This Is a Blog: Kris and Adam Discuss AFI’s Top 100: The Searchers

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Kris and Adam Discuss AFI’s Top 100: The Searchers

Kris Jenson, with whom I've had the best discussions of my life, is an old friend of mine from Boston. We had been talking about the American Film Institute's Top 100 when he got a job at Dig Boston, writing about just that. Instead of letting the conversation end just because he's a big, fancy writer now, I'm going to write responses to his articles. I can't keep up with his movie watching, so I'm only responding to the ones I've seen.

"The Searchers"

Good God did I hate this movie. When I found out that on the 10th Anniversary list, this shot up 84 places to #12, I pretty much lost my shit. I also pretty much hate Westerns as a genre, so if you're a fan, you can pretty much stop reading now. There's probably something funny over at Cracked.

Of the original AFI Top 100, there are maybe 20 or so I haven't seen, and most of those are Westerns. There are a few good ones in the bunch, but I like them mostly despite being Westerns. "Butch Cassidy..." is a great example of a great comedy about two outlaws that just happens to be a Western. As I write this, I'm struck by the irony of using terms like "one of the good ones" and "just happens to be..." when discussing my hatred of a movie about racism. Anyway...

One of the few Westerns I did kind of enjoy was the grand-daddy of them all, "Stagecoach," which was knocked off the 10th Anniversary list. John Ford made these movies 30 years apart, and it's clear that while he may have matured as a film-maker, he seems to have lost his sense of fun. "Stagecoach" is dynamic, beautifully shot, and exciting as hell. With "The Searchers," he seems to have actively avoided all those things. "Stagecoach" is a chase film, where a bunch of stock characters reveal themselves to be so much more by putting themselves into an enclosed space through a harrowing journey. In "The Searchers" John Wayne searches, for two hours (that feel like 3 or 4). That's all he fucking does is search and search and search. Oh, but one time they search through snow and that was pretty.

One time they get caught up in a sweet chase with some Indians, but it's over in about 8 seconds. Ford did that on purpose. He was out to prove Westerns didn't need all the trappings to be a good Western, and this movie does deal with bigger, deeper issues. Unfortunately, it's just so interminably boring, none of the rest of that matters. It's as though Ford knows exactly what parts of Westerns I do like and did everything possible to remove them.

John Ford made this movie specifically so I'd hate it. What an asshole.

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