Visual Artist

Hello there!

Welcome to my blog, where you will find all my work, works in progress, there's always something going on, an ever changing place where the you can stay up to date with my work, from the idea, to the trials and celebrations. Also you can found a wealth of film reviews that influence my work. Follow on Bloglovin

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27 inches Closer Update (20/10/14)


I’ve been eager to start this work for a while now. I’m starting with the basic image that I want to adjust to bring together the beds. It’s all about using what information is there, and stretching to make a new image in its place. Beginning with the video clip from Mrs Miniver (1942) I shared the other week, which has been screen-grabbed to work with screen shots of the bed. I have done 7 tests, some more successful than others, which can obviously seen below. I’m pleased that things are working. When I get hold of more footage I’ll expand the tests to broader images. I would like to think I can super-impose the new images into clips of film. It’s early days yet so one step at a time.

I can however say that for now in image form that the Miniver’s have a double bed.

Shane (1953)


Shane (1953)

I already knew that Shane (1953) was a great and classic, but had forgotten why really, a reminder was needed to stir up the emotions and memories that are captured in this gunfighter film. From the beginning we see a lone rider Shane (Alan Ladd) make his way through the field of bushes, in no rush to get anywhere, he’s very much his own man, independent of the laws of the land. Reach the homesteading Starrett family who we soon learn are under threat from Ryker (Emile Meyer) and his men who want to run off this and other homesteaders. All innocent people wanting to make their mark on the country. A real conflict of interests is at the heart of this feud. One group wanting to push out another. It’s a tried and tested formula as we see the stronger force try to drive out the weaker.

Much like in The Westerner (1940), but not hiding behind a supposed law created by Judge Roy Bean. Here it’s about the strength of the man to stand up to another. However strong they feel they are still cowards in the face of Ryker and his men who don’t even draw their guns. Theres a strong code between both sides that is tangible, violence without pulling the trigger, relying more on the inner strength of the man to stand up. Something that we know, just looking at Shane even as he sits on the sidelines will have to step in and save the day. The small (annoying) boy Joey (Brandon De Wilde) who is in awe of the stranger who has become his role model, knows there is something inside him that is waiting to come out.

As much as Shane wants to change his ways, taking on a job with the Starrett’s is not enough to change his very nature. Finally giving in to teach Joey how to handle a gun, in such away that he may one day use it as a tool not a weapon. Shane very much is standing in the shadows of these homesteaders, all decent hardworking men who want to stand up and be respected, not walked all over. Personified by Joe Starrett (Van Heflin) who is the strongest of the group and the weakest, all talk and very little walk, hampered by his wife Marian (Jean Arthur) who wants him to stay safe, not going out to potentially lose his life. She is the very reason he has to; to be seen as a man in front of her and his son whose eyes are open in unto the world around him.

Enter the hired gunfighter Jack Wilson (Jack Palance) who in his few scenes he has steals them all, the “low down Yankee liar” is all bad, the personification of a gunfighter who takes pleasure in pulling the gun from its holster to take another life, to prove his is stronger, better and will live to see another day. That’s until he enters this small Alabama town that could easily be anywhere in America personifying the West for a generation, the open country, the American dream that is still being fought over. A moment in history that could have been repeated anywhere in the United States, a fable you could say of good overcoming evil.

Shane is a classic in every sense of the word, the hero, the villain, the lush green landscape with all its rich dirt and mountains that surround these people in the middle of nowhere. Two of the leads are take from very different genres, Alan Ladd a regular of film noir, and Jean Arthur whose career was all but over, most remembered for her Capra films, both could easily have been out of their depth, which works in their favour, the energy of the modern dark streets and an innocence and need to feel safe in the world.

At the core of this is a need to remain true to yourself, the gunfighter with all their on-screen glory can never settle down with the homesteaders, as strong as that need maybe, it’s a dangerous life to live as we find out for two of them. This is a prime example of the classic western, stranger enters, shakes things up and leaves alone again, never to return leaving the town for the better or worse. Leaving the audience in awe of the dangerous spectacles we have seen in the film. It’s over in a flash, just what we have been waiting for all along satisfying not just the audience by Joey who has been waiting longer than anyone to see his newest role-model come to life after building him up in his mind.

Hud (1963)


Hud (1963)This has been on my radar for a year or so now, never really knowing much about the Hud (1963) beyond the poster, which is very little. I remember around the time of release there was a glut of neo-western’s that were released, such as The Misfits (1963) and Lonely are the Brave (1961) which explore the old west through a fresh pair of eyes, It’s always tired, worn down and fenced off. Focusing on a single man Hud Bannon (Paul Newman), long out of his time, leaving a path of unrest behind him. The black sheep of the family who roams around town causing trouble on a nightly basis, unable to grow-up and consider the consequences of his actions.

Part of a ranching family who are entering the worst period of their history when a horse is found with possible foot and mouth, a killer for most farmers even today. I remember the horrific scenes on the News of piles of carcases being burned, creating giant clouds of smoke, the smell of lost livelihoods in the air. A stench that issmelt in the early 1960’s. An issue that is never dealt with in the classic west, only the movement and sale of cattle, the struggle for land between rival land owners who fight for wars if they have to have the upper hand.

With the law very much in place that’s all gone, the science is very much a hard fact of modern agriculture, abiding by those laws, Something that Hud would happily disregard, with no real conscience, enjoy the pleasure of alcohol and women, both which come easy to him. His father Homer Bannon (Melvyn Douglas) has all but disowned his son that is the polar opposite of his dead son who is mentioned through, the gold standard that Hud can never reach and really doesn’t care. Living also with Homer is his grandson Louie Bannon (Brandon De Wilde) at an impressionable age, caught in between his grandfather and uncle who he both looks up to. Whilst house-keeper Alma Brown (Patricia Neal) is the only female influence in the Bannon house. A maternal influence for Louie and someone for Homer to rely on. Having her share of men in her past, she just carries on, doing her best to survive.

We see the Bannon family in their final hours as foot and mouth lingers in the air, waiting for the results to be confirmed adding to the tension already in the house. As Hud continues to go out every night, not caring if he leads Louie astray, whilst Homer looks on with worry at his family and livelihood.

It’s a raw family drama with Newman once more at his best delivering his lines at break-neck speed, he’s on it. Whilst more seasoned actor Douglas reminds me of Richard Farnsworthwith more fire in his belly, a man who has seen his share of fights, unsure of what the future might bring. We have an acting masterclass here along with Patricia Neal who trudges on with grace and determination in a man’s world that she thought she was cut out for.  

I’m surprised that Hud isn’t held in higher regard with The Misfits that marks the end of the west, the west here as grown up not completely died, the reality of the myth has washed away to reveal the hardships of the cattle business. That the gunfighter has no place in society today, left to wandering around causing trouble for their family and friends. Things have to change.

Pushing the Beds Together


A few months ago I watched Mrs Miniver (1942) which had a number of scenes on the bedroom between Mr and Mrs. Miniver (Walter Pidgeon and Greer Garson). Being married and talking in separate beds today and probably then just looks ludicrous really. It was only on-screen that such an arrangement was found. And enforced by the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) which in it’s grounds for films to be cut before allowed for general release. This clears up the myth that the Hays code that caused married couples to appear in twin bed (27 inches apart). For my next work I would like to at least try and correct this wrong in film. I know its part of the fabric of classic film now, but a part of me still wants to push these beds together somehow. Even going through the list and correcting a few more of the stranger items. I’m at the early stages of this, having done a little research already this could go beyond a simple correction (when I find the best method). I can’t wait to get started now.

 

An Unfinished Western (2014)


After months of development, beginning with a short interview with Anthony Mann, a translation of Pericles, Prince of The I have finally drawn this work to a close. I’ll take away a lot more than I have done here, realising that my models don’t need to sit outside to complete them, that was a selfish desire that ruins the work. An Unfinished Western (2014) is a result of that personal journey, releasing that I don’t need backgrounds or back-drops to complete the work, even with the aid of green-screen technology that would allow a background superimposed, destroying what makes my work come to life.

Open Range (2003) Revisited


A few years ago I found Open Range (2003) whilst I was just discovering the western genre, my final year at art-school, I was eager to explore beyond the classic genre, knowing that it starred both Robert Duvall and Kevin Costner both synonymous with the genre. My first reaction to my first viewing of this film was more negative than positive, the pastoral image of the open country that greets us at the start of the film is soon lost to an adult western. And that’s thinking that Stagecoach (1939) was adult, that’s considering it was released over 60 years earlier, the genre has grown up for its time, now here’s another take on a tried and tested plot that allows for more adult cowboys to stand up and be heard. No longer is this a young man’s game.

I think also having watching a few more westerns in between, being able to return to films I first sniffed at has helped a growing maturity that has allowed me to go back to a film that I was considering selling my copy on eBay (glad I didn’t by the way). Also reading more about the genre has opened my mind to what it’s all about, the myth of conquest originally, the birth of a new nation filled with hopes, dreams and all the danger that came with it.

Returning to the pastoral location of the west we find four men, two running the cattle outfit and two hired hands, grazing their cattle on land that is the property of cattle baron Denton Baxter (Michael Gambon) who practically owns the law and the town, trying to run these men off his land. So far it’s nothing new really, yet its the older men pushing each other around, each set in their ways, It’s only when the hired hands Mose and Button  (Abraham Benrubi  are caught in the middle, making the quarrel personal, its time to sort things out once and for all.

The remaining men ride back into town, stopping at the doctor’s house, home also to Sue Barlow (Annette Bening) who nurses the young Button. Leaving the two men to in town, revenge and justice is now on their minds. We have to wait the rest of the film for the final showdown which is indeed worth the wait, filled with personal exploration of both Boss Spearman (Duvall) and Charley Waite (Costner) more-so Waite a former civil war solider suffering from Post traumatic stress disorder, a condition that was not to be first diagnosed until well into the next century, dealt in 1800’s America with understanding from a gravelly older partner, something that would more likely have been met with bottling up your emotions and carrying on. Becoming more dangerous with a few guns strapped to his belt.

Its Spearman and Sue’s combined input that allows Charley to start to put to rest his demons before entering into a showdown I’ve not seen the likes of since Pale Rider (1985) and Tombstone (1993) within a more accurate frontier town that sees the townspeople rise up and support the classic stranger see that all men are treated with respect. A long yet not drawn out gun battle, feeling the right length for an all out gunfight. A classic delivery that last far longer than your average 5 minutes before gaining the towns respect.

Open Range is far more than I thought it was, a slow western that is too complex, when it needs to be complex to support a maturer cast who we can see need more than a love interest and wrong doing to see this film through. There is a love of the genre that is woven into the film, from the design of the town, to the cinematography of the landscape. Lead actors who have grown up in the genre, Duvall having been part of the dying classic to its present form. Whilst Costner has breathed new life and energy into a genre that has been tired at time.

Gone Girl (2014)


Gone Girl (2014)One of the rare times that I’ve seen a film at the cinema without seeing the trailer before, somehow avoiding all of that promotional material to go in almost blind to David Fincher‘s latest thriller Gone Girl (2014) which did not disappoint on any level really. I had obviously seen a few images and knew the basic plot, that was all I had to go on and the calibre of the director, I was sold really.

What begins as an average missing person story when husband Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) comes home on his fifth wedding anniversary to find that his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) has disappeared, leaving a smashed table to greet him. Not much out of the ordinary, she could easily have been kidnapped on the surface of it all, being held hostage in someones hold-up. We follow Nick over the course of the first few days from 5th July 2012 as the investigation gets underway, clues start to emerge, not just from the treasure hunt that is laid on. Nothing sits right, Nick doesn’t appear to be as worried as he should be unlike Amy’s parents Rand and Marybeth Elliot (David Clennon and Lisa Banes) who put far more effort into finding their daughter. He seems to just hold on, when we discover more about both him and Amy through retrospective diary entries that lead us to believe the romance was slowly dying away to reveal something far darker than we would hope to find. 

Taking the mind games of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966) to a whole new level. Only a couple who know each other well enough could do so much harm to each other as the Dunne’s over the course of the film, both during and retrospectively. The audiences heads are completely screwed around with. At one time leading us to believe that Nick could, could be the killer of his wife, it’s all there, yet he’s neglected her so much you wouldn’t kill her.

I won’t reveal any spoilers for this classic of a Fincher who leads us in one direction with this couple who are both terrible people in different ways. Giving us a whole act of the film of the finale, life after Amy goes missing, life goes on for Nick after being having his life made public, mocked, ridiculed by the media, the latest sensation of Missouri and later the whole country who are waiting for the next development. It becomes palpable, as if we are living in these moments as they happen to him. Over the passing days that become weeks, it’s a modern kidnapping in the eyes of the media, with all the delicious details that make it so sensational, anything could happen.

I’m reminded of the dark twists in Se7en (1995) when we finally meet our reprehensible killer John Doe (Kevin Spacey) with his own flawed logic is revealed, things become far darker than you can ever imagine has already passed over the course of the film. The truth becomes too hard to swallow for the characters and the audience who are processing what’s now going on. Accompanied by a chilling score which takes you right into the messed up marriage which comes undone in the media world that eats it up whole.

It’s America’s modern kidnapping with all the sensational details included, nothing left out. A cast that all deliver, playing up to what we expect from one of these news stories, expanded for feature-length telling. I do wish there was more closure concerning the parents who are written out of the film in the last act that explains everything to us, left unaware of what really happened. Even the suspicious detectives get a look in, professionally suspicious, especially Officer Jim Gilpin (Patrick Fugit) whose a name to look out for, allow the audience in, questioning what is going on for us. This is sure to be one of the best films of 2014 if not for myself, it did more than entertain, it go under my skin like the directors previous work (not sure about The Social Network (2010) leaving me unnerved about who I should trust in relationships.

V for Vendetta (2005)


V for Vendetta (2005)I suppose V for Vendetta (2005) is the kind of film that Russell Brand would make, always talking of a revolution that will probably never happen but we all wish would to rid ourselves of the political elite, the uptown unfairness of the economy, the national debt, the war and conflict etc. The list is endless of the problems facing the United Kingdom alone. That’s before we even think about the Islāmic State, Ebola and UKIP winning their first seat in Parliament. Boy a lot is going in the world today. And out of that comes a film, admittedly nearly a decade old still has a resonance that comes out of something that we still feel today. Based on a comic book written 30 years ago the events have been updated for a contemporary audience we have a dystopian future that we could easily see happening if we give into the notion of fear. An emotion that has already seen so many of our rights being signed away in the name of the war of terror in the light of 9/11. It’s scary to think how real this could be if we give into a fascist leader such as Chancellor Sutler (John Hurt) who uses fear as his main tool to control the nation that has been trained to consume the “bollox” that is transmitted through the government controlled media.

Enter out hero, a masked figure taking the guise of a Guy Fawkes who plotted to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605 that forms the basis loosely for a victim of the government that left him a much changed person. A guise that allows this tortured and reborn (Hugo Weaving) to perform terrorist acts, killing those who were the created him, a dangerous figure to those in power, yet a saviour to the wider public who slowly wake-up and listen to the masked figure who is able to avoid the government as they try to track him down.

Whilst caught up in all of the chaos is Evey (Natalie Portman) already suspicious of the governments control of the country who is saved at the beginning by the masked crusader, taking her to his underground home. Filled with treasures of a forgotten time when culture was free to express it self, not fearing the control of an oppressive regime. An unlikely relationship forms between V and Evey, after being introduced into his lost world, a courteous gentlemen from a bygone time, speaking eloquently from behind the mask, which hides the pain of a past he hopes to avenge.

You can tell V for Vendetta is based on a comic book, from the strong visual style throughout, taking cues from Brazil (1985) and other Orwellian inspired worlds. That of control and order, everything has it’s place. Watched over by John Hurt’s overacting as the Chancellor, mostly seen from a giant screen to a few members of his closest advisors. It’s the bravery of one detective Finch (Stephen Rea) whose investigative tendencies lead him to the truth, a truth that was hopefully buried long ago start being unearthed again. The truth always comes out, even amongst all media blanket that was supposed to blind the public. Making the audience question the power and truth of our own media, how much is fact, and fiction, are we kept from what we really need to know. More and more we are discovering about our government such as the expenses scandal, due to the freedom of information act. Breakthroughs in transparency are happening, but not as much as we hope.

A cast that is mostly British, bar Portman who delivers an acceptable accent, make this a more authentic Britain, well London where he action takes place. Even Stephen Fry has a decent part (playing himself), a free thinker in an industry that has lost it’s way, still trying to make his voice heard amongst all the lies and propaganda. All this makes for a stronger richer film that delivers a future we should avoid at all costs.

Maybe a revolution is needed as was in this dystopian future to break free from our current system? Yet they rarely succeed in the long term really. At least we see a single man rise up to make a country think for themselves once more, making he government fear the people who elected them, not the other way around. Reinforcing the power of democracy, to question our government, to watch over those who we ultimately put their and can take away again.

Little Big Man (1970)


Little Big Man (1970)One of a few films recommended to me during my final year at art-school by Professor Neil Campbell who opened my mind more to the western genre. Little Big Man (1970) was indeed a long and rewarding wait to finally catch this revisionist western that on the face of it can mock the genre. As we follow the life of the oldest and last Indian fighter who retells his life very much in the style that is later used by Forrest Gump (1995) without all the schmaltz of the big events of the last few decades and cgi to slip in the main character. Instead it’s a look back at both the western genre and the larger and more overlooked near genocide of the Native American as mentioned by the young interviewer of Jack Crabb (Dustin Hoffman) who comically is 122 years old, impossible really, but allows another generation become aware of its countries overlooked and shameful past.

We don’t linger on the nasty G word for too long, heading straight to the myths stereotypes of the Indian, as we see a white settlement raided, leaving only Jack and his sister hiding in a burnt out wagon, who are later taken away by a Cheyenne back to his camp. With well over half a decade of images of what could possibly happen our misconceptions are soon wiped clear, twisted on the head and thrown out.

This is not your average western of the last two decades when the Indian would capture, rape and kill their prisoners. Instead looking beyond the cliché to something more honest with humour as to what could possibly happen (stretched a bit for effect) as one man is assimilated into Cheyenne life, given the name Little Big Man. Not ignoring one of the ideas employed by the U.S. government to solve the “Indian Problem” The effect the Cheyenne’s have on Jack is dramatic as he goes onto adopt various lives throughout 1800’s America and the West. Paying homage in part to the genre that has given us so many images from the gunfighter to the medicine peddler and town drunk.

Hoffman is an interesting choice for the lead role, a small in height and not the most macho of heroes yet holds your attention as an average guy who can shout above it all. The kind that as we see gets left behind but makes the best of it. Taking on the multiple persona’s of the West we see him try and fail to live as a white man, becoming a failure in the American world, becoming only a true human being as an adopted Cheyenne. Something that is constantly mentioned among them, especially Old Lodge Skins (Chief Dan George) who speaks of the white men as not equal to any Indian, even African American’s are not worthy of the title. It is those who live out on the plains who are allowed to be called human. As if a right of passage, living up to a standard, a way of life they will never truly share. A reflection of the western societies urge to westernise everyone else they came into contact with. For once the Indian seems to have the moral high-ground, his perspective comes first.

Whereas the white-man taking the form of General George Armstrong Custer (Richard Mulligan) is once again a bigoted glory hunter who is deaf to anyone else’s views. Head strong and determine to solve the “Indian Problem” hoping to one day live in the White house. We meet the doomed general a few times, at first a towering figure who arrives out of the pages of glory to become power mad. First sending Jack and his then wife Olga (Kelly Jean Peters) west, back into the untamed country, leading us into a back and forth world for Jack as he lives amongst the Cheyenne and the whites. It’s only after a raid that he is a part of as a Mule Skinner does he truly see the barbaric nature of the U.S. cavalry who slain not just the men but the women and children with little regard for their orders. Un able to understand how his own kind, kill another that he has been raised by, conflicting emotions boil inside him. White by birth, yet Cheyenne by nature, relying on either to survive as we learn. 

Whilst being a comedy there are plenty of scenes that shake you up, leaving you in no doubt which side this film is on, after taking up with 4 wives do we see how the Cheyenne live on a reservation, before being “rubbed out” by the Army that is hard to watch, we don’t see white against Indian, it’s not a fair fight, just a slaughter of the innocent as they run for cover. Jack is seems to be the only one who can see history before him whilst it unfolds, unable to do much about it, a bystander almost in a nightmare.

Little Big Man flips the myth of conquest on its head to show the audience what it’s been overlooking, with all the settlers moving west, the gold rush, the cattle barons and the railroad, there was a great cost that was overlooked, a cost of human lives which can be overlooked as an obstacle. It doesn’t preach to us what has happened, the damage has been done politically and historically. Maybe in film the past can be redressed, hoping to rewrite that history to fill in the gaps that are usually covered over by the gunfighters and landowners. Adding another rich layer to a genre that celebrates a countries history which has become a myth that has become the facts we know today. For a time we are made to think about the others who are usually left out on the sidelines of history. If it wasn’t for Chief Dan George’s performance that rises beyond the stereotypical Indian chief to a thoughtful and wise man who can gives another viewpoint to history. There’s a sense of guilt that builds up as we see all the death and destruction, a race that has been brought to it’s knees, with all the excitement we see in the developed west we cannot forget the cost that is made both on-screen and in history.

 

On the Beach (1959)


On the Beach (1959)From the brief description that came before On the Beach (1959) I was intrigued coming from a Sci-fi fan point of view, it’s not very often that an A-list cast of this period would come together to make such a thought provoking film. Based on a Nevil Shute’s novel of the same name that is obviously inspired during a time of intense discussion around the rise of nuclear weapons, not twenty years after the close of WWII do we see the world’s major powers arming themselves with weapons that if used could ultimately lead to the worlds destruction far quicker than the two previous wars put together. Thankfully the powers that be have been able to keep their hands off the giant button that could launch us to the end of civilisation as we know it.

The details of the event that lead to a U.S submarine surfacing in Australia are kept rather close to the characters, not wishing to discuss even amongst themselves, which adds to the sensitivity of the event (whatever that maybe). We do get an explanation of sorts later on as to what could have happened, it’s all seen as conjecture really, no-one knows the truth, what happened in the western world saw it fall to it’s untimely demise. Only leaving Australia left free from the effects of radiation caused by the bombs that were launched.

For a film with few special effects, not a rocket is launched, no mushroom clouds rise from the ground, the audience still engages with a film that ultimately can’t have a happy ending, Something that is rare for this time in American film where the happy ending is king, justice is served, the live happily ever-after. It just can’t happen for those left alive in this version of the world that had to fire up those deterrents that should have been just that.

There has been discussion on and off for a few years about the renewal of the Trident system in the U.K. do we need it, it’s too expensive. I believe we need to protect ourselves, but would we ever use it? What cost would it have to our country and the wider world? There are enemies out there that may not respond to such a show of force. It is a last resort and should only be that. Here in On the Beach those lucky enough to still be alive are dealing with that, the actions of those who pressed that button only to end up dying because of it.

With the event behind us at the beginning of the film we have only to wait for the end really, filling in that time with the final days of a submarine commander Dwight Lionel Towers, (Gregory Peck) who along with his men are in the unique position of being the last of the American race left alive, avoiding all the devastation of back home. Falling for a Moira Davidson (Ava Gardner) who has never really had a man in her life, doesn’t want to be alone, fighting to be with a man who at first cannot accept and grieve for his family. Leading a strong cast in a film that remains serious throughout, without preaching to the audience, thats left to the direction, cinematography and soundtrack creating an empty world that will soon become far emptier very soon as the radiation takes a hold of the country.

Even looking at the final hours and days of the average man who can choice to die in pain and suffering from the radiation or take a suicide pill that can end it all, with a shrewd of dignity still in tact. It’s all pretty grim stuff really, handled sensitively. Could it be propaganda? Probably leaving us in no doubt that using nuclear weapons can only have one real outcome, the end of life on earth as we know it. Even as life carries on in Australia for a short time, they are slowed down, returning to outdated vehicles to get about, running out of supplies.

Yet it’s the return to San Francisco on a mission following up a signal they picked up, only to find it’s a nothing. Whilst there, the images of a  usually busy landscape brought to a standstill, devoid of life, as if it was the early hours of the day and people are starting to stir, not venturing out. But it’s not dawn, they’re all dead. These are the images that drive home to the American public what could happen if the bombs went off, even miles away off in the ocean, it could still be felt back home.

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