Top Sory Box

February 2014


Steve McQueen in Montana
The Famous Actor and His Beautiful Wife Loved Livingston
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Jeanette Rankin and Belle Winestine
In honor of the Centennial of Women's Suffrage in Montana
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McQueen, the Back Story
Read article here

An Apache Outbreak,War on the Border
Chiricahua Apaches Defy and Fight U.S. and Mexican Soldiers
Read article here

Food Police a Real Possibility?
For Some, It’s an Idea Whose Time Has Come
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The Real Wolf Does Not Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
Authors Say It Is Pro-Wolfers Who Propagate Myths

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Letters to the Editor
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Seen Any Good Movies Lately?
Most Likely Not



By now, most of you have discovered Netflix and Red Box, popular purveyors of movies to the masses. These operations are logis-tically impressive, and responsive to consumer needs in terms of convenience, price, and delivery. For $7.99 a month, Netflix serves up unlimited movies on demand. You can download them instantly, and Red Box allows you to reserve a DVD online then pick it up at the supermarket for $1.20.

Red Box, though, more than others, inspires the lament movies, movies everywhere and not a one to watch — apologies to the Ancient Mariner, which, were it a movie, would surely surpass in quality and import the parade of dreck purveyed by Red Box. Mostly, Red Box offers movies that went straight to DVD, the production quality being so poor they never made it to the theater. Then they are packaged with highly produced cover images as if they were viable films, when what you get are low-grade rejects. The trick, if you like good movies, is to read the reviews (on Netflix) before reserving or renting from Red Box, because idle introspection (even boredom) is preferable to wasting 108 minutes of your life watching a substandard video deceptively packaged as something it’s not.

In fairness to Red Box (not that they deserve it, because their practices are not fair, or at least the practices of those who package their DVDs), one can find a handful of actual movies available, some big new releases (Mission Impossible 29 or whatever) and with these you are back to the more run-of-the-mill disappointments of modern filmmak-ing, the all-action/ no-story films, lots of car chases and explosions, with little  invested (oddly) in an engaging script that holds your attention based on story and characters, as opposed to Hollywood nonsense.

Netflix though is an amazing operation and delivery vehicle for movies. You can browse and instantly watch (or order DVDs by mail that arrive speedily). You can read reviews that will tell you whether the production is a dog or a gem. Beware though, the first few reviews often overflow with praise, as if written by the producer’s wife and kids, then the rotten tomatoes follow. If you like movies, though, you may find months worth of fresh entertainment on Netflix, after which you start watching second and third choices, in other words bad movies. Even the first choices, mind you, are not particularly good, and forgotten the moment the credits run (or as you leave the theater). You have to search hard to find a decent movie these days (two star flicks abound). It’s actually hard to imagine how it is that there are so many bad movies—they cost money to make, even the dogs. Perhaps the best advice someone could give a filmmaker would be to watch Red Box films, then strive not to make one so shoddy, poorly acted, poorly directed, and amateurish.

If you are of a certain age, you may find yourself resorting to watching old standards that still hold up. To each his own, of course, and there are guy movies and chick flicks, though in this office “we” are ill-equipped to speak authoritatively for the latter (not being a chick). Yet one that comes to mind is French Kiss, with Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline, filmed in 1995 and beautifully so in France. It’s the kind of movie that could have been filmed decades earlier starring the greats of the golden age. Yes, it’s predictable, but it has a timeless charm. You don’t find many movies like that anymore.

In the guy movie category, The Great Escape comes to mind  (see at the Ellen Theater screenings, page 21. Check out the Bozeman Film Fest too). The movie stands out (like The Godfather) as one of the best films ever made, starring James Garner, Donald Pleasence, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, and the coolest    movie star of all times, Steve McQueen. Watch it, if you’ve yet to see it. Or watch it again.

Another great one of that era and genre is The Blue Max starring George Peppard, Ursula Andress and James Mason. Watch it on your big screen TV for scenic views of WWI dog fights, countryside, and Ursula Andress. Hombre starring Paul Newman and Richard Boone is a great western, really taut, and groundbreaking in its treatment of the Apache. Paul Newman nails it.

Recently, Inception with Leonar-do DiCaprio is a mind bending classic. Leo’s good in Blood Diamond too, co-starring the appealing Jenni-fer Connelly, a manly and at times heart wrenching adventure story with great character development and a poignant ending. Then M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense, starring Bruce Willis,  represents a model that ought to be followed, a great but not expensive movie (except for Bruce’s paycheck) that succeeds based on the spooky story and surprise ending, not explosions and car chases (if I see one more car chase where the protagonist heads the wrong way, on a oneway freeway, I may regurgitate my Goobers and Raisinettes). This was a depar-ture for Willis from his trite action movies, although the first Die Hard was a great suspense film, thoroughly entertaining.

Sadly, none of these gems turn up on Netflix streaming because they are not licensed for that (we called) except  Hombre, and so far licensing restrictions leave rather few first rate movies on that service, a serious draw back. Steve McQueen offerings, for example, are few—no Bullitt, Getaway, or Tom Horn.

Here’s another tip for filmmakers: invest in a good story, not car chases and tired formulas. Next tip (for anyone): If renting, read reviews first. You will find many movies unwatchable, a waste of time.

Finally: Read. Most movies made these days are weak, unsatisfying and immediately forgotten.










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