Is any cinematic genre as associated with American mythos as the Western? From 1903's The Great Train Robbery onward, movies have reflected and reinforced a view of the Wild West as a fabled frontier of rugged individualism, mysterious native rituals, and treacherously enticing, untamed lands. Even in more contemporary times, as realism encroaches upon romanticism, the Western endures by evolving, trading the principled austerity of the cowboy for the morally conflicted pathos of the nomadic antihero. Such changing mythologies are defined by the genre's two leading icons, John Wayne and Clint Eastwood, cinematic gunslingers representing the sensibilities of vastly different eras. But while Wayne's films are usually associated with a swaggering righteousness that contrasts sharply with Eastwood's cynical critique of heroism, a closer look shows far more ambiguity than popcorn entertainment would suggest. For six consecutive Thursdays, the Riverview Theater will be screening a selection of films from Wayne and Eastwood that showcases Westerns in all their violent complexities and two-fisted contradictions. And while the programming is admittedly a bit short on the Eastwood side, it's hard to argue with any cinematic showdown that includes the likes of Unforgiven (May 19), and The Shootist (May 26).
Thursdays, 7 p.m. Starts: April 21. Continues through May 26, 2011