Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Boy and His Horsey

After his success in The Lord of the Rings, Viggo Mortensen became one of those actors I would go out of my way to see -- except that he keeps working in pictures that are too violent for me. Hidalgo is one of the exceptions; but reviews from both the critics and my friends were so mixed that I ended up passing on it. Last night it ran on AMC, and I didn't feel like working, so in a "What the hell?" moment I sat down to watch.

And I'm quite mixed on it myself. For most of its run time I thought it was great fun, and regretted not getting the DVD while my mother was alive. She loved Westerns (we watched a lot of John Wayne pictures in the last five years of her life) and she loved Lawrence of Arabia, and this is a funky combination of the two, what's not to like?

I'm not saying that the craftsmanship is anywhere near that of Lawrence, but it's very serviceable, one of Joe Johnston's better efforts, certainly better than his lamentable remake of The Wolf Man. And here we have Omar Sharif fully back in the saddle again, in full Omar Mode, turning in another very strong performance. We have the great J. K. Simmons as Buffalo Bill, and we have Hidalgo himself, yet another terrific actor of the horsey persuasion, flying like the wind across the desert sands. Cowboys and Indians and Arabs. You can't get much more exotic than that.

The CGI sandstorm didn't thrill me so much, it's hard to get excited about unconvincing digital creations. They carry no weight. But it didn't actually spoil the film for me.

What did spoil the film was yet another gross violation of Mark Twain's rules, specifically, "Crass stupidities shall not be played upon the reader by either the author or the people in the tale."

And -- if there are any horsey people reading this, maybe they can tell me that I'm wrong, but it seems to me that no animal could sustain the wounds that Hidalgo is shown to sustain near the end of this picture and hope to walk again anytime soon, let alone run like The Flash and overtake two other healthier horses with a substantial lead.

If you haven't seen the picture -- what happens to this poor animal is bad! I yelped out loud when I saw it. Graphic violence against humans is bad enough, but when it's shown happening to an animal I leave the room.

In a nutshell: instead of showing us the real consequences of a violent attack upon man and animal, and the even more difficult-to-watch means by which Viggo is shown to extricate Hidalgo, the movie glosses right on over it and sails on to a typical Hollywood Ending. Ghost Dancers flit across the sand. Mumbo-Jumbo is heard. One minute Viggo's ready to put a bullet into Hidalgo's head, and the next -- "A miracle happened! I'm well!" It's typical Spielbergian manipulative hokum. It shows, once again, how little respect the Hollywood Machine has for its audience.

As my friend BC once said, "If it were a book you'd throw it across the room and say, 'I sat through the whole thing -- for that?!'"

It's too bad. Hidalgo is a heckova nice horsey and the picture about him was purring comfortably along, a well-oiled machine, until it hit one of Twain's Crass Stupidities at high speed.

-- Freder.


  1. I agree with you, kind of anyway. I don't think he could win the race but I don't think that wound would take him down. When I was in high school my white horse ran through the one strand of barbed wire fence I had at the time(I'll never use that stuff again!). He ripped a horrible gash, a couple of them, in his chest and it was a sight. I immediately put a call into the vet and of course it took hours for him to get to us. By that time he said it was too old to stitch. This whole time Dusty was just out eating, paying no attention to it at all. A gash as big as my hand and quite deep and he acted like it didn't even bother him. I had to pack antibiotic ointment in it and cover it with another fly repellant ointment twice a day and keep it clean. He healed with nothing to show for it! It was amazing and I would never have believed it if I hadn't seen it. Hidalgo had been through so much and would have to have been seriously dehydrated--no big run for him.


  2. I think what you're saying is, "I like the horse sense, but I hated the horse$&!t." True?

    All I know is, if I wanted to see a movie about a horse, I'd watch 1979's THE BLACK STALLION. It doesn't have Viggio Whatzisname, but it's got The Mick in the second half of the film, and it's got Carroll Ballard direction (who leaves Joe Whatzisname and every other director working today in a cloud of dust when it comes to shooting exciting films about animals), and the first half of the film is practically enchanted, the second half never less than fun, sometimes rousing good fun, at that.

  3. It's okay, you can say "shit" on my blog! But yes, I do agree with you about THE BLACK STALLION, though it's been donkey's years since I've seen it. . .

  4. Could, but don't wanna -- yes, it's all words, and words don't, as a rule, offend me, since they're part of my stock in trade. But the tide of vulgarity is rising: I see the words and @$$hole on book titles on the shelves of big-box stores that try to attract families with little kids to their bright, airy children's sections, and I ask myself if we REALLY need that. I can go to a ball game or stand in a supermarket line and hear folks casually "f-ing" this and that in the presence of strangers young and old. And I've decided that when I need to use profanity, it'll be for a mighty good reason -- I don't need to help the vulgarity tides lap ever higher around us. I haven't gone all Percy Pureheart, but I also refuse to go all Victor Vilgar. I've opted for a little consideration for strangers who may read/hear me, and that seems t'me to be a good decision. Others' mileage may vary.


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