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Entries in westerns (16)

Wednesday
Jul302014

Shouldn't You Actually Start Filming Before You Have a Movie Poster?

They're now officially counting Kill Bill as ONE feature so that The Hateful Eight can be Quentin Tarantino's official "8th" film. Convenient, eh? But that's okay because they should've been one film all along. And oh what gross film-splittings have occurred in their wake.

QUESTION: Shouldn't you start filming before releasing a poster?

The movie is not scheduled to start filming until 2015... and the poster assumes everything will happen on schedule and it will be out by the end of that year. Good luck, movie! This reminds me of Amir's rants about all those opening day announcements for secret movies. Hollywood has a preemie problem.

 And may Quentin get this out of his system since this'll be his second consecutive nearly all male western. May he some day return to writing great female roles again because he's slipping into terrain that other writer/directors have covered sufficiently throughout time. Which is a bummer since he writes well for awesome actresses. (So cross your fingers that he's given Amber Tamblyn and Zoë Bell something interesting to do because he sure didn't offer Kerry Washington anything worthwhile in Django.)

FWIW my preference order of Tarantino's filmography

 

  1. Kill Bill Vol 1 (2003)
  2. Pulp Fiction (1994)
        ⇡ the ones i couldn't imagine life without 
  3. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
  4. Inglourious Basterds (2009)
  5. Jackie Brown (1997)
  6. Kill Bill Vol 2 (2004)
          ⇣ and the only ones I dislike... 
  7. Django Unchained (2012)
  8. Death Proof (2007)

 

Wednesday
Jun042014

A Year with Kate: The Sea of Grass (1947)

Episode 23 of 52: In which Tracy and Hepburn make a Western because why not?

A lone figure looks out over a vast, unending prairie. A wagon traverses rocky desert trails. Virgin land, a justice-seeking posse, a citified lawyer who brings civilization riding on his pinstriped coat tails. The Western dominated American film for over half a century with images like these. It stands to reason that two American stars and a director on his way to becoming a (controversial) American legend himself would take aim at the genre. The Sea of Grass, the resulting collaboration between Elia Kazan and the Tracy/Hepburn team, is an epic story covering multiple generations in the New Mexico Territory. It’s a Western, but not struck from the same heroic mould that John Ford was making them in Monument Valley. The Sea of Grass is meaner, more melodramatic, and ultimately a maverick mess of a movie.

The Sea of Grass comes so close to being a great film.  Spencer Tracy plays Col. Jim Brewton, a rancher who’s spent his life herding cattle on the millions of acres of untouched prairie that spread across New Mexico. He marries a St. Louis girl named Lutie (Kate Hepburn), who loves him but can’t love his untamed wildlands (not a euphemism). She tries to bring the people to the prairie, or her husband home to bed, but she can’t tame nature or the Colonel. These are familiar archetypes to anyone who’s watched more than two Westerns: the Lone Hero and the Prairie Wife. He is the champion of the settlers, she is his pure-hearted moral compass. Right? Well sure, up until the part where Jim causes the death of a few farmers, and Lutie runs away to sleep with the Judge (Melvyn Douglas) and bear his illegitimate son. And that’s just in the first hour. Suffice it to say, John Ford would not approve.

Cowboys and cynics after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
May202014

Cannes Diary Day ???: "The Homesman," Or How Tommy Lee Jones Failed at Feminist Storytelling

Diana Drumm is reporting from Cannes for the The Film Experience. 

 

Based on the award-winning novel (that Paul Newman was attached to for years) by Glendon Swarthout (“The Shootist”), The Homesman is a bizarre, unwieldy Western about 31 year-old spinster Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank) and questionable character Briggs (Tommy Lee Jones) who are driving three insane women (Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto, Sonja Richter) back East for treatment, or at least respite from their literally-maddening frontier lives.  

Or for a convoluted, reference-laden way to generalize it all, think of The Homesman as an inverse of the Robert Taylor-starring not-quite-classic Westward The Women (1951) meets the Glenn Close-starring made-for-TV movie Sarah, Plain and Tall (1991) with the madness and mismatches of Quills (2000, Briggs being the less couth, toned down subversive Marquis) divided by the stunning Western cinematography of Brokeback Mountain (2005, via Oscar nominee Rodrigo Prieto). Apologies, my brain is flooded with movies. 

Scale of Tommy Lee Jones orneriness, gender politics, and star cameos after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Sunday
May182014

Cannes Diary Day 4 Pt 2: Hilary & Tommy Promote "The Homesman"

Diana Drumm reporting from Cannes for The Film Experience

 

At today’s The Homesman press conference, Tommy Lee Jones and Hilary Swank lived up to their public personas, the former as a well-meaning curmudgeon and the latter as diplomatic would be sweetheart. This dynamic was evident when Jones made the off-putting comment that editing is time consuming but “it’s not hard work” and Swank, spotting the possible faux pax in front of a room of international movie press, swooped in by clarifying maybe not for someone like him with his great mind and thoughtful vision, but she’d be lost and that editing is indeed hard work.

Well-trained in the art of dodging cringe-inducing questions, Swank managed to pivot from a meant-to-be-complimentary question about the disparity between her beauty in person and her plainness onscreen to an empowering impromptu speech about the subjectivity of attractiveness. She shared that some people have told her that they found her characters Maggie (Million Dollar Baby) and Mary Bee Cuddie (The Homesman), to be attractive because of their strength. Considering that the film tackles the issues of female subjugation and objectification, it was all the more uncomfortable when multiple professional journalists either commented on her physical appearance or prefaced their question with a comment on her physical appearance.

What did these reporters expect? She’s a movie star at Cannes promoting a film, the very definition of a glamorous day's work. And isn’t that a pretty tired narrative for Swank, dating back over a decade?

To Swank’s left, Jones bordered on ornery, not understanding a number of questions (giving unrelated answers or asking reporters to rephrase) or speaking in vague, sometimes dismissive, terms about cast and production (“The difficulty was the weather.” … “It’s not real research, we’re not curing polio.”).  As for both directing and acting on this film, he deadpanned:

As a director, I can tell you that I do everything I tell myself to do.”

Dodging the more thematic  and film-specific questions, Jones repeatedly answered “The movie speaks for itself,” without further explanation. On a rare upbeat note, Jones did spark to a question about the film’s music (plugging his son, the film’s music consultant) and went into a long-winded explanation about finding era-appropriate tunes and building wind organs.

In response to a HuffPo reporter’s line of questioning about women’s issues in the 1800s (when the film is set) relating to those of today, Jones said,

 I don't think there's a woman in this room that has never felt objectified or trivialized because of her gender. There's a reason for that and a history of that, and I think that's an interesting thing."

A smattering of applause. Jones won back a few of the hearts he may have lost.

 

Day 1 Arrival & Opening Night | Day 2 Grace of Monaco | Day 3 Mr Turner & Timbuktu  | Day 4 Amour Fou & The Blue Room |  Day ??? The Homesman Review 

Monday
Apr142014

Yes No Maybe So: "The Homesman"

I've been anxiously awaiting this trailer so let's hitch our Yes No Maybe So wagon to Hilary Swank's as she transports three crazies across the country to Iowa in the western The Homesman. We knew from interviews and a cursory knowledge of the novelist Glendon Swarthout only a handful of things before seeing this trailer.

Oh nos. Nathaniel is talking about me again.

1. Six of Swarthout's other books have been adapted for the screen, most famously the ür spring break girls-gone-wild movie Where the Boys Are (1960) and The Shootist (1976) starring John Wayne
2. "The Homesman" refers to the job title that Swank's farmer character Mary Bee Cuddy signs on to perform, carting insane women across the country 
3. Meryl Streep's role is small and she has no scenes with Swank (according to Swank herself) but her character has some part in collecting the three women in the wagon
4. It's directed by Tommy Lee Jones and shot by Brokeback Mountain's cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto
5. It takes place in the 1850s. 

The trailer and the breakdown after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Oct092013

Exclamatory Titles

We're celebrating the 1968 film year sporadically as countdown to the Smackdown

The first time I consciously remember obsessing over exact typography in a film title was in 1995 when David Fincher's Se7en emerged and then again when Moulin Rouge! hit in 2001. With the latter I got angry every time I saw someone type that title without the exclamation point. Bazmark movies require their specific punctuation. (See also: Romeo + Juliet. It's just not the same at all with an ampersand!) 

Surveying 1968's film releases recently I couldn't help but wonder if that era, a seminal time for the world and the cinema, and that year specifically was the peak of exclamatory film titles? No less than four major films released that year asked you to shout their titles rather than politely sound them out.

BOOM! with Liz & Dick. Which also wins our Best Tagline of '68 for "together they devour life"
OLIVER! the only exclamation point film title to ever win the Best Picture prize (though not the only nominee obviously)
BANDOLERO! with Jimmy Stewart, Dean Martin & Raquel Welch. The exclamation point wasn't exclamatory enough so they had to add all caps in the tagline "a NEW kind of western"
STAR! with Julie Andrews ! as Gertrud Lawrence

Are you fussy about people using exactly correct titles? I am. I mean if you say Moulin Rouge without the exclamation point it's just a dusty Jose Ferrer biopic, don'cha know.

The only excuse for ditching the exclamation point is when you're just not feeling it.

♪ ...or by a comma when the feeling's not as strong... ♫

(Geraldine is such a cocktease.)

Thursday
Aug292013

Best Shot: Butch & Sundance & Their Girl

It figures. I try to throw a curveball in our often actress-centric blogging by choosing a guy's guy movie, a buddy Western for Hit Me With Your Best Shot and the most frequent face that pops up in your choices is the momentary it girl of the late 60s Katharine Ross. In Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) she plays the school teacher Etta Place, essentially "the girl" of the narrative (and not much more complex a role than that) and twice over, too, since she's shacked up with The Sundance Kid (Robert Redford) but also in 'what if?' love with Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) as evidenced in the Oscar-winning "Raindrops Keep Fallin On My Head" interlude early in the film. Redford & Newman? Lucky girl.

Which leads me to this very scientific poll for TFE readers (as suggested by forever1267 in the comments). Butch and Sundance are a pair in the movie but unlike Katharine Ross you can only have one. Make your choice based on '69 only!  

 


Now that that's out of our systems, let's choose a best shot. And good God (God = Conrad L Hall) there was much to choose from)

Click to read more ...