Wagon Master (John Ford, 1950). I must say, I find the appearance of this film on best-of lists to be surprising. I could see some John Ford fan appreciating this mellow entry from the old man (OK, that’s cheating, he was younger when he made this than I am now), but that’s about it. A lot of the praise for the film comes from the way Ford gives the screen over to actors who were usually second-tier … the absence of John Wayne meant Ben Johnson, Ward Bond, and (to a less enjoyable extent) Harry Carey Jr. had nice moments in the sun. But Joanne Dru is wasted; Red River came only two years earlier, but Dru’s feistiness is buried here (Ford doesn’t give us “Hawksian” women). The movie is slow, largely gentle, doesn’t demonize the Indians for a change, and is over in 86 minutes. A genial time-passer, but nothing more. #625 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of all time, which is a bit of a head-scratcher. 6/10.
Rango (Gore Verbinski, 2011). An animated western from Industrial Light & Magic and the guy who directed all of those crappy Pirates of the Caribbean movies. It’s a busy movie, nice to look at, and geared towards an adult audience. Roger Ebert, who gave it his highest rating, compared it favorably to another western he loves, Blazing Saddles, and that might my problem right there, because I don’t much like Blazing Saddles. As is often the case in contemporary movies, homage is paid to various films of the past, from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to Apocalypse Now, from Sergio Leone westerns to Chinatown (Ned Beatty does John Huston about as well as Daniel Day-Lewis did in There Will Be Blood). All of this allows for an entertaining parlor game, “Hey, I saw that movie!” 6/10.
The Passion of Joan of Arc (Carl Dreyer, 1928). #15 on my Facebook Fave Fifty list. #20 on the TSPDT list. 10/10.
The Earrings of Madame de … (Max Ophüls, 1953). #14 on my Facebook list, #85 on the TSPDT list. 10/10.