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cigarjoe

It's Long Past Time...

22 posts in this topic

Time to declare the Classic Western dead, and to designate all Westerns past the Classic Era as Neo Westerns
 
We just have to debate a cut off or phase out point. I'm thinking also it will be pegged/linked to say, the end of TV's Gunsmoke or a similar TV Western with roots in the Classic Western era. 
 
I'm not denigrating Neo Westerns, I just saying they are different enough to split the genre much like we do for Film Noir & Neo Noir
 
Discuss.

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A "real" Western has to have these characteristics:

 

1. Cowboys and Indians

 

1a. In case of a final showdown shootout, the cowboys have to win.

1b. Alternately, the good guy Indians help the good guy cowboys foil the bad guy cowboys.

 

2. Transportation solely by horse

 

3. Black and white film only

 

4. Any character known as a "dude" is by definition a villain

 

5. Girls can be either frightened pacifists or six-shooting tomboys, but if they're under 30 they also have to be eye candy.  But if they're over 40 they're allowed to smoke cigars or spit tobacco.  This is for the purpose of arousing cigarjoe.

 

In addition, a "real" Western must have one of three endings:

 

---Cowboy rides off into sunset

---Cowboy kisses or marries girl

---Cowboy kisses horse

 

And all traces of moral ambiguity are to be wiped out before the final shootout.  No exceptions.

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One thing about Westerns that I've been contemplating about and trying to put a finger on is what exactly is different about today’s Westerns. For some reason they don't seem the same as the Classics. You'll you read comments that various posters say about some of the few Westerns that come out comments like "they don't make them like they used to", or "they don't know how to make them anymore". Besides some of the obvious differences i.e. steady/shaky cam, cgi, green screen, and PC, what else is making them seem different? 
 
I think I've finally got it figured out and what it is is that is difference is that Westerns that were made in the 1939-1973 "Golden Age of The Western" (both in film & TV) have a certain pallet, part of it is a look that we who lived through that period or those of us that are Western Aficionados or just have seen a lot of Westerns recognize as being the "correct look" for a Western  a feel that is the "correct feel" for a Western and certain traits that comprise the "correct deportment's" for a Western. Once you get those conventions correct then you can, within those conventions,  try and push the envelope in a creative way.

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Calling them "Neo Westerns" is positively more efficient than calling them "Revisionist Westerns".  Count me in.

 

Sepiatone

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I think I've finally got it figured out and what it is is that is difference is that Westerns that were made in the 1939-1973 "Golden Age of The Western" (both in film & TV) have a certain pallet, part of it is a look that we who lived through that period or those of us that are Western Aficionados or just have seen a lot of Westerns recognize as being the "correct look" for a Western  a feel that is the "correct feel" for a Western and certain traits that comprise the "correct deportment's" for a Western. Once you get those conventions correct then you can, within those conventions,  try and push the envelope in a creative way.

 

I think that is awfully hard to prove.  And there are many instances where films made during those years deviate and do not exactly exhibit that 'correct deportment' you have mentioned.

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Andy:

 

I don't disagree with your premise but the idea that there are only Cowboys AND Indians disqualifies a lot of great westerns. Same for color films but I get that it is like WWII films in color. After seeing so many films, real footage and Hollywood, to see it in color seems distracting. 

 

What did someone say that there are only about 7-10 real story lines in westerns?

 

The tone of westerns certainly has changed over the years. But Hollywood didn't quit making westerns, per se, they just set them in outer space.

 

"Neo-Westerns" work.

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Moral ambiguity and anitheroes started to creep into westerns in the 1950s, therby deviating from the stsndard plotlines and wrapups of the classic western. But it is true that in the 1970s, the western genre stopped being a staple of the movies and tv. Most recent westerns do have a different feel, and its not about color instead of black and white. I think the term you propose is fitting.

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I don't disagree with your premise but the idea that there are only Cowboys AND Indians disqualifies a lot of great westerns. Same for color films but I get that it is like WWII films in color. After seeing so many films, real footage and Hollywood, to see it in color seems distracting.

 

Well, you'll note that I said "real" Westerns, by which I meant "classic" Westerns that those of us of a certain age use to devour on Saturday afternoons for 35¢.   You know, the kind where villains who got shot full of holes only grunted and said "just grazed an artery".

 

But okay, now that I think about it, neither of my two favorite Westerns (The Naked Spur and The Violent Men) have any Indians that I can remember.  And uh, oh, they're also both in color.  Guess we have to scratch that requirement as well. 

 

So much for writing off the top of my head.  But it must feature horses.  No exceptions.

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Moral ambiguity and anitheroes started to creep into westerns in the 1950s, therby deviating from the stsndard plotlines and wrapups of the classic western. But it is true that in the 1970s, the western genre stopped being a staple of the movies and tv. Most recent westerns do have a different feel, and its not about color instead of black and white. I think the term you propose is fitting.

 

Yes definitely, during that time period for the Golden Age of Classic Westerns there was a gradual flexibility in character motivations between 1939 and and the early 1960's, look at the controversy surrounding the psychological Westerns and notably "High Noon". Later a more jarring one with coming of the anti hero in the Spaghetti Westerns, but the conventional look stayed generally within the same boundaries. We also had a more realistic depiction of violence ratcheted up over that period. 
 
Our current stable of actors that could make a convincing lead in a Western are virtually non existent   In the  Classic Westerns the lead actor had a weary weathered leathery look and was usually in his thirties or older and was show to be wise beyond his years.  The actors in their twenties played the young hot heads or the naive and inexperienced kids who usually made a fatal mistake and got blown away early. Now a days the scheme is turned on its head,  its the young adults and teens who are showed to be more knowledgeable than their elders, it may be playing to today's audience demographics but it doesn't ring true.
 
On top of all that you also had a stable of conventional character actors who made a career of just appearing in film Westerns and in TV Westerns who also contributed to that same "correct look and feel" over the transitional change from cowboy as boy scout to cowboy as antihero in the span of their lives.
 
Forget the hewing close to historical accuracy BS, or trying to hard to get the archaic speech patterns correct, the more modern directors attempt to make a Western too true to the actual historical West the farther they get away from the classic Western mythos and its look. 

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Most people hate Westerns, the best reason I can come up with is it reminds them too much of camping. You know the pitching the tent, eating out of cans, lackluster restrooms to say the least, dirty campgrounds, bugs galore, etc. They may not admit it but in the back or their mind I am guessing that is what it is, and the latest movies to come out of Hollywood are unfortunately revisionist so that is how they classify them.

 

I doubt we will ever see Westerns making a comeback with the high costs of making these films, Disney blew a couple of hundred million on The Lone Ranger, and they make the movies too damn long now.

 

Now i do like Westerns myself, at least the good ones. There are a lot of bad Westerns though and that may also be a factor in why so many don't like them. Look at all the early John Wayne westerns, TCM couldn't even show most of those.

 

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Our current stable of actors that could make a convincing lead in a Western are virtually non existent   In the  Classic Westerns the lead actor had a weary 
Forget the hewing close to historical accuracy BS, or trying to hard to get the archaic speech patterns correct, the more modern directors attempt to make a Western too true to the actual historical West the farther they get away from the classic Western mythos and its look. 
 
 

 

So Joe, what you're sayin' here is...

 

liberty-valance-legend.jpg 

 

"When legend becomes fact, FILM the legend!"...RIGHT?! ;)

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A "real" Western has to have these characteristics:

 

1. Cowboys and Indians

 

1a. In case of a final showdown shootout, the cowboys have to win.

1b. Alternately, the good guy Indians help the good guy cowboys foil the bad guy cowboys.

 

2. Transportation solely by horse

 

3. Black and white film only

 

[b]4. Any character known as a "dude" is by definition a villain[/b]

 

5. Girls can be either frightened pacifists or six-shooting tomboys, but if they're under 30 they also have to be eye candy.  But if they're over 40 they're allowed to smoke cigars or spit tobacco.  This is for the purpose of arousing cigarjoe.

 

In addition, a "real" Western must have one of three endings:

 

---Cowboy rides off into sunset

---Cowboy kisses or marries girl

---Cowboy kisses horse

 

And all traces of moral ambiguity are to be wiped out before the final shootout.  No exceptions.

 

And Andy, while I got the feelin' your post here was offered up in sort of a tongue-in-cheek fashion, that whole "dude" thing especially doesn't hold up to scrutiny.

 

(...unless you're going to place both Greg Peck in "The Big Country" and Jimmy Stewart in "Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" in this new "Neo-Western" category?!)

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A "real" Western has to have these characteristics:

 

 

 

3. Black and white film only

 

 

And all traces of moral ambiguity are to be wiped out before the final shootout.  No exceptions.

 

So, by these definitions, [b]The Searchers[/b] is not a real western.

 

Really?

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And btw Joe, while I think I understand your reasoning here, at least I think your basic and underlying rationale for this "Neo-Western" category being that many of the newer westerns seem to have matured into stories that are presented without clearly defined "good guy/bad guy" characters(or this whole "antihero" thing which has been mentioned), I would suppose Clint Eastwood's "Unforgiven" would then fall into this "Neo" category, correct?

 

(...well, at least in MY opinion anyway, THAT movie is STILL one of the greatest westerns ever made and regardless if one wishes to tack-on a "Neo" prefix to its genre or NOT!)  

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So, by these definitions, The Searchers is not a real western.

 

Really?

 

Yep Iz, good point also.

 

And thus Andy's contention(and which I earlier stated I believe Andy actually offered up tongue-in-cheek) would also imply that ANY John Ford movie in which he was given enough money to film it in Technicolor, would fall into this "Neo-Western" genre too, and NOT just "The Searchers".

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Most people hate Westerns, the best reason I can come up with is it reminds them too much of camping. You know the pitching the tent, eating out of cans, lackluster restrooms to say the least, dirty campgrounds, bugs galore, etc. They may not admit it but in the back or their mind I am guessing that is what it is, and the latest movies to come out of Hollywood are unfortunately revisionist so that is how they classify them.

 

I doubt we will ever see Westerns making a comeback with the high costs of making these films, Disney blew a couple of hundred million on The Lone Ranger, and they make the movies too damn long now.

 

Now i do like Westerns myself, at least the good ones. There are a lot of bad Westerns though and that may also be a factor in why so many don't like them. Look at all the early John Wayne westerns, TCM couldn't even show most of those.

 

While I agree with some of your thoughts here MM, I highlighted that word "revisionist" up there in your text primarily because I'm of the mind that it's somewhat misplaced in its use, and because I believe many if not MOST of the westerns made during the studio era WERE actually "revisionist" in their presentations of the Old West to begin with and didn't and don't in many cases present that era in as true a depiction as many of the newer westerns have.

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And Andy, while I got the feelin' your post here was offered up in sort of a tongue-in-cheek fashion,

 

Don't shoot, mister, ya got me!

 

And yes, my initial list was just a bit of fun I was having, a combination of shooting first and thinking later, along with a few of my own biases.  It wasn't an attempt at any serious consideration of the Western or neo-Western or revisionist Western genres, a discussion for which I'm completely unqualified both by lack of knowledge and lack of interest.  Apologies to anyone who feels that they need one. :)

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Most people hate Westerns, the best reason I can come up with is it reminds them too much of camping. You know the pitching the tent, eating out of cans, lackluster restrooms to say the least, dirty campgrounds, bugs galore, etc. They may not admit it but in the back or their mind I am guessing that is what it is, and the latest movies to come out of Hollywood are unfortunately revisionist so that is how they classify them.

 

I doubt we will ever see Westerns making a comeback with the high costs of making these films, Disney blew a couple of hundred million on The Lone Ranger, and they make the movies too damn long now.

 

Now i do like Westerns myself, at least the good ones. There are a lot of bad Westerns though and that may also be a factor in why so many don't like them. Look at all the early John Wayne westerns, TCM couldn't even show most of those.

 

Disney blew it with THE LONE RANGER by trying to roll a current plot into a "prequel"-like beginning, making the Ranger seem as if he came about much like BATMAN did.  And Johnny Depp's reconfigured TONTO didn't help, either.  Nor did the over-the-top, "dispense ALL disbelief" physical action scenes.  I know, I always say, "It's a MOVIE for cripe's sake" when it comes to that kind of stuff, but i DO have my limits, and that movie far exceeded them.  I figured it might have been better if they stuck to actual physical possibilities, and a more believable plot line.  And had TONTO look more like an actual native American than an escapee from APOCALYPSE NOW.

 

Sepiatone

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So Joe, what you're sayin' here is...

 

liberty-valance-legend.jpg 

 

"When legend becomes fact, FILM the legend!"...RIGHT?! ;)

Exactly, I did a rough estimate of the major film production period of the the Western which is the stretch between 1935 to 1953 a total of 2168 +/- feature Westerns were made and if we use the 100 min/feature (some films were 90 minutes some 120 so this 100 min figure  seemed like a good compromise) average that comes to 3613 hrs of Western depictions. Starting in 1950 Westerns began appearing on TV the years 1955 to 1963 being the high volume years, and the year 1959 being the high water mark.

 
The Combined film and TV Westerns output comprises what we should start referring to as the "Golden Age of The Western" where the culture was innundated with Western images.  For almost every year between 1939 and 1973 there was 150+ hours of Western film and TV images per year, influencing the way the West was perceived. Add on top of that the books, magazines, and comic books available to the public and you could say the American culture was awash in Westerns. 

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Dude:
1:  a man extremely fastidious in dress and manner :  dandy
2:  a city dweller unfamiliar with life on the range; especially :  an Easterner in the West
 

Definition 2 is the one meant in westerns. Being a bad guy had nothing to do with it. When the word came to mean 'any young male' in the hippie era, I never used it that way, knowing its real meaning.

 

MM, I highly doubt that people dislike westerns because they associate them with camping. So few people go camping. I think they dislike them because they consider them to be kiddie stuff.

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by   » 3 days ago (Fri Jun 6 2014 20:49:43)Flag ▼ | Reply |  
IMDb member since October 2010
While I'm not interested in labeling current westerns "neo" or otherwise, I absolutely agree with you that there is a palpable disconnect between westerns made before and after about 1980. For me, the last western that felt like a traditional western was Tom Horn (1980). 

In 1967(!) I read a short newspaper article that reported that 20th Century Fox was discontinuing its "quota westerns." The article explained that when the western genre was profitable, Fox routinely budgeted a set number (I believe 12) of westerns annually. Westerns were no longer automatically profitable, so the studio was no longer committed to the genre. I was so impressed with the article I wrote an essay on westerns for my high school English class. I referenced the article and analyzed several westerns. I even titled the essay "Western Decline." My teacher was not impressed. 

Anyway, when westerns were popular there were entire studio units that specialized in them. This meant most American westerns had a recognizable, almost standardized "look." Although I never much cared for John Wayne's later westerns, I still respected him for keeping genre actors, technicians, stuntmen, etc. working. 

Anyway, each western now looks to me like a one-off, using talent who are not experienced in or committed to the genre. 

But that's just me.

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