Friday, July 31, 2015

Western Legends: Robert Duvall

(Olivia's words in blue and Emma's in brown.)

     So, you may know that Olivia and I are very fond of a certain actor. We kind of talk about him a lot. In fact, this mutual interest was one of the reasons we got to know each other in the first place.  We discovered, through my review of The Stars Fell on Henrietta, that we both really quite adored the man.  We tend to swoon a bit at the mention of his name, so we'll try not to get too fangirly (but we will likely fail).

     Yeah, you could say we really like him.

     Oh yes, and he has a name. It's Robert Duvall.

     His co-stars call him Bobby, so we do too. :-D

     One director who's worked with him termed him, "a first-class actor…an American institution," and Olivia and I definitely agree with that!  (Well, as must anyone in full possession of their mental faculties.)

  I'm trying to think of what the first movie I ever saw Robert Duvall in was....I guess it must have been Lonesome Dove. I saw the first part of LD when I was...thirteen, maybe? At the time I didn't like it at all, believe it or not! I wasn't into westerns at that point in my young life, and the depth of the story and the characters went right over my head. Then I watched The Great Santini, which did not help matters at all. ;-P I thought Robert Duvall was annoying. I resolved to dislike him forever.

     Well, time happened. I saw Gods and Generals, in which he plays Robert E. Lee, and realized, this guy is actually a REALLY good actor. He's enjoyable to watch. I watched Lonesome Dove again -- all the way through, this time -- and the rest is history. :-)

     As I've said before, you just can't not like Robert Duvall. I've tried it. It just doesn't work. Now I've seen him in about eight films, read interviews, watched special features, and he's one of my very favorite actors. I admire the way he carries himself, how he's always genuine and has a deep feeling for each one of his characters. And of course, I love his unique sense of humor. :-)

     I'm fairly sure that I first saw Robert Duvall in Secondhand Lions--that's a popular movie in our household, and it was one of our "staple watches" when we kids were younger:)  Anyway, I always loved Uncle Hub (because, I mean, like Emma said, you can't not), but I didn't really know who he was.  Then a number of years later, I watched Seven Days in Utopia, and I think, strangely enough, that was when I started to realize my love for Bobby.  I knew going into it that it was the same guy who played Hub, and then I started to realize, "Hey, this actor is pretty cool.  He seems like 'a good ol' country boy.'"  And I think he is:)

I appreciate how Bobby has dedicated himself to quality movies--movies with high morals, high values.  Movies parents and kids can watch together and enjoy without discomfort or embarrassment on either side.  Discuss-able movies.  I guess what I mean is, all of his movies, that I've seen or heard of, have a higher point.  They're not movies for the sake of blood 'n' guts, action, romance, etc.  I feel like you can come away from his films having learned something.

I also love that you sense real humility from him as an actor.  I love his sense of humor.  I love how you get the idea that he doesn't really take himself too seriously;-P


Mack Sledge in Tender Mercies (1983)
     I honestly don't remember much of anything about this movie, but I'm sure I'd love it if I watched it again:)  

     This movie isn't a western, but Robert Duvall wears a cowboy hat, so we're counting it. :-) Plus it's really good, in a simple, down-to-earth sort of way. Mack Sledge is a down-on-his-luck country singer who takes a job working at a gas station run by a nice lady named Rosa Lee. What's really neat about this role is that he actually sings in the movie, and almost every song on the soundtrack. I didn't know that until the credits rolled by, and I realized the guy singing that song that kept playing throughout was actually Robert Duvall! It gained him even more points in my book. :-)

Print Ritter in Broken Trail (2006)

     This is one of my very favorite of Bobby's roles. (But hey, I say that about almost every single one. ;-P) Print is an aging cowboy, much like Gus in Lonesome Dove, except he's more...oh, I don't know...morally upstanding? than Gus is. While Gus is a genuinely good guy, Print is more of a polished gentleman. (He's also a very snazzy dresser -- I mean, for a cowboy out on the trail, those are some fancy duds.) The way he talks to the five Chinese girls in his care is SO adorable, doing everything he can to make them feel safe and naming them 'Number 1, Number 2, Number 3, Number 4, and Number 5'.
      One of the things I love about this movie is how much the characters come to know each other and depend on each other without even speaking the same language. (Especially with Tom and Sung Fu...but we won't go into that now or else I might morph into a puddle of sentimental fluff.)
     Short version: I love Uncle Print. :-)

     Oh, yes.  THIS I know;)  Okay.  Prentice Ritter, or Print, is absolutely AMAZING.  I love him.  I love how he cares for the girls, and his special relationship with "li'l number five" is even more precious.  Print is anxious to repair and preserve his relationship with his guarded nephew, Tom, and that's admirable.  It can be so very hard to preserve familial connections where there is pain, misunderstanding, and emotional walls.  And his courage in the face of Ed Bywaters--"Our Father Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name!"  Ohhhh myyyy worrrrd;-P  It's wonderful.  "Don't hurt the children"--and then, when Tom had saved the day--"You will not hurt these children.  No, sir."    Another great thing is how open Print is about his weaknesses and/or failures.  He knows himself, and he accepts himself, even while admitting that he lacks courage in some areas.  That's really inspiring--to see a character who acknowledges that he isn't perfect, but refuses to wallow in self-condemnation or regret.

Hub McCann in Secondhand Lions (2003)

         Oh, Hub McCann.  Where to start?  I feel like the character of Hub is iconic--which is strange, since (and more's the pity) few people talk about this movie much.  But is it not great?  While Hub isn't exactly lovey-dovey towards Walter (or, really, anybody), you can tell that he cares.  Life hasn't always treated him kindly, and he can tend to be grumpy at times, but boy, oh boy, when he gets going:  "I'm Hub McCann…"  I just love this movie, especially Hub's character, and his relationship with Garth is particularly amusing.  "To h*** with that!  *tosses rake away*  You live to be a hundred!"

 Bobby is so much fun as a grumpy old man! :-) Hub is such a great character, the more aggressive and charismatic of the two crazy uncles. That hat he wears is a classic. And he's so quotable! "You live to be a hundred." "You old ladies want to get in, I'll drive you home." Oh, and of course his "What Every Boy Needs To Know About Being a Man" speech is a bit of epicness itself. It's fun to see Robert Duvall in something on the silly side for a change. :-)

Gus McCrae in Lonesome Dove (1989)

     When they finished filming Lonesome Dove, Robert Duvall said, "I can retire now. I've done something I can be proud of."  He's also said the role of Gus McCrae may be his favorite, and I'm inclined to agree that this is definitely some of Bobby's best acting. In fact, it's some of THE best acting ever. Having read the book (*blushes and waves proudly*) I can say that absolutely no one could have done it better. Robert Duvall IS Gus. Charming, irritating, lovable, loyal, with a quick tongue and a lazy sense of fun. He's also extremely brave, when he has to be, but he'd rather be sitting on the porch drinking whiskey and kicking the rear end of a pig every now and then. :-)

     Although I've only seen this once, it's certainly not an easy story to forget.  Robert Duvall, as always, lends even more epic-ness to the tale.  His character, Gus McCrae,  did take a little while to grow on me, I admit.  However, by the end, I was wholly won over.  Did he have issues?  Yes--but everyone does, and don't we appreciate realism in a story more than picture-perfect characters like Elsie Dinsmore?  Anyway, let's just say that some tears squeezed past my eyelids in Certain Scenes...  Oh, to heck with spoilers--people, the pain!  "Been quite a party, ain't it?"  Too much.  Just couldn't.  Really, he has some of the best quotes.  I even have an awesome bookmark with one of his great one-liners, made by dear Emma herself!:D

     Here are some of our personal favorite words of wisdom from this amazing actor!

"I think I nailed a very specific individual guy who represents something important in our history of the western movement. After that, I felt I could retire, that'd I'd done something."  {about Lonesome Dove}

"I like the good feeling movies."

"We either accept weaknesses in good people, or we have to tear pages out of the Bible." 

"A young actor once asked me, What do you do between jobs? I said, Hobbies, hobbies, and more hobbies. It keeps you off dope."

    "A friend is someone who many years ago offered you his last $300 when you broke your pelvis. A friend is Gene Hackman."

"Stripping away artific--it's the constant standard I aim for in acting, to approximate life.  People talk about being bigger than life--but there's nothing bigger than life."

 "I'm not perceived as a traditional leading man, but I never aimed at that sort of thing either. I never straightened my front teeth, or whatever. I wan't cut out for that. Even if I did a 'big' movie, I'd still want to make it a real character."

       So yes, we really admire this fella. We love his humor, his down-to-earth personality, and his effortlessly natural performances. He's a strong actor, an inspiring personality, and has earned his place as an American classic. 

"The English have Shakespeare, the French have Moliere, the Russians have Chekov, the Argentines have Borges, but the Western is ours -- from Canada down to the Mexican border."
     ~Robert Duvall

Open Range (2003)

     "Man's got a right to protect his property and his life, and we ain't lettin' no rancher or his lawman take either."   ~ Boss Spearman

     My mama and daddy had seen this movie several years ago, before I was interested in cowboys and cattle drives (and before I was allowed to watch it, since it is very violent.) I remember my mom saying that it wasn't too impressive, and that it made her think that Kevin Costner had felt left out because he wasn't in Lonesome Dove. ;-) For a while I had no interest in watching it myself, because, well... it was a grown-ups movie. A western. Blahhhh.

     Buuuut...years happened, and I got older, and those turned out to be the very reasons I ended up wanting to watch it. Oh, plus Robert Duvall. Obviously.

      I watched this one summer night with my mom; daddy hadn't come in from working yet, my older sister was at a college class, and my younger sister had just called to say she was sleeping over at my cousins' house, so I said to Mama, "Well, it looks like it's just you and me and Kevin Costner." Mama said, "That doesn't sound too bad." :-D

     Basically, Open Range  is the result of Kevin Costner feeling left out that he didn't get to be in Lonesome Dove, how he dragged Robert Duvall into making another cattle drive movie with him (Robert Duvall, of course, went along with it because he's nice like that,) and rounded up a herd of cattle and some supporting actors to try and make an epic cattle-drive western so he could show off his horse-riding skills and wear a big cowboy hat, because he never got to wear one in Dances With Wolves.

     At least, that's my version. : ) No, seriously, Open Range is a pretty good movie in its own right. It's not exactly epic. I found it a tiny bit boring. But it's pretty good.

     I'm not too good at explaining storylines, so here's a synopsis I found on IMDB (in case you want to know):

     Boss Spearman, Charley Waite, Mose Harrison and Button freegraze their cattle across the vast prairies of the West, sharing a friendship forged by a steadfast code of honor and living a life unencumbered by civilization. When their wayward herd forces them near the small town of Harmonville, the cowboys encounter a corrupt sheriff and kingpin rancher who govern the territory through fear, tyranny and violence. Boss and Charley find themselves inextricably drawn towards an inevitable showdown, as they are forced to defend the freedom and values of a lifestyle that is all too quickly vanishing. Amidst the turmoil, life suddenly takes an unexpected turn for the loner Charley when he meets the beautiful and warm spirited Sue Barlow, a woman who embraces both his heart and his soul.

     Kevin Costner plays Charley Wait, a quiet, broody cowboy with a less than pleasant past. He was a little too bloodthirsty, but in general I liked Charley all right. He had a tender side to him, and there were even some moments that made me go, "Awwwwww." I couldn't get used to Kevin Costner's name being Charley, though. He seems much more like a Wyatt Earp. :-)

     Boss Spearman is Charley's old friend and fellow trail rider. They've been together for years (almost ten -- "you know what they call that? They call it a decade"), but neither one knows very much about the other's previous life. This isn't one of Robert Duvall's most amazing roles, but he was a joy to watch as usual. He had a few clever little lines, though not as many as I'd hoped. Certainly not like Gus McCrae. :-)

     And of course there has to be a woman, for Kevin.

     Sue Barlow (Annette Bening) is the sister of the doctor who Charley and Boss bring their wounded friends to. (Over and over again, because their friends keep getting hurt.) They think she's the doctor's wife (because DUH, why else would he have a woman living with him), so Charley hides his feelings for her...but then he finds out she's not married, and after breaking her mother's china he leaves with the understanding that if he doesn't get killed (the chances are slim), he's going to come back for her.

     I actually really liked Sue. She had grit. She could take care of herself and anyone else who needed taking care of, and she wasn't afraid of taking chances to protect people she cared about. I also loved her dresses. She wore her hair down the whole time, though, which mildly bothered me.

      The evil rancher who wreaks havoc on Boss and Charley's herd is played, surprisingly, by Michael Gambon. What?! Michael Gambon as a bad guy? How is that even possible? I wouldn't have thought it was, but oh my goodness, he was brutal. Ugh. And his marshal friend there was pretty nasty too. The marshal was played by James Russo, who plays Capt. Billy Fender in Broken Trail, so I pretty much already hated him just for that.

     There's a lot of shooting in this movie. A lotta lotta shooting. It's rated R for violence, and there's a really long bloody gunfight in the second half of the movie which kind of goes on forever. You could probably even skip the whole gunfight and not miss much of the story. There's some language in the movie, but it's not terrible for a western, and the main characters were for the most part good, morally-upright men. There was the whole revenge/justice thing, which different people will come to different conclusions about. It's definitely an adult movie. (Says the sixteen-year-old girl) ;-D

     The best thing about Open Range for me was seeing two of my favorite actors together in a western. I wasn't terribly impressed with the story, but it was mostly enjoyable to watch. The scenery is stunning. The music is so-so -- pretty good, but not a soundtrack I'm going to be tripping over myself to buy.

     Open Range doesn't make my favorites list, but if you're a western fan and you like Kevin Costner and Bobby Duvall, you'll probably enjoy it.

See, that right there is pretty.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

True Women (1997)

     "I don't believe our loved ones make our lives; but loving them does."
~Sarah Ashby McClure

     WOW. This movie is just one big WOW. That was about all I could say for a while after finishing it.


     I think I'd seen this movie at the library before, but I never paid much attention to it until I found it in a box of DVDs at a yard sale the other day. If you don't already know this, I have a thing for historical miniseries from the 80's and 90's. They have a sort of magnetic draw to me; I can't resist them. The case intrigued me, and when I read the synopsis I thought, Texas revolution?! Civil War?! The Old South!? Music by Bruce Broughton?!? That did it; I was sold. I got it for only a buck. Pretty good deal, huh?

     True Women follows the lives of three women over the course of many years; sisters Sarah Ashby McClure and Euphemia Ashby King, and Southern belle Georgia Virginia Lawshe Wood. It tells the story of their struggles, the changes they endure, the people they loved, the near-death experiences they overcome, and how they live through it all. 

     For the first hour or so of the movie, I didn't enjoy it much. People kept dying. There were nasty people doing nasty things. John Schneider came and went in about as long as it takes me to blink my eyes. (I don't approve of John Schneider being given small, unimportant roles, you see.) It was a little scary. But then, all of a sudden, it got really good. And then it got better and better...and by the end I was weeping with the unbearably beautiful agony and ecstasy of the thing. 

     Sarah Ashby McClure (Dana Delaney) is sort of the main character for most of the first half of the movie. When her husband Bartlett (Powers Booth), a Texas Ranger, is called to help General Sam Houston's army drive Santa Anna back, General Houston puts Sarah in charge of getting the women left behind to safety.
     Sarah was a tough case; I didn't know whether to love her or hate her. Sometimes I felt like saying, "You go, girl!" while at other times I just wanted to tell her to shut up, for heavens' sake. Sarah's not very delicate. She's tough and she won't tolerate lily-livered people. She might point a shotgun at you if you don't do what she tells you. But despite being a little scary, her strength has an admirable side too. In the end, I had decided to like her after all.

     Georgia Virginia Lawshe (Angelina Jolie) is a (somewhat spoiled) Southern belle who was left behind when her best friend Euphemia goes to live with her sister Sarah's family in Texas. (Georgia is named after two states, don't you know -- "Georgia and Virginia, I imagine." ;-)) She's secretly part Indian, but nobody's supposed to know that. She also has a cousin who's a slave, which makes things even more weird, but no one's really supposed to know that either.
     I was surprised at how much I liked Angelina Jolie in this role. She makes an adorable Southern belle; I've been trying to imitate her accent for the past 42 hours. ;-) Georgia is really a nice girl, but she doesn't always act like it. She's the more delicate of the three women at the start, having been born and bred in civilized Georgia, but when she moves out to Texas with her doctor husband, she bears up to the trials and becomes a strong, capable manager of a cotton plantation.

     Euphemia Ashby King (Annabeth Gish), known as 'Phemie', was my favorite character. Phemie comes to live with her sister Sarah when her father dies, and grows up learning to be tough like her sister and able to defend herself if need be. But Phemie's a whole lot sweeter than Sarah, and her tender side comes out more often. She loves horses, she cares about her friends, and she'll do what she's got to to protect her family. Yup, I loved Phemie.

     Since the whole movie is basically about how women endured the trials of the Western frontier, there are parts of the movie that are a leeetle feministic, but not so much that it really bothered me. On the whole, I really, really like these characters. They're strong women, and I admire them. Yes, even you, Sarah.

     This story is just full of intensity, drama, tension, FEELS. Aahhhh. One minute they're crossing the Brazos on a raft, the next they're this close to being scalped by Comanches, and then hey, look, now we're petitioning for women to get the vote in Texas. There's so MUCH here. It's a well-told story, no doubt about that. I kept thinking, while watching this, how much Dr. Michaela Quinn would like these ladies. I think they'd really hit it off.

     The characters are also quotable. Now, I think that's awfully important. I put a lot of stock in good dialogue in a movie. Here's some of my favorite quotes:

"I'll go to the school, Sarah. I forgive you for slapping me. I don't know if I ever told you this, but I'm not sorry I came to Texas."   ~Euphemia

"Whoever said you're safe when you're not on the battlefield sure as h*** wasn't a woman."    ~Sarah

"I am named after two states."   ~Georgia
"Georgia and Virginia, I imagine."   ~Peter Wood

"I have been thinking about what you said, how you thought I was the prettiest girl in Francisville, if not Georgia and the entire South. If you know every girl in the entire South, I would be a fool to trust you, now wouldn't I?"     ~Georgia

"I apologize for dying so young."   ~Georgia

"You see? I have given him my horse!"   ~Euphemia  (Ohhhhh the FEELS in this scene!!!!)

"Now, I don't want to be a man. I like being a woman."  ~Georgia

     True Women is rated PG-13. There's a smattering of language -- nothing too foul, pretty much what you'd expect from a period drama like this. There's also a few little bedroom scenes; they're short and not graphic, but you'll probably want to turn your head. There's an attempted rape which is none too pretty, and one part where the woman is drawing the man into a trap him. (It's actually a really epic scene, so I don't recommend skipping it!) The worst part, I'd say, is the violence. It's not heavy throughout, but there is some brutality (mostly concerning the Indians) which is pretty scary. So this is not a movie for children, definitely.

     Of course I MUST mention the soundtrack. :-) Bruce Broughton is one of my favorite film composers; he's done so many amazing scores, like Silverado, Tombstone, and The Blue and the Gray. So I always expect greatness from him, and I haven't been disappointed yet! The music lends so much to this movie, giving it that old-timey, widespread, epic feel. In fact, I may or may not have just ordered the soundtrack within two hours of finishing the movie. *ducks head*

     It's a good movie, folks. It made me laugh and it made me cry, and it gave me that deep-down, warm-fuzzy feeling of a story well told.

Eupehmia: "Did we really do anything, Sarah?"
Sarah: "We endured. That's enough, sweetie."

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Favorite Western Composers

     We all know that music adds a lot to a movie. I put a lot of stock in a good movie score. In fact, I'm what you might call a soundtrack buff. :-D I always pay attention to who composed the score of a movie, and sometimes that's even the reason I watch a movie in the first place.

     Many westerns have beautiful soundtracks. My sister and I have often said that westerns and Civil War movies have the best music, which in many cases is true. Many of my favorite soundtracks are from westerns, and many great composers have done a lot of western scores. Here's a few of what I consider the Best of the Best. :-)

~ Bruce Broughton

     I first heard of this fella when I watched the Civil War miniseries The Blue and the Gray.  I started listening to the soundtrack on Youtube all the time while I did my math and soon became interested to find more by the composer. He also does the scores of Silverado, Tombstone, and True Women. His themes are usually very lyrical, sweeping and easily flowing.

~ James Newton Howard

     This guy has done the music of two of my very favorite movies: Wyatt Earp and Hidalgo. His music is very epic, big, and exciting. (Which, you know, is necessary for movies about cowboys and horse races!)

*sniffle* SOBBBB.

~ Basil Poledouris

     What a name, huh? ;-D I don't know much about this composer, but one thing he's done that I know VERY well is Lonesome Dove. Which may possibly be the best western score ever written. Lots of swelling strings, cowboy guitar, and those haunting trumpets at the beginning...*sigh* And you get to hear the gorgeous theme at the beginning and end of each episode, which of course is great.

     Oh yes, and Basil Poledouris also did Quigley Down Under (which I have not seen, but the music is pretty fun).

~ Carter Burwell

     Composer of the Cohen Brothers' True Grit. I love how he's incorporated the themes of several old hymns into this score, drawing heavily off the classic 'Leaning on the Everlasting Arms', and the way a lot of the music sounds like an old church piano. :-)

     Does this make you cry? It makes me cry. Here, you can use my hanky.

     Carter Burwell also did the score of The Alamo (2004), which is very different from True Grit but AMAAAAZING. There are feels in this music, folks. Just listen to this:

     Oh, for goodness' sake, just go watch the movie!

     So yes, Carter Burwell's music tends to be very feels-y.

     Another beautiful western soundtrack is from the recent movie The Homesman. I have mixed feelings about this movie; on one hand, it's amazing, heart-wrenching, awe-inspiring, mind-blowingly-epic. On the other, I don't even want to think about it! It's extremely gruesome, very graphic, and very VERY sad. Seriously, don't watch it. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. (But if you have watched it, do let me know, because I'd welcome the chance to lament over the movie with a fellow human soul!)

   But anyway. The music is gorgeous. Very old-timey, soft and lush.

     What do you think of these western soundtracks?
What are some of your own favorites?

"My heroes have always been Cowboys..." {& Cowboy Tournament}

   Cowboy heroes. They come in all different shapes and sizes, but they all share many of the same core fundamentals: dignity, honor, loyalty, steadiness. They ride horses, they herd cattle, they wear big hats and boots with spurs, they respect the land and its people. And boy, do we love to watch them. :-)

     Here are some of my own favorite cowboy heroes from the silver screen:

~ Jim Craig (Tom Burlinson) in The Man From Snowy River

     Jim Craig is an adorable baby-faced darling. He's got a very youthful side to him, yet he knows how to be a man; as Clancy says in the movie, "He's not a lad. He's a man. The man from Snowy River." (at which point I may or may not always squeal like a silly teenaged girl, *ahem*) Jim Craig possesses the quality that I think most draws me to a character: he'll do what's right because he knows it's right. And because that's the Cowboy Way. :-)

~ Frank T. Hopkins (Viggo Mortensen) in Hidalgo

     Oh, my. Frank Hopkins, as I have mentioned before, is charged with starting my obsession with cowboys in the first place. If you take a look at him, you'll probably understand. :-) Frank's tough and doesn't wear his heart on his sleeve, but his true self is caring and honorable. Plus it's so much fun just to listen to him talk. "Sounds an awful lot like South Dakota."

~ Matthew Cooper (Chad Allen) in Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman

     Hey, Matthew is totally a cowboy! He herds cattle, doesn't he? ;-) Matthew's one of those characters you just really feel for. I feel somewhat responsible for him, I desperately want him to be happy, and I feel like I need to take care of him and make sure he doesn't do anything really stupid (because he will, he's done it so many times before.) But you know what? While Matthew does a lot of impulsive, stupid things, he always learns from his mistakes and experiences and it only makes him stronger. And you've gotta love that awkward smile he has, where his mouth slants halfway up his face.

~ Tom Harte (Thomas Haden Church) in Broken Trail

     AAAHHHH. Ahem. Calm down, Emma. This fellow is one who tends to bring out the Extreme Fangirl side of me. (Which is partly thanks to a certain lady who shares my love of this extraordinary movie.) Tom Harte is one tough guy. As I said in my review of Broken Trail, it took me a long time to warm up to Tom, but when you see through his rough exterior you find that he's really got a heart of gold. Tom Harte is my idea of the Ultimate Cowboy -- he's respectful, responsible, and above all, he's steadfast.

~ Dish Boggett (D.B. Sweeney) in Lonesome Dove

     I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Dish. :-) Dish is a rather pitiful character; he's hopelessly in love with Lorena, who doesn't even care that he exists. In many ways, he's just a lovesick kid. There's something very endearing about his awkward, sometimes pathetic but well-meaning personality. He really loves Lorie, and that's what melts my heart. All I want for Dish is for Lorie to love him the way he loves her. (I just pretend Streets of Laredo didn't happen. Which is easy to do, since I've neither read nor watched it.)

     Just loooook..... *happy sigh*


So, how about you? Who are your favorite Cowboy Heroes from film and TV? Because I had a brilliant idea...
Wouldn't it be fun to have a Cowboy Hero tournament? Where we could all nominate our favorite cowboys and then vote on the winner at the end of the week? I think it would. So if you want to join, here's how this is going to go:

  • basically all you have to do is comment here, 'nominating' your favorite (or one of your favorite) cowboy heroes from a Western movie, TV show, ect. Once everyone has nominated their cowboy darlings, I'll put up a poll on the sidebar of the blog, and on Saturday we'll see who has received the most votes and will be proclaimed the Winner.
Now, does that make sense to everybody? Good. :-) I'm excited to see who y'all nominate!

Because the Earp brothers are awesome
(And you don't have to worry about nominating the same cowboy as someone else -- it'll just mean more points for said cowboy. Gee, you think I've said cowboy enough times yet?)

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Legends of Western Cinema Week: Is It a Western?

     Howdy, people!  Welcome to the first joint post of Emma's and Olivia's, put together for Legends of Western Cinema Week!:D  *fanfare* 

     Let's dive right in!  To make things simpler, Emma's thoughts will be in brown, and Olivia's thoughts will be in blue.  Other stuff will be in plain old black:)

"What makes a Western?  It seems to me that it's not simply that it took place in the Western part of the United States, nor is it big hats and peacemakers and horses.  I mean, all of those are elements, certainly, but what makes a Western a Western to me is that you lack the recourse of civilization to work out whatever the problem is, and therefore characters must work out the dilemmas for themselves." 
~Walter Hill, director of Broken Trail 

     Most people have a pretty good picture of what a 'classic' western is supposed to look like. Cowboys, cattle drives, cavalry scouts, outlaws, and a healthy dose of family tension are what characterize most of the great oldies. Oh yes, and of course the famous ruts and cliffs of the American West. And dust; lots of dust.

     But sometimes the line between what's classified as a 'western' movie and what isn't can be a little blurry. We're going to take a look at some of our favorite movies that are kind of on the fence in that regard. Sort-of westerns, off-beat westerns -- whatever you want to call 'em.

    Geronimo: An American Legend (1993)

     This is a drama about the legendary Apache chief Geronimo and his resistance to the U.S government. It's a well-made historical movie, but not particularly epic; mostly it's just sad. Not a very enjoyable movie. The cast is excellent (though I was a little disappointed with Robert Duvall's role), and Jason Patric's character, Lt. Charles Gatewood, is one of my favorite screen characters of all time. Worth watching if you like historical dramas about Indians, but not something I'd want to watch more than once.

     Really, though, watch it just for Lt. Gatewood. He's wonderful.

     The Alamo (2005)

     I've seen the old 1959 movie The Alamo on several lists of 'best westerns ever made', but this newer version doesn't seem to be considered among the Western genre. IMDB lists it as historical, war, and drama. There are no cowboys, and the Texas Revolution took place before the stereotyped 'western' period, but the movie DOES take place in Texas and there's a healthy dose of that Old West feel. It's a fantastic historical drama, with an amazingly talented cast and some of the most heart-tugging scenes I've ever seen in a movie...such as the last night before the battle, when all the men are sitting around writing letters to their families, and the part where Davy Crockett plays his fiddle on top of the fort along with the Spanish military band. *shivers* Read my review here.

    Dances with Wolves (1990)


     One of the most classic American movies ever, Dances With Wolves is also on the edge of Western and just plain Drama. I've seen it on some people's Western Bucket Lists (I read a lot of magazines, you see), but then I've also read that some people consider it a 'fake' as a western. Well, whatever it is, it's pretty darn good.

     Hidalgo (2004)

     One of my all-time favorite movies, Hidalgo is the one that really started my whole western obsession. Frank Hopkins is responsible for my infatuation with cowboys everywhere. :-) 
     So strictly speaking, you wouldn't call this a western. Most of the movie takes place in the Middle East, but it IS the story of a cowboy and his heritage, how he overcomes ginormous obstacles, and it's got plenty of the grit that's prevalent in stories about the West. So if I want to call it a western, I will. :-)

     Okay, yes, I did choose one of the most Western-y pictures to put there;)  

     Anyway.  Is Hidalgo a Western…well, admittedly, the majority of the movie actually takes place in the Middle East, not the American West.  There aren't bank robberies, lassos, or spurs (except, of course those belonging to Frank).  However, the main character comes from the West, is actually *SPOILERS* part-Indian *END OF SPOILERS*, rides a painted, decidedly Western-looking horse, and is called 'Cowboy' by several characters.  Furthermore, he encapsulates the best of the spirit of the West--chivalry, courage, triumph over adversity, etc.  Also, in the middle of the Arabian desert, civilization is of course a mirage, and he must problem-solve independently. 

     Long story short, while I'm not sure I could classify Hidalgo as a Western in the most technically hard-core sense of the term, I think the beginning and end of the movie capture the essence of a truly splendid Western (and the art of inducing sniffles from vulnerable teenage fangirls *ahem*).  

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

     Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is certainly a…stretch to classify as a Western.  But I think it works.  It takes place in the American West, and there is mention made in the beginning of the film about "land needing to be settled."  This isn't really the cowboy sort of Western, though--it's the homesteader sort.  However, Millie is definitely thrust into a rather, ahem, uncivilized world, and has to take control and whip these men into shape almost singlehandedly.  

Spirit:  Stallion of the Cimarron

     First of all, this movie can be whatever it jolly well wants to be.  Just want that duly noted;)  It's an animated film, a kid's movie, a moving drama, a romance, a sociopolitical commentary, and a story of unlikely friendship that may well bring tears to your eyes.  (I'm dead serious.)  

     But anyway, the question is:  is it a Western?  I think so.  Taking place at a time when the cavalry was "settling" the West, it looks at that settlement from a different perspective--from the heart of a horse.  (Because, you see, he was there.  And he remembers…he remembers the sun and the sky, and the wind calling his name, and a time when wild horses ran free, and--shutting up.  I mustn't spoil the movie, must I?  Leave the quotes for your review, Olivia, and get back to the task at hand.)  It explores the interactions between the U. S. cavalry and the wild mustangs it sought to tame, and between the Indians and said cavalry, and between the mustangs and the Indians.  It also even includes a sort-of-representative Battle of Wounded Knee Creek.  So, I mean…just sayin'.  The movie takes you back to a different part of the Old West, and it's quite interesting to see it from that viewpoint.  

     I'm babbling.  I must refrain.  Bottom line:  yes, I think this is a Western, though admittedly an off-beat one.  

Calamity Jane

     I mean…it's Calamity Jane.  You can't get much more Western that that;)  

     I'm sure, however, that the makers took some *ahem* liberties with the historical facts, due to this being a musical, but it's got characters such as Wild Bill Hickock, so there's a definite Western vibe to it.  The musical doesn't really focus on the West, though…it's more focused on music and love and such like (basically, what you'd expect from a 50's musical).  

     So I suppose it is a Western, but, kind of like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, it doesn't really feel like one. 

"It [Westerns] is about the value system of a bygone era."  ~ Thomas Haden Church, actor in Broken Trail


Wyatt Earp (1994)

"My name's Wyatt Earp. It all ends now." 

  There are some westerns I like, some westerns I appreciate, and some that are just...well, westerns. Then there are the ones I LOVE, the movies that rank above the normal "Oh, this is a good movie" scale. The ones that blow my mind. The ones that make me laugh, cry, feel, and go WOW. This movie, my friends, is one of those.

     There's something about bio-dramas that really get me; the epic, widespread story of a person's life played out on the screen. When it's combined with the legendary, gritty glory of the old west, you've really got something. Throw in Kevin Costner and a score by James Newton Howard, and you have Wyatt Earp.

     If you can't tell already, I was very impressed with this movie. I love most everything about it; the actors, the music, the tension, the drama...IT'S JUST SO GOOD. I can't think of anything more to say without repeating myself (which, it seems, I've already begun to do,) so let's just move on, shall we?

     First of all, there's Kevin Costner as Wyatt Earp. I'm not sure how this happened, but somehow I ended up being a Kevin Costner fan. That being said, I pretty much love him in any movie, but in my opinion this is definitely among his very best. I haven't seen any other movies about Wyatt Earp, but as far as I'm concerned Costner owns this role. It's brilliant how completely he embodies the character throughout his lifetime, from sweet, lovesick young man to halfhearted buffalo skinner, to accidental lawman to respected (and even feared) marshal of a rough-and-rowdy frontier city.
He was also pretty nice to look at most of the time.
     The thing is, Wyatt Earp never really wanted to be a lawman, and the movie shows how he happened into the occupation pretty much on accident. Kevin Costner always has the perfect balance between tough and tender; he can be sweet and gentle, and mean and bloodthirsty when he has to be.

     Then there's Dennis Quaid as Doc Holliday. My goodness gracious, I had no idea he would be so good! When I read that Dennis Quaid played Holliday, I thought, now how does that work? He far exceeded my expectations. Doc Holliday's a bit of a rough diamond, obviously, and not the most likable guy. According to himself, everyone who knows him hates him. He was loyal, rude, and often hysterical. Dennis Quaid's interpretation hit the bulls-eye. And ohhhhh my, is he quotable!

Wyatt Earp: "You've been a good friend to me, Doc."
Doc Holliday: "Shut up."

Warren Earp: "Wyatt, you're still a marshal around here, aren't you?"
Doc Holliday: "Sure. But now he's going to be a marshal and an outlaw. The best of both worlds, son."

Morgan Earp: "I say we just kill 'em all."
Doc Holliday: "You know, Morg, Wyatt is my friend, but I believe I'm beginning to love you."

Doc Holliday: "Wyatt Earp. I have heard that name somewhere. I don't know where, but it wasn't good."

Doc Holliday {about Tombstone}: "Well, it sounds quiet, I'll give you that."

"How's your teeth, Earp?"

    Wyatt Earp and Doc together were pretty legendary. The actors really captured the unusual friendship the two shared.

     The brothers! I loved the Earp brothers. I seem to have a fondness for stories about brother-relationships; not sure why, since I'm obviously not a brother, nor do I have one. I loved the way they stuck together. James was the stingy, slightly slimy one; Virgil was the melancholy family man; Wyatt was the toughened, around-the-block-too-many-times one; Morgan was the youthful, eager-to-do-what's-right but slightly impulsive one; and Warren was plain ADORABLE. I'm particularly fond of Morgan Earp. Not sure why. It couldn't have anything to do with the fact that he was the most handsome. Well, maybe.

Morgan's the second from right. He's terribly yummy.
     The wives, of course, stuck with their men, even when their men paid hardly any attention to them. (Not Morgan, of course., Morgan and his girl were a.b.s.o.l.u.t.e.l.y darling.)

      Even though Gene Hackman had less than 10 minutes screen time as Nicholas Earp, he made what little time he had count. He was SO good. His words resonated throughout the movie even after he was gone: "Remember this, all of you. Nothing counts so much as blood. The rest are all strangers."

     Josephine was an interesting character. An adventurous young woman who comes to Tombstone to be with the sheriff, Johnny something-or-other (who is a creep), Josephine is intrigued by Wyatt Earp, and eventually they fall in love. Now, Wyatt already has a woman, Mattie; who isn't actually his wife, but he's living with her as though she is. The whole situation with Mattie goes from bad to worse when she finds out Wyatt is in love with this Josie person, but strangely enough I actually really like Josie. No, she should not have given herself fully to Wyatt when he was responsible for another woman. (Well, Wyatt shouldn't have kept Mattie around if he wasn't going to marry her.) But she was plucky, and I admired that. My favorite Josephine line, the one that I keep quoting, is what she tells Johnny when she's packing her bags to leave him: "It's not that I don't love you. It's that I don't even like you."

     Wyatt's first love, Urilla Sutherland, was an absolute DOLL. She was so sweet and young and pretty, and Wyatt was so sweet and young and in love, and they were so happy together, it just makes you want to cry from the utter adorableness of it all. That's why it was SO sad when *SPOILER* Urilla dies and Wyatt turns bitter and angry *END OF SPOILER* I will admit that I was literally in tears. Their time together was so short! *sniffle* I loved the scene when Wyatt and Urilla are working in their garden together, and she asks him to tell her about the places he's been. I can't remember the line exactly, but he says something about how he'd never want to go anywhere she wasn't. Go ahead, Kevin Costner, just tear my heart to pieces.

Other random things I loved about the movie...

  • Bill Pullman as Ed Masterson. He was so adorable, and it was SO SAD when he got killed. "Bat...Bat, I'm shot." *tears*

  •  Curly Billy Brocius was played by my very own Charles Main!!!!! *squealing and fangirly delight* It was kind of fun that he was a bad guy. He didn't do much, just hung around and made trouble and occasionally sad witty things ("Twenty-five dollars doesn't cover half the contempt I've got for this court") but he looked awfully nice while doing it. ;-)

  •  The soundtrack is SO thrilling and beautiful. I just recently bought the CD, and now I'm listening to it on average twice a day. It's that good. One of my new favorites...but then I have about 50 million favorite soundtracks, so we won't get too technical.

  • THE ENDING. Aaahhhhhhh. Josie and Wyatt are on a ship, and then little mister Love-Comes-Softly-dude comes up and asks him if he's Wyatt Earp. (It's kind of like in Lonesome Dove when the newspaper man talks to Call and asks him if all the things people say about him are true-- at least, that's what it made me think of.) The fellow recounts a story about how Wyatt saved his uncle. Wyatt Earp says to Josie, "Some people say it didn't happen that way." To which Josie replies, "Never mind them, Wyatt. It happened that way." It's the kind of ending that makes you want to sigh with satisfaction.
Is this a gorgeous still or what.

     This is interesting: I just read that Kevin Costner was originally going to be in Tombstone  as Wyatt Earp, but then left the production because he didn't agree with the screenwriter on how he wanted to focus the film on such a large cast of characters; Costner believed it should be more centered around Wyatt Earp. So Costner teamed up with director Lawrence Kasdan, who was going to make a six-hour miniseries about Wyatt Earp. It ended up being a three-and-a-half-hour movie when Kevin Costner joined the cast, and apparently he used his influence to convince most of the major film studios to refuse to distribute the rival film, Tombstone. Wyatt Earp turned out to be the less successful of the two movies, and wasn't a very big success when it released, receiving mixed to negative reviews, though apparently lots of people loved Dennis Quaid's Doc Holliday. Kevin Costner was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for 'Worst Actor'. :-(

     Well, I'm not a movie critic. I haven't seen any other movies about these people and the OK Corral gunfight, but I think this is a good movie in its own right. Personally, I loved it. I was impressed by the cast, the story progression, and the music. If other people don't like it, that's their opinion.

     As far as westerns go, the content was pretty much what you'd expect; quite a lot of violence, some bad language, and a bedroom scene. There is a scene where Josie and Wyatt are shown in bed together, but it's not explicit. Wyatt's sort-of-but-not-really wife, Mattie, was a prostitute, so there's talk of that. In several instances Doc Holliday uses some pretty nasty language, but I don't remember the language on the whole being very frequent. The movie is rated PG-13; it's an adult movie, but I'd let a mature thirteen-year-old watch it.


     And those are my final words. :-)

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