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The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada

The Proposition

Meeks Cutoff

Django Unchained

Hell or High Water

Wednesday May 9
6:30 PM - 9:00 PM

taught by JOE LEYDON
5 Wednesday classes in May
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The Western genre is not simply entertainment; it also presents, challenge, and negotiates particular cultural values, assumptions, and conflicts. The Western is probably the most studied genre since it is closely tied in complex ways to American history itself. Until the mid 1970s, the Western was also the most perennially popular American movie genre; at this point it is reinventing itself to keep up with the fast changing world views. The objectives of the class are:

1. to describe some of the major conventions of the Western genre and its history;
2. provide tools of film criticism and analysis applicable to the Western genre.
3. understand how and why the Western evolved in relation to American culture.
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada  (2005) -- May 2nd
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A man is shot and quickly buried in the high desert of west Texas. The body is found and reburied in Van Horn's town cemetery. Pete Perkins, a local ranch foreman, kidnaps a Border Patrolman and forces him to disinter the body. With his captive in tow and the body tied to a mule, Pete undertakes a dangerous and quixotic journey into Mexico.
The Proposition  (2005) -- May 9th
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An outlaw is goaded into taking on justice at its most brutal in this hard-edged Western set in rural Australia in the 1880s. Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce) is a criminal living in the outback. He and his two brothers, Arthur (Danny Huston) and Mikey (Richard Wilson), are on the run from the law for rape and murder. Arthur is a violent and dangerous sociopath with a much longer rap sheet than his siblings and a reputation for hiding out in villages so lawless the police are afraid to visit them, while Mikey is a much younger and more impressionable chap.The authorities capture Charlie and Mikey after a bloody shootout, and the brothers are handed over to Capt. Stanley (Ray Winstone), a British lawman sent to Australia to help bring order to the colonies. Stanley proposes a deal to Charlie, explaining that it's Arthur he really wants, and that he's willing to spare the childlike and terrified Mikey if Charlie can find Arthur and murder him.

Meek's Cutoff (2010) -- May 16th
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The year is 1845, the earliest days of the Oregon Trail, and a wagon train of three families has hired mountain man Stephen Meek to guide them over the Cascade Mountains. Claiming to know a shortcut, Meek leads the group on an unmarked path across the high plain desert, only to become lost in the dry rock and sage. Over the coming days, the emigrants face the scourges of hunger, thirst and their own lack of faith in one another's instincts for survival. When a Native American wanderer crosses their path, the emigrants are torn between their trust in a guide who has proven himself unreliable and a man who has always been seen as a natural born enemy. 

Django Unchained (2012) - May 23rd
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With the help of a German bounty hunter, a freed slave sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner.
Hell or High Water (2016) -- May 30th
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A divorced father and his ex-con older brother resort to a desperate scheme in order to save their family's ranch in West Texas.
ABOUT THE TEACHER:  JOE LEYDON has been a film critic for Variety since 1990, and an instructor of film studies at University of Houston and Houston Community College since 2001. He also is a contributing editor for Cowboys & Indians magazine, a founding member of the Houston Film Critics Society, and a blogger at He has been a Q&A host at the Dallas, Nashville and Denver film festivals, and a contributing critic for Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide. From 1982 to 1995, Leydon was film critic for The Houston Post. More recently, he has reviewed movies for The San Francisco Examiner,, NBC affiliate KPRC/Channel 2, and CultureMap Houston. He also has written for, The New York Daily News, Los Angeles Times, Newsday, The Boston Globe, The Dallas Morning News, The (Nashville) Tennessean, MovieMaker magazine, and Film Comment. He currently is at work on an updated and expanded edition of his book Joe Leydon’s Guide to Essential Movies You Must See. 

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