Laughter is dying
We’re guarded and sad and numb
PC humor sucks
The hardest reviews to start are always for those films that are the exacting definition of “meh.” Great ones and terrible ones I’m never at a loss to describe but get all middling on me and my brain works to convince the rest of my body I should be doing anything but writing. I knew about thirty minutes through Sweetwater that composition in the face of carelessness was headed my way. It’s not unwatchable but it’s far from stirring, original or consistently entertaining. I would say “it is what it is” but gods below I despise that saying. It’s an equivalative phase used in place of anything even moderately creative that’s become the requisite domain and prized possesion of the lazy who try to appear educated by uttering something quizzically pedantic. It’s an escape from really thinking about the issue or emotion at hand. Example: you say “man, this country is screwed” and a co-worker says “it is what it is right?” Ridiculous! And obvious that his or her response should have been “I know! I’m the uneducated fuck who voted for Obama twice only because he was black and cool! Jesus H. Fucking Christ I am so full of stupid shit I can taste it!” See? Much more engaging and thought provoking. Brains and brawn, gotta use ‘em both or they’ll leave you and sooner than you’d suspect. Sweetwater wanted to flex both and had some plain to see narrative ambitions (a great line of dialogue here, a terrific character design there, a prostitute) but when all was said and done ”it is what it is” came out instead of anything actually interesting.
When I first heard about Sweetwater I was interested. Ed Harris would be going toe to toe with Jason Issacs. That right there is worth the price of admission. And once released neither of them dissapointed. Ed was Sheriff Jackson, an eccentric and witty lawman whose passion for the job seems matched only by his fashion sense.
This guy is crazy like a fox wrapped up in the subtlety of a tornado. He’s ballsy brilliance in a bright blue coat. Harris’ performance is a perfect reminder that cliched characters don’t have to come off ordinary. You recognize the lawman archetype, and you’re comfortable with that, but before that level of comfort leads to boredom laced sighs he’s out in the desert singing to the moon or carving his theory of a crime into somebody’s fancy dinner table with a bowie knife. This gutsy, goofy-ass gumshoe is a pleasure to behold and easily an immediate addition to any respectable list of wonderful Western protagonists, but he is still only one piece of the equation. Papa Malfoy is another.
Jason Issacs is known mainly for playing anyone evil and British and is probably evil and/or British because he does both so well. With Prophet Josiah he creates for us a mold defying minister determined to twist and turn this world into his idea of Paradise in order to please he whom he serves with all his blackened heart: himself. Josiah seemed self aware of his hell-bent hypocrisy and there are times when even he looks surprised at how easily the flock eats up his bible bastardised bullshit like it’s Christmas dinner. He also looks like a skinny Undertaker and I don’t mean your local mortician I mean this guy:
Like finding blood in your stool, that’s some disturbing shit! And while he didn’t piledrive anybody he did seek to sap the soul from, or beat the breath out of, anyone who stood in his way. His accent came and went but no matter what he said or how he said it (gov’nah) the words came out colder than the grave and twice as terrifying. Most despotic preacher types in Westerns, even the obviously crazy ones, believe in the majesty of their own message and the shit they and theirs are sitting neck deep in but Issacs coated his prophet’s portrayal with such under the radar irony that he would have seemed equally at home on a carnival’s midway as he did inside his frontier cathedral. Pseudo-sanctimonious chicanery at its evil British finest.
Did I mention that January Jones is in Sweetwater too? The story basically revolves around her but after Ed and Jason you sort of don’t care. I didn’t even recognize her until halfway through the movie. You can forgive the oversight once you recall that her interpretaion of the White Queen from X-Men: First Class had as much life in it as the dick of a ninety-two year old eunuch. And also I don’t watch MadMen because I have about as much interest in a show about businessmen as I do in executing a handstand after downing numerous bowls of questionable chili so I can chocolate fountain myself in the goddamn face!
She’s not bad though. She holds her own against both leading men carrying herself and usually the scene with ease. I found her competent and controlled in a role that wouldn’t have been hard to overplay. The hooker with the heart of gold who’s trying to start anew only to get dragged back down into the physical and emotional gutter is a beloved member of many Western casts. Miss Jones could have sat back and let movie history lazily float her in front of the cameras without bringing anything to the job but she instead works at creating something fresh from the familiar. Plus she kills two dudes while half naked!
She totally blew those guys!
But even tits and ass (kicking) couldn’t keep Sweetwater flowing anywhere memorable. 3 rounds for this one. There were flashes of solid cinematography, eye-popping costume design and fantastic dialogue but in the end, only flashes. It’s rare that the ride a movie takes you on will be engrossing from frame one to finis. Sweetwater does nothing to help bring down those odds. It’s sadly just another deficient attempt to forge a gritty masterpiece from out the cowboy crucible. The ingredients were basically there but the parts outshone the whole once all was said and done. Great characters left to wander in a not so great world. Vengeance is a supreme cinematic force that will, when handled with dexterity and vision, boil the blood in an unforgettable fire. Sweetwater came out of the tap lukewarm at best. For every masterpiece there are dozens that fall short and some harder than others. This one’s worth a watch but not much beyond that.
Check it out amigos or don’t, but whatever you do keep on riding true. Life’s too short to let average movies slow you down for discovering outstanding ones.
To find your greatness
First find equal parts of will
And terrible rage
Eventually a whole lot of people are going to let you down. If you’re reading this you’re probably firmly entrenced in the middle class, you’re well fed, enjoy a drink now and then and have your fair share of Facebook “friends”. That’s in quotes because this world, our easy modern world and our extremely comfortable modern American one, that seeks purity by avoiding or covering up conflict secretly pollutes itself on a daily basis in doing so. By cowering from the muck we only gives ourselves up to sink slowly into it. We have more computer-based compadres than ever before but if a time comes when Lord willing you figure out something about yourself and then God forbid take a stand behind that new revelation the rats fleeing your ship, and your ”friends” list, will astound you.
In tough times, facing tough decisions most will tell you “tough luck” before moving on and that’s if they don’t stab you in the back themselves.
Supposedly High Noon is a Western for folks who don’t like Westerns but I love Westerns and enjoyed High Noon because of its non-traditional approach to facing down your tough times, and your foes, wherever it is you find them. Maybe it’s that lack of tradition casual fans appreciate or maybe it’s simply the fact that this film forgoes fantasy to slam a deliberately stark, colorless and hyper realistic world into our soon to be sore eye sockets.
High Noon. The very words conjure up moments of such grand importance like “hmmm, time for lunch” or “hey, it’s noon” and who could forget “shit, that dude I sent to jail is getting out and coming back to kill me!” We’ve all been there. And in High Noon Gary Cooper’s there too wandering just about every damn where all over town to assemble any assistance he can for a showdown that’s arriving on the twelve o’clock train. And with Hell gunnin’ for him, he’s letting heaven slip thorugh his hands. He just got married to Grace Kelly!
She’s a pacifistic Quaker (and some kind of Disney princess if you can believe Wikipedia which I never do unless it’s already something I want to believe!) and after years of dedicated service as town Marshal Willl Kane, Cooper is ready to retire and sow her sweet young oats. He’s all newly wed and resigned from his position when the bad news hits: Frank Miller’s on his way and that either means a shitty 300 sequel is about to be released or you’re going to die. Possibly from being forced to watch that horrible 300 sequel and certainly from being shot. So Gary does what he must. He walks.
There’s more walking in this movie than all the Lord of the Rings trilogy combined and as High Noon takes place in roughly real time you’ll get to see exactly how much walking one man can do in just over an hour.
Lots of lots.
You see so much studio backlot in High Noon that I wouldn’t have batted an eye if Bruce the shark had popped up at some point.
Bruce never did show but if he had oh I can tell you he would have heard Cooper’s conflicted cry for help and stood bravely by his side. Unlilke many of the townfucks. I didn’t spell that wrong. Most everyone in town is a full-on fuck. The film takes place in Hadleyville, New Mexico Territory but with the way all of Gary’s old friends and co-workers acted, in his time of desperate need, it might just as well have been set in Fuck-ville, New Fucks-ico Fuck-itory. I don’t even know how the marshal managed to stay so clean on his hour long errand due to the fact that no matter where he went he was always tip-toeing past huge pieces of shit. Even the people he found in church, not shocking I know, but it goes to show that those who preach the loudest usually don’t make a goddamn peep when it comes time to say something truly meaningful and then back it all up with courageous action. The second biggest kick into Marshal Kane’s beleaguered balls actually happens inside that twat filled tabernacle with one of the most unexpected, back handed compliments turned stunning bitch slaps of a speech I’ve ever seen. It was exceedingly subtle and performed to perfection by one of my old timey acting faves Thomas Mitchell (who I’m sure was Thufir Hawat in DUNE no matter what IMDB or logic says!)
Kane’s abandonement is brutal and complete and so brutally complete I was sure I’d get multiple commiserative bleeding ulcers and spend the rest of the day vomitting angry, angry blood. “Social Justice” can suck my dick with a side of politically correct dipping sauce, all you need is justice. No qualifiers necessary. And if it was going to happen the marshal was going to make it so all by himself.
After a little more walking of course.
And after all that Return of the King-like walking some metal gets tossed away in this one as well. The finale is both Phyrric and comforting. Fun fact: John Wayne hated this movie. Saw it as a veiled attack on McCarthyism but despite his reservations High Noon went on to be equally appreciated across the political spectrum counting among its fans Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower (he gave us the Interstate Highway System) and William Jefferson Clinton (he gave us flavored cigars.) Lots of folks seem to like this movie, I did, and maybe you will too. I’m know it has something to say, to anyone who gives it a good listen.
4 rounds in the cylinder for High Noon. This movie’s proven to be timeless and convey that timeless message that even if everyone you know turns out to be a fuck that doesn’t mean you have to become one too. Stand up and stand goddamn tall. That message resonated so much with one old Soviet satellite state that when it came time to to shove some Freedom up the collective Communist asshole this movie’s poster became a symbol of solidarity.
The people of Poland survived their own personal showdown at high noon one long ago day in the summer of 1989. They won their sovereignty and in the process stoked revolutionary fires that would burn totalitarian regimes to the ground all across Europe. Take that you Bolshevik bastards!
Sure picked a helluva day to stop sniffing glue! Or don’t. Sniff away! And drink and laugh and fuck and fight away while you’re at it. As long as it ain’t hurtin’ anyone, live as you fucking see fit. Marshal Kane is a mighty fine example of riding true if ever I saw one. In life, we will all have showdowns headed our way from time to time too amigos, only question is what we’re gonna do when they get here.
And when they do, may you have the courage and conviction to answer that question well and proper.
Bending in darkness
Leaves whip in the midnight rain
Sweet dreams will come soon