Westerns - A Dying Art Form

Discussion in 'Movies' started by dana martin, Feb 13, 2006.

  1. dana martin

    dana martin Cinematographer

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    what would it take to infuse life into this genre again, besides story, possible that a great director could make a great Western, be it contemporary or period piece, i would love to see Spielberg or Martin Scorsese tackle this.
     
  2. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Eastwood would do another western before Spielberg or Scorsese.
     
  3. Amy Mormino

    Amy Mormino Supporting Actor

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    Quentin Tarentino is a huge fan of Rio Bravo, so perhaps he might make a western someday.

    I think the problem with modern westerns (including films like Unforgiven, Dances with Wolves and even Brokeback Mountain) is that they seem to be obsessed with "de-mythologizing" the West. Granted, such films can be very interesting, but a genre can't be sustained if the people making the films don't believe in what they're working with.

    I would like to see a modern Western that shows the epic grandeur of the West and that has a sense of adventure and fun. Filmmakers can be realistic about issues like racism during the period while still showing why the Old West can be a great setting for movies with wide audience appeal.
     
  4. dana martin

    dana martin Cinematographer

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    Actually i believe i read somewhere after Open Range came out that Costner said that while they are not his favorite things that he could see himself in more. and actually he dose a good job of telling them, also would be happy to see another one from Eastwood. what i was trying to state is that so few directors do attempt to do them, Carpenter is a director who always stated that he wanted to do westerns, but is known for horror,is a huge Hawks fan. I cant argue that Red River isn't a great western.
     
  5. Adam_S

    Adam_S Producer

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    I don't think there's any need for another Eastwood western because Unforgiven was so tremendous anything else would be seen as a let down. Sort of like Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird.

    On the other hand there has been a non-demythologizing western in the last decade. Tombstone. Open Range also falls into this as well.

    The problem is combining the appeal of the western tropes with modern filmmaking while treading a balance in representation. Westerns are particularly problematic for modern thoughtful filmmakers (you mentioned Spielberg and Scorsese) because they take place during an era of manifest destiny as national policy, something seen as imperialistic, genocidal and generally very problematic by today's standards and policies.

    That doesn't preclude stories akin to Naked Spur from being told. Not everything has to engage the Indians or the white man's relationship to the famed wide open spaces of the west, nor does it require an essential primitivism (see Unforgiven), but stories about white males being very alpha-male and on an arc of heroism or destruction are not seen as viable market forces in a western. In general these have transitioned into science fiction (Neo, Captain Mal Reynolds, Anakin) or fantasy (Aragorn, Samwise, Pippin)--perhaps because decent heros are no longer seen as realistic but there's still a strong desire for them nevertheless.
     
  6. dana martin

    dana martin Cinematographer

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    so that makes it even more interesting, i can see Scorsese doing something like this, with a level of artistry that he brought to Gangs of New York, i mentioned Spielberg, because well he is Spielberg, and can tell a story. The idea that it needs to be a Mythos buster aside, who said it needs to be white alpha male; Buffalo soldiers leaves a lot of room for inspiration.
    even if it was to be a modern western, trucks instead of horses, rodeo circuit, i could see something there.
     
  7. Ted Todorov

    Ted Todorov Cinematographer

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    The genre is far from dead -- what about Deadwood? (Yes, not a movie obviously, but quality wise can stand up to most big screen Westerns).

    Ted
     
  8. Brook K

    Brook K Lead Actor

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    Also check out The Claim from British director Michael Winterbottom. It's a highly mythologized story that brings Thomas Hardy's novel, "The Mayor of Casterbridge" into a western setting.

    There's also the defunct Firefly series which had several episodes based around standard western scenarios and used western archetypes and culture with sci-fi trappings.

    And while not completely successful, Ron Howard's The Missing from a couple of years ago was an interesting film that embraced western mythos.

    Also coming this year is The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. I believe it is set for a summer release.

    Though Adam is probably correct in the reasons we see very little of the genre these days. Like bell bottoms and Izod, perhaps the western will come back in vogue sometime in the future.
     
  9. Simon Howson

    Simon Howson Screenwriter

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    I think The Searchers did more to demythologise the west than a lot of mediocre 1970s and 80s Westerns.

    It wasn't like John Ford made Stagecoach 50 times. I think even just watching the progression of his Westerns shows you that his ideas about the time changed a great deal in the space of just 10 or 15 years.

    Ford was able to hone his craft, and learn about the genre, and have different takes on it as he went on. A lot of 70s/80s/90s Westerns to me look like tributes to the genre, rather than real examinations of the time. The Western genre had some of the best Hollywood directors ever working in it, so you can be assured that they got every ounce there was out of it. They didn't leave much for less talented film makers to say.
     
  10. Nathan V

    Nathan V Supporting Actor

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    Is the modern western ever going to be widely accepted in the postmodern era? I don't know.
     
  11. Simon Howson

    Simon Howson Screenwriter

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    Are we in a post-modern era? I don't think so.
     
  12. David Rogers

    David Rogers Supporting Actor

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    What westerns need to to come back is a western that does mega bucks. Money talks to studio heads, so we need one to get greenlit that then soars to staggering heights of cash. Then they'll greenlight half a dozen more. Etc...

    Shame really. Westerns are our versions of Samurai movies, and I've always thought we could stand with more of both here in the states. Certain kinds of stories and certain kinds of heroes are good in those genres. Good in ways they can't be in another type of story.

    I disagree about the demystifying of westerns though. Not that there've been all that many over the past 10-15 years, but which are supposed to have done this?

    Unforgiven is a phenomenal movie, and it's a true hearted western through and through; surely this isn't in that category?
     
  13. Ted Todorov

    Ted Todorov Cinematographer

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    Unforgiven is and isn't in that category: it spends most of its running time deconstructing the western -- and then in the last act it gloriously reconstructs it from its ashes. It is indeed a great movie, but it is very much a (post) modern take on the genre.

    Ted
     
  14. Jeff Gatie

    Jeff Gatie Lead Actor

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    This is the second time I've posted this in the last week or so (lots of western threads lately). When talking influences, it is really the other way around; Samurai movies are the Japanese version of Westerns, not vice versa. Kurosawa and others borrowed from the American western much more than Leone and others borrowed from him. The fact that two of the best westerns ever were based on Kurosawa films is a fine tribute to how well Kurosawa studied the genre; but make no mistake, the American Western came first.
     
  15. Joseph Bolus

    Joseph Bolus Cinematographer

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    The popular dirty, gritty, "anti-hero" "Spaghetti" Westerns of the '60's, in combination with the scathing generic Western satire movie "Blazing Saddles" in the early 70's, probably forever killed the concept of the familiar cowboy-on-a-horse hero in the minds of the general public.

    It's just difficult now to find the allure of a movie based around a Cattle Drive, or a Stagecoach, or a land feud between the cattlemen and the sheep herders, or a shootout on main street at High Noon, or revenge against a typical outlaw of the Old West. Heck, "Silverado" was probably the last Hollywood attempt at a generic Western (and pretty much mixed all of the above traditional western storylines within its plot) and it just couldn't quite capture the imagination of the majority of the public.

    About the only thing that *might* have a chance to kick-start the Western genre again would be a compelling story based around a more modern genre that just happens to be set against a Western facade. Something like "Back to the Future III" but executed better. Obviously, something like that will be very hard to find.

    In the meantime, many of the great Westerns of the past("Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid", "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly", "My Darling Clementine", "The Magnificent Seven", "True Grit", and on and on) are available for us to enjoy on DVD. I can't imagine modern Hollywood being able to make a Western that can approach the great ones of the '50s and '60s on a consistent basis.
     
  16. Quentin

    Quentin Cinematographer

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    David is right. Money talks, and right now, the western is barely a whisper.

    Even OPEN RANGE (an excellent western) did not make much money. Though, Costner is reportedly working on another western now.

    When people like Ron Howard make crappy westerns that bomb (THE MISSING), it doesn't help matters.

    I don't think we're likely to see a BIG western again for some time. Thank God for DEADWOOD and indy films like THREE BURIALS OF MELQUIADES ESTRADA.
     
  17. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

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    You left out the other "classic Western" conflict - Cowboys vs. Indians. In today's politically correct climate, Indians can't be shown as the antagonists, and I think people can only take so much of the "see what lying cheating European white male bastards did to the noble natives" storylines as well.
     
  18. Peter M Fitzgerald

    Peter M Fitzgerald Screenwriter

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    So, just have John Milius script and Mel Gibson direct an oater. Problem solved. [​IMG]
     
  19. Andy Sheets

    Andy Sheets Cinematographer

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    I think a major issue is that a lot of the good guys vs. bad guys conflicts that drove the old westerns have been co-opted by modern day cop and gangster movies. The genres aren't precisely the same, but it seems like a lot of the essence overlaps. I remember when Tombstone came out and I was chatting with a co-worker of mine who said she hated westerns but loved Tombstone because it reminded her of gangster movies.
     
  20. Nathan V

    Nathan V Supporting Actor

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    Care to explain that, Simon? Are you saying it's over, or do you think it never happened and we're still in the modernist period?

    Regards,
    Nathan
     

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