By: Movie Snurb –
The Western genre is a major blind spot in my cinema experience. I don’t watch a lot of Westerns mainly because it’s one of the genres I like the least. However, every once in a while, there comes a Western that either speaks to me or just stands out from the crowd. Plus, this is such a rich genre I figured it’d be fun to have a plethora of films to choose from and look into a genre I don’t usually watch. So below are six of my favorite Westerns that I think you should check out.
Gary Cooper plays a Sheriff of a small town. On his wedding day when he is set to leave the town with his wife to start their own life together, the Frank Miller gang he put behind bars is getting out the same day and are coming to kill him. So, Gary goes to everyone in the town looking for help and no one volunteers, forcing Gary to confront the four killers on his own. I immediately fell in love with this film not only because the story but also the history behind the film. If you don’t know about the black list in Hollywood in the 40s and 50s regarding communist writers you should look into it. It’s interesting that when this film was released it was considered extremely Un-American to the point where John Wayne made Rio Bravo as a retort to High Noon. This film is for anyone who feels they have to fight alone and a great small piece of American cinema history.
Cigar City Brewing – Lager
I thought a nice Lager would pair well with this tension filled drama. It’ll be a nice refreshing light beer while you sweat out the fate of Gary Cooper. Then afterwards have another while you smoke a cigar and contemplate whether you’ve surrounded yourself with people who would be there for you.
Dances With Wolves
I only watched this one recently mainly because I’m not the biggest Kevin Costner fan and his acting in this film is fine. However, his work behind the camera is masterful. It’s a long film, but it flies due to the brilliant pacing and engaging storytelling. I also love the cinematography in this film; Dean Semler expertly captures what the western frontier must’ve looked like in the 1860s. To match the beautiful cinematography is John Barry’s wonderful score which plays like a soundtrack of the American frontier. Barry’s score reminds me of Aaron Copeland’s music. If America had a soundtrack, Aaron Copeland would score it, and John Barry’s score feels very much in the same vein. This film took me completely by surprise and should be seen before being judged.
Freedom Edge Brewing – Helles on Wheels
Freedom Edge makes an appearance two months in a row with another refreshing German-style lager. You can enjoy this refreshing beer while watching Kevin Costner dance with wolves on the edge of the frontier.
McCabe and Mrs. Miller
The first in what is considered the time of the Post-Western beginning in the 1970s. Gone are the times of the good v. bad lawmen and good Americans versus the Indians or evil people. Robert Altman created in his words an “Anti-Western” where the tumbleweeds and open frontiers are replaced with snow drifts and trees on cliffs. This film doesn’t look back on the Wild West times with rose-colored glasses. This is a more realistic look and it looks nasty. It’s brilliantly shot, but it looks disgusting, makes you appreciate that we don’t live in those times anymore. There is also no brave hero standing up to injustice, it’s a coward trying to avoid the final shootout, instead sneaking around and only killing in the end when forced too. Many people think this is a pessimistic look on life, especially being a metaphor for the Vietnam War. I think of it more as a Nihilistic film, which can still be considered pessimistic, but the ending of this film feels like Altman believes the War in Vietnam was meaningless, with lots of killing for nothing, and in the end nothing changes.
St. Louis Brewery – Schlafly Christmas Ale
When I think about this film two things come to mind; Thank God I didn’t live in those times, and the cold snowy setting. So, I decided to go with a nice winter beer for this one. So, enjoy this nice Christmas Ale to help wash down those pessimistic vibes.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
This is the true story of the last years of Jesse James’ life and his murder by Robert Ford. This is one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen. Roger Deakins should’ve won his first Oscar for his masterful work in this film; every scene looks like a gorgeous picture you could hang in a gallery. The score by Nick Cave perfect accents the melancholy and almost introspective mood of the film. The movie plays like a reflection of what was, as if we’re inside Robert Ford’s head and he’s thinking about what he did. The two lead performances by Casey Affleck as Robert Ford and Brad Pitt as Jesse James are equally brilliant almost as if they’re always sparring on screen. It’s a long film, but moves quickly and isn’t your typical Western, which is probably why this is one of my favorite Westerns.
Boulevard Brewing Co. – 80-Acre Hoppy Wheat Beer
I wanted to pick a local beer since Jesse James was born and raised just 30 minutes from where I grew up, and there’s no better beer brewed this side of Missouri than Boulevard. This 80-Acre Hoppy Wheat is a great year-round beer that you can enjoy in the dead of summer or the cold darkness of winter.
Treasure of the Sierra Madre
A great film that I had never seen til only recently, I know the famous quote from this film that most people mis-quote: “Badges? We ain’t got no badges. We don’t need no badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges.” I didn’t know anything else about the film and I feel like that really helped make the great experience I had watching this film. I figured it was some type of Western that took place in the South or Mexico. I didn’t know it was about three men digging for gold and all of the turmoil and paranoia that those men would go through. This film delves into some dark places that I was not expecting. It’s helmed by two brilliant performances, first by Humphry Bogart, a down on his luck American in Mexico looking for work. Second by Walter Huston as an old-time prospector that takes the two men into the mountains to show them how to get the gold. I love Walter in this film and I believe his performance is the reason everyone pictures an old man with a white beard when we think of a prospector. Just look at Toy Story 2. That ending is also great! Who knew we were so cynical in the 1940s?
Grupo Modelo – Cerveza Pacifico Clara
Even though it was probably an easy pick I wanted to go with a Mexican cerveza. I thought the Pacifico Clara would be a great choice to drink with this movie to help keep your thirst quenched while watching all the work they do, and keep you cool during all the moments of paranoia.
True Grit (2010)
Yes, I’m picking the remake and not the 1969 original. And yes, in a time when it seems like all we get are remakes and sequels there are still a few of these films that deserve your time and money and this is one of them. A lot of remakes try to outdo the original especially with our technological capabilities. However, the Coen Brothers do not want to outdo the original, but rather take a good film and add to it, giving the characters more depth and taking out some of the cheese of the original. The Coens also added great wit and humor in their dialogue that truly is all their own. Joel and Ethan Coen are known for the fast-talking quick-witted dialogue and it helps make this version funnier and much more rewatchable. Also lending to the re-watchability is the pacing. The Coens trim off about 20 minutes from the original, taking out long, drawn-out scenes of exposition for a quick scene with voiceover. Trimming the film where it needed it makes this one stands out just a little more. I love this Western and think you should watch it, but you still can’t go wrong with the original, which is still a classic to this day.
Goose Island Beer Co. – Bourbon County Stout
I wanted to go with a beer usually drunk in the fall because of the film’s setting. Along with Cogburn’s penchant for drinking, what a better choice than a whiskey or bourbon stout? So, if you like darker beers brewed from barrels where bourbon is distilled then you’ll like this one too.