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Jul 25 2013

An evening of satisfying relaxation

The Lone Ranger is playing at the Morris Theater and I had a hankerin’ to watch Johnny Depp mete out justice in the Old West.

So I watched Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man. It’s on Netflix.

I don’t know why anyone would watch that glossy hollywood tripe when you can see gorgeous black & white cinematography, a weird and thoughtful movie, listen to a Neil Young soundtrack, and see Johnny Depp playing a stupid fucking white man. Bonus: well-researched portrayal of the diversity of Indian culture, and the actor playing an Indian is actually a First Nations person in real life.

Also, it’s one of those movies where the ending is set in the Pacific Northwest, and it always makes me homesick. When I’m dying, I want to be just pushed out to sea in a cedar canoe, please.


I should have known everyone in the world was going to compare Lone Ranger to Dead Man.

42 comments

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  1. 1
    chigau (違う)

    Johnny Depp plays the really smart Indian.

  2. 2
    timanthony

    When it comes to meting out justice, I hardly care who does it. You don’t need style to mete out justice; meting out justice is style. That’s why Danny Trejo is every bit as awesome as a Depp or Cruise (who was not at all bad in Collateral Damage, at least for a scientologist, I thought. Come to think of it, why doesn’t Cruise teach Travolta how act? In return, Travolta could teach Cruise how to jump on a couch with actual dance moves. I’d watch that. I’d record for YouTube, in fact.).

    I’ll concede that for the bits between the meting out of the justice, it helps to have a real actor. And a real director. Jarmusch’s visions are uncontaminated by convention.

  3. 3
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    Let us not forget Iggy Pop as a bible quoting cross dressing murderer.

    Was that a case of typecasting?

  4. 4
    Menyambal

    I got to paddle in a a cedar canoe, at Seattle’s Center for Wooden Boats. It was a life experience.

    _The Lone Ranger_ is not going to be an experience, life or otherwise.

  5. 5
    Chase Cross

    It’s a brilliant film, and, even its uncompromising Jarmuschian weirdness, a more apt and real depiction of the vagaries of the West than many films have managed. The central conceit of the film is a wonderful reversal of the traditional Hogarthian narrative of the virginal rural ingenue being corrupted by the moral decadence and decay of the cities.

  6. 6
    Holms

    I wrote the Lone Ranger off as pure drivel the moment I realised Johnny Depp was simply going to play Captain Jack Sparrow, Native American Edition.

  7. 7
    marko

    Sounds like one to check out, Jarmusch’s Down by Law is one of my all time favourite movies. I saw a trailer for The Lone Ranger and had an immediate and powerful compulsion to never see it, looks like Pirates of the Caribbean set in the wild west.

  8. 8
    vytautasjanaauskas

    Dead Man is one of the most brilliant films of all time.

  9. 9
    tbtabby

    I learned about this film via Brows Held High.

  10. 10
    marcoli

    OK, I put it on my queue. Man, that word has a lot of vowels!

  11. 11
    Nerdette

    I loved Dead Man, though I had no idea that Neil Young created the score by improvising the riffs while watching the movie. That is *awesome*.

    Also, Gary Farmer is awesome. I love it when he shows up in general roles that could be filled by any heritage, like the police captain in Forever Knight (yes, I confess to watching Forever Knight, we all have our dirty little secrets. That’s where I fell in love with Nigel Bennett, too).

  12. 12
    peptron

    I am working with Indians right now, and every time I hear the demonym “Indian” used to refer to Native Americans, I die a little inside. I think that it is time that people accept that Christopher Columbus got the continent wrong.

  13. 13
    aaarghy

    I’m new to commenting here and I know the horde will probably eat me alive for this link but I just had to post it somewhere and I thought why not here http://vimeo.com/63749370 I only managed to watch 4min but I have it saved to watch later because it looks very entertaining, although probably not in the way the producers intended :-)

  14. 14
    playonwords

    Cedar canoe???

  15. 15
    chigau (違う)

    aaarghy #13
    You would be more likely to get people to click your link if you provided an explanation.

  16. 16
    The Mellow Monkey

    peptron, our ancestors didn’t call this place “America”, so that’s no more accurate than Indian. “Native American” is a term that was proposed by the United States government and was not chosen by the peoples it describes. Many people reject it because of that and Indian remains common as a self-identification in the US.

    Before white people came, there was no general term for all of the indigenous people here beyond “people.” And across all the languages and dialects spoken here, that term didn’t exactly stay the same everywhere, ginisidotam ina?

  17. 17
    chigau (違う)

    In Canada First Nations is the current term.

  18. 18
    socalcommie

    aarghy@13

    Dump your right-wing propaganda somewhere else (Stormfront perhaps) and kindly just FUCK OFF!

  19. 19
    peptron

    @The Mellow Monkey:
    I remember an half-joking suggestion to rename America “Gorkland”, in the honor of the caveman that crossed the Bering Straight. That would make Native Americans “Gorklanders”.
    Though, the best would be to call Natives by the name of their actual people. To me, an Iroquoi is not a Huron is not a Micmac, etc. But then, that would require people to know thing. I mean, Canadians and Russians really are the same really. Live north, like hockey, drink beer.

    However, I also dislike the idea of calling the people of the United States “Americans”. America is the name of a continent, and there are no countries of that name. Most languages actually have a way to call people of the United States, like in French you have “États-Unien”.

  20. 20
    omnicrom

    More exposure to Brows Held High? I am totally on board with that because those reviews are pretty awesome.

  21. 21
    chigau (違う)

    Mexico is officially the United Mexican States, Estados Unidos Mexicanos.

  22. 22
    ChasCPeterson

    socalcommie, who the fuck are you to be telling somebody to fuck off from somebody else’s blog?
    besides, if you read aarghy’s comment, you might be able to figure out that s/he’s on your side.
    reactionary asshole.

  23. 23
    donny5

    PZ, thanks for bringing up a great movie, I am a huge fan of Dead Man and had a lot of respect for Depp after he did it. You also have to watch Jarmusch’s next film- Ghost Dog, which is also about a bunch of stupid, fucking white men but in a totally different way.

    Cheers!

  24. 24
    Denverly

    I don’t know why anyone would watch that glossy hollywood tripe…

    Because my dad took me so see the Lone Ranger when I was nine. I was a kid and thought it was so awesome we saw it twice in one day. Imagine being able to see a new Lone Ranger with your dad 30 years later, laughing and snarking at the first one we saw. Because sometimes glossy hollywood tripe does a better job of distracting me from the fact that I fire people for a living than the poignant sad story or bittersweet drama or weird and thoughtful movie can. Because sometimes glossy hollywood tripe is the only movie all of my friends can agree on. Because sometimes glossy hollywood tripe brings nerds out of the woodwork for midnight cosplay, and half the fun is making “A jedi, a stormtooper, and a bounty hunter all walk into a bar” jokes while waiting.

  25. 25
    Rip Steakface

    @24

    Agreed. Every time I see a film-related post by PZ, I feel as if he’s trying to make me feel bad for liking any Hollywood movies. PZ, I can only be so much of a snob! Music, sure. Politics, sure. Religion, totally. Video games, probably. Film and literature? I’m sorry, but I just can’t do it most of the time.

  26. 26
    gillt

    I was living in DC during the long-in-coming opening of the National Museum of the American Indian on the mall. There was a lot of controversy over naming the museum, especially since it represents all North American tribes, but for better or worse American Indian is the official compromise, which is impressive considering the city’s NFL team name.

  27. 27
    loreo

    The Mellow Monkey, thank you for your comment (#16)

  28. 28
    Dutchgirl

    Dead Man is a great movie, as is Stranger than Paradise (short film) and Down by Law. While glossy Hollywood tripe has its place in mindless entertainment, don’t make the mistake of thinking that well-written, interesting, thoughtful films can’t also be funny and entertaining. If your sense of humor is a little dark, like mine, you will laugh watching Dead Man.

  29. 29
    The Mellow Monkey

    peptron

    Though, the best would be to call Natives by the name of their actual people. To me, an Iroquoi is not a Huron is not a Micmac, etc. But then, that would require people to know thing.

    And most people do refer to their nation or tribe when talking about themselves, but there is need for a broad terms when we are dealing with problems that affect multiple peoples or speaking about racial identity as opposed to tribal identity.

    For example, the tribal affiliation of an actor may not matter nearly as much as the fact that xe actually has some appropriate ancestry and thus is not donning “red face”. So there may be a discussion about how a part in a movie should have gone to an Indian or First Nations actor, instead of saying the actor should have specifically been from the Comanche Nation.

  30. 30
    Rutee Katreya

    Agreed. Every time I see a film-related post by PZ, I feel as if he’s trying to make me feel bad for liking any Hollywood movies. PZ, I can only be so much of a snob! Music, sure. Politics, sure. Religion, totally. Video games, probably. Film and literature? I’m sorry, but I just can’t do it most of the time.

    Sounds more like you can be snobby about other people’s entertainment… XD

  31. 31
    gregpeterson

    An absolutely brilliant, lyrical and haunting movie; truly unforgetable, and perhaps Depp’s best work.

    When I asked an Indian friend what the preferred term was, he said if you don’t know the tribal name, the preferred term is “Indian.” Unless an actual Indian person tells me that there’s another term I should be using, I’ll leave the dying inside to the PC outsiders.

  32. 32
    ryancunningham

    Dead Man and Unforgiven would make a good “Westerns are bullshit” marathon.

  33. 33
    Jadehawk

    Because my dad took me so see the Lone Ranger when I was nine. I was a kid and thought it was so awesome we saw it twice in one day. Imagine being able to see a new Lone Ranger with your dad 30 years later, laughing and snarking at the first one we saw. Because sometimes glossy hollywood tripe does a better job of distracting me from the fact that I fire people for a living than the poignant sad story or bittersweet drama or weird and thoughtful movie can. Because sometimes glossy hollywood tripe is the only movie all of my friends can agree on. Because sometimes glossy hollywood tripe brings nerds out of the woodwork for midnight cosplay, and half the fun is making “A jedi, a stormtooper, and a bounty hunter all walk into a bar” jokes while waiting.

    all of which is of course far more important than the massive racism problems with that movie. of course.
    http://nativeappropriations.com/2013/07/i-saw-the-lone-ranger-so-you-dont-have-to.html

  34. 34
    bad Jim

    Over at Lawyers, Guns & Money, SEK has been using a still from Dead Man (“My name is William Blake. Do you know my poetry”) to illustrate some of his earlier pieces. That was the first I’d heard of it.

    The question of terminology for the earliest Americans has come up before, and there seems to be a consensus that American Indian is acceptable. Moreover, indio is the usual term in Spanish.

  35. 35
    schweinhundt

    @13 aaarghy,
    Agreed: “entertaining, although probably not in the way the producers intended.”

    I, however, don’t plan on watching the whole thing. The Aussie complaining @2:30 that the left “will subvert and rot every good and decent thing we believe in” interspliced with footage of someone taking the pick-end of an axe to (what I’m 90% sure was the) Berlin Wall was enough unintentional irony for me.

    @14 playonwords,
    While I can’t criticize PZ for his choice of cedar canoe, I am more of an exit-via-longship kinda person—minus the still living crew of spouse/vassals/servants, of course.

  36. 36
    thecalmone

    And I think it was Robert Mitchum’s last movie.

  37. 37
    unclefrogy

    I have not seen either movie so I can’t comment on them
    I was reminded of a song because many things remind me of songs when the subject of dieing or fiery funerals came up I looked for it but did not find the version I was looking for. The song is “No Money Down” the lines that came to mind goes something like this. “When I die bury me over by the high way side I don’t care where the hell you bury my body when I’m dead and gone”

    my favorite “far out western” would have to be “El Topo” which I will never attempt to describe.
    other than I recommend watching it
    uncle frogy

  38. 38
    myeck waters

    all of which is of course far more important than the massive racism problems with that movie. of course.
    http://nativeappropriations.com/2013/07/i-saw-the-lone-ranger-so-you-dont-have-to.html

    I dunno, I have a few problems with that piece. There are two places where the writer basically says a particular aspect of the movie wasn’t wrong/bad, but that it was too subtle and the stupid audience would get the wrong idea.
     
    And her description of Tonto’s behavior in the museum scene included such examples of his hapless idiocy as trading a dead mouse to a kid for a bag or peanuts and then eating the peanuts whole, shells and all. The trade itself seems pretty shrewd to me, and I knew an otherwise seemingly normal guy (OK, he had majored in philosophy, but still) who ate peanuts whole. Even got me to try it. I finally spit out the shell fibers several minutes later.

  39. 39
    Menyambal

    The first trailer I saw for _The Lone Ranger_ had me wondering about the way Tonto was dressed. I was just formulating the thought that perhaps the movie-makers had done some careful research and had a purpose for that odd get-up. Then there came a shot of the two heroes jumping off a railroad bridge, a rather modern steel bridge, not a wooden trestle. It made me think that no, they hadn’t put any thought into the movie.

    As for eating peanuts shell and all, I’ve tried it on occasion, when wishing some extra fiber. I don’t do it often, and not when folks are watching. I’d say that in the context of a movie, when accompanied with feeding a dead bird, it’s intended to show crazy. (Not that I’d give the movie-makers credit for any intent.)

  40. 40
    chigau (違う)

    Peanuts were domesticated in South America.

  41. 41
    vaiyt

    There’s no problem making the distinction in Portuguese, as it uses two separate words: índios for indigenous people of the Americas, and indianos for people from India.

    I just can’t get over the fact that Tonto is being played by Johnny Depp with Kiss makeup and a dead crow on his head. No matter how much you try to rationalize it, this movie is dumb because it’s based on a dumb idea.

  42. 42
    twas brillig (stevem)

    The trailers, with Depp in such strange facepaint and that fowl carcass on his head, paints a very weird picture of Tonto. The movie does give him an interesting “origin story” that somewhat explains why he has that crow on his head. While not a “good story”, the storyline is pretty “interesting”. In Chinese, “interesting” is sometimes used as the most effective “curse word”, and it fits this movie very well. Whether you like the movie or not, I think you’ll find it “interesting”. IMHO

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