Sunday, July 29, 2012

Battle Of The Oscar Stars: Best Picture 1992

Stars like John Wayne and Clint Eastwood cut their teeth in Hollywood riding horseback, fighting in saloons, and firing shots in the dusty, tumbleweed filled corrals of the Old West.

Those Westerns are beloved film staples, adored for their sense of true adventure, excitement, and feats of heroism.

As the years passed, Eastwood branched off into other acting territories, but came back to honor his past by directing and starring in the Best Picture winner of 1992; Unforgiven.

Best described as an homage to those classic films, but the story also tackles the idea of the end of this Western era in our country and in the movies. The towns looked the same, filled with saloons, corrals, and horse-drawn carriages, but, as the film explores, some were still outlaws and others were trying to evolve into a more civil existence, one guided by stricter laws.

Eastwood plays, what you can imagine, an older version of any of his characters from the films that made him famous; Will Munny, a man who maybe just 10 years before, was a wild SOB, a gunslinger, and all it took was one woman to soften this toughness.

Munny is now the owner of a farm, taking care of his two children after the death of his wife, and any signs of his past are unrecognizable. His old self is of course dragged out in the open to avenge the crimes inflicted on a woman from the nearby town.

A "lady of the night", or a lady that works the "billiards" saloon (as it is referred to in the movie), was attacked by several men, and their crimes went unpunished by the local sheriff (Gene Hackman, in an Oscar winning role). Unsatisfied with the lack of punishment, the other ladies from the house of Billiards scrounge their money together and place a hit on these men, all in the sake of revenge.

When a younger man seeks out Munny's now legendary talents in this arena, Munny, in need of money, agrees to one last job, and brings along his old partner (Morgan Freeman). The three then set out to kill the two brutal men, and obtain the bounty money.

Anyone expecting a typical western, will be surprised by Unforgiven; the setting looks like a Western, but it is unlike any other, almost entirely dominated by quiet scenes, even elegant in the way the story is crafted. Much of the movie builds to what is expected as a final brawl, and this is done perfectly. The tension is subtle, slowly added on piece by piece, as stories of Munny's past are revealed, and the truth of just how bad he was in his day.

Never a fan of Westerns, this ode to those films got me interested unlike anything has to learn more about them. It is an extremely slow moving picture, and some may find it overly so, as, even with an intriguing story,  it lost my attention in some places. If you go along for the ride, and enjoy every gorgeous looking scene, this will be the movie for you.

I already feel like this is one that I will need to watch again. All of the subtleties of the excellent story will be more appreciated a second time around. Although, that will definitely be a couple more years down the road.

Eastwood always was a fantastic actor, but I can see now how he has evolved into the great director we continue to see today. Winning Best Director twice (for Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby) in his career is a noteworthy achievement, and there's no saying it won't happen again.

I misspoke last time - Now next up:  "Holy Shit. Somebody named their dance troop Schindler's List!"

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