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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Movie Watch: The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford

We actually ending up renting this from iTunes as a kind of half experiment, half need for western. The movie is simply excellent, a kind of slow and thoughtful exercise on Jesse James and the genre in general. The movie relies on very little in terms of generic motifs or plot devices and instead has a hard focus on storytelling and character development. It's rather haunting in it's beauty and Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck pull off simply brilliant performances, though the latter feels more like a standout role.

iTunes worked pretty well. I don't think there's any way to view the movie while it is download, which is a bit of a downer, but the movie itself downloaded in about an hour or so and we were ready to roll. Image quality was good, but of course we are still in the SDTV world...


Unknown said...

It's a little crazy how your movie tastes parallel mine. I picked this up to Blu-Ray a few weeks back and it still comes back to me when I'm daydreaming. The coda, after the climax, seemed awkward at first, but as it goes on the whole thing pulls together brilliantly.

I really should check to see if I like older westerns. The only one I've ever watched and enjoyed is "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance". In more recent times I've enjoyed "Unforgiven" and now "Jesse James". I need to check out "3:10 to Yuma" apparently...

Jeffool said...

I always feel the need to point out I've yet to see "There Will Be Blood," but having recently watched 'No Country For Old Men," I can now finally proclaim that "The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford" is indeed my pick for the best movie of 2007. It's slow, but never boring, it's focused, but never loses its place in minutia, it's amazingly shot, but never distracting. It perfectly balances exactly when to slow the story for a beautiful image, and when what images to use to convey story.

To quote a review, "Thankfully, blissfully, this is not a tale of bank heists and train robberies, showdowns at high noon, or cat and mouse dramatics that reduce the untamed frontier to clever criminals and no-nonsense lawmen. Instead, this is a film about nothing less grandiose than America itself"

... So yeah. I liked it.

Josh said...

Yuma was decent, definately worth the watch - but it didn't really blow me away or anything.

You might try "The Outlaw Josey Wales", a 70's Eastwood western which kinda inverted the genre (anti-hero, darker impression of the "calvary").

A real sleeper is "Open Range" with Kevin Costner. We keep running into it on TNT. I'm not a huge Costner fan, but this one is more traditional without feeling like a Costner love fest.

And yeah - what's great about Jesse James is that it is distinctly a character drama. It's a western that doesn't just not require big explosions or unlimited ammo - it's wonderfully set in a fictional world where they aren't even remotely available. It vaguely reminds me of Unforgiven in that sense, but James feels like it has more to offer. Some critics didn't like the length, but personally every ounce of the movie felt worth it.

Would like to see it in HD at some point.

Unknown said...

Actually, you've reminded me that I watched "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" back when I had Netflix. (Oh, sweet free time, where have you gone?) I really, really enjoyed that. I'll try "Josey Wales" soon. And "There Will Be Blood".

Meanwhile, my weekend movie was "Revolver" by Guy Ritchie. If we hadn't already had so many movies with the same kind of psychological twist, it might have been better. The performances of everyone (except Liotta, who didn't have much character to work with, honestly) are great and the setup is neat, but the payoff is far to weak to justify the investment. I recommend a second viewing of "Snatch".