I am pleased to announce that part 6 of my animation Playing with Plastic (2016) will be exhibited online as part of a new archive UN[dis]CRIMINATE with the Unstitute online gallery.

Located in courtyards of the Unstitute – in between spaces, between other structures, temporary or otherwise – is a network of diverse encampments serving any number of uses; political or otherwise. In these digital encampments you can see the building of a new archive: UN[dis]CRIMINATE.

The outlying buildings of The Unstitute are not guarded by anyone in particular, and often entrances sit wide open for anyone to see. But mainly the nomadic eruptions in disused or otherwise vague areas of The Unstitute appear of their own determination, and deterritorialize as long as they please.


Young Guns (1988) & Young Guns II (1990)

Just over a year ago I watched the first Young Guns (1988) which I found to be an interesting film. I was entertained by this take on the Lincoln County wars, emphasising the role of Billy the Kid around the cattle barons war. I left the article wanting to seek out the sequel (purely out of curiosity mainly) completing the characters journey. Below is my original review followed by my thoughts on the sequel.

Another western that I thought I’d never really watch or review. I do remember hearing some enthusiasm for the film at art-school, but thought little of it, wanting to explore the classics of the genre more at the time, which to a large extent I have since achieved, now I’ve got a few to revisit. I have since considered catching Young Guns (1988) not really knowing much about the film beyond it looking like a chance to refresh the genre, which was beginning to happen during this period such as Silverado (1985) and Pale Rider (1985) at least Clint Eastwood could be relied upon to deliver. I also saw this as a spin on The Magnificent Seven (1960) formula, bring together a group of gunfighters and send them out to save the day, which isn’t far off what happened, just without the pathos or myth-making magic which it achieved.

What’s achieved is my curiosity being pricked up, which is all you need sometimes to engage with a film. First I was drawn to the late 1980’s music video aesthetic, it was clearly aimed at a young audience who had no real interest in the genre, something for older generations who grew up during its hey-day. During this period there are glimmers of something special coming through. Another point was having the other Martin Sheen son as the lead, as Emilio Estevez was already established in film, compared to the more prominent Charlie Sheen whose actually written out of the film at around the half-way point, which also shows as how much hated being on a horse, staying long enough to get a starring credit and a paycheck.

Looking further a stronger historical connection that I found, helping when I realised that it depicted both Billy the Kid – William H. Boney and L.G.Murphy, who both appeared in Chisum (1970), skewed more for John Wayne‘s lead character during the Lincoln County War (1877-8) one of the many cattle wars of the period. The same events basically unfold but from a more relatable point of view – the young men who knew John Tunstall whose killing, that originally started the war. Instead of Chisum who was rightly worried about Murphy’s increasing ownership in Lincoln County. He’s nowhere to be seen or heard in Young Guns which is either a poor choice historically, or consciously written out to focus on those directly effected by the shooting. Having too many characters to focus on would make it a broader less engaging film. 

With such a young cast who had yet to really make a mark in film it allows these six actors (ignoring Estevez) into careers of some longevity, which did happen for Keifer Sutherland, son of Donald Sutherland, which probably helped during casting. The rest of the cast I can’t say I have really seen before this film. A 50% success rate is still good going though. Placing them in this MTV-esque Western which works in some places and not in others. The music video feel of the film really has dated, the soundtrack really doesn’t work today, it attempt to set the tone but feels out-of-place, it’s neither nostalgic or dramatic, with time it’s just been lost. The casting of Terrance Stamp as John Tunstall just doesn’t work for me. Playing the “Englishman” which is over emphasised at times is really unnecessary for the audience. It’s trying to pit Englishman against Irishmen which really is just circumstance to me, just drop the point and move on. Also Stamp looks very out of place, just delivering his lines without looking awkward on-screen. I think he’s glad he was killed off after 20 minutes. He obviously leave a mark on the men – The Regulators, who start off to war.

Turning to The Regulators as characters themselves who are fully fleshed people who you can engage with. With the emphasis on Billy the Kid the assumed leader post Tunstall’s death, the historical figure that most in the audience would have heard of compared to the cattlemen who are known to those interested in history. For me it comes from reading beyond the films. As a character himself he owns the film and Estevez owns the role, really having fun, making his mark on the role whose being done justice. Looking to Charlie Sheen’s Richard ‘Dick’ Brewer who probably seen as the winger of the group who pushes everyone further before he’s killed off. Two of the Gun’s Josiah Gordon ‘Doc’ Scurlock and Charles ‘Charley’ Bowdre (Kiefer Sutherland and Casey Siemaszko) are given the love interests which don’t take over from the main plot, if anything they make them richer characters, they have more to lose as they reach the finale. I must also touch on the Navajo character ‘Jose’ Chavez y Chavez (Lou Diamond Phillips) whose half Mexican, whose allowed screen-time to discuss the American Holocaust, specifically the massacre at Sand Creek Reservation (1864), despite the fact that he would never have been there, as he wasn’t Cheyenne or Arapaho. Showing how Native American past can be recycled and jumbled to suit a script.

Young Guns reminded me of other super groups in the genre which brought together the best of the best in their fields, or even misfits such as The Professionals (1966), The Wild Bunch (1969) up to Silverado. Guns joins that long line of super groups toting guns. Long before the Avengers and DC universe films that bring together superheroes. Except everyone gets on and they have already met, cutting out a lot of exposition allowing for us to get on with the plot and see this group of young men just get on with it.

Historically I was vaguely aware of Billy the Kid’s involvement in the Lincoln County War, afterwards I feel a little more informed and refreshed, there’s more to it then the side we see. It’s small event of a much bigger, dirty, violent history, also adding the myth of the West that has been reshaped by cinema. There are a few nods to the fabric of the genre, Patrick Wayneson of The Duke takes on the role of Pat Garrett, to Jack Palance as Murphy which you can see he’s enjoying far more than Stamp was. It’s not the strongest of films for a number of reasons which I’ve discussed, however it is fun, engaging with filled with action, you’re supporting the young men as they fight for what is right which makes up what is lacking at times. A product of its time which you can forgive its many flaws leaving me wanting to catch the sequel now.

If I’m honest I’ve been having mixed feelings leading up to watching Young Guns II (Blaze of Glory) (1990) which brought back the remaining members of the Lincoln County regulators. Partly recast and rewriting the history in a mish-mash fashion to suit a theory that Billy the Kid survived into the 1940’s. At first I thought what the hell was going on here, a rider reaches a road, is this a cross with time travel or what? My next thought was is this going to be another Little Big Man (1970) that was recounted via the oldest living Native American. Or even a Blackthorn where we find Butch Cassidy (Sam Shepard) living a new life in self imposed exile. Instead this is based on an account that saw a Bushy Bill attempt to prove he was William H Bonney fighting for his pardon by the governor of New Mexico. It was later dismissed and thrown out of court.

This is the direction we were going down, at first it threw me, why are we doing this, why not just carry on where we left off. Was this an attempt to stamp a definite mark on the screen legend of the Kid, which is not a bad thing. Coming at the audience with a curveball, the obscurity curio as a basis for a film that I already scratching my head at. I knew this was another retelling of the final days of the Kid for another generation. For me that will always be Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973) which personally is the definitive version. Guns II director Geoff Murphy even went as far as clearly replicating some shots from Peckinpah, thankfully it’s just a few from The Wild Bunch. Never the less it shows a lack of originality to produce a clear personal vision instead of relying on a flawed master of the genre’s past.

A massive flaw is that the film goes as far as rewriting the past for Pat Garret who previously appeared in the original, now we see him portrayed by William Petersen a younger actor, compared to the older Patrick Wayne. As much as these films take place in the same landscape, they see the events as very separate. Was the inclusion of the older Garrett which felt like a cameo when he wasn’t even a sheriff during the Lincoln County War or around during those times. He was a friend of the Kid and even a mentor for a time. All of this is washed away for a confused cameo before being rewritten as a villain of the this confused sequel.

I can’t help but compare Guns II to Pat Garret and Billy the Kid it would be impossible to separate the two. At times they do draw strong similarities. However the main difference is that the two films have very different points of view. Just looking at the titles of the films, Pat Garrett is filled with mixed feelings in 1973, wanting to do the job for money and power, yet knowing that he’s hunting down and killing an old friend of his. The kid is always seen being a cocky and confident, able to shoot and talk his way out of trouble. Nothing much changes there in Guns II as he rescues his friends before riding on down to “Old Mexico” where they hope to hide out. Whilst Garret is practically bribed into taking on the job and changing his personality over the course of one scene, there’s no time given to his decision it just a shocking reveal that left me confused.

The time we spend with the guns is worthwhile as we catch up Doc (Sutherland) and ‘Jose’ Chavez y Chavez (Lou Diamond Phillips) who have taken different paths. It’s tries to be a young mans films, with new faces with the Kids mirror image – Arkansas Dave Rudabaugh (Christian Slater) who buts heads with him all the time. Whilst farmer Hendry French (Alan Ruck ) and Easterner Tom O’Folliard (Balthazar Getty) wants a taste of gunfighter life. Both really unaware of all that entails. Eventually they all saddle up and ride on as Garrett and his men (not him riding on his own as 1973’s film showed him on a personal mission). The film aims to be bigger, more action filled than Peckinpah’s laconic version. Ultimately its a follow up to a bold and successful action film for the new MTV generation with a set of actors who are making a mark on Hollywood. Unlike the old timers in 1973. This is a sequel that’s riding high on the hopes of the first for better returns at the box office. It wasn’t even saved by a nodding cameo from James Coburn who gave his best in a role the small role.

For me it fails miserably. Knowing about the historical figures depicted in the two films now being so confused and coming from a strange angle really doesn’t help the legend, it hinders it, with a put on “old man” voice and heavy make-up. If anything it’s an all for one, one for all tale that sees friends fight it out to the end in the West as the had done previously but with not so much satisfaction. The weight of history didn’t even get in the way for the makers, instead they screw it over and hope that we’ll buy into. Frankly I’m considering a refund.

Cowboys Invaded – Update (11/12/18)

It’s been a really good day in the studio. One that has seen the base of the gold mine explode into an exciting new piece. Still very much under construction. It’s a quick build and a big build.

I began by adding more detail to the rock effect created with the brown paper, switching to grey paper to give the impression of the surface being worn away. Part of me wants to insert some low-relief into the centre where the lift sits so that it’s really worn away at the ground, maybe that’s too much detail? I also took out the bulky corner to have a more shapely form that wraps tunnels.

I then moved onto adding the frames around the tunnel entrances, something that I’ve done before with the external entrance to the mine. So it was quick and easy to replicate 5 times below the earths surface (of cardboard) to give a stronger impression of a past life in this set.

My intention is to add a ring of balsa beam above and around the entrances, however the masking tape is currently preventing that. So I moved onto make a start on the alternative lift, which If I’m honest I think I’ll be going with. Made purely from balsa, no cardboard frame to build around. So far I’ve made up two sides, which I will be then joining together. Once they are in places I can start to deck out the floor and roof of the piece.

Moving on and back to the base of the gold mine I made a start on the roof, which saw me collapse another box and regain some space. I wanted the roof to be separate, yet looks seamlessly connected to the set, which is partly why I want the beams around the side. Once I had cut a piece to shape over the top, I wanted it to sit smoothly with no/little light getting in, a trim was fixed to the sides, with minor cuts so it sits over the tunnels below. I had earlier decided how the lift should sit would determine the positioning of the shaft, which informed the grey paper detail, this was partly for space reasons. In terms of working out the overall layout of the mine, this would mean the gold mine entrances facing straight on would/possibly directly under the entrance. This means the view of the base is not straight on as you would consider it to be. Looking upwards I constructed the base of the shaft with an angled view in so I can get the camera in for some nice shot. I ended the day by wrapping up this section of the shaft. I was very tempted to carry on and add the balsa that would hold the shaft in place. I thought that I should tackle all of that when I return once more.

I’m really, really, really pleased with how fast this one is coming along. It’s a proper little set that has popped up in a matter of days really. As well as the balsa detail I also need to block out the light in the shaft with another piece that will box it in. Also a bar needs to be fitted so I can tether the lift in place at times.\

I can’t wait to see how the piece finished looks. Whilst I have picked up another piece during this time.

The Book of Life (2014) Coco (2017)

It’s been well over a year since I first attempted to watch The Book of Life (2014). Switching off after only a few minutes, writing it off as just a kids film a little else really. It took the DVD release of Coco (2017) for me to finally track down the earlier film and see if I could watch them both. Well I’m half way through what is another double film review, with a focus on the shared of the Mexican festival – The Day of the Dead. My thoughts on both are below.

For most non-Mexicans the very idea of a holiday about the dead is too dark to swallow. However if films has me taught me recently it’s not as bad as it all sounds. My first interaction was as late as the opening of Spectre (2015) as Daniel Craig’s Bond as he evades his latest enemy during an exciting street festival in celebration of the festival. That’s probably the same for most of the general public. You would have otherwise had to visit Mexico during its duration one year to really understand and embrace what’s actually an ancient holiday that has evolved overtime yet stayed true to the roots of remembering the dead. A three-day festival that begins on 31st October, culminating the day itself on 2nd November (at the time of writing it was celebrated 1 week ago). What can take up to a year in preparation, families and loved ones build memorials, alters and buy gifts to decorate the graves of loved ones. The nearest Christian faiths come to this is All Saints Day 1st November, which celebrates all known and lesser-know saints, so a bit more exclusive to those special people of the faith.

As I began The Book of Life for a second time I wanted to see it through, I had forgotten just where I turned off. I had accepted that I’m not really the intended audience for this film. It was the character design that first caught my attention. The school children arriving at the museum felt too rubbery yet unique, maybe this is to distinguish them from the characters who we’re supposed to be really investing in. When the more attractive and decidedly more confident tour guide Mary Beth (Christina Applegate) takes over, they’re sneaked in through a secret entrance to a Mexican display. Hoping to engage these young teenagers with a love story – rather than dull historical facts that would lose their interests. We’re shown a few stories before settling on one surrounding the Day of the Dead.

A festival that honestly shows a stronger warmer connection to their departed loved ones. Explaining that loved ones stay in one of two worlds in the afterlife – when just departed a colourful world of the remembered and another of the forgotten. The concept is both comforting and disturbing, reminding us of the power of memories to ensure that the departed will still exist among the living in the form of either memories or stories that are carried down through future generations. Of course film is the ideal medium to ensure you remembered long after you die, yet it takes a someone to watch a film to acknowledge that someone once forgotten lives on.

A wagers made between La Muerte (Kate del Castillo) overseer of the remembered and ruler of the forgotten Xibalba (Ron Perlman) that focuses on who a young Maria will marry, either a sensitive young boy Manolo who loves his music over his families bull-fighting heritage, or a macho boy who wants a moustache Joaquin who wants to be courageous. The three of them are thick as thieves, the freeing of pigs is the last straw for her father, who sends her away to a finishing school, only to return when she has come of age. The design of the Mexican’s is much more detailed, wireless marionettes that are flawlessly animated in the very heart of Mexico. We are no longer in a dusty old museum in America, this is a world away from what we believe we know about the central American country. The outcome of the wager would determine who looks over either of the two worlds once and for all.

Time passes and the children grow up, Manolo (Diego Luna) into a promising young bull-fighter, if only he would kill the bulls he defeats. Whilst Joaquin (Channing Tatum) has become the bravest, revered soldier to live among them. His chest covered in medals, including one that ensure eternal life (given to him as a child by Xibalba), giving him an unfair advantage in the wager and Joaquin an unwavering strength in all his fights and scrapes. Something that Manolo just doesn’t have – pitting human against superhuman, whose a woman to fall for.

We enter the middle of the film now as both men compete for Maria’s heart and hand in marriage. The act is full of warmth and gentle jokes, most meant for the children, whilst a few land and are intended for us adults. We hope that Manolo get’s the girl, it’s his journey that sees him push harder to win her over, not so much relying on a heavy chest of medals and a moustache to hide behind. The animation again is flawless throughout, what may looks like caricatures and some appear to heavy to realistically stand up. The adulthood depicted reflects the daunting childhood view from below, whilst keeping the tone and plot understandable to the younger audience who are drawn into this wonderfully inspired version of Mexico.

It’s a series of snakes bites and bandits that bring us hurling into another world of actions, drawing inspiration of Romeo and Juliet and Manolo makes the ultimate sacrifice before facing his demons to be reunited with his love. We explore the world of the remembered as one giant non-stop carnival, something that only animation can really achieve and produce such awesome sights. Surrounded by family, some he knew so well, and others he only heard about, the memories of them still very much alive. It’s a comforting sight to see that we maybe reunited with all those that we have lost. Manolo has to face his fears and accept who he truly is for a chance to be reunited with Maria after learning of another twist in the film.

Leading to a finale that is packed with fun and plenty of action that again only animation can achieve, a few surprises along the way. It shows how a festival can be really explored showing both great respect for another culture, whilst also having plenty of fun along the way. If I was to have one complaint about The Book of Life it would be in the casting, trying to please two audiences as it combines a Latin and North American cast. Part of me wanted the makers of the film to go completely authentic, a rich Mexican story with half of the main cast being of Latin American origin. Or am I going to far, being politically correct, wanting Mexican’s to play Mexicans etc, to be true and authentic to what the film is about and does so well.

Now I wonder the more recent Pixar film: Coco measures up, do the same faults arise? How does the plot explore the festival at a time when relations between the United States and Mexico are so fractured by the threat of a Trumps wall being built across the remainder of the vast open border. All my questions will be answered soon enough.

It’s been exactly a month since I caught the earlier film whilst Coco has been waiting patiently on the shelve as life has been happening in between along with a number of other films. Now I can say I’ve caught them both. The latter Pixar film which only earlier this year earned itself two Oscars has really moved me today, probably slightly more than The Book of Life did a month ago.

Before I address the use of the day of the dead theme it’s hard to not ignore the clear differences, released on a few years apart, they would have shared at least a year in production. The styles are very different, one very stylistic and not constrained as much to an in-house style. Reel FX Creative Studios were able to go to town more on creating characters that very much part of their own unique world. Whilst Pixar have a certain duty to see that their character designs conform to a certain style. It can be argued that you can’t compare a character from Coco easily to one from say Up (2009), technology has allowed the development of character design to change overtime. They are more humanised with some caricature elements, embellishing some features.

Another point is that the focus of the film is not so much with the celebration of the day of the dead. If anything is more coincidental, with the events happening on that day instead. Miguel’s (the focus of the film) family choose to celebrate at home, away from any musical interference. Music again plays a very integral part too. Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) much like Manolo (Diego Luna) wants only to play music, it’s the families wish to carry on the family trade, be that bull-fighting or as for Miguel a shoe-maker. Miguel is a young boy, staying very much in the tradition of childhood heroes at Pixar, although they are known to go for adult fish and Monsters. Maybe the focus on the child has allowed for a wider audience, you don’t need to be an adult to understand how to win your families approval, whilst winning the heart of the woman you love may take a bigger leap for a child. Not to say that child can’t understand the need to find your true love, keeping the focus on the love of music in Coco is where the film stays.

Visually (away from character design) the film is more steeped in reality before delving into the rich Mexican heritage for the land of the dead once more. I’m glad that it wasn’t a non-stop carnival or I would have given up right there and then. Instead we have another magical world that shows that the studio is continuing to push what they can do It’s very much a unique and colourful vibrant, however it’s not so expansive as the earlier film. It relies the dead having to exit and enter the land of the dead as if it were Disney Land, starting with Main Street before waiting for the 12 O’clock parade. It reminded me of Zootopia (2016) with its beauracracy before we meet Miguel’s deceased family. It’s a reunion thats reflected in the earlier film also, even sharing the same hate (not love) for music. I felt that there was a reliance of too familiar iconography.

The boys entrance into the land of the dead is through what he believes to be a guitar that belonged to his great-great grandfather, believed to be the late singer and actor Ernesto de la Cruz  (Benjamin Bratt), a hero of the boys. Accidentally arriving he needs his families blessing to return to the land of the living. A blessing that he wants allowing him to play music. His family won’t give it to him, so he sets out on his own to find de la Cruz a man who he believes will give him the blessing that will set him free. There’s only one catch, he has until midnight before his body transforms into a skeleton, whilst in the earlier film Manolo is already dead before he returns back to out world.

Miguel’s followed by an unlikely character – Hector (Gael García Bernal) who the boy believes can lead him to the singer. One of the many who are on the verge of being forgotten and disappearing completely. The concept of grieving his handled far more sensitively. For a deceased person to stay alive in the afterlife they need at least their photo to be displayed to stimulate memories with the living to be passed on. The emotions piled on after a twist in the plot is revealed that audiences can’t help shed a few tears at. Pixar know how to tug at the heart-strings, not only are we exploring a very sensitive subject at a level that everyone in the family can understand they add another contemporary layer that you can’t escape.

Both films richly explore the festival using both male characters, The Book of Life is not restricted by the trappings of a studio steeped in history with story and character requirement and just delves into an adult story told at a level that the family can all enjoy. Whilst Coco is playing more with emotion far more effectively, coming from director Lee Unkrich that made a generation who grew up on Toy Story cry on a number of occasions (no matter how many viewings) in Toy Story 3 (2010), they know what they are doing with their eyes shut. It’s hard to say I have a preferred film they are equally effective, I cried at both at times which is something I’m not afraid to admit, I was emotionally engaged both times, proving that the films work perfectly. I would be more than happy to drop by these films anytime.

Cowboys Invaded – Update (9/12/18)

It’s amazing what you can do in a short space of time, with only a few ideas to see you through. Today I’ve been busy bringing the last two days in the studio together. I began the day by reducing the length tunnels if only by a few centimetres to help reduce the overall size of the piece, if only by a small amount, which it has helped. This came without effecting the forced perspective effect, so I’m happy with that result.

Moving on I was concerned about the light getting into the piece so I’ve added some trimming around each piece which has also been quite successful. There maybe a little light but I could go on forever when I’ve got such a good result.

Lastly I got the brown paper out again and spent a good few hours covering the who space, from the ground in the tunnels to the open space at the base of the shaft of the gold mine where we find the entrances. I also took the decision fix the tunnels to the base as I knew that the walls had to naturally flow from one space to another. Otherwise I would have them free for storage purposes.

Looking forward I’ve been thinking more about the production process, there are some pretty big pieces that are starting to consume my studio space right now. I maybe rethinking at least one of them and remaking others on a smaller scale and fixed to a surface for long-shots, getting everything in without taking up too much space. So far I’m thinking of reworking the rock formation, at least removing the excess that’s out of view. I might look at a smaller scale to go with the 1:72 scale figures. Also two versions of the town, or a town base where I can interchange the buildings to again change space. There really is a lot to thinking about in terms of logistics, even how to shoot, I want to stay in the studio to animate on a table, however I would need to reconfigure the space to accommodate that. Still that’s a long way off. I’m about halfway through the pre-production (making process) I’ve not even done any special effects tests. For now I need to focus on the one piece, maybe bring in the second version of the lift soon too before looking at something else.

Cowboys Invaded – Update (8/12/18)

Today has seen me produce potentially one of the largest pieces I’ve made for this work in progress. Having had an idea last night concerning the tunnels I had forgotten one important element – forced perspective, which creates the effect of distance.

Returning to the studio to make a start on the modification which that would take a few hours to complete. Making up 5 new pieces that narrowed at one end, allowing the balsa frame work to be reduced and angled, then the pieces were attached (with the help of card straps) to the older pieces. The wrapping had to be carefully worked on, to ensure (if only for my own piece of mind) looked as a seamless as possible.  Turning to the balsa, every piece had to be cut at an angle to ensure the effect was achieved. The pieces at the very end were reduced in depth to help more so with the effect.

With a few hours left I turned my attention to the base where the tunnels will eventually be attached. Due to the extensions I had to extended the base far more than I had predicted. The piece is currently sitting on one of the longest sides in my space. Once the base had been extended I wanted to put in place the wall that will hide the structure of the tunnels, leaving only the entrances in view. Carefully working out where the entrances a piece was fixed to the base.

Looking at the work so far it’s come a long way after to days work, next I want to deck out the man space that has now been defined with brown and grey paper. I’ll then be able to work on the ceiling and deciding if and were extra beams are required. Also I want to see another version of the lift being made for comparison and choice before going into production. I’m also thinking of reducing the length of the tunnels to stop just after the last beams, this could potentially reduce the size of the piece considerably. Otherwise this gold mine base is turning out to be a unique environment, I’ve never attempted before. Again I’m pushing my making skills further, which is always something to celebrate.

It Should Happen to You (1954)

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a George Cukor film, even longer for a Jack Lemmon who makes his screen debut in It Should Happen to You (1954). I was also struck by the lead – Judy Holliday who I knew went onto have a decent career after her supporting role in Adams Rib (1949), in a role that she made her own. Able to make herself noticed to both Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, who encouraged their longtime friend and director Cukor to give Holliday a chance. A few years on from that first film she can clearly be seen to be leading comedic actor with great timing, able to play the dumb blonde stereotype.

No longer the down-trodden housewife who snapped in an attempted murder trial from Adams Rib, now she’s an absent-minded young woman wanting to make a name for herself in New York. Gladys Glover wants to literally make a name for herself. No longer waiting on someone else’s orders or time, making her own mark on the world. After meeting documentary maker Pete Shepard (Lemon) in Central Park, she starts to take control of her own life, or so she thinks. Dreamily staring at a billboard reading “Your name here” taken literally by Glover, now everyone passing through couldn’t help but notice her name at least. On the face of it, it’s insane to want to take up advertising space to read your name. However this was in a time before reality TV and the internet which can create overnight sensation, turning an ordinary person into a sensation for all to notice. How could a film over 60 years old still hold such relevance today, lets explore further.

After the brief encounter in central park, Glover begins on her fame to fame, tracking down the advertising agency that owns the billboard. Her pronunciation of her name is a first hurdle in reaching the man who can make her dream a reality – for three months minimum anyway. Before the signs even up and complete she makes her presence known, correcting the sign painters, who don’t seem to question the obscurity of the design, which could be part of a far larger advertising plan being launched in New York.

To anyone else the name “Gladys Glover” painted in giant text means nothing beyond the name of an individual. Of course to Pete, who when we meet him again has moved into the same apartment block as fame hungry woman. He’s able to put to the desire and result together and understand her intention with more thought behind his response. What appears to Gladys as an opportunity to be known is completely insane to Pete who can only seen a desperate and rushed act to be known. Originally the concept of her name being on the billboard was just laughable, which product would she be advertising? How can an unknown name be powerful enough to sell? Having her name blown up in a large public space creates attention, but how do you use that attention once it’s created. It baffles a rival who wants the prime location for legitimate advertising. Evan Adams III (Peter Lawford ) will do anything to get the space for himself. At first the dream of fame is still too strong to give up without a fight

That attention begins to come to fruition when she’s out shopping (with the carefully positioned billboard in shot) she’s ambushed in an autograph frenzy. The question I wanted asking was “what are you selling” instead is a kind of mania of her, with no real reason beyond her name entering the public’s consciousness, now they can put a face to the name. She could be a new star of the stage or screen in the making that they’ll be introduced to the world. Or she could just being an innocent attention seeker whose about to get in over her head.

Now her life’s about to change when she’s mentioned on a TV show, the latest conversation piece. She jumps on it, making the story an overnight sensation, unwittingly changing her life forever. Soon after she appears on the TV on a  carefully choreographed piece of early television with the intent to show her up for the lunacy of her idea. Having to read unnaturally from a cue-card becoming an overnight sensation. The laughter at her inability to perform for an audience is used to the still young media to their advantage. Appearing on a panel show that reveals her lack on social awareness, whilst blissfully unaware of the effect that she’s having on the public. She has become the first reality star, a victim of her own creation from the moment she paid for three months of advertising.

Adam’s and co begin to see the advantages of their once rival, working with her, encouraging the promotion to their own advantage. Creating a brand of the All American woman with their own products. Becoming a pawn in an advertising campaign that at first delivers all that she wanted from her dreams. Having made her a name for herself, now she has to accept all that goes with her level of stature. Unaware that she’s being manipulated and used for others gain, which Pete can clearly see but can’t get through to her. Just as he’s about to lose his girlfriend (who he can’t really talk to) he can see her slipping away into the playboy hands of Adams who ceases the opportunity to move in on a clearly vulnerable woman whose ignorant to the negative impact of her own choices.

It all comes to ahead as she embarks on a promotional tour, starting at an airbase where a plane is being name in her honor. Her eyes are slowly opening up to the reality that has taken her away from the simple things that made her life her own. Coming to her sense and back down to earth using the last of her fame to return to the life that she really wants. One grounded in reality away from fame, able to have a life in the privacy of her own home. It Should Happen to You is a comedic precursor to the reality star culture we have today that creates somebody from nobody’s. The desire for fame from no particular background or achievement’s desired more than ever in the past 20 years. From the documentaries that following average people in situations to those that are carefully scripted for sensational effect. The power of the Big Brother reality game show has changed lives and the landscape of popular culture forever. Gladys Glover maybe a fictional star, yet she comes from a culture that at the time carefully crafted and tailored the stars on a conveyabelt system promising a life of dreams, wealth and fame are touch much to pass up. Cukor explored the trappings of fame in the first remake of A Star is Born with one of the first victims to suffer hard from the pressures of fame. Judy Garland became the first of many to be groomed and pushed for a life in the spotlight that eventually lead to a life of addiction before taking her own life. Gladys Glover got off lightly, finding her feet and away out back to home, something that Garland never found after the success of The Wizard of Oz.


Cowboys Invaded – Update (6/12/18)

Today feels much better in terms of making. I now have a single large piece to make that is now the focus of my time in the studio. Not multiple quick makes which for a time was becoming tiresome. I need the break to focus on a single large piece.

I began the day as I have a number of times the past month, adding more detail to the final pieces of the ruined pieces for the town. I can finally say they are complete, ready to look at again to add paint and remove the smooth cuts I’ve made.

Moving on, that sounds nice just typing it sounds good. Moving on then I made a start on the base of the gold mine. Having made a solid sketch last time in the studio I started work, beginning with the false tunnels which need to be complete first before going onto the base of the model. Each of the tunnels have been wrapped in brown paper, with the balsa beams added to.

The next stage will be to prepare the base for fixing into place, with some walls being erected to connect them up. Also the wrapping needs to be completed. I also need to extend the base at the sides to holds the tunnels as they all overflow right now. I think I’ll raise the base to help with animating, I’ve not decided on the height, that’s something to consider at the later date. It’s just great to be focusing my energy on one piece not switching to a number at one time.

Cowboys Invaded – Update (1/12/18)

I’m finally reaching the end of what I feel has been going on longer than it actually has. If I’m honest I’m glad it’s coming to an end. It’s the repetition of the process, combined with life outside the studio at the moment. This is my escape from the world into something that is truly my own. Today it was something that I felt had to be done to get it out of the way. That’s not what I want to bring to my time there. I now have the final three under construction, which I know can be finished in a few more visits for sure.

The first being the general store which has hopefully the final pieces of detail now. I can see a few more pieces that are needed but they are minor now.

The next piece really slowed me down. I noticed on the blacksmiths my work from the previous visit had to be redone. One of the door frames had to be completely remade, two new pieces cut to size and re-positioned. Not what I wanted to happen, still it ensures that the piece works in the long one. I then went onto apply the majority of the detail. I still have a way to go before I can leave this piece now.

Finally the stage depot was underway, similar shape to the land office so I knew what I was working with in terms of the internal structure that I was working with. There are some of the longest lengths of balsa used for these pieces here. Again I have a way to go with this one, possibly one of two more visits.

With the end in sight for these (Yay) I have begun to really think about the base of the gold mine. My initial idea was to have camera access all around the base, which wont help in terms of creating darkness. So I started again, thinking about having a number of entrances to other tunnels that can be constructed. With that in mind I made a few sketches, which lead to a design being finalised and ready to begin construction next time. Currently I’ll have 5 false entrances to tunnels, some I’ll block off (using the false pieces I made) with the lift being roughly in the middle. I’ll add a roof piece and a section of shaft to complete the illusion. So I’ll be able to shoot from the from with a decent range to maneuver the camera. I’m looking forward to making a one off piece that will take sometime yet wont be as repetitive. I’ll be employing techniques from the tunnel entrances (internal) for this piece. I’ll also use two tones of brown paper, one being a grey tone. I’m also seriously considering making a second lift (same dimensions) with a different design, to give me a different option to work with. With the new piece ready to begin next time I know that I can start to enjoy the making process more, breaking the routine I’ve had for the past few weeks.

Cowboys Invaded – Update (27/11/18)

The end is in sight for these pieces, in terms of the construction of the ruined versions of the cardboard town, making a start on the penultimate piece before I left for the day, one that began by finding I had completed another 3 pieces which have now been shelved ready for the next stage. That wasn’t before adding a few more cracks to a few pieces. I’m really getting into the aesthetic now. I just forget to add the detail before moving on.

Moving onto the jail, which has had minor detail added to the jail cell extension. Bringing this piece to a close. I then moved onto piece I began last time, adding the remains of the stairway and balcony. Balsa detail was added next, which I feel is all that this piece needs.

Moving onto make a start on two new pieces, the general store and the blacksmiths. The general store was then covered in balsa detail, most of which is now complete. Another round and then I feel it will be finished. The Blacksmiths being a completely different shape took slightly longer. First I made the mistake of drawing the line (where the laser hits) over the two doorways, meaning that the piece was essentially falling apart. I had to construct what I could and come up with a solution. I’d been holding the front door together with a piece of tape, the side I hadn’t completely cut into. Not wanting to leave it for another visit I constructed two door frames which will sit over the cracks, revealing the door frame, adding to the wooden frame that would be on show. It’s not something I’m going to retrofit to other pieces, this is a one off adaptation due to a mistake which I have embraced.

Next time I can concentrate on finishing the few pieces I have left and turn my attention to the gold mine base. I’ve been considering having false tunnels leading off and sections of the wall that can be removed. It’s still very much all in my head and needs to be sketched out to understand the idea more clearly.

Cowboys Invaded – Update (24-25/11/18)

Admittedly a day late than I would have wanted to share with you all. I had a busy weekend outside of the studio, resulting in events inside being put to one side.

Saturday began by working on 5 that had already been started. First up was the barbers which had some finishing touches. The sign really didn’t look distressed enough, too angular, so I cut in a more torn up line, which I’m happier with. Before adding a little more balsa to the roof at the back. The stores also had some minor additions, not as much as I was thinking. I’m finding that I’m adding more detailing on the first round at the moment, considering more where I place the balsa, how that would effect where pieces of balsa are added and when. The third piece again had very little detail to be added, I think that’s down to the design of the piece, restricting how much more I can physically add to it.

I moved onto the hotel/saloon and jail which both have external stairways (before the aliens attacked). Again not much more to add. I’m finding that the more consideration that goes into the application of the balsa determines what I have/can do on the next round.

Lastly for Saturday I made a solid start on a new piece – the Land Office which has a first floor that reaches over the porch, meaning construction with the balsa would change slightly to reflect the shape of the building. Again I could only do so much, which was still making a lot of progress. I finished the day by adding more distress cracks to some of the pieces, wanting to push them further aesthetically.

Moving onto Sunday, with less than 3 hours in the studio, I wanted to make the most of my time wisely before leaving. I came back to find that 3 pieces had now been completed, I knew I couldn’t really get 2 more pieces underway. Instead I chose to focus on what I could do.

The Land Office and Jail now have slightly more detail than before, hopefully next time they can be stored away for the next phase of the work. Before making a start on the shell of a new piece another saloon/hotel, so far the main body has been fleshed out, with the stairway and balcony (what remains of them) to be added next time.

I’m building up quite the collection now, they are sitting on the top of a set of shelves right now, ready to be seen to for more distressing. Also I have been considering another item on my list to construct, the base of the gold mine. So far I’ve made a few sketches, taking cues from one of earlier test pieces. So far I know that a section of shaft will be needed as the lift reaches the bottom. However for more it’s maintaining the darkness, whilst still being able to animate, get the camera in there with ease. I know false walls will be needed to shoot at different angles. The roof will supported with some kind of pillars/posts in places. I’m also looking at adding the buttresses where the network of tunnels are. It’s going to be a complex build that needs some serious consideration.