Thick sludge under foot
Trudging slowly if at all
The future won’t budge
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai must be the most ass kissed piece of film ever produced. Besides The Magnificent Seven it would go on to inspire every other thing you have ever seen in your life. I’m sort of not kidding. That original was set in Japan right after we bombed them and all they had was swords and straw hats to respectively fight each other and the radiation poisoning with. I’m guessing because I’ve never seen it but that’s probably what happens. I can however tell you exactly how the literally and figuratively Westernized remake went. And it went like this!
The plot is pastorally plain and simple: seven hired guns get hired…to gun! And gun it up they do, all over not-as-old-as-it-is-nowadays-but-still-not-new Mexico. Seems some poor peasants (also literally and figuratively) are getting bullied by Eli Wallach and his gang who see fit to ride into town whenever they want to wave their dicks around and steal corn. But then Yul Brynner shows up with seven dicks of his own! I mean he doesn’t have seven dicks (that I know of) but among his collected entourage I am fairly certain that at least more than six and assuredly less than eight dicks could be found. So the good dicks (seven), the bad dicks (more than forty) and the ugly dicks (I don’t know I didn’t actually see any dicks goddamit!) are all headed for a showdown. How many dicks is that Eli Wallach?
A lot! But remember this amigos, no matter how many dicks are headed your way you keep swinging you hear me? Never let anyone put you down or if they do never let them keep you there. Bullies exist because people do not stand up to them. Bullies exist because of the ease of bullying. Mouths can spout off time and again about what’s best for you and how you should keep yours fucking shut. But knock a few teeth out or break a few jaws and all that talk grows quiet right quick.
One of the central themes of The Magnificent Seven is to be assured of who you are and what you’ve set yourself about doing. It’s a beautiful message and there are numerous scenes that express it beautifully. When Charlie Bronson can make you cry, goddamn, that’s one memorable message. And so much of this movie is memorable, so many scenes rank among the finest ever put to film. One in particular finds most of the main cast both lamenting and relishing the dangereous lives they’ve chosen and as they sit calculating what their combativeness has brought them you realize that you’re on to something special here. Something really damn special.
I challenge you to watch this film and not be changed. The frank discussions of fear, mortality and self-worth are among some of the most effortlessly written moments I know of across any medium and the characters who wear their flaws on their sleeves are all the more noble for it. There’s a young guy and a funny guy and that one inexplicably unnerved guy along with some cocky guys even though most of them are unsure guys. The Seven are someone you know, or someone you want to be, or the person you are right now. They take the easy and all too often seen banality of the Western genre and envigorate it with comedy, courage and compassion. There are few times when “cool” has looked this approachable. And fucking cool!
It’s one thing if you watch The Magnificent Seven and aren’t motivated to alter the course of your life in some major way, each his own I reckon, but if you watch this and don’t think it is, without a doubt, one of the fucking coolest movies you’ve ever seen then you can go fuck yourself this many times:
Now, like many eventual “classics” this one was not too terribly well recieved back when it first hit theaters in 1960. It floundered stateside but made up for it overseas spawning a number of sequels and homages including Battle Beyond the Stars which I watched no less than 4.9 quadramazillion times during my elementary school years. Little did I know then that one day I would whole-heartedly embrace the wild and western roots of that silly sci-fi flick.
Looking back to the days like those portrayed in The Magnificent Seven has helped me a great deal to imagine what my own future will hold. I used to set so many limits on myself whether by ignorance or design but embracing the responsibility of self determination…man…that’s real liberating. I can see past the deadwood now and I see my destiny. For me that’s the desert. It’s what I want and what by God I shall have. For you it’ll be something different, but when you find something worth fighting for you’ll have found it. Might be a person or a place or both but you’ll stand up, maybe for the first time in your life, and you’ll fight for it. Realizing that the strength to do so is within you will rock your face off!
Oh Yul, you kill me! Or at least you’ll try when you go crazy. Like I did for this week’s movie. 5 rounds in the cylinder for this most Magnificent Seven. Almost a perfect film that could have benefitted from a little more enunciation and dialogue volume (particularly from Mr. Brynner) and a few, very few, pacing issues. The set-up comes slowly then you’re rushed into the finale but wanting more is always better than being bored. And any sound quality or time sensitivity issues are miniscule in comparison to the heroic effort this film puts forth on the whole. It’s a bad-ass and bittersweet ride, we should all be so brave and fortunate in our own lives.
And I’ll tell you what…you ride true and you will be. See ya soon amigos.
Me am troglodyte
You know tech but me know stick
Me still win in fight
If you don’t already have the perfect Sunday morning eating bacon and flapjacks while hungover movie then might I suggest to you one that will fill the void admirably: Jeremiah Johnson. Robert Redford takes on Nature with nothing but his determination and about one page of dialogue. A man grunting, huffing, yelling, screaming, staring and beard growing his way through an entire film may not sound like it’s amazing.
But it’s fucking amazing.
The whole thing starts with our hero arriving on the shores of some rustic outpost before gearing up and heading out into the unknown. And that opening scene is backed by about the most nut twistin’ get on off your ass and go have, for good or bad, one hell of an adventure folk song you’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing as your head aches, your eyes tear up and bacon falls out of your mouth because your nuts just done got twisted! It’s a descriptive yet mesmerizingly mysterious ballad not unlike R. Kelly’s Trapped in the Closet save for the fact that when Jeremiah Johnson was done I thought “what an inspirational story” while as soon as Trapped in a Closet finished all I could think was “stereotypes exist for a reason!”
Jeremiah’s pretty stereotypical too for a disgruntled Civil War vet out to leave the calamities of life behind. Or maybe he was just sick of working on the Nautilus.
Either way he quickly secures some supplies and rolls out into the coming winter. Before long he finds out that the Great Outdoors is a harsh mistress. She’s wearing a strap-on named ”cold and hungry” which Jeremiah services until he’s near death at one point going so far as to try and become Jesus just to save himself.
Eventually another more experienced man of the mountains comes to his aid and like a beaver-clad Ben Kenobi takes the unseasoned soul before him and fashions him into one fine frontier fella. From almost freezing to death while he starves all the way to this:
Redford disappears into Jeremiah so when you see that “I’m eating something off a stick I killed earlier while wearing this bad-ass bear hat” look in his eye you believe every second of it. The source material is well deserving of this attention to detail though and doesn’t come across as over the top. Jeremiah Johnson is a fictional accounting of the life and legend surrounding one “Liver Eating” Johnson. Depending on who you ask or what you read Johnson was a hard drinking and harder fighting barrel chested bastard who once cut the leg off from one of his captors as he escaped an encampment and survived on that flesh as he traversed nearly two hundred miles of wilderness to make it back to his camp. He also supposedly had a blood feud with the Crow Indians. He killed a lot of Crow. According to the research I just made up he killed them all. Now whether any or all of this is bullshit we may never know for sure but gaze upon the face of old L.E.J here and realize why the line to call old Johnson a liar is rather goddamn short.
He has a kind look in his eyes and it’s a look I recognize. I’ve seen it often in my own face and feel, although I’ve never shot any critter, wouldn’t even know where to start on skinning one or lived for longer than a week at a time in the woods, I feel like we’re kindred spirits. Those eyes, my eyes, filled with a healthy tenderness and beneficent respect in them say joyfully “we can all get along just fine until you try to hurt me or any of mine at which point I will hunt you down and pull your head out of your asshole so you can choke on all the shit I am kicking out of you.” All of that said without uttering a word. It’s beautiful.
Jeremiah Johnson is a beautiful and almost mute masterpiece. Between Redford’s quietly strong performance and director Sydney Pollack’s choices behind the camera too many words would have only gotten in the way. It’s a movie about a man finding his own way and when there’s not one to be found he damn well makes one. The grand locations you’ll come across in this film would swallow lesser characters but Jeremiah and those select few in his close orbit measure up well against it all.
You can smell the snow, the dirt, the adventure. And you’ll feel bones break and taste blood in your mouth too, some of it’s even yours. The calm moments soothe you just as the violent ones beat you upside the head unapologetically. The dustups you’re privy to during Jeremiah’s vengeance ride don’t seem choreographed and come off unpolished by today’s perfectly executed Hollywood fisticuffs. But they look outstanding, fresh and bitterly genuine. When Jason Bourne and James Bond look beauteous, Jeremiah just looks brutal. Every fight has the frankness of two angry hobos rabidly clashing over who get the last sip from a shared bottle of Mad Dog 20/20. Jeremiah could be hip deep in a bone chilling brook struggling to catch a fish or panting for breath as he strangles the last one from a foe, either way, you…are…there.
Jeremiah Johnson is moving and majestic. It’s simple, hand in hand with the sublime. 5 homemade rounds in the cylinder this week for another personal favorite of mine. I love this movie even while confessing that it unsettles me. Admitting that it stoked a fire deep down in my heart, admitting that it began a thirst in me, admitting that it called out and challenged me, all of this, is really harrowing. My eyes looked out the window of my cubicle at work just now to see what the weather was like for running later. My soul looked out to see what was beyond this cubicle. And typing that line just now has tears coming into my eyes and my heart beating fast because I know my own adventure is coming and for once in my life, I am ready to embrace it.
I saw Jeremiah Johnson right when I needed to. Am I glad it worked out this way? And for whatever tomorrow brings?
A secret nausea
It builds in hesitation
Moving is the cure