|Probably the definitive revisionist Western.|
|Katy Jurado as Helen Ramirez.|
How she didn't get an Oscar nomination is one of the
many mysteries of the 25th Academy Awards season.
One thing I like about revisionist Westerns is how you can bend characters to whatever whim is necessary to tell your story. So long as the actions and motivations make sense, the possibilities of creating three-dimensional characters is expansive.
Here's an example:
How is this guy...
|Marshal Will Kane (Gary Cooper in an Oscar-winning performance), High Noon|
|Sheriff Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman in an Oscar-winning performance), Unforgiven|
Now that I'm thinking about it, I did write an essay about Unforgiven for a class. I should find it and see if it's worth posting -- since, you know, I'm writing a Western and all. It won't stick out as much if I was to post it whenever.
One film that I'm really studying for this script is The Ox-Bow Incident, which I highly recommend whether or not you're a fan of Westerns. It's a simple, simple story that carries an incredible amount of depth -- all the more impressive when you consider it's run-time is 75 minutes.
|This was shot on a sound stage.|
Not that you notice since the story is so captivating.
|Seriously, see this.|
What's interesting about the three films I've mentioned above is how each uses their law enforcement: In High Noon, Marshal Kane is about doing what's right. In Unforgiven, Sheriff Daggett is about doing what's right, but in a way that makes his point clear. And in The Ox-Bow Incident, Sheriff Risley doesn't show up until it's too late for him to be effective. With Education, the sheriff is present and does his job as he can, but he has no real power -- there are a couple of scenes in which other characters disrespect him and he just lets it slide because he's only a figurehead. And while I'm sure that's been done in a Western before, I can't recall seeing it.
Which brings me to the thesis of this post: I'm trying to watch Westerns as I write The Education of Tobias Smith. I want to immerse myself in the history and traditions of the genre and find ways to exploit little-seen or unseen tropes and conventions. I know I'm not going to get to many in this first draft. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if this initial pass is all cliche-ridden and predictable (in the bad ways, completely unlike the above films), but at least I'll have it written and be able to re-write anything that feels worn and unoriginal.
But to do that properly, it'll be necessary to find out what is cliche and what isn't. Though I suppose the easiest way to do that is to just watch films that spoof the genre -- Blazing Saddles and the upcoming A Million Ways to Die in the West -- since the main purpose of parodies is to expose and ridicule over-used tropes. But if I do that, I'll never get the script done since I'll be over-analyzing every last detail.
And that's just not good writing.
|I'll end on this since it's such a great shot.|
Even if you can see bits of modern (in 1952) L.A. in the background...