Ideas are the new economy, but only when you act on them: Make think become DID

It’s that magical time, when creatives from across South Africa and beyond gather in the mother city to celebrate great design in all its shapes and forms. This year, with Cape Town named World Design Capital, the Design Indaba expo and conference events are all the more special.

Building on last year’s successful ‘DRC’ or ‘Democratic Republic of Design’ campaign (a virtual country where design is currency), Absa, one of Design Indaba’s headline sponsors, has taken the concept up a notch – creating a platform to stimulate creative inspiration and give South African designers an opportunity to bring their innovative and ground-breaking designs to life.

The aim of the campaign is to demonstrate that design can be the backbone of a country and help it to prosper, because when good design ideas become tangible – when people act on them – everybody in a society benefits.

So as the campaign name ‘Make think become DID’ suggests, Absa are encouraging conference participants to make their ideas a reality by acting on them – and the first step towards activation is sharing. The DRD app from 2013 will again come into play this year as delegates are encouraged to share their design ideas via Twitter and in doing so earn Design Dollars, to be redeemed at the DID store. Participants who visit the DID store can also vote on which ideas they like best, giving idea generators valuable insights from their creative counterparts.

To get delegates started with idea generation, Absa has put together a list of design challenges (that can be found in the app), from how to solve the problem of shack fires to the disappearing USB.
In addition to this, and to keep things intriguing, each day, one participant stands a chance to win a professionally rendered schematic drawing of their idea. The overall prize, for the most promising idea, includes a schematic drawing, real-life prototype and trademark of the design.

As another great feature of this campaign, a hub of illustrators, guided by Ideso Industrial Design Solutions will turn each idea shared into a concept illustration, which can then be ordered through the app, to be printed onto a range of items for sale at the DID store.

Sound good? If you’re heading to Design Indaba conference this week, why not take up Absa’s challenge to help create a better, more prosperous world – through design.

Exhibition: Ground Zero

Blog Boot Camp

Here’s a nice opportunity to improve your blogging skills and leap-frog a few learning curves, by collecting tips and tools from two successful Cape Town bloggers! Read more about it and book your spot here.

Jimmy in Pienk Movie Review: Trading Khaki for Pink…

Jimmy in Pienk is an offbeat fish-out-of-water comedy set in South Africa from the mind of writer-director, Hanneke Schutte. Her award-winning idea of a boer dropping his sheep shears to take up salon scissors, won a competition and gradually developed into a fully-fledged Afrikaans comedy feature starring Louw Venter, Terrence Bridgett and Gys de Villiers.

After Jimmy Bester’s father’s passing, family secrets come to light. Not only is there a R150,000 debt against the farm but Jimmy learns of his father’s long lost twin, whose successful career as a hair stylist has made him a millionaire.

It’s a fantastic concept, one that opens the door for plenty of fish-out-of-water comedy and heart as our hero immerses himself in the city and gay culture, while cultivating a new skill for hair dressing. Yet, it’s not an entirely new theme after Adam Sandler went from Israeli Special Forces soldier to flamboyant hair stylist in You Don’t Mess with the Zohan and Josh Hartnett battled Bill Nighy for top hair dressing honours in Blow Dry.

Each of these comedies haven’t quite lived up to expectations based on the talent involved. In many ways, Jimmy in Pienk is a blend of the two films meshing the Zohan’s drastic day-and-night transition and the more sombre themes behind the high stakes hairstyling competition in Blow Dry. While Jimmy in Pienk shares these commonalities, it’s not as over-the-top as You Don’t Mess with the Zohan or as down-to-earth as Blow Dry.

Jimmy in Pienk’s sweet tones of home and off-beat sense of humour are what make it unique. There’s a Wes Anderson preciousness for the characters and setting, which is tempered by the smart true-to-life quirkiness of a Jason Reitman comedy. This is best translated in the first act as we become acquainted with Jimmy, his quest and his obstacles.

As a debut feature, you can applaud the film-makers for delivering a film that keeps its promises and delivers a mature, subtle brand of comedy that is new territory for South Africa. It’s a big concept on a low budget and they’ve done a great job in bringing it to life. As sweet as it is, you do get the impression that the constraints took their toll as the story’s initial zest struggles to stay the course.

Louw Venter plays it down-the-line as Jimmy, really getting to grips with his “call a spade a spade” character and anchoring the rest of the cast like Jason Bateman did in Arrested Development. It’s a well-balanced performance, one that keeps the emotional integrity and nuttiness in check.

Spling MoviesHe’s supported by the flamboyant, Terrence Bridgett, who plays his mentor Bunny, turning Jimmy in Pienk into something of a buddy movie. Bridgett is likable, funny and has enough natural charm to make you think he’s related to Oliver Platt. Gys de Villiers plays Buks and his twin Frederique, a role reminiscent of Bill Nighy in Blow Dry. It’s an uncharacteristic performance from de Villiers, but one he truly owns like the Godfather of hair stylists.

Gerard Rudolf also takes on an atypical role opposite de Villiers as his partner, Gigi. The two share some great moments and add some clout as reluctant game show villains. David Isaacs and Garth Collins make an odd yet funny couple as bumbling entrepreneurial loan sharks. Then, it would have been nice to have seen more of the budding romance between Jimmy and Tinarie van Wyk Loots as Rika.

With such a zany and likable collective of characters, it’s difficult not to like Jimmy in Pienk. The premise is a wind-up and has been treated in a sweet, light and fun manner. While the odd balls are stacked against him, Jimmy never really seems to get brick walled or weighed down by the many obstacles to saving the farm. This makes it all seem too safe – escalating the inconsequential and predictable, while diminishing returns on the adventure.

Having said that, it follows Material and Fanie Fourie’s Lobola as another promising step in the right direction for comedy in South Africa. As it stands, it’s an entertaining, sweet and light-hearted off-beat comedy that teases the story out by gently nudging its funny characters in the right direction. It’s amusing and watchable for its quirky tone, lively performances and cut-above writing that give the story weight and an innate sweetness.

The bottom line: Fun

Stephen ‘Spling’ Aspeling
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Event: Cape Town Design Network – 23 July

Join the Cape Town Design Network at the Assembly this evening at 6:30pm for an interactive discussion around the second call for public submissions, World Design Capital Cape Town 2014.

Six short-listed projects from the first call will be presented followed by an open networking and discussion session to boost the quality of the second call for submissions.

The MC will be Lianne Burton and the discussion will be facilitated by members of the WDC curatorial panel.

Light snacks will be on sale and a cash bar availalbe.

RSVP to Cape Town Design Network here.

Theatre: Sadako at Baxter Flipside 30 July – 10 August

SADAKO, awarded ‘Best Production in 2011′ by Handspring Puppet Company will play for only two weeks at The Baxter Flipside before it leaves for France where it has been invited to perform at the prestigious Festival Mondial des Théâtres de Marionnettes, World Puppetry Festival. Set in Japan, Sadako is a gently poetic story that is a breath of fresh air in complicated times. It proves that adults can still be transfixed by a solid, powerful yarn that appeals to our inner child. It’s an exquisite Bunraku puppet theatre play for adults and children older than 10 years. The play runs from 30 July until 10 August at the Baxter’s Flipside Theatre. Tickets cost R110 per person. Book at Computicket.

The Place Beyond the Pines Movie Review: Epic Sullen Majesty

The Place Beyond the Pines is a sprawling crime epic about family, fatherhood, fate and justice. Director, Derek Cianfrance, landed excellent co-lead performances from Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling in Blue Valentine and this echoes in the haunting The Place Beyond the Pines. While not as melancholic and more ambitious, this generational crime thriller has the earmarks of an American classic.

At the centre of the The Place Beyond the Pines is the photograph of a young family, as a motorcycle stunt biker (Gosling), trying to rekindle a relationship with his 1-year-old son and ex-girlfriend, collides with an ambitious and determined rookie cop (Cooper) on a self-made mission.

Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper headline a solid cast. Gosling’s Luke is a blend of his suave street smarts in Drive and his working class swagger in Blue Valentine. The tattooed metal head stunt biker is a real piece of work, one whose graduation into fatherhood inspires him to be the dad he never had. On the other side of the spectrum is Bradley Cooper’s Avery, a by-the-book copper who’s determined to make his way up the ranks of the legal system without treading on his father’s coattails.

They’re supported by Eva Mendes, Rose Byrne, Ray Liotta and Ben Mendelsohn. The casting of Mendes echoes her role opposite Nicolas Cage in Ghost Rider, and she’s convincing as the woman struggling to make a head versus heart decision. Rose Byrne’s relatively short yet sharp appearance helps frame Avery’s fragile family history. Then, Ray Liotta is perfectly cast as a jilted cop, while Ben Mendolsohn delivers a Gary Oldman calibre performance as an outside catalyst.

Spling MoviesThe film attempts a story cross fade that does feel somewhat disjointed, but this bold interruption is refreshing and serves as an incisive set up, reboot and second chapter. The Place Beyond the Pines does have a few shake ups, but these moments all seem to know their place in the gradual coming together of this 15 year crime saga.

Derek Cianfrance’s bold film has tremendous range, casting light on intimate eye-to-eye family moments and touching on much broader humanistic themes from a bird’s eye view. This is enhanced by the cinematography, by observing an unbiased and naturalistic beauty and swathing the film in sullen majesty. By reaching for the over-arching vision, Cianfrance manages to capture rich, powerful moments that make the somewhat disjointed journey all the more worthwhile.

The Place Beyond the Pines is a broad film, one that manages to reinvent itself and deftly shift its weight without flinching. The nearly two-and-a-half hour run time is warranted and gives the film an epic quality, allowing the generational story the time and space to seep into our minds. We’re invested, fascinated and moved by the co-lead performances that have a similar weight and intensity to American History X. While it may not appeal to everyone, it’s haunting splendor will linger on.

The bottom line: Immense

Stephen ‘Spling’ Aspeling
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The Internship Movie Review: A Product Placement Adaptation

The Internship is a comedy starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. Yet, it seems more like a feature length advert for Google. From the marketing for the film to the finished product, we’re exposed to the Google brand, workplace and ethos again… and again… and again.

The story is set at Google HQ, where Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson’s characters are enrolled in an internship programme. Starting as an interesting social commentary on traditional pursuits and the digital age, the film devolves into a formulaic and full-blown advert as each candidate immerses themselves in the Google culture and competes in a spectrum of Google-related tasks.

Vaughn and Wilson are having an absolute ball and this fun spirit drives a rather lack-lustre comedy script that crackles with the odd laugh. They deliver performances that play to their charms without straying too far from “the usual”, while Rose Byrne fills in as the high school “hottie”, Aasif Mandvi as the watchful “principal” and Max Minghella as the schoolyard “bully”.

The Internship makes an interesting tour of the Google facilities and we get a chance to familiarise ourselves with the ethos, but you can’t help but feel a documentary would have been a better match. It probably would have been more acceptable if The Internship had been much funnier as a comedy and the product placement had been toned down.

Having Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson as our unofficial tour guide technophobes certainly spices things up a bit in a Role Models style comedy, but without the Google interest, it’d simply be a Never Been Kissed knock-off. It’s mindless feel good entertainment at best and you could do a lot worse, but it has to go down as a misfire.

You can admire the producers, and Vince Vaughn, for trying to turn product placement financing into a structural film concept. However noble their intentions, The Internship loses its dramatic integrity in the process as we essentially pay for a somewhat entertaining advert.

The bottom line: Googly

Stephen ‘Spling’ Aspeling
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Exhibition: Women in Clay

Die Laaste Tango Movie Review: Two Sides to the Story…

Die Laaste TangoDie Laaste Tango or The Last Tango is a feature film directorial debut for renowned South African thriller author, Deon Meyer. The adaptation benefits from having Meyer at the helm as writer-director as he’s able to add authenticity, passion and special character insights, bringing out the best from his actors.

Meyer is no stranger to crime thrillers and this story weaves together enough plot lines for two films. Die Laaste Tango follows a disgraced detective (Venter), who finds solace in the arms of an ill woman (Louw) as the past catches up with him and the once peaceful Karoo town of Loxton.

Die Laaste Tango stars Louw Venter and Antoinette Louw as the crime thriller’s central characters, De Wet and Ella. Venter is probably best known for his comedic roles, but demonstrates his dramatic range and great screen presence with a well-balanced performance as De Wet, a restless and haunted man trying to reconnect with life.

Antoinette Louw’s literal girl-next-door role complements Venter as the fragile yet spirited Ella. She’s comparable with Emily Blunt in likeness and performance, turning a fading flower into something beautiful, determined to hold onto every drop of life. The co-leads have a magnetic on-screen chemistry that adds dramatic weight to the production.

Marius Weyers throws his star power behind the film, rounding off a strong supporting performance with a truly moving moment as Kaptein Duvenhage. Stian Bam’s intensity sells the thinly scripted serial killer, Basson. Then, it’s great to see Rob Van Vuuren giving his all as a particularly poisonous and sleazy defence attorney.

Unfortunately, Die Laaste Tango feels like two films were glued together. The plot involving De Wet’s integration and reformation in Loxton is directed like a coming-of-age drama and doomed romance. We’re invested in the plight of the characters, the town and want the co-leads to enrich one another.

The other plot revolves around the rehabilitation and incarceration of a known serial killer. The two plots are linked, set in different environments but are like day and night when it comes to genre, characterisation, performance and tone. Most of the hospital scenes could have been lifted from a South African soap opera and walk a thin tightrope between dead serious drama and madcap comedy.

The overall story itself builds to a crescendo as all the story lines intertwine. Yet, it seems overcooked as the lightning, church bells and main players assemble as if scheduled like a noonday showdown, complete with Saloon and tumbleweeds. This among a number of smaller story devices that just seem a little heavy-handed and convenient.

The soundtrack checks all the boxes for a low budget production, but some of the sound effects need work and while the choice of music isn’t bad, it’s somewhat distracting. There are moments when silence could have been used to greater dramatic effect.

Audiences will enjoy the film for it’s strong key performances, intriguing story and some great cinematic ideas. Unfortunately, the entertainment factor will be diminished by its inconsistent tone, somewhat distracting soundtrack and one too many plot contrivances.

The bottom line: Inconsistent

Stephen ‘Spling’ Aspeling
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