Gold to End Dollars

The Good, The Bad, and The UglyM Good 1967

Theaters:  December 1966

Streaming:  November 1997

Rated:  R

Runtime:  177 minutes

Genre:  Action – Adventure – Western

els:  9.0/10

IMDB:  8.9/10

Amazon:  4.7/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics:  8.8/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience:  4.0/5

Metacritic Metascore:  90/100

Metacritic User Score:  9.1/10


Directed by:  Sergio Leone

Written by:  Agenore Incrocci and Furio Scarpelli (screenplay), Luciano Vincenzoni and Sergio Leone (story and screenplay)

Music by:  Ennio Morricone

Cast:  Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Eli Wallach

Film Locations:  Spain and Italy

Budget:  $1,200,000

Worldwide Box Office:  $25,100,000

In 1862, 3 gunfighters, prowling the New Mexico Territory for easy money; the Good (Eastwood), the Bad (Van Cleef), and the Ugly (Wallach) hear tales of Confederate gold buried in a Civil War cemetery. Pairing up when convenient, going alone when it wasn’t, they set out for the golden grave at Sad Hill Cemetery but only the “Man with No Name” knows which grave. Their travels and adventures to the final resting place of Blue and Grey casualties leave a trail littered with the excesses of betrayal, brutality, deception, extortion, and death.  Honor and friendship are vices that will get you killed, according few serviceable distinctions between the good, bad, and ugly.

The movie ties its tale around the events of the Confederate Army’s Civil War New Mexico Campaign in 1862. Confederate General Henry Sibley convinced the president of the southern slave states, Jefferson Davis, to invade the western states and territories from the east side of the Rockies and continue on to California.  The goal was to capture the gold mines of the Colorado Territory, a major source of revenue for the Union’s war efforts, and the California ports.  The ports would provide additional resupply bases for the Confederates or at a minimum require the Union Navy to divert scarce resources in attempting to blockade them.  Sibley’s initial thrust, beginning in early 1862, came from Texas and continued up into New Mexico towards Santa Fe and Fort Union. The Confederates, initially successful, were eventually forced to retreat back into Texas, because Sibley’s already thin supply lines were destroyed.  Skirmishes continued for another year but the South’s New Mexico campaign lasted less than 6 months and General Sibley was demoted to logistic details, ironically the major drawback of his southwest strategic, invasion planning.

Sergio Leone may not have invented Spaghetti Westerns but he certainly raised the genre to a high and profitable art form. As a director his credits are few, just 11 movies, but his 2 trilogies, Dollars and Once Upon a Time, were critical and financial successes. Leone, additionally, has  screenplay credits for most of the movies he directed along with a second unit director credit for the 11 Oscar award-winning, 1959 film: Ben Hur. His trademark long view shots of uninviting background coupled with intense close-ups of emotion filled eyes gave his westerns a barefaced, grainy look of realism in a land of little opportunity except for those who created their own.

Ennio Morricone made his name and fortune composing the scores for Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy. Creating an iconic sound of wolves howling, punctuated with Indian drum beats portending events to come.  None of the Dollars movies had a large budget to work with causing Morricone to creatively improvise, using ricocheting bullets, whips, and trumpets to fill in for the missing orchestra.  His film scores eventually earned him an honorary Academy Award in 2007 and the Best Original Score Academy Award for the 2016 movie: The Hateful Eight.

Then there was Clint Eastwood. Initially reluctant to do the final movie in The Man with No Name trilogy, he agreed to it after Leone met his hefty financial demands, $250,000 plus 10% of the profits.  In the mid-1960s these were demands that stars made, not the unknown Eastwood, who previously had just played bit parts in forgettable movies.  Leone must have seen something in him though because A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly made Eastwood an international star.  In these westerns Eastwood plays the part that he would reprise many more times throughout his career. That of a loner, willing to push morality and law to the limits and beyond, but showing compassion and tolerance when needed.

This movie should be on your “Must See in My Lifetime” list. If you have seen it, watch it again. A true masterpiece of writing, directing, cinematography, music and acting.

Stockholm Syndrome

The Pirates of Somalia  (Theaters-2017; Streaming-2017)  Rated: R  Runtime: 116-118 minutesM Pirates 2017

Genre:  Biography-Drama

els – 6.0/10

IMDb – 6.9/10

Amazon – 3.8/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 6.1/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 4.2/5

Metacritic Metascore – 54/100

Metacritic User Score – 7.8/10

Directed by:  Bryan Buckley

Written by:  Bryan Buckley

Music by:  Andrew Feltenstein, John Nau

Cast:  Evan Peters, Barkhad Abdi, Melanie Griffith, Al Pacino

Film Locations:   Cape Town and Western Cape, South Africa; New York, US

Budget:   NA

Worldwide Box Office:  NA

Jay Bahadur (Peters), a young, idealistic Canadian, aspires to be a journalist, but his job prospects are poor to nonexistent. Going to Somalia to observe, interview, report, and write a book on the pirates is just the scoop he needs to break into the profession. He wrote a term paper in his first year of college romanticizing the peaceful transition to power of a newly elected government in Somalia, in which he extrapolates from that occurrence, a country that is a charming spot of sand, full of peace and love, not so different from his beloved home country of Canada; minus the sand of course. He naively weaves this theory throughout the movie, and beyond, with conviction, never contemplating that Somalia life and politics may be just a tad more complicated and less perfect than this young, inexperienced man may imagine.

With some journalistic mentoring from a retired newsman, Seymour Tolden (Pacino), Jay sets off for Somalia without any real inkling of what he is up against. Using Tolden’s contacts in the country, along with bribes and khat, a local addictive stimulant, he gains access to the pirates and is able to document their side of the story. The pirates see themselves as modern-day Robin Hoods, taking from the multinational corporations what is due them. Due them for past wrongs, due them for the British and Italian colonization and to help set matters right. I suspect the Nazis, the Mafia, Castro, Chavez, and countless others saw matters in a similar light; it was their due and they were going make everything alright.

The movie is based on a biographical account, chronicled in the 2011 New York Times bestseller: The Pirates of Somalia: Inside Their Hidden World by Jay Bahadur. The movie was filmed in early 2016, had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2017 and was released in the US on 8 December 2017.

Leaving the kid’s politics aside, just for a moment, this is an interesting and well filmed and acted drama, with the exception of the tongue-in-cheek over prints and narratives which are fun and irritating at the same time, depicting life in Somalia and the pirates claim to authority and respect in this peaceful country.  At the end of the movie Bahadur appears to have made a very good living off his book, movie and consulting; telling the world about the wonderful and peaceful land of Somalia and its citizens.

The problem with his story though is that he never successfully bridges the logical, the cerebral disconnect between the peaceful transition of the newly elected government with the existence of the shadow government run by the pirates; much less contemplate the very peaceful, 1991 civil war, precipitated by the smooth transition-to-power-coup that claimed up to 500,000 lives and resulted in 1,000,000 plus refugees, or using the pc correct term: displaced persons. Add to that, the bloodless 1993 Battle of Mogadishu, that claimed 19 American lives, 73 wounded and 1 captured, which was subsequently documented and portrayed, poorly, in the 2002 film: Black Hawk Down.  An interesting aside is that in this movie the Somalis complain that no Somalis were used as actors in depicting the butchering of Americans in Black Hawk Down. The irony is lost on Bahadur. Jay Bahadur is naive and likely not very bright, he wanted to go into journalism for cripes sakes, but watch the movie anyway, it’s a useful lesson in ignorance and a trusting nature leading to self-deception.

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