Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Westerns

The Searchers:
Release Date: March 13, 1956
Language: English
Rating: UR
Run Time: 119 minutes
Director: John Ford
Awards: Nominated for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures and name The Greatest American Western of all time by the American Film Institute

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid:
Release Date: October 24, 1969
Language: English
Rating: PG
Run Time: 110 minutes
Director: George Roy Hill
Awards: Won Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Best Music, & Best Writing. Nominated for Best DIrector, Best Picture, and Best Sound

      The Searchers takes place in the wide open desert of Texas. The main character, Edward Ethan, just arrives back from Civil War to live with his brother, Aaron, his wife, Martha, his nephew, Ben, and his two nieces, Debbie and Lucy. When his neighbor discovers his cattle missing, the Captain asks Ethan and a group of Rangers to help find them. They find the cattle slaughtered in the desert and realize that Indians have lured them away on purpose. During that time, a group of Comanches burns down the house. Ethan finds Aaron, Martha, and Ben dead. Debbie and Lucy were taken by the Comanches. After the funeral, the Rangers and Ethan are determined to find them with the help of Ethan's nephew, Martin, and Debbie's fiance, Brad. After finding the body of Lucy, Brad is killed by the Native Americans when he goes into their camp. Through out this year long journey, Ethan and Martin find out that Debbie is being kept under the watch of Scar. Ethan's hatred for Indians is now starting to become associated with Debbie.  Is Ethan just going to rescue Debbie or inevitably kill her?
      Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid are two bank robbers and train robbers that lead The Hole-in-the-Wall-Gang in Wyoming. When they are in the mitts of robbing the same train twice, a group of unknown men on horses start to chase them. No matter what Butch and Sundance do, the group of unknown keep tracking them. They manage to escape by jumping into river in a canyon. With out their knowledge, the paper publishes that the men are being paid to they kill Butch and Sundance. Etta, Sundance's lover, shows them once they get to her house. Because of this, all three of them decide to flee to Bolivia. In Bolivia, they start robbing banks with the help of Etta teaching them Spanish. After a few robberies, they think they see one of the trackers at a restaurant and decide to go straight. At this point, they are already wanted for robbery and are called Los Bandidos Yanquis. Etta decides to go home after Butch and Sundance get a job as payroll guards. They remain straight until they rob a payroll train in the jungle. Once they arrive in the nearest town, a boy recognizes them, the police come, and they start shooting at them. They both get wounded when Butch needs to go back to the horses to get more ammunition and Sundance is covering him. Will they escape or die trying? 
      The book brings up an interesting aspect about antagonists and protagonists in Westerns. A protagonist is referred to as the hero of the story. The antagonist is the character opposing the protagonist and provokes the protagonist's actions. In the two Westerns we watched, the films followed the typical genre format, but the line between protagonist and antagonist is blurred. In Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, the main characters are not considered the bad guy, the antagonist. Even though they steel and are outlaws is not the case. Unlike other westerns, they are considered good-natured outlaws. " The righteous avenging posse, presented as a faceless "other", is the dreaded antagonist." page (96). Also in The Searchers, Uncle Ethan supposively matches the description of a lot of wanted criminals. On the other hand, he is considered the protagonist because he goes out into the wilderness to find his niece and is still motivation even after years of searching. The Native Americans are considered the antagonists because they killed Ethan's family and kidnapped his nieces. Chief scar is the main source of evil since he refuses to surrender Debbie and keeps provoking Ethan and Martin. " The wilderness can take the form of antagonistic forces in direct conflict with the civilizing settlers." (page 96). This means that the Comanches represent the untamed wilderness that needs to be conquered. 
      The Formalist film theory can be applied to both of these films in different ways. During the middle of Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, there is a montage of Butch, Sundance, and Etta traveling through New York. The montage juxtaposes photos and video of them riding in carriages, sight seeing, going to the beach, playing carnival games, all of them getting on the steam ship to South America, and Etta and Sundance getting married. The director wanted to portray a lot of information in a compressed a mount of time. The nondiegetic music that plays during this montage changes. Before the wedding part, the music is upbeat and keeps the viewers' attention. This helps the viewers feel that all of them are having fun. Then the music slows down. This change helps the viewers make the transition to the slower-paced sequence. This gives the viewers a feeling of awe. During the beginning, the traveling montage, and end of the film, the picture is in a sepia tone. This is done to present a realism to the story and to keep the legend of Butch and Sundance alive.  In The Searchers, the pace of the movie was very fast. It covered a span of five years in a little under two hours. The director did this so the movie would not drag on and be boring. Also all the nondiegetic music in the film is upbeat and patriotic. This makes the viewer feel that Ethan and Martin will prevail and find Debbie. Also in The Searchers, there were a lot of wide, extreme long shots of the landscape. This showed the viewers that Ethan and Martin are alone in the antagonist wilderness.

      The article, Man on Man, from Sight and Sound Journal brings up the relationship between Butch and Sundance in the film. The author, Edward Buscombe, brings up that Brokeback Mountain is the only film in the long line of westerns "to explore the intense, unspoken and physical bonds between two male heroes."  The article states that in the most westerns, it is really common to suggest that the relationship between men in Westerns is a form of homosexuality. In Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, some film critics have wondered if Etta was was in the story as a way of deflecting the suspicion that the relationship of Butch and Sundance's is too close for comfort. The article brings up that Etta is not dragged down to South America to help with their cover. This is supported when Sundance tells her that she mustn't whine, will darn their socks and not get in the way. In their relationship, both of them seem to take on stereotypical male and female roles. Butch is the decision-maker and the thinker, while Sundance is intuitive one. The freeze frame in the end when the two of them are together, it suggest that they are united in death as in life.
      The New York Times Article by Vincent Canby bashes the characters as not being true western bank robbers by bringing up key parts in the movie. "Butch and Sundance have the physical grace of classic Western heroes, but all four feet are made of silly putty."  Butch has never shot a man before and Sundance acts like a bratty younger brother. When they rob a train and blow open the safe, they use too much dynamite and it destroys the whole train. We learn that Sundance can't even swim when they have to jump off a cliff into a river. Butch and Sundance almost fail at robbing a bank in Bolivia because they forgot the Spanish terms they were supposed to learn. " Butch and Sundance are the fall guys of their time and circumstances, and also of their movie." The last thing the article brings up is some technical things about the movie. The author thinks "the camera is all zoom, zoom, zoom."
      The Meaning Behind the Door by Wes Gehring examines the subtextual meaning of the door and doorway represented in The Searchers. The Searchers showcases the most influential doorway scene in cinema history. When Ethan and Debbie return home, everyone enters the home except Ethan. He is still considered the outside as he lingers in the door frame. As he turns to leave, the door is closed on him which represents that he will never find a home. The closing of the door also represent that he is not given a second chance because of his "antihero pass trough a portal symbolic of civilization." This may be because he initially plans to kill Debbie because he perceived her to have been contaminated by being in contact with the Native Americans for so long. 
      Another New York Time article by Bosley Crowther raves about The Searchers. It says despite it's "excessive language in it's ads, is really a rip-snorting Western, as brashly entertaining as they come." Right off the bat it leaps into a Texan from the Civil War coming home, a massacre from the Comanches, and the abduction of two girls. Then it proceeds into a detailed 5-year search compressed into two hours that is relentlessly led by Ethan. "It bristles and howls with Indian fighting, goes into tense, nerve-rasping brawls between the Texan and hunting companion, explodes with fiery comedy and goes into some frontier heroics." This pattern that John Ford follows makes a western what it its. One major fault is brought up in this article. John Ford overlays too much action and stories within stories in the film. "Episode is piled upon episode, climax upon climax and corpse upon corpse until the whole thing appears to be taking a couple of turns around the course." This does aid in the justification of the long search, but it leaves many confused due to the fast pace of the film. 
      To me, I like Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid more than The Searchers. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid had more comical relief and an understandable story line, unlike the Searchers. I like how the director uses the montage of juxtaposed photos of Butch, Sundance, and Etta. It helped the viewer see all of their site seeing through New York, a wedding, and traveling to South America in a matter on three minutes. On the other hand, some parts could have been cut out because they deemed no importance to the film. For example, the bicycle scene where Butch and Sundance are riding around doesn't aid in the plot of the story. I can see the director wanted the viewer to notice that Butch has romantic feelings for Etta, but it could have been shown in a much shorter and subtler way. I do not agree with either scholarly or popular journal at all. Just because Butch and Sundance have been friends and criminal partners for a long time doesn't make them homosexuals. I do understand how the popular journal sees them as horrible western antiheroes since they have had so much experience. I think they are portrayed like this to have more comic relief. In The Searchers, the pace was way too slow for me. Even though it had a screen time of two hours portraying the story duration of five years, it kept dragging on and on adding more and more complex information to the story line. Hence why the popular article stated it was a major fault. I like how the scholarly article brought up the doorway in the end scene. I didn't even realize the symbolism of the door until i read the article.


1) (√)  I have not handed in this assignment for any other class.  
2)  (√)  If I reused any information from other papers I have written for other classes, I clearly explain that in the paper. 
3)  (√)  If I used any passages word for word, I put quotations around those words, or used indentation and citation within the text. 
4) (√)  I have not padded the bibliography. I have used all sources cited in the bibliography in the text of the paper. 
5) (√)  I have cited in the bibliography only the pages I personally read.  
6) (√)  I have used direct quotations only in cases where it could not be stated in another way. I cited the source within the paper and in the bibliography.  

7) (√ )  I did not so over-use direct quotations that the paper lacks interpretation or originality.    
8) (√)  I checked yes on steps 1-7 and therefore have been fully transparent about the research and ideas used in my paper.  

Name___Kellie Howering____________________________________ Date___12/4/12________________________ 

Editing Checklist

1. (√) An introductory paragraph clearly introduces the subject. The topic statement is evident within the paragraph. The position taken is clear. If the position is unclear, put a question mark in the margin.

2. (√) The next two paragraphs have a single or main claim. Note each claim in the margin in a 3-4 word phrase. If you can’t identify the claim, put a question mark in the margin. If two or more claims exist, and tend to diverge from a coherent thought, put a question mark in the margin.

3. (√) The same thing holds for the next two paragraphs on the opposite side of the issue.

4. (√) The four paragraphs above all focus on the issue at hand; they do not wander off into irrelevant territory. If any paragraph wanders, put a question mark in the margin

5. (√) The sixth paragraph weighs the conflicting claims from the four paragraphs above and arrives at a conclusion. Why some evidence is more convincing than other evidence is explained. The ensuing conclusion is clearly stated. Circle it. If you can’t find the conclusion, put a question mark in the margin.

6. (√) The final paragraph returns to what was stated in the first paragraph and, in light of the evidence presented and weighed above, convincingly rephrases the position statement. If the conclusion expected by the assignment is to be finessed, justifying statements for the variance must appear here and flow-from the explanation in the sixth paragraph of your paper.

7. (√) Is each claim in paragraphs 2-5 supported by evidence? Are there any naked claims supported only by variations of "I believe...”? If so, put a big X in the margin beside that paragraph.

8. (√) Is each claim backed up by a reference? If a claim stands naked of supporting evidence or argument, put a big X in the margin.

9. (√) Does the paper do more than simply but gloriously restate the question? Examine the case study and cross out all ideas that appear in both the case study and in your paper. What remains-uncrossed out is your analysis. It should constitute the majority of your paper. If it doesn't, you haven’t done an analysis.

10. (  ) A sentence lacks either a subject or a verb; a sentence does not begin with a capital letter or end with a period (citations in parentheses go ahead of periods, not behind them).

I l. (  ) A sentence begins with a relative pronoun such as Which, Who, That, Where, and When.

12. (  ) A pronoun lacks a clear antecedent; that is, a word such as it, he, she, or they does not have an obvious link to a noun (especially noticeable if a sentence begins with it, he, she, or they).

13. (  ) A pronoun or verb fails to agree with its antecedent in number; that is, a single person or agency is referred to as they, or a plural subject is given a singular verb (such as, "members of the school board....gives their vote...").

14. (  ) A sentence runs-on or uses a comma to splice independent ideas together; that is, complex ideas are not split into two sentences but are linked, often by a comma, into an overly long, wandering sentence.

Barsam, Richard Meran., Dave Monahan, and Karen M. Gocsik. "Chapter 3: Types of Movies."  Looking at
         Movies: An Introduction to Film. Third ed. New York: W.W. Norton &, 2010. 50-52. Print.

Buscombe, Edward. "Man To Man." Sight & Sound 16.1 (2006): 34. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 1 Dec. 2012.

Canby, Vincent. "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." The New York Times. The New York Times Company,   
        25 Sept. 1969. Web. 1 Dec. 2012. <http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/review 

Crowther, Bosley. "The Searchers' Find Action; Entertaining Western Opens at Criterion 'Animal World' Shown At
       Little Carnegie." The New York Times. The New York Times Company, 31 May 1956. Web. 1 Dec. 2012.

Gehring, Wes D. "The Meaning Behind The Door." USA Today Magazine 140.2796 (2011): 65. Academic Search
      Premier. Web. 1 Dec. 2012.

No comments:

Post a Comment