My Thoughts While Watching:
Pawpaw would have loved this kind of western. It was solid, as far as westerns go. Clint Eastwood plays the same character in every western he stars in, so that was predictable. I did not mind watching it, it was enjoyable even. I am just scratching my head over the fact that it won an Oscar for best picture.
Insert IMDB Plot Details: “William Munny (Clint Eastwood) is a widower with two young children. He was once a very vicious gunfighter, but after marrying, gave up gunfighting, drinking, and most other vices. His wife died of smallpox in 1878, but he continues to try to eke out a living with his children on their hog farm, and to try to be the kind of man he believes his late wife would want him to be. It is now 1880.” Just to expand upon that: Munny is a horrible pig farmer. Several have a fever, he falls face forward in the mud every time he tries to corral them, and his kid does a better job tending to the pigs than he does.
Over in Big Whiskey, Wyoming – we meet the sheriff, Little Bill Dagget (Gene Hackman). He has a handful of deputies that help him enforce the law (well, it always seems they do the majority of the work while he builds a house or talks to a biographer, etc). There is a saloon, complete with working girls. My initial thought – wow, such a small town needs that many hookers? Anyway… two cowboys (one with a penis small enough to make a whore laugh) cut up one of the girls and left her horribly disfigured (and by horribly – she is still beautiful with a few small scars, just saying). Because justice was not served to the men (via Little Bill), the girls take it upon themselves to pool all of their money ($1,000) and then to offer it as a reward to whoever kills the cutting cowboys. They bang several men over the next couple of weeks, telling them all about the bounty, word spreads, and visitors with guns come to town.
Because Little Bill refuses to allow visitors into town carrying firearms (there is a sign at the edge of town that states just that), he uses it as an excuse to beat the hell out of people. First one to be beaten: British Bob (Richard Harris). And let me just say, to have that talented actor available for your movie and to use him in a small scene as a punching bag is just…well, a mismanaged resource, in my opinion. They run him out on the rail. The second to be beat over firearms is Munny. But first, let me explain how Munny went from pig farmer to rejoining the gunslinger workforce. Seems someone told the “Shofield kid” (Jaimz Woolvet) that Munny was a badass back in the day and the man he needed at his side when he took on this bounty hunt. Thing is, the Shofiled kid is all a front, never having shot a man before and having vision so bad that he cannot shoot anything more than fifty yards away. He stops at the pig farm to convince Munny that he needs to return to gunslinging and help out with this killing. Munny initially declines but as he continues farming, a pigs keep getting the fever – well, he caves and heads off (leaving his 10 year old son in charge of his (maybe) 6 year old daughter for, as he put it, a couple of weeks) and finds his old partner, Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman). The two catch up to the Kid and off the three go, a ragtag set of assassins. They make it to Whiskey which brings me back to the second person to get a beating for carrying a firearm in Little Bill’s town: Munny. His beating (just as bad as Harris) has worse effects in that it beat an infection into his body somehow. Maybe it was the stitches, who knows.
After mortally wounding one of the cowboys, both Ned and Munny realize that gunslinging isn’t the same for them any longer. Ned decides to head back home and Munny says he will be on his way shortly. But, of course, that was not going to happen. Third beaten, this one with deadly implications, is Ned. The death of Ned drives Munny to pick the bottle back up and to find his aim.
In the end, the girls get revenge, Munny gets a share of the bounty and he and his children go into hiding to avoid capture by law enforcement.
The only honest people (IMHO) in the whole movie were the whores. They were treated like cattle, they had an uprising and they paid the bounty they advertised. They didn’t put on airs to be anything above (or below) their station. They only wanted good representation and a fair shake.
When the kid is describing how theses cowboys sliced up a “lady”, to encourage Eastwood’s character into joining him on this adventure, he says, “They even cut her teets.” Her teets? What the hell.
At one point I thought of Eastwood and Freeman like the “Expendables” of cowboys. Also – I find it odd that the violence that Eastwood’s character has inflicted has created a sort of PTSD for him. Wait a minute fella, I cannot feel sorry for you because you have flashbacks of all the people (women, men and children…hell ALL walks of life) you slaughtered in your heyday. “It’s a helluva thing…killing a man.”
Should this have won an Oscar? My opinion – no. In a year that saw The Bodyguard, The Last Of The Mohicans and My Cousin Vinny. Or, hell, A River Runs Through It. There were so many more that should have been at the top of the awards list other than Unforgiven. Also, those I just mentioned? Not a one of them were in the running. The other movies nominated in the Oscars that year: The Crying Game, A Few Good Men, Howards End and Scent of a Woman (side note – Pacino was up for both Lead Male in Scent and Best Supporting Actor in Glengarry Glen Ross).
The entire list of nominations for that Oscar presentation (aired 1993) can be found HERE.
Uncle Jim’s Rebuttal:
After the Oscars some of us are always left scratching our heads and thinking, really? Why was that a thing? A few of the ones I remember was when Denzel Washington who should have won for a number of films most memorable being Malcolm X but instead won for a crap film like Training Day. Those are what I call give me’s even actors and actress sometimes recognize give me’s Like when Jeremy Irons won for Best Actor in Reversal Of Fortune but thanked David Cronenberg who wrote and directed Dead Ringers. The film I am about to talk about is a film that I loved but was it worth an Oscar? The truthful answer is: I am not sure.
Unforgiven to me is a beautiful, brutal and gritty film that is reminiscent of the old spaghetti westerns that made Clint Eastwood’s career. A real star-studded cast: Clint Eastwood (The Outlaw Josey Welles), Gene Hackman (French Connection), Richard Harris (A Man Called Horse), Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption), Frances Fisher (TV Show-Eureka) and Jaimz Woolvett as the Schofield Kid.
The story is your basic western corrupt ex-bad-guy running the town. The local ladies of the night put a bounty on another bad guy’s head that cut one of them up and now gunslingers are coming to claim it. One of those people being Richard Harris’s character English Bob. Unfortunately for English Bob, waiting for him is old friend Little Bill (played by Gene Hackman) who flogs him in the street and locks him up. One of the best scenes in the movie though is between these two when Hackman puts a loaded gun in front of Harris and says “take your shot”. You could feel the tension in the air as Harris silently stares at the camera and debates over whether or not he should take the gun, whether or not the gun is even loaded and decides to slip back into the shadows of his cell. His best move……..
The other part of the story is the conflict of Eastwood’s character a struggling ex alcoholic that needs the money the women are offering and leaves his kids behind with their failing pig farm. He sets out with his one and only friend played by Morgan Freeman and the kid who claims to be a hardened killer, killing many men on his adventures. Eastwood and Freeman don’t buy it for a second. What separates this film from other westerns is it deals with the consequences of being a killer. The reason Eastwood is an former alcoholic is because he can barely remember the men that he has killed being incoherently drunk every time he pulled the trigger but their faces still haunt him. In a really haunting scene only lit by a campfire Eastwood is delusional suffering from a fever and he starts to talk about a guy he killed in his past, how he didn’t deserve it, how afraid he is to die and to have to face all the men he has killed over the years. Later on in the film after a shootout that leaves Freeman character captured and beaten by Little Bill and The Kidd with his first actual kill, Eastwood and The Kid are sharing a bottle of whiskey. The Kidd says, “Well I guess he had it coming.” Eastwood replies, “We all got it coming Kid”. He finishes the bottle and rides into town to either get Freeman or to kill every last man that had anything to do with the wrong that was happening in that town.
Did it deserve the Oscar? Who can say. But, you have to love a western that: when the smoke clears, its pouring down rain and Eastwood is on his horse after killing all the bad guys in town. He is drunk, angry and screams at the town “You better bury Ned right! (Morgan Freeman)… Better not cut up, nor otherwise harm no whores… or I’ll come back and kill every one of you sons of bitches.” then rides off into the dark……….
Some Interviews and Extra Video:
IMDB Synopsis: Retired Old West gunslinger William Munny reluctantly takes on one last job, with the help of his old partner and a young man.
Lead Actor: Clint Eastwood
Supporting Male: Gene Hackman
Supporting Male: Morgan Freeman
Supporting Female: Frances Fisher
Others of note: Richard Harris
Director: Clint Eastwood
1 Ugh – 2 Meh – 3 I don’t hate it? – 4 That was solid. – 5 Loved It!
Cinematography: 4 – for the 90’s it was solid
Costume Design: 3 – it was a western, typical costumes, nothing stupendous
Film Editing: 3
Makeup and Hairstyling: 2 – two because those cuts to the face were not very remarkable
Music: 2 – because once the movie was over I could not remember what it was like
Production Design: 3 – again, I felt it was “typical western fare”
Sound Editing/Mixing: 3
Writing: 4 – I thought the writing was good, I think the reading of the dialogue was stiff
My overall score: 24 out of a 40
Additional Movie Info:
It received a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 96% Fresh. It received a Rotten Tomato audience rating of 93% liking it. Average Rating: 4/5 with a number of User Ratings: 122,147.
Specs: Release date: 7 August 1992 (USA) / Runtime: 130 minutes / Budget: $14.4M
- Although the score was arranged by Lennie Niehaus, the main theme was written by Clint Eastwood himself.
- Clint Eastwood’s mother Ruth Wood toiled through an uncomfortable day (wearing a heavy dress) as an extra, filming a scene where she boards a train; but the scene was eventually cut, with her son apologizing that the film was “too long and something had to go.” All was forgiven when he brought her to the Academy Awards and thanked her prominently in his acceptance speech.
- The film was shot in thirty-nine days, coming in four days ahead of schedule. The town had to be built very quickly, with a relatively short run-up time (two months) to the start of filming; the construction period was used by the Stunt Coordinator to work on actors’ riding skills, and stunt choreography.
- Deputy Clyde’s line about why a one armed man needed to carry three pistols: “I don’t want to get killed from lack of being able to shoot back” is sometimes attributed to lawman and gunfighter Wild Bill Hickok, who usually carried two pistols around his waist, another in a shoulder holster, sometimes another stuck in the back of his belt, and usually had at least one Derringer hidden somewhere on his person. While working as a lawman, he usually carried a sawed off shotgun as well. Hickok also laughed at Ned Buntline’s report about his killing twenty men with twenty shots, saying that his theory was start shooting and keep shooting, until the man you were shooting at was dead.
- The windmill that appears in the backdrop through much of the movie was a real operating windmill, rather than a set piece, and to this day, pumps water to The Dow Wetlands Preserve in Antioch, California, where it was sent after shooting.
- Jeremy Irons was considered for the role of English Bob.
- The following guns were used in this movie. 1. William Munny used a 1859 Starr revolver double action, a Smith and Wesson Schofield revolver, a 12-gauge double barreled coach shotgun, and later a Spencer rifle. 2. Ned uses a Spencer rifle. 3. The Kid uses a S&W Schofield, and earlier he uses a Winchester 1873 rifle. 4. English Bob uses a Colt 1873 “Peacemaker” Single action Army and a Bulldog .32 caliber pocket pistol. 5. Little Bill used a Colt 1873 “Peacemaker” Single action Army. 6. The Cathouse owner has a Colt 1851 single action revolver. 7. Andy the deputy uses a Winchester 1866 “Yellow Boy” made to look like a Henry rifle by removing the for-end. 8. The one armed law man uses 3 revolvers one a Remington 1875 and 2 Colt 1873 “Peacemakers”. 9. Various people stick to the famed “peacemakers” and Winchester ’73 rifles.
- When Will notes that Ned is still using a Spencer rifle, it would imply that Ned carried it in the Civil War as a member of a U.S. Colored Troops cavalry regiment. Morgan Freeman also starred in Glory (1989), as a member of a U.S. Colored regiment.
- The railroad, used to film the train sequence, was also used for Pale Rider (1985).
- According to the script, The Schofield Kid (Jaimz Woolvett) drowned himself out of guilt.
- In the shoot-out in Greeley’s, Will (Clint Eastwood) fires all six bullets from the Kid’s (Jaimz Woolvett’s) Schofield. When he tells the rest of the men to clear out the back, he is threatening them with an empty pistol.
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