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She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949)
A movie well worth watching.
John Ford, John Wayne, and Monument Valley. I am sure that for many millions of people, that says all they need to know. Scenery and cinematography are superb. A good story is very well directed by Ford. The supporting cast members give good performances. And there is something extra special and touching about John Wayne's performance; especially in the farewell scene - that turns out to be premature. I recall reading somewhere that this was John Wayne's favorite John Wayne movie. Every time I watch it I feel that I better understand why. And I find myself liking it a little bit more each time I watch it.
The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)
An excellent all around movie
This movie shows that a western does not have to be filmed in color and does not have to have grand vistas in order to be outstanding. As with any other type of film, all it takes is excellent performances, excellent direction, and an excellent screenplay. This movie has all three. It is an outstanding reminder of the dangers of mob mentality and vigilante justice.
I looked at the first two pages (here on the IMDB website) of other comments and am not at all surprised to find comments ranging from very good to very bad; this is that kind of movie.
If you haven't seen it, here's my take on it. People who are stuffy, proper, sophisticated, and politically correct in a social sense are not going to care for this movie. On the other hand, if you are laid back, easy going, don't have to have an uplifting and moral story line, and appreciate comedy (often sexy and somewhat raw), you are going to love this movie. The producer and director very obviously made this movie for the simple purpose of providing the audience with a lot of very funny comedy. And they succeeded immensely (if you are laid back, easy going, etc.) The scenes range from funny to hilarious.
Buy or rent the video. I've seen this on network TV and it is very "sanitized".
The Hurricane (1937)
A movie well worth watching.
The story line of this movie gets a bit fanciful at times, but it doesn't get out of hand and the movie does not pretend to be anything it isn't, so I think most people well enjoy it.
There are several fine performances. My favorite is that of Raymond Massey as he is very convincing in the thankless role of a cold-hearted governer who towards the end shows a sadistic side and then, at the very end of the movie, shows that there is good in everybody.
Then there is the hurricane itself. Naturally I have not seen every movie ever made, but seeing how this movie predates the computer age the hurricane is surely the greatest special effects in movie history.
Dances with Wolves (1990)
I have mixed feelings about this film.
First let me talk about what I consider to be the strengths of this movie. John Barry's score is excellent and well deserves the oscar it won. Dean Semler's cinematography is magnificent and, to me, the highlight of the movie. For many years I considered the cinematography of "Lawrence of Arabia" to be the best I had ever seen. Now I'm not so sure. To me, the filming of the buffalo hunt/chase is one of the great achievements in movie history. And the filming of the vistas and the land under different lighting conditions is outstanding.
I did not see the performances of any of Mary McDonnell's competitors, but was very disappointed that she did not win for Best Supporting Actress. And the nominations for Art - Set Decoration and Costume Design were very well deserved.
Another top achievement was getting to know the Indians very intimately and coming to realize that individually, the Indians of the 1860s are very much like white people today. And it showed, to an extent, how Indian culture of the 1860s differed so vastly from white culture of the same time. It would have been a good idea, I think, to have developed this aspect some more.
That is one of the weaknesses, in my opinion, of this movie. Another is the tendency to portray the Sioux as 100% good and the whites and the Pawnee as close to 100% bad. I have a handful of reputable books that all point out that there were a significant number of whites who were sympathetic to the Indians during this time. Unfortunately for the Indians, there weren't enough of them and most were back east.
Regarding the Pawnee, it is true that they were enemies of the Sioux. But so were the Crow, Shoshone, and some lesser tribes. From what I have read in my books, the various tribes of the Great Plains competed against each other for enough land to support them. They needed water, grass for their horse herds, wild game for food, and buffalo for just about everything. They warred against each other. But that doesn't make one tribe "good" and another tribe "bad".
Finally, there is too much of Kevin Costner in this movie. I don't know if he realizes or agrees, but it seems that he was trying to make himself, not the people of the Sioux village, the centerpiece of the movie. If someone else had done the narration, that would have been a big help. Or if someone else had played the part of Lt. Dunbar, that also would have been a good idea.
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
A movie unlike any other.
I first watched this movie in a theater (I have since purchased the video). The depiction of the landing on Omaha Beach was easily the most intense movie experience I have ever had. The battle in the town near the end of the movie is probably the second most intense.
When the movie ended, there was total and complete silence in the theater. It lasted for maybe a minute. Then I could make out the sounds of patrons gently getting up out of their seats. Next I could hear the soft footsteps as the people began to slowly walk out of the theater. And I could barely discern people near me talking in low and seemingly reverent tones. It was like everyone in the theater felt that they were in the presence of an awesome power that demanded, and deserved, the utmost respect. Never have I come close to an experience like that. It was as impressive as the movie itself.
Steven Spielberg is a true genius.
Riders of the Purple Sage (1996)
If you liked the movie and haven't read the book, read it.
I watched this movie out of curiosity because I have the book and have read it; five times. My book is 4" x 7" and is 311 pages long. That seemed like a lot for a two hour (I believe it was two hours) movie. I wanted to see how good the movie was and what parts of the book the movie omitted. I liked the movie despite the fact that it very understandably omitted a lot from the book. I read through the other user comments quickly and found two that said they like the movie better than the book. I would like to encourage those of you who have seen the movie but not read the book to get the book and read it. Parts of the book tend to be grandiose, which might be why the two users said they liked the movie better. To me, the book tells a great story with meaty characters that you get to know and care very much about. Central is Jane Withersteen who is being intimidated by the top Mormon men of her community. When she finally finds out how this intimidation campaign got started and, especially, who started it, she is rather shocked.
A very fine all-around movie
I missed out on this true story when it actually occurred, but I feel fairly confident in saying that the producer, writer, and director added very little, if any, "fictional fluff". The movie starts off by showing us the setting and most of the main characters. Everyone and everything looks real and believable; almost always a good indication that the viewer is in for an entertaining movie. And that is certainly the case here. Once the abduction occurs, the director skillfully keeps the interest nonstop and makes us very reluctant to get up and go to the fridge or anywhere else. There are solid performances by the supporting cast; the usual flawless performance we have come to expect from Megan Follows; and a superb performance by David Morse.
Sink the Bismarck! (1960)
For starters, this picture was thankfully filmed in black and white. This is only appropriate for gray colored ships shooting it out in the North Atlantic. The performers were, for the most part, convincing. The movie got a little risky by using a fictional character (played by Kenneth More) for the lead role, and delving a bit into his personal life. But it didn't get out of hand. The movie takes just the right amount of time in developing and depicting the important events in the eight day life of the Bismarck. I got the feeling that I was actually there and watching these events take place. The movie is essentially accurate, based on accounts I have read in books; including one by the highest ranking German survivor. The depiction of the destruction of the British battle cruiser Hood was not exactly accurate, but I would rank that a minor point. Getting the ship used in the movie to blow up the same way the Hood would probably have been more trouble than it was worth. The bottom line is the ship was destroyed and only three crew members survived.
This movie is an excellent, no-nonsense portrayal of the short and dramatic life of the legendary German battleship Bismarck.
The Flight of the Phoenix (1965)
A very fine all-around movie
A lot of talented people got together to produce this movie. Story, screenplay, performances, scenery, and cinematography are all first rate.
If you are watching this movie the first time and have not heard how it ends, you will find yourself all caught up in it and wondering if, and how, these men are going to get out of the predicament they're in. And if you have seen it before, it's worth watching just to see the performances of James Stewart and Hardy Kruger in particular, as their stubborn egos repeatedly clash. Other cast members give very solid performances.