The full trailer for the new Christian Bale film HOSTILES was just released. I’m a sucker for a good western – a genre that isn’t really getting a lot of good play lately. In fact, the last, good western was the excellent remake of 3:10 to Yuma ten years ago, which coincidentally also starred Christian Bale. This one looks really good, and I’m intrigued to see if the discussion of faith goes anywhere.
I love a good western. It is the quintessential American genre. A portrait of ourselves at both our most noble and most despicable. A genre of selfless heroes and terrible villains. A showcase of the American landscape, as seen by the men and women who first braved to cross it – full of wonder and awe.
There is no better western than The Searchers.
Sixty years ago this year, The Searchers made its debut and forever changed the western – even though it was tepidly received upon its initial release. Today it is revered by casual filmgoers, critics, and filmmakers alike as one of the most important films of all time. It is one of director John Ford’s best films and arguably star John Wayne’s best performance of his career.
The film follows a former Confederate soldier, Ethan Edwards (John Wayne), and his kinsman, Martin Pauley (Jeffrey Hunter), as they brave obstacles (natural and unnatural) and the slow passage of time to attempt to find a member of their family kidnapped by the Comanche Indians. The journey becomes an unhealthy obsession, as Ethan’s quest to find his niece, Debbie, slowly devolves into vengeance-fueled madness.
The Searchers has influenced many filmmakers in the six decades since its debut. Legendary director Martin Scorsese has often cited The Searchers as one of his favorites and has talked extensively about the film. Its staying power is derived from its themes and characterizations. The film has a lot to say about thematic concepts that are just as relevant to today’s world.
When thinking of how to describe exactly how I feel about Mel Brooks’ 1974 masterpiece Blazing Saddles, I cannot help but paraphrase Hedy (That’s Hedley!) Lamarr:
My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought, cascading into a waterfall of praise and compliments!
“Funny” doesn’t even begin to describe this film. It’s broad in its gags, but sharp in its wit. The one-liners come fast – so fast in fact, that it seems that one is still laughing at a hilarious line when the next one comes down. The acting is wonderful all around, particularly Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder and Harvey Korman.
Blazing Saddles is probably the most brilliant movie co-writer and director Mel Brooks has ever made. While films like Young Frankenstein, Spaceballs and Robin Hood: Men in Tights are awesome in their own way, Blazing Saddles is the apex of Brooks’ career – transcending its own time and genre to become a film that speaks to the culture, and making us take a good, long look at ourselves. And it’s a comedy!
What the film says about racism is the most honest, straightforward and politically incorrect way I have ever seen the subject dealt with in mainstream art. It makes racism out to be exactly what it is: stupid. Judging someone by their skin pigmentation is ridiculous. It is also un-Christlike, sowing the seeds of hatred and violence.
In today’s society, where the media and the culture insist that racism exists where there isn’t any, Blazing Saddles still has a lot to teach people about how we as people can get along.
“Excuse me while I whip this out.” SPOILERS AHEAD!