We went You-Tubin'. Actors being interviewed while on drugs: Richard Pryor promoting STIR CRAZY while high on cocaine, and the always fascinating Crispin Glover on Letterman appearance. Then the SNL audition of Phil Hartman. (Who probably was sober, but who knows?)
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The Steven King novel. "Sometimes, an accident can be an unhappy woman's best friend". Looked a little dated but still a very good adaptation. Cathy Bates was excellent playing lead, Christopher Plummer mananged to make me hate the detective character, Jennifer Jason Leigh looked a little too 90's, this time round, but Judy Parfitt was wonderful as Vera, the bitter old madam. Labelled as a 'womans film', it still worked for me. Good late night TV.
District 9 opened in Johannesburg last night -- had to be there, in fact I bought literally the last seat remaining at The Zone 1. The place was absolutely packed, it’s a very long time since I’ve seen that here. So many movie houses have closed down.
On the way out, I bumped into a couple of mates, also journalists. We agreed -- a teensie-weensie bit sanitised, maybe, and we’ve all seen weirder things on the street, but this was definitely the Jo’burg that we know and love. I stayed to the end of the credits, I was very amused to see that this movie was partly sponsored by the South African Department of Trade and Industry, but they wished to stress that they didn’t endorse its content... I REALLY wonder what any prospective tourist for the World Cup in 2010 would make of this flick.
We saw this movie coming a while back on this board, didn’t we. I can only say, South Africa has one of the oldest movie industries in the world -- I think second only to Hollywood -- but this is basically the first proper South African movie I’ve ever seen. This is exactly what it’s like here. I mean, exactly so. Tak tochno.
The only thing that was missing was a really big Highveld thunderstorm, would have been great sparking off that ship. The scientific study of lightning started in Johannesburg, we have amazing electricity in the air here.
The cleverest part of the movie is the stuff they don’t explain. The aliens are called “prawns”. Now everyone in Johannesburg knows this is a reference to the Parktown Prawn -- everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, hates Parktown Prawns. They are truly hideous, huge, cricket-like insects that come burrowing into your house through any possible aperture after it has rained. They eat slugs, and if you agitate them they squirt you with a truly foul black sludge. (Very clearly referenced in the movie!) Everyone I know has evolved their own way of dealing with The Prawns, which are totally indestructible -- a cartoon here had someone trying to spray them with insecticide, and the Prawns are saying, hey cool, take a sniff of this, but you really gotta inhale to get the best kick.
The world expert on Parktown Prawns is an environmental writer called James Clarke, who authors a column called Stoep Talk in the local paper. About ten years ago he explained that Parktown Prawns are a mutation that occurred deep in the mineshafts of Johannesburg, where they secretly buried nuclear waste. This is why they always come up from underground, they actually tunnelled out of the bunkers. He also explained something that only real old-time Jo’burgers know, that they’re not really Parktown Prawns, they originally surfaced in a neighbouring suburb and they are actually Parkhurst Prawns. There’s a big difference between Parktown and Parkhurst. The best party my punk band The Honkies ever played at, was in Parkhurst in the late 80s. It was a very, very, very way out, and very very famous affair -- I still meet people who talk about That Party In Parkhurst. I’m sure there were a few people from other planets there. It is definitely the right suburb for aliens to emerge from the bowels of the earth.
So I have a small claim to fame here. Because I am the only person I know of, who actually stood up for The Prawns. Because they are genuinely a subject of universal hate speech in Johannesburg (the other is taxi drivers). A truly execrable radio station here called Highveld Stereo once ran a series of TV ads, all based on Prawn hatred. One ad involved someone trying to machine-gun a Prawn, which always keeps escaping, to the tune I’m Still Standing, while the house gets blown to bits.
But the ad which really got my goat was one set to Phil Collins’s I Can Feeling It Coming, a really strange ad. This was also flighted in movie houses, must have been about ten years ago. It showed a weird lady locking and bolting her door -- real Johannesburg affair, lots and lots of bolts. But she’s being watched by a Prawn. Finally, she feels safe and settles down and takes a bite of some toast. Just before she pops it in her mouth, the Prawn excretes a blob of black sludge on it, it was waiting for the right moment. Just a really nasty little image.
It’s a nasty little radio station, which models itself on those really nasty American radio stations where they tell obscene jokes and there’s lots of cackling in the studio. So I decided I was offended by this ad, and I wrote to the Advertising Standards Authority. I said -- when I go to the movies, I don’t want to see disgusting images of insects shitting on food that people then put in their mouths. I said, it’s just gross. And I said -- it’s actually a nasty little ad, it shows how everyone here feels unsafe and locks themselves in, and then projects The Prawn as the enemy within, it’s all a very nasty take on a very nasty South African reality. And I said, everyone picks on the poor Prawns, everyone hates them. Everyone is entitled to kill them by whatever means they can. This is not such a joke in a place where so many people get killed every day.
So I explained -- they’re actually very useful in your garden, as James Clarke pointed out. They eat all the slugs that destroy your plants. And I said, I seem to be the only person who knows how to deal with them. (Really, it was a big dinner-party conversation piece -- how do YOU kill Prawns?) I said, I just put a plastic bag over my hand, if you approach them gently they don’t jump (they are ferocious jumpers, it has to be said) and I catch them “softly softly” and put them outside in the garden where they belong. I said, no one will believe me, but they never squirt if you do it gently enough. I really never had problems with Prawns. I can say it, I actually quite like Prawns, they are the real Jo’burgers of the insect world.
I couldn’t tell the Advertising Standards Authority that the real secret is to TALK to your Prawn -- I would always say, “Hello, Prawn, well, I know this is a nice house but really, you belong outside in the garden, so just stay calm, and I’ll pick you up and put you there.” It really works, if you ever encounter a Prawn, try it.
I said -- I wonder if Phil Collins knows that his quite moving song, is being set to make its big moment the image of an insect shitting on someone’s food? I wonder if he approves of this imagery?
Anyway, I don’t remember what the ruling was, but they withdrew that ad. I never saw it again.
But there you go. Prawns have rights too, believe it or not. Go and see the movie.
However -- I really have to point out one thing. Because there is some real, real edge to this film, if you’re watching with your eyes open. The people trading in alien weaponry in this movie -- are Nigerians. And Nigerians feature pretty large in the whole scenario. I don’t want to give the game away, but if you start thinking “muti”, or “medicine”, and eating alien body parts in order to acquire certain powers -- this is all very real around here, there are “muti” killings every day, and bits of people’s bodies are used in potions -- well, it’s pretty explosive to link it with the Nigerians.
But even the Nigerian embassy here warned the public, there are many criminals among the hordes of Nigerians who descended on Johannesburg, bringing a blizzard of cocaine and heavy weaponry. While that movie was being made, there were real “xenophobic” riots in Jo’burg, and I think about 50 people were killed countrywide in an orgy of anti-foreigner violence (although more than a few South Africans were also killed -- the first victim was actually a local, shot dead for not joining a lynch mob in Alexandra township here, in a way which made me seriously suspect that this whole “xenophobia” thing was being manipulated by shadowy forces in the background. A largely untold story from that first night was how the citizens of Alexandra township here, aka Dark City, actually banded together to protect the foreigners in their midst). But most of the foreigners killed were Mozambicans, Somalis and Zimbabweans, I think. Not a single Nigerian was killed, as it happens. Because the Nigerians here are really, really scary, and are really armed to the teeth. They took over several entire major suburbs almost literally overnight, followed by prostitution and drug dealing. It’s all there, if you watch. There’s a lot more truth to that movie than I was expecting.
There were a lot of laughs from the audience, especially at the beginning, I think people really related to Wikus van der Merwe, our first true Afrikaner trans-species superhero. Let me tell you, honestly and truly, I’ve seen more than a few civil servants in Pretoria with that funny reptilian look in the eye he gets at the end. At the end, there was scattered applause, and I could feel, it really did work here. This is what the moviemaker was hoping for. It’s so funny to see your home town in a movie for the first time (I mean, I’ve seen Jo’burg films before, but they never did it for me). There’s a funny, hard light here -- I helped take a top National Geographic photographer around Jo’burg in about 2001, and he told me what many other cameramen and women have, which is that it’s a very difficult light to shoot in, especially in winter, we have these bright blue skies and hard white light. But it looks great in this movie, especially when it makes that great big ship hovering over the city look almost invisible -- but it’s there, it really is, if you look carefully.
And there’s one very big message in the film. I’ll Be Back. There will HAVE to be a District 10. I can’t wait. Apparently -- if the alien Christopher is to be believed -- it’s going to take about three years.
it's all downhill from here
and there will be no safety zone
Thank you so much for this post, Amigo!
You rock, as usual.
Meanwhile, I watched The Cove for the second time.
The more I think about it, the more 'cyberpunk' it feels : this is pure high-tech media-guerilla.
From the freedivers secretly planting hydrophones, to Ric O'Barry (dolphin trainer superstar from the sixties) standing in the middle of the Shibuya intersection with a LCD screen velcroed to his chest.
After the movie, members of the WSPA were handing out flyers attacking the Vancouver Aquarium and his dolphin-related practices.
For now, the aquarium tried to downplay the movie by claiming it was packed with misinformation.
I wonder how this is going to go.
I hope the aquarium gets rid of all their whale/dolphin shows. It's just distasteful, and they know it.
Back home, I caught up with True Blood, which is spectacularly good.
I'll watch District 9 for the third time tomorrow.
First time for Mrs GL.
Albert's path is a strange and difficult one.
I'm with Arkan, that was a fantastic post, Amigo. Love hearing the Johannesburg insiders view.
Looking to escape reality at every turn.
Shows that there are exceptions. Some people can be so skillful that they're able to direct children and actually make them act in a convincing way on a screen. And good.
The butcher with the sharpest knife has the warmest heart.
LET THE RIGHT ONE IN - yes!
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Amigo, thanks for the review and background info. Always good to read you.
Nurturing my inner clown.
"I do great literary theremin.”-Gibson
Another big thanks for the D-9 review by Amigo de Casa!
The Good Times Kid - Somehow this reminds me a lot of Richard Linklater films. Very low tech, sometimes grainy as they push past the limits of the film shooting in the dark and such, and nothing really happening except characters interacting. Basically, two guys with the same name get crossed by the Army such that they show up at enlistment together. The older one follows the younger one home and gets dragged into his life accidentally.
Inglorious Basterds - funny, intentionally and unintentionally, but what a bad movie.
Birth, School, Work, Death
That is a shame, I think I am going to see that tomorrow.
Amigo, very nice post. Thanks for that insight. I can't wait to see it.
Amigo - thanks for the write up; quality intro but i'm gonna save the restuntil after seeing it at the cinema next week; UK screening 4th Sept
Burn After Reading
Really didn't know what to expect from this one, but being a Coen brothers fan, i went in blind. Wow, i was LOLing all the way through. The abrupt ending was kinda strange as there aren't that many 90 minute films around these days - i was disappointed as i was so much enjoying the characters. Brad Pitt's gym jock role was so funny, whilst Clooney carried his part of effortlessly (could have been written for him) alongside the heavyweight cast; Frances McDormand's twisty face, Malkovich's madness. A very good film, IMO.
perfect getaway - latest from director david twohy, who did pitch black. a thriller following a newly wed couple on a holiday trail on hawaii where another newly wed couple have been murdered. there are a couple of other couples, who are set up as suspects. i don't know, its watchable enough, but its not exciting or thrilling, there was nothing especially surprising about it. doesn't help there was another film recently which essentially had the same "twist".
i love you beth cooper - geeky guy at graduation realises that school is over and he never even spoke to beth cooper, head cheerleader, who he "loves". so he uses his graduation speech to declare his love, setting off a series of comedic events. some of its pretty funny, some of its not really surprising. i believe its based on a book? but still kind of feels like a vehicle for hayden "heroes" panetere to branch out, and in the way of these things i guess she does a decent job.
the ugly truth - relationship comedy with katherine heigl and gerard butler, as tv producer and controversial tv presenter. its by the book to a large degree, some nice touches, reasonably watchable.
shorts - latest kids film by robert rodriquez, in the style of his spy kids films. a community is built up around the black box company, the company responsible for the all in one device - mp3 player, phone, camera, toaster, baby monitor, and all. head of company wants to make an even better box, but things are complicated by the appearance of a rainbow coloured wishing rock. it kind of reminds of "eerie, indiana", lots of characters, and quirks. its a lot of fun.
aliens in the attics - another kids film, i guess in a way its a classic of the genre, fits in there with stuff like toy soldiers. extended family meet at holiday home, which has been invaded by aliens. the aliens have mind control devices... but they don't work on children. battle between children and aliens ensues. its decent fun.
totoro - lost count of how many times i've seen this, it just delights me every time.
Finished the first season of The Mighty Boosh and was highly amused by it. So silly. The Mod Wolves may have been my fav. moment.
Looking to escape reality at every turn.
OLDBOY - love seeing people's first time reactions to this one!
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Jersey Girl. Wasn't as bad I has had been lead to believe. I'd never watched it, even though I am a big Kevin Smith fan, mainly as I have big issues with Ben Affleck (God he made me hate Chasing Amy!), and that was intensified by J-Lo also being in it.
But, it was nice. Very un-Kevin Smith, but a nice way to pass a couple of hours snuggled up with a snuffly baby.. And I didn't even hate Ben Affleck that much. Enjoyed the Jason Lee (phwoar) and Matt Damon cameo, even if all I can see when I see Matt Damon now, is that "I'm fucking Matt Damon" sketch!
Defying Gravity 1x05 and 1x06 - Personally I'm finding it pretty interesting. The constant, constant flashbacks can be kind of annoying though. I'd kind of like one episode where they just stay in the present the whole time... I doubt I will get my wish. They're easily as married to the format as Lost was.
heavyboots... what kind of series is it? Is it worth looking it up?
Philip K. Dick is dead, alas!
went and saw it anyway.
Awful movie, some SCENES were very good. In particular the opening sequence between Christoher Waltz and Denis Menochet is tense and as subtle as any I have seen. It goes downhill from there. Pitt is interesting, and the only really fully developed character thanks to his monologues about himself and the mysterious 'hang 'em high' style scar on his neck that is never explained, nor even mentioned, while you are left to wonder about its origins.
Another excellent scene featuring Michael Fassbender and Til Schweiger (BTW awesome to see him again since I last got the chance to watch this crazy bastard in SLC Punk) takes place in a basement bar.
In the end you realize that Tarantino is a guy who can write and direct amazing SCENES but in the end his movie as a whole falls short because he is just a terrible storyteller. The script is silly, the plot is non-sensical, and half the time you are checking your watch and thinking that a refill on the popcorn sounds good about now.
There was also the point, after a brutal attack on a theater packed with women and children, that you are left to wonder why you are cheering on a terrorist attack that we would have condemn should we have seen it on CNN. But don't dwell on that, really this movie isn't worth that much deep thought.
We found exactly the opposite, that we hadn't noticed at all that it was 2.5 hours long.
And the concept of a Jewish revenge fantasy that incinerates a couple hundred of the people most responsible for the mass incineration of Jews, women notwithstanding (I didn't notice any children?) doesn't really give me much pause. A. it's a comic book approach, like most Tarantino violence, and B. it's really nothing in the context of a war that saw the Blitz, the firebombing of Dresden, and Hiroshima, all of which targeted civilians.