The good, the bad, and the miscellaneous…
So, I re-watched The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly the other night, and damn if it isn’t even better than I remembered from last time. Quentin Tarantino considers it the best movie ever made. I can’t agree with him there, on account of Jaws existing, but I can understand why he’d feel that way.
It’s one of those movies that I think gets better with repeat viewings. Certainly that’s how the critical response has been, where it was mostly panned or dismissed when it first premiered in 1966, but these days it’s considered a classic by some very respectable names. Roger Ebert gives it four stars; in 1966 he gave it three stars, but admits now that he knocked off a star for peer pressure alone, because the attitude of the time was that no “spaghetti western” could possibly make the cut of cinematic greatness. They were just cheap, exploitative foreign knock-offs of a dying genre, pandering to the lowest common denominator of filmgoer.
But the lowest common denominator doesn’t challenge. It doesn’t risk. Right from its beginning, TGTB&TU does both, by spending its first ten minutes with absolutely no dialogue whatsoever. Ten minutes is a noticeable length of time for no one to be talking, but the story points and characters come across in crystal clear moments, some brief — some intentionally, uncomfortably drawn out. I don’t understand the notion expressed by some that spaghetti westerns are minimalist in their cinematography, since I feel the exact opposite is true. Sergio Leone was fussy, temperamental, and above all a perfectionist, particularly with his visual details. That attention shines through in this film: yes, there’s the famous parts everyone remembers, the close-ups on twitching hands and mouths and eyes, but there’s also a lot of subtler, gorgeously framed sequences to be enjoyed. Don’t agree? Again, watch that first ten minutes, particularly the entrance of Angel Eyes (the titular “Bad”) into the home of the man he’s going to interrogate. From one direction, he looms larger than the archways, a wolf at the door. From the other direction, in the same exact architecture, the home owner looks dwarfed and trapped. It’s illusion, tension, and mood-setting at its finest, and you can see a lot of Tarantino’s opening sequence for Inglorious Basterds in what Leone filmed almost half a century earlier.
The weakest parts of the movie are probably where Leone’s script starts to get a bit preachy about war and man’s inhumanity to man, talking about it instead of just showing it (and oh, how he shows it…). Well, that and if you’re a stickler for historical accuracy, the film will annoy you to no end — for example, that the Winchester rifle Clint Eastwood’s character uses wasn’t made until eight years after the end of the American Civil War, the period in which the movie is ostensibly set. But it’s not about accuracy; I mean, Leone went one further than all the “Texas” westerns filmed in Arizona and Utah and California, and filmed everything in Spain… but damned if it doesn’t look like the iconic western landscape. TGTB&TU is Iconic with a capital “I”. Great landscapes, great characters, a rousing storyline of betrayal and hidden gold, wild setpieces like a gunfight that occurs in a town being shelled by artillery, or that famous three way duel at the climax… and I’d be more than remiss to not mention Ennio Morricone’s musical score. You know the one… Ah-EE-ah-EE-aaaah WAAH WAAH WAAAAAAH.
Oh c’mon, everyone knows it. Here, does this help? Clickie.
If you still don’t recognize it, I’m disowning you. Chad and Elspeth will split the estate between them, and you will get nothing. NOTHING, do you hear?
I jest. Keep reading Zombie Ranch, and all is forgiven.
Less than a month to go before Comic-Con International 2010. Did I ever mention that Dawn and I scored Professional status this year? While I’m not entirely sure this comic clinched the deal, I’d like to thank you all again regardless for your readership and support. We didn’t manage to get a booth, but we’ll have a presence on the Freebie Table (don’t laugh, you actually have to be approved for that!), and Dawn will have art available for bidding and purchase in the Art Show. And hey, that Art Show was where “On the Zombie Ranch” was first displayed and sold, so someone out there has quite a piece of original illustration on their hands. Who knows, Dr. Jones? In 10,000 years maybe even it will be worth something!
All right, time to end the blog for this week, before I grow even stranger in my meanderings. Type at y’all next time!