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The Craft Opinion Brewery (T.C.O.B.) #9 by Leonidas Michael


DEAD OR ALIVE: T.C.O.B. delves into the eschatology of hedonism*

(*But, for those who make a habit of driving under the influence of alcohol, let it be noted in advance that hedonism is possible, for better or for worse, only while you’re alive.)

I’m not entirely sure why I went to watch The Hateful Eight. I’m not into Westerns as a genre, and the only Tarantino film I can say unambiguously that I liked was Reservoir Dogs. Perhaps I’m experiencing an adolescent resurgence. A hormonal imbalance may have triggered a craving for the comic-book violence that I’ve come to associate with his films. But if it was gratification I was expecting from The Hateful Eight, what I got instead was terminal dialogue. Great God, was there talking in this film! Not even the perennially comical Samuel L. Jackass could keep me from making an early exit.

I’d wasted my money. Nonetheless, that was not to be the final judgment on my mid-week evening out. My frustration in the cinema and subsequent remedy (see T.C.O.B.#2 for more on leaving films early) resulted in two positive events. Firstly, I was able to get to a liquor shop just before closing time and purchase myself a pack of Long Beach Ales. Secondly, I found myself, since I now had nothing to occupy my mind, trying to recall which Westerns I’d seen and liked. My recollection of three in particular was so pleasurable as to ramify into more pleasure. For I resolved to watch those three films again.

So it was that I watched Dead Man for the fourth time. The first was in Tromso, Norway, about ten degrees north of the Arctic Circle. The season when darkness shrouds the land for weeks on end – what the locals call the “murky time” – was approaching. In such conditions, watching a film about a man who makes his last mortal quest through a twilight zone of violence and mystery is bound to leave a deep impression. But even in sunny, optimistic Cape Town, Jim Jarmusch’s 1995 film was a taste of what I expect to experience when I stand on the edge of my mortality. The picture has the quality of 19th century daguerreotypes. It’s an apt visual interpretation of the murky (in the sense of lawlessness) world on and beyond the frontier. The cast is of the highest order, starting with Jonny Depp as the Dead Man, formerly Bill Blake, accountant from the city of Cleveland. He’s accompanied by a gallery of fantastic characters: an Indian guide called Nobody, a cannibalistic bounty hunter, a missionary preaching genocide, a stoker who looks like a minor minion of Hell, Sally Jenko aka Iggy Pop, to name some. The dialogue is steeped with the grim poetry of a funeral mass. The music – Neil Young, mostly on solo electric guitar – conjures images of clouds gathering, visions taking shape in flames, spirits convening… Like I said: the edge of mortality.

One-Eyed Jacks

One-Eyed Jacks was released in 1961. I must have seen it for the first time when I was six or seven, possibly on the old SABC on a Saturday night when my parents were out. I remember it thrilled me, though I can’t say why. It’s the one film directed by Marlon Brando, who was also in the lead role, playing an outlaw determined to avenge the treachery of a former partner. On this my second viewing I was not thrilled. It seemed to me that Brando wanted to reinterpret A Streetcar Named Desire using rearing horses and gunplay. The result is an overcomplicated plot and ponderous dialogues embedded in epic Western scenery (sierra, cactus, saloon). But, despite the handicap, the cast performs strongly, giving you a real sense of what it is to gamble your very life for revenge, wealth, respectability or happiness. In several shots, the actors are even reminiscent of the pictures on playing cards. To sum up, there was enough in One-Eyed Jacks to keep me interested for the two and a half hours of its duration. I only doubt I’ll watch it a third time.

In contrast to the others, the final opus in my Western resurgence is a straightforward tale of a good guy looking to make little money in a village dominated by two barbarous gangs. Released in 1964, it was directed by Sergio Leone, an Italian, as you might have guessed by the name. Most of the cast in this definitive film in the Western genre is not even American, the exception being Clint Eastwood, who was playing his first leading role in a feature film. Therefore, it was expedient for the English dialogues to be dubbed. There are inconsistencies in the lip-syncing. There’s none of the poetry you have in Dead Man, though there are occasional gems, for example, in a scene where Eastwood asks four thugs to apologise to his mule. The power of A Fistful of Dollars, however, lies in the pictures: the intense blue of the sky (purportedly over Mexica, actually over Spain), the sun-bleached walls of cottages, the worn iron of firearms, the dusty leather of boots and chaps. A well-timed close-up reveals the sweat on the face of a man constantly exposed to the blazing sun and the threat of a violent death, the smirk on the lips of a sadist, or the knitted brows of a hero determined to overcome evil: pictures worth a thousand words. Ennio Morricone’s elegiac music, now almost universally associated with gun duels at high noon, is the final touch to a sublime work of art disguised as great action film.

Which of the four films mentioned here did I take the greatest pleasure in? If the answer could be reached by simple arithmetic I’d say Dead Man for I’ve watched it more times than the others (I watched A Fistful of Dollars three times). But this is probably not my final judgment. I’m sure that more viewings of both Dead Man and A Fistful of Dollars will delight my senses by the time the bell tolls.

Carpe diem!

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

 
Review: VU - MTN's Premium Entertainment Network


It seems that South Africa has suddenly been inundated with movie and television network services. MTN's VU, DStv's Box Office, Netflix, ShowMax and Google Play have entered the market with an ever-widening bouquet of entertainment choices, broadcasting capabilities and viewing options. With piracy, torrents and illegal downloads, it seems there's a ready-and-waiting market of untapped South African consumers, who have forgone the traditional bricks-and-mortar video store and cineplex experience for home entertainment on-the-fly.

The big idea (and primary defence) is that most downloaders are willing to pay for quality entertainment, but it needs to be accessible, inexpensive and watchable according to their viewing habits. Naturally, many have followed in the Netflix wake, offering a complete entertainment solution for those happy to pay a subscription for unlimited access to world-class entertainment.

VU - Premium Entertainment Network

One such network, MTN's VU (formerly known as FrontRow), a premium entertainment network in South Africa, has taken this offering to the next level. VU currently offers a full-range of quality movies, TV series, documentaries and music content with free streaming for MTN subscribers. The cellphone network have opened the service across the board and made the idea of switching over to their network even more attractive by allowing subscribers to stream via LTE at no additional cost. The prohibitive costs of working an uncapped data package into the mix, make their flat R99 per month offer a major draw card for first-time users.

VU

Free Content Streaming at 99 Bucks a Month!

It sounds too good to be true, but it isn't. The free streaming service and competitive R99 per month positioning may not continue indefinitely, but right now it's enough for people to get onto MTN's network, even if just to take advantage of this deal. VU is still in its infancy as a brand, but the technology behind the service is up-to-scratch and reliable enough to make this home entertainment package popular and extremely viable for users with smart phones, tablets and laptops - you can register up to 5 devices to your account.

Portable Viewing

VU takes entertainment beyond the home to wherever you are. Logging into the VU app allows you to access content on the bus or while waiting in a queue. The app bookmarks where you left off with your latest episode or movie, allowing you to catch a few minutes whenever you feel the urge. Although it would be nice to be able to edit your play list by deleting half-watched episodes without having to finish them.

The pause during play doesn't really let you pause more than 5 seconds before forcing you to return to the playlist, but a few taps of the screen and you're watching again. The playback is seamless when you're receiving a strong LTE signal and still watchable when you're only getting one bar... although expect to see the buffering logo pop-up on your cellphone or experience reduced quality streaming on your laptop. It's bearable on-the-go, but you'll want to make sure you live in an area with a strong signal for the best results at home.

On-Demand Viewing

What's great is that VU offers a wide selection of TV series, films and new releases and keep up-to-date with series like Starz's Black Sails, which gets added a day after airing in the States. The MaxVU subscription enables you to access their current TV series and older movie selection, while the PremiereVU gives you the option of renting a newer film for R15 or a latest release for R27 using your airtime or credit card. VU even have an as-and-when weekend access option for R39 if you want to steamroll through a TV series or become one with your couch.

VU - Premium Entertainment Network

Entertainment Selection

VU's selection is not comprehensive, but there are enough films, popular TV shows, documentaries and music videos to keep you going, fill in the gaps or try something new and you get to watch them at your own pace. Browsing titles is quite straightforward as categories are subdivided, the details give you series breakdowns and synopses and you've got the option to search the collection too.

The film collection isn't obvious, giving you an array of films you probably haven't had access to in the past, including classics like: The Jerk, The Breakfast Club, The Princess Bride, Rear Window and Bad Santa to more contemporary popular titles like Smokin' Aces, Spider-Man, Serenity and the Scream Trilogy. The TV series collection doesn't have every season of every show, but includes a considerable selection of classic sitcoms like: The Office and Scrubs to more contemporary dramas like Black Sails, Peaky Blinders, Sherlock, Luther, House and Breaking Bad.

Miracasting

One of the main drawbacks is that VU isn't compatible with Chromecast or similar miracasting devices yet. This won't bother you if primarily watch content on your portable deivces, but it will restrict you to watching on your devices if you're used to watching on your HD flat screen. It's probably only a matter of time, before they update their app to allow this, but it's worth noting.

The Bottom Line

While VU isn't perfect, it's an incredibly attractive entertainment solution for people who want entertainment at their fingertips. You can expect the odd playback issue relating to signal, buffering, or an intermittent time out - but it's generally stable enough to keep you glued to your screen. The Chromecast compatibility thing is an inconvenience, but with several other viewing options available, you can easily overlook this and get used to watching on another screen until this becomes a possibility. The monthly subscription pricing is very competitive, the entertainment selection is broad and varied, the portability factor will revolutionise the way you do TV and movies, while free streaming for MTN users is a massive competitive advantage! Subscribe here

 
The Craft Opinion Brewery (T.C.O.B.) #8 by Leonidas Michael


Once again, we do the SATANTANGO*

(* “You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough.” – William Blake. But please note that hedonism, like Satantango and Long Beach Craft Beer is for adults only.)

Let’s pick up from where we left off in T.C.O.B.#7… Satantango is the story of a swindle. Eight people decide to abandon their decaying community, taking everything of value with them. At first they attempt to cheat one another out of their shares. Then, having discovered one another’s scheming, they agree to collaborate, only to be collectively swindled by an enigmatic outsider called Irimias.

Director Bela Tarr strove for visual eloquence in every shot. So, even though the film’s original language is Hungarian, it is possible for non-speakers (i.e. just about anyone) to follow the story just by observing the pictures while keeping the synopsis I gave above in mind. Of course, you could get hold of a subtitled version to ensure you don’t lose the plot or in case you wish to explore one or more of Satantango’s beguiling side-roads.

To observe the pictures makes sense when you watch any film. In the case of Satantango, that is something that is also very easy to do. I said that the director sought visual eloquence. What he achieved is… I won’t call it beautiful because beauty is far too difficult to define… but it is simple and clear. Not a single shot is cluttered. Not a single shot is superfluous.

Furthermore, you are given ample time to observe. Nearly all the shots last a minute or more – some for more than three minutes. This particular idiosyncrasy of Bela Tarr’s visual language is responsible for Satantango’s 7-hour running time. But no one says you have to watch it all at once. The film consists of three parts, each of roughly feature film length. You could watch it over three nights. Or, as the parts are themselves divided into episodes, twelve in total, each between 30 and 40 minutes, you could watch it like a daily soap-opera.

Satantango Film

Whatever method of observation you choose, you will be surprised at how easily you are drawn out of your corporeal reality and into that of the Satantango. For me it’s an intoxicating experience that I’ve repeated several times. And unlike the one that results from going to a film like Mad Max 3 (see T.C.O.B.#1 ), where your senses are blitzed by sound, colour and motion, you leave your body but remain lucid.

So, the decay mentioned as a sociological concept in the synopsis turns into the unravelling and rain-sodden clothes of the Satantango’s protagonists, the muddy street of their village, the crumbling masonry of their homes. The alcohol, on which T.C.O.B.#6 and T.C.O.B.#7 waxed lyrical, transubstantiates from spirit to flesh disposed for good as for evil or merely for stultification…

It would be pointless to name the actors here. They are remarkable talents but mostly unknown outside of the Hungarian public – and not exactly celebrities within that public. Nonetheless, whoever observes the Satantango will quickly become as familiar with them, their expressions, movements and drinking habits, as the masses are familiar with the stars of soap-operas. I’m not suggesting that the proximity is always pleasant. But, after seven hours, you get something which soap opera followers are cheated out of forever: a satisfying conclusion.

The conclusion to Satantango is death. It may sound dismal, even to the indomitable, Long-Beach-craft-beer-drinking Capetowner. But, in the context of the out-of-body experience alluded to above, it is quite literally invigorating. Arguably, it is the most rewarding moment in the film. For then it becomes clear that everything that has gone before – the swindle, the drunkenness, the decay… all the seven-hour Satantango(or your observation thereof) – was an overcoming of the despair caused by the certainty of death. It’s a moment filled with light, just after the screen turns black.

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 Craft Opinion Brewery (T.C.O.B.) #7 by Leonidas Michael


This month we do the SATANTANGO… again*

(*T.C.O.B. believes that hedonism, as most everything, improves with practise.)

People who follow the T.C.O.B. will have noticed our fondness for physical reactions. In the very first column, we discussed how you might use your feet to put distance between yourself and a film you dislike. Just recently we described a film we like very much in terms of the effects of a good alcoholic beverage on the human body. The principle, briefly formulated, is cognitive stimulus/physical reaction.

T.C.O.B.’s objective, however, is to make people more aware of what they like, not dogmatise. So we are willing to reverse the principle we’ve adhered to until now. We’ll react cognitively to physical stimuli and see how this might contribute to the enjoyment of films.

Let’s take a simple proposition. Suppose you were to drink 440ml of one of South Africa’s top ten craft beers, for example, a Green Room. Clearly, you would be physically affected, not least because of the alcohol content (6.5%) of this pale ale from the Long Beach Brewing Company. You could react by abandoning yourself to idleness (physical reaction). Though you might also rest your chin on the back of your hand and ask yourself, “Now what is this craft beer business all about?” Various concepts would take shape in your consciousness… the chemistry of pure malt, hops and water, perhaps… the geological structure of the Cape Peninsula… the cultural identity of its inhabitants… the psychology of local entrepreneurs who not only want to support their family financially but also transmit values like independence, initiative, sustainability…

Returning to Satantango, let’s look at a scene in which the physical stimulus/cognitive reaction principle is demonstrated. The enigmatic protagonist Irimias sits with his side-kick Petrina in an empty restaurant. They sip liqueur from little glasses. In the picture the drink appears black – a product of Satan’s own alembic, perhaps. Then, from an attitude of that repose you see in working men with a drink in hand at the end of a hard day, Irimias stands and instructs Petrina to take dictation:

The intensity of light penetrating darkness seems to weaken. There is discontinuance… finally black nothing and a myriad of stars in the unreachable distance with a tiny spark in the middle: the ego. Our deeds can be rewarded or punished in eternity and only there, because everything has a place, a place far away from reality a place where it has always been, where it is going to be, where it is now: the only authentic place.

The passage is the climax of a letter addressed to their superior. With it, Irimias seeks to justify his plan. Simultaneously, it is a universal exaltation of egotism, even to the point of exhorting crime. I recall it here because it was one of the moments when the successive variations of light received by my retinas and of sound vibrating on my ear bones (is film not fundamentally a physical stimulus?) provoked a cognitive reaction, that is, a question: “What is Satantango about?” and a possible answer:

Satantango is about eight people who decide to escape their decaying community. At first, two couples attempt to make off with the community funds. But their plan is found out by the others. Grudgingly, they all agree to collaborate, abandoning the rest of the community to its fate, only to be foiled by Irimias, who tricks them into giving him all their funds and turns them into the instruments of his own shadowy plan.

This might seem like a very convoluted way to arrive at a 74-word synopsis. Perhaps some readers would have preferred more information more directly. Wielding our own analogy, they would have argued that an equally valid cognitive reaction to the physical stimulus produced by beer is “More beer!” and urged the application of the principle to the review of Satantango. T.C.O.B. cannot reasonably object to this. In fact, we propose to do exactly that next month. We shall immerse ourselves in Satantango as one might dunk one’s head in a vat of beer, intoxicate ourselves in it and see where it takes us.

Until then, T.C.O.B. together with the Long Beach Brewing Company urge anyone wishing to indulge in the special pleasure of alcoholic intoxication to ensure first that it will not harm anyone (especially minors) around them.

Compliments of the season.

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

 
Top 5 Superhero Movies


Spling picks his top 5 superhero movies... not an easy undertaking when you consider the glut of solid superhero movies out there!

The Dark Knight


The Dark Knight

Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins redefined the superhero genre by redressing the comic book icon as a person of great innovation, determination and wealth with a bent for vigilantism. The new direction was fresh, gritty and helped set in motion a superhero genesis for DC and Marvel, whose superheroes have been graduating to the big screen ever since. However, it was Nolan's The Dark Knight that really immersed us in the world of Gotham, where supervillains and superheroes exist, a dark city full of organized crime and political muscling. The film's sense of grandeur and gravity gave it an immense and clinical feeling, bringing a system of order to the madness of a psychotic Joker in Heath Ledger and a conflicted Batman in Christian Bale.

 

Iron Man

 


Iron Man

Robert Downey Jr. was not an obvious choice to play Tony Stark and Jon Favreau was not an obvious choice to direct Iron Man. Yet, these would-be underdogs managed to turn a Wednesday superhero into a self-professed and lovable "genuis, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist", who also happens to be a part-time defender of freedom as Iron Man. The mixture of explosive action, dazzling visual effects, Downey Jr's unpredictable egotistical manner and AC/DC's rock out music set this superhero film on fire and made it a surprising blockbuster for Marvel, who have continued to leverage Downey Jr's magnetism and unofficial leadership in The Avengers and The Avengers: Age of Ultron.

The Incredibles


The Incredibles

Brad Bird is a bit of a perfectionist and his animation work is testament to his craft, having directed The Iron Giant and Ratatouille, although it's his superhero action adventure family comedy that stands tallest. The Incredibles is a Pixar all-rounder, appealing to just about everyone and delivering entertainment value in full force. By immersing us in a world where superheroes are commonplace, this smart animated adventure gets to grips with the flipside of fitting in and getting along as our ragtag team of family superheroes band together to take down a nerdy supervillain wannabe. It truly is incredible... and it doesn't hurt that it's also hilarious, feel good fun for the whole family!

Guardians of the Galaxy


Guardians of the Galaxy

Primed as the "Space Avengers", this intergalactic superhero action comedy adventure is full of surprises. Our intrepid and brash Starlord, played by Chris Pratt, oversees the unification of the Guardians of the Galaxy as the underdog criminals become universal heroes. This action-packed movie feels like a mash-up of The A-Team, Robotech and Star Wars as the team of unlikely superheroes form, storm and norm. While it starts off slow, the action and comedy mature as this action extravaganza ramps up to the tune of a classic mix tape. It may seem like Tarantino in space, but this Marvel cult classic is the handywork of James Gunn. Marvel's universe even extends to online video games.

X-Men: Days of Future Past


X-Men: Days of Future Past

Bryan Singer's X-Men legacy lives on. Entrusted to direct the first and second films, Singer took a break with X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men: First Class before picking up the franchise again. His latest effort combines the old guard with the new generation as the two ages unite with Wolverine as their common denominator. It's a time travel action-adventure that seamlessly blends both the past and the future as Hugh Jackman slices his way through time, as origin stories are revealed and a cataclysmic story with multiple repercussions unfolds in an entertaining, imaginative, vivid and breathtaking fashion.

 
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