Film review – War Paint (Lesley Selander, 1953)

Lesley Selander was a veteran in directing western films by the time War Paint was released in 1953. From 1936 onwards he had directed at least three features a year, eventually reaching a grand total of 107 by the time he retired with Arizona Bushwackers in 1968.

War Paint is one of his later efforts, and Selander walks the line between showing himself to be a veteran of the genre and showing he has exhausted every foible available to make a film interesting.

It stars Robert Slack as Lt. Billings, who is put in charge of delivering a peace treaty to a powerful Native American chief. He sets off with a party of men, only to be tracked by Taslik (Keith Larsen) and Wanima (Joan Taylor), both Native Americans strongly against the treaty. Taslik joins the party, but leads them in a large circle whilst promising them he will lead them to water. Dehydrated and beginning to hallucinate, the party’s morale unravels as tensions rise.

It is a flawed film for several reasons. One of the more interesting characters is Wanima, portrayed by Joan Taylor. She is a dead-shot with the rifle, successfully killing American soldiers with her accurate aim. She is silent as she tracks the party for miles without being discovered. However, when she is eventually found she loses all of her character and becomes more of a damsel in distress, undoing about an hour of hard work from the script writers and from Taylor.

The stock footage used for the circling vultures appears several times and is clearly from a different reel, with nothing done to hide the cracks in the footage. It is a source of humour, but I suppose was quicker than replicating the shot from scratch.

It was filmed on location in Death Valley National Park, the first motion picture to have done so. It is clearly a wonderful and largely untouched location, and was (and is) home to many Native American tribes, adding an air of authenticity to the picture.

The war paint of the title refers primarily to the paint adorning the face of Taslik, which signifies his achievements in murdering settler soldiers. Unfortunately, the overall impression left by the film is more “War-Paint-by-numbers” than anything more sinister.

A decent film with an exciting climax, but nothing that makes it worth seeking out over anything else in the Western genre you might stumble upon.

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2017 film quiz – answers

Original questions can be found here!

Round One – 2017 in Film

  1. Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty
  2. AMC
  3. The Square (directed by Ruben Östlund)
  4. South Korea
  5. “Harlem Shuffle” by Bob and Earl
  6. One week, one day, one hour.
  7. Weyland Corporation
  8. Taika Waititi
  9. The Room
  10. Adrian Edmundson

Round Two – Academy Awards

Arrival, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion, Manchester By The Sea, Moonlight.

Round Three – Name that still!

1. Beauty and the Beast

2. The Boss Baby

3. Girls Trip

4. Alien Covenant

5. Baby Driver

6. Spider-Man: Homecoming

7. Atomic Blonde

8. A Ghost Story

9. Lady Macbeth

10. The Red Turtle

Short film review – Lou (Dave Mullins, 2017)

A sweet short film about a bully’s relationship with a lost and found box in a playground might just make your ticket to Cars 3 worth the entry fee.

Dave Mullins is a first time director but has been working with Disney since 1995 and Pixar since 2000, working in the animation department for the likes of Up, Monsters Inc., Ratatouille and Inside Out. It is clear that his attention to detail and love of a great story is at the heart of this film, which is brought to life wonderfully in a story that lasts only a few minutes.

The film opens with the lost and found box attracting the attention of the children in the playground of a school boy, encouraging them to play with the contents. However, the school bully J.J. begins teasing his class mates by taking away their toys and teasing them in the process. However, when the contents of the lost and found box come to life and start to turn the tables on him, he quickly learns a fast lesson in being nice to his peers, awakening memories he’s hidden inside himself that may be the real problem behind his poor behaviour.

It’s incredibly difficult to create something with such a large story and get the whole point across in a strictly limited timeframe, but Mullins and his team completely manage it. The short is, essentially, a silent film, but it has no difficulty in delivering a succinct but strong message.

The audience, which were mainly children, were completely captivated and gave a spontaneous round of applause at the end of the screening.

You can watch the opening 40 seconds below.

 

 

Live music review – Goldfrapp, Glastonbury Festival, 25th June 2017

Setlist:
Anymore
Train
Slide In
Everything Is Never Enough
Become the One
Systemagic
Number 1
Ride a White Horse
Ooh La La
Strict Machine

They may have had some technical difficulties that delayed the start of their set, but once they finally arrived Goldfrapp absolutely blew away the John Peel Tent at Glastonbury Festival on Sunday afternoon.

Alison Goldfrapp may well be one of the most engrossing female performers in the industry. Her striking black costume, sumptuous vocals and commanding stage presence are a powerful concoction.

They led the set off with latest single ‘Anymore‘, taken from recent album ‘Silver Eye‘. It’s a dance floor filler and highly indicative of the first half of the album. As two dancers strutted across the stage, jolting sharply, it was clear this was going to be as much performance art as it was a live gig. [1]

Favourites ‘Train’ and ‘Slide In’ followed, continuing the dance vibe that the crowd were clearly enjoying.

A trio of songs from ‘Silver Eye’ followed, with the highlight being ‘Systemagic‘, which happens to be the next single taken from the album. It’s another powerful track with a mixture of heavy bass and industrial drums. Alison was in fine form, enjoying giving some new material a new audience.

As Alison said “You know this one I think…” before the electronic pounding of the intro to ‘Number 1’, she kicked off a familiar conclusion to the set. The final tracks rounded off the set nicely, with all four amongst the most popular (or perhaps most mainstream) of their material: ‘Number 1’, ‘Ride a White Horse’, ‘Ooh La La’ and ‘Strict Machine’. This is a sensible choice at a festival, even if the more dedicated fans would have loved to hear a song or two from ‘Seventh Tree‘ or ‘Felt Mountain‘.

I’ve seen Goldfrapp on many occasions and they seem to get better and better. Predictably, the crowd went wild for them, setting sail into the warm Glastonbury air for the final night of the festival having seen one the best sets of the weekend.

[1] Catch their latest music videos below. Systemagic gives a great idea of what their stage dancers look like.

Live Music Review – Radiohead, Glastonbury Festival, 23rd June 2017

Setlist:
Daydreaming
Lucky
Ful Stop
Airbag
15 Step
Myxomatosis
Exit Music (for a Film)
Pyramid Song
Everything in Its Right Place
Let Down
Bloom
Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
Idioteque
You and Whose Army?
There There
Bodysnatchers
Street Spirit (Fade Out)

Encore:1:
No Surprises
Nude
2 + 2 = 5
Paranoid Android
Fake Plastic Trees

Encore 2:
Lotus Flower
Creep
Karma Police

“Bring down the government, they don’t speak for us.” As the lyrics to one of Radiohead’s most commercially famous songs – ‘No Surprises’ – the crowd let out a ginormous cheer. Any doubt that one of Britain’s most critically-celebrated bands had failed to engage the audience were quashed at that moment. It seemed to inflate lead singer Thom Yorke’s confidence. At the end of the song he said, simply, “See you later, Theresa. Just shut the door on your way out.”

A huge laugh from the immeasurably-sized crowd was followed by a louder cheer. Yorke clearly knew his audience and knew a left-wing statement was a safe bet.

But the setlist was anything but a safe bet. 

Confidently appearing on stage to the piano theme from ‘Daydreaming’, they launched into a set made primarily of OK Computer album tracks and singles lifted from their more recent releases. 

It was reassuring to see how many people were able to sing along to the likes of ‘Bloom’, ‘Weird Fishes’ and ‘You and Whose Army?”. 
It was only when they launched into ‘Street Spirit (Fade Out)’ did they start to mine what would be considered their more mainstream songs, and the patient crowd were rewarded an eight-song, two-part encore that featured a handful of crowd-pleasers. Or, the most crowd-pleasing Radiohead have ever done. ‘Fake Plastic Trees’, a blasting ‘Paranoid Android’ and an extra crunchy ‘Creep’ ensured the set would live on in memory as one that walked the line between the awkwardly obscure and pleasingly familiar.

It was a great snapshot of one of the greatest bands to grace our planet, and the set is up there with the best, for this crowd member at least.