It's because of westerns like these, which examine the genre like grim ghosts presiding over their own autopsies, that so many have pronounced the genre dead over the years.
Even if the cowboy president didn't fit into this new strain of western in 2007, he did appear either directly or as a kind of offscreen presence in a far different kind of film. One could make a case for these as mutant westerns, featuring a bunch of Dan Evanses trying to bring their Ben Wades to the train against all odds and reason: Sicko, No End in Sight, Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience, The Kingdom, Rendition, Lions for Lambs, In the Valley of Elah, Redacted, and Grace Is Gone. If you look hard enough, you can even see him in the margins of Paul Thomas Anderson's bizarre, oil-soaked quasi western, There Will Be Blood.
It's doubtful that any of these movies will be screened at the White House soon. No, the year's most likely cowboy to push through those swinging doors is none other than Sam Elliot in The Golden Compass, a traditional cowpoke in an unfamiliar setting, complete with "howdy"s and "I reckon"s, uttered among a swirling sea of CGI. More than the other cowboys, the current president could recognize and identify with him: conventional, simple, and perhaps a bit lost. *
JEFFREY M. ANDERSON'S TOP 10
1. Inland Empire (David Lynch, France/Poland/US)
2. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik, US)
3. No Country for Old Men (Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, US)
4. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (Sidney Lumet, US)
5. Offside (Jafar Panahi, Iran)
6. Private Fears in Public Places (Alain Resnais, France/Italy)
7. Eastern Promises (David Cronenberg, UK/Canada/US)
8. The Host (Bong Joon-ho, South Korea)
9. Bug (William Friedkin, US)
10. I'm Not There (Todd Haynes, US)
Runners up: 12:08 East of Bucharest (Corneliu Porumboiu, Romania), Into Great Silence (Philip Gröning, France/Switzerland/Germany), Hot Fuzz (Edgar Wright, UK/France), Death Proof (extended version) (Quentin Tarantino, US), Triad Election and Exiled (Johnny To, Hong Kong)