Odious and Peculiar

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Friday, February 01, 2008
 
Meanwhile, back at Diablo Canyon....

We saw 3:10 to Yuma recently the recent remake, not the original), and I was highly pleased. It really is nice to see a well plotted, well acted (Russell Crowe is great, but I kept thinking, "How did Jack Aubrey become an old west outlaw?"), generally quality western, and looking at some home landscapes in cinematic context was an added treat. For instance, here we have the distinctive profile of Buckman Mesa beside Christian Bale's boot:


And here's Peter Fonda about to flip a stage coach in my old haunt of Diablo Canyon:


I actually wandered out there inadvertantly during filming to take a hike, and saw a flock of trailers and signs pointing toward various chase sequences. Through a remarkable act of willpower, I resisted the urge to climb the back of the mesa and trundle some rocks on the invaders, whoever they might be. In hindsight I regret it; I might have serendipitously contributed to a fine film. As I recall, they did manage to kill a horse with no help from me. What's a western movie without at least one dead horse?

On the other hand, what's with Hollywood's inveterate, unyeilding dyslexia in regard to landscapes? Yes, yes, it doesn't bother most audiences, nor should it really, but just once I'd like to see them get one right. 3:10 to Yuma is set in Arizona, but was obviously filmed entirely within about 30 miles of Santa Fe. Unbelievable as it may seem to the masses, most of New Mexico (particularly Santa Fe) looks nothing like most of Arizona (particularly Bisbee). Just once, just once I'd like to see a western in which landscape nerds like me could turn to our dates with a satisfied snigger and say (for instance), "See, Captain Gunnison's not being shot full of Paiute arrows just anywhere. That really is the Sevier Desert!" "Fremont's men are eating each other in the real La Garitas!" How cool would that be? Seems like we're about due for a new Apache movie, and wouldn't it be wonderful to see one filmed in vast, intricate, utterly bizarre landscapes of southern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico instead of the done-to-death vistas of Monument Valley and southern Utah?

Sigh. No one likes my ideas. I spent half the afternoon imagining a western with a plot based on Njal's Saga.

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Comments:
Didn't John Ford like Monument Valley because it was as stark as a modernist stage set? It was always amusing to think of anyone living there as a homesteader or cattle rancher.

Let's face it, the nearest thing to a realistic Western was "McCabe and Mrs. Miller."

Me, I always wonder why "Red Dawn" was set in Colorado but filmed in northern New Mexico.

Watching the opening scenes, I was thinking, "Somewhere around Cortez ... naaah." And then I had to wait for the credits, because I obsess about these things.
 
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