(Note: this originally appeared in The Globe and Mail in December, 2012.) The things one loves in life are the things that fade. – The poster tagline for Heaven’s Gate By the time my friends and I took our seats in the University theatre in Toronto for the Canadian...

(Tommy Lee Jones, USA, 2014): While it's true that landscape is character in most westerns, it's also true that the character played by director-co-writer-star Tommy Lee Jones in The Homesman is landscape itself. When he first appears on the flat, hard prairie landscape of 1850s...

(Peter Fonda, U.S.A., 1971): Peter Fonda's directorial debut was the product of Universal Studio's five-minute 'youth division' campaign, when the industry-rattling success of Easy Rider prompted a hastily initiated then promptly aborted slate of low-budget movies directed at the long-hairs. Dennis Hopper's virtually unseeable The...

(Kevin Reynolds, U.S.A., 2012): This is mostly an MOR-bore of a TV movie, distinguished from a vintage network mini-series from the '70s or '80s only by its spurts of violence, fatally undone by the casting of too-pretty actors in the roles of everyone under forty,...

(Martin Ritt, U.S.A., 1963): Paul Newman's specialty, as a young star especially, was in playing the gorgeous prick: the bastard you couldn't take your eyes off because he was beautiful even as he crushed people's hearts, and who usually took a pounding to compensate for...

(John Sturges, USA, 1967): Ten years after Burt Lancaster's Wyatt Earp rode out of Tombstone with a quietly satisfied smile on his face, John Sturges returned to the O.K. Corral to find a very different guy: as played by James Garner, Earp is now a...

(1864-1946): Not technically the western's first star -- the credit must probably fall to Broncho Billy Anderson -- but certainly the genre's most influential and visionary early figure. His movies, which numbered in the dozens despite their mere decade of production, almost single-handedly foresaw the...

(Charles Swickard, USA, 1916): Some claim this as the movie that secured William S. Hart's western hero stardom, and it's not hard to see why. Hell's Hinges is a full-throttle corker of a western, and it blends a certain dark psychology with an apocalyptic old...