Frank's Faves: Go west, young list-maker

 

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This week: My favorite Westerns ... or how to hogtie yourself in your own druthers.

Talk about the complications of playing favorites! If you caught last week's Faves, you know that I had to disqualify arguably the No. 1 action movie character ever from my list of best action movie franchises because six different actors have played Bond, James Bond in going on 25 different movies over the past half-century or so. That's quite a technicality — but without it, any comparison to other action series hardly seems fair.

This week's list was inspired by a recent late-night viewing of one of my favorite Westerns of all time — "The Mountain Men" (1980) — so you might think that counting off my five favorite Westerns of all time should be a relatively simple matter.

I thought so, too — at first — until I realized that most of my favorite horse operas star one of my favorite action-movie headliners, Clint Eastwood. And if I count out Eastwood's films, most of what remains atop said list star the Duke, John Wayne.

So I tried compiling a list of my favorite Westerns NOT starring either Eastwood or Wayne. You might think that would simplify matters considerably, but ... not so much. Strange as it may seem, there are all kinds of Westerns. If you look up "Western (genre)" on Wikipedia, you'll find no less than 19 different subgenres of Westerns listed, from "classical" Westerns, such as those that made Wayne a Hollywood icon, to "weird" Westerns, such as "Jonah Hex" (2010) or "Wild Wild West" (1999).

Well, OK, rather than get tangled up in my own technicalities like a tenderfoot in his own lariat, allow me to roll with this subgenre thing and go at it like so — how about I pick my five favorite subgenres of Westerns, along with my favorite movie in each subgenre, and brand it:

MY FIVE FAVORITE WESTERNS

(according to my five favorite Wikipedia-cited subgenres)

BEST CLASSICAL WESTERN: "True Grit" (1969).

BEST CONTEMPORARY WESTERN: "Unforgiven" (1992).

BEST SPAGHETTI WESTERN: "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" (1966).

BEST REVISIONIST WESTERN: "Dances With Wolves" (1990).

BEST WESTERN SATIRE: "Blazing Saddles" (1974).

Easy enough. But it doesn't begin to cover my favorite Westerns, OR subgenres of Western, for that matter. So here's a bonus list let's just call:

MY FIVE FAVORITE WESTERNS

(according to five other actually made-up but otherwise totally favorite subgenres)

BEST WESTERN I WOULD WATCH AGAIN RIGHT NOW IF IT CAME ON TV: "Tombstone" (1993).

BEST ENSEMBLE CAST WESTERN: "The Magnificent Seven" (1960). — Close second: "Young Guns"  (1988).

BEST WESTERN TO MAKE YOU APPRECIATE THE AMERICAN FRONTIER AS IT ONCE WAS: "The Mountain Men" (1980). — See also: "Dances With Wolves."

BEST WESTERN INVOLVING THE PLOT WHERE SEEMINGLY EVERYONE IS OUT TO GET THE MOSTLY VIRTUOUS HERO: "The Outlaw Josey Wales" (1976). — Close second: "Jeremiah Johnson" (1972)

BEST WESTERN MOSTLY BASED ON HISTORICAL CHARACTERS AND EVENTS: "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (1969). — See also: "Tombstone."

Copy Editor/Entertainment Editor

Frank Pieper is a copy editor and entertainment editor at The News-Gazette, and the author of Frank's Faves and Frank's Weekend Faves. His email is fpieper@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@frp308).