Let's review the 21st century of western movies, starting with... um. Okay, I had to dig for the ones I'd missed. It seemed dead for a while there. Like, dust. I have to admit there were a lot of TV movies made and miniseries including the remake of Around the World in 80 Days with Pierce Brosnan and Jackie Chan, but I'm talking the big screen. Film - those big reels (now replaced by digital copies) spinning a stream overhead, and a dark theater with those cushy seats, sticky floors, with a bucket of buttered popcorn at your elbow.
In 2004, RENEGADE came out, along with THE ALAMO, another miss (dang!) with Dennis Quaid, Billy Bob Thornton and Jason Patric -- a remake of the John Wayne-Richard Widmark classic made back in 1960 -- along with HOME ON THE RANGE, a cute and fun animated film from what I heard. All three are also on my list. But not the western horror DEAD BIRDS, though.
I'm not even going there with The Quick and the Undead. Nope.
THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD -- a mouthful, indeed, for a film title, won the 2007 Spur Award for Best Western Drama Script (Fiction) and starred Brad Pitt. That should have made it a mega-hit, except I'd never heard of it. Reviewers certainly loved it. Probably worth a look, since the classic 1939 film with Henry Ford as Frank James and Tyrone Power as Jesse is stuck in my head. I'll have to add it to the list.
BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE also came out the same year, with Aidan Quinn and Anna Paquin, which according to some reviews, is rather an inaccurate account of historical events. Missed this one, along with SEPTEMBER DAWN which dealt with a Mormon massacre.
And then in 2008, THERE WILL BE BLOOD was set in turn-of-the-century California, with Daniel Day Lewis who won the Academy Award for Best Actor in his role of Daniel Plainview, silver miner turned oil tycoon. It's a pretty dark movie, from what I hear, so I may bypass it. But hey, California *is* in the west after all, and has tons of great history. And another missed film was GONE TO TEXAS with Sam Elliott. Dang. Chalk another one on the list.
In 2010, the Coen brothers remade TRUE GRIT in a far more faithful adaptation of the Charles Portis' book. It won the Spur Award for Best Western Drama in 2012. But people complained that Jeff Bridges wasn't good enough to fill Duke's boots. I thought he did a fine job, and I much prefer Hailee Steinfield's portrayal of Mattie than Kim Darby. (Sorry, Kim, you were too old and you should have worn a long-haired wig in a loose topknot, at the very least). Even Matt Damon improved on Glen Campbell's LaBoef. I enjoyed seeing the Duke and Kate Hepburn in the (fictional) sequel, Rooster Cogburn, which came out after the original True Grit film. I have my doubts the Coens will bother. Too bad.
THE WARRIOR'S WAY also came out, along with MEEK'S CUTOFF and JONAH HEX. No idea if they're good/bad.
Another movie that came out that year, BLACKTHORN, begins with an intriguing premise. What if Butch Cassidy didn't die in Bolivia, and is tired of living as an ex-Pat and wants to see his old friends back home? From what I hear, Sam Shepard gives a solid performance. I'm putting it on my TBW list -- although some reviewers say it's nowhere near the Paul Newman-Robert Redford Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid romp of the 70s. Still, might be interesting to see. Yup, the list. Not so for THE LEGEND OF HELL'S GATE, despite being based on Texas history, or YELLOW ROCK.
I missed all of these 2012 films: DJANGO UNCHAINED which won director/writer Quentin Tarantino an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, plus a Golden Globe and a Spur Award for Best Western Drama Script (Fiction). Sam Elliott's I WILL FIGHT NO MORE FOREVER, which is supposedly a far more accurate depiction of the Nez Perce tribe's flight to Canada. Both AMBUSH AT DARK CANYON and DAWN RIDER were not well received. Surprisingly, the "are-you-serious?" hit ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER might not have been set in the west, but come on! Honest Abe, hunting fang-studded vamps! That is definitely on my TBW list.
I rather doubt it, not with this year's coming films THE REDEMPTION OF HENRY MYERS, THE HOMESMAN, THE SALVATION, DOC HOLLIDAY'S REVENGE, FORSAKEN, HOT BATH AND A STIFF DRINK, plus 2015's JANE GOT A GUN and BONE TOMAHAWK plus others. Wow! Keep 'em coming, that's what we say. Don't forget this month's A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST -- it might not be as funny as The Lone Ranger. Then again, it might be better! Hey, Liam Neeson's in it. You might be able to see the whole movie by clicking here.
One thing is for sure. Western films for the big screen ain't exactly dead and buried. Yet.
Award-winning mystery author Meg Mims -- also one-half of the writing team of D.E. Ireland -- lives in Southeastern Michigan with her husband, a 'Make My Day' Malti-poo dog and a sweet Lhasa Apso-mix rescue dog -- the "hero" of Santa Paws. She loves writing novels, short novellas and short stories, both contemporary and historical. She earned a Spur Award, a Laramie Award and an M.A. from Seton Hill University's Writing Popular Fiction program.