Thursday, November 23, 2017

RESORTING TO WESTERNS DIDN'T WORK


Every morning I get up and go to the computer in hopes of the news that Trump is at last indicted and marched outta Mar-a-Lago still clutching a drumstick.  And every morning there’s another indictment of someone with an unpronounceable name, more discovery and documentation to analyze.  I keep thinking of the aftermath of 9/11 when the “lady media” kept saying,  “Oh, migod, they’ve been here all along, so many of them, so powerful, so organized, just waiting . . .”

Old stories, repetitious because they were learned by old men from their own WWII and Cold War experiences.  Now renewed because the young men want new stories, new clothes, and mostly they’ve got them.  But everything has gone twisty and embarrassing.  While young men were attending hook-up bars, the old power-play men were inviting little girls over to be impressed when the male sophisticates stand next to the swimming pool in an open robe with their dicks dangling.   It’s not that they can’t afford Viagra— their docs won’t let them take the stuff, because of their bad hearts..  Women aren’t what they used to be.  Hefner is dead.  The culture has come around the dial to “repressive” again and these guys never were Rainbow Family anyway.

The young men?  I can’t shake the memory of a recent twitter from a baffled innocent male forlornly asking,  “Do women even have orgasms?  Or it is something they just make up?”  Did Masters and Johnson do all that work half-a-century ago for nothing?  Or can’t this kid read?  (Probably.)

So I thought a good Western would be a relief.  

“Longmire” has ended.  In my early Western-viewing I had a theory that the more heroic the hero was, the tighter his pants would be.  But there’s an endpoint, of course, and then the seats begin to split.  Sheriff Longmire is not in danger of that.  The inseams of his britches are too long so his pantlegs are sort of rumpled up.  Now it’s the women who are wearing pants so tight you could count their pubic hairs if they didn’t shave them.

Many vid stories in series are about two communities: the one of the invented characters in the story and the one that’s the people who make the stories.  In the case of “Longmire”, the “Indians” are real because of the cast.  Not exactly enrolled in every case, they are connected and aware of the larger NA community.  

I did not realize until I googled for this piece that Zahn McClarnon (Mathias) has Browning connections.  The father of one of my students in Heart Butte acted in movies and had a “casting catalogue” that the student brought to school to show me.  She said she could get me a date with Graham Greene, whom I admire very much.  That set of Canadian-trained actors is aging out, but they’ve changed the nature of Westerns for the better.

http://www.auditionsfree.com/tag/native-american-actors/  announces casting calls.   http://www.nativecelebs.com  lists the actors themselves.  Google to find more.

I’m sorry to say that “Godless” is “otherwise”,  book-based in a world that can’t make up its mind about books. Or Indians.  Or powerful men.  Or violence.  Or whether anyone ever really falls in love.  No one gets drafted anymore.  Life is full of choices and the big consideration is the debts you might incur.  It’s all ambiguity and the rules keep changing.  The world is not just “god less,” it’s without order or predictability.  All is “women, cards and whiskey” they claim in the series to be the three causes of war in the West.  NOT.  It’s simply survival.  Always.

The eerie familiarity of all the death scenes in “Godless” comes from our constant exposure to news of Afghanistan et al, scene after scene of corpses in small ruined towns of adobe instead of green sawn wood.  Maybe the attraction for the screenwriter/director was that it’s an historical continuity and therefore less than an atrocity because it always happens.  I suppose I’m tiresome to think that.  But a lot of real life is tiresome.  And altogether too inevitable.  

Like, it just had to happen that “Longmire” ended with a full-out nude love episode between sheriff and deputy — the fans demanded it.  But for me it was jarring — I mean it was sort of like your parents going to bed together, if you’re old enough that Marshall Dillon and Miss Kitty were part of your growing up.  I guess these two post-sexual-revolution modern lovers did okay — we all watch and judge even though we KNOW they are just pretending with the camera lens a foot from their faces.  But they didn’t decide to get married.  That hearts-and-flowers stuff is for pillowy deputies.  It doesn’t look like this is “forever love,” anyway.  Maybe now there’s no such thing except for dogs.

Anyway, as powerful and principled as Miss Kitty was, she was no “Vic” who echoes warriors and sci-fi bionics.  I want to note that Sackhoff grew up in St. Helens which is in the downwind shadow of the Hanford Atomic Research Center.  I’m sure her thyroid cancer is a direct result of that.  I hope she is as tough as she acts, with her thrust-out duck lips and defiantly stuck-out butt.  Her image of the raw-boned Scandinavian warrior is re-echoed by Gwendoline Christie’s “Brienne of Tarth.”  And we have examples around here.  They run businesses.

The casting of “Godless” is a little more problematic.  I was never convinced by Michelle Dockery, esp. when standing next to Tantoo Cardinal.  It took me a while to connect Scoot McNairy to his previous role in “Halt and Catch Fire,” though it was good casting to put him in a classic role:  the incompetent or greenhorn who manages to save the day.  (“The Virginian,” “When a Man’s a Man.”)  How is it that Sam Waterston wandered in only to be blasted?  What the heck are all those naked women doing wandering around?  Or is it just one German naturist?  And I've never heard of anyone persuading horses to lie down

The story ambles along with insertions of marginally relevant bits like lesbian/whore love and buffalo soldiers looking remarkably fit after their dehumanizing war campaigns and acting like the M├ętis descendants of fur-trappers, complete with fiddles and intent to farm.  I liked that skinny sapling kid.  I liked Mary Agnes.  Is the buckskin the near-sighted sheriff rides just like the one Matt Dillon used to ride?  And how about that all-out shoot-out  (I was gonna say "balls out" but half the combatants didn't have 'em, didn't need 'em.)

The cinematography is fabulous as Westerns always are, but much helped by drones, I suspect.  One long sequence is a little concerto of flying water when a posse of horses crosses a river.  Flecks of light dance everywhere, almost obscuring the action.  But there’s distance in it — not participation.


Maybe distance is what we want now.  Maybe the Western has moved to Australia.


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