I really don’t get The Searchers over Leone, Once Upon a Time in the West for example. I mean The Searchers is an ok film… like it’s fine, certainly not bad… but, C’mon. Some folks over at S&S need to cling a little less desperately to textbook “canon”. (Nothing wrong with textbook canon, some textbook canon films are actually deservedly so, but not all of them.)
I’ve actually never seen Once Upon a Time in the West myself, but I’d like to see Jerry Johnson chime in on this one.
I often wonder if these lists are a product of the Deindividuation theory. In other words the differences in opinions tend to disappear when introduced to a crowd. I hate when I meet a film fan and they say a film is their favorite just because they believe thats whats expected of them. As if they would be incorrect if they actually named their favorite films.
Don’t get me wrong, the films represented on the list are great (and many of them are among my favorites as well), but there have been huge cultural shifts in a short amount of time and contemporary films cater to those shifts. I find it hard to believe that only “In The Mood For Love” and “Mulholland Dr.” are the only two films from the 2000’s that are worthy of recognition.
We cinephiles are becoming a broken record, too afraid to step on the toes of the film history gods. I would love to see arguments for films other than these same ones we see all the time.
I wouldn’t mind seeing a few more recent films either. But you know what? This is a really big poll of a whole bunch of people voting for the Top 10 of All Time. The vast majority of them are going to put at least a couple consensus greats on their list, even if they use the other spots for personal favorites, and when you average it all out, it’s those consensus favorites that get the most votes and therefore end up on top.
Once we get to see all the individual lists, I guarantee we will see dozens of films from the last 20 years. It’s just that only a couple of them managed 30 or so votes they needed to make it into the Top 50. It’s one of the ironic things about making the list so much bigger—it actually ends up averaging things out more so individual votes are worth less and the results actually become more (or at least not less) conventional than before.
You’re 100 percent correct. I guess my complaint isn’t so much that these are the films that make these type lists. Its that these lists are still relevant amongst the film community. I would like to imagine that film has moved past the “What is the greatest film” argument and should transition to “what is my favorite film, and why”.
Yes, the why part seems the most interesting part. Wish there are some why texts in the magazine.
They should have a poll for the post 2000 films, including tv series, this would have to become more unpredictable.
“I really don’t get The Searchers over Leone, Once Upon a Time in the West for example.”
I don’t get it over The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. I mean, if there can only be one western, that is the epic and stylish western to end all westerns. It is probably treated as a bad stepchild because it was not made by an American (or in America), also because it wears its pulpy b-film roots on its sleeve. Classic westerns are like Elvis. Way too sanctified to be critiqued.
I’ll take The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Once Upon a Time in the West may be my preference, but I’d even take For a Few Dollars More over The Searchers.
I get the appreciation for Ford and The Searchers; still, Rio Bravo oughta be up there amongst westerns. I always preferred Hawks over Ford.
Rio Bravo also much better than The Searchers.
Thanks for asking! The Western is the American origination myth. I won’t speak to that here- you can easily find Bazin’s legendary essay on it online. But when Leone makes a Western, he’s not referencing the origination myth- he’s referencing Tex Avery cartoons. Without Tex Avery’s depth, of course.
It is probably treated as a bad stepchild because it was not made by an American (or in America), also because it wears its pulpy b-film roots on its sleeve.
Leone’s westerns are not treated as a bad stepchild. They are treated as the artsy, post-modern hipsterisms that they are. Leone is worshiped all over the world. He’s the new world order of the Western. They make all the best-ever lists. A true b-film is western is Stranger on Horseback by Tourneur or Terror in a Texas Town by Lewis. If your favorite is Leone, that’s fine. It just means you don’t like Westerns beyond the exotic gunplay.
If he is post-modern, as you mention, then when Leone makes a Western he is referencing the origination of the Western genre, which can be very close to Tex Avery cartoons (see Birth of a Nation for an example).
I don’t believe Leone is treated as artsy. The films he references, like Yojimbo, are treated as artsy. And if his films make all the best-ever lists, they sure don’t rank too highly in the Sight & Sound poll.
It’s the old camp-art hybrid, ala Tarantino, Argento, Sirk, ect.
Terror in a Texas Town& by Lewis…
FWIW, I just saw this. It’s a b-movie Western alright, but not in a good way. (Hayden’s Swedish accent was pretty bad.)
Hayden’s Swedish accent was pretty bad.
Almost as bad as Dita Parlo’s French accent in L’atalante.
Really? Well, I don’t speak French, so I don’t think I would be able to tell.
I’m guessing you don’t speak Swedish either.
Matt, that doesn’t sound like Hayden. I demand an explanation.
OK OK . . .
(Hayden hardly speaks in that movie anyway)
Well, if he was speaking Swedish, I probably wouldn’t be able to tell if the pronunciation was correct, either.
Let’s lay it out straight, Jazz- your only expressed complaint about Terror in a Texas Town is that a Swedish-speaking character doesn’t speak English in the proper accent. This implies you’re an expert in how Swedes speak English. I’m not denying your criticism- I’m only asking that you back up your expertise.
Well, I have no expertise—the accent sounded phony to me. Maybe experts will say I’m wrong, but there you go. Also, that’s not the only problem I had with the film. The plot was basically the same as Shane’s—which I love—and the sameness doesn’t bother me as much as what the film did with the plot—which, to me, the film did little. It didn’t help that Hayden didn’t work so well for me in the role, and, yeah, I guess the accent (and maybe his acting as well) was a big part of that. I didn’t find the visual aspects of the film very interesting, but maybe I missed something. I thought there Johnny Crale and Molly had some interesting moments, but didn’t really develop in an interesting way, imo. The acting, writing, and directing, imo, was basically b-quality.
I have to chime in and agree with Jerry regarding Leone. While I enjoy Leone’s films a good deal, they have absolutely nothing to say about America. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but given that the Western is the American myth form, i just find it a lot harder to give a shit about what Leone is doing.
Ford’s movies go well beyond The Searchers. Like any great director with a body of work as large as his, the many films begin to speak to each other as though in conversation. They point and counterpoint smoothly. When I put The Searchers in a personal list, it’s a little misleading. I choose it because it is the film that has worked its way into my brain the most, and the one I’ve seen the most (probably 10-12 times, including twice in 35mm in Chicago and another time on a DVD projection in Monument Valley), but it would probably make a lot more sense for me to simply put “The Work of John Ford”, minus The Plough and the Stars and a few others, of course.
So in order to be an all time great western you have to say something about “America”?
For me it’s the exact opposite, if I feel like your making a comment on “America” or society or whatever I tune the fuck out. To me, Leone’s films transcend all that, they are based on character and mood, which seems to me more “all-time” than dated concepts.
Liked Terror in a Texas Town way more than Shane, but Sterling Hayden’s “accent” was hysterical. He basically made made every sentence sound like a question, so when he ordered whisky, it sounded like “whisky?” Hayden always seems just on the edge of comic deadpan anyway (like he should be in Airplane), which I’ve come to find quite charming. He fits in well with the skewed universe of TIATT.
Yes, some Westerns are commentaries about America, but they don’t all have to be. Leone rules!
Leone’s Westerns were commentaries on other Westerns.
For me, yeah, I suppose so. Again, I enjoy Leone’s movies a lot, and I think Matt’s assertion that his Westerns are commentaries on other Westerns is pretty fair, so this isn’t me dogging on Leone. Ultimately, though, I prefer my Westerns to be distinctly American. This is the only genre for which I would make this demand.
To me, Leone’s films transcend all that, they are based on character and mood, which seems to me more “all-time” than dated concepts.
I lean towards the idea that the most universal works of art are often rooted in specific subject matter. Though Ford’s films deal explicitly with American history and ideas, I suspect that his work can and will be appreciated outside of America for many years to come. The fact that they are appreciated now, when Western Expansion closed about 100 years ago, should say that his films aren’t dating themselves by sticking to cultural specifics.
“Ultimately, though, I prefer my Westerns to be distinctly American. This is the only genre for which I would make this demand.”
No Mexicans allowed?
Sweedish child speaking English
If you’re looking for realism in a Sterling Hayden performance you will be severely disappointed. He is kind of like Cagney or Wayne in that his stage presence and honesty (for lack of a better word) make up for an absence of classical training in the arts. His performances in The Long Goodbye, Asphalt Jungle, Johnny Guitar, those Kubrick films, etc. are some of the greatest, in my opinion. He’s like the anti-Laurence Olivier.
Yeah, his accent may be distracting (and I don’t think you have to be an expert to have an opinion on this), but its of such small importance to the film as a whole that its irrelevant to my enjoyment.
And if you watch more Joseph H. Lewis films, you start to get the sense that there is an artist behind the camera, not just a B-movie director (which are often better than the A-movies).