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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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Peter Dinklage gets yet another Emmy for his role as Tyrion Lannister

Charmaine Blake

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Peter Dinklage wins yet another Emmy for his role in ‘Game of Thrones.’

Image: hbo

Peter Dinklage won his third Emmy for most outstanding supporting actor in a drama series at the Emmys on Monday.

Dinklage, who plays the iconic Tyrion Lannister in HBO’s Game of Thrones, was nominated alongside fellow Game of Thrones actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who plays his brother Jaime Lannister.

For his work as Tyrion, Dinklage has been nominated in the category seven times, winning in 2011, 2015, and now 2018.

In his acceptance speech, Dinklage thanked Coster-Waldau, who earned his first Emmy nomination for his work on Game of Thrones this year.

Hopefully both actors survive the final season of Game of Thrones coming in 2019, or at least get one more nomination next year if they do meet their demise.

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‘Green Book’ Wins Toronto Film Festival’s People’s Choice Award

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Peter Farrelly’s “Green Book” has won the Grolsch People’s Choice Award at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival, TIFF announced at an awards ceremony on Sunday.

The film, which tells the true story of an Italian-American nightclub bouncer (Viggo Mortensen) who serves as the chauffeur for a black pianist (Mahershala Ali) on a tour through the Deep South in the early 1960s, opened at the festival on Tuesday and was an instant hit with audiences and critics, although Bradley Cooper’s “A Star Is Born” had been considered the likely winner of the People’s Choice Award.

Runners-up for the award were Barry Jenkins’ lyrical James Baldwin adaptation “If Beale Street Could Talk” and Alfonso Cuaron’s moving memory piece “Roma.”

In the past, Toronto audience members voted by depositing their ticket stubs in a box at the theater, or by using the TIFF app — festival organizers took into account the size of the theaters in which each film screened — with the films that received votes from the largest percentage of their audience winning the prizes…………………”

Read More Here: https://www.thewrap.com/green-book-wins-toronto-film-festivals-peoples-choice-award/

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Henry Cavill Out As Superman!

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Image: VCG via Getty Images

“It’s not Kryptonite that will end Henry Cavill’s run as Warner Bros.’ grimdark Superman; it’s a studio pivot.

Cavill is reportedly finished as the Man of Steel, with unnamed studio insiders telling The Hollywood Reporter that he won’t be donning the signature DC Comics superhero’s cape and tights again. It’s said to be part of a larger move aimed at fixing WB’s flagging DC Extended Universe (DCEU).

The rumored exit apparently started with a much smaller disagreement: The studio wanted Cavill for a cameo in the upcoming Shazam!, out April 5, 2019. But talks between WB and the actor’s reps didn’t go anywhere.

Beyond that, the studio also understands that bigger changes are needed. To date, the only universally successful DC-pegged release was 2017’s Wonder Woman, which landed both with critics and at the box office.

As one insider said, “There’s a recognition that some parts of the previous movies didn’t work.” (LOL at that understatement.) So now, WB is trying to hit “reset” (per another source) on the whole endeavor.

That reset reportedly includes a shift in focus from Superman to Supergirl. That movie would serve as an origin story, starring a teenage hero………………….”

Read more: https://mashable.com/article/superman-henry-cavill-is-out/

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