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).

26 March 2017

Amazon Video

It has been just over 3 months since the global launch of Amazon Video; and I have been a subscriber since then - initially to watch The Grand Tour - but there have been other things that have kept me paying. 

I have mostly been watching TV series but have also watched a few movies - even though I find that selection rather meagre. At least in SA. One of the interesting experiences was to see the difference in content between South Africa and Reunion - some content I had downloaded on my phone disappeared, while I had access to other content. 

I also find it strange that some of Amazon's own content is not immediately available - even if it is for an additional cost. Manchester by the Sea is the example that comes to mind, but there are other series that I have heard of but not seen on Amazon. I expect that will change over time - or at least I hope so.

 Technically, I have had few issues with streaming HD content on what is still a fairly slow 4 Mbps ADSL line - and that says a lot for Amazon's streaming codecs. I would prefer if my Nvidia Shield TV cached or otherwise downloaded content that is in my queue - but except for a few occasions, haven't had cause to complain.

26 February 2017

Movie: Hidden Figures

In a time where exclusion or special treatment, based on nationality, race, religion or sexual orientation, is a easily highlighted problem - especially with politicians promoting such exclusions - Hidden Figures manages to portray the power of inclusiveness; and what that can contribute to monumental achievements. 

Based on the true story of how a group of brilliant black women mathematicians and engineers were instrumental in NASA's space program - this is a super-charged tale of the fight against racial discrimination and gender discrimination to achieve some of the biggest achievements of humanity. 

There are some embellishments to the story - in the name of dramatisation I am sure - but it is an achievement on its own to weave the various elements into a comprehensive tale. The performance as impressive - perfectly showcasing the grit and determination required to survive, as well as the impact of the humiliation and obstacles in the way. 

In the time we live, this is what we need to remind ourselves on what diversity brings to the table; to remind ourselves what the forgotten and the disenfranchised could potentially contribute to our society if they were able to.

20 February 2017

Movie: Denial

The central plot of the movie is the libel case brought by noted holocaust denier David Irving, against American historian Deborah Lipstadt; which ends up being a great court room drama on defending the idea that the holocaust happened. 

But in the modern day news environment it highlights a larger issue - how difficult it is for truth to overcome deliberate falsehood; and how difficult it is for the lay person to identify the nuances between fake and real events. This is not about the easily overturned items that populated the tabloid press - but rather the nuanced ideas from otherwise reputable persons (as in the case of David Irving - who, according to Wikipedia still has notable biographies and historical studies to his name). We see this often with climate science denial, and previously in research into effects of smoking - deliberate misdirection and misinformation is difficult to identify, and ultimately leads to mass confusion.

Overall, Denial is an ok movie; and a great primer to the key issues of the court case. The long slog to prove something that is so well documented and researched as the Holocaust proves that the fight against fake news has a long road ahead.

18 February 2017

Movie: La La Land

I am not sure why there is such a buzz around this movie - in fact, one of the scathing reviews on IMDB manages to capture the movie in one word - insipid. The opening scene was annoying, with wooden dancing performance, and adding no value to the plot or other redeeming features. It doesn't really get better - and although Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone provide strong acting performances, their singing and dancing hardly light up the screen.
In fact, the movie is somewhat Bollywoodish as opposed to a musical - given than songs and dancing are a relatively small part of the movie - and perhaps they should have taken a leaf out of Bollywood and dubbed the singing! It's a movie about Hollywood, so, perhaps like Argo, that is the reason for all the rage. I found it uninspiring and mostly boring - I would recommend avoiding.

Movie: Lion

Some times the truth is stranger than fiction - Lion traces the remarkable story of a poor young boy in rural India who gets separated from his older brother, and ends up in Kolkata (then Calcutta). For a while he lives on the streets, but is later placed in an orphanage and thereafter adopted by an Australian couple. Years later, he starts looking for his home - now enabled by technology (Google Earth and Google in general), and is memories. 

It is a beautiful film with some really strong performances - not only by the adult lead in Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire fame) but also the performance of Sunny Pawar as the 5 year old Saroo. The story is itself moving but it more than just the story - it is the performance of the ensemble cast, the locations and finally capturing both the joys and hardships. It's somewhat strange that this move doesn't have a stronger billing ...

06 February 2017

Buskaid at the Johannesburg International Mozart Festival

For their fourth consecutive appearance at the Johannesburg International Mozart Festival, there were some substantial diversion from a traditional Buskaid recital - no Rameau for instance; and all the composers were pretty mainstream. That is not a criticism of the program; although I did think the sequencing could be enhanced.

The first piece, appropriately given the name of the festival, was Mozart's Divertimento in D Major. As in recent concerts, Buskaid are now playing more complete works, and the piece was an excellent choice in highlighting the prowess of the orchestra in general.

The next two pieces, in my mind, were the highlights of the performance - and should have been used to bring the concert to a close as the highlight performances. Mzwandile Twala, who I first saw perform with the orchestra while he was barely taller than his violin, delivered an amazing performance of Fritz Kreisler's Preludium and Allegro. I have only heard one other performance - Itzhak Perlman's on YouTube, and the experience of hearing the performance at Buskaid was better! It was followed up by Kabelo Monnathebe's performance of Ralph Vaughn William's The Lark Ascending - yet another amazing solo performance.

The first half closed with Shostakovich's "Five Pieces", a selection of joyful pieces from his vast collection of compositions, which were re-arranged for string performances with dual soloists from the ensemble. 

The second half started off with yet another full work - Grieg's Holberg Suite, before moving to some vocal and kwela pieces. As part of the kwela, was a lovely orchestral hymn dedicated to the recently deceased driver for the Buskaid - which I think should have been featured as part of the main program itself. 

The kwela section often introduces new members to the ensemble, and this occasion was no different.  It does raise the question though - should Buskaid members not consider building their own professional orchestra? It is the 20th anniversary of the Buskaid, and perhaps the right legacy is building an orchestra that not only teaches music but also performs music for the masses on a regular basis - and one that can not only bring western classical music to Africa; but that can take African music to the world.

01 February 2017

Movie: Manchester by the Sea

While there are movies that explore heartache and grief, Manchester by the Sea manages to explore it in such an intense set of layers, that it is good that the story is fictional - one man surely does not deserve that much bad luck. But more than grief, it also explores the intractability of a community that is just not able to forgive - even when it is a mistake - something that comes up again and again with released prisoners who have served their time. It is slow and sad - but somewhat surprisingly a great cinematic experience.

22 January 2017

Viennese New Year's Concert

It's a few weeks into the new year, but the Viennese New Year's Concert is slowly becoming a tradition in Joburg's classical music calendar as part of the Johannesburg International Mozart Festival. It was a rather empty Linder Auditorium, but the concert had a great line up of mostly Strauss featuring a few waltzes, a few dances by Joburg Ballet and two amazing (vocal) soloists. It was a good selection of classical music to kick off the year.