Western Movies!

Yes, that’s a Motörhead reference, but no, this is not a tribute to one of my favorite, dearly departed rockers, Lemmy. Although I think it was his death that got me started on a months-long Western binge.

The first movie I watched in 2016 was Bone Tomahawk, followed by Django, High Noon, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Unforgiven, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and most recently, Hombre. There have been a few others in there too, I’m sure I’m forgetting them.

I love Westerns. The slow-burning stories, the morally ambiguous gunslingers, the loose women, the epic scores and landscapes and the wild, American spirit. The way Lee Van Cleef seems to show up in every single movie.

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The men are beautiful — Franco Nero, Paul Newman, Clint Eastwood — these tough, crow-footed guys that epitomize masculinity. Long before the anti-heroes of today (Don Draper, Tony Soprano, Walter White, to name a few), these characters had us asking, “What makes a man good or bad?”

These men, be they outlaws or lawmen, seem to contemplate the value of human life on a profound level, and the dialogue is often so memorable, so quotable.

It’s a hell of a thing, killing a man. Take away all he’s got and all he’s ever gonna have.

– Will Munny (played by Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven)

Happy endings are few and far between, and the audience is left to decide on who the winners and losers are. What plays out, in most cases, is a series of choices and consequences. For all their wit, Butch and Sundance can’t seem to escape the inevitable fate that awaits  — choices and consequences — like a freight training rolling toward a cliff they can’t escape that showdown.

We all die. It’s just a question of when.”

– John Russell (played by Paul Newman in Hombre)

And like some of my favorite horror films (Alien and The Thing come to mind) there is this sense of isolation, loneliness and desperation. The image of Django dragging a coffin is a lovely, dark and desolate picture, indeed.
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