The MoFo Top 100 Westerns: Countdown

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A rare round of reveals as I've actually seen both films quite recently. Meek's Cutoff is a beautifully shot film, but I felt that Reichardt didn't really know what to do with the material. I didn't hate it but felt like a lot of potential was left unused. For a moment I thought I had voted for The Shootist, but it seems to have been one of the last films I dropped from my list. I liked the concept but, despite the mirroring real-life situation, thought that Wayne wasn't the right choice for the lead. So, voted for neither and liked The Shootist more.

Seen 16(+2)/44

My List  
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I had intended to watch Meek's Cutoff but was short on time and after seeing the fairly low IMDb rating I decided to skip it. Interesting to see it show up so high.

As for the other? John Wayne. Ugh.



Meek's Cutoff made my list. One of the great modern Westerns made by one of the great modern directors, starring one of the great modern actresses. What's not to love. My favorite Reichardt so far.
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Yet another I’ve seen and enjoyed, however could not make my list - Meek’s Cutoff.

Seen: 7/44
- Slow West (#95)
- The Big Gundown (#85)
- The Furies (#84)
- The Shooting (#71)
- The Grey Fox (#66)
- The Great Train Robbery (#60)
- Meek’s Cutoff (#58)

My ballot:
None



I had Meek's Cutoff at #4...and I almost placed it at #1. I'm a big fan of of Kelly Reichardt and her style of film making.


Meek's Cutoff (Kelly Reichardt 2010)

In 1845 a small group of immigrants on their way to the Oregon Territory become hopelessly lost in the vast openness of the prairie, after taking a chance on a shortcut....Meek's Cutoff.

What struck me about this film is the way it completely embodies an emotion, while capturing a specific moment in time. That emotion is one we all can relate to, the feeling that one has made a horribly wrong turn and now all is hopelessly lost. The moment in time was real, this is based on a story of a group of early pioneers heading to the Oregon Territory in 1845. That's some 30-40 years earlier than the time frame most western films take place. In 1845 these people would have been literally charting new territory. And a wrong turn could spell doom.

It's the underlying emotion of uncertainty as one heads into the unknown, that Meek's Cutoff captures. The film takes us on a journey and comes as close as any film ever has to giving us the experience these early pioneers would've felt.

I loved that image I used, the film uses spacial distances to make one feel the vastness of the journey these people took. Meek's Cutoff is a subtle film, it never spoon feeds it's message with cinematic cues and overly high drama. It allows the viewer to have their own experience...and that is something quite different than the average movie.

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Think you used enough dynamite there, Butch?
Gave Meek's Cutoff a spin, wasn't that enamoured with it and was never in contention for my list. The Shootist was another on my very long list of possible watches that I just didnae get round to, not sure if I've ever watched it.

Seen: 21/44 (< Ed )
My list:  

Faildictions (yee-haw version 1.01):
56. The Raiders (1952)
55. Hud
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Think you used enough dynamite there, Butch?



Meek's Cutoff

Emily Tetherow: You don't know much about women, do you Stephen Meek?
Stephen Meek: Well, I, I know somethin' or other.
Emily Tetherow: If you say so.
Stephen Meek: Well, I know women are different from men. I know that much. Well, I'll tell you the difference if you care to hear.
Emily Tetherow: I don't doubt you will.
Stephen Meek: Women, women are created on the principle of chaos. The chaos of creation, disorder, bringing new things into the world. Men are created on the principle of destruction. It's like cleansing, ordering, destruction.

A minimalist film, I found myself appreciating it more after viewing it than while I watched it due to the format of the film leaving even a little to get involved in; including the characters. And when there eventually was, it was a little too late to truly delve into. Except for the exchanges between Michelle Williams' Emily Tetherow and Rod Rondeaux' "Indian". His appearance making a very needed break from the snail-paced onslaught of conditions and growing dread that was unable to affect me, it seems.
Now, there are other actors here that I do like, but, again, due to the minimalist format, and, perhaps due to the culminated exhaustion of their situation, they appeared a little more deflated than simply defeated.
Said actors include: Will Patton (Solomon Tetherow), Shirley Henderson (Glory White) and, under all that hair and beard, Bruce Greenwood (Stephen Meek).


When I first saw this was nominated, I had HUGELY mistaken it for Winter's Bone, which I continue to be curious to see at some point.

I am happy to have seen this and there ARE aspects I DO appreciate and that does include the Director's choice of minimalist endeavors as well as placing us (the viewers) after the cutoff, and then, we depart before any actual resolve occurred. I appreciate them, but not enough to enjoy my viewing, sadly.

MY GOD I REALLY could have done a 50+ List EASILY!!
Another favorite from childhood that has stood the sands of time for me.
If I remember correctly, one of Wayne's issues with the Director was that this film lacked the epic feel of a Western film and was far more suited for Made for TV.
Still, with a cast of past fellow actors and "Ritchie Cunningham" as the idealizing fan, this is, very much as Holden described as John Wayne's Swan Song. And quite the befitting one that it was.


Movies Watched 26 out of 44 (59.04%)

MY LIST

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6. Ride The High Country (#63)
7.
8.
9.
10.
11. The Grey Fox (#66)
12.
13.
14.
15.
16.
17.
18.
19.
20.
21.
22.
23.
24.
25.



I seen The Shootist, a good film but not my favorite Wayne western. Still it's a must see for any western film fan. Not on my list, but damn glad to see it made the countdown.



The Shootist
(1975)

John Wayne's last movie and he plays an aging gunfighter, otherwise known as a shootist. He's come to the town of Carson City to live out his last days, as he's dying of an illness with only weeks left to live. He winds up in a boarding house run by a windowed woman (Lauren Bacall) and her teenage son (Ron Howard) who admires the gunfight.

This was a hard film to watch for me, knowing that it was The Duke's last western and last film. He would die a few years after the film and wasn't well during the making of the movie. He has a real look of anguish in his eyes. I don't think I've seen those eyes of his tell more about the man than they do here. Wayne gives a damn honest performance...Anybody who says the man couldn't act don't know squat. Wayne does more here with a turn of the head and movement of his eyes, than most actors can do with pages of dialogue. It's a good story and fitting for John Wayne as the movie functions as both a sendoff and a memento of his long film career.

John Wayne admired director Don Siegel's past films but was critical of the way he directed The Shootist. Wayne told the director he needed to shoot more visually epic. I must say before I even read about Wayne and is comments to the director I was thinking that the film was directed and shot like a TV movie, with many closeups and mid range shots. And like a lot of TV at the time the lighting is flat and studio looking.

While the film's visuals aren't exciting, it's the story of an old west legend fading into history that makes the film. That and John Wayne's from the heart performance.

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Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
Meek's Cutoff is a big bore, a good-looking bore with maybe five minutes of realistic human behavior and insight. The Shootist gives Wayne a chance to explain some of his dissatisfaction with his own behavior on screen and off. It may not be that deep but carries plenty of weight. No points from me.
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A system of cells interlinked
After reading Holden's synopsis, I tracked down and watched My Name is Nobody. It's funny, for the longest time, I had this scene in my head from a flick I had seen when I was about 6 or 7 years old, that featured a man sitting in a chair with a little mirror in his hand. He shot another man's hat on the ground as the man attempted to pick it up. I could never place the scene, and had wondered about it from time to time for pretty much my entire life. Turns out it was this movie. Anyway, really fun film. Thanks for solving a lifelong mystery for me!
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Meek's Cutoff is a big bore, a good-looking bore with maybe five minutes of realistic human behavior and insight.
This.

The Shootist, however, was my #10. The Duke is the same in every movie, but it's the supporting cast and the rather tender story that elevates The Shootist in my eyes. If there's one movie non-fans of Wayne might like, it's this one, I think.


My List:

10. The Shootist (#58)
18. The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (#76)
19. The Naked Spur (#86)
20. Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (#67)
24. Support Your Local Sheriff! (#89)
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Think you used enough dynamite there, Butch?


For my next Rectification, The Great Train Robbery. And most likely the easiest of them all to rectify at only 12 minutes.
I think my only critique would go to the choice of music accompaniment for the version I watched on youtube. The rampant "scales" played via an organ seemed more appropriate for, say, The Phantom of the Opera. Especially when it sounded like church hymns during the dancing. An old time stand-up pie-annie would have done wonders for this rousting train robbery.
Like others, I DO agree, as an Historical Notation, it does belong on this list, so BRAVO to those who made that possible.

Of course, with the previous conversations I do reckon a notion to meander over to The Great K&A Train Robbery and see what I might see, some time down the trail.


Movies Watched 27 out of 44 (61.36%)

MY LIST

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6. Ride The High Country (#63)
7.
8.
9.
10.
11. The Grey Fox (#66)
12.
13.
14.
15.
16.
17.
18.
19.
20.
21.
22.
23.
24.
25.





Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid was my #10. Pure Peckinpah poetry: beautiful, lyrical, yet still coated with dirt and blood and reeking of tequila. Brilliant editing. Gorgeous cinematography. Raunchily funny dialogue. All-time great soundtrack by an all-time great songwriter. Career best performance by Coburn. Amazing supporting cast. Tons of exposed breasts. No heroes, no villains. Just two western icons, mirror images of each other, one with a badge, one without; an outlaw who doesn't want to run; a lawman who doesn't want to pursue. Death hangs like a specter. Every character is knocking on heaven's door. I've only ever seen the special edition, which I find masterful, though at some point I'd like to check out the theatrical and director cuts for comparison's sake.

Bad Day at Black Rock is a very good movie. Part noir, part western. Though it's hard to buy Spencer Tracy as any type of bad-ass. El Topo is the ultimate acid western. Enjoyed it for its weirdness and would like to watch it again in the hopes of parsing more meaning. Django barely missed the cut; very cool spaghetti western with genre-defining iconography. Ride the High Country is middle-tier Peckinpah.

Watched City Slickers last night after noticing that it had made the countdown. I've always found Billy Crystal immensely unappealing so the movie had an uphill climb to win me over. Very few jokes landed and the treacly score made me gag. The whole thing was very predictable, yet it was still somewhat entertaining. It was freaky seeing Jake Gyllenhaal so young. Palance is the best part of the movie, though he's not featured nearly enough for my liking. Seems his Oscar statuette was more of a Lifetime Achievement Award. As for western-comedies, I definitely prefer Three Amigos! from earlier in the countdown.

I wish Sexy Celebrity was here to make fun of Rodent's obsession with Young Guns. I think it's a western that likely appeals more to people who aren't typically fans of the genre, or for people who grew up with the movie and still cling to that nostalgia -- neither of which applies to me, so I didn't think the movie was more than "meh." To echo others, The Great Train Robbery deserves to make the countdown for historical purposes. The short film holds up well for its age. I've seen She Wore a Yellow Ribbon but don't remember it well. Meek's Cutoff was a chore to sit through. The Shootist was a fitting farewell to the legendary icon. The movie almost feels like a funeral procession. I reviewed it several years ago, though my rating was a bit high at the time.

I'd hoped to watch The Grey Fox before the deadline but it wasn't available to me though my normal viewing methods.


My List:
#4) The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972)
#10) Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973)


Seen: 33/44
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Had heard of but never seen Meek's Cutoff although I like Michelle Williams quite a bit. Still it was never a film I actively sought out.

The Shootist for me, is a fine send-off for John Wayne and his career. I thought it was and is, an excellent movie and I struggled whether or not to include it on the list. In the end I chose other Wayne films over it. On a lighter note, I always crack up a bit at the conversation where Jimmy Stewart's doctor tells John Wayne that he has "a cancer." Wayne asks if he can't cut it out, and Stewart replies, "No, I'd have to gut you like a fish!" That line always got to me and Stewart fan that I am, I can do a fairly good imitation of him saying it. But there's rarely an opportunity to do it, so sometimes I just say it to myself, which is kind of sad. Neither got on my list.
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I watched The Shootist for the 70's countdown. It haunted me much the way The Misfits did, but even without that it's a damn fine film.

Watched Meek's Cutoff recently thanks to CR and it at least made my list of contenders.

11. The Shootist (1976) (#57)
18. Day of the Outlaw (1959) (#77)
24. The Furies (1950) (#84)




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It’s all John Wayne all the time! Johns Ford and Wayne are forever linked in movie history, but The Duke also made five films – four of them Westerns – with the great Howard Hawks. Their first collaboration was Red River following a cattle drive from Texas to Kansas co-starring Montgomery Clift and Walter Brennan. While there are some external conflicts including some Injuns the main source of drama comes from the relationship between Wayne and Clift’s characters, noted by critic Tim Dirks to be a sort of riff on Mutiny on the Bounty’s Captain Bligh/Fletcher Christian dynamic on the high plains instead of the high seas. For one of the first times in his career Wayne plays a flawed and sometimes even unlikeable character, at least in comparison to the movie star turns he had been enjoying since Stagecoach began entrenching his screen persona. John Ford is noted to have said, “I never knew the big son of a bitch could act” after seeing Wayne in the picture and supposedly gave him the courage to think of darker more complicated roles for The Duke in his films. With gorgeous black and white cinematography by Russell Harlan and music by Dimitri Tiomkin Red River yee-hawed its way onto nine MoFo ballots including an eighth and a tenth place. It finished with the same 86-point total as The Shootist but by virtue of it being on one more ballot it rises one spot higher on our countdown.

The 1980s was a rare fallow period for movie Westerns with a relatively small number being produced in the decade, so if you were eight or ten or fifteen in 1990 it is quite likely your first experience seeing a Western on the big screen may have been Back to the Future Part III. What a kid who wasn’t very well versed in the genre wouldn’t have known is how much fun Bob Zemeckis and company had in taking the conclusion of their time travel adventure to very much a movie version of the Old West. At the end of Part II after Marty secures the sports almanac from the 1955 timeline to restore 1985 back to some semblance of what it was (at least at the end of the first flick) Doc Brown and the Delorean get accidentally zapped back a hundred years and get stuck in 1885. As Marty and 1985 Doc ready to send him way back they head to an abandoned Drive-In with a Western mural. When he arrives we discover Hill Valley, CA is located right in Monument Valley, UT!



While they physically filmed there more importantly this represents the Monument Valley of John Ford and dozens of cinematic Westerns. From there on we get reference after reference to specific movies as well as the genre at large synthesized through decades of cinema and television. After planting the seed with casino Biff and Marty watching the finale of Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars on television in Part II, the young time traveler models himself as a pop/meta version of The Man with No Name calling himself Clint Eastwood complete with poncho. In addition to all of the Back to the Future regulars as their ancestral selves we get the likes of Dub Taylor, Matt Clark, Harry Carey Jr., Pat Buttram, Bill McKinney, and Richard Dysart as the movie Western faces in this movie Western town. Plus Mary Steenburgern’s Jules Vern fan of a school marm as Doc’s love interest. Back to the Future Part III earned 87 points. I REALLY thought about fudging the numbers to get it to 88 and see if it would vanish in a flash and flames, but I left it at the less fun 87 (though there are a verified 1.21 gigawatts). Those not-quite-88 points came from seven votes including a pair of fourth placers.


The Sons of Katie Elder, North to Alaska, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, The Shootist, Red River, Two Mules for Sister Sara, and Pale Rider