Thursday, November 21, 2013

Some thoughts on UNFORGIVEN and 3:10 TO YUMA

I enjoy discovering the genetic material of moviemaking.

Clint Eastwood's UNFORGIVEN is an elegy to the genre, and an excellent example of a revisionist western  ...or is it?
I think it's an extremely interesting film for the fact that it sets itself up in the traditional ways of western storytelling then meta-rides through it's own contempt for the genre wilst utilizing it's tricks to both defy and embolden our ideas of "a western" at the same time. Even the decision to open the story with the respect for women that the genre is know for a definitive lack-of, is a genre-challenging choice that should let us in on the fact that this is going to be a layered intelligent film. The screenplay flirts with conventions while undermining its power with the same tools. Unforgiven, like Will Munny, hates itself whilst respectfully acknowledging the only language it can speak to us in - the language of fear.

I remember seeing it for the first time - I was a wild 21 year old, and the fear in Clint in that end scene - it threw me off, and I wondered why? Why the effect in me, and why the choice to end the film on the note of a seemingly powerful character's fear. Like Chinatown and The French Connection I wasn't sure if I liked it, but it called to me - I needed to understand why Unforgiven was told.

There's a lot of fear in the movie 3:10 TO YUMA as well, and I think this element of humanization is always the way revisionist genre will go. We create stories that mythologize the things we believe in on a grand scale - makes for great entertainment, but association with this is a bit trickier ..broader than the world we reside in. This is where realism, or at least the move towards it has to begin, so that we the audience can find ourselves within the story being told, no matter which character we find association within.
Even as far back as 1957, I think the audience of 3:10 would have been equally split between the motivations of Dan(the good guy) vs the motivations of Ben(the bad guy), and I'd even guess Elmore Leonard's choice of names was deliberate - they're pretty close. Each of these men is trying to be something specific and different, but each seems very much activated by fear. We see each of these men make decisions from different motivations and we understand them.

So much for color-coding cowboys, eh?
Will Munny could easily be Glenn Ford's character and may just be..
as well as being many of Clint's younger, wilder characters.
Is Unforgiven's Director not saying straight up "I've played a lot of violent irresponsible characters - perhaps it's time to atone, at at least address atonement."
Gleaned from David Webb Peoples' screenplay is that yes, Munny was a rather bad cat - drunk, violent and not unlike the scheming womanizer Ben of 3:10, who may just go on to become a better man.
But what does Clint ultimately say about the western and the western archetype by playing this aged antihero who rises to defend the honour of whores?
Plenty, but it's complex. Like his character in Gran Torino, I think Mr. Eastwood is at a point of maturation and recognition of much larger elements to the human story. The phrase "no more" is used quite a bit, illustrating a definite acknowledgement of everything that came before, both in his own career and the genre itself. As the Director of Unforgiven I think Clint saw an opportunity to comment very deeply on his own perception of violence, and when/why it is ugly but necessary. Or maybe it evolved as he recognized it within himself - the grand comment from filmdom's senior tough guy might be "..there's always a smarter way to face your fears than violence".

3:10 to Yuma is an excellent example of a revisionist genre film, whilst Unforgiven is either the ultimate revisionist western, or an extraordinary film-career-socio-commentary-meta-film on the ridiculousness of North American violence really well-disguised as one.


Monday, June 17, 2013



..blah blah..
I don't know what everyone's so excited about - fantastic new Superman actor - thoughtful sharp script - cutting edge effects - a cast that challenges the '78 Superman - yeah, what gives..

anyway, I'm off to see Man of Steel for a third time - I'll be back with a proper review..


Saturday, March 30, 2013


I watched an excellent action film this month and it was fun as hell, though bittersweet.
From beginning to end this tale of a man on his own - of impossible odds against a group of terrorists, looks, acts, and feels like the movie I'd absolutely hoped for with Die Hard 5. It was logical - he saves a building in the first - an airport in the second - a city in the third(his city) - the eastern seaboard in number four, and logically - inevitably would be the whole country in number five. Not only would he save the country, but the actual president in his house - goofy, overly patriotic ..perhaps, but Die Hard evolution, baby..
..could have been huge and so much fun if that guy up there kicking ass and saving lives while saying hilarious shit was named John McClane,
but nope.

OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN was a blast, and so close to what A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD should ..could have been - that it embarrasses the makers of the latter.

DH5 is the equivalent of a direct-to-video DH, but my immediate review - the "out-the-door-chatting-with-buddy" review was..

"Ugh - that felt like a two hour television pilot for a high-budget-but-shitty-anyway TV show called DIE HARD: Next Gen or somesuch starring his son, where Bruce Willis would do the occasional lazy cameo during sweeps week."

"Where's the phone? I gotta dial this in..."

The film is fucking atrocious.
It's a messy ill-paced disaster and I honestly can't believe they let this go out as a DIE HARD movie.
The character deserves way better. I would have thought the actor himself would deserve "good quality" but what if someone doesn't know what that is anymore?

I'll never forget seeing DIE HARD at the Oxford Theatre back in 'ol '88. Great memory, that one - Jim, Steve, and I - utterly floored.
DH5 was the inverse experience.
I wish I could ask BW if he cares about keeping that franchise intact ..his true hero if you will, but I think I just got the answer. Too bad.

Go see OHF instead - lotta fun.