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Samizdata quote of the day

“We live at a time when we’re offered a choice between the good, liberal Pajama Boy without an ounce of masculinity, and the Potemkin Alpha Male who mistakes cartoonish bluster for manliness, one of whom happens to be running for president. “The Magnificent Seven” presents a much better alternative, wrapped up in an exciting, action-packed plot and—oh, yes, I almost forgot—the greatest Western theme music ever written. So skip the multiplex this weekend and revisit this classic, instead.”

Robert Tracinski

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53 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Laird

    Frankly, “reviews” in which the reviewer pointedly notes that he hasn’t seen the movie annoy me greatly. If you’re going to pan (or praise) something, have the decency to know what you’re writing about. Of course, this isn’t a “review” per se; Tracinsky is using the remake of “The Magnificent Seven” as an excuse to revisit the original. And that’s perfectly legitimate, although he spoils it by gratuitously advising us to “skip the multiplex this weekend”. Remakes can be worth doing (compare the insipid Sinatra vanity project “Ocean’s Eleven” with the thoughtful Clooney/Pitt remake), but Tracinsky can’t know whether this one fits into that category. (It doesn’t, but he can’t know that other than reading someone else’s review.)

    With all that as background, I have seen the remake (as well as the ur-original “Seven Samarai”) and agree that it’s a very pale imitation of the original western. Don’t spend your money on it; wait for it to be on TV or Netflix. It’s merely an excuse for an extended (and unbelievable) gunfight, and a convenient vehicle to denigrate “evil capitalists”. There is no character development, whether among the heroes, the villains, or even the townspeople (including the “plucky heroine” who recruits the gunfighters). The villain is a cypher, the protagonists unknowable and unlikeable. There is no point to the central plot device (the robber baron trying to steal land from helpless villagers), and there are logical holes large enough to swallow whole movies. By contrast, the Yul Brenner original had all of those missing features: by the end we understood the motivations of all the central characters, including the villain (who was very human).

    The music of the remake did provide an homage to Elmer Bernstein’s classic score in the original (even using its main theme at the end), and is quite serviceable. But beyond its obvious nods to the style of the original it’s nothing special. It won’t be remembered.

    Basically, this is yet another Hollywood remake whose only apparent purpose is to trade on the (legitimate) fame of the original to make a few bucks. There is really nothing to recommend it, not even the talents of the estimable Denzel Washington.

  • Alisa

    Thanks Laird, I was wondering for a while whether to go see it (with Washington being the main incentive, to be honest) – I probably won’t bother now.

  • NickM

    “Best western soundtrack”?

    Ennio Morricone must be spinning in his grave.

  • Stonyground

    I quite enjoyed ‘The Three Amigos’.

  • Brian Swisher

    Nick M:

    He won’t be spinning in his grave because he’s still around, and still creating awesome music.

  • Alisa

    He won’t be spinning in his grave because he’s still around, and still creating awesome music.

    I’m truly happy to hear that. However, at some point he will be spinning (or resting) in his grave, as will all of us in ours 😛

  • Runcie Balspune

    I never miss a Horst Buchholz film.

  • Remakes can be worth doing

    Indeed. They got “The Maltese Falcon” bang on perfect at the third attempt.

  • Paul Marks

    I am sorry – but this does not tell me anything about the remake.

    It is just some person showing off “look how I can write” being the message.

    “ME, ME, ME, ME” – that is the School of Reviewing that this is from.

    As for the film – Laird is correct, it is boilerplate Hollywood leftism.

    Rich land “baron” – boo-hiss.

    And even the left admit that the actors messed it up.

    More an, unintentional, remake of “Blazing Saddles” than The Magnificent Seven.

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    Don’t spend your money on it; wait for it to be on TV or Netflix. It’s merely an excuse for an extended (and unbelievable) gunfight, and a convenient vehicle to denigrate “evil capitalists”.

    Laird nails an important point: the fact that an “evil capitalist” was the villain of such a piece suggested that a great movie had been remade with a Leftist twist. I read the plot overview the other day and immediately decided not to waste my time.

    I think you are being unfair to Tracinski in this case, however, and missing an important point about what reviews can be for. He read the review of a person he respected and decided that person’s view was worth using as the basis for seeing or not seeing a film. (I do this all the time, although sometimes I follow my gut, watch a movie and then realise I lost two hours of my life that I won’t get back.) We don’t all have hours to watch films; one thing that good, reliable reviewers do is filter out the crap. They perform an important service in a free market, rather like reviewers of cameras, or washing machines and restaurants. And yes, Tracinski used this point about the remake to explore the meaning of the original. Well, writers all use “hooks” to get into a subject, so I fail to see why him doing this is objectionable.

  • CaptDMO

    What do you mean “we” um…Bobby T.?
    Got a mouse in your pocket?
    There seems to be an assumption of obey.

  • Snorri Godhi

    [Morricone] won’t be spinning in his grave because he’s still around, and still creating awesome music.

    For a moment, i was fooled too. Perhaps NickM was confused between Morricone and Sergio Leone.

    I too favor the Morricone soundtracks, and also those of Gunfight at the OK Corral and Rawhide; but to be fair, this is not the first time somebody claimed that The Magnificent Seven is the best Western soundtrack.

    As for the remake, it is not great cinema but i must admit that i enjoyed it. There is at least one unbelievable element in the extended battle scene (more than just a gunfight) but i felt that it does not spoil the overall story.

    As for the anti-capitalist message, i did not mind because i was warned by the review i read at PJMedia. Also, i paid less than 4 euros to see it, so i did not contribute financially to spreading an anti-capitalist message.
    By the way:

    the robber baron trying to steal land from helpless villagers

    We have seen that before, to good effect, in Blazing Saddles.

  • Paul Marks

    I have an updated “Magnificent Seven” plot.

    The Federal government steals the land of a rancher and oil developer – he kills himself rather than be taken to prison on false (faked up) charges. His family are financially ruined – and the children “taken into care” (for a “Progressive” education) where they are abused.

    Seven employees of the dead rancher and oil developer (who also served with him in U.S. Military Special Forces) swear revenge.

    They rescue the children and take them to a safe hidden place – rather like “Galt’s Gulch” in “Atlas Shrugged”.

    They then attack the White House in a Special Forces style raid – killing both the President and Vice President, who are revealed to be cowards, begging and screaming for mercy as they are killed.

    The seven then die – rather than be taken alive and reveal the location of the children (and the people who helped the seven) under torture.

    The film ends with the Speaker of the House of Representatives being sworn in as the new President – and pledging an investigation into the criminality and of the unconstitutional Federal Government.

    The children (and others) in the hidden place watch him on television – and wonder if he is telling the truth.

    There you go “unbiased” Hollywood – make that script.

  • Rob Fisher (Surrey)

    NickM, indeed (Brian Swisher’s good news notwithstanding). Hard to beat this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOr0na6mKJQ

  • NickM

    No spoiler alert because if you ain’t seen this…

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXldafIl5DQ

    …where have you been?

    “You see in this world my friend there are two types of people: those with loaded guns and those who dig. You dig.”

    PS. Paul, love the ambiguous ending!

  • Clearly Paul Marks has missed his vocation as a script writer of what would be blockbuster movies 🙂 Hell, I’d go see that!

  • Laird

    NickM, that’s a great clip from a great movie. [And in case anyone doesn’t already know this, Eli Wallach (the man with the shovel) played the villain in the (original) Magnificent Seven. He was a truly fine actor.]

    Johnathan, I don’t disagree that movie (and other) reviewers play an important role in helping us decide which ones to spend our money (and time) on. It was entirely proper for Tracinski to decline to see this remake on the basis of such a review. His failing (as I pointed out in my original post) was using that as a basis for advising the rest of us to “skip the multiplex this weekend.” Had he merely said “I won’t be seeing it, based on this review from someone whose opinions I respect”, that would have been wholly unobjectionable. But it’s not what he did. He chose to denigrate it on the basis of second-hand information (what we lawyers call “hearsay”). Objection!

    Paul Marks, I would definitely pay money to see that movie! Get to work on the screenplay!

  • bobby b

    Paul, you’d have to cast Chuck Norris as the lead. Or a young Steven Seagal. It would be panned by the press, which would pointedly refuse to disclose box office numbers.

  • Snorri Godhi

    What Perry said, about Paul’s true vocation.
    One thing though: to pull off a thing like that, the rancher’s employees would have to be not just 7 but 47.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Laird, but if a person thinks a film is probably crap because of a review he read, why shouldn’t he suggest others take the same view if he thinks the reviewer is credible? It isn’t as if Tracisnki has ordered people to follow his opinion.

  • Alisa

    Jonathan, as has been correctly pointed out here, reviewers are in business because most people would rather be forewarned before wasting two hours of their life and ten bucks out of their pocket for a crappy movie. However, reading a review takes much less time and money – so it would suffice if Tracisnki suggested that his readers go read the review he found valuable, rather than tell his readers that they must reach the same conclusion he did. Not that he is not within this right to so tell them, but it just sounds way too presumptions and self-important.

  • Johnathan

    Alisa, Tracinski knows his readers are capable of reading that review for themselves: it’s a mouse click away. I don’t see him as being presumptuous at all. we are not snowflake students!

  • CaptDMO

    Never saw the movie….
    Never read the book….Amazon “review” club
    Never validated their “facts” ….Wikipedia “contributors”
    Never even got out of bed….Jurno List
    I’m going to go with “adding political implication to cut-and-paste/ phone it in reporting”?
    Geraldo Rivera/Nancy Grace Award for journalistic excellence!!!!!
    Very prominent among The New Yorker “award winning” folk.

  • bobby b

    In this new era of hyper-partisanship, a review of the merits of a work is meaningless until we know WHO likes it and WHO doesn’t like it.

    Until we see a review by one of the known approved ideologically-correct people, we don’t know if we should like something or not.

    That’s why the entire liberal world loved the new Ghostbusters, and the conservative world hated it, all before it even came out. The Right People told us what to think about it. So, the reviews of reviews of reviews are important as signaling devices far beyond their worth as critique.

  • Alisa

    we are not snowflake students!

    So why is he treating us as if we were?

    Besides, he as making a rather sweeping statement about movie remakes, which like Laird I find entirely unjustified: every movie and every book is a remake of some other story someone saw or read or heard – ‘nothing new under the sun’ and all that. It’s about how you tell the story, not the story being new and original (although that can be a bonus). And, he brings a second-hand opinion to support his sweeping and simplistic assertion. Sorry, but this guy is useless to me.

    Plus, what Bobby said.

  • the other rob

    @ Laird: Eli Wallach was, indeed, a fine actor. A favourite in my youth.

    On reviews, I have lately enjoyed several movies that were roundly panned by the critics, while having enured a couple that weren’t. So I’m somewhat dubious as to their value.

    Incidentally, I took a day off, today and we saw “The Accountant”. A fine movie, though I won’t go into detail because spoilers. It was very well executed and Affleck gave a masterful performance. Sure, his political posturings are insane but, as I remarked to my bank manager, I don’t generally seek political analysis from trained monkeys responding to the commands of talented directors and screenwriters.

  • Alisa

    All that said, I use movie reviews a lot – specifically (are you sitting down?) those in the NYT – just because it so happened many years ago, and I stuck with it out of habit, more than anything else. It is not so much about reading the opinions of people with whom I agree (although there is at least one reviewer there with whose opinions and taste I agree most of the time), but mostly about learning where I agree with them and where I don’t. Over the years, I have learned which movies to watch because they recommend them – or recommend against them, and which to avoid – for the same reasons.

    It just so happens that their review of the movie under discussion was rather similar to Laird’s above. I was still debating it though, as a good friend of mine did like it.

  • Alisa

    Sure, his political posturings are insane but, as I remarked to my bank manager, I don’t generally seek political analysis from trained monkeys responding to the commands of talented directors and screenwriters.

    Indeed. Plus, Affleck is not only a good actor, but is also a talented director.

  • NickM

    Alisa in her last comment makes a very important point. May I generalize? If you know someone (or some entity) their opinions are very useful even (sometimes especially) if prior experience has taught you they are very different from your own and this applies to most everything. And often in a way much more subtle than the old idea of “south pointing compasses”.

    In a not entirely dissimilar manner if I (as I often do) look at computer kit even if it is getting 4.8/5 for x-hundred reviews I always look at the bottom ones. They might flag a single missing feature which is irrelevant to most potential buyers but is a deal-breaker for me.

  • Alisa

    Indeed, Nick.

  • Plus one to NickM above. The evil of PC is not just that we disagree with what it says; it’s that it says “Thou shalt hear no other voice but mine.” Richard Feynman said: “I would rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned.” As Nick says, if you can find someone at least half-way honest who does not agree, they are a resource. And even the rawest propaganda sometimes unintentionally tells much.

  • Bruce

    The pacing in those films is probably too slow for a couple of generations brought up with a remote / mouse in their hand.

    As for the music; Morricone effectively rewrote “the book” on soundtracks. Listen to the music from, “The Mission”, “Battle of Algiers”, “Once Upon a Time in the West”, “Once Upon a Time in America” and a swag of others.

    Get your ears around the work of Nino Rota, as well; “Il Gatopardo” (The Leopard) is a good place to start.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Alisa, well, many statements are sweeping and if every statement had to be hedged with caveats, people would rarely say anything definite. In fact I would contend – and I think evidence backs me up – that the vast majority of remakes are worse in terms of entertainment/artistic merit than the originals. I can think of only about three or four remakes that were either as good or better than the original, or at least not cringeworthy and annoying:

    True Grit (the Coen Brothers version, which I enjoyed and thought the two main characters were great);
    Thomas Crown Affair (I liked it, and thought the plot more coherent, although Pierce Brosnan isn’t Steve McQueen and doesn’t have his charisma)
    Scarface (Al Pacino version)
    3:10 To Yuma (remake of old Western with Russell Crowe, who may be an arse, but he is a great actor)

  • In a not entirely dissimilar manner if I (as I often do) look at computer kit even if it is getting 4.8/5 for x-hundred reviews I always look at the bottom ones. They might flag a single missing feature which is irrelevant to most potential buyers but is a deal-breaker for me.

    xkcd, as ever, on the money.

  • Plus, Affleck is not only a good actor, but is also a talented director.

    IMO he has grown into a reasonable actor only in the past few years. He’s always been a good director, though.

  • […] – Samizdata commenter ‘the other rob‘ […]

  • John Galt III

    Paul Marks,

    I hate movie theatres, but I would pay to watch your movie. Call up Mel Gibson – he’ll do it for free.

  • Plus one to NickM above. The evil of PC is not just that we disagree with what it says; it’s that it says “Thou shalt hear no other voice but mine.” Richard Feynman said: “I would rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned.” As Nick says, if you can find someone at least half-way honest who does not agree, they are a resource. And even the rawest propaganda sometimes unintentionally tells much.

    @Niall Kilmartin:

    Speaking of movies and Feynman, there was a 2013 movie about Feynman’s involvement with the Rogers Commission Report into the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster which is worth seeing.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2421662/

    William Hurt does a very passable Richard Feynman and doesn’t dilute the value of Feynman’s point about how organisations (primarily NASA, but also Morton Thiokol) distort information where it is against their own interests.

    Much of Feynman’s most valuable insights into the Challenger disaster only became clear when he talked face-to-face with the assembly technicians at Morton Thiokol.

    It’s also a bloody good justification for disbanding NASA (although that is presumably unintentional)

  • Once Upon A Time In The West- now there’s a western I can never decide if I like or not, despite having seen it dozens of times.
    Back on topic, isn’t a review of a review of a remake of a movie acceptable? Both are at the same remove of the original… 😉

  • Alisa

    I concur with all your examples, Jonathan, plus add Ocean’s 11 mentioned by Laird, and probably a few others as well. As to sweeping statements, nothing wrong with those (sweepingly speaking) – but that was not the crux of my comment.

    What many people are missing IMO, is that ‘remake’ is just a label. Each movie (like any other piece of art, or any other product for that matter) should be examined and judged on its own terms. And when it comes to movies (and books), I again note that there is no such thing as an untold story – there are only untold iterations of the same old stories and combinations thereof, with different actors and props, different interpretations and conclusions, etc. Some times the older versions are the better ones, and sometimes the newer ones are. And ‘better’ is a matter of personal preference anyway.

    So pre-judging a new movie based solely on the fact that it uses the same title and story line as an older movie one likes, is totally useless to me.

  • Actually Alisa I do agree… With the exception that if it’s a movie I absolutely loved I tend to steer clear, Ghostbusters being the most recent example because I know I will just sit there comparing it and won’t enjoy it. Total Recall on the other hand, I gave a go because I hadn’t been too impressed with the he Schwarzenegger film but I’m a big Philip K. Duck fan. I wasn’t impressed with the remake either but I gave it a go.

  • Alisa

    I know I will just sit there comparing it and won’t enjoy it

    I know the feeling, and it’s a fair point. But I’ll still go if enough time had passed.

    I actually liked the old Total Recall 🙂 I also gave the new one a go, and it was mostly ‘meh’…

  • Laird

    Alisa makes a very good point: each movie should be judged on its individual merits. The inherent problem with overt* remakes is that by their very nature they invite (even compel) comparison to the original, just as movie adaptations of novels must inevitably be compared to the source. So I think that overt remakes are (properly) held to a somewhat higher standard than are “original” movies. If something has already been done, there is no reason to “reinvent the wheel” unless you can improve on it in some way. And most remakes fail this test.

    * I use the term “overt” here because, as Alisa noted, there really are no new stories, just new means of telling them. Every artist (writers and directors being no exception) has influences, and it’s rare to see a review where the reviewer doesn’t mention some previous movies which are reflected in the new one. But some films are explicit remakes of older ones, whereas some are merely derivative of them in some way.

  • Alisa

    Speaking of Schwarzenegger (somewhat OT): everyone likes to note that he’s not much of an actor, and I used to agree – that’s why I liked him in movies that were partially or fully comedic (TR is one of the former to some extent, and of course he did a couple of straightforward comedies too) – but then I saw this… He goes almost-full Jack Nicholson in that one 😀

  • Alisa

    Good point about overt remakes, Laird. What I do is after having read a review that gives me a reason to check the remake out, I still lower my expectations as much as possible – if I liked the old version. If the old version was not much to write home about anyway, then there is no big reason to “fear” the remake.

    BTW, I expected the new TR to be a flop, but went to see it anyway just to hang out with some friends.

  • Paul Marks

    Many thanks Perry and Laird – I thought you would like my gentle and artistic taste in movies.

    John Galt – Mel Gibson would be an idea, but if drunk he would insist on the President and/or the Vice President being Jewish. Mr Gibson is fine – as long as he is sober, but he appears to be unsober rather a lot.

    Nick – yes I like the scene.

    Although my favorite is another one in the series – I do not do links.

    The character of the gentleman office turned bounty hunter is facing what we (the viewers) fear is a hopeless confrontation with the bandit-murderer-rapist (in a modern film this character would be the hero – as he is a Social Justice type).

    The music from the watch is playing and we know that we know that when the music stops the officer will die – but then music does not stop.

    There is Mr Eastwood holding the sister watch from the one the bandit is holding.

    And the look upon the bandit’s face is one of fear – for he knows that it is he who is going to die.

  • Paul Marks

    My apologies – “For a Few Dollars More – the Final Duel” is right there in the link Nick kindly gives us.

  • NickM

    Except to be technical the end of TG,TB&TU isn’ta “duel” because there are three of them.

  • CaptDMO

    ““We live at a time when we’re offered a choice between the good, liberal Pajama Boy without an ounce of masculinity…”
    So he DID see the remake of The War of the Worlds!

  • Mr Ed

    Laird

    It’s merely an excuse for an extended (and unbelievable) gunfight, and a convenient vehicle to denigrate “evil capitalists”. There is no character development, whether among the heroes, the villains, or even the townspeople (including the “plucky heroine” who recruits the gunfighters). The villain is a cypher, the protagonists unknowable and unlikeable. There is no point to the central plot device (the robber baron trying to steal land from helpless villagers), and there are logical holes large enough to swallow whole movies.

    Starting with what I took to be a reference to Chicago, this sounds like the 2016 Election in a nutshell.

    And from what I have seen, many recent films are plotless, pointless but pointed CGI playscenes.

  • Except to be technical the end of TG,TB&TU isn’ta “duel” because there are three of them.

    Pretty much the dictionary definition of a “Mexican Standoff” though, until it was revealed that Tuco’s gun was unloaded. Gotta love Ennio Morricone’s music though, especially the musical pocket watch. The music from The Mission was to die for as well.

    A Mexican standoff is a confrontation between two or more parties in which no participant can proceed or retreat without being exposed to danger. As a result, all participants need to maintain the strategic tension, which remains unresolved until some outside event makes it possible to resolve it.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexican_standoff

  • Richard Thomas

    NickM: well, kind of it still is. But I won’t spoil it.

    Oh, nevermind 🙂

  • Andrew Duffin

    @Bruce: Il Gattopardo is a good place to start for anything. And as for Claudia Cardinale as seen in that movie, well what can I say?