29 June 2013

Riding the Rails and the Range

After last week's desperate measures, this week has proven to be somewhat of a golden gateway for UK terrestrial television. Series 1 of  Hell on Wheels is crossing our screens with a good head of steam.

I was in New Mexico when I first caught episodes of this tale of building a railway across the continent after the Civil War: revenge, racism, intimidation, mysogeny, graft... the story of everyday folk, all carrying a lot of emotional baggage. It'll be interesting to see if the multiple storylines rise above their basic descriptions.

John Ford's The Searchers certainly managed to, and still does nearly 60 years after it was made (1956), despite this week's TV guide's crass description of John Wayne's character as being in a "relentless search for his young niece". Watch the movie, mate. It didn't gather its 5 stars merely for the spectacular filming in Monument Valley. And while you're at it, read the book by Alan le May. A riveting use of colloquial speech.

The Searchers was, in fact, my first view of Monument Valley in both photograph and on screen. It made a great impression, so much so that when my young eyes laid sight on a map of the Southwest I traced not only its features but its names: Painted Desert, Mexican Hat, Vermilion Cliffs, Gila Wilderness, Grand Canyon. The surprise is that it took me so long to visit them.

23 June 2013

Feeding the Horses

Yes, I know. It’s been a long while since I fed these horses. This is what happens when my other writing persona starts flapping like a buzzard with a broken wing and takes up all of my available time. Then life shoulders in and before I know it I find myself laid up and in need of a bit of Old West to watch.

Shoot, Cowboys and Aliens doesn’t quite hit the mark, does it, but what can I say? It was on offer. My partner on the couch took delight in combing the internet to list all the historical inaccuracies and continuity issues I’d missed. Some kin are just supportive that way. However, what did catch my eye was the scenery, hence the reason for this blogpost.

Parts of the movie were filmed around the Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico, where the mesas can’t decide whether they want to turn into badlands or into a northern outpost of the Painted Desert. We journeyed through the area a few summers back, drinking in the colours of the country and the huge skies.

It was here that Georgia O’Keefe travelled from 1929 onwards and made her  permanent home after WW2, to concentrate on her art and in so doing raised international awareness of the beauty inherent in the New Mexico landscapes.

Unlike Western artists Charles M Russell and Frederic Remington, born in the same decade – the 1880s – Georgia O’Keefe was an artist very much in the modernist style. She lived to be nearly 100 years old and moved to Santa Fe during her latter years where there is now the Georgia O’Keefe Museum dedicated to her work.

So, y'see, good can come from somewhat suspect Old West DVDs. Have you ever watched some for the scenery?