Tuesday, June 23, 2015

always like to keep my audience riveted

I could keep watching Westerns for a lot longer than the next ten days. Not because I have fallen in love with the genre though I do think of it a little differently than I used to; after watching far too many Westerns as a kid, it became a genre I tend to avoid. The reason I could keep watching them is that while I tried to reduce the list of notable Westerns to 32 films, I ended up with far more, hence a few days with more than one film, and I have actually added a few more as I've been going. Today was supposed to have two films, but I have opted out of one of them--High Plains Drifter--because, well...

(A story:

Car broke down in Arizona yesterday. We were supposed to be home last night, but had to wait until this morning to learn the fate of the car...

No, let's make this interesting.

This morning, I awoke to learn that my trusty steed Saturn had died. With no mount to get us out of the dusty town of Kingman, Arizona, we sought a new ride. We lamented the loss of poor Saturn, for she had carried us quite far over the years. But, we moved on.

A problem arose. With no hard currency, we had but a line of credit in that Western town. And, a certain dealer in "horses"--by the name of Enterprise--didn't know me from Johnny Ringo (and certainly wouldn't have offered up a mount for Ringo to borrow anyway) and demanded something called a "major credit card" for an outsider like myself. Another horse dealer--by the trade name of Avis--said an outsider like me would be welcome as all get out to borrow a "regular" ride, but they had only Mustangs and F150s (whatever those are).

We strangers to Kingman's folk eventually found ourselves a moving wagon--from a man with the strange name of You Haul--to get ourselves even farther West, home to California.)

It was a tiring roadtrip, and we returned without a car. Because of that, I decided to just go with one of my two movies for today--Blazing Saddles--because I needed some comedy.

It's interesting, though, how readily the plot here fits with other Westerns. Wright's (1975) classical plot... though it occurs to me that Wright doesn't deal much in the serious business interests that get involved in some of these stories. The story of the Lincoln County War, for example, all the way through to the death of Billy the Kid, the involvement of the businessmen known as "The House" sets up a moneyed interest that is bigger than just Cattlemen (which Wright does mention) or railroad tycoons. The real opposition in the West was between those who wanted to live there, those who wanted to work there, and those who wanted to own the other two. The setup for this film involves railroad tycoons wanting to ruin a town.

In a flashback, we get a wagon train and natives. In the present, we've got a band of "Cowboys" messing with the town and a new Sheriff who (thinks he's) there to make the place safer. Bits of the professional plot in Bart and the former Waco Kid.

(One interesting aspect to the roadtrip over the last few days is a sense of just how big and open the West is. I'd imagine, as I was driving along, being on a horse traveling at a much slower pace. Come over a hill and see a (relatively) flat expanse off to the horizon and what do you do? Turn back the direction from whence you've come? Or just keep on riding and hope there's something out there, some opportunity? There are some lonely expanses out there. The desert around Meteor Crater, for example. And, some very pleasant locales as well. That valley running through Lincoln County, for example, the forest around Flagstaff and Walnut Creek, the white sands northwest of Las Cruces...

There are some rather nice locations that you're not even allowed to photograph... a concept very strange to me. So, I absolutely did not take pictures of things like this:

Well, there was no sign specifically saying I couldn't photograph that one.)

The end of this film, with the Western brawl spreading into another film set, reminds me of Westworld. The ridiculousness of it is, well, ridiculous, but also speaks to the influence of a) the Western on the rest of Hollywood, b) the rest of Hollywood on the Western, and c) the Western on the world... or at least on American culture. Everything gets beat up by the Western.

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