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Westerns enjoy cinematic rebirth

March 3rd, 2011

The saloon is alive. The noise of music and clinking glasses fill the air. Suddenly, the doors fly open and a stranger walks in, his gun in full view. In an instant, the bar goes quiet as all turn to look at the newcomer.

Everyone has seen that type of movie before: the Western. Nostalgic nods to the frontier west have been commonplace throughout cinematic history. Men like John Wayne and Clint Eastwood made their names making such films. They have been and still remain popular because many regard  their Western films as close to an American-style epic as you can get.

Entering a new decade, Westerns have not been made as often as in the past. However, studios have begun to capitalize on America’s quest for nostalgia by releasing new Westerns and bold new takes on the genre.

Secretary of the Carroll Cinema Society, Megan Lowes, sophmore, believes people will be more interested in the West.

Lowes said, “[Space] movies were able to get people excited and interested in space, so the recent popular Western films may do the same for people and have them become more interested in the West.

On March 4, Paramount is releasing “Rango,” a computer animated film starring Johnny Depp and directed by Gore Verbinski.

The film centers on Rango, a pet chameleon who is removed from his contemporary setting and put in a Western town populated by desert animals.

It focuses on Rango’s efforts to make himself the town’s lawman.

“Rango” is hardly Paramount’s first effort to create a hold on the new Western craze. In December, the studio released a remake of the John Wayne classic “True Grit,” directed by the Coen brothers and starring Jeff Bridges as Sheriff Rooster Cogburn.

Lowes said, “The remake was written in order to catch people of the twenty first centuries’ attention and keep them on their seats.”

The movie received 10 Academy Award nominations, but was unable to win any at the Oscars last Sunday.

Others have been quick to jump on the growing trend of Western themes as well.

Jon Favreau’s sci-fi epic “Cowboys and Aliens” is due out in July, starring Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig. Cable network AMC is planning a new series, “Hell on Wheels,” for release in the fall.

The Reconstruction era show focuses on the story of Cullen Bohannon, a soldier out to avenge his wife’s death.

Films like “Rango” and “Cowboy and Aliens” are typical of the pushing of the envelope of the western genre. By putting an animated feel or sci-fi touch on the films, directors are banking on reaching a whole new audience and new generations of fans.

What does this surge mean for the film industry?

At least for the time being, Westerns seem to be enjoying the same type of resurgence that 3D movies have gotten in the last three years.

Lowes talked about how childhood plays a big part in people’s interest. “Playing games such as cops and robbers or Indians and cowboys when they are younger can contribute to some of their interests.”

When producers are able to land names like Depp, Bridges, Ford and Craig, the genre appears to be viable again.

It appears safe to say that Westerns are back in all shapes and sizes for a whole new generation of moviegoers to love.