Although I like the way Joel and Ethan Coen try to circumvent the scandal of standing toe to toe with John Wayne’s ghost (might as well be Jesus) by emphasizing that their True Grit isn’t a remake but a literary adaptation of the Charles Portis novel, I’d like to take a crack at measuring the Coens’ 2010 effort against the 1969 True Grit anyway.


Here’s the big difference.The most riveting character in the 1969 version is John Wayne while the most riveting character in the 2010 version is Rooster Cogburn (played by Jeff Bridges).The Dude is a better actor than The Duke.There.I said it.

Even my dad, a Western aficionado who can tell you how many films Harry Carey Jr. made and who did stunt work for Gene Autry, had to admit this as we left the cinema.His initial reaction to news of a True Grit reboot had been, “No way anyone could pull that off.”Call him a convert.

While I’d half-expected the new True Grit to infuse the tale of fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld), who hires Cogburn to hunt down the man who killed her father, with their No Country for Old Men level of darkness, the Coens give the Portis novel a straightforward, cinematically traditional treatment.Theirs is painstakingly accurate in ways the first one was not, as my dad tells me. He’d read the novel when it was serialized in the Saturday Evening Post, and it remains one of his favorites.What did I tell you?Ask him anything.John Wayne’s boot size.Who wrote the score for The Alamo.Anything.

When I was little, True Grit was my Western introduction via compromise.If I had to watch one, make it one I could identify with.Make it one with a little girl calling the shots.So now I have a soft spot for the genre overall (mission accomplished, dad!).And while I love the outcome of a Coen brother adaptation in keeping with the tenor of its novel, I also love the following contemporary Westerns that manage to be about three shades bleaker and decidedly edgy.

3:10 to Yuma

Christian Bale amputated his right leg in preparation for the role of a struggling rancher with a prosthetic limb in this one.Or maybe he just grew a beard and lost a little weight.Whatever he did resulted in a performance that reminded me this guy can play it subtle when he wants to.It’s one of the many things that keep me coming back to this film along with Peter Fonda’s crusty old Pinkerton, a spaghetti western-worthy score by Marco Beltrami, a dapper Russell Crowe and his rabble of miscreants, and explosions (in a Western!).Even though it would have been better served by something resembling the original ending of the Elmore Leonard short story it was based on, it’s a keeper in my DVD collection.

The Proposition

Since making his mark in films like L. A. Confidential and Memento, Guy Pearce has become one of the most poorly used actors in recent memory.I mean, two-minute bit parts in The Road, The Hurt Locker, and The King’s Speech?Come on.Pearce deserves more screen-time and meatier roles, and his tortured, understated Charlie Burns of The Proposition is the proof. Also stellar:  Emily Watson, Ray Winstone, and Danny Huston. Brutal acts punctuating the long, eerily quiet shots of the equally brutal landscape in Nick Cave’s screenplay (who also provides the musical score) make The Proposition one hell of a journey (emphasis on “hell”).

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Another film scored by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.Watching the opening scene, which lifts narration straight from the gorgeously written Ron Hansen book of the same name, over and over again is a little pre-writing habit of mine. As is listening to the soundtrack.As is re-reading segments of the book itself.I love this one from every angle, in other words, but mostly I love the subtle complexities of the titular characters and that director Andrew Dominik takes his sweet time unpacking each scene in ways that remind me of, dare I say it, a Terrence Malick work.

Jonah Hex

Just kidding.

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TNB Arts and Culture Editor CYNTHIA HAWKINS teaches creative writing at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Most of what she thinks she knows comes from movies, including how to tango, how to take someone down with a ballpoint pen, how to curse in French, and how to catch a moving train. Her work, on movies and otherwise, has appeared in literary journals and magazines such as ESPN the Magazine, Parent:Wise Magazine, The Good Men Project, New World Writing, Strange Horizons, and numerous alternative weeklies and anthologies. You can find Cynthia on Twitter and at cynthiahawkins.net.

115 responses to “Not Your Father’s Westerns … Okay, Maybe One of Them Is”

  1. James D. Irwin says:

    I love Westerns, but only Clint Eastwood ones really.

    Very narrowminded, I know. I haven’t actually seen many Westerns, and was kind of put off when I was young because my dad made us watch one on TV which was one of the most boring things I can remember watching.

    Also my dad admits that he ‘doesn’t really get films.’ He decided not to watch The Godfather last night after No Country For Old Men left him angry and confused. Although NCFOM is kind of a Western.

    At least he enjoyed Die Hard on Christmas Day though.

    Anyway, I’ve been meaning to watch some proper, classic Westerns— especially after my brother bought Red Dead Redemption earlier in the year.

    Looking forward to True Grit when it eventualy comes out over here…

    High Plains Drifter is probably my favourite Western, largely due to the slight fantasy/horror/sci-fi/ambiguity element. Also Higgins from Magnum PI is in it.

    • Given a choice, I prefer newer Westerns. But, let’s see … classics. Have you seen HOMBRE with Paul Newman? That’s one of my favorites. And there’s John Ford’s THE SEARCHERS. Oh, and THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN is fantastic. There you have it. Those are my suggestions for your classics. The Clint Eastwood films are always the way to go. All the way up to THE UNFORGIVEN.

      I think NCFOM *is* a Western. I debated whether or not to officially include it as such on my list up there. I loved it, and everyone else I know hated the ending as it left them angry and confused as well. I guess I like to be angry and confused.

      • James D. Irwin says:

        No Country has most of the elements of a Western, even the setting. It’s just at least 80 years further on than the ‘old West.’

        I was taken aback by the ending the first time I saw it at the cinema, but my brother is a proper film nerd and explained it and I kind of got it. It was fun the second time we went though, because we knew it would stop suddenly, so we watched to see how everyone else reacted. A nice range of total confusion and utter puzzlement. A lot of people stayed through the credits, presumably expecting a ‘proper’ ending’…

        The Magnificent Seven is on TV all the time, and I always miss it even though I’m dying to see it.

        Unforgiven is amazing, and I still kind of wish Gran Torino had ended like that.

      • Matt says:

        There’s no “the!” It’s just Unforgiven.

        • Dennis says:

          Clarification. The Unforgiven is a great movie with Burt Lancaster. Unforgiven is a great movie with Clint Eastwood. Two entirely different westerns.

        • (Meet my dad, aka Dennis, aka Western expert.) So, yes, yes, I’d meant above plain ol’ UNFORGIVEN. Sans THE. Don’t you have this on DVD, dad? And can I borrow it? 😉

        • Matt says:

          Huh. I didn’t know that.

        • Dennis says:

          This caused me to think of two other westerns with similar names. The Appaloosa (1966 Marlon Brando and John Saxon) and Appaloosa (2008 Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen). John Saxon was nominated for an academy award for best supporting actor. I liked the 2008 movie best.

        • Dennis says:

          No I do not have Unforgiven in my western collection, regret to say. But I will have! I want to update my DVD collection of Westerns! I have waited a long time for their return to the big screen. By the way, The Academy Awards will be February 27, 2011. Hope True Grit takes all the awards. Best Picture, Best Acting, Best Director…..etc.:) I know how you will cast your vote!

        • In the family Oscar betting pool? Oh, now, you never know. I might shake things up. I’m tired of losing. I think True Grit would certainly deserve it over others, but … I’m not so sure it’d win. They might go with The King’s Speech or Inception.

        • Dennis says:

          I CHALLENGE ALL parties commenting on True Grit and or their favorites, to join in and declare your picks for the Oscars!! It would really be something if Jeff Bridges would win Best Actor this year as he did for Crazy Heart. I agree with Cynthia, The King’s Speech and Inception were excellent too. I thought Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn was memorable as was John Wayne, each in their own way. John Wayne will always be JOHN WAYNE, there will never be another John Wayne. Jeff Bridges brought Rooster Cogburn to life as a whole new different character and seemed more realistic. Everyone is surprised with this movie, including me and only adds more excitement to the awards that will be given at both Golden Globe and the Academy Awards.

        • Official nominations Jan 25th. I guess they’ll be having the 10 movies again (which I didn’t like, but oh well!). Here’s the Duke winning his Oscar for True Grit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7qQhODwivLU

        • Matt says:

          Eh, I stopped trusting the judgement of the Academy Awards long, long ago.

        • Matt, that’s exactly what I say every year I lose my Oscar bet.

        • Matt says:

          Seriously, I think I stopped giving a crap when Pulp Fiction lost to Forrest Gump, a film I continue to loathe. And I’ve started to find the pomp and extravagence entire ceremony so very silly. Really, that’s three hours I could spend re-watching The Assassination of Jesse James again. Which is what I’d rather do.

        • Gloria says:

          For me, it was when Brokeback Mountain lost to that horrible piece of shit afterschool special pile of tripe movie Crash. Couldn’t get it up for The Oscars after that.

          I’ve never seen The Assassination of Jesse James, but I really want to.

        • At least Avatar didn’t win. There’s always that. I thought Inglorious Basterds should have won. See, usually disappointed yet I always watch. I secretly love the spectacle for one thing. And I don’t like the Super Bowl, so this is pretty much all I got.

          Gloria, see it!!!

  2. James D. Irwin says:

    Also, I feel I should mention how much I loved the final entry of this piece.

    I would have laughed out loud, were it not 2am over here and thus woken everyone up…

  3. Everyone always mentions either Rio Bravo or The Searchers as the best westerns of all time. I’d have to go with Outlaw Josey Wales. Or maybe McCabe and Mrs. Miller. Or Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia….actually, no. It’s definitely Straight To Hell.

    • Greg Olear says:

      “The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly” is my pick for the top spot.

      • James D. Irwin says:

        I haven’t seen The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly in ages, but I think For a Few Dollars More is my favourite of the Dollars trilogy.

        Also, one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen is a guy with a flip phone. His ringtone was the music from the pocket watches in FAFDM.

        • James D. Irwin says:

          Maybe I’m being subconciously influenced.

          I just noticed I have a copy of For a Few Dollars more right next to me on my bed from where I was sorting my DVDs out earlier…

        • D.R. Haney says:

          I love The Searchers. That’s undoubtedly a favorite. So is Fort Apache, The Wild Bunch, and definitely McCabe and Mrs. Miller. I don’t know that Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia strictly counts as a Western, but what the hell; I’ll throw that on my list, too.

          In terms of spaghetti Westerns, my favorite is a very rare movie entitled Cemetery Without Crosses. I’m not that keen on the Man Without a Name series, though the music is uniformly terrific. My favorite Eastwood Western would either be High Plains Drifter, which is very like the movies Eastwood made in Europe, or Unforgiven. (Obviously a lot of the same titles are coming up again and again on these lists.)

          I wasn’t particularly enamored of 3:10 to Yuma. I prefer the Anthony Mann original, and even that, I think, is overrated. But I didn’t like Crowe in the remake. It’s perfectly fine as a performance, but I didn’t care for the way the character was drawn.

          However, I love The Proposition, and I’ve said again and again how much I love The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford on the boards here at TNB. I don’t at all understand why people dislike that movie, those who do. They apparently find it dull, but I was riveted from start to finish, and I rewatch it fairly regularly.

        • Elmore Leonard didn’t like the remake either.

          Just rewatched The Assassination of Jesse James ahead of writing this. What stands out for me about that one is that it might have a Western setting and a legendary Western figure but it’s not necessarily working within the genre the way 3:10 to Yuma is. It’s a good film, a good character-centered drama first and foremost in my mind. Maybe the same could be said for True Grit and The Proposition.

          “I don’t know what it is about you, but the more you talk the more you give me the willies.” Ha. This is what I love about Affleck’s Bob Ford character. He absolutely gives me the willies … but at the same time I feel really sorry, and embarrassed, for him in that moment. I love characters that have so many subtle layers you’re left trying to sort through what it is you *really* think of them.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          That’s such a truth about Bob Ford. You just feel so dreadfully… embarrassed.

          Again: that cinematography deserved the Oscar.

        • The train’s light illuminating the bandits in the woods, the smoke, the shadows, that whole sequence is gorgeous. And creepy.

    • I wish I could talk my dad into logging in here and commenting because I know he’d love to get in on this conversation. I’m going to ask him if he could only pick one as the best of all time which it would be and post it for him. I have my suspicions ….

      • Here’s what my dad emailed me:

        “Growing up I went to the movies every Saturday. And there on the big screen were the westerns with Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Cisco Kid, Red Ryder, Lash Larue, Whip Wilson, and Hopalong Cassidy. This is what got me started. One Saturday when I was in grade school, I even got to sit on Froggy Burnett’s lap (Gene Autry’s sidekick). He came through Webb City on a promo tour. I even had a picture taken but don’t know whatever happened to it.

        My pick for best Westerns would be Red River (John Wayne), The Searchers (John Wayne), The Unforgiven (Burt Lancaster). High Noon, (Gary Cooper)!!!

        Those were the good ole days when cowboys, were cowboys!!”

        And then he sent a follow-up email: “Mustn’t forget Shane! Shane (Alan Ladd). Don’t forget the line … ‘Shane, come back!'”

      • My suspicions were, btw, that he couldn’t pick just one 🙂

  4. Gloria says:

    What about Shane? It also has a kid as a central character.

    I love the Jonah Hex joke. You’re a funny lady.

    I want to see everything Jeff Bridges does from here through the end of his life True Grit so badly. I’m extremely jealous that you’ve done so before me. Thank you for this, Cynthia Hawkins!

    • You’re welcome, Gloria Harrison! SHANE’s a good one. My dad (see comment just above yours) reminded me of it as well. Then Eastwood’s PALE RIDER had a similar story … and a kid. At the time, I’d thought it was an intentional re-imagining of SHANE. Not sure. But good nonetheless.

  5. Zara Potts says:

    Ummm. Does anyone remember the 3D western called ‘Comin’ At Ya!’??
    Sheer brilliance.

  6. Nathaniel Missildine says:

    I agree The Dude is a better actor than The Duke (the original Duke that is) and am excited about the new takes on Westerns these days. My favorite western is probably the Deadwood movie falsely rumored to be in the works, though Treasure of Sierra Madre and Pat Garret and Billy the Kid deserve a mention.

    Also, Young Guns. (Kidding)

    And Tombstone with Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday. (Kidding again. Sort of.)

    • Young Guns. Man. I loved that movie at the time and tried to watch it not long ago — I found it completely unwatchable (but funny). Mullets! Electric guitars! Lou Diamond Phillips! The only thing I did like about it in retrospect was the presence of Jack Palance and Terrence Stamp.

      I should probably think the same of Tombstone, but yet I still find that one entertaining. Val Kilmer playing quick-draw with a tin cup cracks me up every time. But don’t tell anyone.

      • Nathaniel Missildine says:

        Val Kilmer nearly saves Tombstone, every time he shows up in that film it’s like the thing becomes a real Western all of sudden. I’m not sure what got into him for that role, maybe some post-Jim Morrison high.

  7. My dad is still sending me emails (this one titled “What a true cowboy would say”) to post for him:

    “WELL buckaroos! It’s a SHANE that you haven’t seen all these movies but you are not THE UNFORGIVEN. Just saddle up and ride south of the RED RIVER, meet me at HIGH NOON, and we will be THE SEARCHERS for more great classic westerns. Signed, THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE.”

    I’m afraid I’ve created a monster … 🙂

  8. jmblaine says:

    Well, I’m not a big Western guy
    but I did truly love
    Tex Cobb
    in Raising Arizona.

  9. Richard Cox says:

    Hahahaha. Love the Jonah Hex joke. That’s awesome.

    I would like to comment further, but I must admit I have not seen even ONE of the films you write about above. Not one. So I don’t know what to say except I don’t really like Westerns. Well, Blazing Saddles. And I do have a soft place in my heart for Dances with Wolves, even though it’s overwrought and isn’t as accurate as it could be, and I guess it’s not really a Western in the way you’re writing about them above.

    Also, Lonesome Dove is one of my all-time favorite novels.

    I’m off to watch your cat keyboard Imperial March video again. This will be the 341st time I’ve watched it, btw.

    • Would you like your own Catsio? It’s fantastic!

      Hmm, I think you would like the Coens’ True Grit because it’s so reminiscent of Blazing Saddles.

    • Judy Prince says:

      Richard, I can’t manage to read your latest post “The Washer of My Discontent” because there’s nothing below the title, your name, city, and date. No matter how I get to the page (clicking its title on the home page or typing your name in the search box), the screen won’t move below the date to the post itself. Same thing happened weeks ago with Cynthia and Simon’s post.

      Wha’sup? And how do I fix it?

  10. Judy Prince says:

    A film about your cool dad and you would be my fave, Cynthia.

    I’ve seen thousands of Westerns, like most USAmericans from babyhood up, but the only ones I remember are True Grit (yup, the “Daddy”/”daughter” aspect being the best) and Shane (that great subtle thing going on betwixt the wife and Shane).

    You had my attention with this, you trickster:

    “Christian Bale amputated his right leg in preparation for the role of a struggling rancher with a prosthetic limb in this one.”

    • I was wondering when someone was going to mention that line! Just making sure everyone’s awake and alert. Bale strikes me as one of those “whatever it takes to get into the role” kind of guys with all of his drastic, physical transformations.

      My favorite story about acting is the one in which Lawrence Olivier tells Dustin Hoffman, who’d shown up to the set of Marathon Man all haggard from several sleepless nights spent trying to look the part, “Try acting.” I don’t know if it’s true, or even if it’s fair, but I love it.

      • Judy Prince says:

        “My favorite story about acting is the one in which Lawrence Olivier tells Dustin Hoffman, who’d shown up to the set of Marathon Man all haggard from several sleepless nights spent trying to look the part, ‘Try acting.’ ”

        I love it, too, Cynthia! HA! It’s quintessential Britwit.

        I’ve never liked Laurence Olivier’s acting (or, rather, over-acting), and have always loved Dustin Hoffman in “Tootsie” and “The Graduate.”

        Do you think, like many do (including me), that acting comedy is tougher to do well than acting tragedy?

        • I’ve always suspected comedy would be harder in the same way that it’s more difficult to pull off humor in writing.

          I liked Olivier in Rebecca and Wuthering Heights. I think Heathcliff himself is an over-actor so it kind of works.

          I haven’t seen Tootsie in ages. Probably not since I was a kid. And it’s probably not for kids is it. Was telling my dad today I can’t believe all the things he and mom let me watch … but I’m glad for it! So many movies to watch and so little time. At least I got a head start.

        • Judy Prince says:

          I’ll netflix Olivier in *Wuthering Heights* (among Rodent’s favourite novels) and *Rebecca* and see if I’m over-reacting to O’s over-acting, Cynthia. Thanks for the recommends.

  11. Joe Daly says:

    Yes! Thank you, CH! I’m ready for True Grit now. The combo of the Coens and a classic remake is too much to pass up. Thx for the great reviews, as always!!

  12. Lorna says:

    Dang! Perhaps we should have gone to see True Grit instead of Meet the Little Fockers this past weekend. What can I say except that’s what happens when you’ve got a teenager casting the loudest vote.

    Sounds like a date night plan with the hubby though. It’s been a good while since I’ve seen a good western.

    • Well, how were the Little Fockers? This is the sort of movie my husband likes and will make me watch eventually. Me, not so much.

      My daughter came to see True Grit with me, and she absolutely loved it. I say this so that in case you need to twist your teen’s arm next time you try for True Grit you’ll have some ammunition! Good luck 😉

  13. Lorna says:

    Well, you know, Adam Sandler is good for a laugh or a chuckle at the least. But the one thing we all agreed upon on exiting the movie was that the only introduction to the Little Fockers was the birthday party scene at the end. Otherwise it’s just the same old shananigans with the grown up Fockers.

    Knowing now that True Grit is a thumbs up, I wish we would have twisted that teen’s arm a little more.

  14. It’s a testament to your writing that while I’m a film buff, I know little of Westerns and still found this piece to be a (wait for it!) *galloping* good time. (Sorry, had to.) Also, while I deeply respect John Wayne, you’re right: Jeff Bridges is the finer actor. (And vastly hotter, too, though presumably that’s not the point.) Nice work, lady.

  15. Erika Rae says:

    I, like Litsa, don’t know much about Westerns – unless they might be found in combo with sc-fi. So, while I know nothing about True Grit, I would be happy to talk your ear off about Firefly – or even American Gothic, which really doesn’t count so I’m not sure why I brought it up at all. Even so, this was a fun piece and now I find myself wondering why I haven’t latched on to Westerns at any point in my life and am consequently New Years resolving to do so.

    Oh, and the Dude does abide. Of course he does.

  16. Matt says:

    I loved True Grit. Loved it. I know it’s verboeten to speak ill of The Duke, but I never thought John Wayne was much of an actor, and think the Coen’s version of the film is the superior one. And not just because of Bridges – Hailee Stanfield was all of fifteen when they shot the film, and what a performance!

    Love every film here, except for Jonah Hex, which I refuse to see. The comic it’s based on is much more Peckinpah than steampunk. The film poster for Assassination is the current wallpaper for my iPhone.

    Surprised you don’t directly address Eastwood’s Unforgiven here. Arguably the best film that Eastwood’s done/ever going to do, which takes the two big tropes of the genre (the noble outlaw, the stalwart sheriff) and turns them on their heads; the sheriff’s a brutal fascist, the outlaw a mean-spirited drunk. There isn’t a wrong step in the movie.

    People are bagging on Tombstone a bit, I see. I like the movie, and still think it’s pretty entertaining, but it’s not aging well. Conversely, Costner’s Wyatt Earp is looking a little better as time goes on, but then that’s not saying much. And speaking of Costner, I rather liked his Open Range. It’s got one of the best gun battles I’ve ever seen in a Western. If only that Coster/Annette Bening love story hadn’t been shoehorned into the plot…

    Curious as to your thoughts on Appaloosa, which I think is a little underrated. It’s not Oscar-fodder, sure, but it’s a pretty solid film all around, and there are all sorts of nice little touches, and the chemistry between Viggo Mortensen and Ed Harris is great. Post gunfight dialog: “Well, that was fast.” “We all know how to shoot.”

    And as Nathaniel mentions, Deadwood. Love it. Make a point to re-watch the entire series once a year, cursing HBO’s failure to renew it for the final two seasons all the while. I still think Al Swearengen would eat Tony Soprano for lunch.

    • Hailee Stanfield was so much more natural than Kim Darby was in the original, it’s ridiculous. She was terrific.

      Agreed, Unforgiven is brilliant (sorry I’ve been putting the THE in there!). Love Gene Hackman as Little Bill as well. I haven’t watched this one in awhile. I think I’ll make a point of it. See, that’s why I was careful just to make the above review about the more recent Westerns because when I widen the scope or even try to discuss “the best of all time” I start to hyperventilate. Too many good choices.

      I did like Appaloosa. Harris and Mortensen are two of my most favorite actors, and I believe Harris directed this, right? I wonder if it’s underrated because it’s so quiet over all. But fantastic character dynamics. I think it has that in common with Open Range. I loved Costner’s character in Silverado as well. Whenever I see him in anything current, I always wish he could return to that sort of energetic, charismatic kind of guy.

      Deadwood, I’d watched the first season of it while we still had HBO and really enjoyed it. Ian McShane is a phenomenal bad guy.

      • Matt says:

        Ah, Silverado. The film that brought us Jeff Goldblum as an evil Jewish cowboy and Kevin Kline as a dead-eye gunslinger. Enjoyable film, though not necessarily a classic, I think. Though I couldn’t escape the thought while watching it that it was as if Kasdan had just given the cast of The Big Chill leather chaps and six-shooters.

        Deadwood is worth the DVD rental if you can find the time. For me, it’s like Mad Men, in that it’s one of those programs that rewards repeated viewing, and is a great study in moral complexity. The cast was almost uniformly excellent.

  17. Simon Smithson says:

    I can’t wait to see True Grit: it is very, very definitely on the watch list. I’ve yet to see Appaloosa, as well as Wyatt Earp. Given my affection for Kevin Costner, I’m surprised at myself, and I’m sure I’ll get to it sooner or later. Tombstone was great for Kilmer, if nothing else.

    I did make a joke about John Turturro being cast as Matt Damon’s horse in True Grit; I hope the horse doesn’t die now.

    I haven’t watched a Western for a while. I should have a weekend.

    The Magnificent Seven? Thoughts?

    Cowboys and Aliens?

    Also, watch this and bite your tongue:


    • James D. Irwin says:

      I own a vampire film which stars Jon Bon Jovi.


      It’s called Vampires: Los Muertos.

      The tagline is ‘Wanted: Undead or Alive’

    • The Magnificent Seven, like the Expendables of its day only way, way, WAY better … by a mile and then some. Love it.

      I am ridiculously excited about Cowboys and Aliens. I think if it didn’t have the cast it did I wouldn’t be. In fact, I hope its not a huge mistake for everyone on that roster.

      Smithson, there are some things you shouldn’t post, and Irwin, there are some things you shouldn’t admit. 😉

    • Matt says:

      There’s absolutely no reason you need to watch Wyatt Earp. I only happened to watch it recently because it was on TV, and it was raining outside, and I honestly had nothing better to do. It was better than I remembered it being. But that doesn’t mean it’s actually any good.

  18. I met a guy once named Shane. Things were going well until I said: “Shane, come back.” And he looked at me and said, “but I haven’t gone anywhere.”

    No — but I did. How could you be named Shane and not ever get the reference, let alone watch the movie?

  19. Becky Palapala says:

    The original version of True Grit is so utterly saturated in childhood memories that I simply cannot let it go.

    The good news is, from a lot of what I’m hearing, the new version shouldn’t mean I have to let it go.

    As a kid, I hated westerns and my dad loved them. I remember there actually being an argument surrounding True Grit, my father insisting vehemently that I would like this one, that it had a sassy girl like me in it, and that I should just stay put and watch it. Give it a chance. So I did.

    And whether it was my dad’s amusement/commiseration with Rooster’s exasperated machismo or the reflection of me and our father/daughter relationship he admitted to having seen in it, it was etched indelibly on my psyche.

    As I think it was for a lot of people. So it exists somewhere outside of the issues of Wayne’s acting, which was never great, faithfulness to the book, or the fact that Mattie looked at least 25 years old in that version.

    It has gotten to the point that the original speaks/refers only to itself. It is a classic because it is a classic, and that tautology is really the only explanation necessary.

    I’m sure I’ll see the new version eventually, and probably even like it, since I like Bridges pretty well and often like the Coen Bros….at least when they’re not playing traitors to their homestate like they did with Fargo.

    I liked 3:10 to Yuma, too, though it’s tough to say if that was a critical opinion or an I-have-a-monster-crush-on-Christian-Bale opinion.

    • Matt says:

      I’m assuming there was a The Man From Snowy River loophole in your childhood hatred of westerns there.

      • Becky Palapala says:

        That’s not a western. That was Australia. My childhood hatred for westerns was separated by a tidy compartmental wall from my childhood love of all things Australian.

        I spent an entire year searching desperately (with my then-abysmal research skills and non-internet library resources) for information on how to build my own bullroarer. I have never been so angry at the library in my life.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Are you kidding? Making a bullroarer is easy.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Which makes it sound like a dis. Which it isn’t. I’m just saddened by anyone who missed out on the childhood experience of drilling a hole through their wooden ruler and stringing it.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          I know! I know! I also saw online how some man made one with a plastic spoon or something.

          But I was between 8 and 11 years old at the time of this obsession. I was sure it was some kind of magical aboriginal design, with fascinating ancient secrets and super spiritual implications and whatnot.

          How could I have known otherwise? Crocodile Dundee and Peter Garrett treated them that way, and they were the only sources I had. I couldn’t find any books on the things. Not just no books on how to make them, no books that told about them. I was furious to be trapped in my ignorance like that.

          I was having my own 9 year-old version of Midnight-Oil-esque political indignation.

          “Their beds are burning AND the library is keeping their magical ancient secrets from the rest of us!!”

    • So, as a Bale aside, have you seen The Fighter? I haven’t yet. I’ve heard he’s tremendous in it, but the clips make him look like a caricature AND I do not like Mark Wahlberg. I really like Bale as well, though. Particularly in 3:10 to Yuma because he wasn’t over-selling it.

      Okay, so True Grit. If you remember, report back when you’ve seen it. I’d love to know what you think. That’s a good point about there being other reasons one would be wary of a new cinematic version. Of course there’s more to it that John Wayne. Just looked up Kim Darby’s age at the time of filming True Grit, by the way — she was 21. Sheesh.

      • Becky Palapala says:

        I have not seen The Fighter.

        I’m not sure if I’ll make a point of seeing it. I’m suffering some cognitive dissonance over my love of Christian Bale and my contempt for movies about boxing and/or boxers.

        Though if Christian Bale were in a movie about boxer shorts

  20. Elizabeth says:

    Oh my God, I thought I was the only one who uses The Assassination of Jesse James as a writing tool. Any given moment of that film (and any given sentence of Hansen’s) makes me swoon. Just brilliant.

    Great piece, Cynthia.

    • Thanks Elizabeth! I often watch the opening of Amelie for the same purpose. Depends what I’m working on. It says much about Hansen’s writing that I typically don’t go for historical novels, but I love this one.

  21. Lenore Zion says:

    i don’t understand what is wrong with everyone. tombstone is one of the greatest movies ever made. seriously. you guys are confused.

  22. Becky Palapala says:

    Ooh! I thought of another Western I like. The Missing.

    I’m all but sure I didn’t watch it critically, since I was overwhelmed with joy at seeing Tommy Lee Jones in a western, so please don’t make fun of me if it sucked.

    • Strangely, I know I saw this one, but I cannot remember it at all. So I don’t know if it sucked. Cate Blanchett was in it as well, though, right? And Cate Blanchett doesn’t really make movies that suck. And Tommy Lee Jones has a fairly good record of late as well. So, hmm, yeah, I don’t think I’ll tease you. I mean, it’s not like you said Young Guns.

      • Becky Palapala says:

        I had such a crush on Lou Diamond Phillips.

      • Becky Palapala says:

        It began with “La Bamba.”

        • I think the only reason I watched Young Guns so often as a teen was because I had a crush on everyone in it. That was the goal of it, I think. Lure the girls with the brat pack and the boys with the guns.

          Oh, I loved loved loved La Bamba! Probably for the same reason. Although I did have a fondness for musician biopics for awhile, Coal Miner’s Daughter, Sweet Dreams ….

        • Becky Palapala says:

          I had an obsession with the 50s for a while.

          La Bamba, Peggy Sue Got Married, Grease, Back to the Future I (of course), and others.

      • Dennis says:

        Have to comment here. Just to let you know Missing is in our DVD collection of good westerns and Tommy Lee Jones was excellent in it as was Cate Blanchet! Also liked the movie La Bamba as it was about Richie Valens, who made La Bamba a hit song in the late 50’s! Richie Valens, The Big Bopper & Buddy Holly all were killed in a small plane crash together in 1959.

    • Gloria says:

      I will watch anything that Cate Blanchett does. Ever. Anywhere. Cereal commercial? I’m on it. Ditto for Tommy Lee Jones. How did I not know about this movie?

      • Becky Palapala says:

        I just happened to catch it on TV once and my reaction was the same. “How did I not know about this???”

        It’s got all that father/daughter stuff and mother/daughter stuff, too. I just re-watched the end on youtube. Edge of my seat, I tell ya.

        I think I’ll have to rent it.

  23. M.J. Fievre says:


    I’m totally in love with your column. (I haven’t seen any of these. I will!)

  24. MK Works says:

    Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (Diecror’s Cut – Turner edition) is one of the best ones out there. Highly recommended, at fine video stores everywhere.

  25. MK Works says:

    Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (Director’s Cut – Turner edition) is one of the best ones out there. Highly recommended, at fine video stores everywhere.

    • Huh, I thought I’d commented here but I don’t see it now. Well, in case it has magically disappeared forever, I’ll type it here again …. This is a wonderful suggestion! Thank you! 🙂

  26. Irene Zion says:

    I thought the Coen Brothers’ “True Grit” was fabulous.
    I didn’t see the first one though.

  27. Dennis says:

    Lots of folks we know keep getting in touch with us to tell us to go see TRUE GRIT! They don’t know we already saw it. They say it is the best western they have seen in years and have been waiting a long time for a good western and they all thought no one could out do John Wayne in True Grit. They said Jeff Daniels & Mattie Ross brought new life to the remake as did the rest of the cast. Inlaws and outlaws a like, love it.

  28. Simon Smithson says:

    So, I saw True Grit last night.

    And I have to say, I left feeling unsatisfied.

    It had some great performances – the girl who played Mattie, Matt Damon, Jeff Bridges in parts (but not all; and I don’t think it was Bridges’s acting, but the way the script played out) were all solid. So were Brolin and Pepper in their minor parts. The landscaping was great; the touches like Bridges kicking the kids or the inability to see what was clearly happening with the ambush scene, all good.


    Unfortunately, a collection of good things does not necessarily a good movie make. I felt exactly the same way about Burn After Reading (I haven’t seen A Serious Man but I’d like to, for comparison). To me, post-No Country for Old Men Coen works have been more like the Coens throwing a collection of things at the viewer, without tying them together to my satisfaction.

    • Oh no! Say it ain’t so! Well, you can *still* be my movie buddy. That’s how much I like you, Smithson. I *can* agree with you though about Burn After Reading. I liked parts of it, certain scenes, certain characters, but I wasn’t crazy about it as a whole. I haven’t seen A Serious Man yet either. I’d see it in my Netflix queue, mistake it for (for reasons I can’t quite explain) that Matt Damon whistle-blower movie, delete it from queue, remember later it actually wasn’t that movie but a Coen bro movie, put it back, repeat steps one, two, and three. Or maybe I keep subconsciously sabotaging the viewing of A Serious Man because something tells me I’ll be hugely disappointed by it. Either way, this is the rather long story of why I haven’t seen it.

  29. […] often writes about the cinema, hipping us on which new Westerns are worth seeing, which films you should check out on Halloween, and what you should watch instead of Charlie St. […]

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