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  • What is a Western?

    Lester Siegel the fictional veteran movie producer in Argo makes the comment It's got horses in it, it's a Western.
    But what makes a Western? Is it location, period or story?. Is Outlander where Sean Connery reprises Gary Cooper in High Noon but as a marshal in a future frontier town on a mining moon orbiting a gas giant a Western? Was a Lewis gun wielding Lee Marvin in Mexico (The Professionals) in a Western? Or a southern? Is William Bonny a typical Western character whilst the equally repulsive Ned Kelly is not? Do Westerns start with the cap and ball revolver or are flint locks allowed?
    Please come to the debate but leave your gun belts at the saloon door (along with Bowie knives). in deference to reality the bar will be serving rum rather than Bourbon.
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  • #2
    A genre that has been beaten to death....

    Usually featuring a damsel in distress by a villain and a hero who rides in to save the day.
    Credo quia absurdum.


    Quantum mechanics describes nature as absurd from the point of view of common sense. And yet it fully agrees with experiment. So I hope you can accept nature as She is - absurd! - Richard Feynman

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Bwaha View Post
      A genre that has been beaten to death....

      Usually featuring a damsel in distress by a villain and a hero who rides in to save the day.
      Not a "western" unless set in the proper time, and properly costumed and properly located in a believable setting.

      Otherwise, any Fast and Furious film qualifies more or less.
      Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? Who is watching the watchers?

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      • #4
        Western as on the western frontier.

        Opinions on films such as Mohawk Trail and LotM. Are they Westerns as well, iyo
        "Ask not what your country can do for you"

        Left wing, Right Wing same bird that they are killing.

        you’re entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.

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        • #5
          My thoughts:

          Setting: A Western Must be set in the Frontier. The American West is most predominant, but based on time period I think that other frontiers could work. The Frontier itself is a character, a main character, and provides both a backdrop and a foe to be conquered or endured. In fact, the Frontier might be more of a foe than the actual Villain....for example Hidalgo's Arabian Desert is really the biggest obstacle, the villains are quite flat and pretty incompetent.

          Action: A Western Will have Gunplay. More, less, that'll vary. And I think that the guns can vary as well based on time period. But a Western must have gun play.

          Characters: Characters may be flat or have depth. But you will see a minimum of a Hero or Anti-Hero (or both), a Victim or Affected Party, and a Villain. Also, your hero or anti-hero should not be Cavalry functioning as a member of the Army (that makes it a Military Movie), or otherwise operating with excessive means.....a hero or anti-hero must accomplish much or all of their deeds through grit, skill, luck, and a bit of sarcastic banter.

          Style: A Western might explore many different themes, but on a base level it is a morality play with a purported good guy, a purported bad guy, and the bad guy receiving some form of commuppence in the end. Traditionally the good guy settles down or rides off into the sunset, but the good guy might also heroically or tragically die or meet another end.

          To see two VERY different examples of Westerns, ironically from the guy who played literally the same character in every movie, look at Big Jake and McLintock. The former is a very bloody affair with defined villains, heroes, and anti-heroes. Lots of people die, including most side characters and even a couple that might be considered main characters. The latter is a far more lighthearted romp where the gunplay is at an absolute minimum, no one dies, and it's practically a Western take on the RomCom.

          I would say that some 'space westerns' meet the criteria for westerns. For example, I personally consider "Firefly" to be a "Western Series", as it's about anti-heroes on the frontier exploring various morality related things and various villains from bandits to the government (the space version of Indian Agents) get their just desserts. I don't tie Westerns to the requirement of time period from the early revolvers on up to the advent of automobiles and modern weapons. I think Westerns can run the gamut from Flintlocks to Lasers, given that there are guns involved of some sort and the other requirements are met. Pre-firearm IMHO isn't a 'Western' (at least one party must have firearms and the other criteria met, obviously Natives might not have guns).....pre-firearm would be more of an 'epic' or 'saga' in the old style.
          Tacitos, Satrap of Kyrene

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          • #6
            A Western is where the men wear Stetsons.

            Although apparently the most common hat in the old West was the Bowler.

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            • #7
              I'd say a Western is usually set in the American West in the latter half of the 19th century. The main character is a cowboy who rides a horse and is armed with a revolver.
              "I have never known a combat soldier who did not show a residue of war." --Sergeant Ed Stewart, 84th Division, US Army, WWII

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Gooner View Post
                A Western is where the men wear Stetsons.

                Although apparently the most common hat in the old West was the Bowler.

                Well it seems this is correct. Who knew?



                "The cowboy hat evolved from the Mexican Sombrero and wasn't introduced until 1865 - manufactured by John B. Stetson.

                Meanwhile the bowler (also known as the Derby hat) was "the hat" in Europe and many immigrants arrived on American shores wearing one. Bowlers/Derby were worn by both outlaws and lawmen including Bat Masterton, Butch Cassidy, Black Bart and Billy the Kid.

                The Stetson hat cost 4 to 5 times as much to produce as the felt Bowler - hence their slowness to catch on. It offered more protection from wind, rain and sun which led many cowboys to transition over - when they had the money!"


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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Greybriar View Post
                  I'd say a Western is usually set in the American West in the latter half of the 19th century. The main character is a cowboy who rides a horse and is armed with a revolver.
                  That cuts a lot of film out such as Big Jake, The Alamo, Liberty Valance, many of the Eastwood films, Magnificent Seven, Rio Bravo and and and.
                  "Ask not what your country can do for you"

                  Left wing, Right Wing same bird that they are killing.

                  you’re entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.

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                  • #10
                    Set in the appropriate period in the West obviously, but also made in the US imho..

                    That's why I don't consider Sergio Leone's work (spoken in Italian of all things), or things like the Wild Bunch or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid (no cars or bikes in a Western ).

                    Although it is obviously a matter of preference...
                    Lambert of Montaigu - Crusader.

                    Bolgios - Mercenary Game.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Snowygerry View Post
                      Set in the appropriate period in the West obviously, but also made in the US imho..

                      That's why I don't consider Sergio Leone's work (spoken in Italian of all things), or things like the Wild Bunch or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid (no cars or bikes in a Western ).

                      Although it is obviously a matter of preference...
                      One I think is excellent is Open Range...but, but shot in Canada.

                      John Wayne played a gold miner in Alaska. Jimmy drove cattle into the Yukon. Weren't these westerns?
                      "Ask not what your country can do for you"

                      Left wing, Right Wing same bird that they are killing.

                      you’re entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.

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                      • #12
                        I agree with the western United States as the defining location, the time frame can be stretched a little but is still time-dependent. As in the case of the more recent "modern western" like No Country For Old Men (2007) the western genre is dropped and is labeled as Crime, Drama, Thriller which has a much more broader appeal.
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                        As recorded on my DA Form 1307 Individual Jump Log.
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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Snowygerry View Post
                          Set in the appropriate period in the West obviously, but also made in the US imho..

                          That's why I don't consider Sergio Leone's work (spoken in Italian of all things), or things like the Wild Bunch or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid (no cars or bikes in a Western ).

                          Although it is obviously a matter of preference...
                          One I think is excellent is Open Range...but, but shot in Canada.

                          John Wayne played a gold miner in Alaska. Jimmy drove cattle into the Yukon. Weren't these westerns?

                          This indigenous American art form focuses on the frontier West that existed in North America. Westerns are often set on the American frontier during the last part of the 19th century (1865-1900) following the Civil War, in a geographically western (trans-Mississippi) setting with romantic, sweeping frontier landscapes or rugged rural terrain. However, Westerns may extend back to the time of America's colonial period or forward to the mid-20th century, or as far geographically as Mexico. A number of westerns use the Civil War, the Battle of the Alamo (1836) or the Mexican Revolution (1910) as a backdrop.
                          This describes a western to me.

                          http://www.filmsite.org/westernfilms.html
                          "Ask not what your country can do for you"

                          Left wing, Right Wing same bird that they are killing.

                          you’re entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Half Pint John View Post
                            One I think is excellent is Open Range...but, but shot in Canada.
                            Well I have to watch to be sure - but shot in Canada should be no problem if it was made in and by US Americans.

                            John Wayne played a gold miner in Alaska.
                            Alaska + John Wayne = Western, so yes.

                            Jimmy drove cattle into the Yukon.
                            And Yukon is ? Canada again ?

                            If it was Jimmy Stewart, I'd say yes
                            Lambert of Montaigu - Crusader.

                            Bolgios - Mercenary Game.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Snowygerry View Post
                              Well I have to watch to be sure - but shot in Canada should be no problem if it was made in and by US Americans.



                              Alaska + John Wayne = Western, so yes.



                              And Yukon is ? Canada again ?

                              If it was Jimmy Stewart, I'd say yes
                              No doubt for me. It was just referring to an earlier post defining what they thought was a western.
                              "Ask not what your country can do for you"

                              Left wing, Right Wing same bird that they are killing.

                              you’re entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.

                              Comment

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