Thursday 25 June 2015

Friday 26/6/15 - This Week's Wristwatches.

Busy week. Much done, much more still to do, so I'll keep it short. One more assignment out of the way, six more to go. I have a 1200 word report that needs to be completed and, while it isn't a long assignment, I think that the research will end up taking longer than the actual report. Although, it will be a nice feeling when I finally finish it. It'll just require a little legwork on my part.

Kept messing with my blog banner photo;

I think I'll leave it alone for the time being. 

Wore the Submariner 5513 earlier in the week;

Did a little more handwriting practice in an effort to change my upper-case capitals;

Okay, I think the real trick for me will be to start off writing these letters slowly to begin with. This new upper-case letter 'T' seems to be easier to write as long as I write it slowly.

Right, I've just printed out the question sheet for the assignment I completed this week. Time to fill it in, scan it back into my computer, format the assignment, attach all screen-caps (not necessary, but it will provide proof that I actually searched and found the information required), and then submit it. 
After that, I think I'll slow right down and take my time shaving. I'm looking a little gruff right now.
Switched over to the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean a couple of day's ago. While the Submariner is a great watch, there are times when I need to keep track of the date. 

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend, all!

Friday 19 June 2015

Man, Doing a New Blog Banner Is Tricky!

Since I began this blog in May 2011, I've changed the banner picture at the top of the page each year. My first attempt was pretty basic. The photo consisted of nothing more than the edge of a typewriter, a couple of my wristwatches, a fountain pen, and a snippet of text from one of my Bond fan fictions. This, to me, seemed to give a good representation of the things that interested me at the time and I felt it would be cool to have a picture at the top of my blog.
I soon ran into some headaches when I uploaded the picture and found that the blog title overlapped into the darker portions of the photo, thus obscuring some letters of the title. So, some strategic placement of items in the frame was required before I made my next attempt. I had to leave a large portion of the photo blank so that the blog title would remain clearly readable. I had a nice, bold upper-case block letter font for the title, and I gave it an italic slant to give it an airport thriller kind of vibe. Here's the photo that I used;

And here's how it looked once it was uploaded onto the Blogger layout template;

It was a pretty amateurish attempt, but it did the job. I used an old manila folder for that creamy background, but neglected to position it correctly to hide the surface of the table underneath.

I left this banner up until early 2013, when I decided to take another crack at it. Took way too many photos before settling on one that I liked. I had my new Olympus EPL-5 Micro 4/3rds digital camera and this thing has some great effects settings in its Art Filter mode. So, I set the camera to 'Key Line' and got a nice, cartoony result. Here's the Italian version, courtesy of Google Translate;

Again, I had to keep a portion of the frame empty so as not to obscure the title, but I suppose that's part of the fun in taking these pictures. trying to cram as much visual information in them without cluttering it up and still leaving room for the title. 

Last year, I decided to change it again, but I thought I'd rearrange the composition of the shot. I spent a hot afternoon indoors with the venetian blinds drawn and spent probably far too much time on placement of items within the frame;

I liked the out-of-focus areas created by the Diorama setting, but I didn't like how the sunglasses looked on top of the typewriter. Then I tried another shot in Sepia;

Not bad, but I thought I might tire of it due to its monochromatic shades. So, I opted for the same photo in colour;

This one stayed up until last week, when I decided to upgrade the banner yet again. I really should have waited until the light was better because the end result was lacking a certain something, in my view;

A little too dark in places, not sharp enough, and I think there were other books that I wanted to include in the frame, to give a better overview of my reading tastes. So, I had a few errands to run earlier today and, when I got home, it was reasonably sunny outside (considering that Winter is well and truly here) so I busted out the camera and other bits and pieces and got to work.
A bit of cropping and resizing to arrive at this one;

Still not 100% crazy about this one. However, it will do. I don't have PhotoShop on my computer, so all I can really do is tweak the photo using Microsoft Picture. I have Picasa and IrfanView loaded, but I have never really sat down to mess with them enough to get the hang of them. If I was gonna get serious about it all, I'd perhaps get some form of photo stacking software for sharpening up every portion of the frame.
However, I think I'm happy with a photo if it's taken with enough natural light and I can fiddle with the contrast and brightness afterwards. 
Again, I'm not sure how much I like this one. I may take another crack at it later in the year when there's better sunlight available. 
Still, it's fun arranging these shots. Also, I think I'll use a different typewriter in the next one. This Quiet De Luxe keeps getting all the glory.

Thanks for reading!

Friday 12 June 2015

Happy Birthday Honey, RIP Sir Christopher Lee, Handwriting Practice & This Week's Wristwatches.

Still busy in my hunt for work, but I'll take a quick respite from it all to write up this post. I headed out to the newly re-opened Astor Theatre last Sunday to catch a restored version of the 1939 Howard Hawks classic Only Angels Have Wings. 

I wrote about this film earlier this week. If you wanna read about it, just scroll down to the previous post.
Great movie. Certainly, it's a little cliched in this day and age, but it held up as well as I remembered.

It was the Palace Cinemas chain which came to The Astor Theatre's rescue a couple of months ago. I finally joined up to their Movie Club back in February. I've been wanting to do so since the early 1990s. As much for the fact that I'd get this cool member's card with John Garfield and Lana Turner in a publicity still from The Postman Always Rings Twice (Dir: Tay Garnett, 1946).

I was saddened to hear of the death of British actor Christopher Lee earlier this week. He starred in the Bond film The Man With The Golden Gun (Dir; Guy Hamilton, 1974) as Scaramanga, the international assassin who has Bond in his sights. Granted, it's by no means my favourite Bond movie, but his performance brought a certain gravitas to that film. Which sorely needed it.

I've been watching Season 1 of Penny Dreadful. Excellent show. High level of gore, which is to be expected from a show set in 1890s London dealing with vampires, post-mortems and other vintage schlock, but it is very well done and the cast is great. Much of it is made up of Bond film alumni. We have the great Timothy Dalton as the retired explorer Sir Malcolm Murray and the superb Eva Green as Vanessa Ives, a spiritual medium. They are joined by Josh Hartnett as Ethan Chandler, a sideshow gunslinger touring through England. 
If you had to sum it up for a bored studio executive, you'd say it was The X Files set in Victorian London during the time of Jack The Ripper, werewolves, witchcraft, etc. 
It has been great to see Eva Green turning in another complex performance, and Mr. Dalton's work in this show reminds me what a great Bond he was. His voice alone (much like Patrick Stewart's) is reason enough to tune in.
While watching this show, I got a close-up of Green's character as she wrote a letter. When she wrote the recipient's name on the envelope...

I began thinking about my own handwriting and how my upper-case letters never seem to match or fit in with the lower-case ones.My capital letters tend to be written in block style which doesn't fit with the other letters. 

So, I began doing some writing practice in an effort to change my upper-case letters.
I think this is going to take me a while, and it will require me to slow my writing speed right down until I'm comfortable with it. 
As if I don't have enough to do right now. However, I'm thinking ten minutes a day or until my hand cramps up, whichever comes first.

It was my wife's birthday earlier this week so, aside from taking the kids out to get her some gifts ($20 bucks max), I downloaded some artwork by the phenomenal Robert E. McGinnis so that the kids could make some birthday cards.

Throughout most of the week, I wore the Omega Railmaster. I chose this particular artwork because the ladies reminded me of Mrs. Teeritz when we met twenty years ago.

Robert E. McGinnis did a lot of artwork for pulp crime paperback book covers in the 1950s, '60s and '70s, as well as a lot of work for women's magazines throughout the 1960s. 
However, any Bond fan worthy of the title also knows that he did some wonderful and evocative artwork for the Bond films in the '60s and '70s, and is responsible for these two classic posters, among others;

Concept art in black & white ................................................And the final colour version.

 The guy did (and still does) some beautiful work. And if 
you think his style is familiar, it may be because he did the famous poster for Breakfast at Tiffany's (right).

Although he's famous for his work on books and films, he is also known for his landscapes. Check out his website;

Anyway, time to wrap this up. I switched to The Rolex Submariner this morning;

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

Monday 8 June 2015

Favourite Movie No.6 - "Only Angels Have Wings" (1939)

Since I decided to lay low in the Blogosphere while I look for work, I've still had the urge to put up some posts. However, while I'm not writing the weekly wristwatch posts for the time being, I figure I can still put up some kind of content without having to stick to a weekly deadline.

I had always planned to write a little more about movies. You may recall this post from December last year. 

It was about the imminent closure of one of Melbourne's last independent suburban cinemas, The Astor Theatre on Chapel Street, Windsor. I went along to see a Sunday afternoon screening of Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard.
Well, this cinema was due to close its doors forever in April this year, but it (thankfully) got a last-minute reprieve when the Palace Cinema Group stepped in and purchased it. Of course, it's more complicated than that, so here's a news article that explains it in greater detail. It's okay, I'll wait;

Anyway, the cinema did indeed close down for a couple of months and it re-opened earlier this month. The first public film screening was yesterday (June 7th) at 1:00pm and the first film screened at the new Astor Theatre was the 1939 Howard Hawks classic, Only Angels Have Wings, which is one of my all-time favourite films. I've already written posts about my Top Five...
"Casablanca" and The Other Four Best Movies EVER Made...In My Humble Opinion. Part 1

The Other Three Films In My Top Five Best Movies EVER Made...In My Humble Opinion. Part 2

...but I always suspected that I would have more movies to write about, since I really couldn't just stop at five films, now could I?

So anyway...

                                                    Directed By Howard Hawks
                       Columbia Pictures, 1939
                        Screenplay by Jules Furthman

The story takes place in Barranca, a South American port town in the Andes, and centres on a group of pilots who do the mail run through a treacherous pass in the mountains. This small airline's owner has signed a six-month contract to deliver the mail on time, regardless of the often hazardous weather conditions. If this airline can stick to its schedule for the contracted period, then it will win the major contract, which will mean more money for the airline and better, safer planes for the pilots.
A ship arrives in port for a four-hour stopover. A young American cabaret performer named Bonnie Lee (Jean Arthur) disembarks, with a notion to take in the sights and maybe pick up a souvenir before getting back on-board the ship and heading back to The States. She meets a couple of the devil-may-care pilots, played by character actors Noah Beery Jr (who would later appear in the 1970s TV series The Rockford Files as Uncle Rocky) and Allyn Joslyn. These two guys are on the make, but when she meets them, she's just happy to hear a couple of American accents and takes them up on the offer of a drink. 

I have to say I really like Jean Arthur in this film. She started out in silent films, but her career didn't begin to take off until she appeared opposite Edward G. Robinson in John Ford's The Whole Town's Talking in 1935. However, it was in the following year that she appeared in Frank Capra's classic, Mr. Deeds Goes To Town, starring opposite Gary Cooper, and she was well on the way to becoming a major comedic actress. She again worked for Capra in 1939's classic, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, and it was this same year that she starred in Only Angels Have Wings.  
I like the way Miss Arthur plays the role of Bonnie. She arrives in this new world of fatalistic flyboys and we slowly see her come to terms with their way of thinking. 
Into this mix, of course, there's Cary Grant as Geoff Carter, the pilot who manages the airline on behalf of its non business-minded owner, Dutchy, played by another great Hollywood character actor, Sig Rumann. 

It's great seeing Cary Grant in this kind of role. He would later go on to play urbane and suave characters in both comedies and dramas, but it's great to see him in this film, dressed like some kind of Indiana Jones prototype. Grant got his big break when he starred opposite Marlene Dietrich in Blonde Venus (1932) and was then spotted by Mae West, who cast him in two of her early films (She Done Him Wrong and I'm No Angel, both in 1933). He went on to star in a slew of films before achieving greater fame for his roles in Topper (Dir: Norman Z. McLeod, 1937) and The Awful Truth (Dir: Leo McCarey, 1937). After these two films, Grant had an extraordinary run in some classic films over the next four years;

Bringing Up Baby
Gunga Din
Only Angels Have Wings
His Girl Friday
The Philadelphia Story
My Favorite Wife
Penny Serenade

Grant enjoyed continued success in films throughout the '40s and '50s. He is my favourite of the old Hollywood stars, without a doubt. Whatever I may have learned about how to be a gentleman and how to dress well, I learned from Mr. Cary Grant. He's great in Only Angels Have Wings. Grant's on-screen persona was already established through his earlier work in screwball and romantic comedies, and you can see hints of it in this more melodramatic film. 
Carter runs a tight ship. He knows it's dangerous work, but he also knows that sending these pilots out on the tough assignments will ensure that the airline continues to operate. However, the really tough jobs he keeps for himself. Firm, but fair is our Geoff Carter. 

If Only Angels Have Wings is about anything, it's about masculinity. Howard Hawks' idea of masculinity. It has been said that Hawks "liked his men to be men, and his women to be their buddies." This notion is evident in this film. The pilots are a hard-drinking, chain-smoking bunch who live from one paycheck to the next, with no real ambition beyond surviving another day. They live by a certain code and they appear to prize friendship above all else. The screenplay, by Jules Furthman, has some great lines in it. As Bonnie Lee finds herself falling for Geoff Carter, he explains to her that he doesn't want to be tied down by a relationship and that he'll never quit flying, no matter how dangerous it is, for any woman. Some of these ideas are as old as time itself

I won't say much more about the story, except to say that it takes numerous turns into what would be considered high melodrama and cliche these days. When the airline is short of pilots, along comes a new flyer who was previously responsible for the death of the younger brother of one of the pilots. What are the chances, eh? Still, this was film-making in 1939. 

I've already mentioned some of the supporting cast, but special mention goes to Thomas Mitchell, who plays Kid Dabb, Geoff's best friend. 

Mitchell also memorably appeared as James Stewart's Uncle Billy in Frank Capra's Its A Wonderful Life in 1946. Hollywood had a great stash of character actors back in its Golden Age.
This movie also marked Rita Hayworth's breakout role;

She would go onto greater fame, most notably in the title role in the 1946 film noir classic, Gilda (Dir: Charles Vidor), and she turns in a good performance here as the wife of the new pilot. Rumour has it that Hawks treated her poorly during filming. Hayworth has gone on record to say that she would have quit the production had it not been for Cary Grant's kindness and respect.

This is an atmospheric film. Cigarette smoke is thick in the air, the floor must be littered with spent matches, based on how often somebody lights up, it's always either thick with fog outside or pouring with rain, and yet you get the impression that it's a humid locale. Hawks went to great lengths with his aerial footage, which has often been cited as groundbreaking for its time. 

This scene above looks great and it perfectly captures the vastness of the locations used. Much of the take-off and landing shots were done with models and it does look clunky when you can see the wires, but so what? It was 1939, remember? Hawks trained as an Army Air Service pilot during the First World War, but the conflict ended before he saw any action. Aviation would be a recurring subject in some of Hawks' films of the 1930s.

Joseph Walker's cinematography makes wonderful use of the lighting. While the scenes were shot on studio sets, they are lit beautifully and the mise en scene is arranged nicely in just about every scene.


Mise en scène encompasses the most recognizable attributes of a film – the setting and the actors; it includes costumes and make-up, props, and all the other natural and artificial details that characterize the spaces filmed.  The term is borrowed from a French theatrical expression, meaning roughly “put into the scene”.  In other words, mise-en-scène describes the stuff in the frame and the way it is shown and arranged.

- taken from

                                           Great scene arrangement

                                             Great lighting

I had a copy of this film on video-cassette back in the late 1980s, recorded off tv. I bought it on DVD about five years ago and had planned to do a write-up on it.
However, when I saw that this would be the newly re-opened Astor Theatre's first film screening, well I just had to get my butt over there to see it. They were showing a freshly restored 4K print of the film. The picture quality was great, but the sound was even better. For a quick explanation of 4K restoration, read the first couple of paragraphs of this article, courtesy of the University of California, Berkely Art Museum & Film Archive;

The Resolution Starts Now: 4K Restorations from Sony Pictures

Film itself, or rather, the celluloid used in its production, is quite brittle and it begins to deteriorate quickly as time rolls on. I've read of some classic films that turned to crumbling flakes in their canisters after decades of sitting in storage. There is a vast trove of classic films out there that need to be saved so that future filmgoers can see what all the fuss was about. For every Spielberg, there is a Hitchcock that influenced him. For every Star Wars, there's The Searchers and The Getaway where certain scenes were borrowed. Martin Scorsese has cited Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger's 1948 classic, The Red Shoes, as an influence on his work. That film was about a ballet dancer. Go figure. Although, when you see this film, you notice some camera work in it that Scorsese has used in his own films over the years. I got a lot of time for Marty Scorsese. The man loves movies.

So, I was very happy to see Only Angels Have Wings in this restored version. This screening had a good turn-out of people. And I was very happy to see it on a big screen, in a cinema that's been given a chance to continue. Yes, there are the multiplexes in the suburban shopping centres where one can go see the latest Avengers film or the newest Judd Apatow comedy. We need these multiplexes, but we also need these smaller, single-screen movie-houses that show films as diverse as Only Angels Have Wings, Singin' In The Rain, Taxi Driver, The Searchers, Leviathan, Get Carter, Dazed And Confused and Blade Runner. That's The Astor Theatre's first-week line-up of movies. Plus the two Avengers movies, with prizes handed out to audience members who up in the best costumes. It'd be worth going along just to see that!

Oh, and another thing- I missed out on the final screening of Casablanca at The Astor last year because it coincided with my daughter's dance school concert performance. Well, they'll be showing it in August. 
I'll be there. Might even wear my hat and trench.

I may have to get a copy of this poster somehow.

Thanks for reading!

Special thanks to Wikipedia and IMDB for cast and crew info.
All photos screen-capped and cropped from my Columbia Classics DVD copy, 2005.