The awards season is officially here with Oscars nomination voting opening last Friday, the Golden Globes on tonight and the Critics Choice Awards taking place on Thursday. As always there’s plenty chatter and predictions about the front runner for Oscars Best Picture with Dunkirk, The Post, The Shape of Water and Get Out getting honorable mentions on many lists. So in the same spirit, here are six of my all time favourites.
The Lord of The Rings Trilogy (2001-2003): first off, comparing The Lord of The Rings to Harry Porter is like comparing Taylor Swift to Adele: no competition! But that’s a story for another day. I’ve watched this trilogy (counted as one movie) between 25th and 31st of December every year since 2011. The fact that Hobbits, the most friendly of creatures are the heroes of this grand tale is the draw for me. It’s a 9 hour long story of courage, despair and friendship splattered with rich back-stories and languages of Middle Earth and its several kingdoms, its breathtaking scenery and music, its complex creatures, alliances and battles. In all this, the contrast between the idyllic shire and ghastly Mordor set the tone for the ultimate epic fantasy
The Lion King (1994): this is not only my favorite Disney story but favourite animation period. It’s also Disney’s last great release before Pixar and DreamWorks came in the mix to end their monopoly. It’s the return of the prodigal sons meets Hamlet musical that takes place in the African Savannah with many infectious songs penned by Elton John the best of which are Hakuna Matata and Can You Feel the Love Tonight. It’s a colourful affair all around both literally and metaphorically, Scar is a striking villain and as you guessed there’s a moral at the end of it all. I’ve watched this one so many times I can recite some parts verbatim but I’m still amazed by its effect on me. Let’s hope next year’s CGI remake of this classic wont ruin it for our kids.
Armageddon (1998): though less scientifically accurate than Deep Impact which was released just two months prior, the characters of this sci-fi disaster prove to be more sincere. A bunch of misfits are sent to space to save the earth from a giant asteroid but the real story is the characters save the movie in a contrast of memorable moments. Steve Buscemi, Michael Clarke Duncan and the oddball Russian cosmonaut are at their comical best and Ben Affleck aptly says goodbye to his girl (Liv Tyler) by singing Leaving On A Jet Plane before shooting into space. Then there’s so many things going wrong and Bruce Willis (talking out the side of his mouth for the millionth time) speaking to his crying daughter played by Liv Tyler moments before sacrificing his life and saving the world with Aerosmith’s sappy I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing playing in the background. Interestingly, the lead singer of Aerosmith is the real life father of Willis’ on screen daughter. Well what do you expect, it’s a Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer collaboration so there’s bound to be explosions with lots of special and emotional effects.
Scarface (1983): this is the quintessential rags-to-riches-to-death-of-the-soul story. As if Al Pacino hadn’t done enough to announce his arrival on the big stage with his iconic Godfather depictions, he cements his status with this portrayal of Tony Montana. Whereas his character was elitist and somewhat nonchalant in The Godfather 1 and 2, he’s more desperate and lights the up the screen with his cut-throat approach to life and everybody can identify with the underdog trying to survive and get his share of the American Dream but by the time Tony kills his best friend Manolo you can sense that Kanye was right when he said on his debut album that ‘the prettiest people, they do the ugliest things on the road to riches and diamond rings’. From ‘Say hello to my little friend’ to ‘My balls and my words are all I have’, the movie has a lot of quotable lines, it no wonder Scarface is a rapper’s favourite and also a rappers stage name.
Good Will Hunting (1997): probably the least well known movie on this list but perhaps the most personal and an absolute joy to watch. Of course the behind the scene and on screen bromance between Ben Affleck and Matt Damon is worth a mention but the real story is the interaction between Matt Damons character, a misguided genius with mathematical talent and an annoyingly smart mouth and a psychologist played by a sober Robin Williams who despite having his own uneasy past tries to help him achieve his potential by facing his past. The interactions reach a climax when challenged by the boy wonder, the psychologist goes into a lengthy dramatic monologue that weaves its way from Michaelangelo to women, war, love, loss and finally to identity. This emotional tirade is the reason I watch some movies just to consume the dialogue.
Gladiator (2000): Russell Crowe is a general in the Roman army who is loved by his men and treated like a son by the Emperor. Threatened by this association and eying the throne, the Emperors son kills his father and later murders the general’s family after he refuses to accept him as emperor. The general is enslaved and taken to Rome where he has to fight for his life as gladiator in the blood thirsty Colosseum. In an epic scene, he defies the odds by defeating several well armed opponents after which he throws a sword into the crowd and asks, “are you not entertained?” At this point if your answer is no then this movie is not for you. This is Russell Crowe at his best, angry and expendable accentuated by swords, greed, betrayal, revenge and blood. Gladiator an epic drama that lives up to its name and perhaps its Best Picture Oscar.
Just weeks ago I was watching Muhammad Ali’s memorial and was amazed by how everyone had their own Ali story, a once upon a time personal encounter with the greatest. It was happy and sad. Happy coz he was my hero too and received even more praise while he lived. Sad coz I never got to have a one on one with him.
Every single day we cross paths, eat and live with people whom we may not necessarily term our heroes but inspire us again and again yet we don’t take the time to acknowledge them. The worst thing that could happen is that person could fade out coz we didn’t pat them on the back when they needed it. But that’s beside the point, the noble thing to do would be to give them bouquets of praise and appreciation now while they can still smell them.
Meet my friend Larry, a soft spoken guy who oozes coolness even on a hottest summer day hehe. He’s so cool he doesn’t even know he inspires me, unless he’s reading this. If you’ve watched some of the more popular Zambian music videos in recent times ie Glory – Jay Rox ft Thugga (2016),Will You Marry Me – T-Sean Ft Bombshell (2016), Unbeatable – Chefy 187 ft S-Roxxy (2016), Somone – Slap Dee ft Mumba Yachi and Muzo (2015), Toliwe – Willz ft Wezi (2015) you’ll would’ve probably seen directed by Qbick and Lawdak at the beginning. Well Lawdak = Lawrence Daka = Larry.
I’ll try not to make this long or solemn as though it were an obituary, coz it’s not. Without any formal training in video production or directing, it’s amazing to see how far passion, raw talent and discipline can drive a person. Growing up, Larry fell in love with music watching his sister and nephew singing. He first lent vocals and later engineered an album for his nephew Mathew Tembo, a musician and traditional music enthusiast before shooting videos for yet another nephew. I wouldn’t be shocked if Larry has music for blood in his veins
We all love a good Disney princess story; a bit of trials and tribulations here, a few catchy songs and a happily ever after where prince charming comes to the rescue of a hopeless but dashing princess, what could be more inspiring? But there’s more to these fascinating and colourful characters, Disney princesses shape our culture way beyond entertainment. They send out a message to little girls, a message that might well govern their actions as they grow up.
Of course every little girl dreams of being a princess, at least most do and these screen heroines serve as inspiration to little girls. Perhaps an admirable thing considering the delightful appeal and popularity of these characters but it’s not all roses when you take a closer look at the main themes of these stories. In nearly all these tales, looks are valued over brains, the heroine is constantly helpless and in need of a male to protect or rescue her and the success of the plot solely balances on the romanced focused lead female falling in love with her knight.
As subliminal as this message may be, this image perpetuates a girl’s dependence of men and their approval. Girls are being told to pay more attention to how they look and what they wear even if they have nothing of value to say. That it’s okay to lose one’s self-worth as long as that will secure you love. The classic example is Ariel from the Little Mermaid who changes her appearance, loses her voice (the one thing she would use to reaffirm her identity) and is ready to abandon her family all for a shot at love with a stranger. Now explain that to a five year old girl.
All our favourite princesses save for Pocahontas and Mulan are somewhat weak and so ready to fall into the arms of a man. And they are saved from peril merely because of their beauty and in Jasmine’s (Aladdin) case sexuality. Don’t get me wrong beauty is a wonderful thing and I give credit where it’s due but the point here is that Disney has its own prescribed definition of beauty: pretty face, an ample bosom and slender waist – so stereotypical. All the little girls see on the screen is a princess and that’s who they wanna be. Now imagine their struggle when they find themselves unable to fit into this version of beauty (keep in mind that each different society judges beauty by a different scale). Yes Tiana (The Princess and the Frog 2009 remake) is African American, Mulan is Asian, Pocahontas is American Indian and Jasmine Middle Eastern but they basically have same frame as the other princesses and fall into the same formula of beauty. Here diversity is only used for wider appeal.
And once this dreamy stage is over, maybe these kids will crossover to “reality” TV. There they will perhaps identify some one time child star, better yet former Disney channel real life princesses like Britney Spears or Miley Cyrus who’ve now broken the mould and turned rogue, making them role models in some 11 year old girl’s mind. Imagine that right about the time puberty hits, when appearances mean everything and rebellion is rife our little girl upgrades to today’s reality TV’s crowned princesses Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian. It’s nightmarish!!! Think about it, both these women found fame after their sex tapes were made public. Since then they’ve spent their days fussing about nothing and we glorify their actions by calling them stars and entertainment royalty (at least Britney and Miley got some talent). So tell me, what are we really teaching our little girls?
Now let’s say that little girl has been feeding on this staged reality till she’s in her late teens. The message has been constantly drummed into her head: as long as you got a cute face, as long as you’re 36-26-36, as long as you can imitate others, as long as you can dress fancy, as long as you don’t demonstrate or demand respect in your actions or speech around men, well, you don’t need to depend on yourself coz there’s a hunk right around the corner who will come sweep you of your feet and treat you like a princess. Sad I know
The other night I was surfing the net to check out views and previews of Leonardo DiCaprio’s upcoming movie The Revenant and something caught my eye. I was surprised at the abundance of memes that re-emphasise the fact that Leonardo, despite being an excellent actor with an impressive body of work, is yet to win an Oscar.
The one meme that stood out is a pic of a solemn looking Leo with a caption above his head that read, “what if in like 30 years they make a film about Leonardo DiCaprio and how he never won an Oscar…And the actor who played him won an Oscar”. It stood out for two reasons; why has he never won? And why is he the poster child for good actors who have never won despite there being so many of them? I am more interested in the first thought because he’s one of the best actors of his generation. Plus I’ve traced his career quite well. I said quite!
Leo is picky about his roles and all for good reason. He arguably hasn’t put out a bad screen performance, except for The Beach which is understandable considering the possible Titanic stardom hangover that haunted the 25 year old at the time lol. So why is it that an actor that has given us memorable silver screen moments in The Gangs of New York, Catch Me If Your Can, The Departed, Basketball Diaries, Titanic, The Great Gatsby and Blood Diamond among others has not been given films most coveted accolade?
Well, there are many theories that try to explain Leo’s missing Oscar but as is the case in most situations with multiple possibilities, the simplest explanation is probably on point. And in this case the simple truth is that: he just been unlucky. I mean four Oscar nominations is quite decent (except being snubbed for Titanic). He has been unlucky in that, in the years he has been nominated, he’s come up against actors who have put out career defining performances.
In what is arguably his most sincere screen performance, playing a mentally handicapped teen in 1993’s What’s Eating Gilbert Grape alongside Johnny Depp, Leo played a risky character, avoided being typecast coz of his looks and in the process earned himself his first Oscar nomination at the aged of 19 and only in his second major film role. That year he lost the Best Supporting Actor Award to Tommy Lee Jones who starred as the unrelenting U.S. Marshall you loved to hate in The Fugitive. For his stellar portrayal of eccentric businessman Howard Hughes, DiCaprio was in 2005 nominated for a Best Actor Award but lost to Jamie Foxx who himself entered film’s big leagues with convincing, tear jerking depiction of Ray Charles.
For his rough, rugged and raw performance in the highly publicised Blood Diamonds, possibly also the setting of his most dignified screen death (he dies quite a lot), Leonardo got another Oscar nod for Best Actor but was this time his efforts were towered by Forrest Whitaker’s an awe inspiring if not loveable characterisation of infamous Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. He was most recently nominated for the 2014 Best Actor Award for his gutsy depiction of money laundering stock broker Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street. Once more, he was the bridesmaid, losing out to Matthew McConaughey who ditched his cool guy persona to play determined AIDS patient and activist Ron Woodruff in Dallas Buyers Club. On all four occasions, DiCaprio was magnetic and wonderful as usual but you have to admit that on each of those occasions Jones, Foxx, Whitaker and McConaughey produced soaring and deserving performances.
Regardless of Leo’s luck or lack thereof, you have to admire the artistic development he has achieved over the years. Right on screen, he has made the transition from an ill fated, dark , disturbed boy in This Boys Life (1993), What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993), The Quick And the Dead (1995), Total Eclipse (1995), Basketball Diaries (1995), Romeo And Juliet (1996) and Titanic (1997) to an action thriller leading man (thanks partly to Martin Scorsese) in The Gangs of New York (2002), The Departed (2006), Blood Diamond (2006), Body of Lies (2008), Inception (2010) and Shutter Island (2010) to rich, bad guys in J. Edgar (2011), Django Unchained (2012), The Great Gatsby (2013) and The Wolf of Wall Street (2013). But even this 180 degrees on screen turnaround from timid boy to entitled adult has not worked for him (certainly worked for Denzel).
But Leo shouldn’t worry, he’s gonna get his. Screen legends Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson got theirs in their fifties and he’s only gonna be 41 by the time the next Oscar’s come around. His new movie The Revenant is creating a buzz and has a scene where he fights a bear. The guy is really trying here, hope the Academy will notice. The movie will initially be released on Christmas Day then on a wider scale in January but already the actor’s fans and sympathizers are starting to cross their fingers for the 2016 Oscars. Should he not win on that night or anytime soon, he’s in a really cool class of Oscar ‘losers’ that includes Will Smith, Bruce Willis, Johnny Depp, Sigourney Weaver, Brad Pitt, Samuel L. Jackson, Julianne Moore and Tom Cruise. It might be lonely at the top but it’s certainly kicking down here.
We need mre intellignt rappers
TWO upcoming hip hop producers have urged artistes to be passionate and innovative in order for Zambian music to be recognized.
Speaking in an interview with Lusaka Star Taonga Zulu also known as ‘Teazy’ says there is need for both musicians and producers to have an understanding of music and their environment in order to have an impact of the global musical scene.
“Most people doing music today are unaware of what is going on around them but are so eager to go to the studio hoping people will appreciate what they create, ” he said.
Mr. Zulu said both veterans and novices in the music business needed to have mutual respect for each other in order to make music worth listening to.
He added that there was need for a fusion between the new energy and the older crop of musicians for the creation of a new, evolved Zambian sound.
Mr. Zulu pointed out that the essence of collaboration in music is for two different lovers of music to create something that complements the others creativity.
“Ultimately my mission is not to work with big names but to work with anyone with whom I can create a new jazz/ hip hop sound with an African touch,” he said.
He challenged seasoned music producers to lend a hand to the young and inexperienced producers to help them make a mark on the music scene.
Meanwhile, fellow producer Champemba Chileshe also known as ‘Mr. Champs’ says in today’s world reading was a necessity for producers stating that understanding sound depended on constant study and practice.
He said ardent reading was important for the personal and artistic growth of producers.
“Music is meant to bring a positive mindset to the listener and reading helps in forming an attitude on the part of the creator,” he noted.
Mr. Champemba said young producers had the task to bring in a new wave of creativity to the music scene.
Mr. Champs and Teazy have worked on many projects with various local musicians and collaborated to create a mix tape called Genesis last year.