This week The Unenthusiastic Critic is manifesting her destiny by watching Kevin Costner's epic western Dances with Wolves (1990) for the first time.
Celebrating its 30th anniversary this month, Costner's big-budget directorial debut was widely expected to be a costly flop. Instead, it became a box-office hit, a critical triumph, and a big winner on Oscar night. The film was almost universally hailed for its progressive and sympathetic portrayal of indigenous communities, and welcomed as a long overdue corrective to Hollywood's long and shameful treatment of Native Americans as violent savages.
But that was 30 years ago. Is there any chance Nakea will be won over by it today, or will this three-hour "white savior" narrative leave her simply buffaloed?
0:00: Prologue: Graham Greene interviewed by Bobbie Wygant
00:39: Cultural Osmosis: Pre-Viewing Discussion
11:53: Original Trailer
13:46: The Verdict: Post-Viewing Discussion
55:36: Outro and Next Week's Movie
Notes and Links
—Movie Reviewed: Dances with Wolves (dir. Kevin Costner, Orion Pictures, 1990)
—Prologue snippet from Graham Greene's interview with Bobbie Wygant, The Bobbie Wygant Archive, YouTube.
—Links and Sources: "Simple Dances," Dave Kehr, Chicago Tribune; "Dances with Wolves – Natives portrayed honestly and sympathetically," Scott Ross, Windspeaker; "Dances With Wolves 25 Years Later: Has Hollywood Improved on Its Portrayal?" Indian Country Today; "John Dunbar's Mystical Transformation in Dances with Wolves," Shea Vassar, Film School Rejects; Review by Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly; Review by Roger Ebert, rogerebert.com; Review by Pauline Kael, The New Yorker; "Filming the Dances With Wolves stampede," Christopher Henrikson, Entertainment Weekly.
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—"Warm Duck Shuffle" by Arne Huseby is licensed under CC BY 3.0.
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2 thoughts on “DANCES WITH WOLVES (1990)”
Had I been an Oscar voter at the time, I would have split my ticket between "Dances with Wolves" for Best Picture and Martin Scorsese for Best Director.
One of the Native Americans, Graham Greene, did receive a nomination for Best Supporting Actor, but we all know who won in that category.
I was almost sure "Goodfellas" picked up a second Oscar for "Best Editing," but no. That went to "Dances with Wolves." Thelma Schoonmaker was robbed.
Pesci clearly deserved that Oscar, but Graham Greene was great in Dances. He was excellent in a recurring role on Northern Exposure, as well. (That show was a boon for indigenous actors. Floyd "Red Crow" Westerman—Ten Bears in Dances—was on there as well.)
Oscar snubs used to bother me more, until I realized they get it wrong far more often than they get it right. Now it's just a pleasant surprise when the right person/picture wins.