Streaming columnist NICK OVERALL saddles up for a ride around the wild west platforms...
NETFLIX’s newest western drama has kicked up quite a fuss, and it’s far from the only movie of its genre that’s found a popular home on the streaming frontier.
It’s called “News of the World”, and it throws viewers into post Civil War America, with superstar Tom Hanks playing a slightly different “cowboy” to his famed, Pixar animated cattleman.
Here he’s Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, made to escort a 10-year-old girl across the ruthless Texas west of the late 19th century.
The film’s success reveals the strong place the western still holds in modern pop culture, made possible by a ceaseless cycle of reinvention that keeps audiences across generations firmly planted in their saddles.
Take, for example, the genre-bending “Westworld” on Binge, throwing all the tropes of the old west into a frying pan and stirring them in with the prescient twist of virtual reality.
The show depicts a world where people can live out their wildest fantasies as cowboys in a digital desert, and the dangers that come of it.
That’s only the start though, there’s a heap of gunslinging goodness strewn throughout the streaming platforms.
Stan is quite the winner when it comes to westerns with a throng of iconic films available. These include the Clint Eastwood classics “A Fistful of Dollars'', “Hang ‘Em High”, and what’s widely considered one of the best films of all time: “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”.
For those seeking a more modern spin, Stan also has 2010’s “True Grit” starring Jeff Daniels and Matt Damon. A remake of the original film from 1969 (the original can be watched on SBS On Demand), “True Grit” tells the tale of the boozy, trigger-happy US marshal hired by a 14-year-old farm girl intent on avenging her father murdered by an outlaw.
It’s directed by the brilliant, and often bug-nut crazy, Coen Brothers who are most renowned for their other notorious neo-western thriller “No Country for Old Men” (also on Stan).
The cinematography of “No Country” is deeply linked with its fame, handled by one Roger Deakins, a master of capturing the desert as showcased in his work on another hard-hitting horse opera “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”, on Netflix.
The film dives headfirst into one of America’s most fabled figures, a Robin Hood-like character with as many misconceptions swirling around him as there are heroic mythologizations.
While we’re on Netflix, the platform has one of Quentin Tarantino’s best works on tap: “Django Unchained”, with Jamie Foxx playing subservient slave turned vicious avenger in the heavily stylised tribute to spaghetti westerns.
Fun fact: in his own words Tarantino called “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” the greatest achievement in the history of cinema. Unsurprisingly, “Django” is absolutely littered with references to the film that are good fun to pick up if you watch both in proximity.
And, for those with a strong stomach, catch Kurt Russell playing a sheriff hellbent on hunting down a terrifying cult of cannibals in the brooding and brutal “Bone Tomahawk”. It’s a riveting western thriller, but I don’t kid, one that is deeply disturbing.
The land down under doesn’t miss out either: The “meat-pie western”, as it's affectionately been coined, has more than its place in streaming. On Binge is “The Proposition”, written by musician Nick Cave, that offers a merciless look at the outback of late 1800s Australia.
And on Amazon Prime Video is the 2018 film, directed by talented Aussie director Jennifer Kent, “The Nightingale”. It tracks an Irish female convict pursuing a British officer for revenge through the stunning Tasmanian wilderness.
All of this is only scratching the surface of the start of what’s out there in the wild west of streaming.
“News of the World” is just the latest example of this genre that keeps on kicking on, although I was a little disappointed there weren’t any snakes to be found in Tom Hanks’ boot this time round.
Who can be trusted?
In a world of spin and confusion, there’s never been a more important time to support independent journalism in Canberra.
If you trust our work online and want to enforce the power of independent voices, I invite you to make a small contribution.
Every dollar of support is invested back into our journalism to help keep citynews.com.au strong and free.
Ian Meikle, editor