B-Western and the Western…

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Authentic cowboys. Land. And ranch-life typifies the B-Western formula for ratings, mostly, however, what’s applied stereotypically and romantically, whether the cowboy, land, or ranch. Some consider the valued trilogy juxtaposed mundane; yet, depending contextually the B-Western formula depends on stereotyping what’s not authentic, ethnically realistic. The story line of the cowboy may intend to be realistic, not enough of the land is, however; but ranch life equal to character-romantic lives are simply formulaic–my opinion. Westerns, B-Westerns, have been around since 1937 per Arthur McClure and Ken O. Jones in Western Films Heroes, Heavies and Sagebrush.

 What’s authentic are gun belts, hats, boots, the cowgirl/cowboy, not necessarily the clothes worn on television or in film. Though I think the B-Western, where B-Westerns seem synonymous with pop culture and with genres, both B-Westerns and pop culture, 1937, inclusive of B-Westerns, was ahead of its time. Pop culture, a credible genre itself, doesn’t fit well with B-Westerns simply because I think subject matter. Especially , too, humans and land should be replicated authentically to get the best, realistic presence television and/or film can offer.

For so long, some have complained about the authenticity of the B-Western, its formula of just idealistically romanticizing people, places, and predicaments, which doesn’t capture what the West, Midwest, and land-East is about. I think if the B-Western was replaced, a viewer/viewers would see the obvious. You want an A-Western, one that authenticates what’s already with an originally-angled story line.

Like, B-Westerns, genres compartmentalize, and they did, past-to-land, ranch-to-land, cowboy/cowgirl, cowgirl/cowboy-to-town-land-ranch. B-Westerns needed to be to be more than novelties with unrealistic emotionally romantic pervasiveness, meaning forcing something unconventional for viewer-connection, which equals ratings. A novelty can be a conversation piece. Land isn’t novel. Ranches aren’t novel. Cowgirls/cowboys-cowboys/cowgirls aren’t novel. Some of what they do is novel and how they did it is novel; so we, as audience members, aren’t just looking at “a set in frame of scenic and mimic detail which is true to reality” (12).Idealizing romanticism with or without altruistic race-culture means not  remotely conveying  what  should have been conveyed–realistic compositions of characters. Again scenes that don’t mimic  and don’t engineer what’s coined B-Western or not no matter the authentic composition means with characters, dialogue, scenes not generically romanticized, told and seen, for the sake of audience, ratings–not solely just for money.

 

Directing, Writing, Acting…

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I recently saw Christmas in Connecticut with Barbara Stanwyk; the film is directed by Peter Godfrey, a British director. One thing obviously unmistakable is Stanwyk’s  talent–several reasons I was hesitant in viewing her films, at least some of them. They don’t justify her talent; and early directors and writers didn’t seem to articulate her best, their organization in directing, or the level of writing necessary for her character–and other supporting characters. Too fast of a film, with sloppy edits, non-comedic in spots, I think the film tried hard, perhaps, preserving comedy and family dynamic.  I saw Stanwyk in The Thornbirds, which is an excellent film; she was terrific in it, not in the sense of an actor/actress gracefully aging–as we all do, it’s the fact recognizable that better direction and better writing fit her talent, as it would most actors.  I avoided her films because of poor direction and poor writing, embarrassing the lack of integrity surrounding her talent with good directing and good writing, which is what it takes, this all-encompassing support for a film.

Christmas in Connecticut is about a holiday season, provided in fun and play; but it doesn’t fit Stanwyk’s talent. I think had she, and this is just me, had been able to, perhaps, at that time–and I haven’t studied film prior to the 1950s–been able to have screenplays provided her, and maybe she did, dealing with politics, stronger female characters, and not just for means of employment, which she made quit a few films, the talent of the performance would have been more an indelible mark, which should have garnered her more respect in the film industry. It’s not Stanwyk; it’s the non-provided scripts and direction that support the film industry.

The writing–screenwriting–is just as important as directing. And the script just didn’t do justice to her talent. I think it’s fair not to blame the time period, 1945, because there were several credible writers during that period whose work was not adapted into film. I’m not saying that professional writers are the first pick of the lot. It’s about good writing that helps prevail a film with very good directing and just as good acting. There are a lot of aspiring filmmakers who are good writers who don’t have to be English majors.  Stanwyk, as we know, was also a viably vibrant dynamic character in The Big Valley; and we know this as an audience. But the film work should have spoke volumes, deserving better, more personally satisfying parts. There’s a suffering seen on screen due to lack of better directing and writing. Less hospitable film editing (e.g., the baby scene with the soap where the soap stays too long in the baby’s mouth, having characters run a muck with untangible dialogue) etc.  laps matching characters to where they are just speaking lines with mis-direction, which is painful to watch. Film is also about respecting talent, being able to work with a cast, and that a cast gets along. It’s also about securing good writing and directing along with good acting.  Stanwyk was ahead of her time born during the turn of the twentieth century. I don’t think the film industry, perhaps, knew how to keep up with her and her talent unless the parts just weren’t provided. A viewer can just tell there is a frustration and a suffering that’s hidden as she employs some of the lines. This viewer noticed.

Some future film ideas…

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Some more ideas ensue for forthcoming scripts I’m interested in writing; the first screenplay I talked about already–and I’m thinking about working along the lines of, surprisingly enough, a split-theme in war-comparison Generals from the turn of the century, say 20th century, from the early 1900s to the end of World War II maybe a bit longer, perhaps into the sixties, not by way of cliché but by way of looking configuratively at historical government of that time, meaning military government, some obvious U.S. government, and the general and perplex countering and/or similarities of a few Generals, some perhaps, known and some within the cracks. I have a family background of military persons who participated in the Army, Navy, and Marines: two late grandfathers who provide a pinpoint time time in American history and thereby as, perhaps, creating expanding the idea of influential European government.

Both were born in a time of early governing structure when people were relying more on person than more structured governance when more political governing was just taking shape. So research has me looking into Army-Naval Boards, the Virginia Military Institute, who designed  the Institute, some Army doctorines–both Naval and Marines, etc. So it’s looking at some military films, documentaries, books and maybe attending some conferences–and, as mentioned, not just Generals but junior officers, those regimental and local, Interservice strategic planning–maybe British-Americans. We’ll see. I may look into researching military institutes with university systems to look at educational aspects and training systems and grounds. I never thought I’d be searching/researching for working with military themes, maybe some; but I think finding out more about family history encouraged that.

Also I’m thinking of adapting a full length play I’m working on with Flamenco dancing into film. I’m enjoying working on the play and I’ll see what happens with converting it into a film script. I’d like to explore more the history of Spain, Spanish government, the history of not just Flamenco dancing but various types of dancing. An intricate look into past/present Spanish government with Presidents of Mexico and exploring literature and academia–universities in Spain and other European comparisons to, perhaps, The United States’s university systems. And, of course, some art–this could be governors and/or Presidents’ background of personally liking painting.

An additional idea for a screenplay is working with water canals–locks for the canals. I’ve researched canal locks and found out the many different geographical areas with diverse canal locks. Who would of thought canal locks? But, hey, I’m enjoying it. Building ships maybe included. All those diagrams. How the water vacillates. And just the various landscape topography of the situated canal-locks. I don’t know. Pretty interesting to me. I’ve started working with canal locks in a short play I titled insofar SyStims that I’ll be submitting to a theatre soon. SyStims shows many different systems within a family at a Chicago 1950s carnival setting–the father’s restaurant, the mother’s baseball interest and her son’s interest, and the daughter’s interest in art/canal-locks. I liked working again, which I never thought I’d be doing, with sarcastic youth. The water-lock girl/character’s name is Arlina; and she cracks me up. Ten going on Eleven. The screenplay will be different but an engagement into a world of water canal locks that takes a person’s interest into traveling. I hope. And with research-travel. You’ve got to check out those canal-locks around the world. I can’t wait to start working with this subject, too.

Through a hand-camera’s eyes…

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I started filming some of my first ideas for a film on a Fuji camera. And the directions to use it have been misplaced. I ended up uploading the videos on my computer, some very small clips that I filmed. Didn’t think about the cell phone. Didn’t think about the camera-part, really. I just started taking videos of some of the areas I was interested in. Some of the areas are Sutter and Colusa County, California. There’s a unique bridge and many water-ways. I have to figure out how to edit and connect the segments on my computer. Some of my efforts were a bit jerky–that I either filmed a small clip too fast and some of the weather, the wind, to be more specific, made my camera time difficult. But, then, again, it’s the first time out for creating some time on video, and I was trying to figure out what the heck I was doing while enjoying doing it, which I did. I don’t think you have to take a film class to try and figure it out, what you’re looking for exactly, but I’m sure with the equipment it’s pretty helpful.
Denny’s helps. So there I was: weeds, sticks, dirt. A Few homes. Cows. Horses. Migrating creeks. Abandoned homes.

Some intriguing. Some creepy. But there was volume in each–and is volume in each. I’m planning on going out again–and I do really need a better film/camera option, but to see the wind blow leaves and to hear the sound of it in first playing it back, I hadn’t been that surprised in a long time. So, I’ve got quite a few very short videos to look through and decipher. I found out some interesting history about a deceased relative in that he frequented Colusa County quite a bit during rice harvest season–the many houses, the many stopovers he made just to sleep before the car ran out of gas. This, too, will be a project based on him in the future, although it’ll take me to Oklahoma, parts of Sacramento and other places tracing where he went to. Arbuckle, also, is an interesting city in Colusa County. It’s uniquely small, an eyesore if given the time. A cemetery with no name, railroad tracks introduce it. There’s a bar, however, called The Arbuckle Bar, and I was also able to discover the section/chair my late grandfather sat in. This was around, I want to say, 1936 or so–a few years after leaving Oklahoma for Sacramento. As for the camera, I’ve got to figure out some editing and tracking development to see where I’m yet going with it, which will help the writing of the screenplay in being more of a visual person.

Looking into John Cassavetes’s work…

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Of significance in learning about film is coming across filmmaker John Cassavetes’s work and perspective about film. Some of the very rudimentary objectives in film and in discovering his views are infinite in the sense of simply finding a passion within a craft, particularly film, whether independent or non-commercial. The important thing to remember, at least for me, is that looking at people and the diverse highways that their lives take shapes scenes in a realistic yet original way that maybe black and white or in color. I haven’t yet seen Cassavates’s work, but I plan to see and review for myself his films and adaptations of his work.

To me, his work really didn’t fit into a genre, per se, at least when learning about what it took to make film, film. One of the most important things to learn about with film is checking out each decade of film, obviously looking and studying different types of film and different directors. I had the good fortune of looking at some tapes of him working at film,filming, and discussing film from the seventies recently and his personal perspective and take on film–and the subjects he chose to work with whether in the subjective-sense or through the dichotomy of yet a dynamic human race. What was captured and continues to be captured is authenticity managed in the most personal of ways; and a way to go about developing this is to approach non-commercialism as non-obtrusive and in a way that focuses on human regard whether that be immoral or moral, consequently in a provakative way, which is what I think Cassavetes did. I’m looking forward to delving more into his work. The most recent adaptation I’ve discovered is a DVD version of Love Streams also from screenwriter Ted Allan. There’s something to be said about not necessarily the primitive–but the intrinsic physiology of humanity and how relentlessly unforgiving personal attributes make or can make film manifest.

Thinking comparative-film…

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One of the most ingenuine things about comparative-film is getting the opportunity to look at one of my favorite comedic actors and writers of film and writing in general. I’ve always been intrigued by Woody Allen’s work–and in coming across two films Interiors and Broadway Danny Rose, not only is a simple setting like a house and an ocean as well as a table in a lounge provokative, but it’s what lies underneath: a subtext thematic of a family’s vision or a breaking up of that vision–at least that’s what I came across with while watching Interiors.

It’s interesting the inner-personal struggle and tragic-nature of the characters and how they either pretend to manage their strife and what plans they have or don’t yet have and how they deal with loss and/or cope with it. And, interestingly enough, in Broadway Danny Rose, a once non-lowlife entertainment agent seeks sustainability in such desperation that he loses sight of the reason why he’s an agent in the first place. Comparative-film invokes, for me, more of an altruistic way of looking at the family dynamic even when these characters aren’t related. The table, The lounge. The characters. Some find family in the lounge. And some, in general, with comedy–which is just about as close as some can get to family. What’s also intriguing is how adverse these characters are to inner-change.They know they need to change, but they can’t seem to either change themselves or want the risk in knowing what comes with change. The two films couldn’t be more different than one another; however, they are one in the same with characters who know a change is needed but they can’t find a way into that change.

Dark humor: rural landscapes

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One of the interesting things about rural life is the continued look at the uncanniness and unpredictability of dark humor working in films–pretty much interconnected with novels and plays. I really liked Squibbs’s and Wilson’s performances because characters were such polar opposites of each other. The film, Nebraska, was an eccentric look into focusing on the theme of the family dynamic and what boundaries parents did and didn’t have with one another and the effect those boundaries had on their children. Interestingly enough, the characters, the two sons, beat to a different drum as much as their parents. The sons were so different and yet craved diverse similarities. Grown up. But so divided. Even at middle age, or close to it, these characters–the sons, sitting at the dinner table, made me see retrospectively loss divided, loss that they already know; but, at the same time, they are accepting of what is lost and who they are. One son yet, however, hasn’t found a place for himself but is willing to accept the place he is in until he can find that place of his own. I was surprised at the willingness and patience he had with his father, played by Dern. The mother, played by Squibbs, isn’t as irksome as she may appear; however, she has a profound affect on the family’s decisions, what leads them to do what they do. Dern, always effective, his character learns to shield himself the only way that he is capable of knowing and doing–beyond alcohol; but he is aware of his decisions, albeit knowing he contributes to his family’s emotional suffering. Although short, Wilson’s character is well-thought out, meaning her positive countenance resembles a much needed patience that counters the family. A really good choice of opposing characters screenwriter Nelson applied, that bite into dark humor within a rural landscape through black and white film intrinsically resonates.