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Cinema vs Television: Scorsese, Lynch and Beyond


Martin Scorsese has been in the news lately. What seems to be set as a shoe-in this coming award season is his latest, The Irishman. Starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci the epic crime drama has a stellar ensemble and who's who of gangster Hollywood. A strong genre film based on a book of the same name, which follows a mob hitman and his connection with labour union leader Jimmy Hoffer, the sprawling gangster picture clocks in at 3 1/2 hours.

While it probably had something to do with publicity in the weeks leading up to the release of The Irishman on Netflix, Scorsese was quite vocal about his feelings on the Marvel cinematic universe. Essentially dismissing the franchise's spectacle by likening it to a theme park ride, his remarks pressed buttons with fans of the box office blockbusters. While spectacular, imaginative and star-studded the CGI monoliths are very different from what a director like Martin Scorsese can bring to the party. One of Hollywood's's most respected filmmakers of all time, legendary Marvel producer Kevin Feige was almost resigned in his response to Scorsese's comments.

At 3.5 hours, The Irishman is one of his longest films yet and while compelling, it is a slog to endure the full duration in one sitting. The temptation to watch it in several parts is much stronger based on the fact that it has been released on Netflix, allowing more wiggle room when it comes to play and pause as opposed to conventional theatre. A meme doing the rounds giving audiences a handy four-part breakdown, and Netflix's insistence that the film only get a very limited theatrical release, has meant that many viewers would have watched it almost like a miniseries. Ironically, being a cinematic purist, Scorsese has now been tasked with maintaining that The Irishman is in fact a film and not a miniseries.

This irony and new streaming services have created a fascinating grey area. Roma, a film released on Netflix which did get a theatrical run was regarded as one of the year's best films receiving a number of awards during last year's award season. Rather niche, the black-and-white arthouse drama spent a year in the life of a maid in Mexico City. Far from mainstream, it was a surprising and even promising move from Netflix, something of a pioneer in the film industry. While raising many eyebrows, not just Robert De Niro's, The Irishman can almost be seen as a bit of a challenge and a disruptor in its wake.

Blurring the lines between what constitutes a cinematic feature film release as opposed to a straight-to-video TV movie, it's becoming increasingly difficult to make the distinction. Television is now in its golden age, in some cases matching cinema in every respect, almost forcing some re-evaluation. The boundaries have certainly shifted over the years and one great example of this is the return to Twin Peaks. The highly anticipated season three of Twin Peaks by writer-director David Lynch further muddied the waters. Releasing on Showtime, it has been argued that the TV series is in fact the best film of the last decade. With each episode winding up in a bar with a musical interlude, you could see how it would be easy to glue every episode together without the interludes to form one very long film.

David Lynch's Twin Peaks series was revolutionary at the time it first emerged, inspiring a number of other shows with similar elements and appetites. The filmmaker is or has been quite reluctant to delve too far into television, having only directed several of the original Twin Peaks episodes. His latest effort makes a great case study and example when it comes to trying to differentiate between television and film, having served as director from start to finish. Nowadays the crossovers are quite normal with many film actors becoming figureheads for long-running TV series. While there used to be a stigma attached to TV productions, the calibre and popularity of such shows is making it much easier and advantageous to associate.

Streaming services are giving viewers access to the latest and greatest from the comfort of their own home. While influential filmmakers like Martin Scorsese are being won over, one wonders what implications opting to release on the small screen could have in the long run. It's much more comfortable to watch from the comfort of your own home, yet with the wide spectrum of quality when it comes to home theatres, it may not be an optimal first point screening platform.

Moreover, taking these kind of screen gems away from theatres could further jeopardise the film industry from a financial point-of-view. While there is plenty of money to be made via streaming services at present, who are bending over backwards in order to create fast entertainment catalogues, one does wonder how long and sustainable this can be. While it's promising that many people are turning to streaming services instead of simply pirating content, it's difficult to comprehend how such small "family" subscription fees will be able to substitute for the cost of a movie ticket and be able to advance the industry. These radical changes are certainly turning things upside down, although as more streaming providers come to the party things are going to further complicate themselves.

 
Norval Foundation - An Art Museum and Cultural Centre


The Norval Foundation is an art museum and centre for cultural expression in Steenberg, Cape Town. Exhibiting a wide variety of art, their focus is on local and international visual art from the 20th and 21st century. Adjacent to the Table Mountain National Park and next door to the Steenberg Golf Club, the museum's architectural lines blend into nature with many great windows and spectacular views. Breaking free from structure, it spills into nature through the beautifully tranquil Sculpture Garden and outdoor amphitheatre.

 

Through versatile exhibition spaces and a dedicated research library, the centre seeks to expose guests to some of the greatest artists at home and abroad. Currently exhibiting the work of William Kentridge, the museum has an extensive tour of his Dada-inspired creations. Using found objects and a touch of surreal whimsy, the celebrated art and theatre legend has an unbridled passion for creating. Mechanical pieces with a musical affinity, stereoscopic art for added depth as well as massive sculptures adorn most of the ground level displays.

Kentridge has a playful yet poetic approach to his work with many recurring motifs. Taking on an interactive element, his pieces come alive through wonder and imagination. While an outright original, there are hints of David Lynch's fascination with movement and technology with a dab of Monty Python's experimental energy and humour.

Norval Foundation

Another highlight is the visual exhibition 'in Pursuit of Venus [infected]' by Lisa Reihana. The eclectic video against a painted backdrop restages historical events, both real and imagined, as the first contact between the British and Pacific people plays out. A wide projected image across an entire gallery, the New Zealand artist's piece plays out inviting viewers to immerse themselves in the ancient world. Authentic and even harrowing at times, the series of encounters create a sense of being there, interspersed and happening simultaneously with traveling audio. At 64 minutes, it's a surreal and haunting display that will resonate quite strongly with South Africa's history, echoing the story of Krotoa, which was recently adapted to film.

While the museum is laden with information, joining a tour will help you excavate the inside stories, adding another layer of context to the artwork. Upstairs a collection of artwork has been cleverly curated to sit alongside each other and serve as contrasts. Adding further nuance and counterbalancing each other to offer new dimensions, each piece is further enriched.

The Skotnes restaurant is now a favourite. Allowing plenty of natural light in through window walls, exhibiting nature in its glory and set against manicured gardens from the mind of Keith Kirsten, the exterior makes it a beautiful space. The interior's stylish furniture and decorative ceiling complement the museum's desire to create a space for art and people to co-exist. Serving up good coffee and sporting a versatile menu, it could be your new favourite meeting spot.

Norval Foundation Sculpture Garden

With musical performances and are ever-evolving art display, the Norval Foundation is a wonderous place with a fixed gaze on celebrating art and culture in our country. Whether you're visiting the museum, restaurant or staying over in the apartment, there's always a way for you to connect with what's happening at the Norval Foundation.

General admission tickets are R180 for adults and under 18s get in free. They have membership options and if you visit on first Thursdays, it's free for everyone. Open every day of the week from 10am - 6pm, except Tuesdays, there's really no excuse for you not to enjoy what the museum and centre has on offer. Even if you're not even in Cape Town you can get a sense of the place from their virtual tour.

 
Review: The Hilarious Mark Banks on Ice Comedy - 60 Years of Madness


Mark Banks on Ice is a one-man stand-up comedy show now playing at Pieter Toerien's Theatre on the Bay in Camps Bay, Cape Town. Legendary South African comedian, Mark Banks, has made a name for himself with his outrageous brand of comedy. While the poster and title are flamboyant and over-the-top, the show as you may have guessed is much more pared down with scenes of snowfall.

Banks has a very dry sense of humour, not afraid to poke fun at politicians, making him probably well-suited to leading a comedy roast. While the show is "on ice", there isn't really a theme holding everything together as Banks allows his repertoire to cover flights, sharks, school and a range of popular go-to stand up topics.

Wheezing at some of his own jokes, his facial expressions are quite priceless, able to say so much with the roll of his eyes or a grimace. Teasing out some of the local Cape Town news of the day and things you'll notice, he takes a few potshots with the click of his heels.

Comfortable on stage, freewheeling through his set and maintaining good patter with the audience, he managed to keep the laughs coming through regularly with some clever wordplay, repetition, stereotyping, accents and great inflection. While some bits of his show have been played before, there is enough fresh material to keep things upbeat and funny.

While his audience front row picks were unfortunately a little bit bland with Judy and a Calitzdorpian, he still managed to add some spice, admittedly returning to pick up some of the pieces later on in the act. Planning his standing ovation early into the show, after the 82 minute run time, he did get a semi-ovation which probably summed up the night. While Banks is sharp-witted, he managed to operate without profanity, refraining from going there possibly playing into the show poster's satirical Disney edge. This didn't stop him from being lewd and lascivious from time to time, but it probably wouldn't be a Mark Banks show without some depravity.

Being one of the best BS artists in the game, his outlandish tall stories constantly verged on the point of becoming hysterical with some tipping over. Picking on soft targets such as the disabled, aged and homeless, his bold brand of comedy was adventurous and he managed to be risqué, flirting with shock value as if he was fishing for gasps. All in all, it was a great night out with Banks injecting energy and sizzle the whole way through.

 
Zog Nominated for an International Emmy


South Africa is having a good year at the International Emmys: first The River was nominated as best Telenovela and now Zog, animated in Cape Town by Triggerfish for the UK’s Magic Light Pictures, is up for Best Kids’ Animation. The short film is based on Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s award-winning and beloved 2010 picture book, which sold over 1.5 million copies. You may remember this interview with co-director Daniel Snaddon.

Zog is the keenest but clumsiest pupil in his class at Dragon School, where he longs to win a gold star as he learns how to fly, roar and breathe fire. He keeps meeting a kindly young girl who patches up his bumps and bruises, but can she help him with his trickiest school assignment yet: capturing a princess?

Co-directed by two-time Oscar nominee Max Lang (The Gruffalo and Room On The Broom) and multi-award-winning South African Daniel Snaddon (Stick Man), Zog is competing against Grizzy and the Lemmings (France), Jorel's Brother (Brazil), and Lamput (India).

“We’re delighted,” says Stuart Forrest, CEO of Triggerfish. “Congratulations to Magic Light, Max, Daniel and everyone who helped bring Zog to life. We hope this latest nomination encourages more South Africans to try out animation, using our free digital learning platform and upcoming 10-second animation competition.”

Zog is the fourth in a string of BBC Christmas adaptations animated by Triggerfish for Magic Light, following the multi-award-winning Donaldson-Scheffler adaptations Stick Man and The Highway Rat as well as the Oscar-nominated Roald Dahl adaptation Revolting Rhymes, which also won the International Emmy in 2018.

Before teaming up with Triggerfish, Magic Light also made three previous Donaldson-Scheffler adaptations: the Oscar-nominated The Gruffalo and Room On The Broom and Annecy winner The Gruffalo’s Child. All seven family classics are now streaming on Showmax.

 
Three of the Best Road Trip Movies


With Identity Thief, Mad Max: Fury Road and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip grossing between R12-18 million at the box office, road trip movies have done big business over the last few years. However, these represent a small percentage of the genre. Some of the greatest South African films in history have been about road trips. The following are three such movies that every cinephile should check out.

Easy Rider: A Movie About The New American Dream

This 1969 film stars Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda as two bikers who travel across the American South. Along the way they meet a wide variety of people, including an alcoholic lawyer played by a young Jack Nicholson. Easy Rider changed cinema in several ways. It is considered one of the catalysts for the New Hollywood era, a period in the late '60s and '70s when American cinema took a counter-cultural shift. Films began to poke and prod the establishment in which they used to comfortably sit. This tale of two hippies made road trip movies a symbol of more than just freedom and fun.

Nebraska: A Film About Family

Now for a movie that is both freewheeling and fun. Nebraska is a comedy-drama from 2013 about a son who takes his father on a road trip to claim a million-dollar prize that he thinks he won. Spoiler alert: he hasn’t, but the movie isn't about the prize; it’s about the cross-country bonding experience between father and son. In the end, when the father realises that the prize is a sham, the son trades in his Subaru for a late-model truck, the kind that the father wished to buy when he received the money. This gesture is prize enough.

The Straight Story: A Literal And Figurative Straight Story

The Straight Story is not your typical road trip movie. It’s directed by David Lynch, and based on the true story of an elderly man named Alvin Straight, who traveled 390 kilometers on a riding lawnmower to visit his ailing brother. Since the lawnmower had a top speed of eight kilometres an hour, the trip took six weeks. Alvin Straight is portrayed by Richard Farnsworth in an Academy Award-nominated performance. Farnsworth was suffering from cancer during production; The Straight Story was his final film.

There is a wealth of road trip movies worth watching. Though Easy Rider, Nebraska, and The Straight Story are some of the best the genre has to offer, they are the tip of the iceberg. Just as the open road symbolises so much in real life, it symbolises so much in film.

 
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