Sidewinder’s View: “McCabe & Mrs. Miller” (REDUX)

“For once, McCabe’s instinct is right. Only he’s already doomed. This system of ours does not work for everyone. The small man can fight and rage and dream, but in the long run he doesn’t stand much of a chance.”     -Nathaniel Rich, on McCabe & Mrs. Miller, at

Once again, another critic tries tacking a pessimistic class-warfare trope onto Altman’s classic. I’ve written about this before…

Sidewinder’s View: “McCabe & Mrs. Miller” (1971)

…but I’ll reiterate: It’s not capitalism, i.e. “our system”, that brings about McCabe’s demise, but his own hubris and naivete when confronted with corporatist hacks, who are most definitely not about free enterprise.

If they were, they’d respect the rule of law and back off when faced with McCabe’s refusal to do business, rather than sending hired killers to gun him down in order to steal the property he’s refused to sell them.

Free market capitalism is when two parties enter voluntarily into a mutually beneficial exchange of goods and/or services (within the confines of the law, that is). Most of us participate in this on a daily basis, whether we know its proper name or not.

It’s not free enterprise/free market capitalism when you knowingly employ hitmen to achieve your business goals. It’s crime, plain and simple. Some of us still recognize that. Unfortunately, too many of us these days are unable to make the distinction.

“This system of ours does not work for everyone.”

Agreed. Yet neither does any system the leftists have to offer as an alternative. They can only sell the illusion.

This ‘system of ours’, for all its flaws and imperfections, is still the best system there is, which benefits the greatest number of people, not just in America, but outside of it, as well.

When I was a kid, whenever I’d get bummed out and express the desire to give up on something that wasn’t going as easily as I’d hoped, my dad loved reminding me that “Winners never quit and quitters never win”.

That always lit a fire under me and kept me going, no matter how difficult things seemed to be. The last thing I wanted was for my dad to think of me as a quitter. I also realized that I wasn’t content with losing. I’d much rather win. I believe most of us would.

So when, at the finale of Mr. Rich’s otherwise compelling essay, I encounter the lazy cynicism of such a defeatist line as–

“The small man can fight and rage and dream, but in the long run he doesn’t stand much of a chance.”

–the first thought that springs to mind is,  Ah-ha. A quitter.

The odds are so great, why bother even trying to better yourself?

It never ceases to amaze me how so many Americans nowadays, in spite of America’s history of prosperity, insist that the great majority of its citizens were, and continue to be, losers who could/can never get ahead, no matter how hard they tried/try.

If that were true, our quality of life would have never improved. If the ratio of “Haves” versus the “Have-Nots” were truly as stark and as severe as the currently fashionable Occupy™ mentality insists, we’d be Venezuela.

McCabe & Mrs. Miller is no more about capitalism than was Heaven’s Gate (another revisionist Western favorite of left-leaning critics which doesn’t quite say what they believe it does).

McCabe & Mrs. Miller is about rugged individualism versus crooked corporatism. Free enterprise versus crime.

Heaven’s Gate, on the other hand, is merely a celluloid celebration of anarchy, with neither side of its conflict giving a damn for the rule of law.

Sidewinder’s Take: “Heaven’s Gate” (1980)

So, with that said, I’d like to encourage everyone to rush out and BUY — that is, voluntarily enter into a mutual exchange of goods and services with the fine folks over at Criterion, (or Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your nearest brick-and-mortar retailer of such merchandise)– the wonderful Blu-ray release of Robert Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller.

Not just because the movie itself is truly a work of art, but because Criterion’s gorgeous new 4K restoration of the film underscores that fact. The special features are pretty cool, too. Well worth Criterion’s asking price, that’s for sure.

Be sure to tell ’em a staunch believer in capitalism sent ya!43471_front