friends said of the characters, "These are really bad men." There's nothing redeeming about them, and yet we end up caring about them—deeply. That changed the whole dynamic of the Western. We'd gotten away from Tom Mix and the idea of the white hat—or purely good hero—decades before that, but there was always a little something good in the characters. Pike and his group are killers, and they kind of get off on it. That opened the door to some really interesting films, including Peckinpah's own The Ballad of Cable Hogue [1970] and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid [1973], as well as Eastwood's The Outlaw Josey Wales [1976] and Unforgiven [1992]. Peckinpah was also reacting to the sanitized ways that violence was being portrayed in popular TV Westerns like Gunsmoke.

 

'He made the film in 1968 and into 1969—a terrifically violent time in American history. How much of that played into the film?'

 

His friend Jim Silke told me he thought Sam never shot a single foot of didactic film. So I don't think he was intentionally going after an allegory of the 1960s. However, nothing happens in a vacuum, and this movie company went to Mexico to film The Wild Bunch just about the time Martin Luther King was assassinated. And then they wrapped up shortly after Robert Kennedy was shot. And in the middle—though no one in America knew it for a year or so—was the My Lai Massacre. Plus, we thought the Russians were going to blow the whole world up. It was scary times, and there was violence everywhere—I felt that as a kid. So while I don't think the film was a response to current events, when Pike Bishop says to the corrupt Mexican general Mapache [who offers to pay Pike for stealing a cache of American guns from the military], "We share very few sentiments with our government"—well, there were people seeing the nightly news footage of napalm being dropped on Southeast Asia and thinking the same thing. Unlike many of the Westerns that had come before, the patriotism is gone. There's also that scene, when Pike and his men are stealing the guns off the train: The American soldiers are all inexperienced kids—like the 19-year-olds being drafted into Vietnam—with incompetent leadership. They don't know what they're doing, and they get shot all to hell. That's how a lot of us felt about Vietnam.'

 

The film's biggest villain, of course, is the railroad man, Harrigan, who hires Thornton to track and kill Pike and his bunch. The carnage of the first shoot-out—when dozens of innocent townspeople are slaughtered—is his doing.


'Harrigan is the corporate capitalist—the sort of man Peckinpah hated, like the studio executives he was always battling. And by the way, Harrigan is also the one who ends up a success in the end, right? It's hardly ever pointed out that Harrigan gets what he was after—they are all dead.'

 

Aren't most Westerns essentially love stories between men?


'Absolutely. And then if you get into the novels of D.H. Lawrence [Women in Love], and subsequently Leslie Fiedler's readings on classic American literature 1960's Love and Death in the American Novel]—if you look at Moby Dick and Huckleberry Finn, it's really about men who can't relate to women, and they're out in the frontier.'"

 

 

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Number 6

 

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"You must pay for everything in this world, one way and another. There is nothing free except the grace of God."

 

Filming the Holy: Rhetorical Strategies in the Coen Brothers’ True Grit

By Richard Engell

 

"Recently, the remake of the classic movie True Grit by Joel and Ethan Coen opened to rave reviews.  Many praised it as their most broadly entertaining film to date (e.g. Turan).  Nonetheless, Stanley Fish has called it a “truly religious movie.”  The purpose of this study is to explore how the film used the rhetorical devices of narrative and cinematic framing to enhance the spiritual potential of the story. The rhetorical challenge of the religious or spiritual is to manage well the tension between transcendence and immanence (Engnell, “Otherness” 85).  Rudolf Otto in The Idea of the Holy characterizes the religious as the experience of the “wholly Other,” the uncanny (26).  A truly religious experience cannot be assimilated to ordinary cognitive routines; a tinge of mystery must always remain.  Yet since humans can only respond to what is available in this world, effective spirituality also requires what Mircea Eliade calls “hierophanies,” physical manifestations of the Other in ordinary experience (11).  Transcendence, therefore, must be made available without compromising Otherness. The specific rhetorical challenge for film, vis-à-vis the spiritual, is that film is biased towards immanence.  Because the medium of film easily presents great amounts of compelling information quickly, it may undermine the mystery central to the Holy.  After all, seeing is believing.

 

Nonetheless, film also possesses extraordinary rhetorical resources for directing and controlling attention and thus reintroducing uncertainty and mystery.  There is the strategy of visual framing.  The huge, vivid image in a darkened room vanquishes competing images and thoughts and “frames” whatever the screen depicts, lifting it out of normal contexts and thus potentially upsetting normal cognitive routines (at least in a theatre setting).  The object on screen may appear as “more” or “less” than what ordinary cognition takes it to be (Engnell, “Spiritual Potential” 242-245).  Film also excels at narrative framing though its control of sequence.  A given scene may “prime” the audience for what follows or retrospectively call into question its normal expectations. While the plot of True Grit has inherent religious potential (life and death, justice, an “innocent” child, etc.), the story may be enjoyed simply as a conventional Western: A 14-year-old Arkansas girl, Mattie Ross, seeks justice in the death of her father.  She hires a dissolute federal marshall, Rooster Cogburn, to guide her into the Oklahoma territory and help her capture (or kill) the culprit.  At the moment of their victory, however, Ross falls into a pit of rattlesnakes.  Cogburn rescues her and races to get her to medical aid.

 

The Coen brothers, however, use narrative framing to enhance the spiritual potential of a story.  The film opens with a Bible verse displayed on screen, then a narration that concludes: “You must to pay for everything in this world, one way or another.  Nothing is free but the grace of God.”  The film score consists almost entirely of instrumental excerpts or allusions to an evangelical hymn.  As the film ends, however, the audience hears the lyrics sung for the first time: “What a fellowship, what a joy divine, leaning on the everlasting arms.”  By bracketing the narrative with religious material, the film foregrounds its spiritual potential yet the rest of the film contains very little explicitly religious content. The filmmakers use narrative framing also to emphasize the role of Mattie Ross.  The film begins with the voice of the adult Ross as narrator, reflecting on her experience and setting the scene.  The first character clearly depicted on screen is the young Ross as she arrives via train to Fort Smith, Arkansas.  The film ends with the aged Ross contemplating a graveyard.  The film narrative begins and ends with Ross.

 

More importantly, the Ross role is magnified through visual framing.  Much of the film is given over to watching her talk.  She is filmed from the shoulders up far more than any other character; only Ross is awarded extreme close ups.  The viewer is clearly directed toward Ross as the film’s center. What we find, however, is that Ross is head-strong, proud, insensitive, elitist, prejudiced, judgmental, and legalistic, quick to appeal to law and contract to get her way.  She readily dismisses others as “trash!”  Her most admirable characteristic is a fierce commitment to justice (of a sort) but she is little disposed toward mercy.  Mattie Ross is a hard child to like. Because film so easily frames and conveys the face, close camera shots frequently are used to prompt insight into character.  They suggest that a character has an “inside.”  The Ross character, however, does not do nuance well.  What we perceive from a distance is what we see close in.  While intrigued perhaps by her expressive mouth and eyes, we do not feel that we really know her.  In part, the stiff, formal language used in the film distracts the viewer from simply attending to the character.  Speaking in full sentences and without contractions or ellipsis also weakens emotional expressiveness.  It is also possible that the directors deliberately sought a somewhat flat, one-note performance for the role.  In his analysis of the spiritual potential of film, Paul Schrader suggests that some directors over-rehearse so that the actors appear to perform by rote, thus denying the viewers the insight they seek (26, 65-67).  One reviewer finds that the Ross actor speaks the dialog in the manner of a memorized school oration (Corliss).  However, the camera invites us to scrutinize the Ross character; she remains somewhat of a mystery. 

 

Another way to understand and assess a character is through how the character changes over time.  In True Grit, however, the Ross figure remains largely unchanged, still attempting, for example, to exploit her legal resources even as she is left alone with the very outlaw she has sought to bring to justice.  Though her brush with death might be expected to prompt some inward transformation, the primary narrative breaks off just as she reaches potential aid.  The screen, in fact, goes dark for a time. The film then jumps ahead 25 years to show a middle-aged Ross who is seeking out Cogburn at a wild-west show, only to find he has just died.  Her eyes water up at the news, but the episode ends with Ross calling one of the show owners “trash” for not standing in a lady’s presence.  Same old Mattie Ross.  In the final scene, an aged Ross contemplates Cogburn’s gravesite.  Close-ups reveal a thoughtfulness and vulnerability unseen before, but her closing narration still includes the now-expected remonstrances against others.  Any sign of transformation is subtle.  There is one way, though, in which Ross has clearly changed.  Because of her encounter with rattlesnakes, she has lost her left arm.  This fact is both hidden and then emphasized through narrative sequencing and visual focus.  It is hidden in that the screen goes dark just when this kind of information would normally be forthcoming.  The loss of the arm is then emphasized through cinematic framing.  As the screen remains black, we hear the adult Ross begin narrating, and then we see her face framed by the train window.  Just as the narration mentions the loss of the arm, we see her backlit silhouette, the left sleeve of her dress pinned up and conspicuously empty.  The empty sleeve also figures prominently in the concluding scene.  Ross walks away from the gravesite and we again see her silhouetted from behind, with the empty sleeve prominent. 

 

The film presents no explicit spiritual “message” but framing the narrative with religious material and then focusing narratively and visually on the Ross role encourages the viewer to struggle with the meaning of the story.  It preserves mystery while nonetheless suggesting meaning.  Perhaps we recall the opening maxim of the film: You pay for everything in this life.  Perhaps Ross has “paid” for something with the loss of an arm. But what would she have paid for?  For being an obnoxious, self-centered, bullying person?  Well, she was only 14 years old.  For lacking mercy?  Well, Cogburn was certainly worse than Ross.  Perhaps she has paid for nothing.  Like Jacob, she has simply wrestled with the divine—in the mode of justice—and came away wounded.  Otto maintained that the Holy is apprehended in three modes—as supreme mystery, as supreme beauty, and as supreme danger (1-41). The mortal and flawed is always in danger in the presence of the divine.  In the end, Ross bore in her body the wounding of the Holy. Would the Coen brothers agree with this spiritual take on True Grit?  Probably not, but their use of narrative and cinematic framing suggests that they would approve the search."

 

 

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30 minutes ago, Plain Old Tele said:

Gotta admit, I did not expect HATEFUL at #10. (DJANGO also seems crazy high.)


We had some Tarantino fans that ranked them both very high!

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30 minutes ago, Plain Old Tele said:

Gotta admit, I did not expect HATEFUL at #10. (DJANGO also seems crazy high.)


They both came out during the last decade and they're Tarantino - not so surprising for his forum

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True Grit pretty good movie, and much too high (#28). Hateful Eight, pretty good movie, and much too high (#39).

 

Django very good and a bit too high (#16)

 

Shame Wild Bunch didn't make top 5

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Number 5

 

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"Don't that picture look dusty?"

 

Why The Assassination of Jesse James is a masterful modern western

By William Carroll

 

"In the final act of Andrew Dominik’s retelling of the infamous American outlaw and the man who took his life, Jesse James (Brad Pitt) looks out over the lonely prairie beyond his front porch with his killer sitting by his side. “I often go on journey’s out of my body,” he confesses to Robert Ford (Casey Affleck), “and I wonder about that man that’s gone so wrong.” It’s intimate moments like these, where the pair confide in each other like long-lost lovers, seeking a companionship they know will never come, that make The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford the great contemporary western that it is.

 

Jesse James is a figure of fevered storytelling, simultaneously real and a product of a young nation hell-bent on crafting a fiction for itself. The film’s narrator tells us early on how Jesse has a condition known as ‘granulated eyelids’ that “causes him to blink more than usual, as if he found creation more than he could accept.” Yet whenever we see Jesse staring pensively, perhaps contemplating a life of crime and violence, he remains unblinking. These subtle touches not only demonstrate Dominik’s nuanced handling of a man defined more by dime-store paperbacks than historical records, they also show the human complexity at work in the film.

 

Brad Pitt’s performance speaks of a timeless folk icon dispossessed of a sense of place, seeing his reflection in frozen rivers and the dirtied windows of held-up stagecoaches rather than a mirror in a family home. He is consumed by paranoia and self-awareness, and it ultimately this – not the pistol that he purchased as a gift for Ford – that proves to be his undoing. Yet arguably it’s Casey Affleck as the adoring, obsessive and pathetic Judas figure who earns The Assassination of Jesse James its status as a modern classic. Ford was raised on tall tales of Jesse and his gang, collecting anything and everything he could find written about him in a shoebox under his bed. All of Ford is contained within that box, detailing every life and love he longs to possess – it is his entire universe in microcosm. Affleck’s portrayal of this complex and emotionally unstable character is devastatingly human, from the way he looks at Jesse with a slight smile and a faint longing in his eyes to the way he shakes and cries with grief moments before taking his place in history.

 

At the heart of Dominik’s film is a twisted story of love which highlights the two title characters’ apparent need to construct a twisted legacy for themselves. Ford desperately wants to be accepted by James but secretly yearns for something more (“Can’t figure it out: do you want to be like me or do you want to be me?”), while James cultivates his chance at martyrdom by Ford’s hands.

 

Coupled with Deakins’ sombre, melancholic evocation of this storied setting is Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’s score, a beautiful blend of elegiac strings and piano ballads that mourn the deaths of those onscreen long before their passing. ‘Song for Bob’, the orchestral hymn that plays during the film’s final moments, is the aural funeral for Robert Ford that we will never see. Dominik’s second feature is a telegram back to a time mired in what was and what might have been. In the moments before his own demise, Ford states of his deeds, “Do you know what I expected? Applause.” He died unceremoniously and full of regret, having lost the one person who ever gave him reason to live. There was to be no ovation for Ford, but Dominik’s masterful retelling of this tragic story deserves just that."

 

 

 

 

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Number 4

 

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"Logan... You still have time!"

 

Deconstructionism and the Gospel of Hope in Logan

By some Christian apologetics guy

 

"Deconstructing a Genre. Though Logan invokes the spirit of the classic western Shane (1953) at multiple junctures, one cannot shake the feeling that the film has more to do with Clint Eastwood’s deconstruction of the western genre, Unforgiven (1992). Screenwriter John August once said of David Webb Peoples’s script for Eastwood’s brilliant film:

 

'I think the script takes our expectations of what a western is supposed to do and what the hero of a western is supposed to do and what the tropes of a western are supposed to do. It explores them and ultimately sort of rips them apart and sort of lays bare the pain and the suffering that’s underneath all of that and sort of tries to get back to the common humanity that underlies all the sort of mythic heroes that we have coming out of the western genre. I don’t [think] you can make Unforgiven without a good knowledge of all of the westerns that came before it. And the audience’s expectations about what’s supposed to happen in a western. It’s not sort of playing with the tropes as much as sort of just lighting them on fire and watching them burn away.'

 

I can think of no better analysis for Logan, a film that masterfully deconstructs the superhero film genre, unmaking and profoundly humanizing its central hero. By embracing the mythic dimensions of tragic heroes, Logan subverts audience expectations at every corner to tell a seemingly new story through the rediscovery of classic mythological tropes. Indeed, Rolling Stone argues that Logan goes out of its way to “kill” the modern superhero genre, suggesting that the film alone has the potential to change audience expectations for the genre altogether. 2 Yet the film does not relish entirely in the breaking down of long-established tropes, because Logan actually does have something profound to say that speaks to the very core of what these kinds of mythic stories stir in the human imagination.

 

With death looming, Logan realizes he is never going to get that peaceful end he has long sought. His friends are dead. His loves are gone. If he thought he was alone before, he is truly alone now. And everything, it seems to him, has been lost for the fantastic visions of a sort of mythical Eden for mutants, a spark of hope that exists in the mind of a child and in the pages of old stories. Knowing he has reached the end of the line, with the villains closing in, Logan faces his final decision — let the girl continue on her own against unsurmountable odds, or finally lay down his own life in the hope of a future that he knows he will never see?

 

Hope and Sacrifice. Logan makes his choice and it takes him to his death. It is far from peaceful, but by sacrificing himself, he gives Laura and the next generation of mutants a chance to see their hope realized. And herein lies the brilliance of Logan’s final chapter — the hero dies but dies in hope. Somehow, Logan takes the tragic hero of the old myths, and imbues him with an ending that is downright biblical.

 

The writer of Hebrews defines faith itself as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1 KJV, emphasis added). The apostle Paul speaks of the Christian life as one lived in hope of a future marked by a powerful resurrection (Eph. 1:18). But resurrection implies that death must come first. In the epistle to Colossians, Paul also correlates the gospel of Jesus Christ with the hope that is stored up in heaven for those who believe (1:5–8). In Romans, God is described as the God of Hope — both the author and the subject (Rom. 15:13).

 

Cynicism looks at Logan’s final chapter and says his life amounted to very little. That same cynicism would likely look at the apostle Paul, who, tradition maintains, was beheaded in Rome under Nero, and ask what good came of his life beyond the preservation of his writings. Or even Abraham, who’s possession of the Promised Land remained unfulfilled upon his death. Yet that cynicism falls woefully short of comprehending the centrality of hope to the biblical story, to Logan’s story, and to the Christian life. Perhaps this is why James Mangold himself, the film’s director and story writer, does not see a shred of cynicism in the film’s final haunting moments.

 

Perhaps the Christian is tempted to find himself or herself in the character of Logan. I suppose there are shades of all of us in that character, especially at his end. How interesting, though, that we are never told whether or not Logan comes to believe in Laura’s future — in other words, he never professes faith. Though his sacrifice is admirable, his death is no less tragic. His final moments are spent insisting upon Laura that, for all her abilities, she not become like him. Yet he dies because of her faith, because of what her hope has sparked in him.

 

In truth, the deeper Christian corollary is Laura, whose childlike faith in old stories of unseen things pushes an apathetic and dying man to hope again in a better future. Is this not, to some degree, the responsibility of the Christian in the preaching of the gospel of Christ? Is this not the power of the Bible’s eschatological realization? The story does not end with Christ’s ascension; in fact, the promises made to the Old Testament saints in the early narrative practically demand an ending that sees the Messiah’s physical presence in the New Jerusalem. Christ must return, death must give way, the world must be remade.

 

Walter Brueggemann, in his book A Gospel of Hope, speaks of hope as producing a “new song” that sings not of the world as it is but “imagines how the world will be in God’s good time to come. The new song is a protest against the way the world is now.”4 Laura’s Eden and the Christian eschaton serve the same purpose in Logan’s story and in the life of the world. For all its deconstructionism, unmaking heroes and showing us a devastating future in which even good men fail, Logan nonetheless stakes its final, profound claim on a gospel of hope, one powerful enough to keep a dying man with however feeble a faith pressing on in expectation of a better tomorrow. Ultimately, it is a hope worth dying for.

 

It was the great conviction of C. S. Lewis that, even as adults, the world is best seen through the eyes of a child with stories.5 Those stories have the potential to “baptize” the imagination, priming one to receive in faith the mythic dimensions of the biblical story, and therefore the gospel. In the context of its own narrative, Logan understands the power of story to imbue a devastated world with the power to hope. As Christians, that should be reason enough to carry our gospel of hope into a dying world. For Laura, that is a song worth singing. For Logan, it is a song worth listening to.

 

Cole Burgett is a seminary student, a graduate of Moody Bible Institute, and an author for the website Christ and Pop Culture."

 

 

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5 minutes ago, The Panda said:

Number 4

 

OwBx6CS.png

 

"Logan... You still have time!"

 

Deconstructionism and the Gospel of Hope in Logan

By some Christian apologetics guy

 

"Deconstructing a Genre. Though Logan invokes the spirit of the classic western Shane (1953) at multiple junctures, one cannot shake the feeling that the film has more to do with Clint Eastwood’s deconstruction of the western genre, Unforgiven (1992). Screenwriter John August once said of David Webb Peoples’s script for Eastwood’s brilliant film:

 

'I think the script takes our expectations of what a western is supposed to do and what the hero of a western is supposed to do and what the tropes of a western are supposed to do. It explores them and ultimately sort of rips them apart and sort of lays bare the pain and the suffering that’s underneath all of that and sort of tries to get back to the common humanity that underlies all the sort of mythic heroes that we have coming out of the western genre. I don’t [think] you can make Unforgiven without a good knowledge of all of the westerns that came before it. And the audience’s expectations about what’s supposed to happen in a western. It’s not sort of playing with the tropes as much as sort of just lighting them on fire and watching them burn away.'

 

I can think of no better analysis for Logan, a film that masterfully deconstructs the superhero film genre, unmaking and profoundly humanizing its central hero. By embracing the mythic dimensions of tragic heroes, Logan subverts audience expectations at every corner to tell a seemingly new story through the rediscovery of classic mythological tropes. Indeed, Rolling Stone argues that Logan goes out of its way to “kill” the modern superhero genre, suggesting that the film alone has the potential to change audience expectations for the genre altogether. 2 Yet the film does not relish entirely in the breaking down of long-established tropes, because Logan actually does have something profound to say that speaks to the very core of what these kinds of mythic stories stir in the human imagination.

 

With death looming, Logan realizes he is never going to get that peaceful end he has long sought. His friends are dead. His loves are gone. If he thought he was alone before, he is truly alone now. And everything, it seems to him, has been lost for the fantastic visions of a sort of mythical Eden for mutants, a spark of hope that exists in the mind of a child and in the pages of old stories. Knowing he has reached the end of the line, with the villains closing in, Logan faces his final decision — let the girl continue on her own against unsurmountable odds, or finally lay down his own life in the hope of a future that he knows he will never see?

 

Hope and Sacrifice. Logan makes his choice and it takes him to his death. It is far from peaceful, but by sacrificing himself, he gives Laura and the next generation of mutants a chance to see their hope realized. And herein lies the brilliance of Logan’s final chapter — the hero dies but dies in hope. Somehow, Logan takes the tragic hero of the old myths, and imbues him with an ending that is downright biblical.

 

The writer of Hebrews defines faith itself as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1 KJV, emphasis added). The apostle Paul speaks of the Christian life as one lived in hope of a future marked by a powerful resurrection (Eph. 1:18). But resurrection implies that death must come first. In the epistle to Colossians, Paul also correlates the gospel of Jesus Christ with the hope that is stored up in heaven for those who believe (1:5–8). In Romans, God is described as the God of Hope — both the author and the subject (Rom. 15:13).

 

Cynicism looks at Logan’s final chapter and says his life amounted to very little. That same cynicism would likely look at the apostle Paul, who, tradition maintains, was beheaded in Rome under Nero, and ask what good came of his life beyond the preservation of his writings. Or even Abraham, who’s possession of the Promised Land remained unfulfilled upon his death. Yet that cynicism falls woefully short of comprehending the centrality of hope to the biblical story, to Logan’s story, and to the Christian life. Perhaps this is why James Mangold himself, the film’s director and story writer, does not see a shred of cynicism in the film’s final haunting moments.

 

Perhaps the Christian is tempted to find himself or herself in the character of Logan. I suppose there are shades of all of us in that character, especially at his end. How interesting, though, that we are never told whether or not Logan comes to believe in Laura’s future — in other words, he never professes faith. Though his sacrifice is admirable, his death is no less tragic. His final moments are spent insisting upon Laura that, for all her abilities, she not become like him. Yet he dies because of her faith, because of what her hope has sparked in him.

 

In truth, the deeper Christian corollary is Laura, whose childlike faith in old stories of unseen things pushes an apathetic and dying man to hope again in a better future. Is this not, to some degree, the responsibility of the Christian in the preaching of the gospel of Christ? Is this not the power of the Bible’s eschatological realization? The story does not end with Christ’s ascension; in fact, the promises made to the Old Testament saints in the early narrative practically demand an ending that sees the Messiah’s physical presence in the New Jerusalem. Christ must return, death must give way, the world must be remade.

 

Walter Brueggemann, in his book A Gospel of Hope, speaks of hope as producing a “new song” that sings not of the world as it is but “imagines how the world will be in God’s good time to come. The new song is a protest against the way the world is now.”4 Laura’s Eden and the Christian eschaton serve the same purpose in Logan’s story and in the life of the world. For all its deconstructionism, unmaking heroes and showing us a devastating future in which even good men fail, Logan nonetheless stakes its final, profound claim on a gospel of hope, one powerful enough to keep a dying man with however feeble a faith pressing on in expectation of a better tomorrow. Ultimately, it is a hope worth dying for.

 

It was the great conviction of C. S. Lewis that, even as adults, the world is best seen through the eyes of a child with stories.5 Those stories have the potential to “baptize” the imagination, priming one to receive in faith the mythic dimensions of the biblical story, and therefore the gospel. In the context of its own narrative, Logan understands the power of story to imbue a devastated world with the power to hope. As Christians, that should be reason enough to carry our gospel of hope into a dying world. For Laura, that is a song worth singing. For Logan, it is a song worth listening to.

 

Cole Burgett is a seminary student, a graduate of Moody Bible Institute, and an author for the website Christ and Pop Culture."

 

 

 

I like the movie but no

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Number 3

 

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"That'll be the day."

 

What 1956 has to say about 1868 in 2020

by @Cap

 

"This is not the John Wayne 1956 audiences are used to seeing. 

 

In 1956, John Wayne was an American icon that had one hundred and thirty three pictures to his credit.  And whether it's the Outlaw Kid in Stagecoach (1939) or Lt. Rusty Ryan in They Were Expendable (1945), he always played The Hero.  In John Wayne’s 1972 New York Times Obit, then President Carter called him: "a symbol of many of the most basic qualities that made America great.  In the age of few heroes, he was the genuine article. Mr. Wayne's ruggedness, tough independence, sense of personal conviction and courage -- on and off the screen -- reflected the best of our national character.”

 

Since he is the protagonist of the film, you could almost call him the first Anti-Hero.  He's not.  He's the straight up Villain.

 

"This lonely character comes out of the desert, and he's absolutely terrifying," recalled Scorsese to AFI on the first time he saw the movie as a fourteen year old.  "He just literally acts out the racism, the worst aspects of racism, in our country.  It's right there.  You can see the hate.”

 

In 1956, Elvis performed Hound Dog on the Milton Berle Show.  My Fair Lady premiered on Broadway.  Allen Ginsberg published Howl.  Arthur Miller testified before Senator McCarthy’s HUAC.  The year-long Montgomery Bus Boycott ended when The Supreme Court upholding Browder v Gayle.  The country began cultural shifts we still feel today.  It was on the verge of abandoning its Post WWII Pax America as Civil Right Movements and counter-culture movements took hold. 

 

We can see that in film, too. Billy Wilder’s at the height of his power with Sunset Boulevard, Stalag 17, and Ace In The Hole, all dark pseud-noirs.  The threat of the Cold War hangs over every sci-fi movie like The Day The Earth Stool Still, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and Them!.  Marlon Brando’s bringing a raw, sexual energy to the male movie star.  Erza Kazan’s making excuses for naming-names in On The Waterfront.  Even the Western became political allegories for McCarthyism like in 1952’s High Noon.

 

Even for the 1950's John Wayne was a hardcore Republican.  Lauren BaCall once called him a "right wing nut" in the 1970's on Johnny Carson.  John Ford's a little harder to pin down.  He used to call himself a "Maine Republican" -- and being from Maine that just means a somewhat socially conscience conservative who wants to be left alone.

 

John Ford claimed to be apolitical, yet.  His most famous quote: "My name is John Ford and I make Westerns" came at a DGA meeting when he spoke against DeMile and the Red Scare.  He was -- even for his time -- not what we'd call in 2020 a progressive, "woke" individual.  His films today contain scenes and images of what 2020 audiences would (hopefully, I mean, it is 2020 so who knows anymore -emoji shrug-) would view as shockingly racist, sexist, and violent. John Ford as a person was a very difficult, cruel individual with a temper and love of drink.  He would terrorize his actors on set to get better performances, and always downplayed his influence and work.  When Peter Bogdanovich asked him about how he filmed his "quite elaborate land rush" in Three Bad Men (1926), Ford simply said: "With a camera.”

 

He did not like talking about his films.  In the same interview with Peter Bogdanovich, Bogdanovich stated: “I’ve noticed that your view of the West has become increasingly sad and melancholy over the years. Compare Wagon Master to The Man Who Shot Liberty Vance.  Have you been aware of that change in mood?” Ford said: “No.” “Now that I pointed it out anything you wish to say?” Ford said: “I don’t wish to talk about it.”

 

John Ford might’ve put on a good act with the cold shoulder and claims his meticulous work was just “the Luck of the Irish” happenstance. I call poppycock.  He knew exactly what he was saying, for better and for worse, in his pictures; and I do believe in The Searchers, he tried to wrestle with the issues of his time, in his own way.  (Again, as much as a White Man of the 1950’s can).  

 

The end of The Searchers, has Ethan, Martin, and Debbie returning home.  The entire family goes into the house sans Ethan. He stands on the porch in the doorway. He grabs his elbow like Harry Carey, thinks about going in for a moment, before turning to walk away as the door shuts on him.    

 

Probably one of the most iconic single shots/frames in Hollywood history.  Almost at the point of cliche, are the interpretations of this.  He's doomed to walk alone for eternity.  He's a savage man not fit for society.  His ways are old and barbaric.  In the name of progress, the family must move forward without him. The world rejects him as it shuts that door.  Ride away, Ride away, Ride away.

 

"Someday this country will be a fine good place to be," says Mrs Jorgensen.  "And maybe it needs our bones in the ground for that to come."

 

What strikes me in 2020 is that Ethan Edwards is a symbol of the most basic qualities that make America atrocious. He is the personification of America’s racism and history of crimes against humanity.  The film doesn’t end like Shane.  The cowboy doesn’t ride off to die.  Ethan Edwards is still alive when that door shuts.

 

The Baby Boomers might’ve thought they lost Uncle Ethan’s contact info during the 1960s and 1970s, but nope.  It’s 2020, and he’s still alive, and worse, he’s still invited to Thanksgiving Dinner.

 

Because the family -- despite being part of polite society and thinking “we don’t think those things anymore” -- still agrees with Uncle Ethan.

 

Martin’s love interest Laurie is the perfect example of.  While her plot feels like an add on, the most I watch the film, the more essential I find it.  She’s completely wrapped up in her own drama (when will Martin return home and marry her?!?).  Doesn’t care about Debbie at all.  Then when Martin insists he needs to go with Ethan to rescue Debbie, Laurie throws a tantrum as vile and racist as anything Ethan said.  To use a slightly anachronistic term, she’s Nixon’s silent majority.  To put it in 2020 terms, what a Karen.

 

White women benefit from white supremacy.  Oftentimes, they are its fiercest guardians. I’m looking at you Phyllis Schlafly. And you, Amy Coney Barrett.  And you, every single white woman that voted for Donald Trump instead of Hillary Clinton in 2016.  And when I watch this film, I am reminded of every crime against men of color that’s been committed by white men attempting to defend white women’s honor.  The wars, the murders, the lynchings.  We should note that historically, the concept of interracial marriage on the American Frontier was commonplace, and not as shockingly offensive as Ethan finds it in The Searchers.  But for 1956, where anti-miscegenation laws are still on the books across most of the country, the idea of “mixing races” is criminal.  

 

John Ford and John Wayne made fourteen films together over twenty-four years. Each film carves out a piece of American iconography with their sweeping Westerns, patriotic calls to action, and a single sentimental tale of returning to homeland -- and with The Searchers, John Ford tore it all down, ripped off the breathtaking mask of Monument Valley, and exposed the iconography’s twisted, dark, and damaged core."

 

 

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And so the final shoot off. Looks like we have a classic western duel on our hands!

 

20sd.gif&f=1&nofb=1

 

vs

 

72470-once-upon-a-time-in-the-west-harmo

 

Which cowboy will prevail as our best cowboy movie of all time?

 

The winner will be revealed in a few hours when I am back from dinner!

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4 hours ago, The Panda said:

Number 4

 

OwBx6CS.png

 

"Logan... You still have time!"

 

Deconstructionism and the Gospel of Hope in Logan

By some Christian apologetics guy

 

"Deconstructing a Genre. Though Logan invokes the spirit of the classic western Shane (1953) at multiple junctures, one cannot shake the feeling that the film has more to do with Clint Eastwood’s deconstruction of the western genre, Unforgiven (1992). Screenwriter John August once said of David Webb Peoples’s script for Eastwood’s brilliant film:

 

'I think the script takes our expectations of what a western is supposed to do and what the hero of a western is supposed to do and what the tropes of a western are supposed to do. It explores them and ultimately sort of rips them apart and sort of lays bare the pain and the suffering that’s underneath all of that and sort of tries to get back to the common humanity that underlies all the sort of mythic heroes that we have coming out of the western genre. I don’t [think] you can make Unforgiven without a good knowledge of all of the westerns that came before it. And the audience’s expectations about what’s supposed to happen in a western. It’s not sort of playing with the tropes as much as sort of just lighting them on fire and watching them burn away.'

 

I can think of no better analysis for Logan, a film that masterfully deconstructs the superhero film genre, unmaking and profoundly humanizing its central hero. By embracing the mythic dimensions of tragic heroes, Logan subverts audience expectations at every corner to tell a seemingly new story through the rediscovery of classic mythological tropes. Indeed, Rolling Stone argues that Logan goes out of its way to “kill” the modern superhero genre, suggesting that the film alone has the potential to change audience expectations for the genre altogether. 2 Yet the film does not relish entirely in the breaking down of long-established tropes, because Logan actually does have something profound to say that speaks to the very core of what these kinds of mythic stories stir in the human imagination.

 

With death looming, Logan realizes he is never going to get that peaceful end he has long sought. His friends are dead. His loves are gone. If he thought he was alone before, he is truly alone now. And everything, it seems to him, has been lost for the fantastic visions of a sort of mythical Eden for mutants, a spark of hope that exists in the mind of a child and in the pages of old stories. Knowing he has reached the end of the line, with the villains closing in, Logan faces his final decision — let the girl continue on her own against unsurmountable odds, or finally lay down his own life in the hope of a future that he knows he will never see?

 

Hope and Sacrifice. Logan makes his choice and it takes him to his death. It is far from peaceful, but by sacrificing himself, he gives Laura and the next generation of mutants a chance to see their hope realized. And herein lies the brilliance of Logan’s final chapter — the hero dies but dies in hope. Somehow, Logan takes the tragic hero of the old myths, and imbues him with an ending that is downright biblical.

 

The writer of Hebrews defines faith itself as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1 KJV, emphasis added). The apostle Paul speaks of the Christian life as one lived in hope of a future marked by a powerful resurrection (Eph. 1:18). But resurrection implies that death must come first. In the epistle to Colossians, Paul also correlates the gospel of Jesus Christ with the hope that is stored up in heaven for those who believe (1:5–8). In Romans, God is described as the God of Hope — both the author and the subject (Rom. 15:13).

 

Cynicism looks at Logan’s final chapter and says his life amounted to very little. That same cynicism would likely look at the apostle Paul, who, tradition maintains, was beheaded in Rome under Nero, and ask what good came of his life beyond the preservation of his writings. Or even Abraham, who’s possession of the Promised Land remained unfulfilled upon his death. Yet that cynicism falls woefully short of comprehending the centrality of hope to the biblical story, to Logan’s story, and to the Christian life. Perhaps this is why James Mangold himself, the film’s director and story writer, does not see a shred of cynicism in the film’s final haunting moments.

 

Perhaps the Christian is tempted to find himself or herself in the character of Logan. I suppose there are shades of all of us in that character, especially at his end. How interesting, though, that we are never told whether or not Logan comes to believe in Laura’s future — in other words, he never professes faith. Though his sacrifice is admirable, his death is no less tragic. His final moments are spent insisting upon Laura that, for all her abilities, she not become like him. Yet he dies because of her faith, because of what her hope has sparked in him.

 

In truth, the deeper Christian corollary is Laura, whose childlike faith in old stories of unseen things pushes an apathetic and dying man to hope again in a better future. Is this not, to some degree, the responsibility of the Christian in the preaching of the gospel of Christ? Is this not the power of the Bible’s eschatological realization? The story does not end with Christ’s ascension; in fact, the promises made to the Old Testament saints in the early narrative practically demand an ending that sees the Messiah’s physical presence in the New Jerusalem. Christ must return, death must give way, the world must be remade.

 

Walter Brueggemann, in his book A Gospel of Hope, speaks of hope as producing a “new song” that sings not of the world as it is but “imagines how the world will be in God’s good time to come. The new song is a protest against the way the world is now.”4 Laura’s Eden and the Christian eschaton serve the same purpose in Logan’s story and in the life of the world. For all its deconstructionism, unmaking heroes and showing us a devastating future in which even good men fail, Logan nonetheless stakes its final, profound claim on a gospel of hope, one powerful enough to keep a dying man with however feeble a faith pressing on in expectation of a better tomorrow. Ultimately, it is a hope worth dying for.

 

It was the great conviction of C. S. Lewis that, even as adults, the world is best seen through the eyes of a child with stories.5 Those stories have the potential to “baptize” the imagination, priming one to receive in faith the mythic dimensions of the biblical story, and therefore the gospel. In the context of its own narrative, Logan understands the power of story to imbue a devastated world with the power to hope. As Christians, that should be reason enough to carry our gospel of hope into a dying world. For Laura, that is a song worth singing. For Logan, it is a song worth listening to.

 

Cole Burgett is a seminary student, a graduate of Moody Bible Institute, and an author for the website Christ and Pop Culture."

 

 

 

I hope you all can forgive me. Somebody in a blackhat stuffed the ballot box!

 

Here is the real number 4.

 

Number 4

 

V1HcraD.png

 

"Deserve's got nothin' to do with it."

 

How Unforgiven laid the classic movie western to rest

By David Pountain

 

"Ever since John Ford admitted to printing the legend in his 1962 masterpiece, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, the traditional mythology of the Old West has undergone an extensive series of cinematic reappraisals. From The Wild Bunch to Heaven’s Gate, gritty revisionist westerns and so-called ‘anti-westerns’ have sought to counteract the romantic misrepresentations of violence, history and heroism perpetuated by the genre’s talented mythmakers in an effort to bring audiences an undiluted dose of the ‘real’ Wild West. As the effortlessly cool protagonist of Sergio Leone’s seminal Dollars Trilogy, Clint Eastwood once helped usher in a new wave of westerns that would dispel some of the falsehoods of the John Ford era while popularising plenty of fresh ones. As the director and star of Unforgiven, he provided the final word on half a century’s worth of horse-mounted do-gooders and lone wolf gunmen. Neither the most disparaging nor most realistic of the various cinematic responses to the genre’s creaky archetypes, it is nonetheless gratifyingly direct and psychologically astute, stripping the gloss and pretence from the old tropes to reveal their raw, bloody origins in both American history and the modern day moviegoer’s own escapist needs.

 

Like the Leone westerns before it, Unforgiven takes place in a dangerous world full of rugged sons of bitches, killing each other for money, pride or in the name of vengeance. The key difference lies in our response to the brutality on display. Whenever Eastwood’s legendary Man with No Name dispensed justice, the questionable nature of his acts was rendered moot by the fact that his adversaries were always depicted as being more unambiguously wicked than him. In Unforgiven, when Eastwood’s retired bandit William Munny is hired to kill two men who cut up a prostitute’s face, their capital punishment is carried out in entirely joyless fashion. At the same time, David Webb Peoples’ script is saturated with unnerving reminders of Munny’s own horrific, booze-fuelled track record. In a land where cocky gunslingers fraudulently brag about past murders (which either happened not as reported or not at all), Munny is the only one to actively downplay his own body count out of a sense of remorse for what he’s done – and fear of what he might yet do. 

 

Of course, even in the era of Leone any suggestion of moral righteousness was mere window dressing to the real reason for watching these films. When stylish works like A Fistful of Dollars dragged the western into meaner terrain, the genre wasn’t de-romanticised so much as it was given a fresh shot of testosterone. This was a rougher wild west than the one John Wayne had inhabited, and so the heroes (and by extension the viewer) had to be even tougher in order to thrive in it. Unforgiven short circuits this arrangement by turning the implicit into the explicit – namely, that what this really all comes down to is men and their dicks.

 

When those men set the film’s grim events in motion by mutilating Delilah Fitzgerald (Anna Levine), they do so as a furious response to Fitzgerald giggling at her client’s “teensy little pecker”. By contrast, local sheriff Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman) tells the story of ‘Two-Gun Corcoran’, who earned his name from the pistol he held in his hand and the considerably larger weapon stored in his pants, recalling how bounty hunter English Bob killed Corcoran in a drunken act of jealousy. Combine these obvious phallic references with images of Munny struggling to mount his horse or his gun failing to fire, and suddenly his mission to avenge the damsel in distress doesn’t seem so dignified. Sheriff Daggett, meanwhile, sees right through the performances of these arrogant, self-styled killers and conmen – yet he too is a striking subversion of a timeworn archetype. His ruthless response to the crimes of Munny and his contemporaries positions him as the primary antagonist of the piece, but it’s not hard to imagine Daggett being the hero of this story in the same vein as John Wayne, Henry Fonda and Gary Cooper. Like Marshal Will Kane in High Noon and Wyatt Earp in My Darling Clementine, Daggett is a steadfast, arguably well-intentioned proponent of law and order.

 

Nonetheless, his vindictive side emerges once trouble comes to his town, mirroring the violent sense of justice enforced by the very outlaws he beats to a pulp. While Daggett’s final line, “I’ll see you in hell, William Munny,” may read like a typical tough guy kiss-off, in the context of the graceless, primeval omnishambles that results from one woman laughing at a man’s dick, his words become a chilling admission.

 

In the 25 years since Unforgiven’s release, the western has thrived as an arthouse genre that continues to probe the themes explored by Eastwood’s film and other revisionist forebears – be it in issues of masculinity (Meek’s Cutoff) or mythmaking (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) – with even the most crowd-pleasing and action-centric of recent entries tending to contain some element of critique. It seems that any attempt to rejuvenate the screen outlaws and lawmen of yore now comes with a twinge of guilt. As for Eastwood himself, Unforgiven was perhaps the statement he needed to make in order to step away from the genre once and for all."

 

 

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And now for the grand reveal!

 

Number 2

 

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"If you work for a living, why do you kill yourself working?"

 

Number 1

 

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"How can you trust a man that wears both a belt and suspenders? Man can't even trust his own pants."

 

The Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone

By The Spaghetti Western Database

 

"Us fans of the genre know of course many directors dabbled in the genre and we all have our individual favorites. But for people who know of the genre and aren't necessarily fans, the one name that comes to mind is... you guessed it, Sergio Leone. Leone is famous in the genre because he is the one who gave it it's style. He is the one who set the pace and tone. The creator of the silent stranger in westerns. And the man who gave world cinema the gift of Clint Eastwood.

 

 

Leone's first directorial efforts, beyond assistant director, came in the sword and sandal films. But he was unheard of until he unleashed A Fistful of Dollars upon the world. Dollars is about a silent stranger who's only true concern is about where his next paycheck is coming from. He arrives in a rundown Mexican town in the clutches of a family war between two rival dynasties. The Baxters and the Rojos. The stranger manipulates both to his own end and leaves a rich man. Upon it's release, Fistful was one of the biggest grossing Italian films of all time. It's unprecedented success made Eastwood a star in Italy and upon it's US release, in America as well.


US critics hated Fistful because of it's highly stylized feel and extreme violence. Although it seems tame by our modern standards, it was very violent for it's time. This is one of the most important aspects of both Leone's films, and the Spaghetti Western. Violence. Leone wanted to show how vile the people of his film were and he even makes the hero only slightly less evil than the villains. Thus revolutionizing the western anti-hero. But his violence was extreme. He met with censorship problems in one early scene. The stranger shoots it out with henchmen under the employment of the Baxters. Leone stations the camera at the stranger's hip so we see him shooting the henchmen from the point of view of his gun. It was against the rules back then to have the shot and the bullet hitting it's target in the same shot. Leone also increased the kill count. Amongst this, he filmed gruesome beatings, and grotesquely disturbing massacres. He added more action and less talk. Leone was bored of all the talk in American westerns and wanted to speed things up. His characters say more by saying less. Instead, they give looks. Then they shoot.

 

 

After the success of A Fistful of Dollars, the Italian studios wanted more. So Leone went about starting a sequel. The aptly named, For a Few Dollars More. And with this film, Leone expanded on his style. The pace is slower and his trademark waiting and lulls before death are far more obvious and evermore present. And he also included another good guy. This was absent from the first one. In this film, two bounty hunters team up to eliminate the outlaw El Indio and his gang for the large sum of bounty money which rests upon their heads. Eastwood returns to his role as the Man with No Name alongside black clad Lee Van Cleef. This film is one of the highest ranked Spaghetti Westerns of all time and if my info is correct, the second highest grossing Italian Western of all time.


With this film, Leone adds a new character. A partner to the main character. After this film, there would never be just one hero. Always two or more. But the addition of a new gunman not only adds more killing, but a chance for Leone to closer examine relationships. In his westerns, Leone's heroes are always weary of each other. Never trusting each other and often double crossing. But human nature is hard to fight. And greed taints many hearts in the Italian West. Leone's partners' relationships developed as time goes on. They form respect and sometimes, trust. If only for a moment. They are closest when they are in combat as it is what they do best, kill.

 

 

And still the producers and Italian public wanted more. So Leone again came up with more. What resulted is quite possibly the best western ever made, and maybe even the best film! The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Three gunmen battle it out in Civil War torn New Mexico for a coffin full of gold. GBU also features Leone's partnerships. The partnership in this film is further explored and more complicated. But what is truly amazing about this film is Leone's scope and vision. He creates a Civil War which has been called one of, if not the most historically accurate depiction of the conflict ever put onto the screen. The musical score has since become extremely well known and is right up there with the Forgotten Pistolero as the most recognized of old western music.


With GBU, Leone has finally mastered his technique. He slows the pace even more so than in For a Few, but the quietness and suspicion that he so skillfully films before his shootouts is far more exciting and spectacular than any action scene. Just the way the characters move and how they act is so beautiful. But his action comes swift and quick and is far less amazing than the build up, but the shootings are the final act to every one of these great moments. The camera work in this film can be seen in all his other films. He mastered the crane shot and with his tedious attention to detail, he films even more spectacular scenes. The background action is key in these scenes. With this film, Leone films a low key and extremely simplistic story but on such a grand scale. The plot deals with a gold hunt but in between this, he films an entire Civil War. So ultimately, it is his scale that makes Leone such a remarkable director.

 

After Leone had finished and released GBU, he had tired of the western. He had said all he wanted to say. He wanted to start a gangster epic but producers still wanted more westerns. Paramount offered Leone a large budget and Henry Fonda whom he had wanted to work with all his career. So the end result was his longest, slowest, and grandest western, Once Upon a Time in the West. But unfortunately, the most flawed. But although these flaws are not overshadowed, the film's strengths do deliver a satisfying end result. Anyway, the story is about a prostitute who's family is massacred by railroad men. She soon meets and is befriended by two men, a mysterious stranger and an eccentric outlaw. Both protect her but one has a score to settle with Frank, the head railroad man.


Once Upon a Time in the West is a perfect example of Leone's admiration and love of the classic American western. And just as in his previous westerns, he references his favorites. Only this time, they nearly fill the 2 hour 45 minute run-time. Leone loved westerns and especially those of Irish American director, John Ford, whose grand, picturesque, and extravagant storytelling abilities greatly influenced Leone. The first two Dollars films are relatively low on obvious references (to my eye) but GBU and Once Upon a Time... are chalked full of said references. Gone with the Wind was something of an inspiration for the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Mostly because of it's Civil War setting. But beyond just referencing past westerns, Leone used them to help create his own mythic western landscape. Leone's west is violent, cruel and treacherous. But it is also epic, beautiful and vast. With his minimal budgets, he created his own world. One where violence ruled. But it is not the violence that is so important. It is the tense, quiet, slow waiting before the violence that is so exciting. One major ingredient in his world was music. As Sir Christopher Frayling states, it took the Italians to show what Horse Opera really meant. The spaghetti Western is an Opera of Violence. Where the beautiful music sets the tone. The emotion of a scene is not achieved solely through imagery, but through the music which truly captures emotion. So to sum up this thought, Once Upon a Time in the West is the best possible example of Leone's west. And what Leone's west really is, is a "violent, long, dreamlike meditation upon the mythology of the American old West."

 

After it was released, Once Upon a Time in the West bombed both financially and critically in the US, where it was to do probably the best business. The film was a success in Italy and France where it did very good business but not enough to recoup from the US failure. Leone would not direct another film for 3 years. Then he was offered to direct yet another western, Giu' La Testa or Duck, You Sucker as it is (unfortunately) known as. Leone rejected directorial duties and his assistant director, Giancarlo Santi, was originally to direct while Leone would produce. But the stars, James Coburn and Rod Steiger, refused to be denied the pleasure of working with the one and only Sergio Leone. So he ended up with directional duties. Sucker is set in the Mexican Revolution. Two men, Juan Miranda and Sean, partner up and end up in the middle of the revolution. Sean wants to make a hero out of Juan but Juan only wants the money. Eventually, nobody wins.


Duck, You Sucker is Leone's most political movie. This is quite obvious knowing it belongs to the political oriented Zapata Spaghetti Western sub genre. But the previous Zapatas seemed to glorify revolution and promoted social revolution. But Leone's message here is decidedly different. At first look, it may seem as if he is glorifying revolution but by the end, it is obvious that he does not and did not glorify the revolution at all. He shows them for what they are. They are horrible conflicts where people are massacred in droves, families are destroyed, and friends are betrayed. It is dirty, depressing and violent. It is not something to take lightly and is quite horrible. Not something to be glorified. But all of the Leone's westerns are political to some extent. As one Leone expert put it, "It was impossible to not be political in the 60's. But Leone was far less concerned about politics than say Carlo Lizzani. Therefore, normal people, such as my self, will have a hard time spotting obvious political statements. But to put it plainly, it seems that the rich and powerful are shown in a unfavorable light. They represent greed and corruption.


Once Leone left his west behind, the Italian western started to wear itself down. The films were becoming very cliched, silly and formulaic. Nothing new was going to be introduced and it eventually simply vanished. Leone spotted this early. He is known to have hated the Trinity movies. The comedies which had been misinterpreted and eventually led to the end of the genre. But Leone wanted to show what these films had become, so he made My Name is Nobody with Tonino Valerii. His elegy on the end of the west and the western. A very appropriate goodbye to his beloved genre. Leone's films were never liked by critics but the public thoroughly enjoyed them. He is the man responsible for perfecting the Spaghetti style and his contribution to the Spaghetti Western and Western in general is comparable to Orson Welles to film noir. A true auteur of film."

 

 

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15 minutes ago, The Panda said:

 

I hope you all can forgive me. Somebody in a blackhat stuffed the ballot box!

 

Here is the real number 4.

 

Obligatory:

 

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5 hours ago, The Panda said:

Number 4

 

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"Logan... You still have time!"

 

Deconstructionism and the Gospel of Hope in Logan

By some Christian apologetics guy

 

"Deconstructing a Genre. Though Logan invokes the spirit of the classic western Shane (1953) at multiple junctures, one cannot shake the feeling that the film has more to do with Clint Eastwood’s deconstruction of the western genre, Unforgiven (1992). Screenwriter John August once said of David Webb Peoples’s script for Eastwood’s brilliant film:

 

'I think the script takes our expectations of what a western is supposed to do and what the hero of a western is supposed to do and what the tropes of a western are supposed to do. It explores them and ultimately sort of rips them apart and sort of lays bare the pain and the suffering that’s underneath all of that and sort of tries to get back to the common humanity that underlies all the sort of mythic heroes that we have coming out of the western genre. I don’t [think] you can make Unforgiven without a good knowledge of all of the westerns that came before it. And the audience’s expectations about what’s supposed to happen in a western. It’s not sort of playing with the tropes as much as sort of just lighting them on fire and watching them burn away.'

 

I can think of no better analysis for Logan, a film that masterfully deconstructs the superhero film genre, unmaking and profoundly humanizing its central hero. By embracing the mythic dimensions of tragic heroes, Logan subverts audience expectations at every corner to tell a seemingly new story through the rediscovery of classic mythological tropes. Indeed, Rolling Stone argues that Logan goes out of its way to “kill” the modern superhero genre, suggesting that the film alone has the potential to change audience expectations for the genre altogether. 2 Yet the film does not relish entirely in the breaking down of long-established tropes, because Logan actually does have something profound to say that speaks to the very core of what these kinds of mythic stories stir in the human imagination.

 

With death looming, Logan realizes he is never going to get that peaceful end he has long sought. His friends are dead. His loves are gone. If he thought he was alone before, he is truly alone now. And everything, it seems to him, has been lost for the fantastic visions of a sort of mythical Eden for mutants, a spark of hope that exists in the mind of a child and in the pages of old stories. Knowing he has reached the end of the line, with the villains closing in, Logan faces his final decision — let the girl continue on her own against unsurmountable odds, or finally lay down his own life in the hope of a future that he knows he will never see?

 

Hope and Sacrifice. Logan makes his choice and it takes him to his death. It is far from peaceful, but by sacrificing himself, he gives Laura and the next generation of mutants a chance to see their hope realized. And herein lies the brilliance of Logan’s final chapter — the hero dies but dies in hope. Somehow, Logan takes the tragic hero of the old myths, and imbues him with an ending that is downright biblical.

 

The writer of Hebrews defines faith itself as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1 KJV, emphasis added). The apostle Paul speaks of the Christian life as one lived in hope of a future marked by a powerful resurrection (Eph. 1:18). But resurrection implies that death must come first. In the epistle to Colossians, Paul also correlates the gospel of Jesus Christ with the hope that is stored up in heaven for those who believe (1:5–8). In Romans, God is described as the God of Hope — both the author and the subject (Rom. 15:13).

 

Cynicism looks at Logan’s final chapter and says his life amounted to very little. That same cynicism would likely look at the apostle Paul, who, tradition maintains, was beheaded in Rome under Nero, and ask what good came of his life beyond the preservation of his writings. Or even Abraham, who’s possession of the Promised Land remained unfulfilled upon his death. Yet that cynicism falls woefully short of comprehending the centrality of hope to the biblical story, to Logan’s story, and to the Christian life. Perhaps this is why James Mangold himself, the film’s director and story writer, does not see a shred of cynicism in the film’s final haunting moments.

 

Perhaps the Christian is tempted to find himself or herself in the character of Logan. I suppose there are shades of all of us in that character, especially at his end. How interesting, though, that we are never told whether or not Logan comes to believe in Laura’s future — in other words, he never professes faith. Though his sacrifice is admirable, his death is no less tragic. His final moments are spent insisting upon Laura that, for all her abilities, she not become like him. Yet he dies because of her faith, because of what her hope has sparked in him.

 

In truth, the deeper Christian corollary is Laura, whose childlike faith in old stories of unseen things pushes an apathetic and dying man to hope again in a better future. Is this not, to some degree, the responsibility of the Christian in the preaching of the gospel of Christ? Is this not the power of the Bible’s eschatological realization? The story does not end with Christ’s ascension; in fact, the promises made to the Old Testament saints in the early narrative practically demand an ending that sees the Messiah’s physical presence in the New Jerusalem. Christ must return, death must give way, the world must be remade.

 

Walter Brueggemann, in his book A Gospel of Hope, speaks of hope as producing a “new song” that sings not of the world as it is but “imagines how the world will be in God’s good time to come. The new song is a protest against the way the world is now.”4 Laura’s Eden and the Christian eschaton serve the same purpose in Logan’s story and in the life of the world. For all its deconstructionism, unmaking heroes and showing us a devastating future in which even good men fail, Logan nonetheless stakes its final, profound claim on a gospel of hope, one powerful enough to keep a dying man with however feeble a faith pressing on in expectation of a better tomorrow. Ultimately, it is a hope worth dying for.

 

It was the great conviction of C. S. Lewis that, even as adults, the world is best seen through the eyes of a child with stories.5 Those stories have the potential to “baptize” the imagination, priming one to receive in faith the mythic dimensions of the biblical story, and therefore the gospel. In the context of its own narrative, Logan understands the power of story to imbue a devastated world with the power to hope. As Christians, that should be reason enough to carry our gospel of hope into a dying world. For Laura, that is a song worth singing. For Logan, it is a song worth listening to.

 

Cole Burgett is a seminary student, a graduate of Moody Bible Institute, and an author for the website Christ and Pop Culture."

 

 

Tell us you haven’t watched enough Westerns without telling us you haven’t watched enough Westerns 

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