Western research and some movie passes combined with a recent week off work had given me more time to watch movies than usual. Here’s the overflow from the other day.
Monte Walsh (1970) I saw this a few years ago and liked it at least as much this time. A story that doesn’t try to be any more than what it is, an aging cowboy coming to grips with the end of an era and his place in the world, seeing his opportunities evaporate. Lee Marvin strikes the right balance of a man who understands he’s missed some chances because he realized too late his time has passed but never feels sorry for himself. The most entertaining scene is still when he breaks the bronco and ruins a town in the process—I do have to wonder where the hell everyone is while he’s wrecking the joint—but the point of the movie comes a few minutes later when he turns down a job for more money than he’s ever made because, “I ain't gonna spit on my whole life.” Nothing flashy but a first-rate film on many levels.
Lonesome Dove (1989) Okay, it’s not a movie. Sue me. I’m re-reading the book now and will write something about both media in a week or three. Suffice to say for now that the mini-series holds up as well today as it did thirty years ago.
Baby Driver (2017) Yes, we left the house again to see a movie. I have to admit to being a little disappointed. Edgar Wright was responsible for Hot Fuzz, a favorite of mine, and the trailers led me to expect an action thriller that adapted that sense of humor into a Shane Black universe. The opening sucks you in that direction with as wild a car chase as you’ll ever see (no CGI or flying cars;all driving) and a whimsical dance sequence under the credits. About the time one gets settled in the who tone changes and the film can’t seem to decide what it wants to be. The end result is a movie that’s less than the sum of many excellent parts. (Here’s a more detailed review that I could have written myself had I the patience to actually learn to write good reviews.)
Tombstone (1993) I’ve lost track of how manytimes I’ve seen this and it never disappoints. Not a great Western, but a damn good one. Kurt Russell shines as Wyatt Earp but Val Kilmer steals every scene and the movie as Doc Holliday. Historically it’s pretty close to the facts and close enough to the truth not to matter, at least for the period it describes. I’ll be surprised if I don’t watch it again. Hell, I may watch the gunfight at the O.K. Corral soon as I’m done here. (I did.)
The Wild Bunch (1969) Not just a great Western, a truly great film. Sam Peckinpah’smagnum opus shows the opposite side of coming of life stories: seeing the end. Shocking in its day for the graphic violence, Peckinpah didn’t waste it. Even the battle of the Bloody Porch is no more bloody than scenes in a lot of movies today, but none of the violence is sanitized. It’s a painful to watch ending that still hits me after half a dozen viewings though it never veers into violence porn. I can’t recommend The Wild Bunch strongly enough, but you need to be in the right mood to watch its uncompromising and unapologetic look at outlaws whose times have passed.