What have I been watching in July and August?

Another month, another collection of mini-reviews to read! I've also been watching a few horror movies over the summer, going to save those reviews for Halloween in October.
Considering putting a top 50 short films list together, maybe I'll post that gradually. As always, my ratings below are what I think the films should be rated on IMDb.

Stoker (2013)
Atmospheric mystery, which held my interest throughout. The first 40 minutes for me is the strongest part. The second half of the movie is intent to reveal most of the mysteries.
I agree with Eric from The Warning Sign, that the director’s use of color and flawless transition shots are a thing of beauty, even if at times they do distract from the film itself.
As Sati at Cinematic Corner wrote “the characters may seem cold but you still want to understand them and get to the bottom of all of this. (…) I don't believe that the child of someone who is evil will be evil too, but the way the movie presents the idea of "hunter gene" or whatever else to call it is fascinating. India's father knew she may want to kill in the future, so he tried to control her instincts by taking her hunting.”
Favorite quote from the intro:
[first lines]
India Stoker: “My ears hear what others cannot hear; small faraway things people cannot normally see are visible to me. These senses are the fruits of a lifetime of longing, longing to be rescued, to be completed. Just as the skirt needs the wind to billow, I'm not formed by things that are of myself alone. I wear my father's belt tied around my mother's blouse, and shoes which are from my uncle. This is me. Just as a flower does not choose its color, we are not responsible for what we have come to be. Only once you realize this do you become free, and to become adult is to become free.”
Rating 8.0

Before Midnight (2013)
I couldn’t resist revisiting the characters. It took a while for me to reach a verdict on the film. The long takes in the car and walking outside are impressive in terms of acting. It’s one of the best films of 2013, but it breaks my heart to see my favorite screen couple so cynical. I like to remember the characters in love. I would prefer to have met them when they are young, than now.
Dialogue about technology and gender, and other issues, is interesting enough, and as said on LAMBcast, they are thoughts most of us have all had, and can relate to personally. I agree with LAMBcast, that the naked scenes are uncomfortable, because the couple are almost like our friends.
The arguing turned me off, yet the cute philosophical discussions they have I love.
It’s a brave move to make the characters unlikeable one moment, and likeable the next.
It might improve on rewatch, but my initial reaction is I prefer the first two installments in the trilogy.
I also listened to Across The Universe podcast, interesting how the hotel room could be perceived as a prison. And that Celine & Jessie accuse each other of things they did offscreen, so we can never know who is right.
Rating 8.0

A Hijacking (2012)
A gripping film from start to finish. Could have done without the goat slaughter scene.
Rating 7.7

Side Effects (2013)
It held my attention, and was never dull. But to me, the Catherine Zeta-Jones twist near the end wasn’t realistic. A pity, because I loved the film up to that point.
Rating 7.3

Blancanieves (2012)
Silent film in black and white. The characters are stereotypes, but it has a lot of atmosphere, and worth watching just for the stunning visuals.
Rating 7.9

Tron (1982)
The story basically is beware of technology becoming too powerful, which has been done countless times in fiction. There was never any doubt in my mind how it would end, but the special effects were groundbreaking for the time.
A fantasy of setting foot inside a video game is what it’s all about.
Rating 6.5

TRON: Legacy (2010)
Enjoyed it more than the original. Vast improvement in special effects and also soundtrack, and overall a bigger scale. Also a bit more tongue-in-cheek than the 1982 film.
Goes a bit Star wars-ish towards the end, but the sequel is better.
My favorite piece of the soundtrack was Derezzed during the club scene. The electronic and orchestral Daft Punk score fits perfectly with a futuristic movie. Usually, composers come in at the end when everything is done. Apparently, Tron: Legacy was cut to the music.
Favorite quote: “Were the circuits like freeways? I kept dreaming of a world I thought I’d never see”
Rating 7.5

Safety Last (1923)
Many great scenes: Hiding from the rent lady, late for work, going on the overfilled tramp and ambulance, the cloth sample, the prank with the cop, the sale at the store, kick me written with chalk, and of course the ending. In fact the whole movie is funny from start to finish.
Rating 8.5

Metropolis (1927)
The coupe fall in love a little too quickly, yet it is a masterpiece, the sets and visual effects are groundbreaking and way ahead of its time. The world that has been created looks massive, even though some of them are miniatures.
You could question why the mad inventor is given so much power by the leader, but then the guy in charge had no way of predicting what would transpire. A truly unmissable classic.
Rating 8.6

Dressed To Kill (1980)
Directed by Brian De Palma. Really liked it. The scene in the art gallery was the highlight, suspenseful and well-done. The split screen scene on this occasion kind of annoyed me, as there was so much being said all at once. A film that could dissuade you from taking the tube train. You could argue it has too many endings, though the conclusion is still thrilling and unexpected.
Rating 7.7

Body Double (1984)
Directed by Brian De Palma. It takes a lot to wow me, and this film achieved that. Loved it. Underrated 80s movie. Probably has my favorite sequence I’ve watched this month, when the guy follows the woman to the mall and to the beach. You become hypnotized by the woman he’s following, as if you are in the same shoes as the main character. Pays homage to the Alfred Hitchcock movies Vertigo and Rear Window.
I especially loved the first hour of the movie, and the climax. Maybe the best ending of all the De Palma films.
Rating 8.2

Casualties of War (1989)
A very powerful war drama, which stayed with me long after the credits rolled. A pity there was so much swearing. Amazing performance by a young Sean Penn.
Brian De Palma said on Scene By Scene with Mark Cousins (1998) that the situation is: “Kind of a metaphor for the whole experience of Vietnam, we throw these kids over there, and it’s very important to show how young they were”
Rating 8.0

Carlito's Way (1993)
A gangster drama, considered to be Brian De Palma’s last great movie. Good, without quite achieving greatness. An almost unrecognizable Sean Penn steals the movie, while Al Pacino seems stuck in his Scent of a Woman performance. Doesn’t feel as iconic as Scarface (1983), but there is some nice cinematography. The best scenes are towards the end, especially the chase.
Perhaps what prevents me from scoring it higher is that I feel Brian De Palma is repeating himself a bit, the tube station scene (Dressed To Kill), the staircase at the station(The Untouchables), Al Pacino in the lead role in a gangster drama, and his monologue before he walks out in the early shooting scene (Scarface). A good movie, just feels a bit familiar.
Rating 7.5

Femme Fatale (2002)
Directed by Brian De Palma. The complex storyline is impressive, but it’s tough to care who lives or dies. Pretty good, and worth a watch.
Rating 7.5

Obsession (1976)
Underappreciated Brian De Palma film. I liked it a lot, though a couple of things annoyed me. The story relied on stupidity from several characters, the guy didn’t check the briefcase at the dock, and the woman in Rome doesn’t seek out the truth, and believes what she is told. I don’t think she would behave in that way in real life. I won’t say any more, as there are twists.
While you are watching, the whole movie feels pretty implausible, but it makes sense in the end. It captivated me, especially the scenes in Italy.
The title is not really understood until the conclusion.
Rating 7.7

Toy Story (1995)
The animation is still impressive, and the characters are really cute too.
The story is a bit childish, so I’m guessing kids would love it, while I liked it.
Rating 7.8

Spirited Away (2001)
Imaginative characters and otherworldly, but the story was a bit underwhelming and predictable. For me, cleaning the mud creature was the stand out scene. Not one of my favorite anime films. Maybe if I was younger, I would have liked it more.
Rating 7.2

Perfect Blue (1997)
Anime directed by Satoshi Kon, which is not really for kids. At first, the internet parts feel a bit dated, but really they are still relevant, as stalking still goes on now.
Does a fine job of blurring the reality, of what is real, and what is imagined.
The scene that you remember is the filmed rape for the tv-show, in the club, which is uncomfortable viewing. But I didn’t see anything that original that hasn’t already been done in other movies.
This anime was probably fresher in 97, when the internet was still fairly new.
Worth watching to the end, as it goes in an unexpected direction. It was decent, but it didn't wow me.
Rating 7.2

Only Yesterday (1991)
Anime by same director of Grave of the fireflies. The story sounded intriguing, about a 27-year-old remembering childhood. Quite slow-paced, the two hour running time tested my patience, and it didn’t engage me emotionally.
I’m feeling the story perhaps is better suited for a Japanese audience, or a female audience, as the story concerns girl’s having periods and flower-picking holiday. I skimmed over the last hour, because I was bored with it. It reminded me of Ozu.
Rating 6.0

Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962)
My first Agnes Varda film, nominated for the Palme d'Or. Not as memorable as My Life to Live by Jean-Luc Godard, which it has a few things in common with, the female main character, and title cards.
I expected more from Cleo from 5 to 7, than what I got. The opening with the tarot cards was promising, but overall feels plotless and directionless-maybe on purpose?
I guess it’s a character study of the young woman, yet her walking around aimlessly in the streets, to me becomes tiresome to watch. I like the way they converse, which flows nicely. The scene when Cleo meets the man in the park was my favorite part, which reminded me of Linklater's Before Trilogy(during the last 20 minutes)
Favorite quote: “Ugliness is a kind of death. As long as I’m beautiful, I’m more alive than the others”
Rating 7.2

Vagabond (1985)
Considered among Agnes Varda’s best films. You could call it a French Wendy & Lucy (2008). It also reminded me of Linklater’s Bernie (2011), in that people interviewed each had an opinion about the main character.
As the film goes forward, you begin wondering why the vagabond puts herself through this harsh life on the road. She meets some interesting characters on her journey, especially the philosophy major guy, and the professor of trees.
Interesting how the film suggests that a person with nothing can experience more in life than a person with wealth, but also that without a home, family or education, she is very vulnerable.
Favorite quote: “Maybe you are freer than I am. Good for you. (...) You chose total freedom, but you got total loneliness. The time comes when if you go on, you destroy yourself.”
Rating 7.5

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974)
A road movie of sorts. The rape scene is controversial, because she appears to encourage it.
I didn’t think there was enough story for the running time of 112 minutes.
Rating 7.0

Bus Stop (1956)
A light-hearted comedy with Marilyn Monroe. It’s hard to believe that she would not run away sooner, and that the cowboy can’t tell the difference between red and green traffic light, but it does make for some very funny and awkward scenes, my favorite is when he reads out loud the Gettysburg address. I didn’t quite buy the ending. The movie is best when it goes for comedy.
Rating 7.0

Shell (2012)
Superb performances, and does a good job of capturing the cold, lonely Scottish Highlands, and how the isolated setting seemingly effects the characters. Has a few powerful moments, when patrons stop by for petrol, or there is an accident. There is also a bond going on between father and daughter, which makes for uncomfortable viewing.
The story doesn’t ever venture out of the petrol station setting, which limits what can happen. A pity the ending is almost identical to an old movie(if you see it you will recognize which film I refer to).
Rating 7.0

Good Vibrations (2012)
I’m not into punk music, if I was, this Irish movie might have had a bigger impact on me. Did introduce me to Teenage Kicks by Undertones, in the famous moment when John Peel played it twice on the radio.
Rating 6.2

Paradise: Faith (2012)
2nd leg of Ulrich Seidl’s Paradise trilogy. The theme has universal appeal, yet to me not as powerful or thought-provoking a film as Paradise: Love (2012).
Paradise: Faith has a few memorable scenes of the religious woman dealing with a drunk, and encountering an orgy in the woods. It’s difficult to know where the director stood with Paradise Love and therefore that film was open-ended. The director is more obvious with his message in Paradise: Faith, a critique of religious fanaticism in Austria. The religious woman means well and you kind of understand where she’s coming from. It is frustrating to watch that she is so unemotional and stubborn with her husband, which takes the joy out of both of their lives. I was siding with the husband. Also frustrating for her that the people she is trying to help are not really listening, yet understandable that they reject a door-to-door person. You can take everything too far, even goodness. The cat that is featured in several scenes perhaps was to show the woman’s inability to show affection, who knows.
Rating 7.0

Paradise: Hope (2013)
I don’t know why it’s called hope. The performances are good, but probably the weakest of the trilogy. A teenage girl falls in love with the doctor at a diet camp.
Rating 5.5

Seen anything great this month? Have you watched any of the above films? Agree or disagree?

My Top 5

1.) Metropolis (1927) (8.6)
2.) Safety Last (1923) (8.5)
3.) Body Double (1984) (8.2)
4.) Casualties of War (1989) (8.0)
5.) Before Midnight (2013) (8.0)

6.) Stoker (2013) (8.0)
7.) Blancanieves (2012) (7.9)
8.) Toy Story (1995) (7.8)
9.) Obsession (1976) (7.7)
10.) A Hijacking (2012) (7.7)
11.) Dressed To Kill (1980) (7.7)
12.) Vagabond (1985) (7.5)
13.) TRON: Legacy (2010) (7.5)
14.) Carlito's Way (1993) (7.5)
15.) Femme Fatale (2002) (7.5)

The music of The Smiths (2 of 3)

Album: The Queen Is Dead (1986)

Arguably the greatest record of their career, and considered among the best albums of the 1980s. It has been said there is a real sense of working class anger on the album, with its general dissatisfaction with status quo. There's comedy, tragedy and melodrama.

The Queen Is Dead: a satirical jab at the royal family, and an attack on the moral decay of Thatcher's Britain.
Frankly, Mr. Shankly: is regarded by many as a direct reference to the dispute between band and rough trade boss Geoff Travis, and a comedic take on dead-end employment.
I Know It's Over: Considered one of The Smith's darkest and bleakest songs, about alienation and being an outsider.
Cemetery Gates: More upbeat than the title, describing Morrissey's own visits to Manchester's southern cemetery.
There Is a Light That Never Goes Out: My personal favorite from the record. Could be perceived as a song about adolescent insecurity.
Bigmouth Strikes Again: A Rolling Stones influenced track, Morrissey is probably talking about his own big mouth antics in interviews.

Morrissey: "I became very interested in film history. (The L-Shaped Room (1962), Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960), A Taste of Honey (1961), Billy Liar (1963). ) Films with a common thread (...) People in the north specifically, with their tail trapped in the door almost, trying to get out, trying to get on, trying to be somebody, trying to be seen. And I find that very appealing"

Favorite tracks: There Is a Light That Never Goes Out, The Queen is Dead, I Know It's Over, Cemetery Gates, Bigmouth Strikes Again, The Boy With the Thorn in His Side

Favorite lyric:
“And if you're so clever, then why are you on your own tonight?”

Album: Strangeways, Here We Come (1987)

The album title is named after a notorious prison in Manchester. Has a lot of good tracks, you could argue lacks the greatness of their previous album The Queen Is Dead. It has been said that Johnny Marr and Morrissey were pulling in opposite directions, Marr wanting to push on and expand the envelope, while Morrissey is pulling backwards and growing more nostalgic. This tension may have been part of the reason for the band's split. Paint a Vulgar Picture is a savage, lyrical attack by Morrissey on the record industry. Maybe these were indications that The Smith's had run their natural course.

Favorite tracks: Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before(a self-parody), Last Night I Dream That Somebody Loved Me(the instrumental intro is haunting), I Won't Share You, Girlfriend In A Coma, I Started Something I Couldn't Finish, A Rush and a Push and the Land Is Ours(a track where Morrissey explores his Irish roots)

Any thoughts on these albums? Have you listened to The Smiths? Or are you new to the band as I am?

Monthly links from the blogosphere: August

2013 Toronto International Film Festival announces complete lineup & screening schedule

Nostra lists his top 5 films of 2013, and asks what are your favorites of the year so far?

Andrew Robinson questions, Is Money What’s Wrong With Movies? On a similar note, Michael C asks, is the Summer Blockbuster fundamentally broken?

Pete Turner's Holiday Reading 2013: Books for Movie Buffs

Josh's Top 100 Performances of All Time

Steven reviewed Polish masterpiece The Decalogue

Sarah's write-up of underrated Wendy and Lucy (2008)

Shala's Must Watch List: August 2013

Alex Withrow looks at Bret Easton Ellis Adaptations: Novels vs. Films, and also shares his top 15 documentaries of all time

Niels85 for the The 5 Obstructions Blogathon wrote a negative review of a movie he loves, Alien (1979)

Thomas4cinema lists his Best films of the last two years

Andina's 10 Lessons Learned From Black Swan

Ruth asks Which literary characters in film are your favorites?

Chip's marathon of Submarine Movies

Across the Universe Podcast is about The Before Trilogy

Dan Heaton took part in The LAMBcast: Richard Linklater Retrospective (My thoughts on these two podcasts at the end of the month!)

Eric reviewed Midnight Cowboy [1969]

Bonjour Tristesse's round-up of 2013 Locarno Film Festival

Keith at obscurendure reviews Dario Argento's Tenebre (1982)

3guys1movie review Funny Games (1997)

Lena Dunham’s Top 10 Criterion films

Michaël Parent reviews entertaining What's Up, Doc? (1972)


Alejandro González Iñárritu, director of Amores perros (2000), 21 Grams (2003) & Babel (2006), turned 50 on 15 August. Happy Bday!

Karl questions why he loves horror movies?

Sati's 10 TV actresses that deserve better careers

Neal at Top10films writes about Top 10 Films Under The Radar

Ryan Gosling Won't Eat His Cereal

Kristen of Journeys in Classic Film reviewed The Driver (1978)

Celebrities Read Mean Tweets #1

Top 10 Most Paused Movie Moments

Patrick from The Escape Hatch looks ahead to albums out this upcoming Autumn.

In book news, Stephen King's anticipated Shining Sequel "Doctor Sleep", is available at book stores September 24.

Emily at Flavorwire on 50 of the Best Books You Haven’t Read by Authors You Already Love (thanks for the link Jandy)

R.I.P. Elmore Leonard (1925-2013) and R.I.P. Karen Black (1939-2013)

The music of The Smiths (1 of 3)

Album: The Smiths (1984)

Thoughts: Their debut album. The Smiths are sometimes talked of as the best band of the last 30 years, Morrissey is an opinionated singer who has an unusual and unique vocal style. He has been called overrated and underrated. The band's uniqueness is also due to talented Johnny Marr on guitar. Marr was co-writer of the lyrics with Morrissey, and the writing is another reason to praise the band. I didn’t gravitate towards the music at first, have grown to appreciate it. The name of the band was partly a reaction to the glossy aspirations and glamour of early 80s pop music.

Morrissey in documentary The Importance Of Being Morrissey (2002): "The Smiths was an incredibly personal thing to me, it was like launching your own diary to music"

Favorite tracks: Hand In Glove, What Difference Does it Make, This Charming Man, I Don't Owe You Anything, Suffer Little Child

Album: Meat Is Murder (1985)

(The album title famously refers to Morrissey's pro-vegetarian opinions)

Morissey archive interview from documentary Not Like Any Other Love (2013): "We feel that popular music should be used to make serious statements, because so many groups sell masses and masses of records, and don't raise people's level of consciousness in any direction, and we find that quite sinful"

Favorite tracks: How Soon Is Now?, That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore, Barbarism Begins at Home, The Headmaster Ritual

Have you listened to The Smiths? Or are you new to the band as I am?

2013 music I'm listening to

Enough of that summer music, back to the moody stuff :)

You're My Dream - PROUD (Only God Forgives soundtrack)

Solomon - Rick Smith (Trance Soundtrack)

Your Friends Ain't Gonna Leave With You - Cliff Martinez (Spring Breakers soundtrack)

You've Got Time - Regina Spektor

Bad Kingdom – Moderat (the music video is unwatchable)

Zeitgeist - Black Sabbath

Away From This World - Sheryl Crow

Retrograde – James Blake

Any thoughts on the selections? Which are your favorites from these albums?

The Sunshine Award

A couple of bloggers, Jaina at Time Well Spent, and Ruth at Flixchatter kindly passed the Sunshine Award over to me. A nice gesture during summer.

Here are the rules:
1.) Include the award’s logo in a post or on your blog.
2.) Link to the person who nominated you.
3.) Answer 10 questions about yourself (use these or come up with your own).
4.) Nominate 10 bloggers.
5.) Link your nominees to the post and comment on their blogs, letting them know they have been nominated.

1.) Favorite actor/actress (who's not a household name yet)?

Juno Temple. I thought she held her own with other seasoned actors in Killer Joe (2011). I could see her becoming a household name in the next few years, maybe not in the same league as Carey Mulligan and Jennifer Lawrence, but probably a star that audiences recognize. She’s in her mid 20s now, so I see her getting a lot of roles.
Brit Marling is another I'm a fan of, although I think the roles she picks are mostly smaller indie films, I don’t see her becoming a big mainstream star. The same could probably be said for talented Felicity Jones, who features predominantly in smaller films.

2.) Favorite Animal?
Our family has nearly always had a dog, so I’ll have to say that. Not really familiar with other pets.

3.) Favourite Non-Alcoholic Drink?
Cherry Cola. Granted, Cherry Sprite tastes almost the same, the ingredients I suppose, but whatever.

4.) Favorite music?
In my early 20s I had phases when Fiona Apple, Garbage, Leonard Cohen, and Air were my favorites. The last year or two I’ve been listening quite a bit to The Cure, Fleetwood Mac and Neil Young.

5.) Favorite TV-show?
Fawlty Towers (1975–1979)
An oldie, but a goodie. Some of the dialogue I almost know off by heart.

6.) Favorite sport
I would say golf. I have played a bit in my 20s. Enjoy watching on TV, relaxing to listen to music at the same time, with the commentary muted.

7.) Movie most people love that I dislike
The Avengers (2012). It has a few jokes I liked, but I found it vastly overrated. Maybe there are too many superhero movies these days.

8.) Favorite short film?
Wasp (2003)
Won Oscar for Best Short Film, Live Action. Never forgot it. From the director of Fish Tank (2009)

9.) My Passion.
At the moment, probably my blog.

10.) Favorite soundtrack from 2013?
Also my favorite film seen in cinema in 2013. I love the hauntedness of The Place Beyond The Pines. Unfortunately two of my favorites, Che (from the trailer), and Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing In The Dark (from a scene in the movie), were not included on soundtrack.
I prefer the 10 min youtube version of Mike Patton's Snow Angel.
A couple of favorites on the album are Fratres for Strings and Percussion - Arvo Part and, Ninna Nanna Per Adulteri by Ennio Morricone.

I'm passing the Sunshine Award to these great blogs. If I've linked to you below, you're next. Winners, remember it is strictly voluntary, so feel free to ignore this. I have picked blogs that I don't believe have been gifted the award so far.

Bonjour Tristesse
Steven from Surrender To The Void
Shala from Life Between Films
Mette at Lime Reviews and Strawberry Confessions
Dan at Public Transportation Snob
Lisa Thatcher
Chip Lary from Tips from Chip
Steve Honeywell at 1001plus
Keith - from Obscurendure
Dusty at Playground of Doom

2013 Summer Playlist

A collection of new tracks for your summer...

Elevate - St. Lucia

Sports - The Eclectic Moniker

Detroit City - Texas

Home - Austra

Counting - Autre Ne Veut

Fantasy - Ms Mr

Bourgeois - Phoenix

Hearts Like Ours - The Naked and The Famous

DNA - Empire of the Sun

Which music are you listening to during summer? Any of these? Or something else that caught your attention?

Mini-reviews Westerns (3 of 3) + ranking of marathon

Stagecoach (1939)
John Wayne western directed by John Ford. The drunkard (Thomas Mitchell) is the character I remember most vividly. Not a personal favorite, but it does pretty much everything well. The stuntman who threw himself under the stagecoach was a brave man.
John Ford’s first collaboration (of over 20) with John Wayne, and his first Western shot using the gorgeous Monument Valley of the Southwest. The film is also widely considered to have single-handedly elevated the Western into respectability.
Rating 8.0

True Grit (2010)
Well-written, just annoying that difficult to hear what Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon are muttering with those heavy accents(subtitles are a good idea). What it does differently to other westerns is the feisty girl who befriends the Jeff Bridges character. In terms of memorable scenes, there’s the moment at the beginning when she negotiates, which is quite funny. Action scenes I feel are nothing remarkable. The cinematography of the film is pretty great, and the language also transports you back to the era. A worthy attempt by the Coen Brothers.
Favorite quote: “If those men wanted a decent burial, they should have gotten themselves killed in summer”
Rating 7.5

Magnificent Seven (1960)
Decent and maybe a bit overrated. A remake of Seven Samurai (1954). I wouldn’t go so far as to call Magnificent Seven a great western. The opening is memorable, but the only other scene I remember vividly is the knife throwing moment with James Coburn. Perhaps the reason it's remembered is the ensemble cast, the title, and the truly iconic main theme.
Yul Brynner’s has top billing, yet his performance is bland and robotic(LOL he would later play a robot in 1973's Westworld).
Toshirô Mifune did a superior acting job in Seven Samurai in the role of the 7th member of the group. Chico (Horst Buchholz), a young, would-be gunfighter, is ok, but just doesn't have the same charisma as Mifune.
Favorite quote: “A dollar bill always looks to me as big as a bed spread”
Rating 6.8

The Big Country (1958)
A big epic, that lives up to its title, starring Gregory Peck and Charlton Heston. I liked it, a bit overlong, but has plenty of twists and turns. The ending is somewhat ambiguous. The main theme gives me chills, definitely among the best ever in a western, which fits with an epic movie. The music was nominated for an Oscar, and should be played loud.
Rating 8.0

Companeros (1970)
A lot better than I expected. From Sergio Corbucci, the director of Django (1966). He's a very visual director, and so is his film Companeros: Melons on heads, the banana peel and silver dollar scene, buried in the ground except his head, taking photograph which turns into a shooting, the villain with a falcon on his arm. You could watch it without audio and still follow the story.
Rating 8.0

Keoma (1976)
Also known as Django's Great Return or The Violent Breed. Considered the last great spaghetti western, directed by Enzo G. Castellari (who also helmed 1978’s The Inglorious Bastards)
The haunting soundtrack impressed me. The film does a good job of capturing the landscapes and dusty Old West, unfortunately the pacing is poor.
It picks up the last half hour, the scene of riding two horses at once was a stand-out, so too was the moment when he says he’ll spend four cents on the merchandise because that’s the price of four bullets, counting, and revealing a man behind each finger. The ending scene with the screaming woman is also effective. There’s a Christ allegory within the story. Also, watch out for the Donald Sutherland look-a-like.
Interesting to see slow-motion action scenes, before John Woo invented "gun fu" in the 80s. I guess Sam Peckinpah was at it too in 60s and 70s.
Favorite quote: “We all exist so man can fulfill his destiny, why do you want to change mine?
Rating 7.0

Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973)
The parts may be better than the whole. The best thing this Sam Peckinpah western has going for is the soundtrack. The opening credits are quite inventive. The opening shoot-out by the house was the best action scene. There’s a blurring of hero and villain, with Kris Kristoffersen as Billy The Kid(the outlaw), and James Coburn as Pat Garrettl(the law).
Features several Bob Dylan tracks that play during the movie, most notable is Knocking on Heavens Door, which was actually written for the movie. (On a side note, isn’t that what director Baz Luhrmann has been doing the last few years, using modern music in a historical context)
Dylan himself has a supporting role, his performance I felt was a bit of a distraction from the main story, like they were cashing in on his popularity at the time by having him in a few scenes. In fact his presence almost overshadows the uneven story. Feels like Dylan is playing himself to some degree, by giving philosophical answers to simple questions, such as, who are you? and what’s your name?
Favorite quotes: “I could live anywhere, I could leave anywhere too”
“Mexico might not be bad for a couple of months.” “Depends on who you are”
Rating 6.8

McCabe and Mrs Miller (1971)
Robert Altman western. The decision to use Leonard Cohen music from the 1960s, in a western set in the past, apparently was hip in the early 1970s, with Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973) also going in that direction, with a Bob Dylan soundtrack.
A brave move to use natural lighting for many scenes, so it does come across as quite dark. It achieves an authenticity in costumes and production design. I found the actual story quite underwhelming and dull, which goes for atmosphere rather than an intricate plot. So if you want action and adventure, I’d skip this western.
Roger Ebert wrote:
“Few films have such an overwhelming sense of location. Presbyterian Church is a town thrown together out of raw lumber, hewn from the forests that threaten to reclaim it. The earth is either mud or frozen ice. The days are short and there is little light inside, just enough from a gas lamp to make a gold tooth sparkle, or a teardrop glisten. This is not the kind of movie where the characters are introduced. They are all already here. They have been here for a long time. They know all about one another.”
Rating 7.3

Little Big Man (1970)
Directed by Arthur Penn, starring Dustin Hoffmann and Faye Dunaway. A coming-of-age saga which is quite novelistic in the storytelling approach.
The best thing it achieves is giving a voice to the Indians, a more human and nuanced depiction of them, than other westerns I’ve seen.
The tone of the story is larger than life, in a Forrest Gump kind of way. Different to most westerns, but as a whole an entertaining film. You could watch it as a comedy, definitely not for everyone. I had difficulty rating the film, I liked it, didn’t love it.
Rating 7.3

Tombstone (1993)
Good for pacing, yet a bit heavy-handed. Basically good guys vs bad guys, very mainstream, with a star-studded cast.
I wouldn’t call it the definitive depiction of the Wyatt Earp story on screen, but I think it was more entertaining than the uneven My Darling Clementine (1946).
Val Kilmer is the stand-out as Doc Holliday, although the friendship between him and Wyatt Earp is not really elaborated on(except a scene at the very end)
Johnny Ringo showing off with his gun followed by Holliday doing the same with his cup was a funny scene.
Favorite quote: “You look up and you think God made all of that, and he still remembered to make a little speck like me”
Rating 7.0

Red River (1948)
Directed by Howard Hawks. Often cited as the best western of the 40s. Ranked #5 on AFI’s list of Top 10 westerns. Stars John Wayne.
I didn’t like the corny music, which is a bit dated and unintentionally amusing. The best thing about it is fast-talking funny man Walter Brennan(who would later play a similar character in Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo)
All those animals storming ahead is a scary sight. Moving cattle over vast distances is similar to the story in mini-series Lonesome Dove (1989).
I was surprised how trigger-happy and erratic John Wayne’s character is, it didn’t take much for him to kill.
Favorite quote: “Now wait man, you aren’t going to take a man’s only set of teeth, are you? What are you going to do with them?” Indian: “My name now Two Jaw Crow”
Rating 7.2

Shane (1953)
Directed by George Stevens. An influential, if somewhat average and dated western by todays standards. Was nominated for 6 Academy Awards, and won an Oscar for cinematography, really is a beautiful mountainous backdrop.
The theme of prejudice towards a new guy in town is still relevant today.
The bar brawl is probably the standout scene. Not sure why reviewers are raving about Jack Palance’s performance, he’s good, but he barely has any scenes at all.
As Dan at Public Transportation Snob mentioned in his review, the ending with the boy running is also a scene that you remember.
Favorite quote: “Where are you bound?” “One place or another. Some place I’ve never been”
Rating 6.5

The Gunfighter (1950)
Gregory Peck stars in this overlooked western, as the fastest gunslinger in the West, Jimmy Ringo. About how his reputation makes him an easy target for trouble. He gets a lot of unwanted attention from the townspeople.
Rating 7.8

Ranking of Western marathon (my scores in brackets)

1.) The Wild Bunch (1969) (8.5)
2.) Django (1966) (8.5)
3.) The Naked Spur (1953) (8.4)
4.) 3:10 to Yuma (2007) (8.3)
5.) The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) (8.0)
6.) The Man from Laramie (1955) (8.0)
7.) High Plains Drifter (1973) (8.0)
8.) Companeros (1970) (8.0)
9.) The Big Country (1958) (8.0)
10.) Stagecoach (1939) (8.0)
11.) Winchester '73 (1950) (8.0)
12.) Way Out West (1937) (8.0)
13.) Go West (1925) (8.0)
14.) The Gunfighter (1950) (7.8)
15.) The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) (7.8)
16.) Lonesome Dove (1989) (7.6)
17.) Duck, You Sucker (1971) (7.5)
18.) True Grit (2010) (7.5)
19.) The Great Silence (1968) (7.5)
20.) High Noon (1952) (7.5)
21.) The Ox-Bow Incident (1943) (7.5)
22.) McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971) (7.3)
23.) The Searchers (1956) (7.3)
24.) Little Big Man (1970) (7.3)
25.) Red River (1948) (7.2)
26.) Tombstone (1993) (7.0)
27.) Keoma (1977) (7.0)
28.) Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973) (6.8)
29.) Magnificent Seven (1960) (6.8)
30.) Shane (1953) (6.5)
31.) My Darling Clementine (1946) (6.2)
32.) Bend of the River (1952) (6.0)

So that about rounds up this marathon I've been on! I bid farewell to the Old West. It was fun to explore a bunch of classics of the genre, and understandably feeling like I need a break from westerns right now.

Have you watched any of these? Agree or disagree with my verdicts above? Which are the best films you've seen this month?

Mini-reviews: Westerns
(1 of 3)
(2 of 3)


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