Need Change for That?

Change, as we’ve been repeatedly admonished, is good. Despite the fact that many prefer paper currency, asserting its greater value. But that’s just them.

New Age seers since the 1960s, still comfortably nested in southern California hot tubs, have a laundry list itemizing the many, many benefits of Change. The word, by the way, is Always capitalized. Pun intended. And sorry for the mixed metaphors.

And no matter how much we mock and make fun of the warm-water warriors with ponytails, they do, in fact, have a point well worth attending to.

Getting outside one’s comfort zone, like working one’s fingers to the bone, is consequential. Discomfort in one case, boney fingers in the other.

Recently, I made a return to texts that once absorbed me. For at least a brief period, much of my reading regimen was film analysis and interpretation.

And by “film” I mean theatrically exhibited motion pictures. “Movies,” as they were once broadly understood.

But in the past two decades or so (more “so” than less “so” in this case), it is not a subject prominent on my reading list. Why that is doesn’t matter. It just wasn’t.

However, a title of that genre arrived not long ago striking a chord loudly enough that I read it from cover to cover. Enjoyably.

Andrew Patrick Nelson’s Still in the Saddle: The Hollywood Western, 1969-1980 (University of Oklahoma Press, 2015) tackles a narrow but significant slice of motion picture content and history with an intelligence, understandability and comprehensiveness few other “film books” are able.

An inherent problem associated with film appreciation/history courses and books is the assumption the reader has seen every movie discussed.

Which is impossible. And undesirable.

The classes and books think listeners and readers are as invested in the medium as much as the lecturer or author.

They are not. Indeed, many of us (who still) go to the movies and say to the big screen: “Do it to me.”

Engage me. Capture my attention. Cause me to care about the characters, their story and their situations. Be my magnet. Don’t distract me with fluff (visual, oral, effects). Grab me by the collar and don’t let go for 100 minutes. Or 120, if you must.

A refreshing return to a once pleasurable scholarly pursuit, Nelson’s book discusses an especially significant decade for moviemakers and their audiences. The “revisionist” Western (to some, anti-westerns) and its directors (e.g., Peckinpah, Altman) ushered in new ways of thinking about the epic story all the while such standard-bearers as John Wayne continued to dominate the box office.

Omitted from the book is how the treatment of the Western also blended over to other movies in ostensibly other genres such as American Graffiti (1973). Directed by George Lucas, following the dismal performance of his earlier, scarcely seen THX 1138 (1971), Lucas, of course, goes on to make the ultimate cowboy movie: Star Wars (1977).

They might be wrinkly, but they’re not always wrong.

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