Friday, June 6, 2008

The Ten Best Westerns of the Last Ten Years, pt 1

It seems inevitable that film noir will eventually be viewed as the most important of all the film genres, but it's also hard to imagine a world when the western isn't the most important genre in film history. On the other hand, since the western's last true period of importance was the Eastwood pictures of the 1970s, it's been decades since the western seemed relevant outside of a historical context. Until last year, that is, when Hollywood released two critically and financially successful westerns with high profile stars, 3:10 to Yuma and the Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, another unsuccessful western with high profile stars, Seraphim Falls starring Pierce Brosnan and Liam Neeson, and imported an insanely melodramatic Thai western, Tears of the Black Tiger. Couple that with the fact that last year's two most important films, No Country for Old Men and There Will be Blood, are both arguably westerns, and 2007 was a banner year for westerns. With that in mind, I want to do a list of my favorite 10 westerns from the last 10 years, and I'll conclude with a few more I've heard are good - I'm curious if you've seen them. But first, the types:

Traditional: The good men are good, the bad men are bad, the townfolk are upright, and the only good Indians are the dead ones. Takes place in most of the 19th century, most frequently in the decade or two after the Civil War.
Standard Star: John Wayne
Classic Examples: Stagecoach, My Darling Clementine, Shane

Revisionist: One or more aspects of the traditional western are reversed - the West becomes one dirty, violent, unpleasant place, often at the end of the age of the West (1890-1910).
Standard Star: Clint Eastwood
Classics: The Wild Bunch, Unforgiven, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Modern Age: The Western age is over, but cowboys are still around. They might go to rodeos and ride horses, but they also drive cars, fly airplanes, and are sad the West is gone. 1910-today
Standard Star: Tommy Lee Jones
Classics:Hud, The Misfits, Bad Day at Black Rock

Samurai: Many of the samurai films of the 30s, 40s, and 50s were Japanese remakes of westerns. Many of the westerns of the 50s, 60s, and 70s were re-remaking the Japanese films. In short, there's usually no difference between a samurai movie and a western, except clothes and weapons. The westerns are set in the 19th century; the samurai pictures are usually set in feudal Japan.
Standard Star: Toshiro Mifune/Clint Eastwood (again!)
Classics: The Magnificent Seven, A Fistful of Dollars, The Last Samurai (just kidding!)

Space!: Look, it's a western - in space! It's exactly like any other western, except it takes place in the future. There might be horses and six-shooters; there might not be, depending on the writers mood. Time period: space!
Standard Star:Harrison Ford
Classics: The original Star Wars trilogy, Outland

Hmm, well, I may have written enough on this damn blog for now. I'll be back tomorrow with the list, but for now, I'll give you the notable westerns from the last 10 years I haven't seen. Let me know if you've seen one and if it's worth my time.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Revisionist)
Open Range (Traditional)
Seraphim Falls (???)
Serenity (Space!)


Michael said...

I just watched Assassination of Jesse James this weekend, and I'd definitely recommend it. It's pretty slow moving, but if you just let it take you, I think you'll enjoy it. The performances are pretty spectacular and there's some beautiful narration as well.

I'd also recommend Open Range. It definitely is in the "Traditional" vein, but it's very well made. I enjoyed it a lot.

Seraphim Falls is still on my to watch list.

Tadalafil said...

My favorite was Tears of the Black Tiger, by the simple reason the details and the crhonology were too much better than in the other films. I know it can not be compare with the western film produced 30 years ago ( those were real western movies), but we have to accept it was not bad.