Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Comment #4 -- Once Upon a Time in the West

For this comment, I'd like you to pick one moment in Once Upon a Time in the West to comment on -- it could be a particular scene, a shot, whatever, and talk about what made it work or didn't work for you. I'll go first.

Leone once said Clint Eastwood, who starred in three of his Westerns, had two acting styles: "Clint wearing a hat, and Clint without a hat." Point being, Leone films aren't the places to look for big "ACTING!" moments -- they tend to be subtle. One such subtle moment comes when Harmonica enters Jill's house after killing Frank. We pretty much know what's coming -- Cheyenne had told Jill that if Harmonica lived, he'd "come in, pack up his gear and say 'adios.'" Of course, that's exactly what happens, but there's one little detail as Harmonica fulfills Cheyenne's prophecy that makes him seem just a tad more vulnerable than he usually lets on. He lifts his gear off the wall with his left hand, but when he lowers it to carry it away, the pack suddenly drops downward, his shoulder jerks, and his head tilts downward. Then he turns and says, "Now I gotta go." Of course, the pack could just be really heavy, but in this instant I think we're seeing about as much emotion as we're going to get from Harmonica. At the risk of sounding too melodramatic, the pack isn't the only thing that's heavy -- it's his heart, too (sniff, sniff). He's acknowledging that although he can't stay (can you see him tending bar in Sweetwater?) there is a part of him that wants to stay with Jill. To me, that moment is worth fifty lines of dialogue.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Comment #3 -- My Darling Clementine

Our discussion on My Darling Clementine got shortchanged a bit because of the schedule, so I'd like for you to say something interesting here about one of the important themes of this film -- the conflict between wilderness and civilization. Almost all Westerns deal with this theme somehow because they take place during a time in American history when an old way of life was giving way to a new one, bringing with it welcome progress or more problems, depending on your point of view. You can directly address the question from the viewing guide if you'd like, but there are plenty of other ways to approach this -- you could talk about a specific scene or character that illuminates this theme as well. As always, leave your first name and last initial, plus your hour.

Here are some sub-conflicts that play out under the main conflict of wilderness and civilization that could be topics for you to address. The first word in each pair is for "wilderness," the second is for "civilization":
  • individual vs. community
  • freedom vs. restriction
  • honor vs. institutions
  • integrity vs. compromise
  • self-interest vs. social responsibility
  • nature vs. culture
  • purity vs. corruption
  • experience vs. knowledge
  • pragmatism vs. idealism
  • brutalization vs. refinement
  • savagery vs. humanity
  • The West vs. The East
  • equality vs. class
  • agrarianism vs. industrialism
  • tradition vs. change
  • the past vs. the future

(list courtesy of "Authorship and Genre: Notes on the Western" by Jim Kitses)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Comment #2 -- Bonnie and Clyde

o Discuss/analyze an important scene
o Expand on a discussion question from class, whether from a film or a reading
o Make a connection to the real world/current events
o Discuss/analyze an aspect of cinematic style important to the film
o Discuss/analyze a topic or theme important to the film
o Relate it to another film, either from class or personal viewing
o Discuss ideas for future viewing inspired by the film
o Response to comment or comments earlier in the thread
These are just ideas -- you can certainly go in a different direction. Just make sure whatever you write is original and thoughtful.
Leave your first name and last initial, and what hour you're in (1st, 2nd, or 6th).