Fast Times at Liberty Valance High; or The Reel-Life Politics of Ford’s Anti-Western

I knew where it was going. Anyone who’s done his or her western homework would.

There are two American archetypes that were sometimes played against each other in old Westerns.

The egghead Eastern lawyer who lacks the skills or stomach for a gunfight is contrasted with the tough Western rancher and ace shot who has no patience for . . . → Read More: Fast Times at Liberty Valance High; or The Reel-Life Politics of Ford’s Anti-Western

Sex, Love, and Murder; or, Glenna Bell’s Perfectly Legal Tale

In the right hands, stories of sex, love, and murder go beyond tabloid sensationalism to reveal truths about the human condition, drawing not just tears and laughter but the somber recognition that we are all flawed (so get over it with wine, women, and/or song). As soon as Glenna Bell gets behind the mic with her . . . → Read More: Sex, Love, and Murder; or, Glenna Bell’s Perfectly Legal Tale

Men Will Be Men and Women Will Be Women; or, The Sexual Frontier of Epic Westerns

Westerns = Greek drama. And shut up, Aeschylus is so not rolling in his grave.

He’d have appreciated the golden-boy good looks of John Wayne in John Ford’s Stagecoach and the film’s subtle yet sharp critique on so-called civilized society–the stagecoach journey as a vehicle for a development of a humane community  that cannot survive in . . . → Read More: Men Will Be Men and Women Will Be Women; or, The Sexual Frontier of Epic Westerns

The Purple States of True Grit; or, Bridging the Gap, One Movie Theater at a Time

True Grit has accomplished the impossible. Unity! It’s a miracle! It’s hope, change, and Old West dialogue all mixed together!

True Grit has bridged the red state/blue state divide, Frank Rich of The New York Times writes. It’s a hit with coastal elites and Middle America family-values families alike, something that the blue/red mix of voters . . . → Read More: The Purple States of True Grit; or, Bridging the Gap, One Movie Theater at a Time

Music and the Western; or, The New West’s Bittersweet Lesson

The stirring, swelling strains of Cimarron (1960), directed by Anthony Mann, music by Franz Waxman, make me want to chop wood and haul water and ride fast horses over wide plains and watch over cattle in the cold moonlight night and sweep a woman into my arms. It’s that insidious. This score would trick anyone into becoming . . . → Read More: Music and the Western; or, The New West’s Bittersweet Lesson