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2016 – Breakout Session #1: The Western Genre

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After the screening of “Jesse James” (1939), I took the opportunity to talk about the Western Genre and its world-wide influence. Any comments on this breakout session will be welcome!

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63 responses to “2016 – Breakout Session #1: The Western Genre

  1. I felt that last class was very interesting, as we were able to view the Western genres from all over the world. Without having modern technology, such as the internet, it was noticable that each country had their own unique style. Without having the capabilities to see other countries’s films, it is easy to see that many of these were not influenced too much by one another. My favorite was the last film, which I beleive was “Once Upon a Time in the West.” It had a artistic feel to it, or almost like how some indepentent movies are today. Capturing the characters without any major actions was a definate build up for the trading of bullets. I was really hoping that we would be able to finish that film in class, but knowing the limited time that we have, it is understandable to not watch a two and a half hour film. I felt that the European countries’ take on the Western genrne was not only more enjoyable but accurate to a sense. The characters and the sets made the viewer feel that they were in the west, instead of the clean cut handsome type characters. This genre is important in the making of many actors careers which is very interesting to see how they have grown since then. Such as Clint Eastwood, who has shown that he is more than a cowboy outlaw. I am very interested to learn more about this genre, as I become more interested with the more I watch.

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    • RM ⋅

      I will never forget watching the opening scene of once upon a time in the west in this class.
      I have never before seen something so confident in its direction and so so, perfect ? it has a perfection to it, an atmosphere. I have never experienced tension in a film quite like that. I know we saw a couple westerns in this class. But this this opening by sergio leon. It had an impact. I have no other way to describe it. I wish movies were produced today with even half the style on display in that segment. The night this was screened in class I immediately searched for the film when I got home. I watched it, it was … sublime. I can think of few other ways to say it. It was one of the most amazing movies I’ve ever seen. I realize all I’m doing is heaping praise, but my god !. There is another scene shortly after the opening in a cluttered tavern. It has little dialog, but volumes are spoken, by looks, furtive glances and swift sudden action. Sergio seemed to have mastered his genre. I think you would be hard pressed to find a more amazing example.
      Back to westerns as a genre though, because that is after all, the main topic. I have to say I’ve only seen a handful of westerns that I remember well, and true grit, – the remake, is one of them. When we watched the clip from the old one in class, I was struck by how different the color palet was, the old true grit had much more color too i, seemed brighter. Less grim dark than the new one, which takes itself very seriously as a drama, whereas this older one gave an impression of a lighter tone. I suppose that is the trend with the reboot westerns however , they all are grim, gritty and “realistic”. Speaking of grim and gritty western, I think this is a good place to talk about the new HBO show, westworld. It had not come out yet at the time of this screening but it is relevant to the topic, and the topic of genre especially. I remember in class that the combining with genres as the genres themselves began to get stale was a common occurance. One of those westerns you used as an example was indeed westworld, a scifi / western. This new HBO series take the idea of that original movie and runs with it. A video game theme park is created and populated with androids that are sentient, or appear to be. They all live in a simulated Wild West. The park goers can come in and start trouble, killing who they want in brutal ways. It gritty and violent and is consistent with the western reboot checklist. However where it differs is that because this violence is being done to what are essentially helpless semi – sentient androids. We the audience are supposed to see the violence as bad, perhaps immoral. But that doesn’t work so well when the show keeps gleefully showing blood guts and gross murder all the time. I digress. It is an interesting show and it’s nice to see the western as a genre revived a bit anf given a new twist.The last good western I remember watching was an AMC series called hell on wheels. The twist in this show is that the main character works for the greedy, evil railroad, whereas in the traditional western and in jesse james, the railroad is the villian. The evil outside force invading small communities. Here in Hell on wheels, it is very much this , but at the same time it is framed as bringing civilization to the west, and exploring new territory. The show does end up using almost every western trope in the book. It even has a train robbery scene. That said it was enjoyable. I wish the western would continue to get a revival.

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  2. Eddie ⋅

    I’ve found it very interesting the idea of westerns being made in europe, I never knew that it was as popular as it was. Funny and cheesy in alot of ways it also highlights how pseudo American culture has been exported overseas and how perceptions of america and americans have been shaped over the years through peoples contacts with these films.
    I’m really interested in the upcoming films and being able to compare them to the films that I’ve seen in the past. Clint eastwood is one of my favorite Directors and actors from some of his more recent films like Gran Torino and The Mililon dollar baby so to see some of his european westerns gives me a chance to see how his character has changed through the rolls he plays through out the years. How far from Dirty Harry is he in the spagetti westerns? I really hope to find out. If not I’m still interested in searching for the films myself and checking them out when I have time.

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    • clintrump ⋅

      Response to Eddie, I don’t think so much that it is funny or cheesy but rather fascinating that a European’s take on the Western genre can change the perception of America, and Americans. I think that this might in some way prove that film has a lot of influence on culture. I also think that the European take on what was originally an American genre does change the idea of how people living in other countries view American culture in a positive or negative way.

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      • Nyphos ⋅

        Reading Eddie’s comment, one of the reasons it probably comes off as cheesy is because of the bad dubs. As Karl mentioned, a lot of the dubs were done on an extremely low budget, as the films were pushed out by lower budget studios as b-movies. I do think that the quality of the dubs detracts from the movie, and it could also be the super bright and crisp colors in the European films that makes them feel slightly cartoony when compared to American western genre films, but overall, the criticism is indeed still there.

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      • Eddie ⋅

        I agree with he idea that alot of cultures are influenced by film. I still definitely find the movies cheesy, but I’m also an outdoorsman and know that no one would ever (or no intelligent person) attack a bear with a knife and definitely not win. It’s funny and laughable but defintiely would entertain a child.

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  3. clintrump ⋅

    Watching the series of international westerns in class it was interesting to see the contrasting style in cinematography and messages within the films compared to the American western.

    Jesse James played an outlaw in the American western style of film, and in my opinion becoming a villain in the end. In the beginning Jesse was standing up for what he believed in protecting the community from the encroachment of the modernity that the railway company brought to the small town. In contrast the European Westerns like Once Upon A Time in the West the characters were wild Anarchist villains with no particular set of traditional morals or values to uphold. I found this style of western both disturbing, and entertaining at the same time. The scene that was most interesting in this film was when the four cowboys took over the train station and waited for the next train to arrive. The anticipation of the train’s arrival, the cinematography, and the diegetic sound coming from the creaking windmill gave me the sense that violence would ensue. Upon the trains arrival the three outlaw cowboys looked at each other giving me the sense that the train would be robbed. They stood there taking no action, and after a package was dropped off the train departs to reveal another cowboy on the other side of the tracks. The new cowboy shoots the three outlaws leaving me with a sense that this environment is not just the Wild West but complete chaotic hell where only the worst character can survive.

    Navajo Joe was also an interesting film to watch with post-war Europe making an accurate statement about the political incorrectness of earlier American produced Western films. I liked the commentary of how Navajo Joe claimed to the white settlers that he was the true American with his family living on the same land for many generations. The violence from Navajo Joe was somewhat justified given the fact that he was frustrated with the treatment of his race from the white settlers in America as an anti-hero. A part of me can’t help but think that some Europeans might have created this Antihero character to bring some social angst in America.

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  4. Sierra94 ⋅

    Compared to Jesse James, some of the European Westerns we have seen in the last class seemed a lot more interesting. I might eventually watch them in my free time. Granted, they are somewhat newer than Jesse James, ergo there has been more development in the filmmaking industry. I also feel that the dark, grittiness of the European Westerns are more fitting for the genre than the clean, idealistic vision in the early American Western films.

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    • TRONtravolta ⋅

      I agree with you on your opinions regarding the European Western movies being more suitable to the genre. The American Western films seem too dragged out and not as believable. A large part of Western genre movies is the concept of revenge, which os a dark subject, as lives are taken. The clean cut cowboy image just does not seem to fit the right picture. After watching Jesse James, I was not too thrilled about the genre until we were introduced to the edgier stories and more dynamic cinematography.

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    • Frank Bullitt ⋅

      I also agree with your statement that the grit of the European westerns suits the look of westerns much better. But upon thinking about it, is that because many of the westerns that we have seen in our life have this look so are we conditioned to expect that grit out of a western?

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  5. Armitage ⋅

    Watching the begining of once upon atime in the west in class, i remembered how awsome looking it was. I especially noticed the fly. How did they make the fly do that? I kinda thought they usedmaybe a fake fly. Or maybe they put honey on that guys face. Durring the talk, i found it interesting that some of the most iconic and recognisable western elements were originally from the european western. It seemed like the west in jesse james was like foresty apalachin west. But the european westerns looked more like dessert or rocky mountains.

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    • Frank Bullitt ⋅

      I found myself wondering the same thing with the fly. I did notice that it was on a wire when it was moving on the side of the bench, but when it comes to it flying around on the guys face, there had to be something attracting it. But who know maybe he just smelt really bad.

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  6. IsThePartyOver ⋅

    I was never a huge fan of Westerns but the first scene of Once Upon a Time in the West has always stayed in my mind since I first saw it a few years ago in yet another film class. It’s slow-paced, but the direction knows exactly where it’s going, it’s calculated, it’s brilliant. The sound design in my opinion is the one aspect that would stand out the most after the direction – let’s pretend that that awful punch never happened. It’s tension-building and completely immerses you in that Wild West universe. One of the best of its kind ever made, and I was glad to rewatch it in class.

    Overall, seeing the evolution of the genre into the form most of us is acquainted with has been very interesting. The introduction of more complex characters and a more critical message came for the best in my opinion. It’s hard for me to enjoy films I can tell have been severely toned down for whatever reasons. Like any art, I believe films should not be restrained and should be able to punch you in the stomach if that’s what it takes. I’m not vouching for gratuitous violence, profanity or even sexuality, but I think these are tools that should be available to the filmmaker, especially the very skilled ones.

    Last but not least, Wild Bunch’s first sequence is exactly what it should be: chaotic. Editing is amazing, and should be praised for its innovation considering the time it was done. I imagine it must have been a nightmare to edit all of that too; huge props to the editor.

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  7. White Rabbit ⋅

    Watching the short western clips has given me an insight to the world of the western film, and it’s evolution over time. It’s interesting to see the differences between the early American Western films, the Euro West films, and the Revisionist US Westerns. Certainly the more modern Western films incorporate elements we are all familiar with, and it was alerting to see how a young boy is shot in one of them. The saloon girls are certainly present, contributing to the film’s genre, and it’s interesting to see how the genre has blended with other genres. I’m not sure what to think about the blaxploitation films. I think it’s great to see Black Americans in a lead role, however it’s almost as though the culture is poorly portrayed. It was also cool to see an actor in one of the films married to an native woman. It shows how the genre has evolved. I also enjoyed seeing how a woman’s role evolves, breaking the stereotype of the male-dominated cowboy. The film introductions are also prolonged, which is almost a lost art today. To be honest, I have a hard time appreciating this format, as modern films seem to keep a rather rapid pace and quickly developing plot.

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  8. Sorabari ⋅

    “Once Upon a Time in the West” is a film created by Sergio Leone and is considered one of the best films of the western genre. It is a story that begins with a hazy story and never really declares outright whom the villain is and who the hero is until its climatic shootout near the conclusion of the film. Although the film is nearly three hours in length and is known for its slow pace like similar Sergio Leone films, “Once Upon a Time in the West” is a suspenseful film that incorporates excellent sound and cinematic techniques and differs from other westerns by challenging the dominant ideology.
    Although we watched “Once Upon a Time in the West” for about 15 minutes in the class session, I recognized some differences comparing with “Jesse James”. Because they are both westerns, I thought “Once Upon a Time in the West” was going to have a similar feel to “Jesse James”. This was clearly not the case because “Once Upon a Time in the West” has numerous differences to “Jesse James”. The differences I noticed was the pace of the film. “Jesse James” seemed to move relatively fast, while each scene in “Once Upon a Time in the West” seems to drag on forever. Another difference I noticed was the music each film used in creating the film. “Jesse James” used up tempo music. “Once Upon a Time in the West” used only eerie music adding to the suspense of the film. The last major difference I noticed between “Jesse James” and “Once Upon a Time in the West” is the use of the established shot and the close-up shot. It seemed “Jesse James” emphasized the western landscape and generally used wide, open shots. Although “Once Upon a Time in the West” emphasizes the western landscape as well, I noticed more shots focusing on the character’s faces, allowing the viewer to see their emotion clearly.

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  9. After the watching another variety of Western films from different parts of the world has not only kept my interest through class, but my interest to check out some these films on my own. Although some seem very farfetched and out of this world, those are the types of movies need to plop on the couch and zone out. While some expressed their opinions in class about the out of control gun fights, whether it was from a solo renegade with a Gatling gun from a coffin or a town participating pistol fight, I have found it appealing for what it is. The fast edits, along with camera views really seem to take a step forward from earlier films that we watched in class. These Westerns have a lot of similar methods that can be found in modern film making today. I also enjoyed the rated G movie featuring the African American cowboy taking care of business. I could really see how those movies could be powerful, as the message was clear and empowering. It was also quite interesting when comparing these old movies to the later versions, or the films that they inspired. Although Western movies were overdone at the time, illustrating this combining cowboys and dinosaurs, it is understandable why the popularity died out. But with everything from the past, they eventually reappear which seems to be for this genre, as the box office hit Django Unchained and the new version of Westworld by HBO have gained quite a bit of attention. After learning about the history and watching a variety of these films, I have a better understanding of how important this genre is to modern film making.

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  10. clintrump ⋅

    Yesterday’s class viewing of the Revisionist Western’s it was fascinating to see the evolution of the genre. It’s interesting to see the traditional Western beginning with Jesse James, the Euro Western making commentary about American society, and the Revisionist Western shows how European films changed the way Americans thought socially and artistically.

    True Grit showed a girl playing the role of a hero, which was a first for a Western genre. I did find it somewhat comical that the bad guy in this scene had to tell the girl how to use the gun before she used it to shoot him.

    Duel at Diablo featured the first African American to play a supporting main role in a Western film. I personally would have liked to see more scenes of this film considering the scene with the scalp was an interesting dynamic.

    The last revisionist Western film played in class was chaotic, and very messy in my view. The violence portrayed in the film was messy, and also the overall direction. After discussing the film in class it was clear that the children playing with the scorpion, and the ants represented the chaotic, and messy society that existed within the town. Compared to the other revisionist films we had watched in class this one might have been my least favorite because it left me feeling a sense of no resolution, and no higher social direction to strive for. I agree that this film was much closer to today’s films being heavily produced and edited without a good story line or conflict resolution.

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    • Sorabari ⋅

      I got interested in True Grit and watched it by myself after we watched the part of it in the class. The scene that the girl shot him after the bad man teased her can be the symbol that girls can stand out against the huge power without any help, therefore, I assume that the scene is related to revisionist western films. There’s another scene that two main characters leave her in the town because they think that the quest is dangerous for her. She chases them with a horse and reaches to the river. Those men already crossed the river when she gets there, so she tries to across. At the end, she makes it through, and it makes me think that the scene represents that women or children can live independently.

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  11. Frank Bullitt ⋅

    I have to start by saying that I realized that I am more ignorant to the western genre than I thought I was. After seeing some of the films and clips that were included in the spaghetti western category I realized that my understanding of the American western was nothing like reality. For example I didn’t know that The Good The Bad And The Ugly was not an American film. Although the western genres format was shaped by the original westerns, the films that are considered to be classics are actually foreign and forever changed what people consider to be the look of a western. As mentioned in class, in the originals the protagonist is clean and often moralistically ideal. But in the post 60’s, after foreign directors started making westerns, the protagonist became less clean cut and often the characters are just the most moral bad guys. Having said that, the general western form is still adhered to where there is a person that comes into town, and defeats the gangs that are causing harm to the town, and then leaves town himself. An additional comment that I feel needs to said is that since technology evolved since the original westerns, the cinematography in the later westerns made them very beautiful to watch. The pacing and editing also took center stage in westerns such as in Once Upon A Time In The West.

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  12. dinerbears ⋅

    I think in past two classes is very interesting to know different type of western movie in different time. In the first class we watched the short clips of Karl May’s I was surprise that the Indians actors are not the Indians the actors are from other countries in Europe. In this two classes I found out that in the early western movie there are not a lot of female charters in the movie. The main charters always are guy. Also I found out that must of the films is having the gun shooting scene. I think one of cool short clips we watched in class is the one thee man sitting in a building and they did not talk and keep repeat the same thing for 5 or 10 minutes. After the her the train sound they stand up. I did not watch a lot of films has this kind of scenes. Even thought this clips did not have background music or talking but still make me curious what they going to do next. I felt most of the western films want to catch the male audience so there are a lot of fighting scenes. The last clips we watched in the class I was confused at the first. The children looked at the ants and after that jump to the shooting part on the street and jump back to the children around the ants and used the haulm to burn them. I think all the clips we watched in the class are interesting make me understand more western movie’s style and development.

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  13. shmoo ⋅

    This week we have been talking about the different variations on the Western genre, with has been very informative and interesting. I like to learn about the inner workings of different films, so when we started to dissect the films we are watching for ethics and code it was fun. Like when we were discussing animal cruelty, and how now a days the rules are much stricter, but only because of the mistakes made in the past. The Jesse James film accidentally killed a horse, which is sad. Also, suprinsingly the insects weren’t as big of a deal, as we saw last class. The scene with the scorpions withering was disturbing, and then they were burned. The fact that children were made to do this was also a bit strange to me. Animals always add a unique element to film, especially when they do cool tricks and stunts. But as in the real life, it is hard to sympathize with something that does not look like us or speak like us. I’m sure in many of the stunts that horses take a part in they got injured, even with the stricter code. It’s a shame that accidents like this must happen to make a movie more entertaining. But it is not just animals, as we’ve learned from past films that had horrible human deaths just to get the right shot. It goes to show that nothing stands in front of a vision of how something should look…

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    • youngbillionaire ⋅

      The scene with the scorpions withering may have disturbing and odd for children doing this, but I think that’s what makes the image strong. It’s out of the norm witch catches attention and hooks the audience. I loved the scene because it was artistic. Scene like that are scene you would years from now, even though you forget what happens in the film that scene will remain. Personally film makers who can make such things are not only great film makers but are great artists.

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  14. Sierra94 ⋅

    It has been a while since I had first seen the opening sequence of The Wild Bunch since a film analysis course I have taken many semesters ago. In my opinion, it is very well-made as Peckinpah excellently captured the chaotic feeling of combat, including the brutality it brings in the form of collateral damage. I was surprised to hear that the plot of The Wild Bunch takes place in 1913, but it did explain the use of Colt M1911 handguns and Springfield M1903 rifles that would have otherwise been out of place had it taken place during the 19th century.
    I have not seen any Blaxploitation films (or at least I do not remember them) other than Black Dynamite, which was intended as a parody of older Blaxploitation films a few decades after the genre had become less popular, so I did not expect the example we had seen in class to be just as humorous.

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  15. TaiwanSwag ⋅

    Due to my lack of interest in the Western genre, I found it interesting to see that there were actually different types of Westerns within the genre. The one that really interested me was the Euro Westerns which they make movies out of their imaginations and commentaries to American’s life in the West. Although those might not match the theme of the true Westerns, it nonetheless created some interesting and amazing movies. The revisionist westerns are very interesting too as they use controversial and sensitive elements to try to change the American way of thinking socially.
    True Grit was the first movie in this genre that has a girl as the main character. The section that we watched made me want to watch the whole movie because it was very ironic that the bad guy was teasing the girl but ended up getting shot. Duel at Diablo was also very interesting because the main character was a black guy. It was also very interesting to find that the movie was actually labeled as PG which the content looked at least PG13 for today, and maybe even higher back in the day.

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  16. shmoo ⋅

    This week we also discussed western variants such as sci-fi and horror splits, as well as the sub genre of film especially for African American viewers. When we watched that trailer, I thought it was funny but also kind of dangerous considering the time. I noticed the film title ended with -er but when the announcer talked about the film he said -ga, and as we know the connotation can mean drastically different things depending on the spelling. Though this film may have put African Americans in the spot light, giving young people a hero to look up to, I thought this type of film may do more bad than good. The whole trailer seemed rather “spoof-y” and the language and jokes were very stereotypical. People would watch this film and believe that “this must be how black people act.” It is the same for any other race depicted in film, such as Hispanics and Asians. The only difference between other minorities and white people is that white people get a variety of roles while they get minor, stereotypical roles. Also as we’ve learned from European westerns, white people even played people of color. It’s a shame that people of color could not get roles that define them as a character, not their race. But the same can be said for today in film. The recent “aloha” film had a white woman playing a native Hawaiian…there really should of and should be more roles that benefit people of color, and not just add flame to the fire of stereotypes.

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  17. liarinaa ⋅

    For me, I was never a big fan of the western movies since the whole image of western for me is quite boring and all about gun shooting and horse riding.
    However, in the past two classes, I have learned something deeper of the genre and it somehow makes me to feel interested in it now after watching some clips.

    First of all, the class lecture is really helpful and informative because it is a surprise for me to know that there are other countries also making western film. In addition, western film is kind of interesting since it also provides some of the historical background and traditional value.

    In my opinion, Once Upon a Time in the West definitely catch my attentions. From its image and the method the director shoot the film. Especially everything in that movie is in a really slow-paced; nevertheless, it is also a great part of it because the audiences can get the chance to look at the details in the film like how the actors using their gestures or even focusing on the tiny change of their facial expressions. At the same time, even for the slow-paced, the audience still get the idea of what is going to happen in the movie. Therefore, I will say that One Upon a Time in the West probably will be the movie that I want to watch by myself and I am also looking forward and excited to see no matter other movies or genre during the class.

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  18. BIGANTEATER ⋅

    Although i claimed to be well versed in the western genre in a prior post, I had never heard of Navajo Joe nor seen it. Now I know where all of the amazing music from Kill Bill comes from.

    Navajo Joe stars a very young Burt Reynolds. This is the only spaghetti western that he appears in. While watching this film I was flooded with memories of Tarantino’s Kill Bill series because he used multiple songs from Navajo Joe in his film. The soundtracks of western films are in my opinion always epic and this one definitely lives up to the standard of the western soundtrack. Seeing that Burt Reynolds is a white American(or at least I always thought he was) it was interesting seeing him play the role of an Indian. I was surprised in class that no one brought this issue up to discuss the “white washing” of Hollywood through western films. I personally was always quite if-y of Burt Reynolds’ heritage seeing that his skin is pretty dark and his facial structure is,in my opinion, very Spanish like or maybe even native American. A quick google search revealed to me that Burt Reynolds is in fact part Cherokee Indian. So I guess this gives him a pass to be able to play a native American (although a completely different tribe from his Cherokee roots)???

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  19. The Western Film style is surely very broad, and also, presents more historical background that I could ever imagined. I never thought that other countries besides the US incorporated this film style in many different points of views and perspectives.

    In US Westerns, I saw some basic elements such as the gun fights and the chasing scenes. Although, some social aspects in the film portrays specific characters negatively, for example black people portrayed as slaves or a low-class, indians as villains, women as weak, etc. It was kind of the main failure of the US Westerns films.

    But, in comparison to the Euro and Revisionist Westerns, these social aspects are totally reviewed, which criticizes the old Westerns in a kind of way. In Jesse James film, Jesse’s servant is often described as part of the family, but it was portrayed that way in order to make the audience ignore the fact about him being a slave.

    In contrast, non American production often utilized minorities as protagonists or even supporting actors. Or just simply not portraying them (black individuals, indians and women) in a stereotypical point of view. Therefore, this is the biggest and most interesting contrast between these different productions.

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  20. IsThePartyOver ⋅

    The idea brought by Karl of Westerns serving as a foundation for modern films in general is interesting to think about. It leads me to question what little pieces constitute our understanding of a Western and how they are implemented in films which at first glance are not Western at all. It is a question I don’t want to delve into too much because it is a topic fit for a full essay. The obvious answers do not paint the full picture, because we can have Westerns outside of the Wild West and that general period, as well as films in similar settings that have as few Western tropes as possible – I suppose, I don’t have anything that comes to mind right now.

    Now on the nature of the film business, this is one of the main reasons as to why I kind of gave up on following a career in that industry, and what really demotivated me on even taking an independent route. It is greedy and extremely hard to break through. I guess the same could be said about many other industries it is true, but I feel like film is particularly elitist in a way. Ironically, we live in a time when capable video cameras and editing software have never been so accessible. My point still stands I think.

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  21. White Rabbit ⋅

    When discussing westerns today in class, it was interesting to hear how much westerns have influenced film genres, while also culturally impacting various parts of the world. To think that an outdated genre has propelled so many other genres that we love. For instance, the concept of a dual. I never considered this idea derived from a Western. I mean it makes sense, but I never watched the original Starwars, The Matrix, or recent Avengers film with that notion. I guess general themes like good vs evil are also very present in most films today.

    In addition, it’s interesting to think that American culture has influenced other nations through US films. I mean, on a surface level, I suppose I was already aware of that. But Prof. Karl mentioned Christianity, and I suppose I never saw it from that perspective. I could also argue that the American Church in general really fails to depict the raw essence of Christianity to begin with, but if we consider the general values present in American culture derived from the Christian faith, it’s certainly interesting to consider that movies have been a catalyst to propelling these values to the world. I guess the opposite could equally be said about foreign films in America, and how foreign culture is appreciated in America as result of these films.

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    • IsThePartyOver ⋅

      I wouldn’t be so drastic to call it outdated when it is clear that the genre lives on to this day within other types of films and is getting lots of remakes and homages. It has been milked over and over again in the past as we’ve seen, but it is a formula that has always worked and probably will for many years still to come.

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      • I agree! its very intersting how much we never really appreciate what western films have done for the growth of the film industry Because it does have great influences to the films we have now and although there has been great tweaks to the “western” genre we have in this day be it a western film or a different genre.

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  22. clintrump ⋅

    After reflecting the last week of film viewing all of the spaghetti westerns from Europe, and the revisionist genre westerns in America I got the feeling that there was over saturation of this movie genre. In class I noticed that some students made commentary that other genre films like for example Batman vs. Superman action genre is just directors and producers running out of new ideas, and focusing on special effects rather than a good story and plot. Perhaps the premise of the western genre has run a little dry considering the fact that there are already a lot of remakes of the original films. There are only a few types of genre like science fiction movies that convey new ideas in a story line like the cult following of Star Wars. Since the setting for Star Wars is in space the story can be expansive in an almost unlimited way compared to a western that is limited to earth setting in the desert with the same symbols, iconography, and at this point similar stories. You can bring to lite new social issues in Westerns, but it just seems diluted and oversaturated compared to other potential stories that could emerge from other genres like Sci-Fi.

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    • IsThePartyOver ⋅

      I agree, it is the same with war films in my opinion. There is only so many times you can approach an event in the past that is already written as opposed to the future, in sci-fies. However ultimately it is a cycle that will come around again: audience gets bored of X; a few years go by without X; audience misses X again. The Western will return one way or the other in the future after we get sick of it; if we haven’t already.

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  23. Sorabari ⋅

    Revisionist history often implies embellishing or altering historical fact to suit an agenda. But Revisionist Westerns were intended to bring more realism to a film genre, and in my opinion, they improved the genre.
    Before the 1960s, and dating to the silent film era of the 1920s, movie and television Westerns were extraordinarily popular, but very formulaic. With only a few exceptions, there were good guys and bad guys, and nothing in-between. The dialog was clean and predictable. Even the violence was clean, with maybe a spot of grey, at most, to reveal blood. If a good guy was shot, he always managed to take a few moments to gasp some poignant last words. Women were limited to secondary roles as wives or sweethearts. American Indians were always portrayed by white actors, and they were always the evil aggressor. If Mexicans were depicted at all, they were generally lazy and subservient. I think that foreign-made Revisionist Westerns greatly influenced Hollywood. They emphasized realistic cinematography, action and atmosphere over dialog, authentic costuming and makeup, and, for good or bad a much harder edge to the violence.

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    • clintrump ⋅

      Response to Sorabari, I agree that the earlier American Westerns were very formalistic, and predictable overall which created uniformity and killed creativity. However, I disagree with your observation about Native Americans portrayed in Western films because even some of the Spaghetti westerns like Navajo Joe was played by an Italian “white” actor even though the story line was more accurate, and criticized the typical portrayal of the American Indian. I also agree that the cinematography, and other aesthetics of the costumes were more authentic but at times I found that the senseless use of violence from the spaghetti western was a little silly. I think that the original westerns that used violence in the film as a response to a threat from an outside threat to the community like Jesse James made more logical sense. Senseless violence with no motivation is just desensitizing and heartless in the end, but I think it can spark the imagination if there is no logical reason for the catalyst.

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      • IsThePartyOver ⋅

        While I oppose senseless violence, I don’t think that would be the case for every spaghetti or revisionist Western. Obviously a lot of it is there to please a male audience thirsty for it, but I feel like in some cases it is purposefully there to cause disgust or hopelessness. Filmmakers want to shock you and infuriate you so that finally at the end you, meaning the protagonist, can have your/his/her justice and feel rewarded.

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  24. conan ⋅

    At first, I knew nothing about western films, but came to understand the genre little by little as we discuss in class. I never had an opportunity to watch this kind of genre, so I didn’t even know the genre western exists to be honest. I heard the term “spaghetti western” for the first time as well. But for my understanding, western films often seem to portray specific settings include lonely isolated small town, the saloon, dusty desert towns, as well as the odd Native American tribe. I learned that common themes in both western films and spaghetti films include the good vs. bad, guns and gun fights on horseback, violence, trains and gang etc. I also found that that both American western and European western feature a strong main character such as an outlaw getting revenge on the villain who killed his family. I was kind of surprised to know that European western films have more violent actions compared to American western. They have a lot in common, but that’s one of the things I noticed during class. Some other differences I notices are the characters in European westerns are dirty. They seem like they don’t care about their appearance while the character in American westerns are clean and stylish.
    Watching “Once upon a time” provided me a new perspective. Before watching this film, I actually didn’t expected to be good and even thought that they would be inferior to American western because we mentioned that most of the films were made with low budgets. However, it was actually really good. Even though we watched only the first 15 minutes, I really liked the scene where the three men waiting for trains to arrive at the train station. For the whole scene, not a single word was spoken, but instead of words, I felt that the camera focuses on each characters’ emotion and facial expression. I felt their irritation and impatience without a word. I learned that spoken dialogue isn’t that important to understand the story. Also, I think it’s amazing how the director translated the minutes of boredom scene into the scene with a feeling of tension.
    It’s not a silent movie, but through this movie, I found myself enjoying silent scene more. I’m glad that I discovered the new genre which attracts my interest.
    I think Japanese people are not familiar with westerns, so I hope they gain more popularity in Japan.

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  25. Nyphos ⋅

    I’ve always really loved westerns, but was only familiar with the original style westerns such as Shane or Once Upon a Time in the West. I had heard of spaghetti westerns but didn’t know what exactly they entailed, so learning all the other types of westerns that were being made in Europe was new to me. I hadn’t been aware of them at all and I find their takes on the genre interesting. I feel that the sympathy portrayed for Native Americans must say a lot on how America was viewed at the time. I also find it humorous that they used a specifically American genre in order to criticize America.

    I wanted to touch on some of the films we had watched in class during the discussion. We talked a bit about the editing during The Wild Bunch, and I think it’s interesting to watch the beginnings of the modern action sequence. The quick jump cuts and chaotic editing are perfect for the scene and I feel the sometimes slightly jarring use of audio and repetitive frames caused me to feel the chaos more in this scene than I do in even some modern action movies. It was well done.

    I also wanted to touch on True Grit, if not only to speak about the choice for the female protagonist. I’m glad that was a chance for a female lead role, and I’m actually very pleased with her boyish look and dress, if only in stiffing any over-sexuality from her character at that time, though, of course she did end up relying on the men in the end. Overall it felt that it was a good start to seeing more females in stronger roles.

    The last thing I wanted to talk about was our mention of westerns paving the way for future movies. After seeing The Wild Bunch, I would have to agree that westerns have likely had a greater impact on the way films are today than they are given credit for. The editing in The Wild Bunch is most definitely still used today in any action scene or chaotic moment. It was also mentioned how the “duel” is still often used in most movies, where the end of the movie turns into a stand off between the hero and the villain.

    As for the cycles and when the western may become famous again… I’m not sure when/if the western will ever come back as popular as before and still be in it’s true form. It will most likely live on through sci-fi movies in a sort of space/western mixed genre, or possibly something more dystopian, where the world has gone past some type of apocalypse and only small pockets of civilization are left, creating the cowboy/western feel once more. But who knows, these are only some guesses.

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  26. Derp ⋅

    Looking at the various genre of Western in different places, I found it interesting that the depiction of cowboys, cinematography, tone of the film and all the other things are very distinct from the other. The first Western film we’ve watched really showed the idealized, heroic cowboy as a protagonist. So it was a big surprise for me when I watched the other genre. I forgot which one, but the one that shows the battle near the train rail and the killing of a family was quite different from what I’ve seen. The tension before the battle was depicted very tense due to elaborate cinematography and editing. Compared to Jesse James, it really made me feel that there is going to be a battle and someone’s gonna die. Most of all, the cowboys were much more dirty-looking. In contrast to clean, handsome-looking cowboys from other Western genre, both their appearance and action was dirty–also intimidating. But in my opinion, I prefer this dirtier Western to the previous genre that I’ve seen.
    Talking about the revival of Western genre, I did not know that “Revenant” was regarded as Western. I was intrigued to know that famous films known for getting/being nominated for Oscar were Western-related film. As the remake of “Magnificent Seven” looks stunning, I am looking forward to watch the original on my own sometimes soon, since I haven’t seen it.
    One extra question that I had in mid was…Has there ever been Western film that starred non-white actor? That, I want to know.

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    • karltuj

      Yes, there were some with African-Americans, as I showed in class (Duel at Diablo, Boss Nigger, Django Unchained), and there was even a very few with Asians (Red Sun with Toshiro Mifune, The Fighting Fist of Shanghai Joe with Chen Lee, Shanghai Noon with Jackie Chan etc.), as well as a popular TV series set in the West called Kung Fu with David Carradine (from Kill Bill).

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  27. postnroast ⋅

    The western genre seems to be fueled by the ideology of the time and the righteous belief in the “great” American constitution. The right to bare arms.
    What’s most surprising about the films of this era are highlighted by acts of “sin”; rape, murder and robbery. These seem to be an essential part of a western film and bleed into the vision of what American western cinematography is.
    More so, the cowboy and the Bandit.
    American film seemed to be centered around the idea of good versus evil and the triumph of good. (implication that war is good, anyone?)
    This example can be applied to films such as “Once upon a Time in the Old West” and “The Wild Bunch” where gang activity leads to a stand off between good and evil.
    Although western films are notarized and popularized for their shoot out scenes and the many horses galloping across a barren outland; “the wild west” advocates the animalistic idea of the lack of government in which people are free to break the law to the extent of escape.
    Western films such as “The Cowboy and the Indians (1949)” take the idea of the Indian, and corrupts it. Indians are depicted as the enemy of the law and therefor evil. The lack of history is evident and shocking as it influenced other countries to portray the Native American character in the same way. For instance films made in Europe used the basis of western American films to create the idea of a good ol’ western by applying the bandit versus the sheriff, the outlaw versus the bad outlaw and the cowboy versus the indian.

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  28. ihatenickelback ⋅

    I previously had little to no knowledge of the Western genre, and honestly very little interest in it. The contexts in which it was presented to me were probably a cause of this – if western films were being watched by my friends it was usually by my group of guy friends and always directly after watching Indiana Jones, a series I take no interest in. I always perceived western films to be a sort of “boys club” with little substance besides catch phrases and shooting guns while riding horses.

    I’m glad that this class enabled me to open my mind a little more, however I still question the genre in various ways which keep me skeptical. Besides something like True Grit, are there many westerns with very prominent female characters? Along with this, I wonder about racial representation within the genre – especially after watching Jesse James with its sole black character. Of course the time period these westerns are set in are partly to blame for this, but I still wonder.

    I am growing more and more appreciative, however, of the elements of western films which have affected the ways in which films were made in future years. The artistic elements to westerns are something I didn’t really dissect much until now, and it is interesting to do so. I am looking forward to doing my homework and watching some more classic westerns that I previously neglected.

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  29. Eddie ⋅

    I was completely unaware that the western Genre was so large. It blew my mind to think that American westerns and such were even filmed much less popular in Europe. I’ve personally never been a western fan aside from a few Clint Eastwood movies I have to say I don’t think I’ve seen very many. We saw and read shane as kids in school and I absoloutly hated it. The whiney kid, the mildly flirtatious wife,the strong farmer and the lame outlaws left me wishing to be other places. Jesse James however was a bit more interesting I enjoyed the story line the most and kind of felt bad for the main character.

    As far as the German westerns I found them laughable my favorite was where the guy threw away his rifle to go knife fight a bear to save the lady. That has to be the most unrealistic and absurd movie stunt I’ve seen since the Sinbad movies or Jason and the argonaughts. It was good for a laugh but I assume these movies were targeted at young children most likely because there’s no way any adult would be able to watch them.

    I would be interested in watching the film that had all of the sound effects with the guy in the train station and the people waiting in the depot for the gunslinger to arrive and kill them all. I’ve never considered the idea of using sound to that much of a dramatic effect to pique the viewers interest but it was done amazingly in that film. I’m still not sure what the story line is but Hopefully we’ll screen the film.

    As far as the Blaxploitation films I found them distasteful and reminiscent of many of the problems that still plague America and society today. I’m looking forward to an age where those films are relegated to the garbage where they belong.

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  30. OOR ⋅

    Westerns are the major defining genre of the American film industry, a nostalgic eulogy to the early days of the expansive, untamed American frontier (the borderline between civilization and the wilderness). They are one of the oldest, most enduring and flexible genres and one of the most characteristically American genres in their mythic origins. The western film genre often portrays the conquest of the wilderness and the subordination of nature, in the name of civilization, or the confiscation of the territorial rights of the original inhabitants of the frontier. Specific settings include lonely isolated forts, ranch houses, the isolated homestead, the saloon, the jail, the livery stable, the small-town Main Street, or small frontier towns that are forming at the edges of civilization. They may even include Native American sites or villages. Other iconic elements in westerns include the hanging tree, Stetsons and spurs, saddles, lassos and Colt. ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST was the result. Like Sam Peckinpah’s THE WILD BUNCH, which was also released in 1969, Ouatitw did not receive a particularly warm welcome from either the critics or the audiences. But like Peckinpah’s film, it has now come to be seen as a masterpiece among the rise and eventual fall of the West (and maybe the way Hollywood thought of the West). As I think that this is interesting and a far more ambitious project than Leone’s other Westerns. The plot is a bit more epic, the sweep of the film a bit grander, the relations between the characters more complex. Like most of his other films, it was filmed primarily in Europe, but unlike the others, a couple of scenes were actually shot in the United States, in particular in Monument Valley, the signature area of John Ford, the director most associated with Westerns. He handles characters a bit differently in this than in his earlier films.

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  31. itsthesky20 ⋅

    To be honest, before screening any western film in this class I had very little knowledge about it. I have a very stereotypical idea on what to expect, like scenes in deserted places with cowboys, horses and guns. However, after viewing the film Jesse James and watching tiny bits of other examples the Professor Karl showed in class my understanding of the Western Genre had a little bit more depth.

    Can I just say that I am shocked to know that these films could be so violent. It is still entertaining don’t get me wrong but I was just surprise how alot of these western films have that violent kind of feel. It is interesting for me to know how they use bad characters represent as the “hero” too.

    The technical side of how the films were shot was eye opening too. Just like one of the example that Professor Karl showed. The scene was about 10 mins long and didnt have any dialogues. However the camera work and the details of how the scene was shot was so interesting. When I was watching it I didnt even realize that it went by that long I just on waiting and wondering on whats gonna happen next. I think that scene was a little bit haunting but also really good.

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    • youngbillionaire ⋅

      Jesse James was one of the first western films I saw with full attention. I had general image of western films and Jesse James had it all so the content wasn’t a surprise. Though in class, watching the short bits of other western films broadened my understanding of the wester genre. What I was most surprised about was how the genre is huge. Also knowing that there are European western films surprised me because I thought western films are an American things with guns and cowboys. Though I have to say my biggest surprise was Western genre mix. Revival of western films and modern western films weren’t as mush of a surprise as if something was popular in the past its bound to come back just like fashion.

      Out of the short part of films I saw I loved the scene where the kids were feeding the scorpion to the ants. It was a very strong. I loved the camera angel and everything about it. Scenes like that hook me to the movie, making me feel what’s going to happen nest why are they doing this, what’s the message behind this odd but artistic scene. On the note of violence and mixed genre I was interested about the fim cut-thoughts nice because suggested people to put on a terror mask. When films says things like that it druves me watch it more and its very interesting how a western film mixed soo well with horror though the element of violence witch both genres share.
      Lastly in the side professor showed is it said that “movies and genres have influenced each other and its heroes have built the base for the modern action film.” I think this in interesting as films like ocean’s eleven and avengers were on it. I never thought these movies were influenced by western films.

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      • OOR ⋅

        I agree with you that that it spread my knowledge of wester movie genre, and I was surprised and thinking same way with you that wester movie is American thing. I didn’t know that there is European western movie exist in western movie genre, and I was wondering there is cowboys in European countries like United States? I agree that western genre is so huge. One of the most famous western movie I hope these include one of them are Mummy and Indy jones which I know and I have watched many times. I think that these films are one of western movie and collaborated with Egyptian history that main characters go to Egypt for doing treasure hunt. I don’t know that exactly happen in the past, but western genre mixed with the other countries’ history that’s why it got famous and hit in all over the world. I agree with you that movies and genres have influenced each other and its heroes have built the base for the modern action film.there are a lot of kinds of genre movies current years, so I think that’s why movie industries spread and grow up rapidly. This class makes me want to watch more and many genre of movies for learning.

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    • OOR ⋅

      I’m also very little knowledge about the western genre films because I think that is one of the cultural and historical problem that I raised in Japan, and I feel that Japanese film company don’t make wester cowboy movie themselves I have never watched when I was young. As historical problem is Japanese historical movie is mostly samurai movies such as the movie which is the most famous one is last samurai in all over the world.I forgot what is the name of wester movie I watched first time, but it is historical movie in the United States. The reason why I had never watched when I was young is what you mentioned as violation and shooting. I think that is not good for kids to watch for education especially in the United States because they can have guns and if kids play with guns, that is so dangerous. I was surprised too that most of all western movies related with guns, scene of shooting and bleeding. I feel like every western movies always someone at least a person died by shooting or something. That is little bit different Japanese historical samurai movie that always some one die in samurai movie as well, but some of movies don’t shoot bleeding scene because people don’t think good for publishing like kids also can watch so.

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  32. Learning about westerns were very intriguing as i never had an idea of how many western films I had missed out on in the past and present.

    From the westerns that were screened in class, I really enjoyed the storyline behind all of them. especially Jesse James mainly because of the genre being crime and comedy

    Also the thing that interested me a lot was the difference in poster advertisements for the films in the past and recent films as in the past, the posters were usually hand drawn compared to the digital animated posters we have now.

    I love the fact that the birth of the western films in the past continues to influence the films we have today whether or not it is western or not. For example the same camera shots being used in the western films are used in many action films as it is considered to have the same sequences in movement.

    Very glad to have learned the history of the western genre and the influence it had within the growth of film.

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  33. Vera Lynn ⋅

    As I have said in a post before, I was pretty late to the game in terms of westerns, but I really enjoy them now. I think the ones I like the best are the ones that involve revenge, which is odd because they are kind of predictable. However, I think westerns are such a different beast that it really doesn’t matter to me if I know the formula of bad things happen to good guy, good guy come back, there is a showdown, and good guy wins. With westerns I think it is about the ride, and not the destination.

    On the flip side, with more modern westerns like Hateful 8, I think its about the ride and the destination. I have heard many people describe Hateful 8 as boring, but I found myself constantly wondering what was going to happen next, and where this was all going to end up.

    And even something like No Country For Old Men. I am not sure if it would be officially considered a Western, but thats how I see it. Spoilers for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, and go see it ASAP.

    The fact that the bad guy essentially gets away in the end, after doing so many awful things, and being so petty, I didn’t really know how to feel about it at first. It kind of leaves a bad taste in your mouth. But I think the most important aspect of a film is that it makes you feel something. The emotion doesn’t need to be a good one, and No Country for Old Men will make you feel something by the end of it.

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  34. In regards to the western genre, i find it very cool how the hero standards are different in a action movie we see today where the superhero is either superhuman or a agent.
    Where in the western films, although the super hero is usually a cowboy in most films, they can still continue to intrigue the audience with diffferent story plots and keep it entertaining throughout the film.

    Its funny how we try to remake old films from the past to make it “better” but personally, the fact that these films were made in the past makes them better.
    To think of how hard they had to prep and think of ideas how to get the right angles and shots for each take is amazing to me.
    Even though we try to remake the films now, we fail completely because the film does not live up to its expectations. Also since the CGI is being used way more than before, i feel like some directors and editors are ruining the classic western film feel.

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  35. uruwa ⋅

    I remember hearing about “spaghetti westerns” from my dad when I was younger. He loves the western genre, and would always watch them on the weekends. I found them to be incredibly boring, even though at the time the current “western” culture was a big part of my life (horses, farms in the countryside, modern-day cowboys, etc). When I learned we would be watching a western movie and learning more about the genre, I was a bit put-off because of the memories I had of the old westerns my dad used to watch. I was pleasantly surprised with Jesse James, and became interested in learning more about this genre. It was also very interesting to me to see clips from the westerns that were produced in Europe. Definitely a different perspective on the whole culture. It was cool to see how in the European westerns, the Native Americans were more often considered to be the heroes, or at least were portrayed in a better light than they were in American films. Overall, this topic was much more interesting than I had orignally thought it would be.

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  36. Nox ⋅

    Westerns are not my strong suit. My grandfather was a big fan of westerns, but I always saw them as too slow or dramatic. My opinion has since changed after seeing the Westerns you showed us in class Karl. I felt connected to the characters in Jessie James, especially knowing it was a true story. What was really surprising to me however were the westerns from other countries, the Italian spaghetti westerns and the ones with a heavy focus on storytelling aside from the classic shoot-em-up.

    Western films don’t come out very often nowadays in America but I wouldn’t be as hesitant to see one, there’s something infectious about following a pair or group of miscreants as they wreak havoc on regular people, while simultaneously dealing with the fact their own lives are slowly unraveling in front of them. The bad guys never get to live, but they take you for a hell of a ride while they’re still breathing.

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  37. mkt18 ⋅

    I thought that Western film is only filmed in the U.S, so it was interesting to know Europe Western film. It seems that Europe Western film changed the U.S western a little. Europe Western film is more realistic compare to the U.S western film. I want to watch other Europe Western film.
    I had never watched the U.S western film except Jesse James, so “Once Upon a Time in the West” was more interesting than Jesse James.
    Even though every films are same genre of Western, i could see some differences. It is interesting to realize it because within same genre, the producer try to illustrate his/her thought.

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  38. KillDozer ⋅

    As a kid I watched a ton of westerns thanks in no small part to my dad and my uncle, two old southern men who loved to watch “cowboy shows” as they called them. My favorites were definitely anything that starred Clint Eastwood, his spaghetti westerns in particular like Fist Full of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. I also loved his westerns that were made in the states, Outlaw Josie Wells and especially Hang ‘Em High. I really enjoyed the grittiness and realism, or at least what I thought was realism at the time. After watching all of those cool spaghetti westerns, I found that I could never sit through a more traditional western from the 50’s and so forth, I’d just get too bored. I wanted to see blood, cool camera angles, anti heroes, all of the things that seemed to be missing from older westerns.

    I also really loved the westerns of the 90’s because they more or less continued to follow the formula of the spaghetti westerns but utilized more modern film making techniques as well. Possibly my favorite western form the 90’s is The Quick and The Dead. It’s got a huge cast of stars, really eccentric camera work and lots of the blood and violence I love in my action movies. Tombstone is really awesome too. Again, a great cast, very well shot & edited, and plenty of killer gun fights. One other film from the 90’s that I think is really underrated in the world of westerns is Last Man Standing starring Bruce Willis and Christopher Walken. It’s basically a re-imagining of Fist Full of Dollars set in the 1930’s but it’s super gritty, filled with great action sequences, and the supporting cast is awesome too, Bruce Dern especially. Overall, it’s fair to call me a fan of the western genre but until this class, I hadn’t really considered that they laid the groundwork for the modern action film.

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  39. jonsnow ⋅

    I’ve never been particularly interested in Western genres, and I definitely did not know that there were so many subgenres of Westerns either before taking this class. My knowledge of Westerns was pretty much limited to Mexican standoffs and John Wayne. After watching Jesse James and the other Western clips that were screened in class, it’s interesting now to notice some philosophical differences among the different types/eras of Westerns. I also just have to say how hilarious I think the term “spaghetti Westerns” is because of the origin of its meaning. I honestly had no idea what it meant at first. I had heard the term before and because of the silliness of the name I automatically wrote off any interest in the genre. I was surprised to learn that although the origin of the name is ridiculous to me, that it is a very established subgenre of films! To my even greater surprise, I learned in this class that Once Upon a Time in the West, a Spaghetti Western film, is widely considered one of the greatest films of all time. I was definitely slapped with the truth in this regard, in that my pre-judgement of the name totally threw me off of recognizing a legitimate genre of movies. However for my personal taste I still wouldn’t go out of my way to explore the Western genre of films, just because the subject matter is usually pretty male-oriented. The thing I find interesting is what place Westerns have now in modern cinema. In Karl’s handout he pointed out the evolution of the Western genre with the Traditional US Western, Euro Westerns, and Revisionist US Westerns. I thought it was interesting that Revisionist US Westerns became a sort of combination of the traditional and Euro westerns. Traditional westerns, such as Jesse James, seemed to want to portray the main character as a do-gooder ideal hero that younger boys could look up to. And then with Euro Westerns, it’s like they went the opposite way and portrayed a more anarchic ideology with a target audience aimed at adults. And finally with Revisionist US Westerns they had a more self-reflective and critical view of traditional values which challenged everything that the traditional Westerns were. The Revisionist genre is, in my opinion, a refreshing update on an otherwise boring and outdated white-male dominated production. To me, it’s a clear sign of maturity and progression in the industry and makes me more inclined to want to see a Western film.

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  40. theSiren_Song ⋅

    Its crazy how Westerns have evolved. As a child growing up in Texas, I was always fascinated with the western genre due to being surrounded by the Texas mentality of cowboys and the romanticizing of the Western. After moving away from the South (and disowning it) I drew away from that fascination with the Western, but this class kind of reminded me of that childhood fascination. Now I’m kind of interested in going back and watching some, especially after watching Jesse James. When clearly western films come out in theaters, I tend to dismiss them, forgetting how CLASSIC the Western is to American cinema. This class really reminded me of how uniquely american it is, so much so that European countries decide to imitate it and even created the “Spaghetti Western” genre (I name I will never not be able to not laugh at).

    Its crazy to see how the elements of the Western has embedded itself in the traditional Hollywood films produced today. I can even see the Hero’s Journey kind of being represented in these films. The Hero (sometimes an outlaw) sees a need and sets out on a journey to solve the need. He goes through a series of trials he must complete in order to complete his task. He goes a great distance (by horseback across the Wild West) in order to complete his task. Comes back with some boon (knowledge or treasure which will help) and saves the day (or dies in Jesse James case). Which to me is CRAZY to think about because the Hero’s Journey is a storytelling element that was developed AFTER the height of the Westerns. Usually the story of Luke Skywalker is used to explain the Hero’s Journey, but even Westerns could be used as well. Kind of shows how we’ve always had this pattern in us, it wasn’t until recently someone had pointed it out.

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  41. Peach ⋅

    Westerns had their time to shine between the 1930’s and 1960’s, in fact it was the dominant Hollywood film genre at that time. Nowadays, not so much. Now we see the sci-fi genre making a slow comeback, as well as dystopian societies making a breakthrough, and of course rom-coms and fantasy based films are still all the rage. But we just don’t see the Western genre making any breakthrough’s anymore. Sure there are “western” films, but they’re mostly blanketed with gun fights and blood and gore, with a touch of well-known/popular actors and actresses to rake in as much dough as the film possibly could. The “real” western genre has all but disappeared behind our generations’ new and futuristic films. But, this does not change the fact that the influences, myths and themes that made up the classic Hollywood Western film have vanished…just the films themselves. Western themes are still very much present in even our films today. They’ve just been shoved into sci-fi/action/fantasy films!
    The first western film introduced into the world of cinema, was The Great Train Robbery. I actually was fortunate enough to be shown this film in one of my other film class last semester, and I am very proud to be able to say “I have watched the first western film ever made”. The chase scenes, crime and punishment style, and sustained narrative are what made it so famous. After the release of this film, at around the 1910’s and 20’s, cinema as a whole was beginning to develop, and as a result, westerns started to become its own popular genre. Considering how much of an impact the Western genre had in their prime time, it’s a little sad to think we have little to nothing to give back to what the Westerns have given us, as a society. It propelled our modern movies forward with its influence and without its existence, we may never have the vast array of films we are able to enjoy and view today. Can Westerns take ALL the credit for the success of modern films? Certainly not, but it would be an insult to the genre to not mention that it was the sort of foundation for future film-makers and films.
    To think of the Western films of the “olden days” is to think of the classic “duels” between cowboys and their enemies alike. These duels spawned a whole offspring of duel-like battles and genre’s that are still very much relevant to this day. For example, The Avengers. I am a hardcore Marvel (and DC) fan and upon hearing of the distinction between Westerns and The Avengers I was delighted. Of course, it now seems obvious when I make the comparisons, especially in one of Marvel’s latest works, Captain America: Civil War, where Iron Man and Captain America (and Bucky, kind of) go head to head towards the end of the film. That particular scene definitely shows signs of Western influence, namely duels. The well-known and classic scene where the two cowboys are standing a few feet away from each other in some sort of desert, with no civilians within sight, battle soundtrack playing in the background, dramatic close-ups of each man’s face, namely the eyes, and then…! One or both fling out their revolvers and blast away! That specific type of scene is most definitely a part of all or most of the action films my generation has come to know and love. It could be Captain America and Iron Man having a conversation about who killed Tony Stark’s parents and then BAM! Stark shoots out his high-tech battle gear while Captain America whips out his shield in defense! Or it could be Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort facing off in the epic final duel of the franchise, complete silence as they both stare each other down, waiting to see who will break the concentration first and then WHAM! They both shoot out their wands and blast their spells at each other creating the connection we all knew was going to happen at some point! There are just so many different yet, when thought of in a “western” style, not so different genre’s of film that have been able to form or evolve, all thanks to a couple of cowboy train robbers that made their film debut decades ago.
    Among the many successful and memorable films and their respective genre’s that have made their mark and proved their worth to its foundation, the Western genre, there have also been some very disappointing flops that have tried to commemorate the Western genre…Sadly, they can’t all be gems. One particular and probably the most obvious example of an attempted Western genre revival film has to be The Lone Ranger. I think I speak for the majority of the people who’ve seen that film when I say, “Dear god, why.” It was a failure in the box office, not to mention it being responsible for dealing severe blows to Disney, Hollywood blockbusters, and Johnny Depp’s career (if that wasn’t already dead…oops). The saddest part of it all being, this flip-flop of a film may have marked the depressing chapter in the story of the Western being lost forever. The Lone Ranger seems to be the third Western failure in the past five years! The “people” just aren’t as interested in white male cowboys shooting at tumbleweeds anymore. It’s all about superheroes and fantasy nowadays. If The Lone Ranger is in fact the final nail in the coffin of Western films, it’s a sad way to end a milestone in moviemaking. For over a century, Americans (and even internationals!) have relied on Westerns to show us as accurate a depiction of history and politics as it could. And, of course, in this time period we’re all living in right now with this…sun-dried tomato of a president…it is crucial for us as a society to have some form of expression out there in the media telling us what’s going on without any of the pretty cover-ups. The Western genre did this for us in the past, and I hope to God that it will continue to shed some light on our current situation…sooner than later.

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