Hostiles: A Western for the Modern World

Maybe it’s my obsession with Westworld or maybe it’s the way Christian Bale rocks a big moustache, but I felt I had to see the movie “Hostiles”. Though it may not be for all viewers, fans of westerns and slow burn dramas can find a lot to enjoy in this tale.

The basic premise revolves around Bale’s character, Captain Joseph Blocker. An experienced and gruesome soldier, he is charged with transporting Yellow Hawk, an ailing native chief, and the chief’s family back to their homeland after more than a decade of imprisonment. Blocker is outraged as his life’s work has been fighting and rounding up natives, and this man is literally his enemy. However, given some modern sympathies to the plight of the natives, a presidential order has lead to his mission, and with the threat of his pension being withheld he reluctantly agrees to a month long trek across the wilderness to Montana. Thrown into the mix of the journey with his soldiers and the natives is a settler, Mrs. Quaid, played by Rosamund Pike.

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At many points this film does drag. If you’re like me and you’ve liked other westerns or even off the beaten path movies like “There Will Be Blood” then this is no problem. Just keep in mind this is not a Marvel movie with a bunch of special effects to grab you. Rather, the scenery of the west will captivate you, as will how quickly, horribly, and often violence and chaos can punctuate that beauty. I think that more than anything the movie illustrates an idea that goes hand in hand with gun ownership for me, one that is too often forgotten if you live where there are street lights and neighbors within earshot. No one is coming to save you but you. In the wilderness, as in space, no one can hear you scream. When disasters befall you, natural or otherwise, it’s up to you to decide on fight, flight, or freeze.

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Of special notes is Rosamund Pike. Some of her scenes are downright gut wrenching, and she definitely shows a full spectrum of emotion that will keep the audience mesmerized.

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Bale’s portrayal of Blocker is also noteworthy as he is an anti-hero. Here is a man who has hated and subjugated native Americans his whole career, yet he comes to respect them and wrestle with his demons from past and the present. The themes around race and “this is my land” also parallel some modern political drama we are now living, though perhaps in subtle ways. If you like a good western and can put up with some sluggish parts to reach the numerous unexpected and savage twists, “Hostiles” is worth a watch.

The Disaster Artist: It Is Not a Disaster, It Is NOT!

The internet is useful for many things, and among those is making people famous for being outrageous. Often times these are one hit wonders like Star Wars kid, Numa Numa guy, or the auto tuned “Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That” (which is ridiculously catchy albeit demeaning). Other times we find reprehensible excuses for human beings that linger and grow in popularity, like a train wreck named Bhad Bhabie I stumbled across and want to exile to Pluto.

Before all of them, though, came the king of kings in Tommy Wiseau and his 2003 movie, “The Room”. To make a long story short, it is possibly the worst movie of all time with an incoherent plot, bad decisions behind the scenes, and him starring as a zany, nonsensical main character. I tried to watch it and couldn’t make it past ten minutes, it makes that little sense and is that hard to watch. “The Disaster Artist” tells the story of the making of that cult classic, with James Franco taking on the role of the iconic Tommy and his brother, Dave Franco, starring opposite him as Tommy’s best friend and costar, Greg Sestero.

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While the Francos have surely embellished some details, it seems they worked hard to adapt Sestero’s book about his experiences with the film. Given their background as comedic actors and the off screen dynamic as brothers, I found myself waiting for them to crack up laughing in every other scene. They kept their composure, though, and the result is a buddy flick that is funny, awkward, and in some ways deep. The humor is found in Jame’s Franco’s pinpoint accurate portrayal of Wiseau. Before I ever knew what “The Room” was and I saw the first trailer for “The Disaster Artist”, I thought that Franco’s odd appearance and broken English meant the film was about a man with a mental handicap trying to be an actor. Far from it, Tommy Wiseau is a man shrouded in mystery. For years he claimed he was decades younger than he was, that he was from Louisiana (he lived there but is from somewhere in Eastern Europe), and had an untold fortune of millions that funded production of his film but whose origin is unknown. Real life Tommy is as strange as Franco’s depiction, and that cringe-worthiness kept me engaged as he kept topping his most recent madness with every scene.

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The deepness comes in some of the ending scenes. When the film finally debuts and Tommy leaves the theater in tears as people laugh and recoil at what was a serious film in his mind, you do find yourself feeling sorry for him and the roller coaster the cast went through in making it. Here was a man trying to pour his heart onto the big screen for the world to see, and he was met with scorn and obscurity. Ultimately, though, I like his sense of wild abandon and the notion whatever your dream is, that if you want to go to Los Angeles and become an actor, just do it (see Shia LaBeouf motivational video).

For me, “The Disaster Artist” was worth renting, and I find myself obsessed with it and moreover the original because someone became famous for being bad at something. The iconic lines are endlessly chuckle inducing, and I am definitely buying a t-shirt and/or ugly sweater with a few of them at some point. If nothing else, hopefully the renewed interest in Tommy Wiseau lands him a major role. I am reminded of Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster in “Thor: Ragnarok” and would love to see Wiseau as some kind of bumbling, eccentric villain. As the following video shows, he certainly seems to have come a long way in the acting department. However, as my brother-in-law pointed out, he’s not acting, that’s just him.