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Author Topic: Unforgiven (Doug's thread)  (Read 36013 times)
KC
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« on: December 03, 2002, 02:12:37 AM »

Originally posted by Doug, 11-26-2002

Rather than suggesting in another thread that we start this topic, I'll just start it myself.  Some people (on this board and  elsewhere) think that Unforgiven is  over praised.  Yet no one has ever made an even moderately decent argument as to why it's overpraised.  I mean, if I thought such and such classic was not worthy of being called a "masterpiece" or whatever I would have an argument to present, but I've not heard one about Unforgiven.  (And I've even combed through the reviews at amazon.com.)  Even the trashy bio by that Mcgilligan guy doesn't give even one reason to support his claim that it's "overpraised."  I guess we're just supposed to take his word for it.  So I'd really like for someone to tell me why it's been so overpraised.  And I don't think personal taste is any arguement.  If you don't like westerns or Clint Eastwood or whatever, you had the flu when you saw it, that's not an argument.  

I personally think it's one of the greatest films of all time.  It affected me intellectually and emotionally when I first saw it like only a very rare number of films have, and I can only marvel at its power each time I watch it.  If nothing else it has some of the most memorable scenes of any movie I've ever seen.  My favorite, I think, is the whole "duck of death" scene in the jailhouse, but that's just because it's such a fun scene, even while it mixes serious issues with one of the main themes of the movie (it ain't so easy to pull that trigger.)  

The acting is great, its filmed flawlessly (or dang near) from the sound to the cinematography to the sets....And the script is genius.  The story is brilliant, and the dialogue is as good as it gets.  Reading the script is as close as you get in modern times to Shakespeare -- or just listen to the movie without the picture.  And what makes this a "masterpiece" is the fact that the more you watch it the more you get from it.  If this movie isn't a masterpiece of filmmaking then I don't know what is.  But I'm certainly willing to hear why it isn't a  great film, if anyone has any reasonable argument to the contrary.
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« Reply #1 on: December 03, 2002, 06:54:33 PM »

Originally posted by KC, 11/26/02:

Thanks, Doug ... I couldn't have put it better myself.

Here's a quote I like by a noted writer on film ... Richard Jameson, editor of Film Comment. This appeared in the program notes for Film Comment's "Top of the World" series in 2000, which screened the dozen films the magazine's editors ranked as the most outstanding films of the nineties, following a survey of more than a hundred film critics, filmmakers, authors and archivists.

 
Quote
You can count on one hand the number of times the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (plus most of the awards-giving critical fraternities) has hit upon the right Best Picture of the Year. This was inarguably one of those occasions. From its opening image of the town of Big Whiskey, Wyoming, under a crepuscular storm sky to its final, ghostly apocalypse, Unforgiven is a summum masterwork—of its genre, of its director, of its last-of-the-icons star, and of its revisionist decade looking to put paid a century of cinema. Clint Eastwood kept David Webb Peoples's superb script in a drawer for something like sixteen years until he was well and truly seasoned—as an ever-evolving popular artist and as a man—to make it. With performances of a lifetime by the star, Gene Hackman, Frances Fisher, Richard Harris, and every last anonymous, perfectly cast cowboy-casualty.

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« Reply #2 on: December 03, 2002, 07:04:11 PM »

Originally posted by Yojimbo, 11-27-2002:

How about you giving us a few explanations about whats so great with the script and the rest of the film?Iam not convinced yet and i will never be.You may love the movie,but you cant force your own opinions on others you two!
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« Reply #3 on: December 03, 2002, 07:05:15 PM »

Originally posted by little_bill, 11-27-2002:

hold on there a minute,
there is no point asking for their reasons as to why they think it's great, if you go and say that you'll never be convinced.
you're obviously not going to listen to their points in that case.
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« Reply #4 on: December 03, 2002, 07:06:00 PM »

Originally posted by G Gordon, 11-27-2002:

Unforgiven is a masterpiece.

It was also overpraised.

There is no contradiction here.  The fact that this was the first truely great western since the seventies led critics to say silly sweeping things of the "greatest western of all time" variety.

It may have been the best of its era but that is all.  The younger critic may never have even reviewed a western and they responded as if nobody had ever made a complex, adult entry to the genre before this movie.

As if it had all been Roy Rogers and Trigger.  As if Ford and Hawks and Leone and Peckinpah had never happened.  As if The Outlaw Josey Wales had never happened.

That the praise was over-done does not diminish the achievement of the film.
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« Reply #5 on: December 03, 2002, 07:07:01 PM »

Originally posted by william evans, 11-27-2002:

I love "Unforgiven". Not only because it stars Clint Eastwood who is the subject of the website, but I got a feel of the real old west. I stood in Tombstone one day but didn't get that feeling until I saw Unforgiven. I believe Yo is negative and should keep his comments to another website and leave those who truley love Mr. Eastwood to comment on this website. 8)
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« Reply #6 on: December 03, 2002, 07:10:32 PM »

Originally posted by Doug, 11-27-02:

Quote
Originally posted by Yojimbo:

How about you giving us a few explanations about whats so great with the script and the rest of the film?Iam not convinced yet and i will never be.You may love the movie,but you cant force your own opinions on others you two!

See, I'm not trying to force my opinion on anybody!  I'm instead begging for an argument on why it's not so great.  Not why you may prefer one movie or another over it, but why it didn't deserve to win best picture, or to be ranked in the top 100 by the AFI, or any of its other awards and achievments.  I'm assuming then you have no argument to put forth?  Which basically proves my point, eh.  

G. you have a point, and I'm biased toward Clint receiving all the praise he gets, if for no other reason than he's been hammered unfairly by enough critics that perhaps this makes up for it.  However, I do think Unforgiven is a brilliant movie from top to bottom, and holds up under even the most intense scrutiny, unlike some classics (i.e.  High Noon.)  Unforgiven has also received its share of negativity, and for no other reason than it's a Clint Eastwood movie.  There's a whole slew of movies that critics, film schools, etc expound on as  the great movies of all time that nobody watching them now for the first time can view objectively, and if for any reason you don't like the movie your opinion is automatically shot down as uncouth, ignorant, and plain wrong.  Unforgiven has not achieved that status.  I'm thinking of movies like Raging Bull, Godfather, 2001, Citizen Kane, Apocalypse Now, etc, etc, just as a random sampling.  Now they are great movies, and many deserve their high praise, but many have their flaws and don't even hold up as well as Unforgiven does.  Now a movie like Raging Bull is a good movie, but if you want to start talking  overpraised I think you could start here.  Or a personal non-favorite: Kubrick's 2001.  There's many movies I love despite their flaws, and that includes Clint Eastwood movies (including Josey) but I've yet to find a real flaw in Unforgiven, and I've seen it several times.  The closest thing to a flaw I've seen in the movie is that I don't think it's Clint's best acting performance (IMO) -- but it's still great.

With that said, I do think there was a lot of critics who were amazed that Clint made this movie and how good it was.  I mean this followed a very uneven decade of movies by him in the eighties, and no doubt many had begun to write him off.  And then  this.  But then I don't think any praise directed at the movie was undeserved, so I contend it wasn't overpraised.  But I'm open to anyone making a case against that claim.

Have I rambled enough?  And Yo, I hold up Unforgiven as my support.  The only thing I'll add to why I love the movie is its mixture of great story, great characters, serious themes, and truly funny humor.  And the story is perfectly organic, with nothing contrived or forced.  The drama and the violence in the movie is a product of the situations and characters.  The script, as the foundation of the movie, is brilliant, plain and simple.
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« Reply #7 on: December 03, 2002, 07:12:08 PM »

Originally posted by Matt, 11-27-02:

Perfectly stated, Doug.  I couldn't even begin to put it better than you just did.
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« Reply #8 on: December 03, 2002, 07:15:02 PM »

Originally posted by william evans, 11-29-2002:

Great response Doug! It did seem real, I even felt the kicks from Little Bill as much as his attempts to become the first Bob Villa   ;D  8)  
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« Reply #9 on: December 03, 2002, 07:20:16 PM »

Originally posted by little_bill, 11-29-02:

Quote
Originally posted by william evans:

Great response Doug! It did seem real, I even felt the kicks from Little Bill as much as his attempts to become the first Bob Villa    ;D   8)  
who me?   ???
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« Reply #10 on: December 03, 2002, 07:21:42 PM »

Originally posted by Agent, 11-29-02:

Isn't he the "fix-it-yourself" guy?
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« Reply #11 on: December 03, 2002, 07:22:56 PM »

Originally posted by Matt:, 11-29-02:

Yup, the host of "This Old House" and I think, little_bill, that William was referring to the ACTUAL Little Bill and that scene where he kicks the holy hell out of English Bob in the street.
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« Reply #12 on: December 03, 2002, 07:24:17 PM »

Originally posted by william evans, 11-29-02:

Yeh, that is correct Matt! And little bill could use some pointers from Mr. Villa, and not Poncho!   ;D   8)
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« Reply #13 on: December 03, 2002, 07:26:00 PM »

Originally posted by philo, 11-30-02:

Well I guess I should at least add the only comments I have ever been able to express on this subject.

I am one of the people that does not feel Unforgiven is the masterpiece that everyone claims . First of all I do agree with the technical remarks , it is a beautiful looking film and I would be wrong to suggest otherwise .
I can only put it down then to the script and the pacing of the film . I find it hard work to sit through the story has been praised by Eastwood on many occasions but I feel that because Western scripts were/are a bit rare that it is therefore overrated. I have not seen it since it opened , but I have just ordered the new DVD (at the cheapest I could find it , because the extras are poor). I will be seeing it again soon , but I don't expect to feel any different .
As I said before it deserves more than this but this is all I can say .
It is overpraised and is not or will ever be in the same league as The Outlaw Josey Wales.(just my view , not to be forced upon anyone)

Philo .
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« Reply #14 on: December 03, 2002, 07:29:31 PM »

Originally posted by stranger, 11-30-2002:

Ok, I suppose it comes as no surprise that Philo and myself are on the slightly critical side of Unforgiven, maybe even critical is too strong a word?
It is so often very hard to really explain as to why Unforgiven just doesn't appeal (to us) as much as say Josey...

I actually saw Unforgiven in San Francisco, so there was no doubt, I was in a great frame of mind before I entered into the theatre, I'm in Clint's home town, and lovin' every minute of it!

So why was I not jumping with joy after I had seen it?
Unforgiven was/is a wonderful movie, I've never said I didn't like it or hated it?
But, there's been a hell of a lot of great stuff previously in the saddle... for instance Josey Wales... (which I believe, is simply one of the very best, if not, the best western ever made).

So, I now have to dig deep, and try and explain why, when really it should only equate simply to a personal preference?

Firstly, I think Unforgiven looks just fine, some remarkably beautiful photography never goes a miss...
Unfortunately, the lack of a really decent transfer to a home video format doesn't really help, even the higher end formats such as Laserdisc and DVD (1st generation issue) were comparatively poor, suffering from a high amount of grain etc etc (but this is a different story...)

I do know that the 35mm print is stunning..Philo can expand more on this, the technical side..

I guess the problem that first comes to mind is the William Munny character. This is the first time I have ever encountered Clint (while in the saddle) in a somewhat vulnerable capacity, he doesn't appear to be confident, unsure, doubtful and really doesn't want to be involved.
Now I know this is vital to both the story and the character Clint is playing, But, maybe I just had a problem identifying Clint in such a vulnerable capacity, set within the western genre?
Secondly, the story I found to be flat, rather dull and quite frankly not a lot happening to encourage me toward the edge of my seat.
Nothing wrong with the acting from all the principles and the support, everyone carried of their job just fine.
I thought the pace of the film was a little slow, especially toward the middle section of the film, and I found it all a little predictable..
I was waiting and waiting and waiting...but nothing really seemed to come?

There was a rather nice score from Niehaus for which I thought the main theme was used a little too repetitively, a few nice dramatic cues help lift their appropriate sequences, but, not exactly enough to widen my eyes in wonder nor to take up the habit of biting my nails...
The script was fine, but I really didn't think there was too much particularly earth shattering about it.
It had a moral aspect to the story, which is perfectly acceptable, but, didn't Josey have a message to tell? The morality of dying, killing and living?
Maybe it's just me, but I thought Josey told the story far better than Unforgiven ever did, more touching, more poignantly handled..
Josey takes us, the viewer, into a tale which is anything but predictable, and left me painstakingly hanging on to what was about to unfold in each and every scene.
Unforgiven on the other hand, simply did not..
Direction? Ok the main man was in control of both films, I'm sorry, but I don't think Unforgiven's direction comes anywhere close to that of Josey's, I think Josey is Clint's finest moment as a director, every aspect of the movie shines and presents a director who was confident, passionate and ultimately in supreme control of each and every scene.

Josey, for me, had an intensity, an edge, a sharpness from it's thunderous opening montage to it's delicately handled closing.
Fielding's music score was outstanding, with every cue perfectly fitting the atmosphere of it's sequence.
The adapted script was moving, intelligent and amusing. Clint's portrayal of a man's desperate journey is (for me) his strongest screen performance. He surrounded himself with an array of faultless character actors and actress's, Locke's portrayal is innocently subtle, Bottoms is superb, George is wonderful, any supporting actor or actress in any chosen scene is really hard to fault..
Josey's photography is superb and I honestly cannot see the comparison when Unforgiven is brought into the equation? Unforgiven looks nice, while I think Josey looks simply wonderful.

So, Unforgiven is understandably always going to be compared to Josey Wales. Why? Probably because Unforgiven was graced with Academy awards while Josey was not.
I do stand on the side which considers that Unforgiven was/is overrated.
I will be blatantly honest, and say that I think Unforgiven was awarded for all of the wrong reasons. I think it was a justified attempt to put right a decision that had been so wrong in the past, Josey was so shamelessly overlooked back in the 70's.
Given this, as well as a general nod for Clint's entire body of work, I believe that the opportunity had risen, and a wrong was put right.
As the Academy members become younger and younger, with the likes of Tarantino and such, who I know, are so appreciative of these Classic pictures, we will probably see such accolades being bestowed upon the likes of Clint. We had seen Pacino honoured.. Scent of a Woman? One of Pacino's finest? I think not....But, again, my personal opinion.
I can't see Clint winning too many more Oscars, I believe the chance presented itself in that particular year, and it was a chance to basically say, hey, we should have done this a long long time ago, it was Oscar material in the fact that it was a story with a moral message, and I think that was basically enough to tip the scales in Clint's direction.
-Stranger-

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« Reply #15 on: December 03, 2002, 07:30:23 PM »

Originally posted by Doug, 11-30-2002:

Thanks, Stranger, for posting. It is funny though, because I always thought Josey dragged a little in the middle. Just a little. And some of the lines in that movie seem silly to me, like the classic "dying ain't much of a living, boy" line. And I never cared for Sondra in that movie, though I don't mind her in any of his others. The two movies do have very different temperments so it doesn't surprise me that people are loyal to one or the other based on their personality, and that was why I was trying to avoid comparisons in this thread. But they are two of Clint's most important films that he directed, and I love them both.
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« Reply #16 on: December 03, 2002, 07:31:25 PM »

Originally posted by KC, 11-30-2002:

Stranger, you did a very good job of stating your case ... I'm eager to respond to your argument in detail, but I seem to have about twenty other things going on right now ... including trying to save as much as I can of this site before it disappears forever.  

If "THE CHANGEOVER" should occur before everyone has his say here, I hope we can take this up again on the new Board.

KC
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« Reply #17 on: December 03, 2002, 07:32:30 PM »

Originally posted by Stranger, 12-01-2002:

Doug, K.C. thanks   ;)

-Stranger-
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« Reply #18 on: December 03, 2002, 07:33:46 PM »

Originally posted by AKA23, 12-01-2002:

Hey Stranger. I do have a few comments myself in regards to your post here, but I think I'll wait until the unveiling of the "new board" to post them. Please continue the discussion over there!  :) I think it's time for a rewatch of Unforgiven too! Then I'll be able to address things like it drags in the middle, and other stuff like that!  :) Actually, a rewatch of The Outlaw Josey Wales and Unforgiven is probably in order!   ;D
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« Reply #19 on: December 03, 2002, 07:34:53 PM »

Originally posted by Stranger, 12-01-2002:

Yep, I know how painful it is watching 2 Eastwood films back to back   ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D
   
-Stranger-
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