Trump Didn't Say That
Daniel Taylor: Death Comes for the Deconstructionist

I Think I'll Watch The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Again

No doubt avid readers of this blog will recall that eleven years ago I wrote about being disappointed in the Sergio Leone westerns ("I Have Failed to Become A Sergio Leone Fan"). The topic came up in the recent discussion about Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, and I started thinking I might give Leone another try. I didn't really expect that to happen anytime soon, though, as it was only available on DVD, my wife isn't interested in seeing it again, and our Netflix DVD list is very long.

So along comes this commentary on The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly by Kyle Smith at National Review. (The review contains spoilers, by the way, though I guess that's not very important for a fifty-year-old work.) Besides being interesting, it mentions that the movie is now available for streaming on Netflix. So more or less out of curiosity, I watched the first few minutes of it last night, and was very much drawn in. I will report when I've finished it.

I must say that the very and justifiably famous opening title music is almost ruined for me by the silly-sounding "wah WAH wah," which sounds like a comedian imitating a trombone. I'm sure there are recordings of it that use some instrument there instead. 

Kyle Smith, by the way, is a critic whom I consider interesting and worth reading but not entirely trustworthy. That's because he disrespected Bergman a while back. 


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I just rewatched Manhattan the other night (Woody Allen, Diane Keaton). There is an early scene where the two couples are walking down a street (Keaton & Michael Murphy - Woody and Mariel Hemingway) and everything the Keaton character is saying annoys the Woody character. She dismissed Bergman as art house nonsense (or, something along those lines). He is appalled, of course, and I thought of you, Mac.

On The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly - I grew up thinking this was the pinnacle of movie making, watching it every time it came on TV. As an adult I own the DVD, that I think I have watched once. I was surprised at how long it was since I had only watched a cut TV version previously. However, I do think it holds up as great cinema. I also love Once Upon a Time in the West - Henry Fonda is really great.

I suppose I enjoy the spaghetti westerns!

This leads me to having watched Richard Jewell the other night, Clint Eastwood's most recent film (directing only; he is not in the movie). Did anyone see that, and what did you all think? Talk about the press playing a large part in helping ruin someone's life! The FBI too - it's almost a Trump film in that regard, two institutions he badmouths regularly.

I thought it quite good, and the relatively unknown actor who portrayed Jewell was very good in his role.

That's a good piece by Smith. I saw GBU on the big screen a year or so ago -- one of the big theater chains featured it as one of their occasional "weekend classics" or some such. I hadn't seen it on the big screen in ages, and boy does widescreen make a difference. All those super-wide panoramas and extreme closeups look fantastic on a big screen. (This is even more true for OUATITW, which I saw the same way last summer.)

It'll be interesting to hear what you think after an 11-year Leone hiatus.

I liked Richard Jewell a lot, Stu. The lead actor was very good, as you say, and the rest of the cast as well. And yes, the guy definitely got railroaded!

I've heard good things about the Jewell movie but it doesn't strike me as an especially interesting subject.

Unfortunately my tv is only 32". But at least it's the right proportions (I guess).

I really liked Manhattan when it came out, but I'm not sure I've seen it since. A lot of people now express outrage at it because the girl is 17, calling Allen a pervert etc. Seems excessive. Yes, it's wrong and illegal for older men to seduce teen-age girls, especially much older men. But good grief, only a generation ago there were plenty of love songs to 16-year-olds.

I've been reading some favorable reviews of Allen's recent memoir.

What was interesting to me about the Jewell movie is the drama of the thing. Here's a guy, no doubt an odd and somewhat difficult fellow, who by quick thinking saves a bunch of lives, but then is harassed by both the press and the authorities because he fits a certain profile.

The drama lies in his unshakable commitment to his innocence and in how his attorney manages to defend him despite all the opposition and his client's own inability to see what will help and what will hinder his case.

Even knowing the outcome I still found it to be quite tense -- I was constantly wondering "Gosh, how is he going to get out of this?"

I have also failed to become a Sergio Leone fan, and I'm in no hurry to give him another try. I'll be interested to hear if a revisit changes your mind, though.

Speaking of Kyle Smith and Woody Allen's memoir, did you see Smith's review of the memoir at NR? I thought it one of the funniest book reviews I've read in a long time.

Yes, I did read it, but I don't remember having that reaction exactly. But it was one of the favorable reviews I was thinking of in that earlier comment.

I'm afraid the FBI misconduct re Richard Jewell is a pattern.

I must have been in the right mood for Woody Allen. I laughed all through the review. It struck me how good he is at conveying his distinctive voice in his writing. In almost all the quotes in the review, it's hard for me not to hear him speaking them. I wonder if he'll narrate an audiobook?

There was a book of comic pieces that came out many years ago, maybe back in the '70s, called Without Feathers, that I thought was very funny. Haven't read it for years though. In fact I don't think I still have it.

I have a 2-LP set of Allen's early stand-up material. I'm generally not a stand-up comedy fan, but this stuff is very funny.

Allen did two other books like that in addition to 'Without Feathers' -- 'Side Effects' and 'Getting Even.' I had a couple of them in college and my friends and I used to read them aloud to each other. I'm pretty sure you can get all three combined into one volume now.

I'm the same way about stand-up comedy. More so now than I used to be because crudeness seems to be regarded as essential now.

I guess my view of Allen is still stuck in the '70s, because I still think of him as being primarily a humorist, and tend to regret his turn to seriousness. I've seen one or two of them and thought "pretty good" at most. One of the reviews of the memoir that I read praised very highly several that I haven't seen or even heard of. I'm probably missing something.

Here's a bit I remember from Without Feathers. This part of the book at least (not sure it's the whole thing) is in the manner of a journal of deep thoughts by a heavyweight artist:

"Dickinson was wrong when she said 'hope is the thing with feathers.' The thing with feathers is my nephew. We're taking him to a specialist."

I must have found it very funny for it to have stuck with me for several decades.

Thanks for posting the review of Apropos of Nothing, Craig. I also laughed and giggled by way through it. Okay, I have now ordered the book. I've sort of been on the fence about spending the money, but he is one of my heroes. I don't know how some people can be so funny without trying.

Most welcome, Stu.

"I don't know how some people can be so funny without trying."

In my view it is exactly this sort of person who makes the best humorist/comedian. With the really good ones you never get a strong sense that they are "trying" to be funny.

I think The Three Stooges are a perfect example of this. Larry is generally considered the least funny of the three, a sort of comic non-entity "who more or less went along and got in the way," as one writer put it. Not that Larry doesn't have funny moments, but a lot of the time you can tell he's acting -- playing a funny part.

Curly, on the other hand, seems just naturally funny. No matter what he does the humor seems to come out almost effortlessly, so that even little hardly-noticed things become humorous. You don't have to like his style of comedy or his on-screen persona to notice this, but I think the comedic talent is unmistakable.

Moe falls somewhere between the above two. He's more "natural" than Larry, but less so than his baby brother Curly. Thus at times he can be really good, while at others he comes off somewhat forced.

I'd argue that Stooge fans almost universally find Curly to be the funniest of the crew primarily because his humor comes across as the most natural: he seldom seems to be trying to be funny; he just is. If you're not a Stooge fan I'm sure you can think of similar examples!

I'm sure your observation is accurate, but I immediately think of the Marx Brothers, and I think all three of them are just naturally funny. In very different ways though. That's Groucho, Chico, and Harpo--Zeppo doesn't count.

What I've seen of Jim Carey is very much in the "trying" category.

Marx. Bros -- yes, absolutely. I'd say something similar about Laurel & Hardy.

I never much cared for Jim Carrey, but one of my relatively recent faves was John Candy. When I used to watch Second City regularly back in the day, I usually found myself laughing at Candy pretty much irrespective of what he was actually doing. He just seemed like a natural.

I don't know John Candy but I immediately thought of John Cleese.

Yep. Maybe Rowan Atkinson too.

Speaking of whom: he's really good in the recent Maigret tv adaptations. But it took me a while not to see Mr. Bean.

Yes, I felt exactly the same way.

I am glad you mentioned Maigret. I forgot I wanted to watch it.


I think you'll like it at least reasonably well. I can't say I was excited by it, but I was disappointed to learn that there apparently are not going to be any further episodes.

I thought the Maigret series with Michael Gambon was much better. And I liked even more the French version with Bruno Cremer.

I was about to say I didn't know those existed, but now that I think about it I may have seen one of the Gambon ones. At any rate I can imagine him being good in it.

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