Oscar nominees… In LEGO!

I saw this a couple weeks back and I simply can’t resist posting… It’s the Academy Award best picture nominees, built out of Lego!

The artist, Alex Eylar, has a super-cool flickr page where you can trawl through some more of the creations. In no particular order (other than alphabetical), the best picture nominees are…

127 Hours

127 Hours

Black Swan

Black Swan

Inception

Inception

More after the jump…

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Haul out the holy water for the first Afrikaans vampire film…

You know, I thought we’d have been done with one vampire movie out of South Africa in a 12-month cycle. (Everybody remember Eternity?) But no, there’s another local vampire film – and this one’s in Afrikaans.*

From the two teaser clips posted so far, this film actually looks like it could be pretty cool. You know, in a completely over-the-top, insane kinda way. Lots of blood and gore (I’m unlikely to look at Francois van Coke in the same way ever again). Plus, Rob van Vuuren in a vampire film? Genius. I’m sold. It’s supposed to be pretty rock ‘n roll, really gritty… Bring it on. (Just for the love of all things, please sub-edit your subtitles so that there aren’t glaring spelling/grammar errors like another South African movie I watched recently…!)

Anyway, the coolest thing about Bloedsuiers (that’s the working title, apparently) is not its storyline or its cast. What interests me the most is its plan for funding… They’re working on an idea gaining momentum in the US and Europe called “crowd funding”. And yes, it’s actually exactly what it sounds like.

Basically, fans (potential fans?) pledge an amount to donate to production. In the case of Bloedsuiers it can be as little as R30 (that’s a little over $4 for my American readers) – although I’m sure the larger the better. Obviously the producers aren’t relying only on the generosity of the fans (and with the Budget announced today, I’m feeling distinctly ungenerous and financially very jumpy) and will also be seeking private funding – but it’s a cool concept. Fans who donate will be rewarded with exclusive content and merchandise opportunities – so there’s more incentive than just being able to claim that you helped finance a movie. (And I would totally claim that).

* Anybody else waiting for an SABC version of True Blood? You know that’s next on the list, right?

The Invite everybody wants…

Having been thrown into an interesting position recently (as in, my best friend – all the way from high school days – has set a date for her wedding and I’m her maid of honour), I’ve found myself somewhat more aware of certain things. Like veils. Potential places for hen parties. Table overlays. Wedding invitations. And then, the biggest invitation of the entire year rolls around and my response was…. *yawn*

To be fair, the British royal family is hardly known for its (overt) wild ways or tendency to break with tradition. So a nice, clean, white invitation with pretty curly writing and a little gold on it wasn’t ever going to go amiss.

Ladies and gentlemen, if you’re lucky enough to be one of the 1900 people close enough to Prince William and Kate Middleton to receive an invitation to their wedding, this is what you would find in your mailbox…

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Reviewed: 127 Hours

127 Hours

James Franco as Aron Ralston in "127 Hours".

Originally published on iafrica.com

Much like 2003’s Phone Booth, the strength in 127 Hours lies in the intensity of its star’s performance. And James Franco’s performance will go down as one of the greatest of a generation.

The film – helmed by Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle – is based on the remarkable true story of Aron Ralston, an avid hiker and mountain climber who becomes trapped underneath a boulder while on a solo hiking expedition in a Utah canyon. To free himself, he amputates his arm using a blunt Leatherman knockoff, still managing to hike around eight miles before he’s finally rescued.

The beauty of this film is not in the plot. Ralston’s story is well-known and the film itself is based on Ralston’s autobiography Between a Rock and a Hard Place. But Boyle manages to take an almost legendary story and film it in such a way that even though you know he’s going to be okay, your heart is in your mouth for most of the film. It’s terrifying, awe-inspiring and a truly intense experience.

Even though the majority of 127 Hours is filmed in a cramped, dusty space, Boyle manages to keep the film moving at a rollicking pace. The movie starts imbued with a sense of pure joy – Ralston loves what he does, and he’s such a frequent hiker he doesn’t even bother to tell anybody where he’s going anymore. He runs into two female hikers and leads them on a side-trip to a massive waterhole, before jogging back over the mountains on his way. “I don’t think we figured in his day at all,” they quip – and it’s true.

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I might just Hold It Against You, Britney…

Seeing as my last post caused a bit of a stir, how about something light and fluffy?

And it doesn’t get any lighter and fluffier than Ms Britney Spears’ new music video for her single Hold It Against Me. Watch the video below, then I’ll put in my five cents after the jump…

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What does Justin Bieber know about rape? Or abortion?

Justin Bieber's Rolling Stone cover

Justin Bieber on the cover of Rolling Stone.

You know, I was going to let this go. But I don’t think I can.

What. The. Fuck?

In case you haven’t seen it yet, Justin Bieber gave an interview to Rolling Stone recently in which he expressed opinions on abortion, abortion in the case of rape, sex before marriage, politics, drugs, greed, success, religion and homosexuality.

See Rollingstone.com’s “Tao of Justin Bieber”.

To be fair, it’s not all bad. He has some pretty cool things to say. Not very many, but let’s be fair. On homosexuality, “It’s everyone’s decision to do that. It doesn’t affect me and shouldn’t affect anyone else”. Props.  On his “power”, he says, “I don’t think of myself as powerful. If anything, my fans are powerful. It’s all in their hands. If they don’t buy my albums, I go away.” (I’m restraining myself from making a snarky comment. Be proud.)

But then there are some absolute humdingers. Like his opinions on abortion. And unwanted pregnancies as a result of rape. And this makes me very, very angry – for two different reasons.

Number one was my immediate reaction. What on god’s earth does this 16-year-old kid even understand about abortion. About the debates surrounding abortion. His response is stock-standard. “I really don’t believe in abortion,” he told the interviewer. “It’s like killing a baby.” Okay, that’s fine. I have my beliefs on abortion, you have yours. But he carried on to put his foot in it when he was asked by the interviewer if abortion after a rape was okay. His answer made my blood boil. Continue reading

Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”

The music world has been talking about this for months – from the moment she first belted out a few lyrics at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards to her “New Year’s announcement on Twitter”… Let’s be honest, nobody knows how to hype up her fanbase like Lady Gaga.

And now it’s finally here – the first single off her highly, highly anticipated album of the same name. It’s Born This Way.

Listen to it below, then I’ll have my ten cents.

The danger of over-hyping a song is obvious. When it drops, it’s going to be scrutinised to the absolute last. And it’s happened here with Gaga. Born This Way will undoubtedly be one of the big club anthems of 2011 – but real-life music critics (a) Not the drunken crowd at a bar at 3am or b) myself) are divided.

On first listen, it seemed a little average to me – well, average for Gaga but miles and miles above the over-produced Britney single Hold It Against Me – but on a second listen, the song clicked. Yes, it could come across as a little preachy but my god, is she sincere about what she’s singing. She truly writes from the heart, and even though they may get lost in the thumping dance beats, the lyrics are hands-down the strong point of the single.

And of course, the inevitable Madonna comparisons. It draws inspiration from the spoken-word segments of Vogue, sounds very much like Express Yourself and even has a bit of a Like a Prayer mixed in at times. And in an artist who is constantly trying to outdo the crowd and prove she’s wildly original, it seems to be a bit of a slip. Gaga and her team definitely knew what they were doing – Gaga repeatedly refers to Madonna as one of her icons, and she’s no idiot – she would have seen the similarities. So no, I don’t think it’s a “rip off”, no matter how much the Twitter-sphere got their panties in a bunch. It’s a tribute in the purest form, and entrenches Gaga as the Madonna of this generation.

And now I’m dying to see the actual video – because I reckon we’re going to be blown out of the water.

What’s with all the sequels, Hollywood?

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

The Geologist and I went to see Joel & Ethan Coen’s True Grit last night, (great acting, directing and cinematography – but where did the rest of the Oscar nominations come from?!) which reminded me of a Moviefone blog post that I stumbled across recently.

Basically, they spoke to a handful of actors and filmmakers at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and asked them what they would change about Hollywood. And the answers were largely the same – and something that’s a major gripe of mine. Filmmakers and studios need to be more original, take greater risks with the material they produce and – for the love of all things good and holy – stop churning out remakes, sequels and franchise films.

If you look at the list of films scheduled for release in South Africa in 2011, you’ll notice it’s jam-packed with sequels with ridiculously large numbers (Saw 7, Pirates of the Caribbean 4, Scream 4, Kung Fu Panda 2, The Hangover 2, Transformers 3, Cars 2, Spy Kids 4, Final Destination 5, Paranormal Activity 3), remakes and adaptations (The Green Hornet, The Green Lantern, Thor, Captain America, Water for Elephants, Footloose, The Three Musketeers, Never Let Me Go and Let Me In) and other, massive franchise films (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part One, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two and X-Men: First Class). *

And it all boils down to money, really. Studios know that no matter how crap the sequel is, if the first film was good enough, people will stream into cinemas and wave their wallets around. Look at Transformers 2 – where even the cast and crew involved reckoned it was a load of rubbish. So it’s a safe bet – why spend $20-million funding an original film, no matter how amazing the cast/crew/script, when you can splash out $100-million on a big-budget remake and/or sequel and just watch the money roll right on in? Continue reading

Hollywood paycheques: Men vs. Women

Jack Sparrow

Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow

A colleague of mine pointed out something interesting yesterday.

In the top 20 of Vanity Fair’s list of the top 40 earners in Hollywood there are only two women. In the entire top 40? Only six. Six out of 40. And not one in the top ten.

Reese Witherspoon was the lowest lady on the list at number 36 with R106-million earned in 2010. Katherine Heigl clocked in at 33 with R117-million, America’s sweetheart Sandra Bullock claimed 22 with R160-million and was pipped to the post by Angelina Jolie, who earned R171-million.

In the top twenty former Friends star Jennifer Aniston (seriously, how does this girl keep getting movie deals?) who raked in R179-million last year. And the highest rated woman? Twilight Saga star Kristen Stewart, who snatched 13th place on the list of the top earners in 2010 with R208-million.

Let’s put this in perspective. The top earner was James Cameron, who earned R1.8-billion last year. Granted he lucked out with that tiny movie he made about blue people last year, but my mind actually warps when I try to picture having that amount of money in my bank account. (Jim, if you’re listening – I’m putting my younger brother through university and I could happily use one hundred thousandth of your earnings. Seriously.)

But comparing Cameron and Stewart isn’t helpful. He wrote, directed and produced Avatar, so naturally he’d have a claim to a lot more money than any of the actors he cast in it. So the highest actor on the list? Johnny Depp, at position two. Captain Jack Sparrow himself earned a massive R729-million last year – he scooped R291-million for starring in Alice and Wonderland.

So the divide between the highest paid actor and the highest paid actress? A cool R521-million.

The great divide

Yes, I know it’s Johnny Depp and he’s, well, Johnny Depp. I love the guy to pieces. But the Twilight Saga is the thirteenth highest-grossing film franchise of all time. And The Twilight Saga: Eclipse? The third film in the franchise was the sixth-highest grossing movie of 2010. It’s not like Kristen Stewart and company aren’t raking in the cash!

If we’re looking at big names, there are no two bigger on the list than Angelina Jolie and Depp. And hey! They starred in a movie together – The Tourist – which the critics absolutely loathed. And she earned a whole million dollars less than he did for the film. And it’s Angelina-freaking-Jolie!

Surely there’s something wrong here, right? It’s clear that women are getting paid a whackload less than men are – whatever the “official” reasons are, I have no idea. Not being a Hollywood bigwig myself, I can’t provide justifications for why this happens. If you do know, then let me in on the secret please.

But the numbers really, really don’t lie. Where Johnny Depp earns a R255-million fee for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Kristen Stewart earns a combined R182-million fee for both parts of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn. And at the moment, I’d feel they are both ridiculously bankable stars. (Just ask the millions of Twi-hards chomping at the bit for the next vampire love fest).

It’s the Hollywood Boys’ Club, I’m afraid. Much as women don’t get paid nearly as much as their male counterparts, they also don’t get nearly as many award nominations when it comes awards season – particularly for directing … which is a rant for another day.

Reviewed: ‘Black Swan’

Black Swan movie posterOriginally published on iafrica.com.

Natalie Portman delivers the stand-out female performance of 2010 in the breathtaking psychological thriller Black Swan – a film which is at once wickedly sexy and deeply disturbing.

Directed by Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan is set against the backdrop of a prestigious New York dance company and their performance of the classic ballet Swan Lake. It is, as Vincent Cassell’s character says, a ballet that has been “done to death … but not like this”. Not like this indeed. It is the intention of Cassell’s character – sexy, ruthless dance director Thomas – to strip the ballet and make it more visceral, and it’s something that Aronofsky parallels in his direction of the film.

Black Swan tells the story of Nina Sayers, an immensely fragile ballerina with only one goal – absolute perfection. She spends hours alone in the studio and in front of the mirror at home, refining her technique. The only world she knows outside of the studio is the cramped apartment she shares with her proud and overprotective mother, played by Barbara Hershey. When Thomas announces that Nina will be the ballet’s Swan Queen – and will dance the demanding dual role of the Black and White Swans – we watch her already fragile state of mind begin to fracture further. She is constantly reminded that she is too innocent, too uptight to successfully dance the Black Swan – despite Thomas’ attempts to seduce her and his encouragement that she explores her as yet untapped sexuality. The presence of the free-spirited and wildly sexy Lily (Mila Kunis in a charged performance) only pushes Nina further over the edge, as she convinces herself that Lily is out to steal her role.

Superbly cast, intensely filmed and set to an exquisite score by Clint Mansell, Aronofsky has pulled together a powerhouse of talent to produce Black Swan. The outstanding supporting performances by Kunis, Cassell and Hershey and a brief but terrifyingly memorable appearance by Winona Ryder make this one of the best cast films of 2010. Aronofsky and his cinematographer, Matthew Libatique – who worked with Aronofsky on Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain – combine uncomfortable close-ups, shaky hand-held shots and epic wide-screen shots to create a charged atmosphere that doesn’t relax for even a frame.

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