The rediscovery of a once-forgotten genre

With Django: Unchained newly released on DVD westerns are beginning to return to the film radar

Schizophrenic cinem­­atography, ­ conniving dialogue, and a constant fountain of blood pooling from the countless number of gunshot victims are what’s all packed into the two-and-a-half hour macabre western Django: Unchained. Starring Jamie Foxx as a slave-turned bounty hunter searching for his wife, Django: Unchained brings together a diverse cast in an offbeat portrayal of cruelty in slavery. Although the brutal oddity of the film is no surprise considering that it was written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, the mind behind movies such as Kill Bill, Pulp Fiction, and Inglourious Basterds, the violent material displayed onscreen has gained the film an infamous reputation – a reputation that also made it one of the greater films of 2012. But Django: Unchained isn’t the first western film to be recognized by not just the Academy but also in the cinema in general in recent years.

Western films have become a dying breed. Whether that’s due to the lack of interest in the genre or the loss of some of the better storytellers in the category such as novelists like Louis L’Amour and William W. Johnstone, nobody knows. The days of John Wayne-esque cowboys, ghost towns and riding off into the sunset appeared to have been lost recently in entertainment media. Recently, however, there seems to be a comeback of the once treasured genre, with Django: Unchained being one of the many recent westerns released.

Last year, the animated film Rango, a whimsical, animalistic throwback film portraying several western archetypes, won the Oscar in the Best Animated Film category. The year before that, True Grit, a retelling of Charles Portis’s classic novel, was nominated for 10 Academy Awards. Other recent popular films landing in the western genre also include No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood, Cowboys & Aliens, and the highly anticipated The Lone Ranger, which will be released this summer.

Although we’ll probably never again relive the golden age of when westerns were some of the most abundant films made, it’s a breath of fresh air to see that the film industry is beginning to appreciate, once again, a genre that was once thought to be lost in time.

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About Anna Scholl

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