June 25, 2013


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The opening scene in Cimarron, in which hundreds of people participate in the 1889 Oklahoma Land Run, is probably the most exciting and important scene in the entire film. So yes, you could say that Cimarron peaks right off the bat and lays down the foundation for what would be a strenuous and at times incredibly boring two hour experience. The story of the life of a passionate but antsy man who moves his family to a Oklahoma boom town, parts of the picture work and I can see what the filmmakers were aiming for. Cimarron tries to be grandiose, and its major problem is that it tackles a little too much material and ends up losing its way, becoming quite a mess in the process.

The time span covered (1889-1929) is too wide and the movie presents multiple plot points without ever going into them too thoroughly. Yancey abandons his wife on a number of occasions but the film never delves into that psychological side of him--thus we are never able to understand this crucial part of his personality, and he just comes off as jerk even though the film doesn't seem to intend for us to feel that way. Sabra is a pretty racist character and yet a shift in time later is all it takes for her to be perfectly fine with Native Americans--there is no room in the film for character development. The film is a Western for most of the running time and then there's a strange atmospheric shift in the last half hour when it's 1907 and the boomtown the characters once lived in has morphed into a booming city. The film itself is blatantly racist towards African Americans, Jews, and Native Americans. I can't even tell you how much of a WTF face I was giving at that shot of poor little Isaiah, calling out for his master after having been shot, and all you see are Yancey's feet walking away from the frame and the boy giving up and dying. I thought it was particularly strange the character of Yancey was all over the place--he's an ex-lawyer, now he's hunting for land, now he's an aspiring newspaperman, oh but now people want him to deliver a sermon to the town, but he's also a really good shot, and he's got a habit of abandoning his family and his previous responsibilities but that's okay because he'll come back after 4 years and defend a woman in a trial before he even takes a bath. He does too much, much like the film, which takes the believability out of the story. The ending is horribly rushed and executed terribly, and it was as if they weren't too sure what to do so they patched together shots in a rush. The film itself is very tedious to sit through--I can't tell you how many times I contemplated pausing it and postponing the viewing to another time. All in all, Cimarron is a dud, certainly not one of the finer Best Picture winners, and I'd say that it's more of a The Broadway Melody than a All Quiet on the Western Front in terms of representing its genre. (Though I must admit I liked this one a bit more than The Broadway Melody!)

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