Archive for April, 2014

Haikuesday

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Storms raging outside

Such creative energies

Storms rage in us too

 

Western Watchins #75

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Legends exist for a multitude of reasons. We want them, we need them, some of them even contain nuggets of truth to them buried deep in legendary bullshit. And usually however they come we love and, more importantly, accept them. I can’t recall when I first heard mention of Silverado but whenever that was and whenever it still is I hear the hushed tones and see the glazed eyes of a true believer spreading its gospel. Once I was even threatened with bodily harm were I to denigrate this most hallowed of horse operas. But I’ll need to risk that black eye to speak my blunt truths. Silverado was average, and I’m being several sorts of generous. And here’s exactly why.

Lawrence Kasdan wrote, produced and directed Silverado back in the halcyon 80s days. Kasdan’s pen brought The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark to life. Also Return of the Jedi which is the best Star Wars movie thus far. You can try to argue but you can’t ever beat Admiral Ackbar so go fish-man fuck yourself. Of course old Larry was responsible for Wyatt Earp too which is right up there with shitting thumbtacks, so this one could have gone either way. And ended up going both. Silverado is one of the best examples I’ve seen of a good movie dressed up as a bad one.

 

 

You can’t fault the cast. Except for that Socialist sumbitch Danny Glover. I mean he was okay in this but I have a hard time separating what I know of the man nowadays with his on screen portrayal. Never been good at that division of mental labors when it comes to business and pleasure. For me, if you’re a fuck in your personal life why would putting on a suit and tie make me forget that? It never does, and I never forget. So Glover was hard to swallow but as the least interesting of the heroes anyway he wasn’t much of a bother on the whole. Kevin Costner was the perfect wacky, Kevin Kline quietly world weary, and Scott Glenn understandably worn out. They were you as a kid, the man he grew into along with the mistakes that he made and the old timer who had forgiven himself or at least come to terms with it all and was finally ready to move off into the sunset but not before dealing with one last load of shit. That’s most Westerns anyway right? Easy as 1, 2, 3.

 

1) Shit’s pretty good.

2) Some shit goes down.

3) Western folk don’t take no shit so they gather their shit before kicking all kinds of new shit out of any number of shit-filled asses.

 

Black and white (and sometimes grey) but all actions and consequences boyos. The Spirit of the West is at times not so holy as it is holy fucking hell. The good guys of Silverado are more than willing to set things right, but are the bad guys ready to let them?

 

 

Oh damn it’s Brian Dennehy, that mother fucker is always ready! Whether he’s running a town with an iron fist or sending old folks off into space with an alien one he’s pretty awesome. You can tell in that pic he’s thinking just that “fuck, you know who’s fucking awesome around here? Fuckin’ me!” Ready, awesome and particularly imposing in this film too. My two favorite moments revolve around this subtly scary bear of a man. You never see him do anything outright evil on camera but he always has that look like you know he just got done stabbing crippled children to take their lunch money right before he fist fucked them to death. With his foot!

Dennehy and his men are a deadly and numerous force to contend with laying all over the territory like a wet blanket snuffing out any sparks of hope that deem to flare. They’re nameless and mostly faceless save for Jeff Fahey and his creepy ass eyesThey scurry and attack en masse like cowboy cockroaches giving you the feeling our heroes might never be able to get rid of them for good. But Kevin Cline and crew are more than moderately capable of delivering in a finale that aims for “epic” but hits “just all right” between the eyes instead. It doesn’t so much build towards that last trigger pull as much as it pans slowly from kill to kill in a muddily muted fashion. There were memorable moments, including the conclusive Dennehy/Kline dust-up, that belong right up there with any other great gundowns you can recollect, but together they fail to carry Silverado completely into fabled lands. Not even silly walks could save this one.

 

 

John Cleese nod-nod, wink-winked his way through a few scenes admirably.

 

 

And always awesome Linda Hunt brought a spectacular weight, and possible romantic interest, into her role as saloon manager Stella.

 

 

Jeff Goldblum “ah…err…uhhh…mmmmm…ahhhhh”-ed his way all over town like he does in every movie but surprisingly never turned into a fly which would have been perfect as he could have just sat on himself being the huge pile of shit he turned out to be. He’s a gambler named “Slick” so this is not at all a spoiler. Thankfully for all the fucks in this movie, some real good folk make appearances too. Like here in a scene with Danny Glover, it’s Uncle Remus!

 

 

That’s him isn’t it? I can’t tell, they all look the same to me. People with beards I mean. And sadly, to the chagrin I’m sure of at least two good friends I can think of at the moment, Silverado looked the same to me as many other Westerns I’ve seen over the years: nothing outstanding, spectacular or impactful.

3 rounds in the cylinder for this one, a legend through word of mouth and fond memory but not from any actual deeds that I could interpret. I’m glad to have seen it and admire any cast list that takes me a few solid minutes before there’s someone billed I don’t recognize but all that talent was wasted without good strong direction. Lawrence Kasdan directed Wyatt Earp nearly a decade later but hadn’t seemingly learned as that one suffered from the same blundering missteps as Silverado. Both had an abundance of actors, picturesque settings and gorgeous wardrobe but all of that was left sitting aimlessly at the bar until it got so drunk on potential it puked all over itself in a disappointing rainbow of regret. Silverado is memorable only in that it’s brilliantly forgettable given what it could have been.

Things don’t always work out like you planned though, yet you must keep riding true. Maybe it’s exactly the movie Lawrence wanted and I can’t ever fault a man for sticking to his guns. Just doesn’t mean I want him heading out along the trail with me. To each his own after all, but for me that won’t include Silverado. And I’ll go toe to toe with anyone who disagrees.

Except Dennehy.

 

Haikuesday

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Laughter is dying

We’re guarded and sad and numb

PC humor sucks 

 

Western Watchins #74

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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 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!

Away!

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.

Haikuesday

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To find your greatness

First find equal parts of will

And terrible rage

 

 

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