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Movies & Music

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You love how that orchestra goes higher and louder as the tension builds in an intense action scene. Perhaps you prefer the sensitive violin plucking in a romantic comedy, or maybe you really like how a movie can take a current hit song and use it to create a feeling that brings up certain emotions from within you.

For centuries the movies have used music, not only to serve as a background and ambience element, but to tap into your second most important sense when sitting in front of a screen, your sense of sound.

Who can ever forget that opening scene of 2004’s Closer, when Natalie Portman is walking down the crowded street, with the sound of Damien Rice’s ‘The Blower’s Daughter’ in the background? The perfect song makes for the perfect movie moment.

Many iconic directors sort of started that idea of the composed score that elevates a film and many scenes in particular, in order to fully create a feeling for the audience. Great filmmakers like Hitchcock, who single-handedly crafted the perfect thriller, and Woody Allen, who can encapsulate an entire film with a song, as he does with his opening credits, are responsible for what we expect today- great movie music.

The best of the best: lists the following as some of the greatest movie music moments…

• The Bodyguard (1992)
Let’s face it, it’s one of the corniest golden oldies out there, but few moments beat that final scene- when Whitney Houston leaps into Kevin Costner’s arms to the tear-jerking strains of ‘I Will Always Love You’.

• Drive (2011)
Despite Gosling’s star power, this film was rather underrated, especially as it was the film that truly jumpstarted Nicolas Winding Refn’s career. What’s the best moment? The re-purposing of an old track from an Italian movie ‘Goodbye Uncle Tom’ as Driver (Ryan Gosling) hunts down Nino (Ron Perlman), leading to a brutal encounter on a beach.

• Easy Rider (1969)
This movie goes hand in hand with motorcycles. Not a single person that has seen this movie will ever feel the same when hearing ‘Born To Be Wild’, ever again.

• Pulp Fiction (1994)
This movie has a rich and meaty soundtrack- it’s like the T-Bone steak of the soundtrack business. You probably don’t have to read further to know what was selected as the best music moment… John Travolta and Uma Thurman remove their shoes, enter the Jack Rabbit Slim’s Twist contest to Chuck Berry’s ‘You Never Can Tell’, and we never look back.

• William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet (1996)
Two words, ‘Kissin’ You’. Soul sister Des’ree takes it to church with the sweetly over-ripe ballad. What’s more is that it frames that iconic moment when Romeo (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Juliet’s (Claire Danes) eyes meet across a fish tank.


South Africa – The Hottest Shooting Location

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Filmmakers from around the globe are flocking to this beautiful country so they can have a million dollar background- whether that’ll be the scenic beauty of Cape Town or the bustling cityscape of Johannesburg.

For us South Africans that’s not much of a surprise- we are fully aware of how inspiring this place is.

Let’s get right into it.

Blood Diamond, Film, 2006

This film, starring headliner Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Connelly, is set during the Sierra Leone Civil War in 1996–2001. The main storyline focused on the actual ‘blood diamonds’ which are diamonds mined in African war zones and sold to finance conflicts, and thereby profit warlords and diamond companies across the world.

It was nominated for 5 Oscars, and shot in Cape Town- including the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, Port Edward, and KwaZulu-Natal. Local actors Kagiso Kuypers, David Harewood, Marius Weyers, Grant Swanby, and SA ex-pat Arnold Vosloo also made appearances.

The Giver, Film, 2014

This Sci-Fi drama tells the story of a seemingly perfect community, without war, pain, suffering, differences or choice, and a young boy chosen to learn from an elderly man about the true pain and pleasure of the “real” world. It is based on Lois Lowry’s novel of the same name.

It stars Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep, and was shot almost in its entirety in Cape Town, Paarl, and Johannesburg.

Homeland, TV Series, 2011+

This is a television series, about a bipolar CIA operations officer, played by Claire Danes, who has to deal with national challenges and terrorism regarding her homeland, the United States.

The entire fourth season, based in Islamabad and surroundings, is currently still shooting in Cape Town. It is also airing right now on DSTV, on channel 101.

A slew of local actors have made appearances, including Fiona Ramsey, Nick Boraine, James Alexander, Armand Aucamp, and Aidan Whytock.


Documentary Film – A Handful of Milestones

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In a society where reality television is an ever growing platform for documenting ‘real life’ scenarios, it is in actual fact documentary films that provide audiences with a glimpse into the real world.

The term was coined in 1926 and has developed over the years, undergoing various influences like popular culture, religion, history, and an investigative nature.

Covering an entire history of documentary films, and different iconic moments through time would mean a 100+ page thesis, so here’s a handful to get started with.

The 70s and Cinema Vérité
Also known as ‘Direct Cinema’ this period produced films that were made to document the lives of people, and made use of direct camera angles- typically handheld camera. There are two very iconic documentary films that fall into this category.

In 1973 America was hit with an up close and personal look at the modern, at that time, ‘American family’. It was a television series called An American Family and documented the daily lives of the Loud family- a mother, father and five children. The show was both praised and criticised for overstepping various boundaries by filming the deterioration of the Loud’s marriage- which included the on-camera demand for a divorce by Patricia Loud, as well as the coming out of one of their children.

Another project involving a somewhat dysfunctional family was Grey Gardens. Released in 1975 it followed the lives of Edith “Big Edie” Ewing Bouvier Beale and Edith “Little Edie” Bouvier Beale- aunt and cousin, respectively, of former U.S. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. The two lived in a dilapidated house in East Hampton and lived off very little money. They made national news and became the subject of this documentary film by the Maysles brothers.

There was a huge influx in documentary films with an investigative nature towards the end of the 80s- which has become the model for modern day documentary filmmakers. These films have gone where nobody has gone before, challenged societal rules and even exposed inaccuracies within governments and civilisation.

1990’s Paris is Burning, which chronicles the underground drag community of New York City in the 80s, highlighted a minority in society and introduced a tongue-in-cheek look at the LGBTQ community in the midst of a liberal evolution. It was filmed in its entirety in the 1980s, by Jennie Livingston.
The name Michael Moore is synonymous with the journalistic field of documentary filmmaking. His 2002 film, Bowling for Columbine, which won him the Oscar for ‘Best Documentary Feature’, focused on the Columbine High School massacre of 1999 and gun violence in North America.

Following the investigative trend, on a more environmental level, was the 2009 Oscar winner that exposed the brutal killing of dolphins in a remote seaside cove in Japan. The Cove, directed by Louie Psihoyos centred on a group of environmentalists, led by renowned dolphin trainer Ric O’Barry, and how they used state-of-the-art equipment to infiltrate and expose the bloody waters of Taijii.

2012 – Proudly South African
Perhaps it’s a broad statement but it is my belief that there is not a single South African that has not yet seen this incredible film, which documents the efforts of two Capetonians to find, and honour the forgotten American musician Sixto Rodriguez. Searching for Sugar Man was directed by the late Malik Bendjelloul- it not only won an Oscar for ‘Best Documentary Feature’, it also served as a major comeback for the musician and led to sold out tours worldwide.

It’s true, fictional film and narrative takes us to another place, but documentary film is a constant reminder that the world we live in is real; with real problems, real criminals, and really interesting inhabitants.

Written by: Johann Huebsch


The Cutting Edge – Film Editing and Famous Scenes

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Imagine Psycho without that iconic shower scene, or Raiders of the Lost Ark without the rolling boulder: editing is one of the most important aspects of putting together a film.

Editing serves to enhance the viewers viewing experience- it elevates the narrative onto another level where the action ties in with the story being told. Editing, or ‘post production’, is a crucial part to telling a story that is both visually stimulating and smooth in its narration/ progression.

In a June 2012 edition of Editors Guild Magazine a list of the seventy-five best edited films was published. The ‘Top 10’ included:

1. Raging Bull (1980)
2. Citizen Kane (1941)
3. Apocalypse Now (1979)
4. All That Jazz (1979)
5. Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
6. The Godfather (1972)
7. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
8. Jaws (1975)
9. JFK (1991)
10. The French Connection (1971)
11. Let’s take a closer look
12. Film, being something that is made to appeal to masses worldwide, does ultimately cater to personal taste. There are countless editors and film academics with their own thoughts on what makes a well edited film. Classics, like the list above, do tend to feature more as they stem from Hollywood’s golden era- when there was almost a template to which most filmmakers produced work.
13. Modern Editing Gems
14. Much like Hitchcock, Spielberg, and Kubrick, to mention but a few, modern filmmakers have proved that editing is a technique that progresses with time, and is constantly re-invented. Let’s look at these examples.
15. Gravity (2013), Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger:
Last year’s film about a medical engineer, and an astronaut, who land up adrift in the middle of space was a true cinematic marvel in many aspects, it’s editing being one of them. Think of every time the debris circulated past the protagonist, or the scene where she passes out and hallucinates about seeing George Clooney’s character again. It kept you on your toes and made you look down every now and then.
In an interview by Frame of Reference Sanger states, “Editing is story-telling. The process is always driven by the script and the Director’s vision. The story evolves from the moment the cameras first turn-over. That is part of the thrill of editing. So from a practical point of view it is always good to keep every take, performance and option freely available and to hand [so that the] director always has the flexibility and confidence to shape the story into its very best possible form.”
16. Django Unchained (2012), Fred Raskin:
This slave revenge epic, about a German bounty hunter, and a freed slave setting out to rescue his wife from a plantation owner, once again highlighted Tarantino’s signature narrative. The countless shoot ‘em up scenes, and the grand explosion at the end of the film showcase the elaborate jump cutting editing technique, that we’ve grown to love in his work.
17. Like a needle and thread does with a garment, editing ties together a film. The editor ultimately chooses what the viewer will see, and how he/ she will ‘consume’ the narrative.

Written By
Johann Huebsch