Gary Cooper

Gary Cooper

I am just starting my viewing of Gary Cooper films. Luckily I am going to CapitolFest this weekend, where he is the chosen “star” for many of the films that will be shown. Of course I think of GC as a cowboy movie actor, due to seeing High Noon in high school in the Film class I took.

Yes he was known for his westerns, particularly because he portrayed the lead in The Virginian, a seminal Western in the early talkie era.

However GC also did many many other types of films including alot with Ernest Lubitsch and other German emigre directors in the 20s and 30s. I can now appreciate how he worked to extend his range as an actor.

When we see Gary Cooper in a Western he looks like he belongs there. He looks comfortable on a horse, and from learning about his life, that fits because he grew up on a ranch in Montana and obviously know real-life men and women who worked there. And yet he was an artist, and obviously interested in the art of cinema and film and story. So from the films  Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and Design for Living and Friendly Persausion we can appreciate his films as much as the westerns.

What is a Western? (movie)

WESTERNS

Movies: I am slowly going through a watching “Westerns” movies streak. I grew up watching Tom Mix silent Westerns at the George Eastman Museum’s Dryden Theater. The Dryden recently had a Maureen O’Hara retrospective, and showed some classics like She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, and now I’m sorry I did not make a point of seeing them in 35 mm in a real movie theater. I’m not overly fond of John Wayne, but I can appreciate his craftsmanship as an actor and especially John Ford’s artistry.

Which movies still hold their own in 2016? Which are still overall good movies and enjoyable even with or despite the the stereotypical depictions of Indians as always bad and white people as always good. The overtired trope of “danger to a white woman and/or white child” as excuses for violence and war.

I cannot say that Tom Mix movies were good or not. What I really dislike seeing the westerns prior to 1965 is not just the poor representation of Indians and their lives, their 1/2 of the story, but the the awful treatment of horses.  Horses are forced to “fall” in order to get cool scenes. How many horses were harmed and killed for this? What a waste.

What makes a Western a Western? To be fair, how far should we blame “Hollywood” for its poor depictions of actual history and facts? Early films were based on the popular books and magazine of the day, much like the big blockbusters for the action heroes of today: Spiderman, Thor, etc. There were the “penny dreadfuls” that were cheap books sold to thousands that had stories of the “wild”west — dangerous and exciting to read if you lived in some safe city back east and did not face such problems.

Hollywood simply took the tropes, themes, plots from these penny dreadfuls and turned them into movies. Also they took the very popular Wild West shows put on by William Cody and other producers like the  Miller brothers and simply filmed those “scenes” that were created such as a stagecoach getting robbed by mercenaries or attacked by Indians. What was exciting to middle class audiences who had no notion of the “real” West? Excitement! Escaping attack by bears! Indians! To make the show exciting and interesting, sell out the seats, the danger and adventure were ramped up.

The best Westerns feature the plot of Man vs. His Conscience. In the mythos of the US overall, the vast unknown “wild” Western area past the Mississippi River from the 1830s on were the last place a man could run to escape whatever he was running from: the law, family, a wife, overcrowding, society, systemization etc. Out there you were on your own.

From the Mountains

This is reply to the Daily Prompt: Mountain

Everything comes down from the mountains to us. Water, earth, air, fire sometimes. I have visited mountains and am always inspired and awestruck. Currently I live near hills, and when I look down the the Bristol Hills in the Finger Lakes Region of Western New York, I feel calm and appreciate the beauty.

Recently, the hill from where I can claim this view is **grrrr** being developed and buildings block this view somewhat. This area had been County land with County buildings, and 100 years ago was a tuberculosis hospital and home. Time goes on and we must go with it. Mountains seem timeless but of course they change too, just much much more slowly than the average human lifespan.

In high school I went to camp at a ranch in the Collegiate Range of Colorado — it was so beautiful. Then I lived in California, which has many mountain ranges, the least of which is the Sierra Nevada. Now I live neither near the ocean nor (big) mountains. The closest I could get would be the Adirondacks. Which are beautiful.

Whatever happens in our world, mountains will endure.

 

 

More on Star Wars oy Vader!

There are those who don’t like Hayden. I think he is very good as the brash young Jedi in training. just a few scenes show this so clearly: The Tusken Raider killing admission scene, the “I’m pregnant” scene. and more. How he is with the Emperor, etc.

I think some people are uncomfortable with his acting because it is so raw, and so spot-on. He is supposed to be all powerful, and he shows his vulnerability. And how easy is it to play the man inside the monster, the man before he is the monster, showing him as a goofy, obnoxious young man?

Mainly I think the acting, directing and writing are fine but somehow it all gets so clogged up throughout Episodes 1-3. It’s like the actors are all wading through the garbage muck or swamp on Yoda’s planet. In contrast Episode 4 A New Hope is like a fast roller coaster ride, yet not overwhelming nor too fast.

Star Wars Episodes 1-3

Was going to create title “Star Wars Prequels” but the word “prequel” is really a non-word, a poor word, an icky word, so I am not using it. A better description is backstory, or history.

One of factors with the group of actors in the Star Wars prequels is that the Harrison Ford type of guy was or is Ewan McGregor, but he is a Jedi so he can’t be nihilistic or such a rogue as Han Solo is. Anakin is going to be the rogue, rebellious Jedi when he gets older. Han Solo is realistic, yet he somehow ends up helping out in the idealistic fight instead of fighting to survive another day. He sees things for what they are.

I mean by this an insouciance that partly comes from the actor’s personality… and Ewan McGregor has this in the slight swagger we see, in his jokes,  in the confusion in how he sees Qui-Gonn make mistakes, errors in judgment like not waiting for him to attack Darth Maul together. He seems to be able to skate above much throughout Episode 1, until QG is killed. AND notice Qui-Gonn has all that long hair and beard, and Chewbacca has all that fur – okay this last bit is really silly. (one of my favorite early Ewan films is Shallow Grave where he sports a mullet).

Obi Wan also senses this at first when he sees young boy Anakin. He questions getting involved with the young boy, freeing slaves, going outside the mandate and mission given to them by the Jedi Council. He breaks from Jedi tradition in taking on Anakin’s training himself though he was just a padawan learner himself. And that turns out to be a disaster for everyone.

So, Ewan McGregor himself and his portrayal of Obi Wan in Episodes 1-3 fill the same role story wise as Han Solo does in the later episodes. He sees the long and big picture, he is realistic, a survivor – he does survive the Jedi purges and lives in the desert on Tattooine.

In contrast Jar Jar was supposed to be the comic relief, the fool to the two knights in episodes 1-3. Fine, but the action was overdone.

Anakin

I think Hayden Christensen does a good job as young Anakin Skywalker aka turning into Darth Vader. I think his performance is spot-on and very honest and true, so much that it makes many feel uncomfortable and so they run away and say he’s not a good actor.

A few scenes I really really love from Episodes II and III Star Wars:

  1. The killing confession. Anakin admits to Padme, in fact he breaks down because he is having such a hard time reconciling what he did with the values he has learned and treasured as a Jedi Padawan. This scene is so poignant and heart-wrenching.
  2. “I’m pregnant” I just am blown away every time I watch this scene. Hayden is so multi layered in his acting. It’s like he can see the whole projectory of Darth Vader’s future in that moment and yet he cannot do anything about it.
  3. Another excellent scene is the post-Sith transformation. It’s like he is in a trance, yet at the same time so poignantly aware…. he has willingly chosen to join the Sith Lord whom even he didn’t know was the Sith of the sith. It’s like he is sitting there letting all his humanity flow out, to become an evil automaton, a killing machine instrument enslaving his conscience to whatever Sidious demands. A slave again. WTF how did I get here? yet I am here, and here I must be he says with his body language.

It’s a very hard acting job really and I for one enjoy him in this role.

Happy winter

I’m neglecting my blog again. I mean to write every week. Sorry blog.

We are having a snow storm and the temp is dropping to close to zero tonight. Still I must go see the  movie at the Dryden Theater just because. I shoveled the driveway a bit, yet the snow piles at end of driveway are so high it is hard to get any more snow over the top.

OK, so I don’t really mind winter. I lived in California for 23 years. I lived in Rochester NY for 18 years before that, and now another 8 years or so. The snow absorbs sound and makes the world more quiet. It is beautiful to look at the unbroken field of snow along the sidewalk, solid and white and glittering. It’s made up of millions of snowflakes, or maybe billions (?) and of course will melt one day soon.

We only have 2-4 weeks of really bad weather left. Somehow I may try to shovel off my lower roof over my downstairs bathroom… have to find the ladder and put it up in 2-3 feet of snow in the backyard… Sunday it is supposed to warm up above 20 so i may do it then.

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