“Once Upon a Time in the West” – Nathan’s Movie Challenge, Week 7
“He not only plays. He can shoot too.”
From Henry Fonda’s piercing blue eyes, to Charles Bronsan’s leathery visage, to Claudia Cardinale’s sweaty bosom, there’s a lot to feast your eyes on in Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West.
The man knows how to frame a shot – over and over throughout the film, every scene is crafted and positioned just so to create a painting out of every image. This movie is gorgeous.
Ennio Morricone’s score is more playful and evocative of emotion even more than his work in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly – creating motifs for each of the characters and bringing the harmonica into the plot and the score simultaneously.
There was a little bit of jumping around in the third act that didn’t quite make sense, and by showing the aftermath of action instead of the event made things a little more confusing than they should have, but overall it’s a compelling story, with interesting characters, and varied motivations.
It helps immensely that Cardinale positively owns the movie with her confidence, beauty, and charisma. It’s hard to look away when she lights up the screen. Fonda, Bronsan, and Jason Robards all inhabit their roles with aplomb, too – and make a great triangle of personalities – not unlike the Good, Bad, and Ugly.
Big fan of this one. Finally, another Western I really like.
Once Upon a Time in the West was at the time of this review at #57 on my Flickchart list of shame (ranked #141 among the best movies of all time). Here’s how it entered my chart:
Once Upon a Time in the West vs. The Addams Family
There’s a lot of charm in Raul Julia and the rest of the cast in The Addams Family, but it’s nowhere near the same level as what Sergio Leone’s at.
Once Upon a Time in the West vs. Sliver
An uneven, but highly erotic mid-90s thriller with Sharon Stone and the lesser-seen Baldwin brother, William. Good, but not great. Certainly not as great as West.
Once Upon a Time in the West vs. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
I really enjoyed this unusual apocalypse romance movie. You’d think Steve Carrell and Kiera Knightley would have no chemistry whatsoever, but they do. The script is clever an unpredictable, too. It’s a good one. Not as good as West.
Once Upon a Time in the West vs. The Hangover
The Hangover is one of the few comedies I feel that get everything right – the script, the casting, the performances, the laughs. It’s what I consider to be one of the best realized comedies of our generation. I’m going to give it to The Hangover.
Once Upon a Time in the West vs. The Avengers
There’s so much that The Avengers gets right where it could have gone so wrong. Still, I’m not sure it would hold up without the weight of the Marvel Cinematic Universe behind it. West is going to take this.
Once Upon a Time in the West vs. So I Married an Axe Murderer
I adore this quirky Mike Myers comedy. It’s unique, and sweet, and dark, and funny. Still, it doesn’t have those beautiful vistas and scenes that West has. Leone’s cleaning up, here.
Once Upon a Time in the West vs. Three Kings
This is a good matchup! There’s something about how perfectly realized Three Kings is. Somehow David O. Russell made a brilliant film despite his much ballyhooed feuding with star George Clooney. I could almost go either way, but Three Kings will win.
Once Upon a Time in the West vs. Cube
It’s all about how much they did with so little that makes it so damn impressive. Cube wins.
Once Upon a Time in the West vs. The Mist
There are so many fantastic scenes in The Mist that have stuck with me that it will retain the victory here over the great competitor in West.
Once Upon a Time in the West vs. Moon
A lonely, triumphant work from director Duncan Jones and incredible acting from Sam Rockwell. Moon will hold up over time in ways many other films simply can’t. It will win this matchup.
Once Upon a Time in the West vs. John Wick
John Wick is SO DAMN GOOD. Pacing, scripting, action, world-building, cinematography. It’s really an amazing film. It wins this last battle.
Once Upon a Time in the West is now ranked #107 out of 1372 movies on my Best Movies of All-Time chart.
Last for the week is After Hours. You might like to see what other films I’ve ranked during the challenge.