Native American Week concludes with some Costner.

My dad wasn't a big movie guy. Joe Dante once said something like "Some people love movies, some people love the movies they love," and my dad was definitely in the latter category (guess which one I'm in?). But at least he had pretty good taste: some of those few movies he loved were Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, the first two Godfathers (his disinterest in the third is probably why I never saw it until I was around 30), older Chevy Chase movies like Vacation and Caddyshack, and, oddly enough, the South Park movie. But if he had a favorite, it might have been Dances With Wolves, and despite the length he watched it quite a bit, and thus, being 11 years old when it came to VHS, I did as well. I haven't seen it in years though; if I didn't have my usual Thanksgiving Night tradition set in stone I was considering going to Quentin Tarantino's theater on Beverly Blvd to see it on 35mm for the first time (it only played last night), but I'll just settle for the Blu-ray when I have three hours to kill.

Or, FOUR hours to kill - I think my Blu is the extended version, which I recently discovered wasn't actually worked on by Kevin Costner himself (he claimed that while he's all for showing deleted scenes on the side, the movies were "long enough" in release form). I've actually never seen that version, but I can't say there's anything about the released one that felt slighted or rushed. I took a look at a rundown of the added material, and it seems pretty split between pointless things like Dunbar asking someone where he can find the Major (early on, when he gets his assignment) and scenes that strengthen his bond with Two Socks, Stands with a Fist, etc. If you've seen it, chime in below with your thoughts: should I block off enough time to watch it, or stick with the theatrical one that's served me well for nearly 25 years?

Anyway, this trailer sure does suck. Between the emphasis on the sun-drenched Americana stuff that would make The Postman blush, and the curious inclusion of several of Costner's physical comedy moments, it's clearly the work of someone trying to make sure every single person who saw the spot would find something to like, rather than pick an approach and go with it. I mean, it more or less explains the plot and gives a sense of the movie's western/adventure/romance style, but it does so in a very haphazard way that makes it pretty clear why this was more of a word of mouth/sleeper hit than one that opened big (in its first week of wide release, it was topped by Three Men & A Little Lady, a film that would ultimately gross less than half of Wolves' take). If I was picking what I saw back then, I wouldn't have been much moved by this spot, though older, more wiseass-y me would definitely snicker at "A man went looking for America... and found himself."

Dances With Wolves has a pretty interesting bit of trivia to its name - it's the first of back to back Best Picture winners from Orion (the second was Silence of the Lambs), and they went bankrupt not too long after. The story of how a studio could produce two giant hit movies (in addition to all the acclaim, they both grossed their production budgets several times over) and then go bankrupt would make for a great book I'd surely download to my Kindle, read the intro, and forget all about, but I'd definitely ask for a recap from someone who got to the end. In fact, word around town at the time was that this was going to be a giant bomb since no one went to westerns and it had production troubles (cue a dumb "Kevin's Gate" joke), which is funny because it remains Costner's biggest hit as either actor OR director (check your inflation numbers before arguing with me, Superman fans), and a few years down the road he'd have a hand in some truly massive flops, including the aforementioned Postman. He earned Orion a Best Picture trophy and around $160m domestic profit, and they went bankrupt - but somehow didn't sink Warner Bros with Postman, 3KMTG, Message In A Bottle, Wyatt Earp and Perfect World, the combined grosses for all barely covering the cost of one.

Final note: yes, the "White Savior" thing is troublesome now that I'm old enough to contextualize it. But I don't see the movie as a documentary, and of this odd sub-genre it's one of the best (plus, Wind In His Hair does some pretty good ass-kicking on his own), so that plus my nostalgia means I can live with it. If there's any guilty feeling, I'll just watch the Thanksgiving play from Addams Family Values and I suggest you do the same! But if you're a Costner fan in general and you want something less conflict-y, on Dec 6th the Aero here in LA will be showing Open Range on 35mm, and Costner will be on hand for an intro. I already have my ticket, do you?