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He's a Mighty Good Leader
by Jeff Thiessen

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Who needs P.T. Anderson when you have The Duke?

Who needs P.T. Anderson when you have The Duke?
This is a tribute.

So it's been a century since John Wayne was born. And I'd like to say that in another hundred years we might be so lucky as to get another Duke, but it's just not going to happen. The first time I saw Wayne was actually in THE CONQUERER, in which he is brilliantly cast in the role of Genghis Khan. The movie was truly awful, a disaster of the most epic proportions. I mean what were they thinking? Wayne as a Mongolian warlord? Like if your initial reaction wasn't "What drug were they smoking?", feel free to catch up to the rest of us and ask it now.

Still, I knew that movie wasn't a great representation of this legend, so I decided to check out his 'Ford Movies', the pictures he made with the brilliant John Ford, specifically, STAGECOACH and THE 3 GODFATHERS. I watched them both and their simplicity initially bored the shit out of me. Movies have to be 'about' something I rationalized, they can't just have some clichéd alpha-male running around being macho, and expect us to be entertained, at least not with anyone with an IQ over their shoe size.

For some time, I thought John Wayne movies were only for guys who drove trucks or slept with their sisters, but eventually I got it. The whole thing made sense to me. I
Stupidity has a bad rap.

Stupidity has a bad rap.
wish I could identify what it was that made me understand John Wayne movies, but at some point the gears clicked into place and I began to see them for what they really are. Escapism at its more pure, and done in such a way, that we leave the movie being entertained by something that offers so little in the way of anything thought-provoking, everything in our own lives also begins to be put in that frame. What I'm really saying is the wonderful simplicity of John Wayne movies transcend, without obstacles or hesitation, into the daily stream of our own lives. You watch one of his movies, I mean really watch one, and you'll see that many things are more cut and dry then you initially thought.

Why can't a movie change us without asking, or begging us to? John Wayne taught me...well maybe not taught, but illuminated the fact that the most satisfying things in life, are often the most simple, and movies like DONNIE DARKO try to get that across, and succeed on some level, but the complexity involved in movies like that offer a contradiction too looming to ignore. Ok, I dig when a movie goes out on a limb and tries to get us thinking about something from an angle we're not entirely comfortable with, but you know, what I really love, are movies,
Pure genius.  In every sense of the word.

Pure genius. In every sense of the word.
or records that are so in tune with themselves and limitations, they leave it up to us to figure out the world on our own terms.

So in turn their simplicity is actually a complexity, because none of us like to think that we're capable of much more then we realize. It takes balls to unapologetically show us something at face value, with nothing beneath the surface. It takes balls, because it leaves us no choice but to leave the movie having to do the same thing for ourselves, something the movie so clearly manifested, but doesn't tell you to do.

People involved with movies tend to believe they're in business of art and provoking thought, and maybe they are.....but they also gotta face the fact that at the end of the day, all we can really give them is two hours of our time. With that said, sometimes I love when they just take those two hours, put us somewhere else in a simpler time, and let us figure out the rest, hopefully taking a cue from your stupid movie, and make our lives a bit more stupid. God knows it's what The Duke would have wanted.

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us."

-Marianne Williamson

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Every other Wednesday

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Other columns by Jeff Thiessen:

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Your Pretty Trilogy is Going Straight to Hell

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Jeff Thiessen
Jeff is a columnist who lives in Saskatchewan, and if you can't pronounce that properly, he'd prefer you not read anything he writes.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Jeff Thiessen by clicking here.

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