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Top Ten Movies with... Tom Marais

Tom Marais Top Ten Movies

Tom Marais is a diligent, humble and talented award-winning South African cinematographer and entrepreneur. Tom brings his unique creative vision and immense talent to every project and is able to adapt to the format as a visual storyteller.

An AFDA graduate and member of the South African Society of Cinematographers, Marais has trail-blazed his way across the local film industry with a series of beautifully crafted feature films, such as: Ballade vir 'n Enkeling, Hard To Get, iNumber Number and Roepman. The prolific cinematographer has a wealth of experience and already has three feature films scheduled for release this year, including: Free State, Hatchet Hour and My Father's War.

Tom has also filmed top television dramas, including: Soul City, Home Affairs, Intersexions and Jacob’s Cross. His commercial work includes clients such as: MTN, DSTV, VUZU, FNB, Nashua Mobile and Kilimanjaro Premium Lager, among many others. He was also one of the early collaborators to shoot music videos for South African musicians such as Lebo M, Skwatta Kamp and Klopjag.

Marais is a regular contender at the SAFTAs, having won two Golden Horns and numerous accolades at Kyknet's Silverskerm Festival, SASC Visual Spectrum and AFDA's alumni. A world class talent, it seems like only a matter of time before Marais breaks into the international film scene. We managed to catch up with him to find out, which films inspire him and discover his Top Ten Movies.

"It's like watching an Indiana Jones
film, set in space." [on Star Trek]

I can't watch movies without...

- Good sound and good images! Quality is extremely important to me, and I'm not referring to the latest and greatest gimmicky digital enhancements, but the way I believe the filmmaker intended for me to enjoy it.

Which famous people share your birthday?

- I am very proud to share my birthday with the one-and-only Mr. Jack Black! And one of my favourite and much appreciated film directors David Fincher was also born on the 28th of August. Also I am very lucky to share my birthday with a talented local beauty, actress Donnalee Roberts. [28 Aug]

What is the first film you remember watching?

- I can remember a trip to the Sterland in Pretoria to watch the movie E.T. by Steven Spielberg and I loved it so much that my Aunt Salie decided to spoil me with an actual E.T. doll!! Which I still have by the way!

What's the worst movie you've ever seen?

- No doubt: The Holy Mountain. Sad to say I got it from a close filmmaker friend and still not sure if it was a prank or not, but it is a holy load of s**t!

Which movies have made you tearful?

- Any blêrrie Pixar movie, the last one was Inside Out, I cried about 3 times! They are brilliant story-telling experiences!

Tom Marais Top Ten Movies

Who is the most famous movie star you've ever met?

- Locally? Let’s just go with one of the most starstruck moments in my career. I guess that would be when I met Ian Roberts on the Bakgat! film set. I was a huge fan of the SABC '80s TV show, Arende, in which Ian played the infamous character Sloet Steenkamp as I was growing up, so that was a big one.

What's your favourite movie line?

- I have never been very good at remembering movie lines, or lyrics or people's names unfortunately.

Who would you choose to play you in your biopic?

- Chris Pratt! Because... I guess I like his sense of humor, and I wish I had hair like his!

If you could produce a movie, what would it be about?

- The list of ideas is way too long. It would definitely be a popcorn movie, involving some kind of crazy adventure romance set somewhere in our beautiful South Africa.

Tom Marais Top Ten Movies

Finally, your top ten movies of all-time...

Ten is obviously only scratching the surface, so I will revert to my "I Would Watch These Movies Anytime" list for inspiration. These are my top 10 movies I can watch no matter what mood I am in and no matter how many times I have seen it.

And now in no particular order...

- Back to the Future ...is such an interesting phenomenon. It's a film we all grew up with, enjoyed as children and now as an adult I watch it and I just marvel at the perfect execution of such an original story. In my opinion, the perfect movie! Robert Zemeckis is a genius and I watch all of his work. He's one of the few masters that really understand the art of telling a story through pase and camera movement, when to cut and when not to. When he builds tension, no matter who you are, you are sitting on the edge of your seat.

- Fight Club ...I think I watched this film about 7 times on the big screen, I was at film school and it melted my brain! I loved the cinematography and I guess just about everything else in that movie... crazy perfection!

- The Big Lebowski ...need I say more than "I'll take it away from you, stick it up your ass and pull the f**king trigger 'til it goes 'click'"? (laughs) I am a big Coen brothers fan, and love Roger Deakins who shot most of their films. This is my favorite comedy. 

- Drive ...talk about how the score and cinematography can be in perfect harmony... tell a story without the aid of unnecessary dialogue. A masterpiece!

- The Incredibles ...can’t wait to watch this movie with my children over and over and over again. Too much fun.

- Princess Mononoke ...I guess this is my idea of the perfect fairy tale. Such a beautiful story, layered with real-life situations, under the veil of fantasy.

- There Will Be Blood ...probably the closest I'll get to ever watching an opera. I've never been so conflicted about loving and hating a main character like this, all at once. Loved the art direction and cinematography.

- True Grit ...my favourite Western, by my favourite cinematographer. It's also not a typical Coen brothers story line, but I loved how plain and simple the story is and just how beautifully it was executed.

- Star Trek ...I’m a really big sci-fi fan and this is one of my favourites. I wish there were more movies like these. It's like watching an Indiana Jones film, set in space. Also love the dynamic energy and I'll watch anything with Eric Bana in it.

- In the Mood for Love ...I think this is the first movie that made me consciously aware of how beautiful images can influence your mood and tell a love story, very creatively. This movie is the epitome of visual poetry to me.

Honourable mentions: Fifth Element, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, The Matrix, Amelie, Avatar, Contact, Fargo, Pulp Fiction, Se7en and Stoker.

Top Ten Movies with... is a people series on SPL!NG, featuring a host of celebrities ranging from up-and-coming to established personalities from all industries including, but not limited to: Internet, Radio, TV, Film, Music, Art and Entrepreneurs. It's a chance to discover who they are, find out where they're at and to get a fun inside look at their taste in movies.

Top Ten Movies with... Spling

Spling Top Ten Movies | Photo: Casey Crafford

Stephen Aspeling, better known as Spling, is a South African movie critic, who was born in Cape Town. A child of the '80s, his love for film started with animation, replaying films like Dumbo and Dot and the Kangaroo to the point that the psychedelic elephant dance and bunyip still haunt him today. The nickname "Spling" was derived at school, mostly from his surname and also from the spring in his step... (ironically, something to do with a tight Achilles tendon).

The nickname stuck and followed him to Grahamstown, where he attended Kingswood College as a boarder. Between watching the odd movie in the common room and at the old-fashioned Odeon cinema, his love for film buoyed as his dream of becoming a movie critic began to take root. After completing a B.A. degree with a focus on Film, Media & Visual Studies at UCT and getting by as a copywriter for a couple of years, Spling started Spling.co.za in 2007, reviewing a film a day for a year.

After gaining some traction as an online movie critic, he started reviewing film for the lifestyle blog 2Oceansvibe. As the years passed, his channels expanded organically to include: Talking Movies, a weekly movie review for Fine Music Radio; regular review slots on Radio 702, CapeTalk and Chai FM; hosting special previews for Ster-Kinekor; reviews in The Herald and The Weekend Post; writing Techsmart magazine's movie section; judging film festivals for AFDA and the 48 Hour Film Project; assessing local and international film productions from script to second cut and regular features on various websites.

Career highlights include: an interview with BBC 5 Live, reviewing Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom for Indiewire, an accurate Oscar predictions interview with Jeremy Maggs on eNCA and interviewing Milla Jovovich and the cast of the upcoming film, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. Here is Spling's... my Top Ten Movies interview.

"I'd love to produce a David Lynch dream."

I can't watch movies without...

- ...trying to secure a seat where I don't have to share arm rests, a viewing room where the screen is the only window, a cool environment and a comfortable silence, where cellphones only glow and ring on-screen. I've been spoiled by press screenings, where audiences are generally more considerate and keep slurping, crunching and running commentaries to a minimum. You can't slip into a dream with constant distractions, which probably explains why many movie-goers opt to watch the first or last shows of the day.

Which famous people share your birthday?

- Edward Norton, Robert Redford, Christian Slater, Roman Polanski, Malcolm Jamal Warner, Denis Leary, Shelley Winters and the late Patrick Swayze form part of my birthday tribe. The list is pretty film-heavy and features some distinct talents... maybe I'm just biased. (18 Aug)

What is the first film you remember watching?

- I remember going to the Goodwood drive-in with the family in a combi, but can't remember what we saw?! One of my first cinema experiences was watching An American Tail, probably at Vincent Park in East London over the Christmas holidays... it was an animated tearjerker brought to dizzying realisation by the Somewhere Out There song, which I'd repressed until I interviewed Charles Tertiens. Then, I also remember The Land Before Time and The NeverEnding Story... but it's difficult to remember the viewing sequence?

What's the worst movie you've ever seen?

- Disaster Movie edges it as an aggressively unfunny and feeble attempt at a spoof, but The Creature Wasn't Nice is probably the worst movie I've ever finished watching. I had to... at the time it seemed like a necessary evil. Leslie Nielsen is a personal favourite, mostly thanks to The Naked Gun, so maybe I felt I owed it to him to finish what has been dubbed "Naked Space". The film is a cheesy, retro, low budget sci-fi spoof in which a spaceship crew are terrorised by a creature after a specimen mutates. You're never ever really sure if they're actually in on the joke and it's painfully silly.

Which movies have made you tearful?

- There have been many, although in terms of "highlights"... I'd have to say The Green Mile, Departures and The Music Never Stopped. I shed tears of anguish in The Green Mile as an inhumane injustice was carried out against a man on death row. In Departures, the funeral parlour dignity was a precursor to a beautifully heartbreaking moment involving a bittersweet father-son reunion. I was moved to tears the first time I watched The Music Never Stopped, but was a blubbing wreck the second time I watched it with my wife. From start-to-finish I just sat there locked into the tender tones of the true story, tears seeping from my eyes as a tough love father tries to help his prodigal son access long forgotten memories through the power of music... a sentimental and beautifully realised film.

Spling Top Ten Movies | Photo: Casey Crafford

Who is the most famous movie star you've ever met?

- It's a toss up between John Cleese and Milla Jovovich. As a Monty Python fan, it was an honour and privilege for me to meet John Cleese behind-the-scenes, while he was in hair and make up. Sitting to his left, above the big man's shoes, and discussing everything from the Spud movies to the Edict of Nantes and French Huguenots... it was just wonderful being in the legend's presence. He even commented on the excessive punctuation on my "Holy hand grenade of Antioch" t-shirt.

Milla Jovovich was a teenage crush of mine from as early as Blue Lagoon 2 to her iconic roles in The Fifth Element and Resident Evil. So when the chance for an interview came along, I had no choice. Our small press contingent interviewed the entire cast of Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, which warmed us up for a final and intimate interview with her... get this... in her trailer. After about 10 minutes of anxiously waiting for a moment to ask a question... I took the gap, asking her something that prompted her to say "I wish I could think like you". Since the film only comes out next year, you'll have to stay tuned to SPL!NG to find out what I asked!

What's your favourite movie line?

- I have a few. One of my favourite lines is from The Thing, in which, Garry, the oldest crew member has been detained on suspicion and subsequently found to be a non-threat.

Garry: I know you gentlemen have been through a lot, but when you find the time, I'd rather not spend the rest of this winter TIED TO THIS F**KING COUCH!

Then I have a couple of ridiculous favourites from Monty Python & The Holy Grail...

An arrow with a rescue note is fired from the turret of a castle, plummeting into the chest of a knight's squire, who with his last breath says...

Squire: Message for you, sir.

In order for King Arthur and his band of knights to proceed with the holy quest, he must provide the Knights of Ni with a shrubbery. They visit a nearby village, where they chastise an old crone... only to be interrupted by a passerby.

Roger the Shrubber: Are you saying Ni to that old woman?
King Arthur: Um, yes.
Roger the Shrubber: Oh, what sad times are these when passing ruffians can say Ni at will to old ladies. There is a pestilence upon this land, nothing is sacred. Even those who arrange and design shrubberies are under considerable economic stress in this period in history.
King Arthur: Did you say shrubberies?
Roger the Shrubber: Yes, shrubberies are my trade. I am a shrubber. My name is Roger the Shrubber. I arrange, design, and sell shrubberies.

Who would you choose to play you in your biopic?

- If it was possible, I'd like Mickey Rourke, James Spader or Mark Ruffalo to play me. I really admire these actors and while the role would require some serious make up and a physical transformation, I think they'd be talented enough to own the part.

If you could produce a movie, what would it be about?

- I'd love to produce a David Lynch dream. His work is always bold, brave, moody and surreal. I admire the director, he's a creative genius, a true artist and a visionary. If I was able to persuade him... it'd be an enigmatic and surreal biopic about the life and times of Billy Corgan and my all-time favourite band, The Smashing Pumpkins. He convinced Corgan to record Eye for Lost Highway, so there's already a synergy... watch this space!

Spling Top Ten Movies | Photo: Casey Crafford

Finally, your top ten movies of all-time...

- Monty Python & The Holy Grail ...this ridiculous medieval comedy misadventure is essentially a series of silly sketches under the banner of an Arthurian spoof. It's a passionate love letter to comedy from Monty Python with quotable quotes, hilarious animated sequences and infinite silliness. The film still holds up today and I recall watching it three times over in one sitting... although to be fair, the third time was in Romanian.

- Sunset Blvd. ...I believe Billie Wilder's old Hollywood meets new Hollywood masterpiece is what inspired David Lynch's career. The haunting, surreal and decaying atmosphere, the bold directorial choices and the delusional smoke-and-mirrors Hollywood story. Just talking about it makes me want to see it again.

- Chinatown ...Roman Polanski's sprawling film noir crime epic stars Jack Nicholson as a gumshoe. From the street smart detective tricks to the scandalous crime drama, Chinatown swathes you in an engrossing mystery that dangles our would-be hero over a chasm of conspiracy and heartache.

- Excalibur ...John Boorman originally wanted to direct Lord of the Rings, but decided it was too ambitious for the time, and set his sights on Camelot instead. This iconic tale has an epic mythological feel and conjures up visions of the boy with the golden mask and the lady in the water, which all fit perfectly to the overriding tune of Carl Orff's O Fortuna.

- As It Is In Heaven ...this powerful Swedish drama is the only film I've attended, which got a proper standing ovation. I was speechless when I left the cinema and all I can say is... seek it, watch it.

- Into the Wild ...Sean Penn directed the story of Christopher McCandless, a college student whose wanderlust took him on a cross-country runaway adventure. It's a tragic, nostalgic and haunting tale of ideals and survival and who can forget the enigmatic Emile Hirsch, a heartfelt Hal Holbrook and Eddie Vedder's on-the-road soundtrack?

- The Intouchables ...this feel good French buddy comedy about a carer and his aristocratic employer brims with life! It's an absolute winner, from the infectious Earth, Wind and Fire opening to the tender, unreserved odd couple bromance. The best part of all, it's based on a true story.

- Departures ...Japanese tradition and honour abounds in funeral ceremonies as this dark comedy drama grapples with life, death and everything inbetween. It's heartwarming, heartbreaking and at times hilarious... delivering a full spectrum of contemplative entertainment that inspires awe, humility and gratitude.

- Army of Darkness...Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell hit the ground running with The Evil Dead. While the grotesque cabin horror won critical acclaim and cult notoriety, it was Part 3 that took The Evil Dead into hyperdrive, transporting our comic hero Ash back in time with his "boomstick" and beat up Oldsmobile. The stop-motion effects and outrageous blend of comic book action and horror comedy made it a big surprise and an instant favourite after watching it at the Odeon in Grahamstown.

- Groundhog Day ...Bill Murray is Bill Murray and this transcendent comedy turned romance manages to entertain, grapple with the big life questions and catapult us into one man's dream turned awakening without flinching... again and again.

Picking a Top Ten is no easy feat. Here are some of my other favourites that I'd call runners up: City of God, Vertigo, Highlander, Dead Poet's Society, There Will Be Blood, The Matrix, Mulholland Dr., Donnie Darko, The Naked Gun, The Wedding Singer, Mad Max: Fury Road and Before Sunrise.

Top Ten Movies with... is a people series on SPL!NG, featuring a host of celebrities ranging from up-and-coming to established personalities from all industries including, but not limited to: Internet, Radio, TV, Film, Music, Art and Entrepreneurs. It's a chance to discover who they are, find out where they're at and to get a fun inside look at their taste in movies.

Photography: Casey Crafford - CaseyCrafford.com

Top Ten Movies with... Scot Cooper

Scot Cooper is a South African actor, whose combination of discipline, passion and talent are getting him into the right spaces, having already worked alongside actors such as Olga Kurylenko, James Purefoy and Rupert Friend. Cooper has a BA in live performance from AFDA and was trained by world renowned Meisner teacher, William Esper, at the Esper Studio in New York and critically acclaimed South African actress Aletta Bezuidenhout at the Screen Act Studio in Cape Town.

Blessed with looks and natural talent, he landed his first film role straight out of college in the American war film, 1968 Tunnel Rats and went on to work with Uwe Boll again in Far Cry. His credits also include supporting roles in the award-winning The World Unseen and Bordering on Bad Behaviour. More recently, Cooper had a supporting role in Momentum and took on a lead in the local film, Reconnect, with another lead in the Girl from Nowhere, which releases in 2016.

The versatile actor has starred in a number of stage productions including Pride & Prejudice and Tape, has co-starred in several television productions including the finale of Homeland Season 4 and featured in more than 30 international adverts. After having won Best Actor at Cape Town's 48 Hour Film Festival in 2013 and 2015, it's clear the man has talent and seems like only a matter of time before Scot gets the big break he deserves. We got a chance to find out, which movies have made an impact on him...

"Well Howard Stern played himself in his biopic..."

I can't watch movies without...

- A cup of tea and chocolate when at home. And when at the cinema: popcorn and a bottle of water. And being fully awake of course!

Which famous people share your birthday?

- I’m proud to say my favourite actress Meryl Streep! (22 June)

What is the first film you remember watching?

- I’m not sure… but I do remember watching Who Framed Roger Rabbit? with my parents at my first and only time at a drive in when I was about 6 years old.

What's the worst movie you've ever seen?

- Besides one that I was in a few years ago, which I won’t mention, I’ve seen quite a few… and with Jaws as an exception, they often seem to include a shark, or have the word ‘shark’ in the title.

Which movies have made you tearful?

- Message in a Bottle, E.T., Phenomenon and the wonderful Oscar-nominated South African film Yesterday. Those movies sure did their job at the right moment.

Who is the most famous movie star you've ever met?

- Well, I spoke to Colin Farrell on the phone. A buddy of mine called me at 3am, and woke me out of a dead sleep and said "Scot someone wants to say hello". They were at an after party.

I met Kevin Spacey after a play he did in London. I mentioned to him that I was pursuing acting as a career, and I’ll never forget his words as I walked away… "Scot, good luck to you."

What's your favourite movie line?

- “Pardon me for being rude, it was not me it was my food, it just popped up to say hello, and now it’s gone back down below.” ~ Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

Who would you choose to play you in your biopic?

- Well Howard Stern played himself in his biopic, so… just kidding! There are so many talented actors, and not just the famous ones. So it's a difficult one to pick. Idris Elba?

If you could produce a movie, what would it be about?

- I guess maybe an epic South African western set in the Karoo. But at the heart of the story showing that the hardest heart can soften. Really emphasising that anything is possible, there is always hope.

Finally, your top ten movies of all-time...

- Braveheart ...I've seen it over 20 times. This movie has everything!

- Hook ...memories of watching this magical film in 1991 have never left me.

- The Shawshank Redemption ...this film is perfect.

- Pulp Fiction ...it’s just so damn good, from the dialogue to the soundtrack!

- Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery ...it’s one groovy movie baby.

- How the West Was Won ...all those classic westerns rolled into one. Love westerns!

- National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation ...I don’t go a year without watching this Christmas gem.

- American Beauty ...what a beauty. This wouldn’t be the movie it is without Alan Ball’s brilliant screenplay. And everything else in this film is absolutely brilliant as well.

- Raising Arizona ...I’m a Coen brothers fan. This is the first one of theirs I saw and I still really dig it. A lot!

- Closer ...this movie is adult, engaging, and relatable. It is superb. The opening to the sound of The Blower’s Daughter hooks me every time…

And the list goes on… There Will Be Blood, On the Waterfront, Spaceballs, Walk The Line, Noises Off, Edward Scissorhands, Clue, The Life Aquatic, Gladiator, The Cable Guy, The Beach, O Brother Where Art Thou?, Dances With Wolves and many more.

Top Ten Movies with... is a people series on SPL!NG, featuring a host of celebrities ranging from up-and-coming to established personalities from all industries including, but not limited to: Internet, Radio, TV, Film, Music, Art and Entrepreneurs. It's a chance to discover who they are, find out where they're at and to get a fun inside look at their taste in movies.

Albert Maritz on 'n Man Soos My Pa

Albert Maritz is an experienced and recognisable South African actor who has had key roles in international films Invictus, Goodbye Bafana and In My Country, and local productions such as Skoonheid, Die Pro and Strikdas. His latest part sees him playing Attie, a father, whose alcoholism has estranged him from his son in 'n Man Soos My Pa. Maritz forms part of a terrific South African ensemble and contributes a sullen yet soulful performance as a man desperately trying to reconnect with his family.

n Man Soos My Pa - Albert Maritz

How did you get involved in this project?

Sean Else called me some months ahead of filming and asked me to grow a beard.

The film deals with the devastating consequences of addiction. Have you witnessed something similar with close friends or family in your life?

I think we are all aware of people like this. Also, I think the film deals with much more than one theme. There is the father, daughter and domestic violence theme, cancer, and completing what you started – to vintage cars.

It's a nostalgic film. Did any of the props bring back a memory or two from your past?

Awwww, yes! Earphones. The reverse play of LPs!

The story is full of heartache... how did you prepare for your role?

The emotional journey is one, which comes to us via the script, and the inner landscape. With the director one must still plan the structure and levels of emotion at various places in the film, according to the story; but the preparation is already in our own suitcase luggage.

What would you say is the underlying message in this drama?

Love conquers all; and know what is ahead by communicating.

How do you think audiences will respond to this film?

I sincerely hope they will see a bit of themselves somewhere in the story, experience the journey as a coming to terms, and a celebration of freedom from what it is that weighs us down.

The ensemble is made up of some of South Africa's finest acting talent... who were you most excited to work with?

Sandra Prinsloo plays my wife. Greg Kriek is my son. Shimmy Isaacs is our housekeeper. Over a spectrum of age and opportunity this is an A-team, seriously exciting to work with.

What was it like working with Sean Else?

I have directed Sean in theatre before, and found him an engaging man, eager to take in a director's input, fearless, and hard-working. As a film director I find he is well-prepared, with a clear picture of what he wants to see with tons of patience and innovation.

Attie's an alcoholic... has playing him changed your attitude towards alcohol?


What was the most challenging part of your performance?

Attie plays opposites. He comes from a background of guilt. He tries not to withdraw, but rather to make a positive contribution. He gets stopped in his tracks more than once. What goes on behind the eyes?!

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