Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Go West, Young Man...

I was talking to a friend about the lack of “theatre- worthy” films our right now. “Theatre-worthy” meaning those films that you HAVE to see on the big screen versus “DVD’s” that can wait until they come out on, well, DVD’s! Early spring is usually a bit slow in the theatre’s as it is too early for Oscar contenders to come out and the big blockbuster types get held for the summer or the November/December holidays. Sure there are a few good “art” films out there (like the Band’s Visit, the Oscar winning foreign film The Counterfeiters and Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day) but overall the pickings are pretty thin.
This has led me to catch up with some of those in the “DVD” category and, who knew, that my favorites would be westerns! If you haven’t seen them already, I would recommend both 3:10 to Yuma and The Assassination of Jesse James (by the coward Robert Ford).

3:10 to Yuma is a remake of the 1957 film by the same name starring Glen Ford and Van Heflin. Of course, you know by now that I think Christian Bale is an amazing actor and he continues to show us why in this film. I was quite surprised to see Peter Fonda and actually didn’t recognize him until well into the story. And, of course, there is Russell Crowe. Despite all the fun the tabloids have with Russell, he continues to give us performances that show his depth of talent and the range that he can play (My favorite Russell Crowe is still L.A. Confidential).
The Assassination of Jesse James (by the coward Robert Ford) runs a bit long but I didn’t mind as much as others seem to as I was mesmerized by the performance of Casey Affleck. His creepy, hero-worshipping performance as Robert Ford was perfectly pitched. His brother is played by another one of my favorites, Sam Rockwell. Both the brothers’ profit from the notorious deed but ultimately it destroys them. Several well known reviewers have written scathing reviews of this film however, I couldn’t disagree with them more. I will leave it up to you to decide.

If these two films just aren’t enough of the wild, west for you, I might also recommend some others that are also currently available from the Media Department at HBPL:
Lonesome Dove: the best western mini-series EVER! Based on the Larry McMurtry novel (which you should certainly read if you haven’t already) and follows the escapades of Captain Woodrow Call (Tommy Lee Jones) and Augustus McCrea (Robert Duvall).
Silverado: This Lawrence Kasdan film brought life back to the western genre of films. A very entertaining film with a great cast: Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn, (a very young) Kevin Costner, Danny Glover, John Cleese, Brian Dennehy, Linda Hunt, Jeff Goldblum and Rosanna Arquette.
How The West Was Won: Talk about casts! This film had almost everyone who was anyone in it! Gregory Peck, Jimmy Stewart, Debbie Reynolds, Henry Fonda, John Wayne, Eli Wallach, Robert Preston, Karl Malden, Carolyn Jones, and on and on! How the West was Won is one of only two feature films (the other being The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm) made using the three-strip Cinerama process. Although, it loses something on the small screen, it is still a story worth watching.
The Searchers: My favorite John Wayne western. The Searchers is usually found on just about every top ten list of best westerns ever made and it surely belongs there.

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