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Monochrome


I am pleased to announce that I will be exhibiting Just One More Game (2013) in Merge-Art and Film‘s show – Monochrome (27/10 – 3/11/17) at The Cafe Gallery, Islington Arts Factory, London. I will be attending the preview on 27th October 6-9 where I will give a short talk and Q&A. If you want to attend please check out this link for free tickets.

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Un[dis]criminate


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.

Posse (1975)


Another Western that I thought I would never see, so when it came up in the listings I grabbed the opportunity. A few weeks later I’ve finally caught this late period Western with an older Kirk Douglas. It first came to my attention when I found the trailer when I was working on Dancing in the West (2013), I eventually dropped the trailer from the final cut. The images of the trailer didn’t leave me, wanting to seek out the film which not so sought after in the genre. For me it was to see an older Douglas when his profile was not as strong as his son Michael. There’s enough room for two on the big screen – just.

Posse (1975) is not the longest of film by any stretch of the imagination, its straight into the action and it doesn’t really slow down, with a political edge that grabbed by attention. Texas State Marshall Howard Nightingale (Douglas) is leading a posse, we only know they are law by the badges they wear. Their actions are questionable, a nighttime raid on Jack Strawhorn’s (Bruce Dern) gang, having seen a great number of Westerns, there’s no honor in this raid, the men are caught off guard, with no chance to defend themselves. Even killed when they are clearly unarmed, which goes against the unspoken code which the audience has been educated in. All of Strawhorn’s men are killed within a few minutes, its systematic and cold, leaving the leader of the gang to ride off to fight another day.

The same systematic attacks carried out in daylight when the posse catch up with Strawhorn’s new less experience incompetent gang who are surrounded and killed one by one without really getting close. Strawhorn had briefed these men to shoot when they reach a certain point, no sooner. This doesn’t really sink in for them, firing when fired at, natural instincts come through, which the silent posse use to their advantage. Again these men are taken out one by one, some unarmed whilst others really don’t help themselves by getting in the line of fire. These are two sides where the leaders don’t directly get involved until the very end – could this be a proxy war in the West? Both men do deliver orders but don’t directly get involved until they are forced to. Nightingale finally arrests his man, bringing him one step closer to the office of Senator.

I’m reminded of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) which saw Ransom Stoddard (James Stewart) who legend has it killed the outlaw Valance. This act raises his profile and helps him eventually reach the office of Senator. Except he knows he wasn’t the killer. His whole rise to power is based on a myth which he doesn’t argue with until the end of the film. Nightingale is purposefully building his own legend on the outlaws that he brings in or has killed. He is aware of his reputation and the power that it has to further his career.

We see that Nightingale has power or money at least, his own personal train that allows him to travel before breaking away with the horses that go with them. Pulling into Tesoto, a Texan town is later used for a political rally. A town where Strawhorn had previously shot a sheriff, leaving the town vulnerable to further attack, the arrival of Nightingale can only be a good thing. Bringing with him the man they wanted, Nightingale celebrated by most, but not all, the most influential man – the press – Harold Hellman (James Stacy) who won’t print favorable reports on the would be Senator.

With Strawthorn in jail, it’s time to ride the glory of the arrest, Nightingale holds an outdoor rally, which works pretty well for him, if only they went to the polls the next morning. Everything starts to go downhill from here on in. The train ride to the gallows comes to an abrupt end not too far out of town. Turning the tables on Nightingale who becomes powerless to do anything, his men are trailing behind unable to help. This is something I’ve never really seen, the hero so helpless to do anything up to the close of the film. Then again this is Douglas who has played some ambiguous conflicted men who we are somehow drawn to, neither good nor bad, this one is leaning towards the bad, riding on his political and legal powers to hopefully win the day.

None of that goes to plan, now a hostage, his men are forced to find the money to set him free, it’s the last job they’ll do for him before they cross over to other side and ride off Strawthorn. This is after they hear of their possible futures, less than desirable they hoped for.  Less money for all, and for one less status, with that threat ahead they have to fight for themselves, and who can really blame them, with the opportunity they grab it with both hands. Leaving us with a very unusual ending in film, the hero is left alone, thwarted by the bad guy who rides off into the sunset. Yet our hero doesn’t really have the classic traits, sure he caught the bad guy, but he rode off with the men who first caught him. It shows the ambiguity of real life, also that politicians will always be politicians, using their position for their own gain.

Posse is a rarity for sure that uses the genre to look at politicians in more detail in the Western guise, the image of the squeaky clean politician who fights for his people is blown clear away. One of the more overt political Westerns, a politician displaying his power which ultimtely fails in public view. The image of Stoddard cannot exist here, he like the others is corrupt, using power to fight wars and gains that they can only do with position. Lastly the casting of Dern opposite Douglas is very clever, Dern plays a darker Douglas, going that step further from questionable to being the all out bad guy or “son of a b****” that made him go for the bleaker roles in the 1970’s.

Painting the Town… Update (12/10/17)


A day after being in the studio I can happily say the brushes are out again which is always a good sign, it means I’m moving towards another test soon. I began the day by adding the last of the detail to the ceiling light, which brought together the overall look of the piece.

Moving onto the sliding doors which just weren’t sitting right for me. With the false blind/wall directly opposite and a beam running over the top ending over the sliding doors, which before the changes was running directly into the doors which doesn’t really work or look good either. I simply cut off the top pieces and added the detail further down, ending by fixing the door in place.

With those pieces done I thought about what else I could do, I knew painting would be the next step, cracking open my tin of primer I made a start to the larger more open surfaces before applying a watered down coat of acrylic to the smaller pieces, whilst I also had to replace a few pieces on the rails I can safely say I am into the painting which hopefully should be complete by the end of the month.

 

Film Talk – Films Finest Women


Film Talk turned to look at Their Finest, below are the notes from the talk.

Tonight I’d like to explore the position of women behind the camera, a subject that has become more prevalent recently. Looking at representation and equality or lack of, behind the camera. Using Their Finest (2016) as a starting point for we’ll look at women working on propaganda films before jumping back to the early days of film then making our way up to the present day.

For two years the British film industry has been working closely with the Ministry of Information whose aims for feature films were

“…the importance of films as a medium of propaganda’ in putting across the themes that [Lord] Macmillan had suggested; what Britain is fighting for; how Britain fights; the need for sacrifices if the fight is to be won…”

Britain Can Take It, British Cinema in the Second World War – Anthony Aldgate & Jeffrey Richards pg 26

The film industry collaborated with the government on over two hundred films for the duration of the Second World War. It was a constant battle between creatives, production heads and the Ministry of Information to convey the messages necessary to keep morale up.

The first film to be made under this new relationship was The Lion Has Wings (1939), an Alexander Korda production. It was however commissioned before the outbreak of war but was given the approval of the MOI

“For one thing, the MOI provided “technical facilities” in the production of the film and deal struck whereby it was accordingly afforded a share of the profits. Figures as high as ’50 per cent of the profits’ were quoted by some sources and were ‘the cause of the great deal of discontent in the industry’. Whatever the exact sum, however, the MOI did not to badly out of The Lion Has Wings. It was able to pass on to the Exchequer £25,140 from the film, and that was a straight profit, after it had covered whatever costs had been accrued…”

Britain Can Take It, British Cinema in the Second World War – Anthony Aldgate & Jeffrey Richards pg 24

At the beginning of the war, women were not yet conscripted as men were leaving to take up arms and fight. Leaving a majority female audience back home at the cinema. It took MOI head at the time Jack Beddington to realise he had to

“…address the needs and desires of the predominantly working class, disenchanted, under-served and under-respected female audience. The women, it seems, wanted heart-swelling encouragement and entertainment but gave short shift to anything that didn’t smell of reality.”

Sight and Sound – May 2017 Vol 27 Issue 5, Women and WWII British Films – Stephen Woolley Pg 40

To reach that female audience, female voices were needed to communicate with them. Scriptwriter’s such as Diana Morgan who worked at Ealing and contributed to

The Foreman Went to France, Went the Day Well? (1942) The Halfway House (Basil Dearden), 1944) Fiddlers Three (Harry Watt, 1944), Pink String and Sealing Wax (Robert Hamer, 1945)

Her experience of working in the film industry was rather confusing at times

“Sometimes you got credit for something you hadn’t done, or you wrote most of the picture and you didn’t get a credit. We didn’t worry about things like that.”

“They used to say, ‘We’ll send in the Welsh bitch [Morgan] to put in the nausea.”

Sight and Sound – May 2017 Vol 27 Issue 5, Women and WWII British Films – Stephen Woolley Pg 42

The Nausea being “The Slop” in Their Finest being the women’s dialogue. Morgan’s roles reflected by another Welsh woman – Catrin played by Gemma Arterton, whose brought in after her works discovered by scriptwriter’s at an unknown studio. It’s only after she persist does she see an increase in wages and work with her male counterparts.

It’s the persistence to get what she wants which her male counterparts would not have to fight so hard for. A fight that has been going on before WWII and is still going on today.

If we go all the way back to the silent era of film in Hollywood it was a more even playing field. Even then however it was still relegated to

“…routinized film processing tasks deemed appropriate to their sex in largely segregated setting. For male entrepreneurs, however, the film industry’s first decade suggested adventure, autonomy, and riches”

Women Filmmakers in Early Hollywood – Karen Ward MaherPg 9-10

It was however a time in Hollywood when women could take, such as screenwriter Beulah Marie Dix who could take on extra work.

“…in addition to writing scenarios, she worked as an extra, tended the lights, and “sent a good deal of time in the cutting room”

Women Filmmakers in Early Hollywood – Karen Ward MaherPg 39

It was probably the only time in Hollywood when men and women had parity in the industry as film historian Wendy Holliday found.

“…screenwriting in the early 1910s created a particularly “modern’ heterosocial work culture in which male and female writers like actors and actresses, were roughly equal, having a hand in all phases of production.”

Women Filmmakers in Early Hollywood – Karen Ward Maher Pg 41

If Wartime propaganda films employed women to write the “nausea” or “slop”, originally Hollywood would at times cut those costs in half. In hoping to aim at the female audience they ran writing contests.

“In 1909 Evangeline Sicotte of New York City won $150 in the Georges Melies Scenario Contest for her script “The Red Star,” and Florence E. Turner of Brooklyn won third place, receiving $50 for “The Fiend of the Castle.” A scenario submitted by Mrs. Clemens to the St Louis Times not only resulted in a cash prize but also reach the screen in 1910 as a film entitled The Double.”

Women Filmmakers in Early Hollywood – Karen Ward MaherPg 41

Moving away from the early writers of film and across the Atlantic to France we find Alice Guy Blanche who worked as a secretary to Leon Gaumont made her own films, I’d like to share one with you – Madame a des Envies (1906) a short which depicts a woman, played by herself that indulges in whatever she wants and not thinking about the consequences. Something that has since been more regularly applied to men on-screen.

The role of editor was originally an entry-level position, which was mastered by one of the most respected editors in the industry during her time. Margaret Booth began her career with D.W. Griffith when the process was very cumbersome and frustrating.

“…joiners squinted at negatives through a magnifying glass, trying to determine where to cut with scissors and where to rejoin with tape. They couldn’t watch the film as they were working on it, so the only way to see the print was the pull the negative quickly between their fingers… The process became easier with the arrival of the first cutting machine in 1919, which had foot pedals to run the film and a spy-hole to view it through. It looked similar to a sewing machine, and perhaps because of that (and because it was a low level job), there were many women working as film cutters.”

Backwards & in Heels, The Past, Present and Future of Women working in Film – Alicia Malone Pg 34-5

Booth went onto become one of the most respected editors in the industry.

Moving forward into the sound era we have fewer women of note working behind the camera. One of those is actress/director Ida Lupino who along with her husband set up a production company, they only made a few films, the first being Not Wanted (1949), which she initially chose not to direct. Everything changed when the hired director had a heart attack

“Ida stepped up to take over, and she was a natural. A reporter who had been on set observing her work wrote that he was impressed with her speed and efficiency giving order. Ida hoped that “Not Wanted” would “show the public the heartbreak of the unwed mother;” but when the film was released, reviews were mixed, though the Hollywood Reporter said the story was “done with taste, dignity and compassion.” Ida Lupino had arrived as a director.”

Backwards & in Heels, The Past, Present and Future of Women working in Film – Alicia Malone Pg 102

Lupino is most remembered for making The Hitch Hiker (1953) in less than a month. Coming in at 71 minutes unlike Elaine May’s directorial debut New Leaf (1972), which came in at 180, which proved too long for Paramount who edited out 80 minutes.

“Elaine was so upset at the studio tinkering with her movie and took them to court. She lost the case and publicly disowned her movie, saying this was not the cut she wanted audiences to see. But despite that conflict, Elaine continued to work with the studio, and her follow up was a big success, 1972’s “The Heatrbreak Kid”

Backwards & in Heels, The Past, Present and Future of Women working in Film – Alicia Malone Pg 120-1

Staying with the studio executives, there have been a few females in the boardroom, but not without cost. Sherry Langsing arrived after her enthusiasm for story editing at MGM. Sadly having to put up with her share of sexism from directors such as Don Siegel. 

“…who was furious at being a script notes by a woman. “I dealt with sexism by denying it,” Sherry said in her biography; “Did I hold grudges? Absolutely. But I felt that I had two choices, Either I was going to quit my job, stand on a picket line, and burn my bra, or I was going to have to find a way to navigate the system until I reached a position where my opinions would be heard.”

Backwards & in Heels, The Past, Present and Future of Women working in Film – Alicia Malone Pg 120-1

Sexism wasn’t overcome once at the top as Paramount’s Dawn Steel found out especially when she fought for Flashdance (1983).

“There was a lot of pain and humiliation in those years,” Dawn wrote in her memoir. “I would walk into my office and I would close the door and I would say, ‘I won’t cry, I won’t cry, I won’t cry.’ At least, I wasn’t going to let them see me cry.”

Backwards & in Heels, The Past, Present and Future of Women working in Film – Alicia Malone Pg 139-40

Moving forward to the present day a study at MDSC (Media, Diversity and Social Change) that looked at the 1000 grossing films between 2007 and 16 and the directors on the.

“For each of those ten years the average percentage of male directors was 96%. This means only 4% were female directors, a ratio of 24 men to every one woman. That reflects a huge percentage of female directors not being able to work. These figures don’t have anything to do with the lack of women who actually want the job, but are due to a lack of women being considered for these jobs and a perceived lack of experienced female directors.”

Backwards & in Heels, The Past, Present and Future of Women working in Film – Alicia Malone Pg 158

That sadly doesn’t take into account one of the most successful superhero films –Wonder Woman, directed by Patty Jenkins whose last feature film was Monster (2003) since relegated to TV work. Thanks to the box office success Wonder Woman she’s hopefully guaranteed the work she deserves.

As Dr Stacy Smith from MDSC found and Wonder Woman proves.

“When you have a female director, you have more female leads, you have more female speaking characters, you have more characters that are from underrepresented racial or ethnic groups, more characters 40 years of age or older. You also have more women working in other key production roles.”

Backwards & in Heels, The Past, Present and Future of Women working in Film – Alicia Malone Pg 159

Staying with blockbuster franchises – director of Star War: The Force Awakens JJ.Abrams and his company: Bad Robot ensure there’s equal diversity. Which he explains this interview.

I’ll end by briefly turning to on-screen depictions, with Ghostbusters remake director Paul Feig whose known for his more female focused films when he directed the female version of The HangoverBridesmaids. Proving that audience respond equally to women in comic roles as men.

“I just jumped in and did it,” says Paul; “It was just so much fun. First of all, knowing I had all these roles to cast funny women in. And then once it ended up doing well, it showed me that this excuse of ‘people won’t see these moves’ was pretty much killed”

Backwards & in Heels, The Past, Present and Future of Women working in Film – Alicia Malone Pg 170

Change is slowly happening in film to make a shift towards more diversity not just for women but people of different origins both on and off-screen. With actresses of all generations, especially Jennifer Lawrence speaking out about rates of pay compared to her male counterparts.

Young Guns (1988)


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 Johnson 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.

Painting the Town… Update (10/10/17)


A shorter day than usual, which hasn’t stopped me achieving all I wanted to today. Painting is getting ever closer.

With detail being the main focus I have started to add more to the ceiling light, with balsa strips going around the horizontal edges. I’ll be adding the vertical pieces later on, once the first pieces are fixed. It’s really coming together now which is making the slowing of progress all worth it.

I also wanted to add the sliding doors which are quite an iconic part of Japanese design, I’m hoping my small pieces fit that design. I wanted to add the door that has the potential to slide. It would be closed in this model miniature. So far I have done the backing of the door and the door itself which I will fix in place next time.

I am concerned about the blind and the beam that runs across it, as it will more than likely be meeting the sliding door, this is something I’ll have to work out after most of the painting has been completed. Otherwise I’m really happy with today’s progress, I can’t wait to add more.

Painting the Town… Update (8/10/17)


I’m really happy with today’s progress in the studio I can start to look to painting this difficult model miniature, which is going to be a real mix of primer and acrylic. It’s going to be challenging to mix the two and types and creating a nice white look.

Staying with today’s progress, the main focus was the suspended ceiling light which started by constructing the main form. Stopping there I still had no idea how to suspend this object, how would this be achieved. Running a search for Japanese ceiling lights, I could find a few ideas of how to suggest the suspension before I considered adding a beam then to hold the light. I then added the string that I hope looks reflects how they are really suspended. This is after all set in the 19th century. The beam it’s fixed to wont be fitted to the model until later on allowing me to paint more effectively.

I then moved onto something that was bugging me, where the extension was added, I wanted to smooth over the rough cutting I made earlier. With the sliding doors in the main space that need to be suggested, I cut strips of balsa wood ready to be claded onto. I’ll be adding more detail once it’s fixed in place so the seams are not so obvious to the eye – or to my eye. At about the same time I made a very quickly.

Moving on I was looking over the screen-shots again, a very important thing I have learned to do when making from a set. I’ve found that details can be easily missed or overlooked, some can be ignored as it can lead to something more than a gesture. I found that the wooden blinds which I had noticed and found myself considering more and more. The screenshots told me that I had to make the decision to add the blinds which meant the stairs were drastically altered to allow the piece to be added. For now it will be added later as the blinds are directly under a beam, so a strip of cardboard has been temporarily added before it’s fixed in later like the ceiling light.

With the big changes and later additions I am very pleased with how much I have completed today. Next time I will be adding details to the sliding doors then I think I can move onto the painting.

Jet Pilot (1957)


My first review in over a month and I have chosen to look at Jet Pilot (1957) one of cinema’s real oddities. I’ve had the film sitting on my shelf for a few years but it never really stood out enough in the box-set to be taken too seriously. Then after reading John Wayne‘s biography by Scott Eyman that touched on the film I had to take a look at this unusual film that has to be seen to be believed. Languishing with Howard Hughes the plane-loving, misunderstood, reclusive billionaire finally released the film 8 years after filming was complete. Working with legendary director Josef von Sternberg  who was a control freak on set, not trusting anyone on set and causing Wayne to avoid him unless necessary. All this before it was locked away with Hughes until after his studio RKO went out of business, Jet Pilot was finally released by Universal.

That’s just the background on Pilot without going into the plot which left me scratching my head. On the surface it’s a typical anti-communist film, as US fighter pilots are on a routine training mission, hoping to take down a Russian plane, nothing out of the ordinary there. However it starts to smell pretty soon after when they do finally bring down a Russian plane, not with bullets to a spectacular demise that precipitates a nuclear fallout that would allow Col Jim Shannon and his team to save the day. Instead they escort the enemy plane back to base to find the pilot is female, which to a contemporary audience wouldn’t look out-of-place. I could plainly see how Janet Leigh‘s character Lt. Anna Marladovna / Olga Orlief is written as a defector/spy, yet used more for the romance and comedy than action and espionage that the role clearly is asking for. By default, the leading actress in the film she is also and sadly there for the male gaze – as best you can in that role. Leigh is not one of my favorite actress which is part of my problem with her, not even her 30 minutes in Psycho (1960) is enough to really redeem her personally. Miscast also opposite the Duke whose at least 10-20 years older than her she’s very much out-of-place in this film, unless the male lead was Tony Curtis and then we would have a very different film.

On a political level I found Wayne’s character at odds with his the actors politics. As much as he denied the role his the communist witch-hunt, being leader of the HUAC for a period that saw countless people lose their livelihoods in Hollywood. How could such a staunch Republican with such strong views on Communism in a country he was patriotic about take on a role that saw him by the mid way point have married and knowingly want to stay with a Soviet spy. Looking back at Big Jim McLain (1952) where he played a HUAC investigator hunting down communists turn around and play this role. Although McLain was made after and released before Pilot was released it doesn’t depict his politics as clearly as the darker film and basically an advert for the HUAC.

Could the politics of the character be put to one side as Jet Pilot’s seen more as quasi romantic comedy-cold war thriller, sounds like a mouthful right? Jim Shannon is at first a strong leader who has a good relationship with his men, especially Maj. Rexford (Paul Fix) who follows him around at times, showing their closeness and for comical effect, which in itself works well. When however Marladovna’s put into the care of Shannon do things start to go odd. That’s ignoring the awkward shower scene in his office, the intention maybe sexual, the delivery is more comical. Being the enemy mixed with “sex appeal” it should make her more dangerous and filled with temptations which are given into too easy by Shannon who is too quick to give into his feelings.

He does however successfully convert her to joys of shopping or capitalism and all the nice clothes that money can buy. We do also have moments where her way of lifes discussed such as sharing their hotel room with three other couples, which should be seen as both dangerous and generous to a fault. To share a private capitalist space intended for private recreations opened up to the wider community, making “better use” of the space. It’s seen as comical again, Marladovna has won this round making Shannon look weak from a capitalist point of view. He can’t have the rewards and privileges that rank gives him as he protects his countries way of life. He’s being attacked, not with bullets but ideology wrapped in a female package that’s lowering his defence’s. Not something Wayne the HUAC member would approve of. As much as he could look past others political positions I believe this is a step to far for a man of his position. It just makes no sense that he would make such a film. If we take the Duke out of the equation allowing an American officer of the armed forces of any rank fall for the enemy on-screen makes no sense. They are the enemy, any love interest must be lost or corrected by the end of the film, the American must pay for his feelings when the country during the Cold War.

Moving away from all things communist which I feel I have explored enough for one review, stylistically this film is all over the place. There are lots and lots of planes of all different shapes and sizes. You could probably make a short film from just those scenes alone. It’s pure indulgence on the part of Hughes a plane fanatic who was probably playing those portions on loop. Early on the planes are used more suggestively before it could get under the radar of the censors who would’ve had a field day with the audio innuendo. This really is an odd film that takes a dark possibility is plays too lightly with it, having so much fun that it’s not even funny for the right reasons. Down to the casting, to Wayne’s politics and the planes that could still be whooshing in the skies to this day.

Painting the Town… Update (3/10/17)


I’ve really had a good day in the studio. Although I might not have done much it feels like I have. It’s been a day to complete all the furniture which I feel I have achieved.

I began the day by looking at the stairs which I am very happy with. I noticed that a table is at the front of the stairs. Meaning that I had to cut into the stairs which I then butted again. Before I added a table which is just a bit taller than the raised floor.

I then moved onto the furniture in the extension which I had been missing, making an end to the furniture that I needed to make. They are a complete set of raised benches and tables which are missing on the raised floor where people would be sitting on the floor to eat/drink. I also have my first ladder to complete the model miniature.

Looking to the back model miniature I was concerned about making another extension, which would put the first one at risk. Thinking more about it and looking at the screenshots again, I decided to extend the raised floor to touch the back wall instead. Taking another of the boxes and cutting to size, covering two pieces of cardboard on top to make it flush again.

Over the past month or so I have once again challenged myself, letting the boxes I have guide the work, even if its made making slightly more complicated, the tight space to work in, I have preserved with it, which I’m really proud about. I have been able to add an extension, before having a creative solution for another extension. Moving on I am looking at making a suspended light piece which maybe a little too much for the piece. Then I’ll move onto the balsa detail before I start to paint.

Painting the Town… Update (1/10/17)


I’ve finally had a full and satisfying day after my return from New Mills. Again I have achieved all I set out to do today in the studio. First wanting to finally complete the extension that I needed to add to allow a few tables on the right hand side. I am already thinking that another extensions needed at the rear too, something I really don’t want to do as they are difficult to add smoothly as I have found, especially with the design of this model miniature that is so small and confined.

Moving on I have made strong start on the furniture now. The raised floor is now completely populated with quickly made simply design pieces which required a few alterations before I was satisfied. Finishing the day by making my first ladder, a balsa piece that was far easier to make that I thought. Looking back I think the rungs should be angled, but that’s a small detail when it will be projected onto.

Next time I will be adding the furniture in the extension, before I add more balsa detail. I am still considering adding another extension – not ideal but maybe necessary. They’ll be a few other pieces to make before I make the most challenging piece of all – a suspended light, which maybe a detail too far and could be lost when it comes to looking at presentation.