On Popcorn and Movies: Hostiles

from  imdb.com

I don't know what has happened in Hollywood, but I've been to the theater four times since the new year, partook of popcorn and  enjoyed original movies that were neither a sequel nor came from a comic book! I feel like I actually have something to ponder about in a post, here now on my new writer's website, though, old ponderings can still be found by clicking -  On Popcorn and Movies  on blogspot.com

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 So last Labor Day, 2017, we did drive up the canyon for the Telluride Film Festival...

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just to see what we could see, but  were not able to get into the HOSTILES premiere, with Christian Bale in attendance, though it was the movie that interested me the most.

But  a few weeks ago my husband and I drove the opposite direction, over two mountain passes to Durango to see the revitalized Western. No fanfare, but a day out with him, casual, grabbing a bite to eat and strolling Durango's downtown  and a movie is a pretty nice way to spend the afternoon here in the Four Corners where depending on which way you drive you can be in mountains, canyons, desert or the red rock country of Utah in  a matter of hours.

Our destination was fitting because a few water sheds to the east, near Pagosa Springs, Colorado, parts of HOSTILES were filmed, along with locations near Taos and Santa Fe, New Mexico and eastern Arizona...

Yeah , not  a direct line from Arizona to the Montana burial grounds, but I get ahead of myself. HOSTILES, starring Christian Bale and Wes Studi...

 tries to answer or a least ponder the simple question, who was the enemy and who was the victim in the bloody decades of conflict between the United States Cavalry defending white settlers and the Native Tribes defending their homes and lands. And yes it is a matter of perspective. A perspective we are just now as a nation finding the courage to contemplate. 

HOSTILES is not Bale's first time in a Western. He ponder such things as honor and being a "good man" or an evil one with Russell Crowe in 3:10 TO YUMA in 2007.

 

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Also filmed in part near HOSTILES  filming locations around Clifton Arizona,  an old mining town due east of Phoenix. For an interesting article on how complex things are in the West, behind the scenes of  the beautiful backdrops used by Hollywood, read here- High Desert News

Wes Studi, stars as an old Cheyenne chief, Yellow Hawk, who after years of incarceration is granted safe passage and an escort, provided by Bale's character, Captain Joseph Blocker, to his tribes  sacred burial lands in Montana to die.

Studi has been in many a Western, first as the brief but fierce enemy warrior in DANCES WITH WOLVES (1990), then more notably as Magua in LAST OF THE MOHICANS (1992). But GERONIMO (1993) gave him opportunity for a developed character, well... developed for a Native American actor that is, but we will get back to that.

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Yellow Hawk's son is played by Adam Beach, one of the most well known Native American actors in Hollywood, starring in WINDTALKERS (2002) with Nicolas Cage. 

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and starring with Studi  in SKINWALKERS (2002) based on author Tony Hillerman's widely popular crime books set here in the Four Corners. 

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 Yellow Hawk's daughter in law is played by Q'orianka Kilcher, who is not Native American but Peruvian, though she portrayed Pocahontas in THE NEW WORLD (2O02)

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getting the part at the age of 14 and being the love interest of not only Colin Farrell's -John Smith's but Christian Bale's John Rolfe-  at 14, did I already mention that? 

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To even out the pondering in this Odyssey Epic tale and to represent all sides, British actress Rosamund Pike...

best known as Jane Bennet in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (2005)

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 plays Rosalie Quaid , the soul survivor of a brutal attack where her husband and three children are murdered and their home burned, hiding in the woods, clutching her dead baby while the murderous "Red Men" try to find her....

Joining the motley procession taking Yellow Hawk and his family to Montana, Pike's character, unblemished in comparison to the soldiers and warriors around her, brings the struggle of forgiveness to this "morality play" because there is something Shakespearean in the ponderings of the different characters. 

 Variety.com review of HOSTILES declares " it’s a deadly serious examination of the strained relationship between white men and Native Americans in this country..." 

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and Janruary's CowboysIndians.com article states "Although more violent than old John Ford films such as The Searchers and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon,Hostiles unfolds in the style of a classic western, with underlying themes of bigotry and redemption..."

I would argue HOSTILE'S is nothing like a classic western, in the same strains as THE SEARCHERS (1956)

from  imdb.com
from Toronto Film Society filmnotes  here

from Toronto Film Society filmnotes here

Named the "The Greatest American Western" by the Film Instiitue in 2008, since John Wayne's character at one point tries to kill his own niece rather "than see her living with a Comanche."

In fact I can't think of a character John Wayne has played I'd put in the same catagory of "archtype" as Bale's Captain Blocker...

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whose battle's are internal, along with those of the other soldiers in the procession to Montana, whether they be "Red Man" or "White Man" , nothing like John Wayne's alter Western ego that declares out right in SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON (1949)...

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or insinuates "Never apologize... it is a sign of weakness" in about every Western he made.

The closest Western that ponders such things in my mind would be WILL PENNY (1968) ...

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who, although, " Deeply regretful about what he is leaving behind, he rides away from the woman and child, never to return..." wikipedia description of the ending to WILL PENNY. 

I would say, HOSTILES  is a new offering to the genre of the Western, which in the last few years has had a resurgence with movies like...

from  imdb.com
from  imdb.com

JANE GOT HER GUN, starring Natalie Portman and John Edgerton or...

Netflix's GODLESS (2017) showing a refreshing new trend of women who actually "shoot back".

While it appears women might be finally getting "their day" and their voice in Hollywood. Native American's are still mostly to be found as more of a backdrop to the story of the "True West". Unfortunately even in such a movie as HOSTILES. 

To say Christian Bale and Wes Studi " co-starred" in HOSTILES would be inaccuate. There was a lot of talking and  "evaluating" ones path and choices, between the cavalry soldiers, even between the minor characters ....not so much dialogue between Captain Blocker and Yellow Hawk or between Yellow Jacket and his children. They were  just kind of there....as focal points..... to focus on while the white people debated their inner demons.

How can we get an accurate understanding of the "True West" was... if half the equation does not have a voice?

For example- the Battle of Greasy Grass, late June of 1876,otherwise known as The Battle of Little Bighorn or Custer's Last Stand, by white people, has been recorded through oral history of the Lakota and by the warriors that fought and defeated the US Cavalry in ledger drawings. ( might have to do a post on ledger art on my Art blog...when I do I'll put a link here) 

Red Horse, a Lakota warrior drew 42 ledger drawings depicting the battle....from a different perspective I might add...

from  Indian Country Today  wesbsite

from Indian Country Today wesbsite

"The ledger drawings are not currently on display, but are housed by the National Anthropological Archives at the Smithsonian Institution." Indian Country article.

Hummmm?

There is a lot of white perspective painting, articles, tshirts and coffee mugs of our side of the story, I questions such phrases like the one above. Not to knock on the Smithsonian, but too often, Native people and  history and issues  are on the peripheral of our collective conscience.

And this is the reality, or at least according to National Geographic article HERE, that 50% of the Native Tribes on the American continent were wiped out, mostly by disease, just a few years after Columbus arrived. And we wonder why they might not be so keen on celebrating certain national holidays.

There is most definitely " another side to the story" and it really is not a matter of us, the White People trying to tell them, it is a matter of letting others tell their own story and if there are no Native writers in Hollywood, we need to go find some. Just like women need to tell their own stories. But that is definitley another post.