Movie: Unforgiven

Release Date: August 3, 1992

Director: Clint Eastwood

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, Richard Harris

Personal History: Watched Before

Rating: 9 Oscars out of 10

‘Unforgiven’ was nominated for nine Academy Awards and won four, including Best Picture. It was both a critical and commercial success and revitalized the Western genre in Hollywood back in 1992.

Like War, Western is not necessarily a genre I love. In fact, if I were to rank genres of film, those two would be at the bottom of that list. Sometimes it’s the memories of a movie (the when, where and who) that make the film you are watching better than what it is.

That is my experience with ‘Unforgiven.’ That is not saying it is not a good movie. It absolutely is a good movie and deserving of all of its accolades. It’s just my memories of the film make it one of my favorite and most influential films of all time.

‘Unforgiven’ was a part of my 365 Day Movie Challenge back in 2020. Here is an edited version of why this film not only showed up on the project, but why it will remain an important one in my cinematic life. You can read the full unedited version by clicking here.

From A Movie a Day Keeps the Doctor Away March 19, 2020:

As previously mentioned, I am not a huge fan of Clint Eastwood (see 340. Million Dollar Baby). I am also not a real fan of western films in general. In fact there are technically only two western movies that are a part of my 365 Day Movie Challenge. That’s unless you count ‘Dances With Wolves’ (see 355. Dances With Wolves) which I have categorized under drama, though one could definitely make the argument that it is indeed a western.

So why the hell is ‘Unforgiven’ on the list of my most influential movies of all time? Well, let me explain.

I grew up living a block away from my maternal grandparents and a little over two blocks from my paternal grandfather. His wife passed away when I was seven years old and because of that I have very limited memories of my grandmother. But with Grandpa O, I have memories galore.

After his wife passed away he came over for dinner to our house almost every night. On the weekends (and even some special weekdays) he would take us out to dinner. It was nothing fancy, usually Wendy’s or Denny’s or a similar type dining experience like them. He went to the movies with us as well as other activities such as baseball games, miniature golf and those frequent summer evening ice cream trips. As a retired truck driver, he was given the job of teaching both me and my sister how to drive taking the burden off of my parents. Thus basically saving both of our lives. My mother or father would have killed us during that process.

I was also his secretary. His penmanship and writing was shaky at best. My mom would take care of paying his bills by writing out his checks for him. As I got older I would take on that task some times as well. But my big yearly assignment was writing out all of his Christmas cards for him, a job I had for countless years. No matter the job or the age, I always received a $5 thank you for the services rendered. He was always generous with monetary gifts. $2 here or $3 there, with comments like “Get yourself something nice” or “Buy your girl an ice cream.”

He was also quite the character, always telling stories, some true, some questionable. He constantly played jokes on my mom and she fell for them every time, making him laugh proudly. He loved watching wrestling, although he pronounced it “wrasteling.” When his grand kids did something that annoyed him, although he didn’t show his annoyance, he called us “punkin’ heads.” I even heard him say the mother of all swear words once.

I was driving, getting in my driver’s ed class with grandpa, who always sat calmly in the passenger seat. Somewhere on our travels another car made an illegal turn almost hitting us. He immediately yelled at the car through the closed window. The phrase was something like “Where the fuck do you think you’re going? Learn how to drive.” I don’t remember the exact phrase because I was in “stunned” mode from almost getting in an accident as well as thinking, “Did my grandfather just say fuck?”

Spending that much time with him, one learned quickly his love for “country and western” music and for “cowboy” pictures. I blocked much of those memories from my head, but there were two movies in his VHS collection that were tolerable to me. One of those movies is ‘Unforgiven.’

I don’t remember the first time that I saw ‘Unforgiven’ (I’m guessing some time in 1993) but I do know who it was with, my dad and my grandfather. I’m not sure if it was their first time watching it, but it was mine. I remember thinking that I would try to get through some of the movie before excusing myself as I was sure I was not going to be a fan. However, because of their constant reactions, comments and stories throughout the movie, I got the Mystery Science 3000 version of ‘Unforgiven.’ That was most enjoyable. It also kept me there the entire two hours and eleven minutes of the movie.

‘Unforgiven’ is a decent movie. It is well directed and acted with an interesting enough story. If I saw it on my own, I am not sure it would be on this list. It might have. But because of its fond memories and who it is associated with, here it is.

Despite owning it on DVD due to its Best Picture win at the Academy Awards, I have only watched ‘Unforgiven’ in its entirety once. I have seen bits and pieces of it when it pops up on television once in awhile, but today (March 19, 2020) only marks viewing number two. I’m just sad that it is alone and not with my dad and grandfather.

Despite their witty comments and stories absent this time around, I still rather enjoyed it. Clint Eastwood is well, Clint Eastwood, but the other actors especially Gene Hackman and Morgan Freeman are very entertaining. The scenes they are in definitely lift the movie up for me. They are both really good in the movie and Mr. Hackman was deserving of his Best Supporting Oscar win.

I also kind of enjoyed the themes explored in the film that I am not sure I picked up on my first time around. Ageism, courage, heroism, sexism and the nature of violence all tackled either boldly or subtlety in its context were appreciated. Due to it being produced in 1992 and watching it in 2020, it is a little cringe worthy that all of the female characters are prostitutes, albeit strong willed. They are a big part of the story but one would hope that if re-worked today there would have been some better representation. Then again it was set in 1880 and maybe there lies my overall problem with westerns. Hmmmm.

What I liked most about today’s movie was the memories that it allowed to resurface and because of that will always be an important one to me. The fact that a simple western movie can stir up happy, simpler times, puts a smile on my face and gets me through to the next day. For this “punkin’ head,” art in all of its forms will always be an important element in life.


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