Sunday, March 28, 2010

Meeting John Cleese

As you know, the reason I came to the Midlands was to interview John Cleese, for his role in the Spud movie. It is due for release in November, so my full interview has to wait a bit before it goes to air, and I have to save much of what he said during that time. But I can say this: I found Mr Cleese to be a polite, peculiar and humourous person. He did, however, call me a 'wuss' because I don't like bats. Just before the interview itself began he was telling me about how a bat had come into hi room the previous night and how his girlfriend Jenny had been petrified by it. Cleese, on the other hand, quite enjoyed the experience, saying he likes a bat's skin because it is silky and dark. He must have seen my face scrunch up because that's when he told me I was a wuss and would get on very well with Jenny. Luckily I didn't take it too personally.

With The Cleese - he sat down so that I could "tower over" him. How sweet!

Spud author John van der Ruit was at the guesthouse when I was waiting to do the interview. I commented to him that this all must be like a big Hollywood dream for him, and he said that it was, and the best part is that it's going so well. I bumped into him a little later while out to dinner at the best Italian restaurant in the Midlands - he was with his family. His mom was very quick to tell me she's not at all like the mother of John 'Spud' Milton in the book. I would probably also be quick to make that clear - especially when the first book in the series opens like this:
"Cursed with parents from well well beyond the lunatic fringe, a senile granny, and a dormitory full of strange characters, Spud has his hands full trying to adapt to his new home." 

I also met some of the youngsters playing the Crazy 8 - thanks to my friend Chris who is tutoring them. Sweet guys with good manners - nice to see. They said they were really liking working with Jason Cope (District 9's main Prawn) who plays Sparerib. Everyone also raves about Troye Sivan, who plays Spud, saying he is an excellent actor and a really nice guy. Not least of those raving about Troye is Cleese himself. He told me he enjoys acting with him - which makes for a change because he hasn't really enjoyed acting in a long time. Troye - who was born in South Africa but lives in Australia - played the young Wolverine in the movie that Gavin Hood directed, and it looks like his star is definitely on the rise...And I hope to make him my next Spud interview.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

And Now for Something Completely Different...

Location: OR Tambo
Destination: Michaelhouse, Midlands, Kwazulu Natal
Assignment: Interview John Cleese, aka The Guv in Spud

So this assignment is only a plane ride, a scenic car drive and a ‘funny walk’ away. I am looking forward to meeting one of the world’s most revered actors and funniest comedians. John Cleese gave us Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Basil (I can still hear his wife in the series calling his name in her shrill tone) in Fawlty Towers and Archie Leach in A Fish Called Wanda. Oh, and he also married Karen in Will&Grace!

It took a lot of planning and coercing to get this interview. I have 20 minutes with him – but I will make them count. I was in Cannes when I first heard John Cleese was being lined up as the big name attached to the movie in the making. I had to keep it under wraps until it was confirmed a few months later. The first reaction from most people – including the author of the best-selling series himself – was that Cleese was the perfect person for the role. A match made in heaven. I want to know if Cleese himself felt this as well – in fact, how did he come to be involved in the project?

A few little Did-You-Know facts about The Cleese that I Did-Not-Know:

-         his family’s surname was originally Cheese, but his dad changed that when he went to the army
-         he is 70 years old (I knew he was somewhere in that bracket) and is dating a woman who is almost half that (39)
-         he has always been tall – at school at the age of 13 he was well over 6ft
-         he studied as a scientist and taught the subject at his former prep school
-         he was a rector at the University of St Andrews
-         his voice can be downloaded for directional guidance purposes as a downloadable option on some personal GPS-navigation device models by company Tom-Tom
-         He is apparently working on a stage play of A Fish Called Wanda

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


You'll most certainly by now have heard of this anti-crime campaign. I got a taste of this concept a few months ago - through an early screening of the music video for Shout. Although it was just a draft copy, it already impressed me: the calibre of artists involved, the message behind the concept and the passion driving the campaign.

It's the brainchild of Danny K and Kabelo. And funny thing, while Danny was launching the video, together with a host of local musicians like Tamara Dey, Slikour, Louise Carver and , Danny's ex, Leeann Liebenberg was announcing her engagement on Twitter at the same time. Oh, darling! One paper even chose to run with this story as a bigger feature than the Shout campaign. Different strokes, I guess...

Just some muso's involved in #Shout on Twitpic
Twitpic @NadiaNeophytou

I'll admit, when I heard Danny and Kabelo talking about what they want the campaign to do, I thought to myself, "how is a song really going to help address the crime issue in our country?" An issue that has affected everyone of us. I'm all for the power of music and its ability to change lives and change society and affect social change. But this situation here seems to have reached a dire point - one where it all just seems hopeless - even for someone that loves their country with all their heart.

But the music video played - and I felt the emotion of it well up inside me. I don't want to be cynical about this. If this truly has the power to mobilize us as a country, as a community, to truly work together to do something, then I'll be singing "Shout" for as long as I need to.

Sure the money from downloading the track and the video (R20 a pop) goes to fighting crime efforts, like buying bullet-proof vests and training policemen. But there's another aspect to it - the emotion the video conveys. It says we can rely on each other to stop moaning and actually do something. If you know of a crime taking place, or know of someone involved in a crime to speak up. If you've been affected to speak up. As Danny K says, join a forum, start a community safety group, sms a tip-off to Crimeline (33-22-11).

This is how I hope SHOUT will truly make the difference.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Post-Oscars Blues

Just in case you missed it - here is a snippet of some of the Oscar stories I covered while in Los Angeles:

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Prawn Goes to Hollywood - Part 2

“It’s like Bafana Bafana making it to the finals of the World Cup. You know the odds are very much against you, but that’s not going to stop you from cheering for your team,” District 9’s Sharlto Copley had always been very matter-of-fact about the South African Sci-Fi’s chances at this year’s Oscars. He knew even before The Hurt Locker swept the board to win six golden statues, including two of the ones District 9 was up for, that the chances of the low-budget SA movie winning best Picture were not that great. But that doesn’t seem to matter that much. Win or lose, it really has been about how the game has been played.

I meet Copley at the Beverly Hills Wilshire where Pretty Woman was filmed, and where both Elvis and Warren Beaty lived at different times in their lives. Guests who’ve stayed there have included the likes of Al Pacino, Beyonce, Dustin Hoffman, Farrah Fawcett and Michael Douglas. And now the prestigious hotel can add another name to that list – a Prawn called Wikus van der Merwe. And Copley, dressed in a Springboks jersey, his hair recently cut short, can now add to his list of growing admirers one of those hotel guests.

“At the BAFTAs in London, Dustin Hoffman was talking to me for about five minutes, telling me how amazing the film was, how he loved it,” says Copley. “That’s been the most bizarre thing – meeting people in Hollywood who are congratulating me. I was taken aback with Dustin. I mean, I’ve done one film. He’s one of my greatest all-time living actors. It was very unexpected. I didn’t ever expect that people who were in the business would be so complimentary.”

Complimentary is not the word. Everywhere I go in LA, people start talking about District 9 when they hear I am from South Africa. Indeed, in an interview with Morgan Freeman and co-producer Lori McCreary, Freeman says he liked the allegory of the film, and McCreary tells me the movie made her cry (no mean feat, this seasoned Hollywood businesswoman tells me). Has all this settled in for Copley? “Yes, I suppose since last year’s publicity tour – when it really took off and the surreal-ness of it all was happening it hadn’t. But now I feel more prepared – the publicity tour, the hotels, the travels.”

And the parties? After all, before, during and after the Oscars, partying is a key part of it all. “There are parties all over the place – people are always having one for some or over thing. But I am not really a party person,” Copley reveals. “I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs, I have had a girlfriend for the past 10 years, so there are very few reasons for me to go to the parties. I used to go to them to schmooze people and luckily, I don’t really have to do that anymore.” Indeed with his latest turn in The A Team coming out in June, Copley’s star power is certainly on the rise, and should see more people approaching him for roles.

Whatever happens, Copley seems to be enjoying the ride. “Neill (Blomkamp, District 9’s director and screenwriter) and me and the other guys who worked on the film are close friends. We don’t take this kind of stuff very seriously. It’s more just a kind of fun, and we’re here to see how it all works.”

Like he says, win or lose it truly was about the fact that South Africa had a presence at this year’s Oscars. “It’s a great experience, and a great time. To have two films in the running, that’s a big deal. Since Tsotsi, when the country won Best Foreign Language, the film’s have become more mainstream – and that’s where the real competition is. It’s fantastic that we are there as a country.”
E! Entertainment’s resident movie guru is just one of many industry insiders to echo this. “It shines a spotlight on South Africa – for films to be set there, for films to be cast there and for local crews to be used there. The country doesn’t only have the Oscars in which to shine, but also the 2010 World Cup. But the Oscars is a pretty great way to kick it all off.”

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Closing Credits

"I'd like to thank my mom, my dad and my dog Jeff ..."

From one adventure to the next. I know that back in South Africa, I'll move straight onto another story. Before that happens, allow me a "closing credits" of sort to this chapter. Imagine, if you will, the theme from Crazy Heart, by T Bone Burnett and Ryan Bingham, The Weary Kind, playing overhead. Not because it's a fitting song (although, after all the running around I am a little 'weary', haha!) but because it won the Oscar for Best Song and I also loved the music in the movie. Thanks to the fabulous folks at L'Atelje in Hyde Park, who helped get me over to Los Angeles, Hip Hop, for the gorgeous dress, as well as the fantastic people at Grey Goose, my first trip to the Oscars has been a memorable one!

It's all Hollywood, baby!

After the Party

Catt Sadler and Sal Masekela from E! at the E! Afterparty

[Insert picture of Taboo from Black Eyed Peas here]

The Drais at the W in Hollywood hasn't officially opened yet, but it was the site of the E! Oscars Afterparty. On the decks, Good Charlotte's Joel Madden. In the crowd, his lady Nicole Richie, The Hills' Audrina, Russells Simmons and the Black Eyed Peas' Taboo. As I mentioned in my report, he told me the group is definitely coming for the World Cup Kickoff concert. We had suspected that, so this was just the confirmation we needed. He is the epitome of cool - pulling out the moves to the group's hit Imma Be. There's just no competing with that kind of a dancer out there on the floor - especially if said dancer has helped create the track you are dancing to.

With the E!'s Mark and Sandy

What a gorgeous venue! On a rooftop in the heart of Hollywood, with the city below. A great view on a great night!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Post-Oscar Shine

It’s been a crazy couple of days – as I knew it would be. I still feel the need to say that though. I also still can’t believe the Oscars have come and gone. I know by now you would know the winners – and I don’t have to list them here – so I will instead reflect on my time in Hollywood.

Proudly SA - Hip Hop all the way!

The Oscars themselves are a creation of dedication, attention to detail and glorious star-power. So many big names come out – even if they themselves are not nominated (hello, Zac Effron?) I loved seeing how things are behind the scenes: the hours of preparation, the stressing on the part of the producers (I like being reminded that it’s not just me who over-worries almost everything!) and the last-minute wardrobe malfunctions (apparently Mo’Nique and Amanda Seyfried both had one). 
Thousands of journalists come to this Oscar stage – and that’s not just counting those who live in LA (and there are a great deal of them here!). As a lone journo, I kept getting asked “where’s your crew?” and I’d point to my huge bag and say with glee: “here!” But what you soon learn is that you need to find your place and find your own story among all the others. The South African presence at this year’s Oscars for me, was greater than the three-hour (and a bit more) ceremony itself. It went beyond that – before, and after.
That said, I loved the genuine moments at the Oscars. The tears Sandra Bullock cried. The child-like cheers Jeff Bridges gave. The outlandishness of Mo’Nique backstage when she told the press officer just how she wanted to do the Question-and-Answer-session. Oh, and Sarah Jessica Parker’s dress – it was my best (Charlize’s was my worst).     
I hope that this is only the beginning – or I should say, the middle because Tsotsi and indeed, Yesterday, first got the ball rolling with their nominations, as did Charlize with her win – and that South Africa’s presence at the Oscars only grows and grows. And I hope that we can soon have another good reason to shout: Viva South Africa, viva!  
 Kathryn Bigelow: Best Director, Best Picture: The Hurt Locker  
 Sandra Bullock, Best Actress: The Blind Side
 Best Actor, Jeff Bridges: Crazy Heart  
 Best Supporting Actress, Mo'Nique: Precious  
Best Supporting Actor, Christoph Waltz: Inglourious Basterds                

Monday, March 8, 2010

And the Oscar Goes To...

Wow! I cannot believe it's all over. It almost went by so quickly that I hardly had a moment to take it all in. The fashion, the star-power, the carpet, the gold statues. The Oscars became a 24-hour-marathon of phone-calls, live-crossings, report-filing, speech-listening, interview-mingling and snack-grabbing for me. I'll have more moments for you - just need a few little zzzz's to make sure what I write actually makes sense!

Oh! I had so many compliments on my Hip Hop dress - and it was the same colour as Penelope Cruz' one too. Big smile on my side!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Only on E!

I feel like I had my own mini-photoshoot with some of the E! Entertainment Channel's biggest names when I went to their offices on Wilshire Boulevard. It made me wonder if they have a specific height policy because I felt incredible small next to them. Even Ryan Seacrest! I couldn't get over how tall Giuliana Rancic is. And thin!  Although I knew she would be because I follow her "diet secrets" on Twitter...Fashion Police's Jay Manuel is also tall and was impeccable dressed (as one would expect!) while Kendra is just as wacky as she comes across on TV, except she's toned down just a little notch since the birth of her baby boy. E!'s resident film guru Ben Lyons is such a sweetie - and was full of praise for South Africa ahead of the World Cup. He asked me for tickets because he said Sal Masekela (his fellow E! colleague and Hugh's son) hadn't hooked him up yet!

They're all involved in the Red Carpet and Oscar Countdown programmes that will air just before the ceremony. E! do a fantastic job of covering the carpet like no other. They have 17 cameras, including the fabulous "Glam Cam", which Jays says has had people queuing up to get their 360-degree picture taken. Kendra, who admits she doesn't know much about fashion, will be adding her two cents worth to the designs chosen by the stars beforehand.

It was great to get some insider info about how Ryan and Giuliana work their magic on the carpet - Ryan jokes that he has a good relationship with the driving companies that bring the stars and he makes sure they are a little liquored up before they walk out (haha!), while G says they don't try too hard, by being too prepared that they miss the golden moments of natural interaction as they happen. They both agree that George Clooney and "Sandy" Bullock are the most fun to talk to - Giuliana says at an afterparty the year that George won his award, she asked him if she could hold it and he replied, 'sure thing, and when you're done you can hold my award too!"

Goose is in the House

So this is a follow-up to the previous post. What a fabulous evening at the Soho House on Sunset for the Grey Goose Pre-Oscar bash! A gorgeous view of the city awaits those who sit outside in their "olive garden", and the street lights look incredible from the 14th floor. It was a pretty casual evening. The night before saw the likes of Madonna, Elton John and Natalie Portman mingling with the crowd, while sipping their Oscar-inspired drinks with names like Sunset Goose and Gold Rush Martini (my fave!).

1 1.2 part GREY GOOSE® Le Citron
1/2 part Yuzu juice
1/2 Orange Curaçao
1/3 part agave syrup
Shake and strain into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with a gold cherry    
The club has a no-camera policy, but it would have been fun to snap a pic with Justin Kirk from Weeds and Jack and Jill. He's just so great! And really nice to talk to. Russell Brand sans Katy Perry, James Blunt, Rozanne Arquette, Dave Annable and Matthew Rhys from Brothers&Sisters and more. In fact, the whole place feels like you are are constantly looking at someone famous or important, or both - or in fact, neither, such is the game.
Earlier in the evening I went to a panel discussion held by the cast and producers of Cougar Town. It was such a fun, insightful look into what makes a good comedy show. The producer and creator is Bill Lawrence who worked on shows like Spin City, Scrubs and Friends before. Cougar Town has just started in South Africa, but I have seen a few episodes already - and am a fan. Josh Hopkins who plays Cox's cute but womanizer neighbour calls her a "comedy ninja", saying that she's always quick with the lines. Must be all those years on Friends! I asked Courtney about her recent Golden Globe nomination - and if that is something that is important to her - after years in the business without that kind of recogntion. Her answer: "Yes, yes, yes, it's so important to me! Please I want one!!" Gotta love it! Oh, and she and Mr Cox (aka David Arquette are going to be doing the new Scream...        

A Prawn Goes to Hollywood

Sharlto Copley is one of my favourite actors - not only because he made me both laugh and cry as Wikus van der Merwe in District 9 but because he's such an entertaining, genuine kind-of guy. He just flew into LA today and I caught up with him at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, where he told me he's here to "cheer on his team". The film is up for Best Picture against the two front-runners, The Hurt Locker and Avatar. Sharlto says it's like rooting for Bafana Bafana even though the chances of them making it to the final are slim: "you still want to support your team!"

Friday, March 5, 2010

Lunching in Beverly Hills

I had lunch with Eddie Murphy and Nicole Kidman today. Okay, so I was sitting at a different table but we were all at the same restaurant so surely that counts?

Yeah, right!

But that's how it seems to be when one is dining at the Beverly Hills hotel, dahling. Stars walk in and out and it makes you do a second take. This is one of those Hollywood landmarks, having opened in 1912. It's lunch guests have included the likes of Spencer Tracey and Katharine Hepburn to Frank Sinatra, to Steven Tyler, and Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher.

And now me! I was having lunch there with the lovely folk from Grey Goose Vodka - who are throwing an official Pre-Oscar bash tonight at Soho House on Sunset (why is it that "Soho House" is such a lovely name for a hot spot no matter which country one is in?) Global Brand Ambassador, Dimi Lezinska was telling me about how he created the Inglourious Basterds cocktail but I kept getting distracted by Murphy, who I am convinced was looking straight at me ;)

Love the idea of the Sunset Goose - a cocktail Dimi describes to be perfect for a Cosmo crazy girl like myself: "When you're sipping it, standing on the top of Soho House on the Sunset Strip, it's a perfect moment, when you think, 'I have arrived'."

More details after I have arrived at the party!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Inside Wolfgang's Kitchen

Austrian chef Wolfgang Puck has become synonymous with the food created for the Academy Awards dinner at the Governor's Ball. His signature? Little 24-carat Gold covered chocolate Oscar statues. I visited Wolfgang in his kitchen today, and he gave me one of these little babies (and very kindly, a few extra to take home to my colleagues who asked me to bring back for them!) He makes 3000 of these choccies. I hope mine make it through the journey back home!
Wolfgang is such a fantastic spirit - so energetic and animated in his descriptions of food. He says he likes to stick to the classics and put a twist on them. For example, chicken pot pie (I know, I also wondered about this as a choice for the Governor's Ball menu). But it's not just any chicken pot pie - it's made with black truffles. When I told him I was from South Africa, he said Charlize Theron is one of his favourite actresses, and that soccer is one of his favourite sports. We may just see him in the country for the World Cup, that's if he can fit it in between the opening of a new restaurant in Singapore and a dinner in Vienna.

For those foodies who are interested, here is the full menu:

Tray Passed Hors d’Oeuvres
Tempura Shrimp and Lobster
Mini Kobe Burgers with Aged Cheddar and Remoulade
Wasabi Pea Crusted Crab Cake with Mango and Thai Basil
Smoked Salmon Pizza with Caviar and Dill Creme
Black Truffle & Ricotta Cheese Pizza
Vegetable Spring Rolls with Sweet & Spicy Dipping Sauce
Chicken Pot Stickers with Ginger Black Vinegar Dipping Sauce

House Smoked Salmon, Potato Galette, Creme Fraiche and Baby Greens
with Butler-passed Warm Brioche
Chicken Pot Pie with Yukon Gold Potatoes, Baby Heirloom Vegetables and Homemade Pastry

“L’Etoile de Oscar”
Baked Alaska with Espresso Glace, Guittard L’Etoile du Nord Chocolate Sorbet and Toasted


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Tuxedo for Morgan Freeman

After making friends with the GPS and Los Angeles' highways, I found myself at the offices of Revelations Entertainment in Santa Monica. That's the production company Morgan Freeman owns together with Lori McCreary. It's quite an unassuming building - the office block shares its space with a yoga studio and there was a farmer's market taking place outside. Walking inside, I noticed it was pretty low-key too. There's a lounge set-up inside, with a giant TV, and it felt a little like I was on a set (yeah, acting alongside Mr Freeman!). Lori says they try out technology in here. There are pictures of both Morgan and Lori from years gone by on a mantle piece and a hard poster of The Shawshank Redemption. Other than that, you'd never have known Morgan Freeman "works" here.

His hand is still in a soft bandage-like hold from when he had the car accident in 2008. He told me he's still suffering from the nerve damage and may have to go for surgery. It was great to be able to have interviewed Freeman in South Africa, and then again here in LA ahead of the Oscars - a kind of nice circle. In fact, I told him I had also run after him at the airport when he was in South Africa for the Sithengi Film Festival. He said to me, that when these kinds of things happen, it means I am bound to run into him again soon - haha! He's always such a great interview, and I still am in awe of him every time I sit in front of him.

We spoke about his being nominated 3 times before and how the experience has changed, and the whole process "winds down" as the years go by. While Lori was telling me about her outfit for the Oscars, Morgan was nonchalant - uttering the phrase: "a tuxedo is a tuxedo is a tuxedo", to which Lori replied, "that's because you look good in any tuxedo!"

Freeman and Lori are planning on coming back to South Africa very soon - for the World Cup and another movie, so we haven't seen the last of this Oscar-winning star!

Lori, Morgan and I "on set"

Hello Hollywood!

I'd only been in Los Angeles for a few moments when already scandalous news started to surface. It involved a nasty email that one of the producers involved in an Oscar-nominated film - The Hurt Locker - was alleged to have written. Then it emerged that because of that, French producer Nicholas Chartier, was un-invited from the Oscars. Oh, how dreadful! Imagine all those weeks of work put into deciding what you're going to wear - okay, so maybe hours because he is a man, wait, make that minutes then! Still, to have your invite revoked can't be good. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences does not take kindly to any kind of interference in the judging process. Chartier apparently wrote the email and sent it to some people who happened to be Oscar voters. In it, he urges support for his movie in the Best Picture category over "the 500 million dollar film" - an obvious reference to Avatar.

So, once I'd hired the car and trusty GPS, I headed over to Hollywood and Highland where the Oscar headquarters are. Even though it was quite late in the day, I just wanted to get a quick glimpse into the mood there, from Tuesday afternoon. Amid the building and constructing were the usual tourists who visit the Kodak Theatre and its surrounds -Graumann's Chinese Theatre and the Hollywood and Highland shopping centre. Some were oblivious as to what was going on, while others were eagerly snapping pics of the gold statuette, waiting to be unveiled on the night.

More news to follow - I will be interviewing Best Actor nominee Morgan Freeman tomorrow. Stay tuned to!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Best Picture Challenge

Every year around this time, I find myself frantically trying to see all the big contenders up for Best Picture at the Oscars. Sometimes the films are only due for release after the Awards season, so that all the hype afterward carries them into the local box office. How many of us are itching to see The Hurt Locker purely because of all the awards it has won and the critical acclaim it has already notched up? Press members do sometimes get to see the films before they release on the big screen but sometimes there just isn’t time to see them all before the Awards.

Well, this year the challenge is a little harder because there are now 10 films to watch, each with its own world to get caught up in. That’s five more than has traditionally been the case. I have seen seven of the films, and The Hurt Locker was one missing from that list. The press screening was scheduled for the Friday before the Oscar ceremony, which I was going to miss because I am on a flight to LA as I write.

So, imagine my delight when paging through the inflight-entertainment magazine, I see all the films I have yet to watch. The next ten hours from London to Los Angeles may see me getting in more film-watching than sleeping! But at least by the time I arrive, I will have seen all ten of the most acclaimed movies from the past year - or so say the folks that make up the Academy!

In Search of Oscar Glory

Not since Tsotsi won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language in 2006, or Charlize won the Best Actress for her role in Monster have we seen such an interest in South Africa at the Oscars.
Sure, it’s fun to catch a glimpse into the reality (and the fictional) that makes the Oscars what they are, but it’s also exciting to see the impact South Africa can have, and is having on the world cinema circuit. The Oscars are the pinnacle of filmmaking talent – and while many may differ in their opinions of who the winner should be, there can be no doubt the impact it has on a filmmaker’s career.

And now, we have two films with strong South African ties:

District 9 was made by a Johannesburg-born director (Neill Blomkamp) and stars first-time actor Sharlto Copley who won our hearts as Wikus van der Merwe. The cast and crew is 90 percent South African, and yes, the funding came from New Zealand’s Peter Jackson, but the heart of this film is South African and that’s one of the main reasons why we support it so much.

Invictus was based on a screenplay written by a South African – Anthony Peckham. The main cast members, two-time-Oscar-winning Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon have been nominated for their roles of two South African icons. Nelson Mandela is the country’s most-loved former statesman and grandfather to the nation (indeed the world), and Francois Pienaar has commanded a respect that reaches far beyond the rugby field he reigned over. Damon did a great job in getting the South African accent and mannerisms down to a t, while Freeman as Madiba was a master stroke.

So I will be covering all the excitement and the hype in the run-up to the Oscars, and ask the question: just what are our chances of bagging a gold statue this year? Most importantly, win or not, I hope to convey the build-up and excitement to South African listeners - and contrary to popular belief, this is my first time covering this story from LA!

Here are the nominations in total:
-         Best Actor: Morgan Freeman
-         Best Supporting Actor: Matt Damon
District 9
-         Best Film
-         Best Adapted Screenplay: Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell
-         Best Editing
-         Best Visual Effects

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Answer?

Amid the hype and html hysteria surrounding Die Antwood, Ninja, Yolandi Visser and DJ Hi-Tek rode into town for a two-show performance at the Alexander Theatre in Braamfontein. I say "rode into" because that's exactly what they did - arriving and leaving the theatre in a white stretch limo. They may look like poor, common folk, but don't let that fool you.

Joburg loves @dieantwoord on TwitpicWalking into the venue, I realised we were on the stage part of the theatre, which was closed off from the seating area for the show, making for quite a crowded venue, heaving with anticipation. The sophisticated set up and cameras also caught my eye. The crowd was quite mixed: butch looking Afrikaans-speaking guys guzzling beer, gay men in tight t-shirts and jeans, pretty, manicured psuedo-kugels in mini-skirts. There were two fights before the show even started. And one guy, it seemed, had made his own blood-splattered t-shirt for the occasion.

When the threesome hip-hopped onto stage, the crowd went crazy, especially this girl in front of me, who was jumping up and down, her pigtails hitting me in the eye. "Awww, she's so cute!", she exclaimed to the person next to her, as Yolandi spat out her swear-word chorus to Wat Kyk Jy? The crowd relished shouting back in reply too. Two trendy guys jumped up onto the giant stage door, hanging by one arm, and using the other one to cheer the group on: "Aaeeayeaaa, I am your butterfly, I need your protection, be my Samurai..." A friend leaned over to me, grinning from ear to ear: "I love it!" he said. "A St Johns boy doing the common thing, acting like he's down-and-out, it's just so cool." A photographer friend didn't share the sentiment: "It's just too aggressive for me, so negative."

I'm still trying to make up my mind as to what Die Antwoord means musically. Ignoring the porn on the screens above the stage during one song, I watched Ninja - aka Waddy Jones - do what he's always done best: drop a rhyme like the lyrical master he has been since his days with The Original Evergreen. Despite the fact that I still don't feel comfortable singing along to the words 'poes' and 'naai', I do know that the group is up to something cool, crazy and unique. At the centre of it all is someone whose creativity I do not doubt because it has been expressed in many ways before - children's books, stuffed animals, poetry, and the group Max Normal. But sometimes that creativity hasn't lasted (RIP Max Normal, The Constructus Corporation, and so I hope Die Antwoord sticks around long enough for me to figure out just how I feel about them.