The Rear-View Mirror: For A Few Dollars More (1965)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

In the opening sequence of For A Few Dollars More, a man rides a horse along a canyon in long shot, while we hear musical whistling. A shot rings out, and the ant-sized man drops off his horse, dead. During the entire opening the man lays there, dead-on centre screen, while the credits roll.

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The Rear-View Mirror: The Good the Bad and the Ugly (1966)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

Please don’t think less of me, but my introduction to Westerns was Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Not only was the peak of the western genre, if not over by 1966, then at least in decline, but this one here also got not made anywhere near the New World, but mainly in Spain, and by an Italian. In a way, it’s a western twice removed, but it uses some set pieces and arrays them into a three-hour spectacle that seems to know exactly how much it can stretch any kind of suspense without actually reaching breaking point. Continue reading

If only you could talk to the mobsters

At this year’s San Diego Comic Con, Marvel once again planted a big, wet kiss on the fans’ mouths, with new footage and casting information covering everything from Captain Marvel (yay for female superheroes, double yay for Alison Brie) to Doctor Strange (nice-looking trailer, even if it looks a bit too much like a mashup of The Matrix and Inception). There were also a couple of titbits for those following the Netflix series, including an action-packed teaser for Luke Cage. I liked the character in Jessica Jones and I thought it’d be interesting to have a new Marvel property with a strong, individual style, so the promise of a blaxploitation-inspired series combined with a more modern sensitivity intrigued me.

Cue the teaser, which has Luke taking on a bunch of goons with the aid of his super strength and a car door, all biff-, bam- and pow-like. I’ve seen some fan reactions, and they all seem to agree: this is shaping up to be a badass series for a badass character.

Myself? I found it boring. Continue reading

True West

I’ve made a couple of posts on the subject of games, films, art, yadda yadda yadda. Boring stuff, and anyway, who cares whether Roger Ebert knows a gamepad from a Wiimote?

Rockstar, the makers of the infamous Grand Theft Auto series, take a strange position in the whole game/film argument. There are few games that borrow as liberally, and as successfully, from the movies and from TV as Rockstar’s. This has never been as obvious as in their latest, Red Dead Redemption, which is in equal measures Once Upon a Time in the West and Deadwood. The ghost of Sergio Leone haunts the game’s arid landscapes. I’ve rarely seen as effective and evocative an interpretation of the West as the one Rockstar have conjured up. Yet their games never become that most frustrating of hybrids, the interactive movie. They are both grandly cinematic and great games.

More than anything else, Rockstar excels at creating worlds to explore that feel alive: the faux ’80s Miami of GTA: Vice City, the parallel LA, San Francisco and Las Vegas of San Andreas and the not-quite-NY that is Liberty City.

None of these measure up to the accomplishment of Red Dead Redemption, however. I’ve played the game for five to ten hours, and in terms of gameplay it’s nothing revolutionary – missions here, duels there, horse riding, cow herding and poker minigames elsewhere – but it creates a sense of place that is simply amazing, as the video of the game’s time-lapse day/night cycle shows:

John Hillcoat, director of Australian neo-western The Proposition and the film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, was asked to direct a short film using footage from the game – possibly a gimmicky way of advertising its release, but one that’s pretty gutsy, speaking not only of Rockstar’s confidence in their creation but also in their chosen medium. Is Hillcoat’s half-hour take on Red Dead Redemption an overly idealistic barrage in the Great Movie/Videogame War of the ’00s? Is it just something to do in between directing grim, gritty and depressing movies? Judge for yourselves.

Today is a good day to watch others die (or is it?)

Yup, Sunday. It’s Six Feet Under day.

Today’s episode – the first one in season 5 – feels like it continues straight from the end of season 4, emotionally, even if enough time must have passed for George to have undergone ECT treatment and Rico to have started dating again. (He doesn’t seem to be very good at it…) There’s the same mix of tentative hope and deep sadness, the former perhaps most in David and Keith’s decision to try for surrogacy, the latter especially in the aftermath of George’s illness and Ruth’s fears of what her life will be like, tied to a sick person. Her hold on her life has always been precarious, but now she seems to lose against her fears.

David and Keith

What else is there? Billy’s rapidly becoming much more likeable than bitchy Claire (although she didn’t necessarily deserve the hard slap her mother gave her for something very minor). The Death of the Week(tm) was one of the uglier ones in the series, uglier even than the Elevator of Doom at the end of season 4. (Definitely the kind of thing that could put anyone off psychotherapy…) And Rachel Griffiths once again shows what a great actress she is.

Brenda and Nate

On a slightly different note: we watched Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly yesterday. Can’t say I like it as much as Once Upon a Time in the West. It’s a much lighter, fluffier piece, and it forgoes the pathos of the later movie. But, like Once Upon a Time…, it’s got a great final showdown – and the music, like many of Morricone’s works, is iconic. It even survives being played by a ukulele orchestra. Don’t believe me? See for yourselves: