Uncle Bardie’s Movie of the Week: How the west was won with grit and heart

Once a week on Monday, Uncle Bardie shares a movie with his Readers he gives a big two thumbs up. It will simply be a short excerpt or a trailer. From time to time, a reflection on the movie will appear below the video. So pop some popcorn and give yourself a treat. This week’s movie is

For some, it is “Roots”. For others, it is “The Thorn Birds”. For sitll others, it is “Jesus of Nazareth”. For me, the greatest mini-series is “Lonesome Dove”. It is television at its best. A great cast that includes Tommy Lee Jones, Robert Duvall and Anjelica Huston and a completely absorbing story. I have seen this mini-series several times and am always surprised how much I am moved by the characters and their stories. No other movie that I know of shows just how hard 19th century life could be. And it’s about men, and what men do though there are women who are as good, or better than the men in their lives.

Captain Woodrow Call, former Texas Ranger, decides he has to see Montana before he dies. Since they are partners and longtime friends, Captain Gus McCrae, also a former Texas Ranger, has to come along. Gus ain’t too keen on the notion but he goes. How could he refuse his friend? So it’s crossing the Rio Grande and into Mexico to steal horses and cattle for the trip ahead, then it’s north to Montana.

Along the way north, there’s rivers to cross. There’s Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, and finally, at the end of the rainbow, Montana. There’s water mocassins, Indians, gun fights, weather, stampedes, outlaws, gambling and romance. There’s days going without water, then there’s another river to cross and all the water you can drink. And there’s some hangings. Justice must be done. There’s the settling of old scores. There’s brutality but there’s persistence, kindness, justice and loyalty and love and there’s folks dreaming of a better future. And willing to stake everything on that dream. There’s birth and death and all the life in between, both the good and the bad. But mostly there is life to be lived. It’s about leaving and staying, and it’s about men and a cattle drive.

It is not about who has the fastest gun or who wears the whitest hat. It is the story of a wild country that won’t be tamed. It will bring out the best, and the worst, in a human being. It’s a world where choices really matter. Any decision could be a life and death one. It’s a world where you find out mighty quick who is true and who is not. It is a world where you see friends die and friends turn bad and friends standing up for friends.

It is the story of two men who argue and share the deepest part of themselves with each other, who see the best and the worst in each other and stand together, partners, friends. Woodrow mostly grunts and Gus talks and talks and talks. “He fell in with a bad bunch and we hung him.” “Not much. Shot a few Mexicans, drank a lot of whisky.” “I’d like to see one more place that ain’t settled before I take up the rocking chair.” “Nothing better than riding a fine horse into a new territory.” “Yes, I’m ready, Woodrow. Don’t I look ready.” “It’s been quite a party, ain’t it?” Like a great novel, by the end of it all I have lived a life with these characters and I miss them when they are gone.

Some call it an epic. Guess that will suffice but I would add that it is an epic with grit and heart. And for my money, that’s a mighty fine thing.

Do you have a favorite tv mini-series?

Uncle Bardie’s Movie of the Week: The pure joy of fly fishing

Once a week on Monday, Uncle Bardie shares a movie with his Readers he gives a big two thumbs up. It will simply be a short excerpt or a trailer. From time to time, a reflection on the movie will appear below the video. So pop some popcorn and give yourself a treat. This week’s movie is

Fly fishing has a grace and a poetry to it. To watch a line glide across the water, dive, then rise and finally land in the perfect place, that is a thing to behold. It is not about the fish. It’s the pure pleasure the fisherman takes in being one with the line gliding across the water.

A River Runs Through It is not only a great book about this thing called dry fly fishing. It is also a good movie. As sure as there was an Eden where four rivers met, there were great trout rivers, the Elkhorn and the Big Blackfoot in the western Montana of the early twentieth century. This was where Reverend Maclean instructed his two boys, Norman and Paul, in religion of the Presbyterian kind, and in the art of dry fly fishing.

Norman’s father told his sons that Adam was a fisherman casting his line into one of those four rivers of Eden. ‘Course Adam was not a fly fisherman. He was the kind of fisherman who’d be in the garden with a Hills Bro. coffee can, digging for angleworms. That was the way Adam was, and that was the reason he failed.

Like so many fathers since–and maybe before–Reverend Maclean used sport to teach his sons the values he cherished. But this is not the father’s story. It is the story of two brothers who took to fly fishing first to please their father, then to please themselves, knowing that the sport is not easily mastered. Paul, the younger, is the one who loves it more, enough to truly become an artist with it.

As it turned out, it was the one area of his life he could master. The rest of it was a mess. He was a gambler and a drinker and led a life that his family would not be proud of. Yet they could not do anything other than love him. And, for that, he would break their hearts.

What happened to Paul is much of the story–his stubbornness, his charm, his complete commitment to fly fishing–but there is no why to how he ended up the way he ended. We see the boy, Paul, refusing to eat the oatmeal before him at the breakfast table. We see the teenager Paul challenging the rapids of the river he loves. We see the adult Paul bring his Indian girl friend into one of the local dives and challenge all the bigots there to stop him. Somewhere along the way from a boyhood of fun to an adult, things turned sour for Paul. Something drove him onto a road to destruction.

Like so many outlaws we love, Paul is not just a rebel. He is a troubled man. His trouble taking him again and again to the card table until his luck ran out. But again and again he takes us to the rivers and the waters he loves to cast his line. To practice his art with a mastery that his older brother and his father recognize early on. That character that made him such a great fisherman is also the one that pulled him down. But man, what a fisherman he was.

If there is a Great American Novel, “The River Runs Through It” may very well be it. Read the book, then see the movie. They are well-worth it.