A little Josey Wales (and no MPAA) goes a long way in expansion of West


It has become a ritual of modern media use and a gauge of family progress: the cleaning of the "media" cabinet. No longer do we need all those "Land Before Time" tapes. "Thomas" is passed to a friend who spends time on the Island of Sodor. "Bambi" and "Dumbo" get to stay; they are works of art and, man, I love those crows. We still live in a Pokemon world, so Ash and Misty get to hang around.

My son West became a teenager the other day. He's nearly as tall as I am, wears the same size shoes, has braces and a mustache. I was 36 before I could grow a mustache. If I had a 'stash in middle school, they would have sent me home to shave.

It's a different time, but they still grow up. He's starting to notice things like cars. Girls are just around the corner.

When we were doing his World War II project, "Weapons of War," he said he wanted to see a good movie about the war.

That's a tough question. He's still a boy.

"Saving Private Ryan" is probably too gross. As brilliant as "Patton" is, it's really only George C. Scott talking to Karl Malden. Also, I wanted something where the uniforms and vehicles, especially the tanks, were right. The tanks aren't in "Patton."

I picked "Kelly's Heroes." It's a comedy, but the tanks are right. And what a cast: Clint Eastwood, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland, Carroll O'Connor, Harry Dean Stanton and Don Rickles. It became his favorite.

In between discussions about the 1967 Chevelle SS 396 being restored by a cop down the street and the merits of "Super Smash Bros. Brawl," he asked, "Dad, what's the best Western you've ever seen?"

Now that's a tough one. I've seen a lot of Westerns. I love the myth of the American West. I love its literature and especially the films.

(That is not the reason my son is named West. I firmly believe that everyone needs a direction, so we gave him one. We thought about naming our daughter East, but that would have sounded too much like a divided Soviet republic. I sometimes wonder whether reunification is possible.)

Without too much hesitation, I told him: "The Outlaw Josey Wales."

It's a great story. Eastwood, Chief Dan George and John Vernon are wonderful. Oh, did I mention I read the books? Eastwood stayed close to Forrest Carter's "Gone to Texas" and "The Vengeance Trail of Josey Wales." Carter himself is a whale of tale, but that will have to wait.

I spend a lot of time immersed in policy discussions about "the media." I spend a lot of time listening to government officials as they explain why they just have to fine TV stations for showing a pixelated butt.

Frankly, I wish they would just butt out.

Learning what's in the movies, TV shows or games isn't hard. That doesn't mean deciding what to watch is easy. It's really hard with Westerns because they run from Tom Mix to "Mad Max."

My definition of Western is broad. It has to have those elements key to the Western myth. The landscape must be a character. The hero's journey has to be truncated.

Where do I draw the line in my favorite Westerns? In the end, I think only "Blazing Saddles," "The Road Warrior" and "Brokeback Mountain" are off-limits to West right now. But that's not something I need or want the government or even the MPAA to tell me.

After watching "Josey Wales," West turned to me and asked, "Is Clint Eastwood the coolest man that ever lived?"

I couldn't truthfully answer his question. Eastwood is cool, but when do I introduce him to Jack Nicholson and show him there's a whole 'nother level?

Brooks Boliek can be reached at brooks.boliek@THR.com.