Tuesday, October 18, 2005

They Shoot Horses, Don't They (1969)

The inaugural edition of our new weekly sidebar item >>> "Classic Movie of the Week" is a gentle forceful nudge to remind us to all investigate cinematic history on a regular basis. There's so much you haven't seen. There's so much I haven't seen. Especially If you don't have a revival house in your city, set up your own movie club. Join Netflix (so affordable and convenient) or Classic Flix (which specializes in pre-1950s movies and has many titles that Netflix doesn't from these decades) and watch one classic a week.

This week's rental suggestion is the fascinating 1969 film They Shoot Horses, Don't They? starring Jane Fonda, Susannah York and Gig Young all of whom were Oscar nominated for their work. Gig Young has the Cabaret MC type of role and he won the supporting Actor Oscar. Jane Fonda is warming up for her even greater bitch-on-wheels Oscar winning tour de force in Klute(1971). But of the three performances I was must stunned by Susannah York who has one particularly yowza scene featuring one of the most chilling and sustained loss-of-sanity bits I've seen from an actor in aeons. The film is set during the great Depression but, in reflection of the late 60s reality-bites mindset is not some Seabiscuit/Cinderella Man style inspirational-triumph-of-the-human-spirit "we're all winners" uplift. They Shoot Horses is a spawn of the "life is hell and then you die" school of filmmaking. But you already knew that all period pieces eventually tell us more about the time in which they're made than the time that they're about, didn't you?

Not that They Shoot Horses... doesn't also educate us. It's a well-made snapshot of a bizarre lesser known moment in history which involved practically unthinkable marathon contests. The narrative casts a fascinating light forward on today's reality television show hijinks and also way back to ancient inhuman entertainments like Christians thrown to the lions. This is a crazy intense film. Highly Recommended

Oscar Trivia: Film buffs take note this is the biggest Oscar-miss in history. Despite nine nominations there was no correlating Best Picture bid.

16 comments:

par3182 said...

this film makes my all time top six list. stunning. and i too was knocked out by susannah york's performance (another criminal oscar loss....to goldie hawn, of all people), although york herself has said she doesn't think she's very good.

Nick Davis said...

I love this movie. Even though I'm mad with you because you've read my mind about my next idea for a running blog feature. Well sorta. And I can't even be mad with you anyway, because I already stole the idea from you to begin with. (It's a 100 countdown.)

Anyway. Love They Shoot Horses, Don't They?. Set Tootsie aside and it's easily my favorite Sydney Pollack movie, and I actually prefer Jane Fonda's work here to any of her other Oscar-nominated perfs except the one in The China Syndrome. Good rec, and way to start out on a great new sidebar feature!

NATHANIEL R said...

bring it on Nick. I miss your more frequent postings. (of course not everyone can be fabulously unemployed like me this October ! ;)

i'm glad another top 100 is coming though. I want someone else to see how hard it is ;)

nick said...

Yay! I LOVE They Shoot Horses!! One of Fonda's best performances and Susannah York is, indeed, brilliant.

She's also great in the fantastic and criminally underseen Images, one of my favorite Robert Altman films. I highly recommend it.

Anonymous said...

I can't find They Shoot Horses, Don't They? in any video store in my city, BUT it is on my BigPond list (netflix like) as a high priority, so we'll see.

BUT, in the mail today I received A Star Is Born and I am anticipating that one. However, I was disappointed (egads, I can't believe I'm admitting this around around) with Singin' In The Rain, which I watched last week. Eep...

On the matter of Top 100 Lists, I've decided to change my list from that of Top 100 Actresses of the Aughts to Top 100 People. As in, actresses, actors, directors, writers, scorers, cinematographers, etc. People that made the movies fun for me these last few years! Should be great fun.

-Glenn

JavierAG said...

That sounds like fun. My list would feature everyone from Cate Blanchett to Christopher Doyle to David Lynch to Howard Shore. And then some.

NATHANIEL R said...

i could never do that list. no seriously i couldn't too many people. it would have to be top 1000 and i would die of exhaustion.

but back to THEY SHOOT HORSES... where is our modern equivalent of Fonda? Or was she just perfectly of her time? watching her old movies I am totally impressed at how completely uninterested she is in whether or not she comes off as totally hateful / bitchy . I mean she is just a piece of work in this movie (gotta love it) and especially in Klute where she can be totally maddening) I can't imagine an actress like this being an Oscar or audience favorite now when everyone seems so "eager to please" -even 'dark' actresses like Julianne Moore have real warmth. And even cold actresses like Kidman don't exactly play bitchy characters.

also... how about that Oscar trivia? Crazy right? And I thought Thelma & Louise had it rough.

par3182 said...

they had to make room for 'hello dolly' in the best pic race.

wtf???

NATHANIEL R said...

god Hello Dolly is so terrible. I am a sucker for musicals and even I hate it.

Anonymous said...

This is obviously a sign that I must see this movie. I just read the novel(la) a couple of weeks ago & really dug it, now the two N's are recommending it.

Anonymous said...

"They Shoot Horses, Don't They" is the kind of film that keeps coming to my mind when I think about desperation and survival.
In an idealized world I wish it had been erased from my mind. However, in the cinema world it is a masterpiece, a must see film.

Thanks Mr. Rogers for bringing such an eternal and endless torment back to my mind.

Marcelo.

Anonymous said...

Did you know that They Shoot Horses was allegedly based on the life of June Havoc, "Baby June" and sister to Gypsy Rose Lee. I believe she sued the authors/filmakers on grounds that they lifted the story from her memoirs Early Havoc.

the boyfriend said...

great movie. i'll always love any movie that brings to mind my favorite philosopher's quote "the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short" (Hobbes)

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Anonymous said...

Love this film! This is the only blog about it! So cheers! I saw this film during a very exciting time in my life. I was fortunate to have a business trip to New Orleans when this film came out. I was also fortunate to have a young lady also in my same business accompany me to the movie. And to not bore with the usual details, we had a marvelous time.

Back to the movie. The Johnny Green song, "Easy Come. Easy Go" was played largo-like over the opening titles. They were a surrealistic teaser as to the tragic outcome of the movie. Composer Johnny Green was listed as associate producer. Several of his songs were in the movie.

Alas, the movie was to be Johnny Green's last movie effort. Gig Young, who played the MC for the marathon dance contest has also passed away. And in May of this year, director Sidney Pollack died.

And I join the folks here who think the movie deserved at least one AA. Shucks! Show biz!

I'm the new guy here and I hope to come back often. We make movies here. Indy movies that don't make much, if any money at all. But thanks to digital shooting and editing, creative folks can do their own movies and have them run on cable. And then sell them. That's the hard part. Creating is easy. Selling is hard.

This looks like a great blog!