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The Craft Opinion Brewery (T.C.O.B.) #5 by Leonidas Michael

T.C.O.B. Manhattan Short Film Festival*

A craft opinion (like hand-crafted beer at the Long Beach Brewery in Sun Valley) should not be rushed. The special osmosis of thought, experience and the English language usually acquires its distinct character after about four weeks. But I was so enthusiastic about what I saw at a screening of the 2015 Manhattan Short Film Festival at the Labia that I was compelled to speed the process up. If there’s a lack of evenness in the tones of this opinion, I apologise.

It’s rather more regrettable that I couldn’t publish my opinion long before the start of the festival. That way, more people might have been persuaded to go and experience an outstanding show. Unfortunately, there was no preview. You can rush a craft opinion to some extent. But unless personal experience goes into it, it simply isn’t craft.

This year’s Manhattan Short Film Festival comprised of ten works – the top ten of 678 participants from 52 countries. Their running times were between 3 and 21 minutes. Though this does not mean that they were truncated or incomplete. On the contrary, their focussed scripts, compelling acting and superb production left the spectator with the feeling that all that needed to be told was told, whether it was a cultural drama, a family enigma, even an entire life. They gave the kind of satisfaction that comes from tasting something which, though small, contains intense flavour: a West Coast oyster, for example, a shaving of cured ham or a teaspoon of tarama, washed down with two gulps crisp Green Room pale ale.

Another appetising characteristic of these little films was that they issued from different countries. In several cases they were a multinational fusion: an excellent means to reinvigorate palates jaded by the homogenised fare of planet Hollywood.

Furthermore, they facilitated the encounter with the outlandish. For though we might complain about the blockbuster, it’s hard to keep off it. The marketing power of the mainstream film industry has immense influence. People tend to be wary of alternatives in any case. The prospect of sitting through 90 to 120 minutes of unknown actors speaking in weird tongues, unfamiliar themes, perhaps even a black and white picture can be daunting. But in this case the alternatives were presented in little doses. It’s similar to going to a micro-brewery for tasters. You introduce your palate to new flavours, try to acquire a taste for them and if you think the experience has potential for more enjoyment you move onto the 440ml bottles.

It was a shame that less than a dozen people came to the show that night. But, to be honest, the Manhattan Short Film Festival was not my first choice either. I’d originally planned to see a one-woman play. But that was cancelled due to a near complete absence of spectators. The ticket price was R120, by the way. My second choice was a spoken word festival at the Artscape. Tickets were R80 – for a performance that lasted a single hour... More of a problem was that no one at the Artscape could tell me if the spoken word was to be in Xhosa or English, an important consideration for someone who is not proficient in both languages.

That’s how my company and I ended up at the Labia where for R40 a head we got two and a half hours (a ten minute interval included) of entertainment. Add R120 for a gourmet burger and a Long Beach Blond Ale at Hudson’s on Kloof just around the corner prior to the film, and a post-film discussion during the ten minute walk to the car (well, what did you expect in the CBD?), and you have, in my opinion, a first-rate, value-for-money night out in Cape Town.

Look out for the Manhattan Short Film Festival in 2016.

Long Beach Brewery was forged by two guys with a passion to create crisp, refreshing handmade craft beers with the finest ingredients. The brewery is named after the famous Cape Town surf and horse-riding destination and situated in Cape Town's beautiful, Noordhoek valley. Their craft beer selection includes: Bomb Shell, a Belgium style Blonde ale, Green Room, an Indian pale ale or Deep Water, their dark ale and stout Porter. They say only a surfer knows the feeling... Long Beach Brewery's aim is to make it possible for everyone to "know the feeling". Buy Now

* T.C.O.B. is not averse to hedonism in small doses.

Halloween Hampers... Win a 5-DVD Horror Collection

Can you feel a chill even though the Sun's out? Halloween's just around the corner, which means it's time to watch horror movies. To help you set the mood with spine-tingling thrills, Ster-Kinekor have put together five horror movies featured below.

Visit our Facebook fan page and enter our Facebook competition for your chance to win 1 of 2 horror movie hampers! All you have to do is tell us, which one looks the scariest... take a closer look here.

The Craft Opinion Brewery (T.C.O.B.) #4 by Leonidas Michael


…barley, hops and water

Last Friday, I was on my way from Noordhoek back to Cape Town. Recalling just in time how difficult it is to get onto the Ou Kaapse Weg from that road, I turned right into Hou Moed Avenue. My intention was to get to the traffic lights on the other side of the Sun Valley Mall and join the highway there. A second flash of inspiration reminded me of the Long Beach Brewery that’s located in the industrial park on Hou Moed. By then, an hour more or less didn't really matter to me.

It was a muggy spring day, the better part of which I’d spent in the car. Once inside the brewery, the cool air, fragrant with hops, and the gleam of beer vats in the dim light had a calming effect on me. And as well as an evident abundance of beer, there was no shortage of good conversation.

Some others who happened to be out in the South Peninsula that Friday seemed to have had a similar inspiration to mine. We sat around a trestle counter, some of us on old wooden stools, some on piles of sacks filled with malt. Through the window was a view of the vlei on the other side of the road. The rushes were absolutely motionless. Overhead the sky was fuzzy blue. Somewhere in the distance the waves were breaking on Long Beach.

One of the topics of conversation was the rather perplexing notion held by some South Africans, that intimidation, harassment, assault, arson, robbery and murder are justifiable as long as the victims come from the far side of the country’s borders. And there was much debate around whether this notion ought to be called “xenophobia” or “afrophobia”*.

As time went by, however, we began to feel our aptitude for getting our heads around the problem diminish. So, with typical Cape Town deference, we conceded that there were people better able than ourselves to deliver satisfactory solutions and the conversation turned to the subject of beer. Possibly, the brewer influenced the flow of our thoughts by giving us a taster of one of his products called Deep Water. It’s a Porter: a crisper variation of the stout.

Then, someone in the company raised his half empty cup and announced with conviction, “That’s a nine out of ten!” The rating provoked a small debate. I, along with others, agreed that the beer under scrutiny was good (though if you’re driving don’t drink more than one or you risk ending up in deep water). But did it deserve to be rated nine out of ten? Why not eight or, indeed, ten out of ten? And what exactly did these values mean?

Though a beer lover, I did not consider myself expert enough to insist on my opinion and so stayed on the margin of the debate. But that’s when it occurred to me that one might pose a similar question about film ratings. What do they mean, if indeed they have a meaning?

In my opinion, the question is best approached by examining the people who produce the film ratings, that is, the critics. Now it’s true that these days everyone is a critic, so the diversity of this group is quite bewildering. Nonetheless, I assert that two salient characteristics are common to them. First, the belief in the superiority of their opinion. Second, the ambition that other people – as many as possible – believe in the superiority of their opinion.

As in all things, there are exceptions. There are critics who do not care what other people think of their opinion. They’re somewhat like those political experts who have all the solutions to the country’s problems somewhere up their sleeves yet never stand for election. That their opinion will never have a real effect on society makes them no less eager to keep on expressing it. No one invests confidence in them, but that doesn’t bother them. They’re quite content in the belief that their opinion is superior.

But what is a superior opinion? We all know how difficult it is to convince other people that our personal opinion is better than theirs, even when there’s tangible evidence at hand. When it’s a matter of something as abstract as the aesthetic appreciation of a film, convincing others that we know better should be impossible.

The critic has found not one but two ways around the problem. First, he might convince a great many people that his personal opinion is superior by pandering to mass opinion – rather, I should say prejudice. Or he might contrive to be paid by the people or organisations that have a vested interest in spreading his opinion, for example, film distributors. Nothing proves superiority quite like a fat bank account.

Now, a paradox arises in that an opinion produced in the ways just described, far from being superior, is corrupt and vulgar. So, on the opposite end of the spectrum occupied by critics contented solely by their own belief in the superiority of their opinion, you find those who are satisfied just as long as everyone else believes their opinion is superior. They are somewhat reminiscent of rabble-rousing or venal politicians who are comfortable with their immorality as long as their personal following or wealth is expanding.

These two types of critics, as I said before, are exceptions. Most of them place themselves somewhere in between the two extremes. They try to avoid solipsism. They try as much as possible to be sincere. And, if their survival should depend on producing opinions that serve a vested interest, they stop short of the most outrageous untruths or drop a hint here and there that all things are relative. Evidently, there are parallels between film criticism and the tacking, chicanery and word-juggling that we find in politics. So if you’ve ever read a film review and wondered whether there’s a motive behind all the bombast, erudition or platitude, your suspicion is quite justified.

But the critic, remember, would like very much for you to believe that that bombast, erudition or platitude (or sometimes a combination of all three – reviews can be quite artful) constitutes a superior opinion. And here is where the RATING comes into play.

By presenting a rating at the end of his review, the critic creates the semblance of a logical conclusion. With a numerical value between one and ten, a quantity of stars – usually countable on one hand – or a percentile, all the preceding bombast, erudition, platitude or artful combination of the three becomes by implication a mathematical calculation. Implied: if we can’t follow it, our education must be at fault.

And on the subject of education, anyone who has learnt to read has probably also endured at least ten years of his being rated. Grades, marks out of ten, out of a hundred, A-s, B-s, C-s, stars, kudos, Noddy badges, Brownie points… whatever name they go by, we have a habit of taking them seriously because throughout our formative years they were a real indication of whether we were getting ahead or being left behind. And because they were handed down to us from someone in authority, we got into the habit of respecting them. The critic knows and exploits it.

Numbers also have an authority of their own. I’m tempted to call it magic. For whether understood or not, they imbue whatever is near them with an aura of rationality. We’ve all noticed how much more convincing a politician sounds when he backs his social theorising with statistics. Admittedly, that’s a mere parlour trick compared to proving that something as vapid as the aesthetic evaluation of a film is rational. Nonetheless, critics everywhere continue to have remarkable success in this pursuit. That nearly all of them make use of numerical or numerically quantifiable ratings cannot therefore be by chance.

In brief, what I’m trying to say, is that film ratings are a gimmick. Though that’s not necessarily bad. As with politicians, there are good ratings and there are bad ratings. For example, those given by the critic known as Spling are good. He produces them by means of the “Splingometer”, a rating device that uses a 10-point calibration system. It measures to a truly extraordinary degree of accuracy. I swear by it. In fact, I very often dispense with spending time and money on going to the cinema by taking a few minutes to absorb the relevant Splingometer-rating and concomitant opinions. By occasion, I’ve found it convenient pass them off as my own to the less educationally advantaged.

Perhaps you are beginning to wonder whether there’s a motive behind this column… a touch of venality behind the bombast, erudition and platitude that characterise the opinions of this reader of other peoples’ opinions? You may well be justified… So the moral of the story is, if you want to know how good or bad a film is, go and watch it yourself.

Long Beach Brewery was forged by two guys with a passion to create crisp, refreshing handmade craft beers with the finest ingredients. The brewery is named after the famous Cape Town surf and horse-riding destination and situated in Cape Town's beautiful, Noordhoek valley. Their craft beer selection includes: Bomb Shell, a Belgium style Blonde ale, Green Room, an Indian pale ale or Deep Water, their dark ale and stout Porter. They say only a surfer knows the feeling... Long Beach Brewery's aim is to make it possible for everyone to "know the feeling". Buy Now

* A very serious matter. T.C.O.B. is aware that life is not just about films and hedonism. However, we feel that this is not the right place to discuss it in a manner commensurate to its seriousness.

The Craft Opinion Brewery (T.C.O.B.) #3 by Leonidas Michael


Last month, I came out strongly in favour of leaving early when a film isn’t doing it for you. I wound up my arguments, however, by asking if such a reaction is feasible when you go to the cinema in company.

Before I answer, let me remind you that it is impossible to serve two masters at once (or mistresses, or a master and a mistress, as the case may be). Similarly, no one ever enjoyed a film who was anxious that the person with them (boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse… as the case may be) would enjoy it. Either your personal taste is sacrosanct or you make the pleasure of good company your higher purpose.

So, assuming you are determined to serve your personal taste, you ought to leave early should the film fail to impress. In doing so, you will derive all the advantages discussed previously. And, since the personal taste of whoever else is in your company is irrelevant, you will have no immediate regrets.

In the long-run, however, you’re likely to find yourself going to the cinema without company at all. I, myself, epitomise this general rule.

Ideally, we should all go to see films with people whose taste matches ours and who react exactly as we do when the common taste is offended. Realistically, this is all but impossible to achieve. So if the thought of saying “one, please” whenever you step up to the box office gives you vertigo, it is advisable to accept films rather as an excuse for pleasurable social intercourse.

As I said, I’ve been constrained to watch many a film on my own as a result of a – some would say completely unreasonable – desire to vindicate my personal taste. But some time ago a group of friends who weren’t entirely fed up with me asked me to join them for a night at the cinema. It was proposed we should see Chappie. Touched by what I took to be their solicitude, I accepted.

My friends were careful to inform me that Chappie was a sci-fi action drama with touches of comedy directed by South African Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium). They told me that it was set in Jo’burg and featured Sharlto Copley, Die Antwoord duo Ninja and Yo-Landi Visser, and Brandon Auret. Nor did they neglect to mention that the local stars were supported by a few Hollywood A-listers: Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire), Sigourney Weaver (Avatar) and Hugh Jackman, who finally returns to his Aussie roots (“g’day, mate”, khaki shorts, mullet). My solicitous friends revealed that the story was about the misadventures of a police robot that was reprogrammed to feel emotions and think for itself. They suggested I look in Wikipedia if I required more details. Not wanting to leave any stone unturned, they went so far as to intimate that Die Antwoord and none other than Hans Zimmer were credited for the soundtrack.

It occurred to me that my dear friends might have been telling me all that because they really wanted me to refuse their invitation. But, as I had already made up my mind to focus on being good company, I listened without so much as raising an eyebrow.

Moreover, I sat through the one hundred and twenty minutes of Chappie with similar equanimity. The soundtrack did test my nerves very severely in parts. Though, as I would find out, the film jarred in some way or other with everyone’s tastes.

Only one of the friends was a sci-fi buff. He freely admitted to having watched Short Circuit numerous times in his childhood, youth and as an adult, most recently two weeks before. He was happy that Blomkamp had effectively reinterpreted the core premise of the 1986 genre classic. Nonetheless, he thought that Chappie failed to attain the dramatic intensity of its predecessor. And although he was hugely impressed with the CGI and action sequences, he added that the film on the whole fell short of Robocop, the definitive opus on robotic policing.

His opinion was backed to some extent by another member of our company. He’s an up-and-coming provincial rugby player – not an intellectual, but his opinion is worth noting. While agreeing that Chappie “wasn’t ready for the A-team, it definitely had the potential.” Quite simply, its budget of $49 million had been too small. Had it been double that, it would have “walked all over Short Circuit, Robocop and every other American film in the genre.” He loved the soundtrack, by the way.

But another companion – a corporate tax lawyer – insisted that Chappie was better than any robotic policing film to date. She roundly rejected, however, the notion that this was due in any way to its assumed potential to assert anachronistic, white, male values such as walking over foreign rivals. What moved her was the film’s endeavour to explore the theme of consciousness: what does it mean to be human? Sadly it was severely hampered, in her opinion, by “dire” acting. And she went on to say some terrible things about Yo-Landi Visser in particular.

At that point I intervened to point out that the acting had not been as bad as that. I had no problem affirming this because my taste/reaction circuit had long been deactivated. I was merely trying to be pleasant to my company. So was my corporate tax lawyer friend, it would seem. For she immediately moderated her opinion. I’d go as far as to say that we’d all short-circuited our personal expectations for the sake of being nice to one another. My next proposal – to rate Chappie 7 out of 10 – was adapted with unanimity.

Curiously enough, our modest estimation of Chappie nearly coincided with the film’s average viewer rating on IMDb. Our sci-fi buff pointed it out. But by then we were comfortably settled in a nearby restaurant (that served craft beer, of course) and our conversation has taken a decidedly less abstract but nonetheless equally pleasant turn.

Let us leave the enquiry into the meaning of film ratings for the next time.

Long Beach Brewery was forged by two guys with a passion to create crisp, refreshing handmade craft beers with the finest ingredients. The brewery is named after the famous Cape Town surf and horse-riding destination and situated in Cape Town's beautiful, Noordhoek valley. Their craft beer selection includes: Bomb Shell, a Belgium style Blonde ale, Green Room, an Indian pale ale or Deep Water, their dark ale and stout Porter. They say only a surfer knows the feeling... Long Beach Brewery's aim is to make it possible for everyone to "know the feeling". Buy Now

*The 2015 sci-fi action film is the chief ingredient in this month’s craft opinion. T.C.O.B. believes in hedonism through innovation.

3 Casino-themed Film Characters that You’re Unlikely to Forget in a Hurry

Gambling films first hit our screens when Western films featured them so heavily. However, it wasn't until Steve McQueen starred in the iconic Cincinnati Kid back in 1965 that they really make a mark on the film industry. From then on, Hollywood produced a steady stream of films showcasing the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas casinos.

The more mainstream, big budget films brought us the likes of James Bond, the English secret agent who often threw down huge wagers against his villainous counterparts. There was also the suave Danny Ocean in the Ocean’s trilogy played by George Clooney. But who are 3 of the most memorable characters that appeared in some of the lower budget films over the years? Read on to find out…

1. Lester “Worm” Murphy (Ed Norton, Rounders)

Rounders has turned into somewhat of a cult classic over the years. The film starring Matt Damon, John Malkovich and Famke Janssen also featured the enigmatic Ed Norton as Worm. For the most part, Worm was the unreliable gambling addict who had just been released from prison. The story sees Worm drag his friend Mike McDermott (Matt Damon) back into the underworld of poker, run by the notorious KGB.

Norton's flair for playing the unpredictable has got him to where he is today, and, as Worm, he's at his very best. Worm is the friend that you want to help but you know you really shouldn't. And Mike certainly finds out the hard way in Rounders.

2. Jim Bennett (Mark Wahlberg, The Gambler)

It could be argued that Wahlberg didn’t get the credit he deserved for playing the hapless, Jim Bennett in The Gambler. It was a chance for Wahlberg to showcase his versatility as an actor that we seldom see. With this role he plays a failing English professor who is relying on his wealthy mother to get him out of trouble after lending countless amounts of money from loan sharks due to his insatiable lust for high stakes gambling.

If you haven’t seen the movie, ignore some of the harsh reviews – it's worth a watch for Wahlberg’s performance alone.

3. Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci, Casino)

Okay, so we cheated a little bit including a character from Casino, but how could you construct a list and leave out Nicky Santoro played by the untouchable-at-the-time, Joe Pesci. The beauty of this was Santoro's psychotic nature – his inability to control his feelings when anyone disrespected him even in the slightest. It will forever go down as Pesci's most memorable performance and for that reason alone; he couldn’t be missed off this list.

With films now more accessible than ever, many are looking to watch their favorite genres via new streaming platforms such as Netflix, where shows can be ported straight to iPads and iPhones or even the latest Androids. The accessibility is boundless now, and popular films are being showcased in the strangest of ways. Cosplayers actively dress up as various DC and Marvel characters, while films like Jurassic Park and Terminator are celebrated through Slots on Spin Genie and other virtual casino portals, and frankly the list goes on when it comes to commemorating the art of film-making

The film industry has never been stronger, and its commercial reach has never been so vast. You've read our list above, so make sure you jog your memory by reliving the wonders of Worm, Nicky Santoro and Jim Bennett onscreen when you next get some free time.

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