In 1982, Rex Allen, Jr. released a single entitled “Last of the Silver Screen Cowboys,” in which he bemoaned the way Western heroes in the movies had become “a fast dyin’ breed,” and how the days of folks like Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and their ilk, when “we knew good would win in the end,” were being rapidly supplanted by the sort of shady fella who you couldn’t necessarily count on to be “standin’ tall for what he believes is right.” Thing is, that breed of cowboy had actually begun its slow death almost 20 years earlier, and it started, ironically enough, not long after the release of one of the most epic Westerns of all time. 1962’s How the West was Won is the sort of film you just don’t see any more, a sprawling saga which tells a 50-year tale of four generations of a family over the course of 162 minutes and five segments: “The Rivers,” “The Plains,” “The Civil War,” “The Railroad,” and “The Outlaws,” directed variously by John Ford, Henry Hathaway, and George Marshall. In addition to narration by Spencer Tracy, the film also features a cast that includes John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda, Gregory Peck, Eli Wallach, Karl Malden, Robert Preston, George Peppard, Walter Brennan, Debbie Reynolds, and many other instantly recognizable faces. You see what I mean? “Epic” barely begins to cover it. Yet within a year, the cowboy genre began its first dramatic turn away from the straightforward white hat versus […]



Sometimes a person just doesn’t get along. In films, it can be the other characters that don’t mesh, or sometimes it’s the audience themselves who just can’t stand a single idiot character that won’t go away. I believe the term is “Jar-Jaring” or, if you’re referring to television, “pulling a Lori.” Last year I gave you a pretty okay list of characters that achieved excellent redemptions for their wrongdoings. Today I want to explore those who did not. These are the asshole characters that tried and failed, or simply didn’t try at all. Hey spoilers!


Over Under: A New Perspective on Films New and Old

Over the course of the second half of the 20th century ,an entire cottage industry sprung up around sticking James Dean’s face on things and selling them. Shirts, posters, coffee mugs, license plates, postage stamps, what have you, they’ve all been sold to James Dean fans. And a lot of the imagery stuck on them comes from Dean’s penultimate film Rebel Without a Cause, which was released just a month after the star’s infamous death. Dean’s portrayal of the angry young man in this film has become iconic, prototypical, and is just about as much of a part of pop culture as the actor himself. After he died, his performance in Rebel got elevated up to a mythic standard, it became something that symbolized not just one of Hollywood’s preeminent figures, but an entire generation of disenfranchised youth. Eight years after Rebel Without a Cause exploded onto the screen in full color and became a cultural phenomenon, another movie about a rebellious young man was released. This one was shot in black and white and looked more like a classic Western than it did a modern, youth-centric tale of teenage rebellion. The film was called Hud, and instead of James Dean it starred Paul Newman as a guy who would rather get drunk and throw a punch than put in a day’s work. Who would rather sleep with a man’s wife than support a family of his own. Who would rather sell a contract for the oil on his family’s […]

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published: 11.26.2014
published: 11.26.2014
published: 11.21.2014
published: 11.21.2014

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