Saturday, November 01, 2008

November 1, 2008
Just beautiful out. Have the doors open, sunny and cool (high in the lower eighties). Working on another stagecoach scene for El Kid. Master shot of sequence for "Manos Arriba!"

Went up to Frontier Town at noon today to help Tom Tumus with the True West booth at the annual Cave Creek Wild West Days. Met some great great people and talked with a few Western history fans. One guy, a new subscriber, spends his time in the Bradshaw Mountains looking for lost mines. He said he just cancelled his Arizona Highways subscription and is only keeping ours, because they stopped doing ghost towns and lost mines. Interesting (note to self: find a ghost town piece for next issue).

I imagine my friends at Highways would hate to hear that since they are doing their best to reinvent the pub. But that's why these events are critical to attend. You get to hear the truth from the readers. I've had people come up to me and say, "Tell your boss he's ruining my favorite magazine." I always smile and say, "I'll be glad to tell the son of a bitch. And, by the way, what is he doing to wreck your favorite magazine?"

One guy told me he doesn't like the Western movie reviews and made a big stink about there being no room in True West for the "reel West." In the next breath he asks me if I have seen Apaloosa and what did I think about it. I told him I liked it and we did a big piece on it in the magazine and he said, yes, he read it, and that's why he went and saw the movie.

See, you can't pay for that kind of insight.

Last night Kathy and I watched The Valley of Elah the 2007 film by Paul Haggis (Crash). Once you get past the politics, it is a joy to watch Tommy Lee Jones. He is stunning as Hank Deerfield, a Vietnam Vet who's looking for his AWOL son, just back from Iraq. The role was originally written for Clint Eastwood, but Tommy Lee is just amazing and I cannot imagine Clint doing a better job. In fact, I believe Tommy Lee is without a doubt, the best actor we have today (If you don't believe me, go screen No Country For Old Men, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, Lonesome Dove and The Valley of Elah, and I dare you to name a better actor who portrays Western characters). He was definitely robbed of an Oscar for this portrayal. And no matter your politics (Haggis gets a little heavy handed toward the end) it is just pure joy to see Tommy Lee live in Hank's shoes.

He goes after a Mexican soldier who pulls a knife on him, and Tommy Lee pulls out a tire iron and says, "What's with you Wetbacks, it's always the knife, isn't it?" then proceeds to beat the crap out of him, and, in the process, he decks a woman (Charlize Theron) and bloodies her nose. So much for political correctness by the Hollywood liberal establishment. Ha. That was refreshing, but then this is the guy who made Crash.

The little details were wonderful, like when a local detective (Theron) comes to talk to him while he's washing his clothes in a laundromat, and he sees her coming, rushes to the dryer to put on a shirt (he has on a T-shirt but evidently feels that is unseemly). They have a serious conversation about his son's disappearance as he hurriedly buttons up the shirt. She mentions it looks like it's not dry. He says, "No, it's dry enough." Through the rest of the scene he squirms uncomfortably with the wet shirt and, ahem, soldiers on. In the next scene they are in a chicken shack fast food place and he's still fiddling with the shirt, trying to pat it dry. Hilarious and it's so subtle and so good. There's 25 other tidbits I could mention, but I don't want to spoil it for you. Check out this movie so you can see Tommy Lee at the top of his game.

One of the other things to look for is Valley was filmed in Albuquerque (and also Morocco and Whiteville, Tennessee) in late 2006 and many of the actors from this film are in No Country For Old Men (also filmed in Albuquerque) including Tommy Lee, Barry Corbin, Josh Brolin and several character actors Kathy recognized from both films. It's almost like they were all in town and thought, oh, what the hell, let's make another movie with the same people.

"You are the point the universe is trying to make."
—Debbie Payne, my yoga instructor, quoting some spiritual yoga guy

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