Westworld Series 1 ep3

westworld-2016Spoilers contained below!

We are really getting our teeth into the park that is Westworld in the third episode. The focus of this weeks installment focus on a man – Teddy Flood (James Marsden) who I originally thought was a guest to the park, referencing the source material, who I learned early on that he was in-fact another host who is playing a role in a slightly bigger narrative. He’s even given a back story, thanks to his creator Dr Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) who at the touch of the button delivers what was just a cowboy to the rescue to being a more rounded individual, his God is giving him slightly more freedom to explore himself.

Of course it’s not just the hosts who are explored in more detail. Turning to the management we focus on Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) who is starting to have second thoughts about the series of malfunctions in the park. Raising the question of sentience in the host that has a darker history that goes back to the early years of the park before management got involved. Or when the science became profitable from being a fun theme park for escape to becoming an immersive experience for the super-rich, I’ve even discovered how much you actually pay per day too. In learning more about Lowe we see a scientist who reflects past ideas, a family history that explains his motivations as the series unfolds.

We spend more time with Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood) whose pivotal to the development of what I can only guess will be an uprising from the hosts towards the end. We see another unraveling during a conversation between Delores and Wright. I’m getting used to the conversations with the naked hosts, who’re treated like patience in therapy, their emotions and thought processes laid bare, almost literally when you think about it. A clinical environment where anything is possible for these hosts who are brought back to life, patched up and sent back out for another killing.

Focusing on Flood has allowed us more time to see Ford who has subtly released a new narrative which enriches the one Flood was already part of. He needs to come face to face with an ex soldier named Wyatt (Sorin Brouwers) who I thought was Earp before we learn more about him. A clever device that the writers are using to subvert the genre, making use also of more recent films such as Bone Tomahawk (2015) with creatures who are practically lifted from that film. With little explanation beyond links to the devil they are just Wyatt’s army.

Lastly, going back to last weeks episode we’re seeing the effects Maeve Millay’s (Thandie Newton) experience is starting to become flashbacks which I hope will come up to the surface soon. Everything is slowly being woven together, we are spending last with a sense of repetition, which we won’t lose, instead focusing on the eventual realisation that these hosts are sentient , or that their programming has allowed them to come close indeed to what we have by default.  I wonder who we will focus on next week, I’m thinking it maybe the prostitute Clementine Pennyfeather (Angela Sarafyan) who we are catching more glimpse of and that her and other hosts of her trade aren’t as restricted to one sex of clientele, making for a very modern Western.

Bicycle Thieves/Ladri di biciclette (1948)

bicycle-thieves-1948There was a time, a long time when I thought I would never see Bicycle Thieves/Ladri di biciclette (1948) for a number of reasons. My almost complete rejection of foreign films which now looks very silly with all I have now seen, Of course not so readily available to me, I am far more open-minded to foreign films ever since my love for Studio Ghibli and which opened the floodgates leading to Breathless (1960) last year opening my eyes to the reality that foreign films are just as good if not better than those of your own language. During time I had known about Bicycle Thieves on every list imaginable about the best films ever made, I never really took any notice, the more I heard about I switched off. Today I look out for these films wanting watch them, I’m indeed waking up and enjoying the smell of foreign/Italian roses.

Putting aside my warming relationship to foreign films I need to turn to this film which I really wished I seen years earlier. I’ve made up for that tonight, seeing a film that when viewed today still has powerful resonance. We’ve all had a time in our when we have nothing going our way, it just gets worse and worse until you hit rock bottom, you see no way out. For Antonio (Lamberto Maggiorani) he’s survive WWII to now pick up the fragments of domestic life, having been given a job he now has to fight on the streets to keep hold of it. We don’t know his real trade, possibly a decorator when he’s given a job pasting posters, namely of Rita Hayworth. He rightly jumps at the job even under the condition of having his own transport – his bicycle, which we learn he pawned so he could support his family. We see a man whose a devoted family man torn to ultimately do the right think. Don’t we all strive to do that throughout our lives?

If you boil this film to its essence there’s not really much to it, a mans offered a job which requires his own transport that is later stolen before going to spend the rest of the film trying to find it. However all who have seen the film will know that such a basic premise for a plot can produce one of the most human of stories. I’m going to be provocative and say that if you watch this film and are not moved by anything that happens then you are not human. I mean to say that if you don’t feel for Antonio and his son Bruno (Enzo Staiola) as they walk and run around the streets of Rome in hopes of finding his bike. A bike that will see them have a better lifestyle, a decent steady income that will ensure his family won’t go without. Don’t we all aspire to have be able to live a decent live in some comfort, without fear that it’ll be threatened after a single event in our lives.

For me I knew that the bike would be stolen, holding on tentatively to the bike whenever it was on-screen. Once it’s brought back from the pawn shop, not just the average small shop on the high street, a mass of personal belongings held by the state to support the public live and survive. Having the infrastructure behind the wooden counter there is an ever-changing archive of human history that depends on money. A cycle that could go on forever whilst the nation is getting back on its feet after being battered during WWII, their leader had misled them into a war that only brought death and misery, now the ordinary man, woman and children are picking up the pieces that Mussolini left behind.

The drama begins on the first day of his new job, filled with hope after being shown the ropes, pasting up an image of Hayworth, an image of great beauty, that’s to be desired from a foreign land they have only seen at the cinema, images they are only just being delighted with. His job is taking him a step closer to the dreams that Hollywood indulges him in. When that dream is suddenly pulled from under him by a thief Vittorio Antonucci taking his bike and riding off into not the sunset which is might as well be, never to be seen again. Instead it’s a bustling town filled with bikes and traffic, never to be seen again.

Father and son waste no time in searching for the bike the following day with the help of Baiocco (Gino Saltamerenda) as they are taken to a market where the possibility of finding the bike even in pieces could bring the search to an end. It’s torture seeing them both look at the bells, the lines and lines of bikes they quickly look up and down, hoping the next one will be theirs. My god I hoped they’d find it here, sadly it’s not to be, having the carry on in the desperate search for a needle in a metal haystack.

Antonio and Bruno slowly loose hope through the day they dedicate to the search, or at least the time we have with them. Sinking from despair for the lost job to a world they would never think they’d even tread. From hassling an elderly man who only wants a meal, to possibly accusing a young man of being the thief until he becomes one himself. A transformation from a role model father trying to do his best to crossing into a potential life of crime in order to carry on the life he thought to be gone forever. It’s dramatic yet a very real possibility that we could all go through. With a click of the fingers we could lose that all important independence that allows us to be free and live out our dreams, or merely provide.

I didn’t think this review would be touching the 1000 word mark, only a few solid paragraphs, but this is a film really gets inside of you. You could be that parent who needs to feed their child who could steal that loaf of bread to ensure they get the basics. I’m so glad to have seen this film and will be looking out for more Italian Realism.

Playing with Plastic (2016) Part 2

Stop frame animation that utilising Cowboy and Indian figures to address the depiction of Native American history. Using the playset language to depict a more honest history through play.

The Magnificent Seven (1960) Revisited

the-magnificent-seven-1960I decided a few weeks ago not to catch the reboot of The Magnificent Seven which has had mixed to poor reviews. I’m sure that I’ll catch it in a year or so, however I feel I don’t want to waste my money on potentially a poor film. However I still wanted to catch the original, which itself is the Western take of Akira Kurosawa ‘s samurai epic The Seven Samurai (1954) that is a film that mixes pathos, legend and great character dynamic. It’s a lot to live up even for a western 6 years later across the Pacific. It had also been a good few years since I caught this film, all I could really remember was the final shoot-out and the deaths that hit me hard, even today they still have the same effect.  A part of me is wondering how the modern take on the film has worked, I read it allegories the current climate in America, looking at Donald Trump for instance, there’s a lot more going on than him thankfully to inspire the themes of the film.

Looking back to the 1960 take of the film the reading I get is one of support for the invasion of Vietnam, which was at the time the right thing to do. Stopping the spread of communism in the East which already had a negative result in Korea creating two new countries after the intervention. Now the threat had moved to mainland Asia which would have made Russia’s grip on more vulnerable countries. America had already proven itself a superpower during and after WWII so why not continue to flex those muscles. Of course all of that is now history and forms the background for this film that has practically left them in the dust.

So moving that into a wild west context where do you take this politics. We have a group of gunfighter’s who’re requested by a Mexican village to help them fight off bandito’s who routinely take the lions share of their harvest. Pretty similar to the original film, just repositioning to the basic elements. I vaguely remembered any of that until the film opened in the village where the actions going to be centred when Calvera (Eli Wallach) and his men ride in, warning that on his return he wants their harvest. These farmers have never picked up a gun, only had a violent thoughts which they have never acted upon until they’re forced to reconsider. I’ve recently been reading Richard Slotkin’s Gunfighter Nation which is again widening my understanding of the genre, which in turn is helping me when it comes to this and other films. Here the Mexican farmers are clearly the Vietnamese who are incapable of saving themselves, needing the U.S. to ride in and save them. Mexican’s in the genre have mostly been seen as little better than savages, just above Native American’s. Of course it takes a three Mexican’s to cross the border to America to seek that help.

Over in America we haven’t even started to look at the seven heroes who are yet to be assembled. We do however meet the first three before any mention of a call to arms by the farmers. A funeral has just been refused, leaving the traveling salesmen who paid confused until he’s told that the dead man is a Native American, leaving the funeral directors hands tied. It’s only until an enlightened gunfighter Chris Larabee Adams (Yul Brynner) Vin Tanner (Steve McQueen) who starts a fight for scenes with the more experienced actor, take over the funeral, picking up their guns, using force to see that a man, Native American or not is given a decent burial. Showing that America has since made its peace, an internal Wild West problem resolved, with a few against equal rights, which can translate to the beginning of the civil rights movements.

Once the plea for help was heard by Adams whose seen as a brave man, after being seen taking a dead man, with Tanner riding shotgun, they see a leader of men who can fight off Calvera. Is this Mexico aspiring to be America, looking up to their neighbours who fought off and won numerous conflicts? Now its time to advertise the position to all those who can make it and show themselves to be honorable gunfighter’s, or brave men of good character with a gun. I have to discuss each member of the, who get varying screen time (apart from McQueen). First to arrive is Harry Luck (Brad Dexter) who isn’t the most explored character, he has a history with Adams, possible a card shark who has survived because of his ability with the gun. I just wish he was given more time, which is hard to do with so many actors to consider, vying for screen time, it looks like his scene were either cut or left on the page.

We have already been introduced to McQueen’s Tanner who is fighting for scenes with Brynner who gives his best to the rising star and epitome of cool. A man whose found wandering from job to job, is this one going to give him purpose, even if it’s for a meager $20, maybe the price of potential freedom is more valuable to him.

Next up we have Chico (Horst Buchholz) who isn’t actually considered a member of the group until they are off on their way. Being the youngest he has the most to prove, not just to himself but to the other more experienced men. He’s given a reaction test of sorts, which he breaks under the pressure to perform, possibly seeing a darker side he is afraid of. Possibly out of his depth to prove himself, is he about to mix with men more dangerous than he considers himself.

We turn to Britt (James Coburn) a cowboy who we finding proving he’s faster than another, ending up out of a job. He takes proving himself on his own terms and in his own time, his distinctive skill is knife throwing. It’s enough to distinguish him from the other men, but not really exploited enough in the film, becoming just a hired gun in some respects.

Charles Bronson’s Bernardo O’Reilly who we discover is a Mexican considers his skills to be unworthy of the fee on offer, until he’s persuaded. He’s the only one to win the adoration of the villages children, seen as a hero, braver than their own fathers. Until he corrects them, given his own definition of bravery, that which carries the responsibility of family and being a farmer. You don’t need to pick up a gun to be labelled brave, that’s something wrongly applied by society and myth.

Lastly we have the more interesting and laconic gunfighter’s whose all but lost his nerve, a life behind the gun for Lee (Robert Vaughn) may appear to be a gentlemen with all the airs and graces, yet they have come at a cost of his state of mind. He’s the only one to wear gloves, he sees/saw himself as a professional who wont get his hands truly dirty. We see him avoiding the action when they seven are surrounded. It’s only when the final showdown happens does he realise he has to retain some bravery to die with honor.

The small army come in and train the farmers to take up arms, which they take from the dead that pile up across the duration of the film. It’s a transformation from the meek to the brave for the Mexicans who eventually take control of their destiny. We feel uplifted to see the Mexicans taking ownership of their futures, after learning from the more confident Americans who have brought with them guns and violence. Of course that’s not what the average film viewer takes away, they see knights on horseback, wearing cowboy hats in to save the day, sharing their knowledge and skills. These gunfighter’s are all aware of what they have, but ultimately what they have lost, glory is not going to win back the lost lives in their past, no wives and children, it’s not a safe life to lead, however they weapon they have chosen is not just a tool of defense against danger it becomes a symbol of danger and death. We’re taught what is important in life and a gun isn’t one of them, a powerful symbol that helped to win the West is being discarded. However I take away the pain of seeing these characters fall to their deaths, after following them through the duration to fall under a few bullet, we realise that’s all it takes ultimately. After all the build up and there is a lot of it we have what we wanted, a bloody gunfight after forgetting the true cost of violence.


Westworld Series 1 ep 2

westworld-2016Warning Spoilers below!

And I thought that all the references to the original film were all over with after the first episode, instead we see the park from the perspective of two new visitors. William (Jimmi Simpson) and Hector (Rodrigo Santoro), one returning, another fresh to the experience that is Westworld. Mirroring the roles of John Blane (James Brolin) and Peter Martin (Richard Benjamin), bringing an ordinary perspective, we see the lengths that the park goes to in ensuring that all they enjoy themselves beyond killing a few cowboys and having fun at the brothel, there really is something for everyone. It’s a holiday for the ultra rich, so you’ll have to start saving now, might be in time for the park opening. We also meet our first aware (and limited) host Armistice (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal) who takes William to find his tailor-made costume, there seems not to be a detail from the original film that has been forgotten. I’m certain more will pop-up.

I’m starting to think that Ed Harris‘s character is the human version of Yul Brynner’s gunslinger who wants to know more about the world that we learn he has not left for sometime. He’s getting closer to unlocking this world, one episodic step at a time. In this episode he take us to a Mexican town, making himself known. He definitely knows more than the average guest, his years of experience have taught him to questions the limitations of Westworld, he really is pushing them.

Last time the focus of the episode was on Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood) who takes a back seat, yet she is becoming the main thread through the series which takes us to the madam of the town – Maeve Millay (Thandie Newton) who is starting to show signs of wear and tear like other hosts. She’s starting to dream, possibly reflecting on a past role which shows the more horrific narratives that have played out in the park. Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) is really playing god, taking his creations giving them life and dictating the paths they take and the reality they perceive. Cracks are certainly on show in this world. we are breaking away from the original film to see a series inspired but very much its own. Millay’s discovery is sure to ricochet through the park, having only a negative outcome for the guests and the management.

I have to mention the failed new narrative created by Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman) that’s rejected, even after all the work he has put into the hosts, the detail and back story. It does however reflect how far the management will go to entice more guests to the park. Looking like an Indian Wars scenario, it seen as little more than just Sizemore’s, imagination I wonder if later on these hosts will in-fact be introduced, a possible weapon against the revolt they will more than likely face.

The world is expanding before us, of course we have the groundhog day effect which I am starting to get used to. It’s the insight that the hosts are starting to understand beyond their programming and built in limitations that is starting to show. I smell an uprising soon, the upgrades will backfire and all hell will break loose. For the old doctor who surveys his park and even newest narrative he’s blind like the rest of them to what is really going on.


Swiss Army Man (2016)

swiss-army-man-2016I have not laughed so much during a film in a longtime, the only films that come close are The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) and Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013) both of which had me in stitches throughout. Two very different comedies, one pitching a little higher, the other a little lower Swiss Army Man (2016) hits somewhere in between, that can’t be a bad thing can it? With the bonus of Paul Dano who is always in roles that are never mainstream, going for the more interesting roles that keep him fresh and for the audience more excited about what he’s going to do next. He has definitely found a niche in the vulnerable man thought which never gets old or tired. I wasn’t so excited about Daniel Radcliffe who I’ve never really been a fan off, in terms of acting, so this may sound harsh but he was perfect for role of the corpse. Of course he share his character with a puppet double, ensuring all the new-found abilities don’t harm him.

Swiss Army Man is one of those films that rarely comes along, in a world where we have franchises, reboots and sequels this is a much-needed breath of fresh air, an indie film that has set the screen and really has rounded off a good weekend. The concept of a film, a man lost on a desert island who finds a corpse who slowly comes back to life with the added bonus of coming with special abilities such as enough gas to act as a speed boat, to a throat that doubles as a projectile when the bodies straightened.

Of course this film is much more than flatulence jokes and erections, which actually don’t get tiresome, all delivered with great and natural timing that make this all the more fun. What makes it better is that a corpse is responsible for half the jokes. We have a film that begins at the lowest point for Hank (Paul Dano) whose about to commit suicide, all ready to kick the box from under him when he spots Manny (Daniel Radcliffe) who washes up on the shore of the desert island where the film begins. The lowest point of the film is literally the very beginning as life is about to end for one when it has already happened for another, how can the film really move on. And so begin the fart jokes. We have come along way from the farts of Blazing Saddles (1974) when the first sounds were uttered around the campfire. Of course that’s just one element in a film that has so much more to offer.

With a corpse whose slowly waking up learning from Hank about life and what it’s all about. It’s a two-way relationship as Manny is reawakening what it is to be alive in Hank who had all but given up on living. It could be really depressing really but it’s anything but, its uplifting as they both are rediscovering what it is to be alive. You don’t even know as the audience that you’re being told to appreciate being alive.

Filmed entirely on location that’s littered with everything imaginable, these two guys are living off man’s trash. This is Cast Away (2000) in the woods, but Wilson has become a corpse that is able to hold a verbal conversation unlike that of Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) who befriends this basketball, externalising the best his can with an object that only stares back him for the better part of the film. A two-way conversation allows for comedy, personal growth in both Manny and Hank who are equally flawed, feeling unable to function in the world.

We see flashes of Hank before he found himself in the middle of nowhere (in the islands of the  Pacific Ocean) teaching Manny to function again. Passing on his own flawed human ideas to a corpse that is at first a child who grows up innocent of the human condition, is ready to take on the challenge that is life. Whilst Hank is always holding back, we can tell from his phone he has a girlfriend back home, yet he really know very little about women or sex, yet Manny soon picks it up.

I was inspired for a time to make a piece of work based on the film as they two men travel through the island building structures that act not only as shelter but as tools of learning about modern life from the bus, to a cinema, you could easily map out and build this pieces in miniature. Might just do that one day. Yet the twist of an ending leaves me not as I had with Life of Pi (2012) when the film could be seen as fact, a preferred version of events. I am left instead confused by what has actually happened. Paired with a raw and original capella soundtrack that relies mostly on the two leads from anything that gets stuck in their head to theme tunes to films they grew up with.

I know that a beautiful relationship has taken place, however the premise is pulled from under us. Hank is finally revealed, first to Manny in his first about the girl on his phone, being human is being honest with yourself and those you love, reality is something we just have to deal with. I won’t spoil as my head is still processing what actually happened, yet I don’t feel cheated, it adds another layer to everything. Film is an itself an illusion and I have well and truly fallen under its spell here, left feeling exhausted with laughter, overjoyed too by the positive yet confusing and emotional ending that tells you to go out there, grab life and make the most of it.

Playing with Plastic (2016) part 1

Stop frame animation that utilising Cowboy and Indian figures to address the depiction of Native American history. Using the playset language to depict a more honest history through play.

Making Revisions Update (9/10/16)

The end is definitely in sight. Having made a strong start on adding the soundtrack to each part. I spent a few hours listening to music from a dedicated website that sells music with licencing for such projects (private and commercial). I have narrowed down my list and eventually the desired tracks that each weeks I will download and work on, releasing a part hopefully soon after. Adding the titles either side, I will probably be adding credits at the end of part 5 to acknowledge all of those who have allowed this work to be made. I don’t want to be pretentious, however there has been more contributions that just getting some advice.

This piece has marked a departure from my traditional work of being predominantly a sculptor, which has become now an integral part of my evolving practice as a video artist which is what I have been producing more of in recent months. My next major work will have sculptural elements but will rely on video to come alive. However I am still focused very much on this piece which has a few more avenues to explore. I will be sharing Part 1 very soon, I have since deleted a number of test pieces as they have served their purposes in building up this work. I will keep on hold these for personal reference, there is one I am keen on exploring in the future.

Making Revisions Update (8/10/16)

I have been super busy in the studio today, having re-recorded portions of my narration which ultimately takes the work in a different direction and audience, that of younger people – children, those not away of what the Cowboy and Indian Toys really are and where they come from. That’s what really gets me and that is where this work is heading. I am seeing these as toys in the non-genric wild west situations and instead of bring them to a reservation they are coming to live together in peace. So we will no longer have made up nations which if I’m honest with myself is not helping myself and the culture I am working with, I need to be honest about what I am working with and show the toys up for what they are.

I have also been ruthless and deleted another scene, one that went through the narration and sound effects, so you will be able to hear my voice (scary thought) as the action plays out. You’ll be able to see why it was deleted, it was too short really and added little to nothing to the piece.

I have also for the first time done a raw timing of the parts now that new dialogue and the above scene has been removed, bringing it in at 30.36 minutes, still over twice as long as my previous videos which are far shorter. Next time I will be looking at adding a soundtrack to the work as it is fast coming to completion now. I didn’t think I would get so much done today. Then its just down to fine tuning audio and titles before it’s release.

The Cowboys (1972) Revisited

the-cowboys-1972If you look at the latter part of John Wayne‘s post winning his best actor Oscar for True Grit (1969) which was well on earned, he was on form, was in part awarded to him out of guilt for being over-looked for past performance, then having been in front of the camera for 40 years. It’s far more polite than the honorary awarded which can be even awarded after death. A sorry for missing you statue that we see given to those who have graced our screens for decades, some of the recipients even kiss them, joke about it being their first to be nominated or considered for. It could have been the only one that Leonardo DiCaprio would have got if it wasn’t for his SIXTH nomination and the track record that awards seasons that ensure he finally won, add a bit of guilt he finally won. OK so back tracking to The Duke you could say his better years are over, this is something I have mentioned in past reviews so I won’t go over the same ground for too long. He didn’t go on to make any really great films that stand-up to True Grit, The Searchers (1956)… the list is endless, he produced classics every few years.

The last one prior to his obvious swan song is The Cowboys (1972), often mentioned as Wayne’s personal favorite. On a second watch I can see why he was fond of this now charming yet controversial Western that has a bitter-sweet place in my heart. With a long career behind him and a few more years left in him, he had created and wanted to maintain a screen image. He had nurtured new talent that had gone onto have successful careers, formed friendships with others too. Here he was able to find and allow much younger talent in front of the screen, 11 young men all younger than 16 able to live out their fantasy, starring in a film with John Wayne, who the hell wouldn’t if they had the chance? Another reason could be to be surrounded by boys who were the ages of his sons when he was mostly away filming, missing out on their upbringing. Whilst also sharing them with his first two ex-wives. A mix of guilt and paternal feeling that you might not consider at first.

Another reason why this film has a clasp on that classic status is its uniqueness, even in the 1970’s it was rare even for a Western is to have its populated with children on a cattle run. The film takes its roots a little more in fact, as Wil Anderson (Wayne) admits he was 13 on his first cattle drive. So you have to start somewhere. Children grew up quicker in the 19th century, they didn’t have it much better over in the UK, either being chimney sweeps or a life in the workhouse, maybe out in the fresh air was sliiiiighty better for them. Not mentioning the early starts, the rough conditions, the short nights and the dangers of the unknown, along with constantly proving your worth. Hmm maybe I should have a re-think on that one.

There’s also the undeniably beautiful cinematography thanks to Robert Surtees who has given us the images that could have almost been captured decades earlier. Rich in blue skies, the classic imagery of the cattle drive feels fresh after years of seeing the genre depict the event on countless occasions, here it feels like a documentary at times. Together with an early John Williams score that shows hints of greater things yet to come. We have moments of grandeur before something a little quirky, he has yet to reach his own real style.

So we have a refreshed take on one of the oldest forms of Western, driven by an actor whose rarely producing the film, he’s the actor for hire, listening to the director Mark Rydell who is able to get a matured yet not cliched performance out of The Duke, he’s not simply playing a version of his image, he’s bringing out the father figure in him. Whilst being too old to conceivavably have young children on-screen he is able to act as a mentor to a new generation who will have to grow from being boys to young men. Which is pushing me towards seeking out the Young Guns (1988) to see how these young men roles might have lead them Of course that was more about a vehicle for another generation of actors coming through and an attempt to restart the genre.

There are a few aspects which disturbs me about The Cowboys, the first was quickly wiped away, the depiction of the Mexican Cimarron (A Martinez) who was seen as more confident, a cowboy in the making. First seen breaking a horse, showing his potential employer that he is more than worthy of a place on the trail. He’s dismissed before they even set off because of the violence he brings to the company. His heritage is never mentioned, he has no other name other than Cimarron which suggest he’s had to fend for himself, may have even forgotten his surname or have been given his name by someone other than a parent in his short life. He does hover return after rescuing one of the white cowboys from drowning, proving he can be a team player, having grown up over the course of the film to that point. Another is the boys picking up guns and ultimately killing with them. First they are taken away from them, locked away on the wagon by Anderson wanting a clean and safe drive. Its only when they feel the need to exact revenge do they resort to violence that is usually carried out by men. It’s as if they have to prove their worth as men in a world of testosterone. Today you could read this as young soldiers fighting against their will for a guerilla outfit that has trained boys to fight. This has been seen before if not as prominently in another Wayne film The Horse Soldiers (1959)where young boys at a military academy, of course the setting is far different – Civil War, different rules apply here, yet they do discuss sending these boys into the line of fire. Boys who are at an academy to become soldiers, so you can more easily forgive the depiction.

The bittersweet-ness I am however left with is one of those rare times when the Duke was killed on-screen. I was dreading seeing it happen again, it has given Bruce Dern a story to dine out on forever. However Wayne was rarely at the receiving end of a fatal bullet, the hero, the last man standing who saw the job and the film through to it’s end. Maybe this was seen as a rare departure for him, allowing the boys to take on the drive or simply ride off. You can see the motivations for picking up a gun and acting lower than those who stole the cattle. After seeing a larger than life screen idol being beaten by a young actor before being shot in an unfair fight, the boys are only acting out what any of us in the audience would want to do in that world. Each shot, every punch hurts not only the characters but those who have followed him on the screen, not just the boys on the cattle drive, its all the motivation you’d need

I feel I have come away from this film better able to express how I feel about a latter film of the Duke who was very much in legacy mode by then, wanting to keep working until his body finally gave out on him as we see 4 years later in The Shootist (1976) which had to be shot around his failing health. Its a film that not many actors of his generation would make, the hero never dies in the classic genre, they live on. However he hasn’t really died, his spirit lives on in his films, his ideals (on screen more so) and image of the west that he created, reflected out to the world, this is the genre starting to bow out, here in a way that pays homage whilst still wanting to reinvent itself for a new audience. It still on TV at least 1 once a month in the UK alone, just shows the popularity of the film and the power of the John Wayne.