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Part 2

The Searchers (1956) based on Alan Le May’s novel from nineteen fifty-six is highly regarded as Ford’s finest work and ranked as high as number five on the prestigious British Film Institute’s Sight and Sound worldwide critics poll. The Searchers(1956) concerns the story of ex-confederate soldier and outlaw Ethan Edwards played by John Wayne. Upon returning to his brothers ranch in Texas the home is attacked while he is away by Comanche Indians. His brother and sister-in-law are killed and their two young daughters are abducted. This sends the already unstable Edwards into a psychotic frenzy, which spurns a racist, obsessive, and sadistic search for the youngest daughter Debbie. Martin Pawlenty, the family’s adopted brother who is an 8th Cherokee Indian accompanies Ethan on his quest. Soon, it becomes apparent to Martin that Ethan has no intention of saving Debbie from the Comanche, Ethan sees her as being tainted by them. The only way to redeem his family is by killing her. In Ethan Edwards, Ford conjured up an anti-hero that is deplorable, un-forgivable , and at the time mirrored racial prejudice in the US. Edward Buscombe writes in his in-depth piece on The Searchers (1956) that Ford, “set out to make a film on the perennial American issue of race”.

Many critics have dismissed The Searchers(1956) as furthering the white dominance myth and manifest destiny themes that can be easily taken from the film upon a shallow and brief viewing. Tag Gallagher, the noted Ford historian gives a brief defense of Ford’s views on race and sexism in an interview from 2001 with Toni D’Angela.

“Naturally, the Ford bashers claim Ford “celebrates patriarchy” when, for example, he depicts the rich tapestry of rites and traditions of the family in How Green Was My Valley.  It doesn’t matter that Ford also shows that because of these traditions the family and the valley are destroyed, like in Fort Apache.  Ford’s sin is to depict them in the first place.  Similarly, because Ford shows that people are conditioned by racism, he is called  “racist.”

In a film such as The Searchers (1956), which deals with uncomfortable topics and situations, an emotional reaction can sometimes hide the true meaning from audiences. Larger metaphors can be missed or forgotten. Buscombe writes that the “moral conscious” of the film in embodied in Martin who is of mixed race. He is an altogether better human being than our main protagonist Ethan, who is a brutal racist and bigot. Upon first meeting Ethan the audience is drawn to him, enjoys him, but as the film progresses his violence and hate becomes intolerable, but it is not hatred that we feel for him , it is pity. Herein lies the great subtle dualism of The Searchers(1956), and why it can make audiences so uncomfortable at times.

During the nineteen sixties John Ford made one more important film, The Man who Shot Liberty Valence (1962) starring Jimmy Stewart as lawyer who is celebrated as the man who vanquished famed outlaw Liberty Valence. In actuality, Stewart’s character did not kill Valance, and he has been living a lie. This film is of particular note because of its assault on the concept of male domination, patriarchy, and unearned privilege. Art Redding in his fabulous essay about Ford, masculinity, and the Reagan administration speaks to this admirably.”The western offered a fantasy of a threatened Cold War masculinity redeemed in an all-male world of privilege and action and honor—an ideological conceit that survived, as I have argued elsewhere, until 1963, when it was exposed as hollow by such films as Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence, where the male competence underwriting social power is acknowledged to be entirely a sham”. The unraveling of the masculinity myth exemplifies the multi-leveled discourse that was always present in Ford’s Films.

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“A good friend of mine used to say, “This is a very simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains.” Think about that for a while.”   — Nuke LaLoosh

While P and J are battling over an inferior sci-fi franchise that prominently features whales, Ricardo Montalban, and the guy who played T.J. Hooker, baseball season is now in full swing (wait for it…you’re welcome for the awesome pun.)

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Far be it for me to ever disagree with the J, but I do have a few things I would like to be said in reference to Khaaaaaan….

First off, yes, Kirk is a late twentieth-century expression of the idealized American/western hero, and if I were to pick another actor or character that most closely resembles him it would be Mr. John Wayne. Furthermore, the finest example of Kirk as a character is “Khan” because of the contrast between its two main pieces, Ricardo Montalban being the other half of the equation. As many readers on here may already know, what makes a narrative sometimes isn’t really the hero. Rather, it is sometimes more dependent on whether or not the villain strikes a chord within us, either repulsion or as in the case of Khan….maybe we kind of like him.

But I digress, the point I wanted to bring up was about the whales. The first Star Trek movie I saw was the The Voyage Home, and as a little kid, I loved it. It was right up there with Goonies, and Indiana Jones. Upon a re-watching as an older, wiser adult, yes some of the scenes look somewhat trite or contrived, but I could never shake the enjoyment I had from watching the movie (The Voyage Home is definitely a movie, in the best sense). So, you can either chalk it up to brazen sentimentality, or disregard me as Neo-Platonic wonk, but I like that movie, it makes me feels good about myself and others. So sue me.

Also, this scene is sweet.

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Or should I say “film”?

Just noticed that Star Trek 2: Wrath of Khan is now on Netflix watch instantly. I am watching it right now (thanks Gideon!) because it is totally awesome and is by far the greatest of the Shatner-era Star Trek movies.

I have always enjoyed watching Star Trek. It is fun, ridiculous, melodramatic, and at times, intelligent. On top of that, it is also the one thing my dad and I have in common. He is a HUGE Star Trek fan having grown up with the original series, though I think now he prefers The Next Generation. Me too. Of course, it goes without saying that although I may love Picard, I’m in love with James T. Kirk. He’s a frickin’ icon!

Being older and wiser, I think the Shatner-era films are best described as inconsistent. Some are very good, while others make you wonder what in the hell they were smoking. For example, Star Trek: The Motion Picture (not to be confused with the recent J.J. Abrams flick) was just awful and made absolutely no sense. I mean come on, the T.V. show was about the U.S.S. Enterprise boldly going where no man has gone before, right? So, why in their first full length feature do they only boldly go as far as the moon? Come on! Same goes with Star Trek 4: Whale Watching, though I am predicting that P will comment that this is his favorite. It is often the favorite of the pinko commie demographic. The rest are pretty good, like Star Trek 3: Search for Spock, which is really just Khan Part 2. I can’t remember, didn’t Christopher Lloyd play the klingon villian in this one? Star Trek 5: Final Frontier, was really a misnomer because we know it was not the final movie of this era. It was pretty good, but the premise of searching for God in space was a little hard for me. I have no recollection of Star Trek 6: Undiscovered Country, but I know that I liked it.

All pale in comparison to Star Trek 2: Wrath of Khan. It is simply the best, and for me, the only one that is in the true spirit of the original T.V. show. It has all the famous Star Trek lines and Ricardo Montalban. What else do you need? So, as a tribute to this piece of cinematic treasure, here is one of my favorite scenes. Enjoy. And may the force be with you…wait…what?

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Part 1

Oh for shame, how the mortals put the blame on us gods, for they say evils come from us, but it is they, rather, who by their own recklessness win sorrow beyond what is given…….

-Zeus, from Homer’s Odyssey

“Art is a lie that Tells the Truth.”

-Pablo Picasso

Tales of human perseverance, loneliness, courage, persecution, and strength have been handed down for centuries from one storyteller to the next, carrying on a sacred tradition that is as old as time itself. These tales have framed the fabric of the human psyche and our culture has come to reflect them. John Ford and Akira Kurosawa, two directors from distinctly different cultural backgrounds embody this fable telling in its most profound contemporary manifestations.

John Ford, the great American filmmaker of the mid-twentieth century was a monumental influence on the young Akira Kurosawa. Both men would shape modern cinema in ways that neither of them could fathom, Kurosawa borrowing many of the themes and tones of Ford’s films. Kurosawa in turn would directly inspire modern filmmakers such as George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola. This artistic connection and mutual admiration between these giants of film produced some of the greatest cinematic moments in film history. The themes explored by these two poets of the human condition are not new. Sacrifice, death, courage under extreme duress, and the constant struggle between man and the environment are central to the mythology Ford and Kurosawa helped to explore. The lyrical and contextual images of their films are strikingly similar in prose and style, both preferring simplicity in shot selection and dialogue. Both saw the natural setting of their films as intricate to the storyline, as an active participant in the film’s narrative. The imagery of characters dwarfed by Neolithic rock formations or riders in shadow approaching along a ridge descending into a deep ravine do not simply imply movement to a destination, for Ford and Kurosawa these panoramic shots say more about the people and storyline of their films than any dialogue ever could.

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Quote of the day

Let me tell you the story of Right Hand, Left Hand. It’s a tale of good and evil. Hate: it was with this hand that Cane iced his brother. Love: these five fingers, they go straight to the soul of man. The right hand: the hand of love. The story of life is this: static. One hand is always fighting the other hand, and the left hand is kicking much ass. I mean, it looks like the right hand, Love, is finished. But hold on, stop the presses, the right hand is coming back. Yeah, he got the left hand on the ropes, now, that’s right. Ooh, it’s a devastating right and Hate is hurt, he’s down. Left-Hand Hate KOed by Love.

-Radio Raheem from Do the Right Thing

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The main complaint about Band of Brothers when it aired was the sheer quantity of unrecognizable actors playing characters who frequently move in an out of the action – my Dad still has trouble keeping the Easy company guys straight and he’s seen Band of Brothers multiple times. The people behind The Pacific acknowledged this problem and tried to focus the action on three characters: Leckie, Basilone, and Sledge. We’ve barely seen Sledge so far in four episodes, and Basilone was completely absent this week save a comic book cameo, so Robert Leckie has become the heart, soul, and conscience of The Pacific.

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