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Under fire: how cinema’s new breed of cowboys are taking aim at the old west

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They can be set anywhere from Australia to Pakistan and increasingly its women who are shooting from the hip. With new westerns such as My Pure Land and Brimstone, the gunslinger genre continues to reinvent itselfin

Always changing, the western never changes. Whatever era it is, the essence remains. If I told you about a pivotal scene in which a gunslinger turns to the camera and stares, hard-eyed, at the audience, I might be describing The Great Train Robbery, made in 1903, a silent cinema milestone whose star, Justus D Barnes, was a middle-aged stage actor. Or I could mean My Pure Land, a new film about three women in rural Pakistan defending their home from bandits. Its star is Suhaee Abro, a classically trained dancer in her first major role. Thousands of miles and more than a century apart, she and Barnes share a western moment.

Westerns in 2017 are politically open-minded, geographically flexible cinematic Lego to be assembled as you like. The director of My Pure Land is Sarmad Masud, a British-Pakistani film-maker from the east Midlands, for whom the genre usefully shaped his ideas. Old and new meet again. My Pure Land is based on a contemporary true story: a young woman called Nazo Dharejo defended her family home from 200 armed assailants. And while we mostly know the western as a period piece, for the nickleodeon thrill-seekers of 1903 it was not. The Great Train Robbery, too, portrayed real events ones that had taken place three years earlier on the Union Pacific Railroad; the culprits were led by Robert LeRoy Parker, also known as Butch Cassidy, then still at large in south America.

Justus
Silent cinema milestone Justus D Barnes in The Great Train Robbery (1903). Photograph: Ronald Grant Archive

A last gasp of the old west duly became the first movie western. But from there, the task quickly became mythmaking. The western turned inexorably towards the past or a version of it. Soon came the movies that defined the genre, tales of heroes in stetsons and dastardly injuns somewhere between propaganda and mass hypnosis. The west had to be won, most westerns said, to save innocence from savagery. There were exceptions, and some of those were fantastic films but the racism stuck.

Eventually, there was a reckoning an apology even. Doubt seeped into the genre with The Searchers, director John Fords anguished 1956 story of race and revenge. By his rueful final western eight years later, Cheyenne Autumn, it was rife. And now, the western lives a noble second life a reformed ex-con devoted to good work, clean shaven and polite, embracing social progress.

My Pure Land is just the latest in a string of feminist new westerns repurposing a form in which women were once silent chattels. Female strength and male hubris feature in films from the Coen brothers remake of True Grit to the austere Meeks Cutoff, directed by Kelly Reichardt. Others flip the script on men who spent the original westerns killing to protect the honour of their wives and daughters now they are the predators against whom women must defend themselves. That was the engine of The Keeping Room and Jane Got a Gun, and now heres another movie Brimstone, a lurid tale of a preacher and his reign of terror over a series of young women.

A whole other line of modern westerns address the Native Americans once presented as whooping menaces grotesques to be wiped. Again, the keynote is contrition. Again, the production line keeps rolling. Freshly unveiled on the festival circuit is Hostiles, a starry reappraisal of Native Americans in the old west. Already on release is Wind River, a sorrowful western whodunnit about tribal life at the margins of America. For decades, the genre was the definitive example of history as written by the winners a fond origin story white America told itself in darkened movie houses, from sea to shining sea.

Like all elaborate lies, when it cracked it shattered. By the 1970s, the old western was seen as a product of a filthy America the western was the Kent State shooting, the western was My Lai. So the comeback had to be careful the genre often paired off with others as if it needed supervision. The comedy western soon became a fixture. Lately, exotic hybrids have arrived in tune with the times: the horror western (the eye-popping Bone Tomahawk) or the post-apocalyptic western (The Rover, set in outback Australia). Important too was the sense of remorse captured nowhere better than in Unforgiven, the 1992 masterwork directed by Clint Eastwood, filled with regret about old crimes and the futility of revenge. The significance was vast. The western was sorry.

Guy
Guy Pearce in The Rover (2014), set in the post-apocalyptic Australian outback. Photograph: Allstar/Porchlight Films

But it was a strange kind of sorry. For a start, the apology rarely came in an American accent. Brokeback Mountain, the film that finally made explicit the gay subtext of countless old westerns, was directed by the Taiwanese Ang Lee. Brimstone is the work of the Dutch Martin Koolhoven, with Denmarks Kristian Levring responsible for another new old west yarn, The Salvation. Oddly, the British have been particularly active: The Keeping Room (Daniel Barber), Slow West (John Maclean) and the imminent Lean On Pete (Andrew Haigh) were made by directors familiar with drizzly seasides and suburban ring roads. Many of the new westerns, by non-Americans, have struggled for an audience in America.

It was a graduate of the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, Dundee, who made the modern western that bucked the trend. David Mackenzies Hell or High Water was a story of two brothers on a crime spree in west Texas, pursued by a laconic sheriff. The frame of the film lawman and gunmen was classical. The twist was the burned-out backdrop of foreclosed farms and post-2008 economic calamity. Handsomely made, the film bloomed into a surprise box-office hit, thriving in the poisoned air of last years presidential campaign. To the left, it was a tale of working-class lives destroyed by capitalism; to the right, it was a movie about a country waiting to be Made Great Again.

Despite the presence of Jeff Bridges and Chris Pine, the real star of Hell or High Water was the red Texan landscape. In making the film, Mackenzie admitted, it had been difficult to tear his camera from the vista. The desert and dust is as potent a symbol of the genre as the gunfight. It was what, visually and spiritually, inspired Masud to make My Pure Land a western. Its like my dad says, he told the Guardian. To him Pakistan isnt just the people and the noise and the language its the soil itself.

It was American soil on which the movies of John Ford played out, the buttes and mesas of Monument Valley on the Arizona-Utah border standing in for every endless wildness since transformed into front lawn. Watching old Hollywood westerns, you can sense the obsession with taming savage ground that fills Cormac McCarthys Blood Meridian, the manic indexing of flora in the Texan borderlands carried out by the infernal Judge Holden.

Dakota
Dakota Fanning (at the bar) in Martin Koolhovens Brimstone. Photograph: Allstar/N279 Entertainment

The greatest of western novels, Blood Meridian remains unfilmed. The closest the movies have come has been the knockabout Darwinism of Leonardo DiCaprio vehicle The Revenant, in which the primal quest for survival looked like a Tough Mudder assault course. Still, directed by another film-maker from outside the US, Alejandro Gonzlez Irritu, it was a stark account of the national soul to put before the multiplex.

But of course, the western now exists in a different America than it did even last year. If Hell or High Water had two audiences, those who cheered it wearing Trump hats now own the moment. For them, the idea of the apologetic western would be met with fury and perhaps in that they wouldnt be alone.

After Unforgiven, Eastwood essentially the genre in human form only heightened its impact by suggesting it would be his final western, a last word on the subject. But it wasnt. While he never spoke of it as such, another film he directed a year later was a western too in all but name, the story of a gunslinger with a righteous cause: American Sniper, the biopic of the US Navy Seal Chris Kyle. The film was loaded with jingoism and a disputed approach to the facts. The effect was dramatic. It was as popular in the US as it was divisive, a film wrapped in the flag that made enemies of its detractors.

In the long run-up to the current political moment, American Sniper played a crucial role. By the time of the election, Eastwood had confirmed he himself would be voting for the candidate whose idea of American heritage is, it turns out, much like the one you see in old westerns.

Clearly, the man who made Unforgiven was not so sorry after all. And neither is the old west.

Brimstone and My Pure Land are on general release.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/oct/13/under-fire-how-cinemas-new-breed-of-cowboys-are-taking-aim-at-the-old-west

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How ‘Captain Marvel’ pays tribute to the late, great Stan Lee

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Stan Lee at the premiere of Marvel’s ‘Captain America: Civil War’ in 2016.

Image: Getty Images

“In keeping with Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain Marvel features a Stan Lee cameo. What is a little different this time, though, is how it plays out in the movie.

Shortly after Vers (a.k.a. Carol Danvers, a.k.a. Captain Marvel) lands on Earth, she finds herself on a train, trying to spot the shapeshifting Skrull among all the ordinary-looking human passengers.

At one point, her eyes fall upon an elderly man conspicuously reading a Mallrats script. It’s Stan Lee, practicing his lines for his cameo in that other movie. “Trust me, true believer,” he mutters to himself. You can watch that entire Mallrats scene below:

The Captain Marvel scene was originally written by directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck as just another fun, funny appearance by the comics legend. But after his passing in November, the filmmakers felt compelled to update the sequence to acknowledge the “gravitas” of the moment.

“Instead of just the pure laugh we had, we had a little bit of a smile from Captain Marvel in response to it, and she kind of breaks character for a moment,” Boden told me during an interview in Los Angeles last month. “I think it reflects a little bit of what the audience is feeling, and we allowed that to happen.”

In the finished cut of Captain Marvel, Vers’ gaze lingers on him for a few moments and she smiles to herself, before moving on with the rest of her quest. At the screening I attended, the audience definitely appreciated the homage – there were sighs, moans, and even a smattering of applause.

That cameo is actually the second of two Lee shout-outs in the film. The first occurs right at the start. The usual Marvel Studios opening fanfare is replaced by a special Lee-centric version, featuring all his many cameos across various Marvel movies……………………………………………….”

Read more: https://mashable.com/article/captain-marvel-stan-lee-cameo/

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‘A Star Is Born’ takes a theatrical victory lap with bonus footage

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Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper in ‘A Star Is Born.’

Image: warner bros.

“After winning an Oscar for best original song, A Star Is Born is returning to theaters for one week with some new bonus footage.

A Star Is Born is taking its Oscar victory lap starting on Friday at more than 1,100 theaters, giving fans and new viewers a chance to see 12 minutes of bonus footage, The Hollywood Reporter reported Wednesday. The new footage includes extended song performances, new song performances, and Lady Gaga’s a cappella rendition of “Shallow.”

“Shallow,” written by Lady Gaga, Mark Daniel Ronson, Anthony Rossomando, and Andrew Wyatt, earned the movie Best Original Song at the Academy Awards on Sunday. A Star Is Born was nominated for a total eight awards, including Best Picture. “Shallow” also earned two Grammys earlier in February………………………………………………………..”

Read more: https://mashable.com/article/a-star-is-born-extended-cut-new-song/

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Here’s a complete list of every winner at the 2019 Oscars

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Image: mashable composite

“Welcome to the 2019 Oscars, where it’s Queen vs. Queen Anne, A Star Is Born‘s fourth time up to bat, a victory lap for Wakanda fans, and so much more.

Last year was packed with some incredible films. In a tight race to determine the best of the best (according to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences), it all comes down to one big night at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood.

Below, updating live, are all the winners at the 91st Academy Awards — and the Oscar goes to…

Best Picture
Black Panther
BlacKkKlansman
Bohemian Rhapsody
The Favourite
Green Book — WINNER
Roma
A Star Is Born
Vice

Best Actor
Christian Bale, Vice
Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born
Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate
Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody — WINNER
Viggo Mortensen, Green Book

Best Actress
Yalitza Aparicio, Roma
Glenn Close, The Wife
Olivia Colman, The Favourite — WINNER
Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born
Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali, Green Book — WINNER
Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman
Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born
Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Sam Rockwell, Vice

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, Vice
Marina de Tavira, Roma
Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk — WINNER
Emma Stone, The Favourite
Rachel Weisz, The Favourite

Best Director
Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman
Pawel Pawlikowski, Cold War
Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite
Alfonso Cuarón, Roma — WINNER
Adam McKay, Vice………………………………………………………………………………”

See the rest of the list here: https://mashable.com/article/oscars-winners-list-2019/

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