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Author Topic: Steak & Potatoes vs Spaghetti  (Read 32394 times)
bigdai
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« Reply #80 on: March 03, 2003, 02:07:38 PM »

I have just finished some research on a book called The Popular Arts by Stuart Hall and Paddy Whannel (1964).  It is one of the founding books of British media and cultural studies and is aimed at education.  In the book Hall and Whannel argue that there are two kinds of popular culture: Popular Art and Mass Art.  

Popular Art is art that has derived from folk art and has its own personality and style.  In the case of a film, it may be the directors personal style or the actors performance in response to the script, director, audience etc.  Mass art is a corrupt version of this.  In mass art there is no stylization or personality.  The work is depersonalised and the audiences reactions are taken into account in the production of the art.  They gave the following example of this by comparing Liberace with Johnny St. Cyr a musician of the same period.

St. Cyr:

‘The more enthusiastic his audience is, why the more spirit the working man’s got to play.  And with your natural feelings that way you never make the same thing twice.  Every time you play a tune new ideas come to mind and you slip that one in.
ed. N. Shapiro and N. Hentoff, Hear Me Talkin’ to Ya  

Liberace:

"My whole trick is to keep the tune well out in front.  If I play Tchaikovsky I play his melodies and skip his spiritual struggles.  Naturally I condense.   I have to know just how many notes my audience will stand for.  If there’s time left over I fill in with a lot of run ups and down the keyboard."
Reported in Jazz Monthly

In other words Johnny St. Cyr is an organic artist whereas Liberace is a corrupt version of this in it for the money.

This may seem slightly off the point.  However, if Clint Eastwood had gone onto make westerns in a formulaic way, copying the success of Leone, then he would have been guilty of producing this mass art as he would be doing it for the sake of the audience reaction and the box office.  This is what Lee Van Cleef went on to do.  It is obviously a shame to a Leone fan that Eastwood didn't go on to make Leonesque westerns.  However, the fact that he didn't created more satisfying films in a purely artistic sense, if we follow the Hall and Whannel model.  I'm not saying this form of textual cultural discrimination is correct and it is certainly contradictory to some extent.  Despite this, it is worth bearing in mind when considering why Eastwood treated a film like Hang 'em High differently.  He is certainly closer to an artist than a Jean Claude Van Dam or perhaps a Mel Gibson whose films have always been formulaic.
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cigar joe
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« Reply #81 on: March 03, 2003, 07:13:01 PM »

You could say in a sence that Eastwood went on to to play a character in a formulaic way, copying the success of the Leone molded character, then is he guilty of reproducing this character for the sake of the audience reaction and the box office?

I think that Eastwood the director finally got it right with Unforgiven finally we are hitting on all cylinders, an excellent movie, realistic looking sets,  good camera work, top notch actors, great script, a great villan, and the big payoff shoot out in the end, the only flaw and its a very small one is the sparing use of music, Bravo!
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Doug
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« Reply #82 on: March 03, 2003, 11:31:23 PM »

...[Unforgiven's] only flaw and its a very small one is the sparing use of music, Bravo!

By that logic then you could say the major flaw of Hitchcock's The Birds is the total lack of music.  But he was obviously going for something different, a different feel, and an experimental approach to sound in movies.  I think that's what Clint was doing in Unforgiven (though not to that extreme), going for a muted, interspective feel in the music in a movie rich in natural sounds.  Clint has always seemed very aware of sound in his movies, going back to Play Misty for Me, so I think he consciously wanted the sound of Unforgiven to have a particular feel.  Just as Leone wanted a particular sound in the spaghetti westerns.  

To each his own of course.  I just couldn't imagine a big score accompanying Unforgiven.  Ugh.  

Glad you're joining in the discussion here on Clint's board.

And to your question:
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You could say in a sence that Eastwood went on to to play a character in a formulaic way, copying the success of the Leone molded character, then is he guilty of reproducing this character for the sake of the audience reaction and the box office?
I think you have a point.  Clint was in the process of finding himself, so to speak, I think at this point when doing Hang 'em High.   But it was an important role for him, if for no other reason he was now portraying a hero with flaws and weaknesses, which he would come to do much better in the years to come.
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« Reply #83 on: March 04, 2003, 09:55:36 AM »

This is where the contradictions in the theses is evident.  Having said, that i'm not sure that the characters were formulaic.  Certainly there have been similarities in each, but they are all also very different.  Cooper is different to Josey Wales who is different to the Preacher who is different to Will Munny.  The similarities tend to show through Eastwood's acting personality.  The audience know what to expect from Eastwood in a western without it being predictable and formulaic.  In this way Eastwood has changed his films and developed them in line with the audience reaction rather than giving them the reaction.  An example is you would not have expected Josey Wales to settle down after watching the character in High Plains Drifter or the liberalism of Callaghan in the first sequal to Dirty Harry.

I agree with Doug about the music in Unforgiven.  who needs hoards of music when you can have something as effective and beautiful as Claudia's theme.
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« Reply #84 on: March 04, 2003, 05:32:50 PM »

The music point I made for "Unforgiven" was really nothing more a personal preference.

I'll continue Steak & Potatoes vs Spaghetti  thoughts off the top of my head from "Hang 'em High".

Two Mules For Sister Sara - This was a great story too, Clint and dynomite together again. The train wreck was great, they should have had more. This one really had potential it had Morricone but lacked the outstanding camera work and feel of a spaghetti. Shirley Maclaine was better than their first choice (Liz Taylor), but it could have used someone more sizzilling,sexy and sultry, Shirley, always seens a bit to tomboyish. Again this one lacked a strong villan to play off Clint.

Joe Kidd- This one had an ok good story, and Robert Duval made a good villan and some of his henchmen were memorable. But the western town looked too Disneyland-Knots Berry farmish almost like some tourist attraction. It had some good Leone type gunmanship and weaponship action, example the very realistic longrange gunbattle where you see and hear the bullets before you hear the gunshot. Chamma could have been played by a better actor. The set piece of the Locomotive running into the saloon was good but I think would have caused more damage.  No memorable music either. It just lacked the big Leone type concepts. It was more like a long tv western, to familiar to the typical 50's fare.

High Plains Drifter - a good story, the avenging gunfighter returns to punnish the townfolk and the released outlaws framed by the same. The most spahgetti like of Clints American westerns, I agree. Aside from Geoffry Lewis (a very good character actor), "Whisbone" (from Rawhide) and Billy Curtis who were great, it could have used some big name actors to play opposite Clint. Whats lacking in Clints American westerns is Leone's way of casting stars out of character that worked so well to keep audiences on edge.  Its all probably got something to do with probably lower budgets. Its all probably got something to do with lower budgets, and the fact that the movies were shot here in expensive America, Leone got more bang for the buck in Spain.

The movies location was definitely different, and it probably should have shown much more of it, in Leone's epics the sweeping landscapes had a lot to with the feel of the movies and were just as much a part of the film as Morricone's music.  Leones big landscapes were even bigger because he amplified the sounds to an un-natural volume, crows cawing, endless wind, mechanical creaks, steam hissing, hooves pounding.  The town setting seems just a tadd  too constrained, some of the story elements should have been moved to other locations. The mine owners storyline could have taken place at the mine which would have given the opportunity for another location. The town set itself seemed to be built on the cheap, look at the realistic mining boom towns in "Paint your Wagon" or "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" Also seemed to lack extras which would have given the town more of a boom atmosphere to go with its shinny new penny look.

Painting the town red was a great touch, and the burning down of most of it was good too, but again the climax should have been more Leonesque.  Again overall good with what seemed to me a fatal flaw that being too low a budget.

Pale Rider- Off the top of my head impressions, No really strong bad guy, ok you had the mining big shot, his son, and probably the strongest badie the old "Lawman" actor in the duster with his bunch, again they're all too weak to bring a heightened building conflict with Clint. The "Lawman" actor maybe should have been used more, but still to get the Leone effect going you need one or two big names and cast them against type. What you are left with here is evil watered down. Again we are creeping back towards the melodrama of the past.

The best part was Clints use of the preloaded cap and ball revolver cylinders on his gunbelt. this would be the way to do it before brass cartridges.

This had to be the first eco-western, but again, instead of a world class cast and crew it has the feel of Clint getting together with a bunch of friends and old acting buddies and making a western on a shoestring budget.

I don't even remember the music for this one.


The Outlaw Josey Wales- On this one I actually read the book first, it was a first class book up until Josey ran into what I call "Sondra Locke and the Beverly Hillbllies", lol. It was like two different people wrote the story it just completely changed gears. If you have never read the book do so its very apparent. The movie was similar it was good up until the arrival of Sondra Locke. It could have been great with again a better villan played by a top star. The scenes with Chief Dan George were a hoot, and if they had never run into Locke and crew it probably would have been just fine and probably more entertaining. But again we get stock players from Clints other movies which for some reason just don't seem to be top notch. We just don't quite get the same rarified atmosphere that we get from Leone, no memorable camera shots, no amplified squeaks or hoofbeats, gunclicks, no big gundown and no Morricone music.

These are just my preferences and I do enjoy the american movies in and of themselves but we are doing Steak & Potatos vs Spaghetti.


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bdc28
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« Reply #85 on: March 05, 2003, 09:06:50 AM »

Hey ya KC,

I had a thought on the "Monco-Manco" thing. If we go with Manco..literal meaning being maimed or one limbed.

Couldnt that just be a nickname? Like "Lefty" or "One arm Jake"? Bringing attention to one of his attributes?
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« Reply #86 on: March 08, 2003, 02:06:39 PM »

Cigar Joe, from reading your posts, it would sound as if Leone's westerns were big-budgeted, but of course they weren't. I know the first two had pretty darn small budgets.
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but again the climax should have been more Leonesque.
From what I gather by statements like this, is that Leone should have directed every Clint western.
Quote
This one really had potential it had Morricone...
I think I'm starting to see a trend here, now. Morricone's scores added something really great to the spaghetti's, but I don't think his music alone gave Two Mules potential.

I realize your a big Sergio fan, which is all right, I really like the guy too. But every single Eastwood western could not have been like Leone's. I don't see how that would have worked. Eastwood might be attracted to a certain type of character that he played in the MWNN trilogy, but he certainly doesn't need to copy someone else's style. If Eastwood had made all these westerns in a Leonesque way, they could not have possibly been as memorable, or as good. If Eastwood had tried to do this, it would have never worked, he would have never became what he became.

Besides, Eastwood's talent stands alone. He's a great film maker, and I do believe he learned from Leone, but his talent is what has gotten him where he is now, not by copying other great film makers.
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« Reply #87 on: March 08, 2003, 04:58:20 PM »

Hey ya KC,

I had a thought on the "Monco-Manco" thing. If we go with Manco..literal meaning being maimed or one limbed.

Couldnt that just be a nickname? Like "Lefty" or "One arm Jake"? Bringing attention to one of his attributes?
Yes, bdc, I'm sure that is exactly what it is. I should have said so explicitly, but I've written so much on this question over the years ... I'm now quoting pieces of my old posts ... that I sometimes to forget to make sure I've said the essential. "The Man With No Name" wasn't just a UA publicity gimmick. The character Eastwood plays in these three films literally didn't have a name, not one that would pass muster as such in civil society anyway. He had nicknames, monikers, sobriquets: "Joe" (only the coffin maker calls him that, and it's possibly his name for all gringos) ... "Manco"  or "Lefty" ... and of course, "Blondy" (again, only one character ever uses even that much of a name when addressing or referring to him).
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cigar joe
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« Reply #88 on: March 08, 2003, 09:24:23 PM »

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Cigar Joe, from reading your posts, it would sound as if Leone's westerns were big-budgeted, but of course they weren't. I know the first two had pretty darn small budgets

The first two films did have small budgets, but look how much improved FAFDM was over the first film, GBU's budget was bigger yet, but one thing to remember Leone got much more bang for the buck in Spain.

Quote
realize your a big Sergio fan, which is all right, I really like the guy too. But every single Eastwood western could not have been like Leone's. I don't see how that would have worked. Eastwood might be attracted to a certain type of character that he played in the MWNN trilogy, but he certainly doesn't need to copy someone else's style. If Eastwood had made all these westerns in a Leonesque way, they could not have possibly been as memorable, or as good. If Eastwood had tried to do this, it would have never worked, he would have never became what he became.

Well I suppose your right in away, but I'm looking at things from a different perspective, through a prism of time. Look at it this way imagine watching years of  Hollywood formulaic fare, then the inundation in the 50’s and 60’s of TV western melodramas, the western genre was getting predictable and quite tired. As a kid I would devour any and all westerns, many on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, things were carved in stone, black and white, you knew the bad guys from the good, who was going to get the girl, who was going to win the draw, who was going to ride away into the sunset.

On a Saturday afternoon in the late sixties in New York City, I stumbled onto “For a Few Dollars More”, and it was never again the same. It literally blew me away. They were that different.

Leone arrived on the scene with the uber western, the violence was shocking at that point in history, and like James Coburn was quoted saying in the recent Leone tribute something on the order of, Leone made the western which was already big and made it “BIGGER”, essentially amplifying all the codes taking familiar faces and clichés from what came before and twisting them into wonderful new extravagances. The disdain that he showed for the use of pretty faces using grizzled, leathery, weathered characters also stands apart from modern demographics oriented westerns that from time to time show up at todays cinema.  Leone also injected the shades of gray real life ambiguities into his films that culminated in what was called at the time the “anti-hero”. Upwards of 600 imitations flooded the market and since then, the genre has all but trickled away, what does get made seems to be drifting back to the days of melodrama prehaps that is the natural tendency of things.

Just think of any movie you that you've seen that really blew the doors off of anything that came before and and you will begin to see what I mean.

That said, I believe "Unforgiven" is the best western made in a long time and Clint has become a great director.



« Last Edit: March 08, 2003, 09:58:13 PM by KC » Logged
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« Reply #89 on: March 08, 2003, 10:09:42 PM »

Cigar Joe, thanks for your posts. I'm always surprised how little overlap there is between the Leone board and this one. It's good to hear from someone who is first and foremost a Leone fan, but can still appreciate Eastwood's own contributions to the Western genre.

I edited your last post to set off the quotes that you took from Christopher's post from your own comments. Hope you don't mind. If you want to quote another post in the future, you can use the "Quote" option on that post, adding your comments after the final "[ /quote]" tag in the Reply window. Or you can paste the text you want to quote into the Reply window, then highlight it and click the "quote" button, second from the right in the second row of buttons above the Reply window ( ).
« Last Edit: March 08, 2003, 10:44:30 PM by KC » Logged
cigar joe
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« Reply #90 on: March 10, 2003, 05:48:57 AM »

Thanks KC, I was fumbling with that ;)
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« Reply #91 on: April 11, 2003, 09:29:11 AM »

On a Saturday afternoon in the late sixties in New York City, I stumbled onto “For a Few Dollars More”, and it was never again the same. It literally blew me away.

Yeah, that's somethin.' I bet it seemed like a completely different movie at the time, being a completely different era, and on the big screen at that. To me, lots of Eastwood's movies are like that, even the so-called 'mediocre' ones. When they first came out, they were great (still are of course), and they never failed to entertain....you're head would be buzzin' after walking out of the theater. I'll never forget the applause of approval the audiences would give when the movies were over. That original impact stays with you.  
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