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Hostiles And Westerns As A Canvas For Moral Discussion

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I just got done seeing HOSTILES with Christian Bale in the theater with my Agnostic son. It was very violent in places but overall fantastic. This is a brutal story about one man's journey from well-earned racial hatred to unexpected grace. It's not an adventure in the way most Westerns, it's a slog, but no other genre gives you the ability to see stark moral choices / consequences so clearly. Afterward we were talking about nobility and sacrifice and being willing to do whatever it takes to save the innocents around us.

Critic Drew McWeeny has good things to say:
http://www.tracking-board.com/hostiles-review-writer-director-scott-cooper-delivers-his-most-focused-and-uncompromising-film-yet/

 

Quote

 

Speaking of which, the way Cooper stages the bursts of violence in the film, it’s always startling and ugly, and there’s a real weight to it. The film is careful to show that the assumption that you can lump all “Indians” together is crazy. Rosalie’s family were killed by Comanches, while Yellow Hawk is a Cheyenne. The soldiers may see them all as one unified thing that has to be killed, but it’s clear that tide is starting to turn. At one point, we see that the Cheyenne are just as offended by the way the Comanches behave as the soldiers are, and there’s a dawning understanding between Yellow Hawk and Blocker that is deeper than any simple, “Hey, you guys are people, too!” message. It’s a respect that comes from a recognition of what war has cost the other person, and it’s important to see that Blocker has his own problems to deal with from white men who are clearly on the wrong side of things. I don’t mean any offense to Ben Foster, who is a genuinely talented actor who has done lots of terrific work over the years, but he’s the easiest choice when casting the role he plays. It’s one of the few missteps Cooper makes in the film overall, and I think it may represent his most focused and uncompromising movie to date.

 

Christian Bale is one of those actors who can easily tip into self-parody in the wrong role, but when he’s in sync with a filmmaker and the material is there, he can still surprise. He digs deep here, and watching the way he plays the gradual thaw for Blocker is powerful. He and Pike are terrific together, and I am always impressed by Wes Studi. Like many of our great character actors, the older he gets, the more subtle he’s able to be. He communicates volumes here, and the weight of his experience is part of why Blocker can’t help but begin to change. Max Richter’s score is an appropriate degree of elegiac, and Masanoubu Takayanagi’s photography is painterly, a romantic snapshot of a world that was anything but romantic. It’s a great example of how the Western has always lied, how the beautiful vistas have always disguised the unspeakable cost of our expansion and our settlement.

 

Cooper quotes any number of specific Westerns, but it’s The Searchers that he leans into the hardest here, and why not? That film is not just an example of a filmmaker trying to make sense of the racial legacy of this storytelling form, but of Hollywood reaching the limits of what they can say without finally starting to deal with the reality of just how we took this country, and who we took it from. Cooper’s building even further off of the place where The Searchersstops, and his work here proves that he understands the opportunity of the genre as well as its limitations. This is not a film about how white people were wrong and Indians were all noble and tragic and misunderstood, but about how there was a myth of the West that drove everyone to dehumanize everyone else.

 

I think my next novel may have to be a Western. Maybe a Space Western, just to mix things up!

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The original " Star Wars" movie is very Western in it's use of desert setting, the"gunfighter/apprentice"vibe between Luke and Obi-Wan. There's also a lot of commonality between Westerns and samurai films. I guess a good story, well told, transcends and elevates its genre.

Edited by EClayRowe
Glaring grammar error

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20 hours ago, Nicholas Reicher said:

Yeah! I wanna play a grizzled old prospector in the film version of your novel, dagnabbit!

 

With that new pistol you're getting, Nicholas, they would have to cast you.

 

10 minutes ago, EClayRowe said:

The original " Star Wars" movie is very Western in it's use of desert setting, the"gunfighter/apprentice"vibe between Luke and Obi-Wan.

 

You know, EClay, I don't think gunfighters had apprentices.  I think they mostly shot them, which is a depressing thought.

  • Haha 1

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17 minutes ago, suspensewriter said:

 

With that new pistol you're getting, Nicholas, they would have to cast you.

 

 

You know, EClay, I don't think gunfighters had apprentices.  I think they mostly shot them, which is a depressing thought.

Western movies, not real history.

 

"I'm gonna shoot me some of them low-down varmints what killed my sister."

 

"Well,son, if'n you try it with that big ol' horse pistol you're liable to get your fool head blowed off before you clear the holster."

 

"So,kin you teach me to shoot, Broke fingered Nick? Kin you teach me that fast-draw thing you used to do before that Chinaman broke your thumbs?"

 

"I reckon I better,Clay-boy."

 

 

 

 

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3 minutes ago, EClayRowe said:

Well,son, if'n you try it with that big ol' horse pistol you're liable to get your fool head blowed off before you clear the holster."

 

"So,kin you teach me to shoot, Broke fingered Nick? Kin you teach me that fast-draw thing you used to do before that Chinaman broke your thumbs?"

 

"I reckon I better,Clay-boy."

 

Movies.  I'm trying to remember a historical example.  Most of these wild eyed killers started murdering in their teens.  I like the apprentice movies as much as the next guy, but I can't find any evidence of it in the Western gunslingers.

 

Do you know of any?  Because I'd sure like to learn more- you guys have me going on Westerns now!

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Are you gonna draw them pistols, or whistle dixie?

I saw the Hostile movie. Twas a goodun.

I wrote four westerns, and a couple civil war period pieces.  Fun projects.

 

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57 minutes ago, suspensewriter said:

 

With that new pistol you're getting, Nicholas, they would have to cast you.

 

 

You know, EClay, I don't think gunfighters had apprentices.  I think they mostly shot them, which is a depressing thought.

 

Back to the topic:

 

I don't get out much, so it's highly unlikely that I'll see a movie that's not streaming or on DVD. But I have read and heard some reviews and I'm always impressed when Hollywood tries to make something truer to history.

 

 

 

 

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