Friday, December 30, 2016

Western Movie Gunfights

The end of one year and the start of another usually signals awards season in the film industry. Long story short, it’s the time of year when the studios roll out their Oscar contenders. It’s also when most of the movies I don’t care about are released. I’ve never forgiven the Academy for their Smokey and the Bandit snub back in ’77, so I generally boycott the ceremony. But, that won’t stop me from handing out a few awards myself. So, let’s talk Western gunfights. It isn’t an Oscar or Golden Globe category, but it sure should be.
Best Gunfight In a Classic Western
This one, for me, goes hands down to Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. This film is one of my all-time favorites. The final battle between the Earp faction and the Clantons is one of the greatest gunfights ever filmed. True, it isn’t historically accurate in the least. But, it’s a darn good firefight. The climactic struggle is wonderfully filmed by my personal favorite director, John Sturges. It’s tense, action packed, and the perfect pay-off to a wonderful film. To see how the director’s perspective changed in ten years or so, watch Hour of the Gun. That version of the famous O.K. Corral fight is much different, but equally as effective.
Best Gunfight in a Modern Western
Open Range. Need I say more? Wonderfully choreographed and superbly filmed, the gunfight in Open Range is top notch. There’s only one gunfight in the whole movie, but it’s well worth the wait! Once the shooting starts, it goes on for about twenty minutes. That gunfight, and a whole host of other reasons, is why Open Range is on my top ten list of best movies ever made.
Most Realistic Gunfight
I’ll have to go with the final showdown in 2008’s Appaloosa. It’s quick. In fact, the first time I saw the film I was a bit disappointed. The shooting was over so fast. The whole movie just didn’t do a lot for me. The second time I saw it, I enjoyed it. Third time, I loved it. It’s now one of my favorite films.  But back to that gunfight…
I imagine that’s how Old West gunfights were (when they actually occurred): sudden and quick bursts of violence. Forget long, drawn-out fights with folks taking cover behind wagons or on top of buildings and all that. In Appaloosa, guns are drawn, used, and folks die. Plain and simple. Effective. One of the best.
Most Poignant Gunfight
Can a gunfight be poignant? I think so. And the award has to go to John Wayne’s final fight in The Shootist. Such a great movie, and such a great gunfight! It’s a film I enjoy more with each viewing. As far as the gunfight goes, it’s a bittersweet affair. We get to see some good cowboy action shooting as we say goodbye to a legend. If you haven’t seen the film, I highly recommend it. And if you’re one who believes John Wayne couldn’t act, watch The Shootist. In my opinion, his role in it was far more Oscar worthy than True Grit. But, that’s just my take, of course.
Honorable Mentions
My favorite film of all time, El Dorado, has some great gunfights (the scene where Wayne and company chase assailants into an old church and then finally into a saloon is probably my favorite sequence ever captured on film). The Professionals also contains some great scenes of western gunplay. Finally, the train shoot-out near the end of How the West Was Won is pretty amazing. I enjoy that whole film a great deal.
Biggest Let Down
I’m going to take some heat for this one. Don’t get me wrong, I love this movie. It’s a classic. It’s amazing. But the final gunfight in Shane was a bit disappointing to me. We  go the whole movie hearing hints of just how awesome Shane is with a gun. We also know Jack Palance has it coming. But the gunfight itself isn’t much. A couple of shots. A few seconds. It’s over pretty quickly. I suppose the film makes up for it with a great fistfight mid-way through. That being said, I still love Shane.
Please feel free to leave comments with your favorite western movie gunfights. I’d enjoy hearing from y’all!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Book Review: Will Tanner: U.S. Deputy Marshal

The world’s worst blogger is back. I appreciate everyone who reads this. Looking at the stats, there are quite a few of you. My New Year’s Resolution is to be a more mindful blogger! I’ve been writing plenty, but all on the fiction front. The blog fell dormant. That’s good news, in a way, because the fiction is going well.
But, I’m back with more frequency. At least that's the plan.
So let’s get into today’s book review. Per my annual tradition, I received several Amazon gift cards for Christmas. I’ve spent Christmas evening for about the last five or six years loading my Kindle with books for the upcoming year. This holiday was no exception. One of the titles I selected was Will Tanner: U.S. Deputy Marshal. It’s one of the latest series in the William Johnstone line.
It’s pretty darn good. It is a traditional western. Written in an older style. This is not a knock against it. In fact, I enjoyed the book immensely. The author takes his time telling the story. This is not to say that the book is ever boring. It is not! But, fans of the genre may recognize it unfolds a bit differently than the westerns being put out by Rough Edges Press or Piccadilly Publishing and some of the others.  It is not as fast paced and not as violent. There’s plenty of action, don’t get me wrong. The book is never dull. Just more in line with the old Louis L’amour titles than say Ben Bridges, Peter Brandvold, or Robert Randisi.
I won’t go into the plot too much. I’ll keep this spoiler free. The book involves Will Tanner (big shock) who becomes a deputy U.S. Marshal (another big shock). He’s based out of Arkansas, but his work takes him into Indian Territory and Texas. A good portion of this book takes place in my home state of Oklahoma, around the Arbuckle Mountains. It’s an area I know well, and I could picture many of the locations described. This added much to the story for me! I liked it.
I suspect I know who the author of this tale is. I’ve gotten fairly good at spotting some of the Johnstone ghost writers. Longtime western readers will probably figure this one out, too.
Overall, this is a solid, traditional western that kept me reading. I have the second one of the series already purchased and waiting on my Kindle. I look forward to the third installment which is due to be released this spring. If you’re wanting an old fashioned shoot ‘em up with well-drawn characters, rich detail, and exciting action, check this one out. Recommended.