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Encino Men... 30 Years Later


Encino Man (aka California Man) saw three young stars unite for an outlandish '90s comedy about being ice cool and then waking up to become a high school drop out in the MTV generation '90s. Starring Brendan Fraser, Pauly Shore and Sean Astin, these actors found the fun in this nutty star-making movie before going their separate ways...

encino men 30 years later

What Ever Happened to Pauly Shore?

Love or hate him, Pauly Shore peaked in the mid-90s. This is a widely accepted truth pertaining to the actor who came to be known as The Weasel. While Saturday Night Live has launched many comedy star's movie careers, Pauly Shore's actually started on MTV show Totally Pauly in 1990. Having had a few film roles prior to his superstardom in the '90s, Shore's first credited TV appearance was in 1987 on 21 Jump Street. He followed these up with a few minor supporting roles before landing a career-defining performance in Encino Man or California Man as Stoney Brown alongside Brendan Fraser as Link and Sean Astin as Dave Morgan.

Shore's career exploded at this point, landing the lead role in Son in Law, In the Army Now, Jury Duty and Bio-Dome. Coasting on his newfound star power, Shore became a hot comedy headliner, drawing audiences to get more of his unconventional goofy charm and offbeat screen presence. In the age of Beavis & Butthead, his whatever attitude, throwaway nuttiness and comic charm had a foothold. While divisive like other high profile acts such as Jim Carrey, "the talent police" as Mike Myers would put it eventually caught up with him.

Suddenly Shore was a veritable Hollywood outcast. Launching his own self-referential Tinseltown adventure film, Pauly Shore is Dead, he effectively tried to reinvent himself from the inside out. While famous for his definitive roles in the '90s, Shore became a punchline with many cameos and music video appearances over the years. His Rotten Tomatoes score shows a string of rotten Tomatometer ratings bar The Heckler, making him a favourite punch bag for critics over the years. However, that didn't stop the self-confessed weasel from appearing out of nowhere every now and then with productions like the misguided spoof, The Bogus Witch Project and celebrity adoption satire, Adopted.

What Ever Happened to Sean Astin?

Has anyone led a more fascinating acting career than Sean Astin? Starting out as a child star in 1981 with two TV movies, Astin first made a name for himself in 1985 as Mikey in Steven Spielberg's enduring '80s classic, The Goonies. Over his 40 year movie career, Astin has developed a knack for playing roles in films that come to characterise the era, picking up parts through the '90s in films like Memphis Belle, Toy Soldiers, Encino Man and stirring and career-defining coming-of-age American football drama, Rudy.

His lead role in Rudy as the quintessential underdog left the actor typecast and on a quest to effectively break the mold. Having been a part of indelible films through the '80s and '90s, it seemed only fitting that Astin should be cast in Peter Jackson's 2000s-defining trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. Playing Sam, the dependable sidekick to Frodo, Astin's almost unrecognisable performance was a bit lost in the scope and gravity of its burgeoning ensemble sharing cast wins and garnering several nominations.

Since his superseding career-defining and best known role as Sam in The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King, Astin has led an eclectic and versatile career with occasional supporting film roles, TV characters and regular work as a voice artist.

Astin followed up his years-long role as Sam with less serious roles, playing in Adam Sandler comedy movies 50 First Dates and Click with varying degrees of efficacy. Getting the odd role to push off his performance as Rudy, Astin's found himself taking on key roles in sporting glory films like Forever Strong and Woodlawn. Having achieved worldwide fame from a young age, the boyish-looking actor's best known roles and instant facial recognition puts him at a disadvantage. While not quite a household name, Astin's used his team player reputation and relative anonymity to good effect as Hollywood's Mr. Dependable.

Regularly making TV appearances with recurring roles in 24, The Strain, The Big Bang Theory and more recently Stranger Things, he's become an easily recognisable face for many generations. He's also become renowned for his voice work, playing Raphael in the long-running Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, being the narrator for Captain Underpants and lending his voice to many video game characters.

What Ever Happened to Brendan Fraser?

At the time of Encino Man, Fraser was also a shooting star only beginning to get his dues and recognition. Playing the titular character, essentially a cave man brought back to life from the Stone Age in a very different world, his naive exuberance went on to define his career until health issues forced him to take a hiatus. Fraser reprised his role as Link with a few cameos in Paul Shore movies racking up star-making roles in School Ties, Airheads, George of the Jungle, Blast from the Past and The Mummy.

Taking on cartoonish comedic performances, not unlike Jim Carrey, Fraser was sure to counterbalance his appetite for the zany with some serious performances to demonstrate his range with fine films like Gods and Monsters opposite Ian McKellen as late director Sir James Whale and The Quiet American as a counterpoint to Michael Caine.

While his hit-and-miss rate found him veering from ambitious duds to working with more accomplished directors and stars, one thing was always clear - Fraser had oodles of charm and talent. Now on the verge of a comeback, somewhat stunted after the Batgirl film was cancelled, it will be fascinating to see him starring in Darren Aronofsky's The Whale.

 
'Trainwreck: Woodstock '99' - A Hellish Tour of Toxic '90s Youth Culture in America


Michael Lang has long been associated with Woodstock since his integral involvement with the iconic 1969 music festival. Immortalised as a symbol of peace and love through the ages, there was an attempt to revive the festival for modern audiences in 1994. Due to a number of issues, including poor infrastructure and subpar security, the dream wasn't realised and Lang decided to attempt another revival of Woodstock again in 1999.

Thirty years after the original, the 30th anniversary seemed like a good reason to celebrate the history and ideals of the first Woodstock. However, as docuseries Trainwreck: Woodstock '99 reveals featuring interviews with Jewel, Fatboy Slim and Bush frontman, Gavin Rossdale, it was not to be. Composed of three 45 minute episodes entitled "How the F**k Did This Happen?", "Kerosene. Match. Boom!" and "You Can't Stop a Riot in the 90's.", this damning behind-the-scenes tour uncovers Woodstock '99, a hedonistic binge fest of a music event that continues to haunt with its devil-may-care attitude and rampage of riot, rage, sexual assault and faeces. In some ways, an echo of HBO's Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage, Trainwreck goes deeper into the toxic culture of America in the '90s and how the insane festival ended in a cloud of smoke.

Trainwreck: Woodstock '99

Being 1999 with talk of the Y2K bug and the end or turn of the millennium, the world was already on edge. Hosting a music festival about love and peace for up to 200,000 fans may not have been the best idea given the Zeitgeist of the time. Putting about 186,000 young people on a "playground" campus without rules for 3 days is bound to result in mayhem and unfortunately whatever instigates it, some of the most primal urges are bound to come out. As shocking as it is... it's even more impactful when you get the full context of the underlying fury.

Watching live concert footage of Rage Against the Machine's performance from the time, which is actually missing from this documentary's final version of events, you can get a sense of the angst. Trainwreck: Woodstock '99 refers to their famed Killin' in the Name track with a reworked Rage track but actually focusses more on the likes of Korn and Limp Bizkit's performances in firing up the crowd.

The first mistake for festival organisers, Michael Lang and John Scher, was making it mostly about money. The 3-day event had a gross take of $28,864,748 based on the sale of some 186,000 tickets. Obviously arranging a music festival is not a non-profit enterprise, which requires months and even years of planning. However, Woodstock '99 was a bait-and-switch because it was coasting on the ideals of a brand name associated with hippie values. The concept of Woodstock is nothing like the 1999 event that unfurled and the momentary illusion came crashing down around the festival, its attendees, the performers and the organisers.

Failing to provide the necessary infrastructure in terms of safety and security, this festival has been lambasted for its many inadequacies in hindsight. Trying to host a massive 3-day music concert with nearly 200,000 people, you need to ensure that you keep everyone safe and well-provided for, especially when the festival is a law unto itself and so closely associated with excesses and public nudity. Passing a blind eye over happenings within the grounds, in spite of being relayed via live television footage, gave the attendees a sense of impunity.

Trying to maximise profits, you can be sure the organisers were trying to do what they could to minimise costs. This meant selling off the rights to provide food and drinks as well as hiring security personnel who were inexperienced or ill-equipped. Hiking the prices for food and water, Woodstock '99 found participants paying unreasonable prices for refreshments with basic items like water and hot dogs selling for $4. Not being able to bring your own supplies into the venue, this monopoly only fueled the anger and indignation of concert-goers.

Experiencing warm weather and being essentially locked into an old air base's grounds, the crowd needed water, even more so in light of the dehydration caused by drinking and narcotics. Relying on substandard water for drinking and makeshift ablution facilities, it's actually a miracle Woodstock '99 didn't result in more dire consequences.

Not providing adequate sanitation and infrastructure, the air base invited poor living conditions tantamount to the squalor of some of the worst refugee camps. Starting off well on Day 1 with spirits high, things naturally devolved as you'd expect in a mismanaged space inhabited by hundreds of thousands of people. Already infused with drugs and alcohol, Woodstock '99 was already powder keg situation with dehydration and tempers running short.

As if the conditions weren't bad enough, the cherry bomb on the top was the festival's epic line-up of bands. The '90s were famous for grunge music with hard rock acts riding teenage disillusionment. While Woodstock in 1969 was characterised by more low-key musical artists, this festival was the antithesis - boasting the likes of Korn, Limp Bizkit, Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Rage Against the Machine, some of the loudest bands with the most inflammatory lyrics.

Mosh pits are already a cesspit of aggression and Woodstock '99 effectively incited an already boisterous crowd. Just short of a riot, live footage shows just how active the festival goers were, a literal sea of people crowd-surfing and swaying in unison. Trainwreck: Woodstock '99 documents how the festival featured a great deal of nudity, substance abuse and was largely infiltrated by a toxic spirit. Relaying some rather hellish scenes with the aftermath compared to a war-torn Bosnia, it's no wonder this doomed event became the subject of two documentaries much like the infamous Fyre music festival.

Featuring extensive interviews with everyone from organisers, security, crew, performers, journalists and concert-goers, Trainwreck: Woodstock '99 offers a fairly comprehensive overview. Getting candid interviews with organisers, many of whom still see the event as an overall success, this docuseries provides a well-balanced retrospective in terms of the dizzying failure that caught world headlines. Inspired by Fyre, these documentaries are now seeing the festival for what it was in the cold light of day after more than two decades.

In spite of everything that went wrong, it's curious to note that some festival goers still regard Woodstock '99 with some nostalgia. While the overarching problems are easier to see from an bird's eye view and in retrospect, the substandard camping conditions and apparent lawlessness must have given its attendees a rare yet strong dose of reckless freedom. Some teenagers crave this kind of rebellious outpouring and ending with the concert goers essentially burning Woodstock '99 to the ground just seemed like they may have got the festival they wanted and ironically some of their best memories ever.

While the fictional Waynestock (now an actual festival's name) also didn't go to plan, it would be hilarious to see a Wayne's World 3 find Wayne and Garth gearing up to attend Woodstock '99. The cable TV show duo connected themselves indelibly with the '90s rock music scene with Wayne's World and Wayne's World 2 so it would be funny to see Mike Myers and Dana Carvey make a long-awaited return. They reprised their characters in some Super Bowl ads recently, proving they can still do it and there's still a fan base so who knows. Maybe taking it from a found footage perspective and given the renewed interest in the malfunctioned Woodstock '99 festival would give it just the right mix of ingredients for a rebirth.

As far as Woodstocks go, the dismal press from the '99 edition certainly buried any hope of another festival. Moreover, Michael Lang's passing in January 2022 means that it will definitely not be under his oversight. While that's probably a good thing, given the false starts of the '90s, the extensive coverage of the infamous Woodstock '99 may be just the tonic to have someone take a stab at it again. After all, based on the documentary findings and steep learning curve... it can only get better.

 
Why, I Worry There Isn't a Mad Movie


Mad magazine was a pop culture staple, a publication that has parodied everything with a special focus on America, which released its final issue in April 2018 - not an April Fool's Joke! It's not quite as edgy as National Lampoon's was but found a place in the hearts and minds of its readers who not only enjoyed the comedy but took pride in its satirical bite and wit. Saying things without spelling them out and lampooning everyday scenarios as well as popular culture of the day, Mad and Alfred E. Neuman cultivated a subculture of self-confessed reprobates.

The Mad franchise was established enough to release a popular board game where the object of the game was to lose your money. Using classic imagery and comic styling from the magazine, this board game served as a sort of anti-Monopoly employing some similar elements but integrating some suitably Mad reversals. Behaving like a chicken, discriminating against players, sending them to Anywhere or landing them the one note to rule them all - it was an absolute gas. While the board game had its place, the magazine's regular publication and obscured reflection of society Made it a highlight of the month.

Mad Magazine Movie?

This author discovered the loathsome joys of this pulpy magazine in his early teens. Visiting the local CNA or news agent, this magazine was cleverly positioned in the comic book section alongside other favourites such as Archie, Superman and Batman. While it was always fun to find out what Archie, Betty, Veronica, Reggie and Jughead were up to in the world of Riverdale, conjuring up a retro Friends atmosphere where Archie's adventures were always at the behest of his crew, Mad magazine presented a different kind of escape.

Poking fun at the very fabric of society in its counter-cultural fashion represented a stick-it-to-the-man attitude that would obviously be attractive to a teenage rebel without a cause. Flipping the bird to authority or kowtowing to the powers that be, it was a proper send up that while newsstand friendly was subversive enough to cause a stir. From "The Light Side of..." to "Spy vs Spy" and that unfolding back page, there were obviously classic comic strips that formed the meat for each magazine with a thematic Mort Drucker tie-in to skewer the pop culture talk of the town.

This ribald sense of humour could get pretty gross but somehow managed to skate a thin line between what's deemed clever without becoming overtly offensive. This comic was intended to provoke but not lose readers in taking a stand or risk making the news for all the wrong reasons. Snide, grotesque and even sexually aware, Mad magazine stopped short of tipping into National Lampoon's terrain making it kinda family-friendly enough to allow mom and pops to let junior keeping buying the filth.

It wasn't limited to dirtbags, but it was generally appreciated as the kind of "contraband" that spoke with a disdain appreciated by those trying to bottle their teenage spirit. In response to the publication's retirement at 67 years, Weird Al Yankovic revealed the mag's influence in this tweet saying "I can’t begin to describe the impact it had on me as a young kid – it’s pretty much the reason I turned out weird.". Being in South Africa, a country that only got television in 1976 and was ruled quite stringently by censorship laws, Mad magazine's counter-cultural fun Made it pure popcorn entertainment with a secret weapon.

Testament to the rag's enduring appeal is Jerry Seinfeld, who achieved all kinds of household name fame thanks to the runaway success of the show, Seinfeld. One of the world's most successful and wealthiest entertainers, Seinfeld who is regarded as a comedy heavyweight with his clean observational style comedy, also happens to be one of the magazine's biggest fans. Why else would he attribute so much pride to being lampooned and making the cover of a Mad magazine?

All of this is to proffer the question why isn't there a Mad movie? There was an attempt to recreate the same success National Lampoon's had with Animal House with a movie called Up the Academy, which didn't really have anything to do with the magazine. However, as Mad publisher Bill Gaines says they actually paid $30,000 to have Mad magazine disassociated with the movie when it was released to television - it was that much of a clanger.

Directed by Robert Downey Sr. who later referred to it as "one of the worst f**king things in history" it did develop a cult following, even starring The Karate Kid himself in Ralph Macchio. Up the Academy was a classic case of no one wanting to take full ownership with several drafts of the script never meeting expectations and many promising scenes hitting the cutting room floor.

"I thought, 'Well, in addition to a Mad movie, there's nothing wrong with having something like Lampoon did with Animal House. Animal House was "Lampoon Presents" and really had nothing to do with the magazine, it was just using their name, and it was a good movie, and it was very successful, and it Made Lampoon a lot of money. I guess. So we were going to do the same thing." The magazine's long-running fan base obviously means it will draw an audience, the pure existence of A Futile and Stupid Gesture (the closest thing to a National Lampoon's magazine film) suggests they could come up a a story... so why the heck not? The biographical angle could warrant it, taking a page from Mort Drucker's life could even serve as a gateway. Now that the magazine has ceased, it just seems like it needs some kind of tribute to continue its legacy, awaken new fans and just poke fun with some self-deprecation in whatever form.

 
The 16th South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTAs 2022)


The South African Film and Television Awards better known as SAFTAs is gearing up for its long-awaited 16th awards ceremony set to take place on 2 and 3 September 2022 as a simulcast on Mzansi Magic and S3. Established to "honour, celebrate, promote and reward the creativity, quality and excellence of South African film and television talent and content" in 2005, the SAFTAs is the closest thing South Africa has to the Emmys and Academy Awards.

16th south african film and television awards 2022

In light of Barry Ronge's recent passing, it seems like the perfect opportunity for the SAFTAs to finally honour the late and famed movie critic's contribution to film appreciation and entertainment journalism over his decades long career.

Netflix's Original I Am All Girls leads the film section of the awards with a grand total of 11 nominations across various categories such as Best Directing, Best Cinematography and Best Feature Film. Showmax leads the streaming service awards with 158 nominations of which Showmax Originals account for 52 SAFTA nominations including: The Wife, DAM, Tali’s Baby Diary, Glasshouse, Devilsdorp and Boxing Day.

Taking a closer look at the film section, it's interesting to note just how many local films have qualified for the 16th SAFTAs. While there weren't any films that stood head and shoulders above the rest, this only made it a more competitive year with a selection of very promising titles from a spectrum of genres.

Fried Barry, I Am All Girls and Glasshouse have each landed a Best Feature Film nomination. Ryan Kruger's Fried Barry is a visceral beast of a sci-fi horror thriller starring Gary Green in a perfectly cast and iconic performance. High on impact and shock value, this psychedelic ride probably stunned local audiences who aren't used to grindhouse movies. While bizarre and extreme, its international calibre look and feel showcases Kruger's unbridled creativity and flair landing nominations for Direction and Best Supporting Actor for a short-lived yet utterly convincing performance from Sean Cameron Michael.

Donovan Marsh's serial killer horror thriller, I Am All Girls brandishes its important and timely message around child trafficking with a tenacious cast with many acting nominations. A slick, moody and visually-enticing thriller it's quite surprising how many nominations I Am All Girls has landed based on the film's overall effect. While it looks good, a thin script, genre tropes and a growing distance from the characters ultimately undermines any connection to the co-lead project and subverts suspense.

Kelsey Egan's Glasshouse is the best pick of the Best Feature Film nominees. Having garnered many nominations for Make Up, Costume Design and Cinematography, its been adequately acknowledged for its styling and visual finesse. Compared with On Golden Pond and The Beguiled, what hasn't been fully appreciated by the SAFTAs nomination panel is the depth of creativity and self-assuredness of writing and direction in unearthing this gem. Performing well in just about every department on a modest budget, Glasshouse's fairy tale feel, chamber drama suspense and subliminal messaging has been misunderstood and underappreciated.

What's also quite concerning is that Barakat was South Africa's official Oscar selection for Best International Feature yet didn't manage to earn a Best Feature Film nomination at the SAFTAs. Having happened to several films in previous years, one has to imagine there's some strange policy at play whereby official selections aren't eligible to compete locally. Luckily the spirited and charming comedy drama scored a Best Actress nomination for Vinette Ebrahim, Best Supporting Actress for Quanita Adams, Best Music/Score for Kyle Sheperd and Best Achievement for Direction for Amy Jephta.

Other local films that have basically been snubbed include the authentic seaside crime drama, Sons of the Sea, as well as the much-anticipated sequel to Material... New Material. Filmed on the False Bay coastline and wilderness, Sons of the Sea's slow-boiling morality crime drama and earnest performances only managed to garner a nomination in the Best Actor category for Marlon Swarts. Having won a Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor Golden Horn for Material, it's curious to note that neither Riaad Moosa nor Vincent Ebrahim managed to warrant a follow-up nomination for the sequel with its sole nomination coming in for Megan Gill in the Editing category - packing enough story threads for a series into the space of 90 minutes.

Angeliena, Mr Johnson and Freedom picked up a handful of nominations, most notably in the acting categories for Tshmano Sebe's delightful turn, Ferry Jele's noteworthy performance and Paul Slabolepszy's spirited leading role. Then, there were a number of lesser known films picking at the seams with Love, Lies & Hybrids, Atlantis and Happiness Ever After coming in hot.

This year's film nominations were characterised by more adventurous genre play, moving away from straight up drama. A good deal of comedy-centric films made the cut but it was most surprising to see the likes of two sci-fi horror thrillers in Fried Barry and Glasshouse. While somewhat divisive in terms of subject matter, it's also interesting to note that none of the main contenders for Best Feature Film managed to score higher than a 5.9/10 average rating on IMDb.

Nominees ranked by Spling's /10 ratings...


1. Glasshouse (6 nominations)
2. Sons of the Sea (1 nomination)
3. New Material (1 nomination)
4. Barakat (4 nominations)
5. Fried Barry (6 nominations)
6. Angeliena (2 nominations)
7. I Am All Girls (11 nominations)
8. Mr. Johnson (2 nominations)

Here are the SAFTA nominations by category:

Best Actress

  • Erica Wessels, I Am All Girls
  • Hlubi Mboya-Arnold, I Am All Girls
  • Vinette Ebrahim, Barakat
  • Best Actor in a Feature Film

  • Marlon Swarts, Sons of The Sea
  • Paul Slabolepszy, Mr Johnson
  • Jafta Mamabolo, Freedom
  • Best Supporting Actress

  • Ferry Jele, Freedom
  • Quanita Adams, Barakat
  • Nomvelo Makhanya, I Am All Girls
  • Best Supporting Actor

  • Tshamano Sebe, Angeliena
  • Sean Cameron Michael, Fried Barry
  • JP du Plessis, I Am All Girls
  • Best Achievement in Directing

  • I Am All Girls – Donovan Marsh
  • Barakat – Amy Jephta
  • Fried Barry – Ryan Kruger
  • Best Feature Film

  • Fried Barry
  • I Am All Girls
  • Glasshouse
  • Best Achievement in Make-up and Hairstyling

  • Happiness Ever After – Keitumetse Sefotlhelo
  • Glasshouse – Annie Butler
  • Fried Barry – Carmen Life, Tiffany Matthews, Bia Hartenstein, Clinton Aiden-Smith
  • Best Achievement in Costume Design

  • Mr Johnson – Nerine Pienaar
  • Happiness Ever After – Darion Wah Cheong Hing
  • Glasshouse – Catherine Mcintosh
  • Best Achievement in Sound Design

  • Atlantis – Barry Donelly
  • Fried Barry – Ebenhaezer Smal, Keagan Higgins, Rob Brinkworth, Gustav Stutterheim
  • I Am All Girls – Simon Ratcliffe
  • Best Achievement in Editing

  • New Material – Megan Gill
  • Glasshouse – Rowan Jackson
  • I Am All Girls – Lucian Barnard
  • Best Achievement in Production Design

  • Glasshouse – Kerry Von Lillienveld
  • I Am All Girls – Waldemar Coetsee
  • Daryn’s Gym – Chantel Carter
  • Best Achievement in Original Music/Score

  • I Am All Girls – Brendan Jury
  • Fried Barry – Ebenhaezer Smal
  • Angeliena – Charl-Johan Lingenfelder
  • Barakat – Kyle Sheperd
  • Best Achievement in Cinematography

  • I Am All Girls – Trevor Calverley
  • Love, Lies & Hybrids – Sunel Haasbroek
  • Glasshouse – Justus De Jager
  • Best Achievement in Scriptwriting

  • Love, Lies & Hybrids – Tristram Atkins, Meesha Aboo
  • Atlantis – Philip Roberts
  • Freedom – Jafta Mamabolo
  • Best Documentary Feature

  • Murder In Paris
  • The Colonel’s Stray Dogs
  • I Am Here
  • Best Student Film

  • Four Walls and A Roof
  • Water Is Water
  • The Invisible
  • Best Short Film

  • #WeAreDyingHere
  • Some Mothers’ Sons
  • The Ring of Beasts
  •  
    Barry Ronge: A Life of Words and Magic


    Barry Ronge was a famous South African entertainment journalist who retired from the spotlight in 2014 and recently passed away on 3 July. Dying from natural causes at the age of 74, it's curious to note that while the prolific reviewer guarded his privacy, he led a very public career, appearing on television shows, radio broadcasts, hosting events in addition to writing reviews and columns for magazines and newspapers.

    Having this kind of platform, the much-loved critic developed a name for himself over his career spanning many decades, known for his wit, words and passion for film. From teaching English and Afrikaans at a private school in Johannesburg to writing scathing restaurant reviews under a pseudonym, bringing the goods in his Spit 'n Polish column and becoming a well-known movie critic, he navigated a colourful and curious career as an entertainment pundit.

    Barry Ronge

    Watching films in the front row at press screenings in Joburg, Ronge did what he had always done from an early age. Having the cinema as his afterschool "nanny", Barry literally turned his passion for cinema into a lifetime pursuit, watching and reviewing up to 5 films per week like he had done in his childhood. The film critic allowed himself to be submerged in the cinematic experience, feeling the storytelling rather than analysing it to a fault. This resulted in his style of film review, which carried a strong emotional element as evidenced in his expressive language and response to the film.

    Able to peel away layers in drawing a clearer picture of just how the movie provoked such responses in him, this made his review process more accessible to mainstream audiences. While Barry Ronge did it his way, his natural charm and sparkly eyes made him captivating to watch and interesting to listen to his opinion, even if you were often at odds. Who can forget his colourful rating system in which he allocated an appropriate adjective with each rating... such as a tawdry 2, a sultry 6, a sensational 7 or a terrific 10.

    His gift was transferring his passion for film to audiences, something that evoked a deep response from people who took inspiration to do the same. There are many entertainment writers and journalists working in the industry today who took heart and followed the spark of inspiration that was Ronge (this author included). While there was an air of unpredictability and excitement that went with his reviews, they also educated people about new arrivals and got film goers excited about going to the movies.

    The often giddy feeling Ronge seemed to be restraining was something that resonated with viewers and part of the character's power was in getting people talking. Whether you agreed or disagreed, the movie pundit made it okay to see movies subjectively, to realise that whatever your frame of reference... your opinion mattered.

    Art is a subjective and even divisive construct. It's this self-same spirit that made Ronge a media personality, a talking point, a humble celebrity and a regular contributor to a host of media outlets from 702 and The Sunday Times to M-NET and SABC 3. Embodying equal parts of what constitutes the world of movie and film, Ronge seemed like a work of fiction himself.

    A larger-than-life personality who was in his very nature entertaining, he managed to host many paradoxes that made him viral before the word took on a new meaning with the dawn of the Internet. Revered and even ridiculed, Ronge made a name in the arts world and carried himself with enough humility and grace that he garnered most people's respect, even if they didn't subscribe to his point-of-view.

    Being an old school film critic at a time in South Africa where there weren't as many choices when it came to newspapers, channels and stations, he had a widespread popularity and influence. Being so easily recognisable and unforgettable in his appearance, style and whimsy, it's no wonder the iconic film critic has left such an influential legacy. As tributes pour in from fellow media personalities and fans alike, it's clear that Barry Ronge meant a great deal to people who would often buy newspapers just to read his column, tune into his film programmes to get a burst of Ronge magic and enjoy the wordsmith's wit and warmth.

     
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