The White Cowboys

The iconic buttes of Monument Valley, AZ have been pictured in many western movies.

Non Stop Western Movies

A few months ago, back in the dead of winter, I found myself holed up in Southern Utah taking public assistance for a couple of weeks. As a result I had no control over what I watched on TV.  This wasn’t a bad thing really, for I got a chance to watch a whole bunch of western movies, mostly from the 50s. Not only did I enjoy viewing the films, but also, I learned something about moviemaking and storytelling.

The Movies

The movies I watched were Gun Glory (1957), The Last Wagon(1956), The Cattle King(1963), Fort Dobbs(1958), The Jayhawkers(1959), The Marauders(1955), The Sheepman(1958) and McLintock(1963). All except McLintock and the Cattle King  were made in the 50s and McLintock differed significantly from the rest because it was a comedy, even though John Wayne starred as George Washington McLintock, the eccentric cattle baron. More about that particular film later.

A Common Theme?

What struck me most about the 50s Westerns was how quickly and easily the main characters changed partners. Even death of a spouse was often the catalyst for these changes. For example in the Jayhawkers, Fess Parker plays a man, just escaped from prison, who is headed home. Only problem is the woman in the house is not his wife, as she is buried nearby. No problem, for the moviemakers, because the homesteader, Nicole Maurey, ends of spending the entire film with Fess, as they try to find justice against the gangs of marauding men that are terrorizing the Kansas territory.

John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara  during the filming of McLintock.

John Wayne In a Comedy

For the 50s movies, this seems to be a common theme among these Westerns, at least the ones reviewed in this article. Only with the sixties films of McLintock and The Cattle King, did I detect a more normal relationship between man and woman. The story of McLintock revolves around a powerful western couple, played by John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara and their humorous escapades, as they try to reconcile their differences.

What’s Going On Here

The rugged reality of life in the Old West is definitely at work in a lot of these Westerns. The dangers were real, life was hard, and men and women could die suddenly for no logical reason. When tragic events like this did occur, survival may have quickly necessitated the relocation with a new partner of the opposite sex.

The Wars of the 40s and 50s

From 1942 till 1953, the U.S. went through two costly military conflicts. World War II was by the far the most deadly, but we should not forget the 50,000 soldiers, who perished in the Korean Conflict. Perhaps, some of the resulting turmoil on the home front is reflected in the Western movies that were being made in Hollywood.

Tom Mix was one of the first Hollywood cowboys

The White Cowboy

For just about all of our cinematic history, the Cowboy has been white. Mel Brooks put a crack in this myth with his landmark satire, Blazing Saddles, but even today, the hero of the Western tends to a white male mounted on horseback. Basically, the conquest of the West was told by the victor. Many good movies have been made using these parameters, but there still remains other stories out there that could be successfully brought to the silver screen, both real and fictional, or somewhere in between.

 

Advertisements

Feminism In Films

The movie, Carrie, which has been done three separate times, made the list of 250 Feminist films.
The movie, Carrie, which has been done three separate times, made the list of 250 Feminist films.

March Is Woman’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month and since it is just about over, I would like to take a look one last look at the presence of women (or lack thereof) in the film industry. Inspired by an article and list of 250  feminist films over at Blacklist.com, I thought that this might be a good time to look at how women fare in this huge business. Since the original release of the list of feminist films, the good folks at Blacklist have reconsidered their original compilation and now added another 150 films to the 250 bringing the grand total to 410. This was done largely in response to the large number of blog followers, who complained about certain films being left off the list. And then a second revision was done to bring the grand total to 500.

When I first viewed the first 250, I noticed a few glaring omissions. Most of these were added in either the 2nd or 3rd round, but I still could not find one of my favorite films, The Swimming Pool, on the list does anybody agree with that?

 

Does Anybody Remember Lina Wertmuller?

Lina Wertmuller is an Italian director and filmmaker, who gained a lot of popularity with moviegoers in the 70s and 80s with such efforts as Swept Away and Seven Beauties. Her films usually included strong female leads, but she was often accused of always portrayed her characters, as  a comical men-as-dogs/women-as-whores perspective. With this in mind it is no great surprise that none of her major films made the original list at Blacklist. However, at least two of her films, Seven Beauties and Swept Away, were added later, though I still harbor the opinion that they could have been left out.

 the high-spirited Scarlet O'Hara where's a very different sort  of red dress in Gone With the Wind
the high-spirited Scarlet O’Hara where’s a very different sort of red dress in Gone With the Wind

The Interview

 

North Korean Troops Marching London Korean Links Covering Things Korean in London, from London, since 2006
Cheesecake on Parade       North Korean Troops Marching
from London Korean Links
Covering Things Korean in London, from London, since 2006

A Brief Overview

The Korean protest against the showing of a movie, called The Interview, is kind of old news now, especially after the tragic events that just unfolded in Paris, France, just a few days ago. Still, I would like to explore how SONY inadvertently explored some new ways of releasing a film…and how they surprisingly recouped most of their production costs (estimated are at around 44million), once they did decide to go through with the Christmas Day release.

Timeline

On Nov. 24, about a month before its scheduled theatrical release, SONY got seriously hacked. Within a few weeks, SONY announced that it would not release The Interview, even though the Dec. 11 West Coast premiere did take place. Then, right before Christmas, SONY had a change of heart. They would release The Interview both in the theater and through online venues like Google Play and Video on Demand. Though the cinematic showing was limited, the online streaming and downloading of this feature length movie then go forward, as planned.

Some Facts and Figures

As of Jan. 6, the Interview has pulled in 31 million through Video On Demand and another 5 million through its limited theatrical debut. I’m sure the film would have done better at the box office under normal conditions, but right now the film sales must in what can be best called a salvage operation. The film cost only 44 million to make, but add distribution and marketing and now you have a film that runs close to 75 million. And this doesn’t even touch the expenses that were run up, after the SONY Corp. got so badly hacked, for there’s no telling what that cause the entertainment giant.

Has the Interview Enhanced Online Viewing

Even so, there is a definite silver lining in this cloud. And that would be how the enhanced VOD sales, courtesy of a very, ticked off head-of-state in North Korea, saved this movie and perhaps changed the playing field, when marketing a feature length movie. This was happening even before the ‘Interview’ fiasco, but even more than before, producers now must be taking in and discussing how to maximize both types of viewing and sales, when releasing a new movie.

Summing It Up

I’m sure this is big news to Netflix and its upstart challenger, Amazon Prime, who both have tapped into the online streaming market, while completely ignoring (thus far) the virtual reality of showing a full-length movie in a brick-and-mortar movie theater. I can’t help to contemplate that the news that Woody Allen is now in cahoots with Amazon Prime, somehow indicates that dual (theater and online ) releases may in the (near) future plans.

NorthKoreantroopsmarchingfromgunboards.com

A Good Movie For Memorial Day

Movie Poster, The Hurt Locker
Movie Poster, The Hurt Locker

Memorial Day was yesterday and so the country took a much-deserved holiday. This meant the streets weren’t very crowded, so I was able to take my bicycle around town on mostly deserted streets and byways.  Temperatures were warm but not hot up here in northern New England, which made for a nice day outside, but ocean swimming at this latitude is still just for the polar bears.

So I did the next best thing and watched a war movie. Seems that the first wave of movies about the ongoing Middle East wars, are just beginning to circulate the theaters and video stores. Strange as it may seem we are now to view first-rate movies about wars that are still in progress. A logical conclusion must be that our ability to assemble a good movie script and crew very much outweighs our ability to end a military conflict.

Of the current films, I missed the Messenger, but did get a change to see the film that won the academy award for best picture. The effort is called The Hurt Locker and the engrossing cinematic tale follows the daily events of a bomb demo squad. Tension mounts as the small crew travels around Bagdad and Iraq going about their delicate task of diffusing unexploded IED’s.

This kind of warfare has to be new ground for movie makers (not to mention all the people involved in the actual event). What follows is one very vivid glimpse of life in a different kind of war zone. Very tightly wound and realistic and I can see why the film received the top award. In a nutshell the story follows a three-man demolition team and in particular the leader of the group a Sergent by the name of William James. Much credit goes out to the screenwriter, Mark Boals, who spent actual time embedded with a demolition crew in Iraq, before he wrote the script.

What is so riveting about this film is the way the story depicts the obsessive and sometimes fatal attraction that certain men have for war.

Christopher Hitchens Sounds Off On Swedish Crime Fiction

Swedish Movie Poster
Swedish Movie Poster for Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Here is the Swedish movie poster for The Girl With The Golden Tattoo, which has already been released to Scandinavian audiences at the cinema and also on DVD (Swedish only). Meanwhile back here in the states, Hollywood has purchased rights for the story, but has yet to reach the casting stage for the film.  The movie comes from a novel written by the recently-deceased (2004) Swedish author, Stieg Larsson, who is currently taking the literary world of crime fiction by storm with his recent release of a crime trilogy, of which this book is the first. Also available in English (or soon to be) are The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. Does Anybody see a trend here.

Recently, Stieg Larsson made headlines by picking top awards at the U.S mystery convention, Boucheron. In fact Scandinavian Crime Fiction has become the talk of the literary world, most evident that noted author and TV commentator, Christopher Hitchens, who has sounded off on the late Mr. Larsson with a recent article in Vanity Fair. Christopher does an excellent job of delving into the dark side of Swedish life and the emergence or rather the continual presence of extreme right and pro Nazi forces in modern day Sweden. Anyone, who thinks this Nordic country is a poster advertisement for idyllic Socialist life should definitely read Mr. Hitchens article and maybe even one of Mr. Larsson’s lengthy novels as well.

Dont’ forget that in the mid-eighties Sweden lost a prime minister to assassination, a crime which still has not been solved. During this era, Stieg Larsson was a reporter who wrote about Sweden’s undercurrent of drug dealings, criminals and right wing extremists, who survived and sometimes thrived in the industrial Scandinavian nation. Some readers attribute Larsson’s death at age 50 to evil forces, especially since it occurred on November 9th, the date of Hitler’s Kristallnacht, but many more suggest his death was the result of extreme overwork, chain smoking and poor nutrition. Whatever the cause of demise, the trilogy of books is causing quite a stir, not to mention that each written piece will generate a movie, both in Sweden and the U.S.

Picture of the swedisn author
Picture of the swedisn author

One important note is that Stieg had plans for at least ten full-length novels, but in reality did not get past the first three. Still, considering the length of each piece, this is quite an accomplishment in itself and I’m sure that his readers will immensely enjoy the published effort.

In recent years, Scandinavia (Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland) have seen a bountiful cultural resurgence not only in literature, but also in contemporary and traditional music. Perhaps, it is the recent economic surge that has come to these northern countries or maybe it is the awakening of  old flames and aspirations. But no matter what the reason for the cultural expression,  the authors and musicians of this small corner of the world do not seem to be finished with their current creative mood.