Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Dark Knight

There're spoilers ahead ( heed the warnings ), but this film absolutely lives up to the hype, and I was totally floored by its artistry.

More below.





2008 is turning out to be a great year where Hollywood movies are concerned, and I'm extremely satisfied with my recent forays to the cineplex, having caught TWO fantastic films within 3 weeks.

Trailers for The Dark Knight have obviously generated enough buzz, resulting in a record-smashing opening day box-office gross.

There're many good reasons for its success, the most important of which is Heath Ledger who, though reduced to tabloid fodder with his drug-overdose death, is undoubtedly one of the industry's finest young actors.

Having seen him in a variety of fluff over the years ( 10 Things I Hate About You, Casanova, A Knight's Tale ), I was moderately affected by his subdued yet heartbreaking performance in Brokeback Mountain, but somewhat contested his Oscar nomination.

Following his portrayal of the Joker, however, I fully support calls for a posthumous Academy Award nod, hopefully with a well-deserved win.

While the entire cast is laudable, Ledger steals the show from beginning to end. Even when he wasn't on-screen, I found myself wondering what the Joker's up to, occasionally wishing the scene I was currently watching would end quickly so we could see Ledger again.

It isn't just about the garish make-up -- he is almost unrecognizable because he's altered his voice, speech pattern and body language so dramatically. Compare this psychotic character to any of his previous work and I guarantee you'll be duly impressed.

Jack Nicholson did a terrific job in the first Batman installment, but Ledger still beats him hands down with this tour de force. His Joker is 10 times more terrifying, 100 times more insane. He shows no interest in the female species ( unlike Nicholson's obsession with Vicki Vale ), burns a mountain of cash for the hell of it ( "it's just my half I'm burning" ), shoots all his accomplices once the job's done, conducts "social experiments" on fellow human beings, and spews some of the best lines in the script.


"I'm not a monster -- I'm just ahead of the curve."

"Madness is like gravity. All you need is a little push."

Which brings me to the next highlight: one of the most amazing scripts I've ever encountered, thanks to the genius of Jonathan and Christopher Nolan.

Many of my favourite movies feature excellent writing, and The Dark Knight had me literally on the edge of my seat, as I strained to catch every single word each character spoke. Not because the sound system was off ( the cineplex I frequent has top-notch acoustics, plus they were practically blasting the speakers at this particular screening ). Rather, I was so awed by what I was hearing that I couldn't bear to miss any of it.

While the first hour was a little jerky, with a few scenes that were too short and others that dragged, everything fell into place at the halfway mark, and it just got better and better with each passing minute.

Action-wise, there wasn't that much to rave about ( Wanted is tonnes more enjoyable in that area ). The Dark Knight's strengths lie in the cast's impeccable performances ( Ledger, Gary Oldman and Aaron Eckhart shine in their roles ), an awesome script as mentioned earlier, definitely strong direction from Chris Nolan ( although IMHO, Memento and Insomnia remain his best work to date - maybe I just prefer them 'cos they're not part of a comic book franchise ), and a haunting soundtrack by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard ( I especially like the off-key violin twangs during high-tension scenes, most of which involve the Joker ).

Ultimately, however, I love this film because it's thought-provoking in so many ways, forcing you to ponder the human condition and its extremes, the wide-ranging consequences of our actions, and most importantly, your own beliefs and principles.

I hope the Nolan brothers receive Oscar noms for Best Screenplay and Best Director. I don't suppose the Academy is open-minded enough to consider The Dark Knight worthy of a Best Picture award just yet, but it's made its fair share of mistakes in the past ( e.g. notice how the superb Zodiac was grossly overlooked ), so I wouldn't be surprised by any stupid decisions should they occur.

Next on my list of must-see movies: The X-Files - I Want To Believe. How I love redeeming my credit card vouchers.

Before I sign off, just adding a
James McAvoy link for my own reference. Great photos and wallpapers! :)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Moment Of Reflection

Or more accurately, scattered moments of reflection.

Have been experiencing these rather frequently this past week, though I'm not too sure why.

Maybe it's the recent decision to leave a certain post, resulting in extra time to think about other things, which also made me realize I need a brain filter, heh.

Anyway, top on the list is the great Jason Mraz, who's due in Singapore in about a fortnight for SingFest, woohoo!
I still remember how a friend named Genevieve introduced me to his music back in 2003, saying his album was like a ray of sunshine. Took me a couple of years to become a die-hard fan, but it's been worth the wait, 'cos once I'm hooked, I'm hooked for life.

The concert organizer has promised to try to arrange a meet-and-greet, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Here's a really nice photo of Jason, who's changed his image with the release of his 3rd studio LP. Looking good! :)

Another recurrent flashback comes from the same vintage year, when I visited New Zealand in December.

Ah, Queenstown holds so many fond memories, from the majestic Dart River and its high-speed jetboats, to the breath-taking scenery, the perfect weather, excellent cuisine, and yes, that beautiful summer afternoon spent sitting beside Lake Wakatipu, as I dipped my feet in the cool water and took my time munching an apple and penning a
journal entry.

I fully intend to return one day to replicate that exact moment. Just need to figure out when.

Last but not least, I discovered there's a website based on a book I'm currently reading, i.e. Welcome To Your Brain. It's available at the Tanglin Club library, but you have to wait for me to return it. :)

Though the writing isn't as crisp as I'd prefer ( don't read this when you're tired ), it does offer a few amusing anecdotes and enlightening nuggets of information, like the common misconception that women are moodier than men ( studies have proven this to be false ), some fascinating insights on mating ( prairie voles, anyone? ), and a particularly funny bit about octopuses and their penchant for solving puzzles.

While the first half of the 200-plus page tome is a little slow-moving, the second section picks up the pace significantly, dwelling on themes like Your Emotional Brain and Your Brain In Altered States. The chapter on dreams and narcolepsy is pretty cool.

Oh, and by the way, I've finally succumbed to the MySpace culture, setting up an account a couple of months ago, but only because of a certain celebrity. I'm pretty selective about my Friend Requests, so almost all the "Friends" on my list are in the music / film / stage industry. If you know who I like, you'll be able to find my profile very easily.

Will be catching The Dark Knight this weekend. Looking forward to it!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Fresh Start

Greetings to a regular visitor and senior physician, whom I exchanged emails with recently.

I've made good on my promise, and spent the past week tossing around a number of ideas for that "project" I've been thinking about.

The good news is, I've settled on the subject matter.

The bad news - now I have to start putting everything down on paper.

I give myself a maximum of 2 years to complete it. I have to make a few judgment calls here and there, but hope they will prove beneficial in the long run. I believe it's a story that deserves to be told, and more importantly, shared on a global scale.

Wish me luck.


Am ecstatic about MOH's approval of a HMDP expert application I submitted. This professor hails from Mt. Sinai Hospital, NYC, and is a highly respected, prominent figure in the field of evidence-based emergency medicine.

I have absolutely no doubt he will be well-received here. Something to look forward to in 2009. :)


... on the upcoming Sting concert, featuring pieces from Songs From The Labyrinth. I hated the album when I first listened to it last year, and I still hate it now. No offence to Sting, of course. I think he's brilliant as a musical artiste. But I'm not going to pay hundreds of dollars to sit for 2 hours and be put through the unbearable torture of John Dowland songs.
I'm just sad I won't be able to watch Sting again. Can't the concert organizer / recording company persuade him to do a gig comprising only jazz and / or his music from movie soundtracks?

... on Hellboy 2: The Golden Army. I wanted to see this film so bad, but the cinemas have stuck the screenings in tiny little theatres, reserving the bigger ones for stuff like Red Cliff. I'm not using my movie vouchers for a 100-seater hall, sorry. Guess I'll just wait for the DVD ( or Krisworld, heh ).


I totally disagree with a recent comment made by the chairman / president of the Singapore Kindness Movement, about locals becoming kinder over the years.

The question I'd like to ask him is: which part of Singapore do you live in? ( My mother asked what planet he hails from. )

Because most of the locals I encounter are bloody rude and nasty buggers. And this includes both males and females, though many tend to be below the age 60. ( My personal observation is that older Singaporeans are significantly nicer than the younger generation. )

Simple things like holding a door open for the person behind you is rarely performed; try driving on any major road / highway and you'll find yourself hurling vulgarities within minutes; and local kids -- I just assume they're all monsters, and consider myself lucky if I meet a nice one now and then.

Having had the opportunity to interact with people in the countries I've visited over the past decade, I would even consider New Yorkers more polite than Singaporeans. The natives of Seattle and Los Angeles give way to pedestrians even when it's the driver's right of way ( unlike S'poreans who barrel their vehicles through traffic lights and zebra crossings when they see that you're about to step off the kerb ).

And having witnessed my fair share of stubborn local drivers who refuse to change lanes when ambulances flash their warning lights or turn on their sirens, I'd like to express my admiration for the people of Seattle: on a busy weekday morning, cars at a 4-way junction all simultaneously came to a halt as an ambulance approached and turned into another road. And its siren wasn't even switched on. It was unbelievable!

The Japanese also deserve special mention. Sure they're uptight, but any society that strictly enforces the wear-a-mask-when-you-have-the-flu rule gets my approval. I just hate it when I'm eating at a hawker centre / walking around a public place, and some inconsiderate idiot decides to sneeze / cough in my face, before sauntering off like nothing happened, despite my look of disgust and occasional sarcastic remark.

But that's just my personal opinion.