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Favorite Westerns 
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Post Re: Favorite Westerns
MGamesCook wrote:
I'm not a fan of Rio Bravo. Too long, too narcississtic, too stilted. Ricky Nelson's acting is genuinely not good. The singing scene isn't earned or motivated, it's just there. Overall, it's just way too chummy and hoaky for my taste. The production design of the town is just mediocre; that sort of thing has been done better dozens of times. There's times when the actors simply aren't convincing as 19th century people; namely Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, and Angie Dickinson. There's TV-artifice in the way they play the characters. Even Ward Bond doesn't seem quite right. The story is unremarkable and could have been paced better. Brennan is fun at first, but overstays his welcome just a tad. The best part of this movie is definitely Wayne himself; there's nothing outdated about the fun he brings into the picture. Ultimately, I prefer The Searchers and all of Mann's work. Searchers is a bit over-hyped too, but Rio Bravo would have been completely forgotten were it not for auteur theory.


Definitely correct about the TV-artifice feel of the film. But I actually liked the relaxed, laid back amiability of the film. It definitely doesn't set out to push any boundaries, and it's lack of ambition does hold the film back from being a great. But I agree that Wayne definitely saves the picture, and I think that the film knows how to use his talents better than any other Wayne film I've seen (note, not that many).

Also, I disagree with your auteur theory point. My father, and many other people I know who aren't cinephiles, remember the film due to the cast. I doubt they could even name the director. It's like that for most movies. It's only a relatively small group of people who have strong knowledge of directors. For most of the general public, their knowledge of the people who work on a film rarely go beyond the cast, unless it's a superstar name like Spielberg, Nolan or Tarantino. And it's the general public who keep films alive, especially with films like Rio Bravo.


Tue Feb 12, 2013 12:22 am
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Post Re: Favorite Westerns
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Definitely correct about the TV-artifice feel of the film. But I actually liked the relaxed, laid back amiability of the film. It definitely doesn't set out to push any boundaries, and it's lack of ambition does hold the film back from being a great. But I agree that Wayne definitely saves the picture, and I think that the film knows how to use his talents better than any other Wayne film I've seen (note, not that many).


It definitely kept his image alive for an extra decade, maybe even responsible for him being still so well remembered by the general public. Everything you say about the actor thing is true. Hawks seems to have understood that better than anyone, which is probably the biggest reason why his movies are so enjoyable.


Tue Feb 12, 2013 12:45 am
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Post Re: Favorite Westerns
Wow, comparing Rio Bravo to a TV show and saying it lacks ambition isn't only severly underestimating the movie, but it makes me question how much either of you understands about filmmaking. I mean, watch this opening scene and see how much of the story is set up visually, and how much character development is present, without a word being said: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UbfMR06cllA

That kind of stuff isn't done on TV. Well, it wasn't in 1959, at least. The film, designed as a response to High Noon, is all allegory. At every turn there's some kind of statement being made about the value of personal responsibility. It has plenty of things to say, and that in itself, constitutes plenty of ambition.

It's such a visual movie - from the set pieces, to the costume colors, to editing choices. I really can't comprehend someone faulting it for being too TV. I'd advise that person to learn a little more about film grammar before making such a foolish claim.


Tue Feb 12, 2013 1:13 pm
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Post Re: Favorite Westerns
PeachyPete wrote:
Wow, comparing Rio Bravo to a TV show and saying it lacks ambition isn't only severly underestimating the movie, but it makes me question how much either of you understands about filmmaking. I mean, watch this opening scene and see how much of the story is set up visually, and how much character development is present, without a word being said: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UbfMR06cllA

That kind of stuff isn't done on TV. Well, it wasn't in 1959, at least. The film, designed as a response to High Noon, is all allegory. At every turn there's some kind of statement being made about the value of personal responsibility. It has plenty of things to say, and that in itself, constitutes plenty of ambition.

It's such a visual movie - from the set pieces, to the costume colors, to editing choices. I really can't comprehend someone faulting it for being too TV. I'd advise that person to learn a little more about film grammar before making such a foolish claim.


The TV feeling for me had largely to do with the pacing. It was a very laid back film, build largely around characters playing off each other. From the (admittedly limited) 1950s television I've seen, I've felt the vibe was largely the same. A place for likeable personalities to hang out and entertain the audience, so that they don't change channels. Whereas most Westerns I've seen from around the era tended to more plot oriented. Not to mention the singing scene. As much as I enjoyed it, finding it the highlight of the film, I really doesn't serve much purpose than giving the audience what they want. And really, that's what much of the film felt like: giving the audience what they wanted, without a great deal of challenge. There's a bit for everyone: drama, action, romance, singing, and at no point does the film go anywhere new or unexpected. Maybe that's the point, in making a response to High Noon.

I have mixed feeling about the opening scene. On one hand, it's impressive use of visual storytelling without the use of dialogue. But really, parts of it felt stilted and lacking in subtlety, like just because there's no dialogue, every action needs to be exaggerated. To me, I found it both an admirable and grating experience. And the level of violence Martin was willing to inflict on Wayne seemed at odds with his characterization throughout the rest of the film. I know he's a recovering drunk and all, but his overall peaceful tenancies throughout the rest of the film seemed to conflict with this initial depiction.

That being said, I enjoyed Rio Bravo, it's a fun Western, evoking a 'men sticking together' vibe in a relaxed, likeable manner. John Wayne is a commanding presence, and isn't required to perform anything beyond his somewhat limited range. Dean Martin has an immense likeability and charm, and Ricky Nelson, while rather wooden in parts, still manages a youthful sweetness that makes up for his lack of acting chops. There are some nice set-piece moments, like when they pursue the gunman into the saloon. But I'd never rank it up there with some of the powerhouse Westerns that took the genre in exciting directions.

I'll admit that I'm more of a fan of the revisionist Westerns, but even The Searchers at least introduced something new and interesting, such as John Wayne's deep seeded racism and the pretty dark places the film was willing to go. Plus visually I'd rank it much higher than Rio Bravo. It truly it a visually stunning film, and I found the uses of pure visual storytelling far more effective. Look, I understand and appreciate many of the points you mention, but to me Rio Bravo doesn't rise above merely good.

I'll also admit that Westerns are a weak point for me. I really haven't seen enough to develop an especially informed opinion of individual entries in the genre, so my only real point of reference is to other films of the same era. But much of that is like comparing apples to oranges. So I'll admit that much of what I've said may reek of ignorance and I've still got much to learn. Thank science I still have my youth ;)


Tue Feb 12, 2013 7:10 pm
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Post Re: Favorite Westerns
Apologies for the condescending tone of my last post to both you gents. I was flabbergasted (that's hyperbole, I was mildly surprised) that someone could hold those opinions, but condescension is always uncalled for.

Awkward Beard Man wrote:
The TV feeling for me had largely to do with the pacing. It was a very laid back film, build largely around characters playing off each other. From the (admittedly limited) 1950s television I've seen, I've felt the vibe was largely the same. A place for likeable personalities to hang out and entertain the audience, so that they don't change channels. Whereas most Westerns I've seen from around the era tended to more plot oriented. Not to mention the singing scene. As much as I enjoyed it, finding it the highlight of the film, I really doesn't serve much purpose than giving the audience what they want. And really, that's what much of the film felt like: giving the audience what they wanted, without a great deal of challenge. There's a bit for everyone: drama, action, romance, singing, and at no point does the film go anywhere new or unexpected. Maybe that's the point, in making a response to High Noon.


That's fair, and the singing scene is just plain bad. There's no justification or rationalization that can explain it. For me, it mars an otherwise wonderful film. You go on to touch on the movie as a response to High Noon, and bring up some interesting points about enjoyability and how it relates to that other movie. In a lot of ways, I agree, in that Hawks and Wayne set out to make an unpretentious movie that people actually liked, but they also threw a lot of stuff in the movie about how a man, and men, rise to meet the challenges put in front of them, as opposed to cowardly shrinking away. I can see how a cynical mind in 2013 would see that as rightwing, overly patriotic nonsense, but I think it's a more accurate representation of 50s America than Zinnemann's movie, for good or bad.

Awkward Beard Man wrote:
I'll admit that I'm more of a fan of the revisionist Westerns, but even The Searchers at least introduced something new and interesting, such as John Wayne's deep seeded racism and the pretty dark places the film was willing to go. Plus visually I'd rank it much higher than Rio Bravo. It truly it a visually stunning film, and I found the uses of pure visual storytelling far more effective. Look, I understand and appreciate many of the points you mention, but to me Rio Bravo doesn't rise above merely good.


Ford's best movies are probably the pinnacle of visual storytelling in the genre. The Searchers is probably the best of them visually. If it wasn't for all the nonsensical comic relief, that would be a perfect movie.

If you tend toward revisionist Westerns, I can understand finding Rio Bravo just good. The story, while compelling, isn't going to blow you away. This isn't Leone, after all. That said, I'd caution against equating simplicity in plot to simplicity in theme. Stagecoach, for instance, has a really simple story, yet is able to become a pretty complex study of class. It isn't necessarily the writing that turns it into a class study, but more Ford's direction. Hawks does something similar with Rio Bravo, in that he's able to turn a simple, standard story into a much more complex look at something entirely different. That's the mark of a great filmmaker, in my estimation.


Wed Feb 13, 2013 10:43 am
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Post Re: Favorite Westerns
Adding recent viewing and in not particular order after The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

    The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
    Open Range
    Unforgiven
    Tombstone
    3:10 to Yuma (2007)
    Dances with Wolves
    The Proposition (This is Australian)
    Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
    Shane
    High Noon

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Fri Feb 15, 2013 3:58 am
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