September 26, 2011
I spent the weekend thinking about Blackthorn, the new Western starring Sam Shepard as Butch Cassidy (which I watched on my office computer last Friday. A kid named Brandon emailed me and asked if I wanted to see a screener for the film and when I said I did, he sent me a link and the next thing you know, I'm watching the film on my desk.)
Concern Number One
I love the idea of Butch still alive in Bolivia in 1927, and I love the idea of Sam Shepard starring in it, but when I read that the director and the writer named it "Blackthorn" because of a beer tap they saw in a bar, I got kind of queasy about the movie's chances. It sounded lame.
Concern Number Two
I agree with our Westerns Editor, Henry Cabot Beck, Blackthorn is the best movie I've seen this year. First of all, Shepard is so strong, so direct in his actions and character that it carries the entire movie. My least favorite parts of the movie are the flashbacks to Butch with Etta and the Sundance Kid. It doesn't help that both Butch and the Kid wear stupid cowboy hats. Sundance has an Australian outback lid, straight off the set of Man From Snowy River. And Butch's hat is, alas, a 1972 bullrider's Resistol special. Just about the stupidest cowboy hat in a Western since, well, Steven Rea's hat in Blackthorn. Like i said earlier, this Western is three hats from perfection.
Let The Old Guys Pick The Hats
Sam's hat is a modified 1950s LBJ job, but the pencil curl and the way Shepard wears it totally sells it. His gravitas sells the hat.
Buck Taylor told me a great story about being in Cowboys & Aliens. He went into the wardrobe trailer and there were hats everywhere. Over in a corner he found a hat that was different, it had some style. The wardrobe woman told him, "There's been 35 actors through here and nobody even looked at that hat." Buck and his two sons open the picture. They play scalp hunters who come upon Daniel Craig. I didn't recognize Buck because I was too busy admiring that hat!
So, note to Hollywood: let the old guys pick the hats.
Now on to the stuff I loved: the scenery is flat out spectacular. We go from jungle to 14,000 foot mountains, to salt flats, to mountain towns with narrow, adobe choked streets. It is so refreshing.
Let's face it: New Mexico is played out as a movie set. They have maybe three looks and that same damn canyon that's been in Wyatt Earp, Saraphin Falls, True Grit (Coen version) and on and on. Ditto for Canada. And, to be honest, how many times can you use Monument Valley? It's tired, okay.
Great horseback riding and horseback gunfights. Gringa gunfights. it really flows and brings back so many memories of being in a theater and riding along with the heroes and bad guys.
There's more, in fact, Henry Beck got the director Mateo Gil to tell about a scene they didn't use in the movie, but should have. Going to be a great issue. More later.
Oh, and according to Brandon, I've got four tickets to go see it in New York City on September 29. Let me know if you can go.