Four Westerns.

Something's come over me that prolly nobody would've seen coming had they known me as a child. I've developed a taste for Country Western Movies. If there was ever a western on my living room television, there was a 98% chance I was running in the opposite direction. Of course, I know exactly where my newfound appreciation came from; it came from the movie Tombstone. Genres aside, that's in my Top 5 movies easily. And now it's opened the way for me to enjoy other westerns, even those not made after 1990.

I've seen four westerns within the past month; one of them was Tombstone, while my brother was here. The second was 3:10 to Yuma in the theater; it has Russell Crowe and was also good, but pales in comparison to Tombstone.

The third was Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid, which I downloaded because I've heard so many good things.

The fourth was The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. It's seeing a limited release, starring Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck.

You'll hear critics tell you that the Brad Pitt movie is superior to the Russell Crowe movie, but don't believe 'em. See, Jesse James and Yuma are apples and oranges. Yuma has a plot, Jesse James is just a collage of scenes pasted together in a linear fashion of his final year on Earth. The Jesse James movie, however, is all about the actors; I'm convinced Brad Pitt only made this so he'll be nominated for an Oscar. As it stands, he's not even the best actor in this movie and he would've been better served being in it less. Casey Affleck - who plays the murdering Robert Ford - dominates this movie from top to bottom and there should've been more coverage given to his own personal aftermath after he murders Jesse James; but since Pitt is a producer, of course the entire focus of the movie revolves around him when it really shouldn't.

I liked these movies for different reasons. Crowe and Pitt are good in practically anything they do. Of course, I say that, and then I think of all the crap they've released since Gladiator and Fight Club, so let me qualify that: Crowe and Pitt are good in practically anything they do when they portray interesting characters in good movies. Having said that, Yuma has the superior storyline, where the action builds and builds toward the climactic final shootout. In Jesse James, you already know how it's going to end - it's in the fucking title of the movie for Christ's sake - so what you're waiting for are those moments where the actors make you believe. Where they absolutely murder a scene, or a line of dialogue, or whatever. Casey Affleck does this throughout the movie, playing the nervous, awkward, creepy murderer who believes he's doing right even though most of America believes him to be a coward.

Of the westerns I've listed here, all but Tombstone feature the "Bad Guys" as the heroes. Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid (Paul Newman and Robert Redford in their classic roles) are two bandits on the run throughout the two-hour feature from a posse of lawmen who'll stop at nothing to track them down and kill them. In Yuma, Russell Crowe is the leader of a gang who's been arrested and being taken to the train bound for jail; but his gang is high on their trail ready to spring him from the authorities. And, of course, Jesse James is the classic cult hero who robbed a bunch of trains and banks and carriages. Audiences always find themselves rooting for these antiheroes because they ARE legends, regardless of the fact that they kill and they rob. We like the badguys. It's just too bad in most cases, the badguys end up getting theirs in the end anyway.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were taken out in Bolivia by damn near the entire Bolivian army when they were finally cornered in a house with nowhere to go. In heroic fashion, they ran out of the building with their guns firing, falling in a hail of bullets. Quite the noble death compared to the chickenshit way Jesse James died. Still, it's nearly unforgivable to imply in the title that Robert Ford is a "Coward." That automatically creates a bias against the man when, really, throughout most of the movie, he's quite the sympathetic character. Always picked on, never knowing how to interact with his childhood hero, expressing his feelings in all the wrong ways. Finally, he's coerced by a law dog into going on this mission to kill Jesse - mostly because he doesn't know any better, he's only fit to follow orders from those giving them - and we don't realize just how much of a cowardly jackass he is until after Jesse's dead. He goes on to relive the moment as an actor, on Broadway, in a reenactment of the assassination; and while he gains notoriety and popularity, everyone knows he's scum, and they treat him accordingly.

This movie should've delved more into that portion of his life, instead of wasting it on a simple coda; because he really declines into depression over the years until he himself is murdered by someone fed up with him still being alive while Jesse James is no more. There's nothing noble or heroic about his death either, but I guess that's the point. Sometimes our heroes aren't taken out in a blaze of glory by the entire Bolivian army; sometimes it's some smarmy, sneaky, pale-faced derilect who points the gun to the back of his head while he's dusting a picture on the wall.