Resurrecting the Western


So even though I haven't seen any of the movies I'm about to discuss, I'm anxious to and I think it's terrific that an artform as American as jazz is experiencing a renaissance.

Now, I'm not a Western junkie by any means, but some of America's greatest films have been Westerns. I'm not sure which I would say is my personal favorite -- High Noon? The Ox-Bow Incident? Back to the Future Part III? -- there's no doubt that the Western does not deserve the ghettoization it's been subjected to.

All five movies I'm about to mention are up for Oscars, and the first two are arguably to two most acclaimed movies of the year. I've arranged them by how much I want to see them.

No Country for Old Men

The Coen Brothers seem incapable of making bad films. Although I do not enjoy all their films equally, their unique vision makes each a must-see.

It might be surprising that a film set in 1980 can be a "Western" and you could argue that most of the films on this list can't check every box on the What Makes a Western checklist, but this takes place in the West; has themes of mortality, morality and violence; it's a Western in everything but date.

Also. I don't think you can use a cattle gun in anything other than a Western.

There Will Be Blood

This looks like the most, mm, filmy movie of the year--the most unique experience. That's reason enough for me. Also, I just gotta see it to figure out how the little pieces I know about all fit together.

The year's about 1900 and we're in California looking for oil. There are preachers and money and milkshakes. What more do we need to know?

Exactly. Which is why we should all go catch a matinee together.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Brad Pitt has proven himself to be an actor as well as a star. His presence in a movie as always a plus. Casey Affleck is suddenly reinvented as a man with serious dramatic chops. I'm not sure when this happened. I'm used to him being funny as in Good Will Hunting or the Ocean films. I want to see this amazing new Casey Affleck everyone's talking about.

Also, much like There Will Be Blood, this film has a score that I am anxious to hear. Usually I'm not that interested in scores prior to hearing about them, but this year there were three. (The third belongs to Atonement.)

Also: I too am a big fan of beautiful cinematography. Et tu?

In the Valley of Elah

Now we're into the second half of desirability: the lower half. This movie intrigues me, but if you thought 1980 was too late to be a Western, you'll have to throw this one out entirely. Tommy Lee Jones is investigating the murder of his son, a veteran of Iraq. We're really pushing the bounds of what makes a Western now, but I'm going to say this counts. A father's quest through barren Arizona? It totally counts.

3:10 to Yuma

Christian Bale is the hero. Russell Crowe is the charismatic hero with the cool hat.

This is the most traditional Western of the bunch and everyone seems to agree: it's a killer.

Anyway. Enough of that.

Go watch a movie!


  1. Conveniently, I am staying in tonight. Perfect for a movie!

  2. "No Country for Old Men" & "3:10 To Yuma" are two of the best movies I've seen all year. You have got to drop everything and go see them this instant. Seriously. And you're right - the Cohen brothers are incapable of making bad movies. Those guys are the coolest.

  3. Having only seen No Country, if you go in expecting a Western, you won't find it. But really you need to see it, it's amazing.

  4. .

    Which reminds me, I never really got to my point which had something to do with throwing out the rules in order to create something new or blah blah blah or something.

  5. Maybe this is irrelevant, but my favorite part of this post is the way you linked to all three ocean movies--that was pretty sweet.

  6. .

    Thanks. Believe me, it took hours of planning.

  7. I used to like the Trinity movies when I was a kid, but apart from that I pretty much avoid the whole Western genre. They're just so boring.

    I'm interested in seeing the Brad Pitt one, but that has nothing to do with liking Westerns. :)