I never drink wine
Nothing good happens in February, I think.
March holds no promise but at least its a different time and a different name.
A little worried about my paycheck next monday. I've haven't gotten a raise (no one has) in over a year. With the short month and me being a per the hour worker, this is going to be a scary payday.
If I last until the end of March I'll get a disproportionately large check. Go figure employers looking out for the welfare of their employees.
Mine don't, that's for sure. They've increased the budget requirements by 20%, increased prices by 10% but no talk about us getting something, even cost of living. Oh well. Have to get past everything and keep looking harder.
I'm stressed today. No real reason, just feeling down. I've finished half of the preponderant rambling about film #6. Got a surprise today. A check for a review I wrote months ago. ANother cool $20. It will go to cab fare for my puppy's trip to the vet, I guess.
At the hospital all the tests for my kidney turned out to be for nothing, or for very little. It appears it is most likely the physical therapy exercises for my back may have caused the pain . . . I feel like a wuss.
Anyway, I dug it up. Here's the review of "Once Upon A Time In Italy: Spaghetti Westerns", a set of DVD's: (I'm such a wordy guy . . .)
There have always been westerns.
Rock 'n Roll, Coca Cola, McDonalds, fried chicken and The Western: America's number 1 exports. Two thousand years from now that might be the only thing left that proved America ever existed.
There have been black westerns, Chinese westerns, midget westerns, gay westerns, Jewish westerns, Argentinean Westerns and Brazilian Westerns. The first film to use a close up was a Western. When Marlon Brando started his own production company and bought in brilliant newcomer Stanley Kubrick for his big Hollywood break, they made a Western.
Almost every European country has made westerns. Like rock n'roll they seem so simple. The good guys wear white hats and the bad guys wear the black hats. The only women are faithful or mothers and the only justice is you and your gun.
In the 60's westerns had left the movie theaters and taken over the living rooms. Some of the blandest entertainment imaginable was being pushed into people's homes, getting airtime because the dad rode a horse and carried a gun.
Sergio Leone was making a peplum called "Sodom And Gemorrah" when he noticed that Spain looked a lot like his idealization of the old American west. He conceived an idea about an amoral character shooting anything that got in his way. He wanted an American and got lucky. He hired Clint Eastwood to make two films for $35,000.
Leone ripped off the plot for Kurosawa's "Yojimbo", which was cool because Kurosawa ripped off the plot from Dashiel Hammet's "Red Harvest".(No mention of Faulkner, please.) It's funny because everybody remembers "Yojimbo" and "A Fistful Of Dollars" but hardly anyone has read "Red Harvest" nowadays . . . so much for plagiarism.
The first Leone film, "A Fistful Of Dollars" was a monster hit. Leone the businessman had the sequel, "For A Few Dollars More" in the theaters at the height of the buzz.
The films were made on the cheap but they certainly became more than the budget. Eastwood was the Number One Box Office Star in the world, Ennio Morricone became an icon - he reversed himself in interviews about the scores after the films were a hit - and Leone was considered a genius that had created a genre.
For the Italian film industry to survive they needed to get plenty of product out domestically. International distribution was a dream; the local cinemas were a paycheck. Because of that it was pretty much the norm for the producers to rip off any successful film that came along. It was pretty natural for them to go after their native son's handiwork.
It was a mixed bag. With the coffers of gold in America some of the producers were willing to take a chance and allow their writers and directors a little bit of room to expand the limited genre. That attitude gave us films like "Django". It also gave us plenty, like nearly a thousand of the worst films ever made - most discouraging were the hybrid attempts combining spaghetti westerns with the kung fu craze . . .
"Once Upon A Time In Italy" isn't going to convert anybody into loving Westerns or even Spaghetti Westerns, but for the people who've seen the "Dollar" films or Django and have an interest in the movies, or even for film students who need to see how to make art out of pancake make-up and empty landscapes this is a marvelous set.
Anchor bay has done a very good job of restoring and packaging these films. They fall short of the high standard set by Celestial Films with their release of the Shaw Brothers catalog but there can be no doubt this is a pleasant package. The box is chintzy but each DVD case has a lobby card or poster from the original Italian release of the film. The images are bright and clear and the sound tracks cleaned up nicely with no addition of gimmicky 5.1 effects.
There are plenty of okay extras. Each disk has a filmography of all the principals involved. There are some decent interviews. Each disk makes an impressive package.
The big finds here are "A Bullet For The General" who makes a serious attempt to blend politics with the genre. It fails because of the American actor being incredibly weak, but it is an interesting and worthwhile failure.
Lucio Fulci's amazingly humanistic and compelling, "Four For The Apocalypse" is good enough to see his talent beyond his rather tedious slasher flix.
And finally there is the infamous "Keoma". It features a brilliant sound track by the DiAngelis Brothers. (Although I still think their greatest score was for the very good film "A Man Called Blade") The score is so revelatory that it has caused a lot of academia discussion and forced as much attention on itself as it has the movie. Franco Nero is at his best. The story telling techniques are novel, and suitable.
"Adios, Texas" and "Companeros" are better than average examples of the genre. Very much worth seeing for key scenes and genuine entertainment, but they both trod ground others have trod before instead of pushing the genre forward.
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