Every day has a natural beginning and a natural end. And yet, in order to keep track of our days, we have imposed an order of time. While the sunrise and sunset will be at different times based on the season, the middle-ground of our days will always stay the same. The hours of noon and midnight are difficult to distinguish, but still have some significance in our lives. Like the transitioning seasons of spring and fall, 12-o clock marks a transition in our days. When noon arrives, our morning has ended and we are on our way toward sunset. Similarly, when the clock strikes midnight, the night is half-over and dawn is just over the horizon. It seems that so much of our time is spent focused on the time we’ve spent. Even though the past is important, we should look forward to what the future holds. This week’s two films look at those times where the hands of time come together at the top of the clock.
Length: 85 minutes / 1.42 hours
The concept of high noon is perhaps one of the most cliche western tropes that exists. Since most people’s days are arbitrarily run regardless of the time, why should they focus on that one moment in their day? Of course, since the railways helped to expand the west, time was an important factor in order to understand if events were early or late. As a result, people would live and die by the alignment of those clocks placed prominently in the town. High Noon is perhaps the most quintessential western ever made, and of the four Oscars that it won, Gary Cooper’s Best Actor Oscar was perhaps the most obvious. Placed at #27 on the American Film Institute’s top 100 list, High Noon is a classic tale of revenge and sticking up for what is right, even if no one else will.
As is the case with many westerns, Marshal Will Kane (Gary Cooper) has decided to hang up his gun and settle down with his wife, Amy (Grace Kelly), to whom he was just married. Unfortunately, Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald) has something to say about that. Miller is out of prison and coming back to town to exact his revenge on the lawman who sent him there. The whole Miller gang are now on a train headed to town, set to arrive at the end of the morning. When Kane asks the townspeople that he has spent years protecting for some assistance in taking down Miller, he gets no help whatsoever. As the clock ticks closer and closer to high noon, when Miller’s train is expected in town, Kane prepares his body and his mind to take on Miller’s gang alone.
Length: 113 minutes / 1.88 hours
Just like so much importance is placed upon high noon in westerns, midnight is often seen as a new beginning. How often have we stayed up until midnight on New Year’s Eve, promising ourselves that we’re going to have a fresh start in the new year? We change our lives and we tell ourselves that things will be different, but unless we’re knowledgeable enough about what we want to change into, there is a chance we will get taken advantage of. Of course, aside from the start of the year, midnight is the playground of the uncouth. When all fine upstanding citizens have gone to bed, many lowlifes are just getting started. Placed as high as #36 on the American Film Institute’s top 100 list, this gritty film about the seedy New York underbelly won Best Picture and Best Director, as well as Best Adapted Screenplay.
Joe Buck (Jon Voight) wants a new start on his life, and has come to New York to fulfill his dreams. Of course, his dreams of being a real hustler get him in trouble when he gets taken advantage of (and not in the good way). With no real understanding of how the city works, Joe’s naivete is his detriment until he comes across a sickly man by the name of Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman). Ratso is willing to educate Joe on how New York really works. And yet, even though Joe rarely knows what’s going on, he sees that their squalid living conditions are slowly killing Ratso. When he realizes that his time as a hustler isn’t going as well as he had planned, he decides to start over one more time in order to help out Ratso, the only true friend he’s ever really made.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 cowboys at the top of the clock