A Life in the Day – Boyhood (2014/dir. Richard Linklater/USA)

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The quest to see Richard Linklater’s latest work, Boyhood, has been a surprising pain in the ass. Originally slated for semi-wide release on July 18, I found out that no theaters within the vicinity of Miami were screening the film. Nor in South Florida it appeared.

Incensed by this betrayal, I was able to locate a free screening and attended it with a friend. We found out that same day that the movie was to get a wider release finally in Miami within that Friday, a week after it was publicly slated. I’m guessing they were hoping for the movie to spread word of mouth.

Well, it will work well in its favor, regardless of pissing me off. I saw the movie anyway. That was last week. By this point, Boyhood should be wide-released enough for this review to make a difference and so I begin.

Most of you should be aware of what the movie is, but just in case: The movie follows 12 years in the life of a Texas child, Mason Jr. (Ellar Coltrane), as he grows from Elementary School to his first experience in College. In the midst of it, he deals with growing pains and especially the separation and strife of his high-strung working single mom, Olivia (Patricia Arquette) and his lax liberal father Mason Sr. (Linklater-alum Ethan Hawke).

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What really sets this movie apart from most coming-of-age stories however is how it was shot. Over 12 years, between 2002 and 2014, Linklater and the cast and crew would come back together briefly each year to shoot some more of the film. It’s not entirely a new trick of Linklater’s to come back to characters after a few years – his brilliant trilogy Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight have already proven his awareness of how to evolve characters respectfully and believably, though it is pretty much the definition of an ambitious project – akin to Fitzcarraldo, The Tree of Life and Cloud Atlas. In its simplicity, more subdued and reserved than the projects mentioned, is where the real distinction and challenge comes for the film.

My first realization is that the character of Mason Jr. reminded me of my 20-year-old brother by the end of the film and the character of his sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater, the daughter of the director) my 16-year-old sister. So I had that personal attachment to it. It may seem a weird aside to begin on…

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But, that’s kind of the point – that Boyhood has a very huge demand for recognition all throughout its length that keeps audiences involved. They see themselves in it.

In the background of most of the movie (sometimes obnoxiously with very attention-demanding shots or scenes that seem like afterthoughts), Boyhood carries itself like a time capsule with little hints or markers – like the soundtrack all throughout the movie or the tv content on in the back of the living room or a poster on a wall – that helps us keep track of where we are (Considering how much pop culture iconography and music is used for this, I wonder how much of the budget went to securing the rights for those). In the main limelight content of the film, however, most of the things Mason Jr. goes through are elements of life that people know well within their own childhood and the movie makes an effort to capture as genuinely as possible – hanging with friends, moving having a significant other, our first breakup – even in the attempt to make Mason Jr.’s life explicitly eventful. It feels non entirely unlike how we felt reading the Harry Potter series, watching this boy grow up to be the man he is now.

Which is one of the few confusing factors of Boyhood. Richard Linklater is himself no damn stranger to this type of storytelling – the whole community slice of life format. His movies, especially his best works like Bernie, the Before trilogy and Dazed and Confused, despite very sneakily carrying a narrative underneath them, constantly have the essence of a movie that is just idling by like life does. Even his more wackier concoctions like Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly had a real “well, this is how living with these guys in this neck of the woods feels” atmosphere, despite the forefront being the style than the substance. (If I had to pick a film of his that strictly followed a narrative construct, it would undoubtedly be School of Rock).

But the real charming factor of Boyhood is how we really know Mason Jr. is not somebody special. He’s not a heightened display of life, he’s not a destined protagonist, he’s just a kid just like we were.

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So, there’s nothing wrong overall with segments of the film showing him idle while some pretty big development moments that are occurring around him, rather than to him, such as his dad’s very brilliant evolution as a person over the film or his mother’s several re-marriages. It’s actually classic Linklater visual language that we are used to, with shots of conversation arranged as a Kodiak portrait passed as a stageplay.

It is instead moments like, particularly trying to mention these without spoiling too much, the latter half of Patricia Arquette’s first remarriage or a visit in the latter act of the film they receive in the restaurant from a character that appeared in only one other scene, that seems overly forced and unnecessary for the experience of the film. It pushes the film into Lifetime-tv-movie status and unfortunately drags the film down a few notches. It is that heightened factor that Linklater was supposedly avoiding.

However, what makes moments like that in their spontaneity and after-thought plot essence (each year was written right before they shot it with the actors involved with Linklater, sometimes even the night before) is really the game performance by every actor in the lead family.

Arquette (the actress that stands out most – particularly near the end of the film where she has a brief 4-minutes of actor graciously carrying the scene that reminds me of the Tom Hanks’ final moments in Captain Phillips in its gravitas), Hawke, Coltrane and Linklater all carry their own distinct personalities into this divided family unit, but – and maybe it’s a product of the time they spent together enough – I can totally buy that these characters are related to each other.

Much more to the point, each actor, save for Linklater, seems to be aware of their character’s own growing arc and very methodically changing bit by bit, year by year. I don’t know how much of that is actually coming from Coltrane’s own life – I know, for example, that a particular conversation Mason Jr. and Mason Sr. about Star Wars came from the two actors actually talking about Star Wars, that the truck Mason Jr. owns is Coltrane’s actual truck and suspect a certain fashion style he adopts halfway through the film might have been Coltrane’s own work – but it fucking works. It’s real and it feels for real because it’s real. And it, in itself rather than as a product of the cinematography (which I barely paid attention to, to be honest) is beautiful to watch. If anything to state against the actors, it is merely that Coltrane as he grows up seems a lot more hushed and less interesting as an adult than he is as a child, but that’s kind of how people grow up to be. I know that’s how my brother and I grew up to be.

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What is just as much in need of praise as the lead performances is the very very aware editing by Sandra Adair, in its sense of pacing and thankful consideration of information for the audience – whether for setting, scenario or character. Boyhood is 166 minutes, it is a minute longer than Transformers: Age of Extinction (a movie people recently gave more notoriety for being a “three-hour Michael Bay movie, in spite of the fact that 166 goes into 180 pretty much zero times). Unlike Transformers, it feels a little more like 2 hours than 2 years. Each moment is just about cut enough to let us feel what the character is going through and then it just straight moves on. Save for the first husband, it doesn’t need to linger any damn longer than it needs to.

In fact, there is something that occurs with the second husband that makes me think of what Richard Linklater said about one of the movies that influenced him most – Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull. In the book in question – The Film That Changed My Life, a book of interviews by Robert K. Elder, Linklater notes, Jake La Motta’s first wife in the film never is seen leaving La Motta, we just assume she did when he marries Cathy Moriarty’s character and prior to that we see several fights between La Motta and his wife.

That principle seems very well applied here. We don’t need to see Patricia Arquette marrying these husbands, we don’t even need to see them date – but between the gap where we see less than 10 seconds of them flirting and the characters living with these men, we already know what happened. We see Mason Jr. sitting with his girlfriend and then deliberately sitting away and we have enough information to figure out what happened. Which is just as well, you don’t want to drag the movie down too long. Honestly, around the end, it begins to linger beyond points that would ideally be a great place in Mason Jr.’s life to end the film – but to me, the moment it chose to end, its utter banality and emptiness and just laxness of itself, spiced in dialogue of nonsense as Mason Jr. takes his first steps to life on his own, it just adds to the charm of the film, the fact that it’s just life… nothing special.

Arquette and Hawke’s particular background arcs are the most brilliantly paced – helped by the two actors, watching their lifestyles and careers take the shape they eventually do become – even if they go where the character expected or if they take a complete 180 from what we saw before of them – is the true treat of the narrative beyond anything that happens to Mason Jr. and we just watch it through his eyes.

This is all subjective, however. In the end, the only thing to claim objectively on the movie is what it is… It is a form of life for once captured in all its genuinity. It is a mix between feature narrative and cinema verite. It is a force of cinema that has never been done before and probably can never again be redone – much like how The Act of Killing and Escape from Tomorrow (as shitty as it is) were. Its concept is too massive and too weighty to be done again anyway, without being attached in the public mindset with this movie.

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And it’s going to be remembered for a long damn while.

Overall, I loved it despite its faults. I’ve never experienced anything like it and I think the world should see this movie.

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Hit Me With Your Best Shot – Batman Edition

So, Nathaniel at The Film Experience this time decided to go with what was happening at DC right now, the 75th anniversary of Batman.

The Dark Knight
The Caped Crusader.
The Goddamn Batman.

That Batman.

And he’s opened up wide enough to allow for us to select any particular shot from any particular Batman film on the subject… I was too lazy to read the instructions to figure out if it demanded the shots be strictly from the nine feature films to have been produced on the World’s Greatest Detective or if it could go beyond that, but it doesn’t matter…

My selection is something that is always the first thing that pops into my mind when I think of Batman movie. And well, I’d like to have made it a gif, but I don’t have that time or ability. And also, well, I really would have liked to have scraped my shot from Batman: Mask of the Phantasm or Batman Begins, both superior Batman films in my opinion to the one I have ripped my image from and both filled with gorgeous imagery.

But the moment I thought of Batman movies, the very first image popped in my mind came from the biggest hit the superhero franchise has ever seen – Christopher Nolan’s 2008 The Dark Knight.

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From the moment I first saw the trailer for The Dark Knight, this shot of Batman swerving the Batpod around the Joker to a skidding anticlimax has hyped me for the movie more than any-damn-thing else in its massive marketing campaign. And it’s for the reason that so many elements are easily coming into play here…

We got the two main forces of the film, the heroic and the evil, practically dancing around each other. We got the city lights surrounding them for their little arena. The Batpod’s design, it’s not that it blows my mind so much as it shouldn’t exist. It feels essentially like Tim Burton’s little Batman-Joker-vehicle showdown in his 1989 film. It’s a little more grounded this time around – replace the longshot pistol for the tommy gun, the giant batwing for the glorified tank axle and we got ourselves a superhero quick draw on the circus maximus.

That’s how you make a large-scale epic without calling attention to the fact that you are fucking epic.

And then the hero throws the fight. Batman has Joker wide-open for becoming roadkill and at the last second causes injury to himself by refusing still to stoop to the Joker’s methods of retribution. And the camera is right in the way of the action, the Batpod swerve leading it straight to us, and the Joker’s head tilted facing the missed shot like a father disappointed in his son.

But of course, I’m not going to lie, this shot also elicits all of my favorite influences altogether… the night, the noir, the dangerous city. It’s evokes feelings of Blade Runner in its settings, but the swerving of the Batpod really evokes the moods…

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… of Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira. And that just made 15-year-old Salim straight up giddy.

Dear Cinemasins Jeremy – On Horror

Sitting here listening to this video on the Dear Hollywood spinoff of Cinemasins has caused me to impulsively create in prose my open response as an unrelenting connoisseur of horror – in spite of really it not being recommended to take cinemasins seriously as a former of critical analysis, as there’s a significant amount of points here I disagree with and the rest I roll my eyes at. So, let me go ahead and do that.

Dear Cinemasins Jeremy,

…. You’re not wrong when you’re observing how a lot of people have bemoaned the state of modern horror films. It’s true. There’s a lot of bad horror movies out there. A significant amount.

But, that’s nothing new nor nothing old to horror.

There was just as much crap back then as there is now. The test of time has just been able to sift through the crap cleanly so that all that remains in the canon consciousness are pretty effective works like Evil Dead II, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and The Wicker Man. The same will happen (and has already been happening) to modern horror cinema. Nobody remembers Strangeland or Urban Legends, they remember The Blair Witch Project and Audition.

I also think you may be just thinking of American Filmmaking (in fact, you’re named Dear Hollywood for a reason), because let me tell you, internationally there’s been some good stuff shaking… The Orphanage, The Descent, Let the Right One In, 28 Days Later…, Shaun of the Dead, The Others and Antichrist (ok, Antichrist is pushing it since a lot of people hate it, but hey I love it) are among the films outside of America that pop in my mind and that have remained in the main consciousness have proven to be entertaining pieces of work and effective pieces of horror cinema. What’s more, they’ve all been acclaimed for other factors than just being able to scare people – their writing, direction and acting have put them in the forefront.

The other thing is that this surplus of bad movies is present every damn where. There’s no genre that you can’t see a relevant increase in subpar entertainment. You get bargain bin action movies starring C-grade stars all the time, just pass by your local Walmart. You get empty romantic comedies with the same ups and downs, just browse Netflix. There is a lot of factors a drama has to work on to be compelling without its own hook, which is why we have a bunch that don’t really have anything to them except soap opera levels of emotional manipulation.

That’s how movies work. You have a whole lot of bad and so you have to find the diamonds in the rough if you actually want a good time.

But, I digress. It worries me that you could not be bothered to be reminded of The Conjuring, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, The Lords of Salem, The Devil’s Rejects, Grindhouse, Drag Me to Hell, Paranormal Activity (strictly the first) or The Blair Witch Project when naming recent horror movies (using your mention of 1996’s Scream – a movie I love but pretty self-congratulatory and semi-annoying – as an end) worth a damn. Because they sure were. One could easily argue the latter two were a fucking phenomenon in recent cinema history (albeit more from advertising than the actual still fantastic content of the movie), so bad they broke the mold. Hell, even the recent remakes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Dawn of the Dead proved capable films (but only THOSE remakes. I shouldn’t need to say but just in case).

And you’re also not wrong that some horror movies will follow a formula. That’s just how movies roll again, though. Can you name me a noir film that doesn’t follow a strict formula? A romantic comedy? An action film? A Disney film even? Coherent storytelling is structured as it is, end of story, and how to define a movie depends on what you decide to embed into that structure. And if you want your movie to be recognizable as a work, you’re gonna have put in a lot of recognizable motifs, themes and devices.

Which doesn’t defend the formula.

Instead, movies that subvert formulas are prevalent, but a lot of them are able to do that effectively by actively participating in the formula first. You gotta learn the rules before you can break them and an audience friendly film is going to establish those rules as if you didn’t know them before.

Or movies that disguise their formula. They are around to. Yeah, once you get out of the theater and look back at the film, you’ll find a lot more of the formula sticking out, but when you’re watching the movie, it’s at least digestible. You’re not looking at the strings as much.

Now, your customized Ten Step Program to Fixing the Horror Genre is something I’m going to have to approach one by one, but let me just say, even though you’ve graciously given it for free, I wouldn’t give two cents to it. Or one cent. Or the lowest possible currency imaginable (I like to think it’s Goodwill credit). Or the lowest valuable thing imaginable (I like to think that’s the rubber used to make Crocs or Juggalo saliva). So let’s go:

1 – “No More Jump Scares”

You’re right. The jump scares have been overused and need to go. But they are not a bad device in themselves. The problem is that we’ve had horror directors over use to the point that now they just don’t work as well anymore. See, the way a jump scare needs to work is that it is a climax or catharsis of tension. The scene builds up to a point where the audience is on the edge of their seat and right when it builds to the pinnacle: the jump scare comes out. Formulaic, but I’ve already addressed that.

Movies either don’t bother doing that anymore or overfuckinguse it. They just have a pop-out pop out its thing just because they think it’s how scary works. No, it’s not.

It’s a tool. Use it right. You wouldn’t eat soup with a fucking fork unless you’re as awesome as I am.

As you put in better words than I could have, the jump scare has become the horror equivalent of the fart joke. I dislike using the term cheap thrills, but that’s what a jump scare is. There are many more ways to frighten someone. Why do you think Stephen King, Edgar Allen Poe and Clive Barker were able to shoot through stardom? You can’t put jump scares in a book.

Unless it’s a pop up book.

2 – “Let’s torture torture”

I also agree with this.

Torture porn has become the new slasher film. It became a popular trend and defined 00s horror just as slashers defined 80s horror. It also got to this point for the same reasons as slashers: Torture porn’s cheap, it’s easy to make and it thrives on exploitation. And I need to look again at Audition (as it seems to be the only one that has been any good – Maybe Passion of the Christ if you’re into that sort of thing), but there hasn’t been any that have been good or had any substance beyond just showing people losing their limbs and lives carelessly (the one exception to the “no substance” argument is A Serbian Film, which has a surprisingly self-aware theme. But it’s also still not good). Saw, Hostel, The Human Centipede, they don’t even try to thrill us so much as utilize scenarios and compositions that, in the hands of directors like the Farrelly Brothers, would probably come across as gross-out humor.

Torture porn either has to grow up or go home.

NOTE: I just realized how semi-hypocritical I am here – the short story I’m writing (and looking to write as a short screenplay) is a noir that largely features the getaway driver lead character being beaten and tortured by his former accomplices as he tries to rescue a kidnapping victim he was involved in before having a change of heart. It’s essentially torture noir.

3 – “People Love Tits”

I’m pretty sure this is a joke.

But I still can’t help but really wonder why you don’t see that the utilization of gratuitous and unnecessary nudity and sex is part of what brings modern horror down the drain. They are like the idiotic comedy moments of Michael Bay’s Transformers movies, narrative deadends just to add more unnecessary exploitation that really doesn’t give me pleasure anyway.

4 – “Watch Alien

Agreed. One of the best movies I’ve ever seen.

It’s also jampacked with jump scares. 80% of the movie’s scares are jump scares.

… I don’t think you’ve ever watched the movie if you’ve included points 1 and 4 in the same video.

5 – “Watch The Shining

… Ok, while I’m still extremely happy with the recommendation, I think it’s kind of weird to just say horror movies should base themselves on movies considered the greatest in their genre. It’s not that it’s too high a bar (which, when you’re comparing your movie to Alien, fuck yeah it is) but that there shouldn’t be a bar, period. It’s counter-productive to claim that your genre sucks because it follows a formula and then claim that “ok, you gotta make your movie just like this.”

That said, neither Alien nor The Shining are perfect movies. I know people who don’t like the movies. I know people who can name pretty spot-on flaws with the movie. Hell, I can name flaws with The Shining and I fucking love the movie, I’d just as quickly give it a 10/10.

6 – “Monsters in Moderation”

I really take it you haven’t been watching horror films in a while, because we do have a whole lot of “humans-as-monsters” storylines and a significant amount of them have not been any real good unless the idea of the “horror of humans” is more subtle than just as self-damning as The Village, The Last House on the Left or The Host (of course, the difference is The Host is an amazing movie). The monster movies have been significantly subdued for the latest serial killer chase or home invasion. Look, we just got back from the year of The Purge and You’re Next, both disappointing films while Evil Dead and The Conjuring both swept the floor – and you know what the dirty trick is? It’s that Evil Dead and The Conjuring make a shock out of revealing the evil in man with the supernatural element, not just making the malevolent spirits the monsters. Shit, the same is done in Alien and The Shining themselves. In fact, most horror movies thrive on the “humans are a lot worse than the monster” sort of storytelling more as a thematic factor than an out-and-out plot device. The zombie genre lives on it. Let me direct you to the classic literature piece “I Am Legend” by Richard Matheson (which the movie fucked up so you MUST read the book to get what I’m referring to) or the not-so-classic literature piece “This Book Is Full of Spiders, Seriously Dude, Don’t Touch It” by David Wong.

7 – “Eat Me”

I don’t even get it. Is this supposed to be humor?

8 – “Blood and Gore Do Not Equal Horror”

Again, we’re on the same wavelength here. Many of the lackluster horror films these days have outright denied any real scares, by claiming “but look how brutal and gory we are.”

That’s not scary. That’s just more empty exploitation and just as tasteless.

9 – “Stop screenwriting through sound effects”

I vehemently disagree with this point, it’s probably the biggest point I disagree with in the video (except maybe 7, but I don’t even know if that was a point is why). It’s also points like these that tell me why the guy doesn’t make movies. Horror – movies in general, but especially horror movies – are not just about what you can show the audience, but about how you can establish an atmosphere with the audience, get them immersed. Sound is one of the most neglected factors in a movie that when it’s used properly I can’t handle it, I have euphoria. I got more joy out of Gravity from its fucking sound work than its AMAZING VISUALS CAUSE IT WAS GRAVITY.

Bad sound mixing is on the part of the filmmaker, rather than the genre, but really when you’re mixing room tones and wind and other atmospheric sounds together alongside an empty hallway or a door, it mixes in a surrounding feeling of foreboding and dread that you can’t get unless its done perfectly.

Remember recommending The Shining?

75% of that effect?

Sound mixing and sound editing.

I now think you have not seen The Shining either.

10 – “Stop Making Horror Films for 10 Years”

Fuck no. Fuck you. Fuck off. Grow the fuck up. Fucking watch something else. You wouldn’t tell action movies to stop making action movies for 10 years just because the only amazing ones that came around in a while were The Dark Knight, Ong-Bak, Fast & Furious (and not even the series, just the last two movies), Haywire and The Raid movies.

You want to know how to fix horror movies?

This guy on reddit basically gave the right idea.

Lessen the budget. Movies are made by studios to make back double their budget and studios have kind of been putting a bit too much money in their horror properties?

So how can they attract the biggest audience possible to get their money back and then some?

They keep diluting the horror factor. They keep audience pandering, like how recommending Alien and The Shining and saying “Everybody loves tits” was audience pandering in this video.

So cut off their money. Just cut them off so that they don’t need to worry so much about getting everybody to see it.

I mean, come on, you can make horror films very cheap and easy and still be effective. Filmmakers like Moustapha Akkad, John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper, Oren Peli, Sam Raimi and Don Coscarelli knew this. They had no problem with it.

You don’t need to make good horror movies. Because it seems the idea of making horror is something you’re focusing too much on that your brain has blood vessels popping.

Just focus on making a good movie, whether or not it be horror. Clean up your game.

Ok, it’s good to finally have that off my chest.

Sincerely, Salim…

Eli Wallach: 1915 – 2014

So, I haven’t had internet in a long damn while after moving and so there’s a lot I need to catch up on, but something in particular I want to take note of is the recent passing of a legendary actor known for being extremely multi-faceted.

Last week, on June 24th (the day right before my birthday), Eli Wallach had passed away at the age of 98. I was really hoping for the life of me since I first found out who he was that he’d make it to 100. Thanks a lot, Obama.

A founding member of the Actors’ Studio, Eli Wallach has been acting until the bitter end of his life from a very long-spanning career. While nowhere near as towering as the recently deceased legend Mickey Rooney’s 90s year streak, Wallach had taken on many different sorts of characters (I cannot attest yet, but the amount of versatility people praise Wallach for rivals the amount I praised Phillip Seymour Hoffman for) for a good 60+ years, namely within the Western genre with which he became a household name.

I have to admit personally, though, out of his many screen credits I have only familiarized myself with a few – Only two of which ever made a huge mark upon me.

One of them was a surprisingly nuanced villain of my childhood who was one of the few things the movie had above its source material.

The other was a cunning little badass that I looked up to and admired most in my high school life against two other leads, all of which have an impressive stature in the film and the Western genre.

Both are Mexican. And under a lesser actor, the performances of Wallach as Calvera in The Magnificent Seven and Tuco in The Good, the Bad, the Ugly  would have come across as racist. But damn did Wallach have us fooled. They weren’t caricatures. They were characters fully lived-in dealing with their own issues on top of the main conflict.

Calvera was one of the earliest examples I’ve had of a villain being beyond good and evil. The Magnificent Seven was a staple of my childhood and I had wanted to grow up to be as big pimpin’ as Chris Adams (played by Yul Brynner) was in this movie. I eventually was able to see Seven Samurai in college (after a good many years dying to see it) and do consider Samurai the superior film. But, on of the things Magnificent Seven had well over Samurai was the fact of Calvera’s situation. His opening scene had him appealing and explaining the unfortunate matter of raising his men. It’s not a moment excusing him of his brutality and thievery, Calvera is still undeniably the villain through and through, but he’s taking more of the time to make himself a little more accustomed to as an unstoppable force of life in the village. As opposed to Seven Samurai where the bandits are faceless and uncharismatic, the only characters we care about at all are the ronin and the villagers.

Tuco Benedicto Pacifico Juan Maria Ramirez belongs in a different camp. He’s still a bandit, though a one-man bandit gang all in his own. He belongs in the camp of Spike Spiegel and Sam Spade, so nonchalant about his adventures that killing a man from within a bath is just casual self-preservation rather than a dodged bullet. He’s talkative to a facade of amicability, but is still in his heart of hearts, a bandit willing to rob you or make you pay if you try to cross him. And it may look like you won for a moment, but he’ll come back wearing that noose and trading it for your horse and boots.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly had the good damn luck of having not one but two engaging protagonists to follow on (and an engaging antagonist if not sympathetic – he wasn’t), but it’s pretty easy to see that Wallach’s Tuco was more easy for the audience to follow with than Clint Eastwood’s iconic Man with No Name.

I had watched this close-to-perfect classic of a film when I was in high school on a binge-watching and DVD-buying mania from getting my mind off of other things going on in my life. It quickly became one of my favorite movies I’ve ever seen and it’d be a damn fool move to claim the three leads were not the full effect alongside its desert war adventure plot.

But I think it’s a bigger damn fool move to claim Tuco wasn’t the star of the show, even if Clint Eastwood is the top-billed face on the posters and covers. Tuco was funny, sleazy, the only character whose backstory we got a glimpse of, smart, slick and all the other things that a good bandit should be. He was pretty much the Western version of Captain Jack Sparrow, but nobody else could have captured that amazing energy in the character like Wallach did. He wasn’t a good person, but you wouldn’t be able to find any in that movie. Tuco just happened to be the most likable.

I’m afraid I haven’t seen many more of Wallach’s films. He hadn’t struck me too much in The Godfather Part III (which is pretty much to say for the entirety of the Godfather Part III… the only things I found memorable beyond its haunting ending were how badly Al Pacino had devolved from being Michael Corleone, Sofia Coppola’s terrible acting and how Andy Garcia seemed to be the only actor who wanted to be there.). Skokie was surprisingly effective for a television movie,. but his appearance was missed by me over a hugely impactful lead performance by Danny Kaye. I’ve been intent on catching The Ghost WriterThe Misfits and Baby Doll. Now I have more incentive to catch up on them.

The fact remains though that even by just becoming burned in my mind by two of the most impressive performances I have seen in cinema, Eli Wallach remained an icon to me in the Garami Hall of Fame. Nevermind how many other classic Western watchers he’s hit in the chest with his stamina and personality. And how many directors have had the privilege of having him work for them and actors have had the privilege of working with him.

“I’ve learned that life is very tricky business: Each person needs to find what they want to do in life and not be dissuaded when people question them.”

Or wait, fuck that, there’s a wayyyyy better quote to end on…

“When you have to shoot, shoot. Don’t talk.”