August 2, 2011 No Comments

John Ford’s 1939 Western “Stagecoach” was screened this past weekend at the DFT and is not available for big screen viewing at other theaters if you missed it Saturday. Still, it remains my “must see” movie of the week, even if you must settle for DVD viewing. If this column were called “movies that I am glad I saw” I could instead recommend several of the more easily available films I saw this weekend “Sarah’s Key”, “Crazy,Stupid, Love.” and “Rango” (oops, but that brings us full circle back to Stagecoach)…..none of these fit the “must see!!!” criteria the way “Stagecoach” does.   This film is groundbreaking on so many levels that make it “required” viewing:   this was John Ford’s first sound Western and was so successful in 1939 that it  elevated the genre from”B movie” status to genuine “A list”  earning nine Oscar nominations;   this was John Wayne’s breakout role and his portrayal of  ” the Ringo Kid’ made him a star;   this was Ford’s first film shot in Monument Valley -with his famous low angle shots and lots of sky– the quintessential Western- location-still current as metaphor –respectfully reconfigured in films like  Cohen Brother’s “No Country for Old Men”;   this film transcended  the B movie “good guy-bad guy” focus for an ensemble cast of “not as good as they think”  guys and gals and “bad guys” who ultimately  posesses the true moral compass;  Orson Welles apparently watched “Stagecoach”  40 times before he filmed “Citizen Kane”.    Need more reasons?   How about a crooked banker (heard of those?) who looks into the camera as he is absconding with the town’s money (sound familiar in 2011?) and declares ” What’s good for the banks is good for the country.”  !!!!!!     This  thoroughly entertaining film  feels familiar because it has been emulated and copied for decades (including the recent Johnny Depp as animated lizard in “Rango”) but it never feels tired.       We recognize the hooker with a heart of gold, the drunken doctor, the Confederate gambler, the pregnant damsel, the meek and mild salesman, the not-so bright driver, the rotten banker and the outlaw avenging the murder of his family and  join them in their journey hoping  like “heck” that the Calvary makes it in time ……. A Must See Movie  this week or any week!.. ….Jolyn Wagner

Must See Movie of the Week

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