About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

22 October 2014

Movie: Dracula Untold

There have been a few "origins" movies in the past few years - movies to explain the origins of a famous character (or in the case of Planet of the Apes, an entire species). And in most of these, a feature has been to humanise the characters even more. 

In this regard, Dracula Untold, boldly ventures forth into turning one of the major villains in modern English literature to, not only a hero, but one that should be applauded and revered. The movie does manage to expand the powers of Dracula, and how he comes to actually save Europe from being taken over by the evil Ottoman empire (where the emperor seems to have an army similar to Game of Thrones' Unsullied); and eventually becomes a vampire in order to defeat this army and save "his people".

Plot holes aside, there are two impressive acting performances by Luke Evans (in the title role) and Charles Dance (as Dracula's sire) and great visual effects. It is a fun action movie - but ultimately, it is different to the original concept of Dracula - and thus ends up making a new anti-hero, as opposed to rehabilitating a villain.

19 October 2014

Movie: Gone Girl

M has been raving about the works of the author Gillian Flynn since the beginning of the year. Based on Gone Girl - I can see why. The plot is superbly paced, with some great twists - and enough ambiguity in its ending, to cater for multiple versions of "why". The acting is superb, and this is an excellent twist on the "whodunit" genre. Perhaps, I should read the books ...

11 October 2014

Adapt or Fly

Pieter-Dirk Uys' new one man show, Adapt or Fly, currently on at the Market Theatre, feels like a farewell show - a compilation of his time in South Africa's theatre circuit. I haven't seen his full one man shows before, so the format was a bit strange - the combination of political commentary, various characters and impersonations and personal reflection did not have a cohesive theme - but that is not to say, it was a bad show. It was not a stand-up comedy routine, but it was not a play. But it was funny, often serious in its subject matter, and sometimes poignant.

It was just strange - but completely worth it.

06 October 2014

Movie: Roadmap to Apartheid

In Roadmap to Apartheid, shown in the recent Tri-Continent Film Festival, the film-makers compare the Israel to Apartheid South Africa, with the Israelis taking the position of the oppressive regime. With the recent war in Gaza, it was a timely documentary, even though the movie was released in 2012.

There are striking similarities - but there are just as many striking differences. For example, the Apartheid South African economy was almost slavery, while Israel does not depend on Palestinians for its economy. Likewise, the demographic differences are more equivalent - unlike minority oppression in Apartheid South Africa.

That said, the Israeli occupation is brutal - and this is a great documentary in providing context to a number of key issues - such as what exactly is a settlement, or what are the 1967 borders, and for that matter, what was the original border. It is in the brutality, and the exposure of the brutality that the movie is at its most powerful. It does not require equivalence to other immoral regimes to be itself, a immoral regime. It is also one sided - not that it excuses Israeli oppression - but at very least, the context of Palestinian movements has some foundation other than political rhetoric.

The documentary ends in a surprisingly upbeat tone - focusing on the BDS movement, which has gained increasing prominence in the recent past. While I think the BDS movement has laudable aims, unfortunately, it will require political will to actually reverse the scenario. Sanctions against Apartheid after all were political in nature - not just at individuals and companies. For the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to end, it requires compromise from both sides, and it requires visionary leadership from both sides. Fundamentally, I think the conflict is fuelled by, what is effectively racism, on both sides. For it to end, it will require a Mandela, or a Gandhi, on both sides. 

What it means for the interim, is just more conflict.

28 September 2014

Movie: Miners Shot Down

Miners Shot Down (IMDB, website) is possibly the most important social documentary on South Africa in the past 20 years. As per the director's comments after the screening yesterday, this film is unequivocally about the miner's story - and it pulls no punches. 

It is actually mind numbing to realise that there is no re-enactment - that the videos; pulled from news organisations, Lonmin, the police and the commission of enquiry - is all real. And it does feature footage and interviews with most of the key players in the story - the miners, the mine bosses, the trade union leaders, the police and journalists. And it is an indictment on the failure of broad based economic transformation - in the words of one of the mining strike leaders - the sons of the miners continue to be relegated to mining, while the sons of the mining bosses continue to be their sons' bosses. It is a cycle of poverty and damnation that has not been addressed where it matters most.

Ultimately, what puzzle me most is, not the question of police brutality - images of Ferguson etc. shows that this seems to be an universal trait when the police are militarised. It is not the question of pressure from Lonmin either - after all, private citizens and corporates have every right to request for political intervention and support of their side of the story. It is rather, how the decision that was made by unnamed persons in the police hierarchy was arrived at. After all, it is clear that the police were instructed to disarm violently - but in the haze of the tear gas and gun smoke, it seems that there is no clear explanation on why and how the decision was arrived at.

The repercussions of the Marikana massacre have already started, and will continue for years to come. Sadly, as the 5 month strike this year has proven, the engagement between miners and the mining bosses continue to the toxic. And while Julius Malema's assertion that Cyril Rapamphosa is a murderer responsible for Marikana is difficult to directly justify - the moral culpability seems too strong to refute.

All in all, it is a great tragedy - for all of us.

24 September 2014

Movie: Boyhood

Boyhood is one of the most critically acclaimed movies, ever. Artistically, as a project, there has been very few with such a grand vision, and even fewer that have pulled it off. 12 years in making, the movie follows the story of a boy as he grows up from age 6 to 18 - with all characters playing the same part, and growing up together. 

But it is not only the concept. The story is simple - the characters, are no superheroes or specifically special; but it manages to stitch together an amazing story, with effectively everyday events. It is a story of a modern family I suppose - divorced parents, remarriage, step siblings, moving homes, changing friends, changing environments (from cellphones that could only text to smartphones for example) and changing music. 

As an artistic endeavour, it is amazing and deserves all the accolades it has received.

Movie: Guardians of the Galaxy

I did not know anything about this Marvel franchise - and to be honest, I was not expecting much more than a standard superhero movie. It has all the trappings of superhero movies - heroes with difficult pasts, villains that want to destroy everything, and helpless innocents to protect in between. What I was not expecting was a comedic gem intertwined with 70s and 80s music hits. Guardians of the Galaxy is not an amazing movie - but it is different to other superhero movies, and great entertainment.

13 September 2014

Movie: Lucy

I wanted to watch Lucy after the trailers, and expected the standard sci-fi plot line - a person gains super-human powers, and there is some ticking timebomb that the heroine needs to stop. That the powers come from ingesting a new synthetic super drug, and the timebomb is a set of a Korean gangsters makes this plotline a bit mundane. But where, the movie really fails is in the pseudo philosophy discussions it tries to disseminate as what holds the movie plotline together. It is scientifically dubious (to put it politely) and nowhere as compelling in other sci-fi plotlines that have tried similar tricks (Matrix comes to mind specifically). Even Morgan Freeman, as the aged genius scientist cannot really rescue this movie - the trailer is the only really good thing about it.