There was a time when Westerns (Spaghetti or not) were widely made and appreciated. That died down, though, as many of us know. Clint Eastwood’s wonderful Unforgiven and Kevin Costner’s epic Dances With Wolves were about the only memorable Westerns of the 1990s. Then there was a long, long lull. Where did all the cowboys go? Other attempts were, of course, made, such as Tombstone, and Costner’s Wyatt Earp, but those were mediocre at best.
Yet I have noticed that there has been a recent revival of Westerns. Good ones. The Proposition, Brokeback Mountain, No Country For Old Men, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and 3:10 to Yuma, for example. One also cannot discount the influence of HBO’s series Deadwood, which took a serious, vulgar, and ultra-realistic tone to the whole concept, but did it with brilliance. It’s impossible not to see how Deadwood has affected our idea of Westerns on screen. And then I saw the trailer for Ed Harris’ upcoming film, Appaloosa, and I couldn’t help getting excited.
I know. It’s a trailer. I hate getting excited about trailers, but considering the movement of truly good Westerns in recent years, it’s difficult to not get excited about it, especially when you have such a wonderful cast involved in the project: Viggo Mortensen, fresh off his Oscar nomination for Eastern Promises, Ed Harris, Jeremy Irons and Renée Zellweger.
Westerns have become a catalyst for the exploration of human nature through choices, and the morality of those choices, in a way that few, if any, genres have been able to as successfully. They are also, in so many ways, an American genre. It is true that The Proposition, for example, is Australian, but the concepts and ideas upon which it’s based, and the influences it draws upon, are so clearly those of American Westerns.
I’m hoping Appaloosa will live up to its predecessors of recent years. Though I won’t get my hopes up too far. That’s always asking for disappointment.
Edit: You can watch the trailer for Appaloosa here, in full HD. Enjoy! I know I did.