Archive for February, 2015

Western Watchins #118

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We’ve had three weeks full of buffalo followed by one week full of bull. To shore up our cinematic smorgasbord, and bring you as many tasty treats as possible, it seemed like spaghetti should be on the menu this week. Light the Fuse…Sartana is Coming fills that bill perfectly. The original Italian title was Una nuvola di polvere… un grido di morte… arriva Sartana. That translates to “A Cloud of Dust, a Shout of Death, Sartana is Here.” If you’ve been paying attention that’s not so much Light the Fuse…Sartana is Coming but let’s not let language ruin a foreign language film. The five canon Sartana films are remembered well and well deserving of that remembrance. Full of violence, nifty weaponry and absurdly byzantine plots, the originals were successful enough to spawn about a dozen piss poor knock-offs including Sartana in the Valley of Death which if you’ll recall was about as fun as watching paint dry. On your balls. That you just accidentally cut off. With a corkscrew. Thankfully Light the Fuse…Sartana is Coming will keep your balls attached and even engaged as its own balls do a satisfactory job of staying to the walls. A big reason for all this testicular contentment is due to the film’s lead, Gianni Garko.

 

 

He is Sartana, who acts all classy and kicks every ass-y. A finely dressed farrago of the Man with No Name and James Bond, he was the gunslinging glue that held all the disparate directions of this narrative together. Interestingly enough, you may not be familiar with Garko until you recall he’s also Keith Carradine:

 

 

Garko strolls all over some unnamed Southwestern locale gleefully playing everyone against the middle. It’s A Fistful of Dollars taken up several notches. One of those said notches being a robot. You might think I’m shitting you but check yo’ self and find no shit! Sartana uses a blowgun, a grappling hook pocket watch, a trick derringer and a clockwork tiki head named Alfie:

 

 

Alfie’s involved in the only scene to make use of dynamite and it’s Sartana that uses it despite the title leading you to believe the only course of action, should Sartana indeed be coming, is to light up some explosives. Even without outrageous amounts of big-bada-booms I didn’t feel slighted by the show at any point. Sartana is a hero, he’s your good guy for the extent of the film, so I found it even more fascinating that his motivation was ultimately a selfish one. Don’t confuse selfish for disrespectful neither. One requires thoughtfulness, the other a lack of caring thought all together. I consider myself selfish. I don’t want kids because I value the many bonuses that come with being childless. I want something I get it. Wine, women or song…I do not hesitate to satiate my needs. But disrespectful?

Never.

You can take care of yourself without being a hurtful prick. You can be greedily mindful of your finances, energy and time without betraying your friends. You can be aimless without being aloof. Immature people do not act selfishly, the act disrespectfully. Of themselves and of all things around them. The world at large misinterprets this as rank egoism but the vainglorious can find glory. Those without courtesy however will forever be deprived. Sartana worked an entire territory, leading barmaids, brigands and all sorts of other bastards towards a showdown with one another simply to clear a path promising millions in gold and counterfeit cash. Revenge isn’t a central motivating theme here. Self-preservation and personal gain is all Sartana needs. Well, that and a pipe organ filled with dusty, desert death.

What?

      

 

You doubt Sartana?

Bad idea.

Do that and he…will…fuck you!

 

 

Several fucking ways actually. This thing is a cannon, a mortar and a machine gun and everyone he hadn’t previously fucked got fucked by this killer fucking keyboard. Suddenly Alfie doesn’t seem so far fetched. This scene was ridiculous but ridiculously entertaining. Lots of movies come close to this kind of not-at-all plausible perfection on the whole but they end up missing out for lots of reasons. Pacing, cinematography, a crappy script or crappy actors or both. I was surprised by this one because it came in a box set with God’s GunThe Price of Power and Sundance Cassidy and Butch the Kid, a movie I have not yet watched but will undoubtedly despise. You can imagine my unexpected pleasure then at finding this needle (made of Sartana) in a haystack (made mostly of shit!)

4 rounds in the cylinder for Light the Fuse…Sartana is Coming. This production zigged and zagged just when it needed too and when many others would have done exactly the opposite. It won’t be released from the Criterion Collection anytime soon but it did almost make purchasing that sad-sack twenty pack worth it all on its own. I’m quite sure I’ll watch it again one day. A day when I’ll drink some whiskey, and laugh with some friends, and just need to see some old time piano sort of thing go all WMD.

Amigos, that’s gonna be a pretty damn good day.

Western Watchins #117

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I have an uncomplicated relationship with John Wayne. The Duke’s movies almost never fail to disappoint me in some if not all ways. Stagecoach was my first and still holds as my favorite but The Searchers left me looking for all the time I’d wasted and The Train Robbers made me feel like I’d been run over by one. A train, not a robber. Then along comes McLintock!, a film loosely based on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew and that age old adage “beat a woman with a coal shovel and she’ll be yours or you’ll just keep beating her.” I assumed that, due to the legend surrounding its star and his famous films, McClintock! would, assumably, be one wildly watchable Western. But, you know what they say. When you assume you watch McClintock! and fuck yourself good and rough like a baseball bat rubbed with chili pepper going in dry.

 

 

Maureen O’Hara had bruises for a week from filming this scene confirming that this movie wasn’t just a pain in the ass for me. McClintock! is supposedly comedic but comes across as such a bloated, un-funny mess I thought I was staring at Melissa McCarthy for two hours. One minute an Indian is going to be lynched, accused of foul play relating to a rancher’s daughter, only to have that daughter show up at the last minute to admit she’s really just a huge slut with an “oh man wouldn’t that have been funny if someone were hanged because I was off sucking this dude’s balls dry” look in her eye. She doesn’t say those exact words but that ball sucking stare is unmistakable. A solemn moment turns silly and just in case you hadn’t forgotten how close someone came to loosing their lives let’s have a slap-fight/wrestling match near a big mud slide overlooking a big mud pit so we can all get muddy because holy fuck mud is really goddamn funny!

 

 

Maureen is all “how dare you not invite me to an Indian hanging!” and Duke’s all ” What?!?! I’m missing an Indian hanging?” 

Maybe he’s not that callous, but John Wayne’s feelings about Native Americans are patronizingly supportive at best. In his films many are portrayed as strong and noble, fighting for their beliefs and their unique way of life, so while he truly may have seen them as such he also viewed them as a race well suited, perhaps even saved, by pioneering subjugation. In McLintock! the local Comanches are restless due to the fact it looks like the U.S. government is going from flaccid to flushed again, looking to fuck the natives one more time to clear the way for the white man. Wayne’s McLintock is set up as a kindly, understanding go between to argue on behalf of the tribe, but breathlessly to no avail. His speech fails to compel, his resolve lacks teeth. His words being little more than a show, for the narrative and for the viewer at home, that the Duke feels their pain but even he can’t stand against the bureaucratic nightmare that’s about to crush every native dream. This upsetting defeat sets up some Comanche incarceration, illicit Comanche outfitting, and an anti-climactic Comanche revolt. There was cause for concern that many a human life would be in danger but no one gets hurt and all the Indians run off and then the Cavalry shows up to save the day shouting “get the hell off of our land really your land you savage bastards!”

Again, they probably didn’t say that, but something has to lighten the mood. McLintock! is a funny movie dammit and a somber undercurrent of race extermination should never get in the way of a few laughs. Thankfully Chief Running Buffalo is always there:

 

 

Running Buffalo only knows enough English to repeat various combinations of “good party,” “where’s the whiskey,” and “we go home now.” Meets up with McLintock? “Where’s the whiskey?” Watching whole territory in a mud fight? “Where’s the whiskey?” Escaping into the desert with the Army in hot pursuit? “Where’s the whiskey?” I tip my hat to the screenwriters for keeping genocide so goddamn gut-busting. The other Comanche leaders were played with solemnity, Running Buffalo is Chief Hollywood Stereotype and sadly comes off as one prolonged wink at the audience conveying the notion that the plight of the Indians shouldn’t be allowed to get in the way of this wacky ensemble piece.

If you can get past its enormously not-sidesplitting side plot you can set your sights on enjoying one enormously not-sidesplitting main plot. Lots of 1960s regulars to “enjoy” in this one acting as you’d pretty much expect. People like Jerry Van Dyke (just like a lesser known Dick Van Dyke), Patrick Wayne (just like a young John Wayne) and the one-two punch of Maureen O’Hara and Stefanie Powers (just like bitches!) The latter duo star as McLintock’s previously spanked, estranged wife and soon-to-be spanked, spoiled rotten daughter. As funny as these two bitches being bitches is supposed to be it’s not funny at all. Bitch! Father and (real-life but not onscreen) son work tirelessly to win the hearts of these two heartless hos but nothing really comes of it until, just when everything leading up to this point seemed to be saying “no,” both ladies come to their senses and say “yes.” Or “yes sir may I have another?”

 

 

How did they get that to look so authentic you may be asking?

 

Practice!

 

You aforementioned bitch!

 

 

McLintock! highlights lots of societally acceptable ass slappin’ but sadly no one ever takes it up a notch and chokes a bitch. That might have saved us all so much trouble.

2 rounds in the cylinder for this, my latest foray into the Dukedom. That’s right up there with God’s Gun and Lust in the Dust yet still better than The Wild Bunch which is somethin’ I reckon. Another positive to take away from the film is this very simple lesson, “be yourself.” McLintock never holds back his true feelings and doesn’t apologize for voicing them to your ears or fisting them to your face. That’s an outdated, even offensive way to live your life these days. Lots of thin skin and weak knees all over the world now. Folks have gotten used to coddling, the crutches of political correctness and the comfort of incessant computer confirmation so much so that their spines have atrophied effectively crippling their ability to own their own lives squatting then with spirits dimmed to no more than a flicker forever blown about by any preposterous but popularly prevailing wind leaving them condemned to an easy but oh so fucking empty existence.

Jesus…did you follow that? No one else did either. That’s why Facebook still exists.

This film doesn’t say much as a whole but McLintock’s personal actions manage to still say a whole bunch if you’re listening.

Never give up on yourself, and who you honestly are.

Once you do, you can never ride true. And if you ain’t doin’ that, it’s best you just go ahead and get off the goddamn road. Those of us that give a shit, talkin’ it and backin’ it up both, will surely appreciate the extra room.

Western Watchins (and Whisperins) #116

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Time to move on from all this buffalo stuff and into more buffalo stuffI!!! Things tend to come in threes they say like celebrity deaths, trendy underwear and musketeers so to complete this current trifecta of relatable buffalo material I need to look no further than The Possum Posse. Some of my favorite bands are Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode and Dethklok ergo I love listening to songs all about angst, love and ultra-hate but my formative years were soundtracked by pretty much one man alone: Weird Al. His smart stupidity was just my game seeing as I was fat, “gifted” and knew way more about Autobots and Decepticons than any girl I’d ever had the flutters for. I was legally blind but even without my unforgivingly 80s styled eyewear I could see that this man had something to say to me and mine back in the day when “nerd” was a negative. I could hear his lyrics soothing my soul and justifying all the bookworm burden I carried. I also touched him once when a friend and I went to a local radio station to meet him in person in order to touch him and thus verify he was no dream but in fact a reality that we could all strive proudly to attain. He was one of the first cool nerds and reminded us, with every album and absurd antic, that all of us dorks were cool nerds too.

Flash forward to now, an age dominated by comic book movies and oversized plastic glasses when video game aptitude is more likely to land you in bed with a cheerleader than being on the football team. I’m thankful Weird Al got his long coming dues last year when everybody, other than us OG nerds, realized just how fucking amazing he is. And I’m thankful that I’ve never forgotten how to laugh and that there are artists out there who continue to make me do so. The Possum Posse are among that elite and revered grouping.

 



Their “Guy on a Buffalo” series of shorts was my gateway drug and while you could say I was way late to the party, the videos originally appearing around 2011, I say that my buffa-love found their buffa-laughs just when it was supposed to. These guys found some public domain footage and, throwing all manner of wits and wackiness at it, forged what has become the definitive bison themed musical comedy. Also makes for a great way to watch the whole movie in under ten minutes. The four episodes cook up a masterful treat like a cake made of perfect punchline timing slathered in improvisational icing. It’s so delicious you will think to yourself “never have I wanted more buffalo in my mouth so damn badly!” So, with no more episodes to intake, you will sit like an orphan waif begging for more of this silly and savory bluegrass to be dropped onto your emotional dinner plate. You will wonder “will I ever laugh again” and “how the hell did I get here plus why is this guy such a douche?”

 

 

Then you’ll remember that Oliver(!) was just a movie and there aren’t any more poor people because President Obama fixed all that along with the health care system and Islamic terrorism. Who’s telling funny jokes that aren’t funny because they’re so upsettingly untrue now? This guy!

 

 

My God! That’s me, there I am! How the hell did I ever end up married to who I ended up married too? Answer: I must be fucking funny! Folks, if it’s one gospel truth Weird Al and The Possum Posse preaches it’s that when you’re hilarious the world is your oyster.

Also…pussy.

Don’t believe me?

 

 

Money might make the world go round, though gravity and God and magnets might beg to differ, but no matter how much money you have it still could run out…but if you’re funny…that’ll last you your entire life and leave a wake of laughter behind you the entire time. The Possum Posse, attractive gentlemen though they appear to be, know this and did not simply rest on their buffa-laurels. The attention that four quirky little YouTube offerings brought them funded a successful Kickstarter effort and the rest is humorous history. Let’s Ride, Boys! was soon released and with it came eleven brand spanking new songs to enjoy in addition to those adventures of the one particular guy on that one particular buffalo.

Self-described as “sardonic” and certainly self-effacing, the tracks move along with the same efficient pacing and sly storytelling I’d already come to expect from The Posse. A comfortably conversational tone pervades the entire album making you feel like you’re listening live in some delightfully dirty dive privy to all the personal interactions that happen between band members when you see a group perform in person. It’s all goofy but never absurd. That’s been all the rage for some time now and even I’m guilty of it though it’s a crutch I don’t often enjoy leaning on akin to swearing if only to cover up the fact you can’t make people chuckle any other way. Fuckin’ people.

Absurdity is a great addition to your arsenal but real smarts make for better smiles in my estimation. Word play and situationally aware composition are hard word but make for easy listening on selections like the “Well Mannered Riders” which explains the exploits of one gang of hardened lawmen who pride themselves on respecting private property and making sure all their leather gear is of matching shades. “Liquored Me Up” is one of those “we’ve all been there before” working man’s madrigals in which the singer recalls his reluctance to attend a family reunion, old folks home and wedding shower until wonderful amounts of alcohol convince him otherwise. One of my personal favorites is about a poor bastard who meets the woman of no man’s dreams online but still proceeds to date her. “Alright By Mine” is the most caustically sweet and backstabbingly lovey love song you’re ever likely to hear. It, along with the cautionary tale “Ginsu”, had me thinking I wasn’t the only one here reared on the weird (Al).

5 rounds in the cylinder for The Possum Posse. You (fuckin’) people probably couldn’t tell but I’m a comedian myself. I don’t find too many things LOL level humorous or even crack a smile sort of humorous. This group manages to LOL my crack with almost every verse. Their first attempt out of the gate was a winner and in the coming years I expect more of that same variety. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter and even Myspace. You can watch their videos on YouTube and listen to samples from Let’s Ride, Boys! (full songs on Spotify!) and a few others that never made it onto a full length album right here. Or better yet, go see them live if you can (around the Midwest mostly) and convince them to tour in the South (where I am mostly) sooner rather than later. Until that time I’ll continue to ride true, and with some damn fine and funny tunes along with me on the trip. 

Western Watchins #115

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It can be very cool when everything just falls into place. When everything just falls into place buffalo it’s damn near amazing. I’ve been riding high on a personal, emotional buffalo for a few weeks now and this film contributed more than you’d imagine to that impassioned intoxication. Seems there was once a man named Charles Jesse “Buffalo” Jones. He was a frontiersman, conservationist and early friend among the white man to the beasts of the Plains what when they had almost no white man friends. The real Jones’ life was full of adventure and while he supposedly spanked an unruly bear at one time he never did punch a cougar in the face, rescue orphaned wilderness babies or seek revenge atop a buffalo as his movie counterpart did. Buffalo Rider sought then to honor this great man pretty much in name only because farming, no matter how extreme, can’t hold a candle against hand to hand cougar combat. Although bear spanking is absolutely boss. Another boss who continues spanking numerous beasts to this very day is one Rick Guinn.

 

 

That’s him mounted up on Grunter, an ornery bison he vowed to ride or die trying during his time working at a wild animal sanctuary in Utah back in the Seventies. Rick’s first ride took him and his soon to be best bud through four different fences, three of them made of barbed wire. It didn’t take Grunter long to realize he wasn’t so much carrying a man as he was a pair of balls that would give God’s a run for his money. Rick Guinn is what happens when you slam Chuck Norris into Jeremiah Johnson inside of a supercollider made out of Clint Eastwood. A good guess says this man is firmly in his sixties now yet he still leads hunting expeditions all over the globe, he still keeps a small herd of bison and is still as genuine and genuinely bad-ass as he appeared on camera almost four decades ago.

How could I possibly know all this about such a famously reclusive individual?

Because Rick and I are what you could call “two guys that have exchanged a few awkward emails.” Oh yeah, totally almost sort of real life friends with the actual Guy on a Buffalo. And yes, actually awkward because he emailed me back so quickly after I first reached out to him that I was sure I’d been hacked and that someone was impersonating Mr. Guinn for reasons unknown. It’s an odd, paranoia inducing world we live in when one day you instantly fall in love with an obscure Western and the next you’re talking to its star like it’s nothing. “Star” might even be too much of a word, not from me mind you, but for the man himself. 

Buffalo Rider is a boot straight up your ass revenge flick with a dash of Hallmark holiday feel-good bundled inside of nature documentary. There’s bad guy trampling, a friendly raccoon, one kindly old narrator guy and, tying it all together, one of the most authentic performances from a lead you will ever see. Rick Guinn portrays unfettered outdoorsman Buffalo Jones to (admittedly embellished) perfection because he’s spent his actual life unchained and outside too. The aw-shucks simplicity that comes from Rick isn’t acting, it’s just who he is: a man who doesn’t say much because he’s too busy actually doing. So then ELO’s “Wild West Hero” starts playing. Playing on my phone as I’m sitting here in my cubicle. Sitting here dressed in dress pants and slightly worn dress shoes thinking. Thinking “I’d like to be a Wild West Hero.”

Knowing that I’m not one. 

Rick Guinn’s days have been filled with untold adventure. Shit I never thought a man could do, shit Rick never figured a man couldn’t.

And that’s the soul of Buffalo Rider that I fell in love with. This is a poorly produced, oddly paced and mildly edited movie. It’s not pretty but its heart is true and amigos, you know how I choose to ride. Its story is mostly made up, but people out there like Rick do exist. In fact Rick is exactly one of those people. People who never hesitate to help those in need:  

 

 

People who will, should the need arise, never fail to punch a mountain lion right in his mountain lion mouth:

 

 

People who would never consider themselves heroes and yet they live day to day in some of the most goddamn heroic ways you could ever imagine. I’m referencing certain real folks generally and one certain real guy specifically by citing some of the silliness in this film and we’ll all maybe see the point and we’ll all maybe laugh. But how many of us are brave enough, as so many were in the past and so few are today, how many of us could ever find the courage to live in this world as we felt truly called to? Free of jobs that don’t stimulate, free of relationships that don’t fulfill. Free to speak our minds and follow our hearts. Bound by no man and thus completely our own man. If we, the still frightened, managed to face our fears we would easily forge “not gonna happen” into “mother fucker it just did!”

5 rounds in the cylinder for Buffalo Rider and I’m not at all funnin’ ya’. This movie is dated and as unpolished as they come. It also contains some of the most memorable action sequences, scripted or otherwise, of any Western I’ve ever seen. Not since Joe Kidd has a movie’s final set piece crashed and banged so satisfyingly. A tattered tale whose protagonist seeks vengeance because it’s needed, while longing to be left alone because a man needs both savagery and solitude lest he ever forgo one completely for the other.

That balance is the key to strength on any journey.

I stand at what may well be the greatest crossroads I’ll ever come to in my life. The West is calling. And I’m terrified to hear it. But I know I can’t ignore it. And I know I’m thankful. I’m thankful for everything that’s led me to this exact moment. And realize that this old movie Buffalo Rider, and my new friend Rick, came along at just the right time.

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