Saturday, December 11, 2010

New Directions



...to borrow an often used motto from Glee.

And yes, the Kevin Spacey photo clearly indicates that I'm still reeling from the meet-and-greet!
( This is just one of many shots freeze-framed by a fellow KS fan from the video clips I uploaded on YouTube. Thank you so very much! )

But that's not the main gist of this entry. As the title aptly says, my recent encounter with the great Mr. Spacey jumpstarted a dream which has been brewing for way too long. A dream I've had since childhood. A dream many friends and relatives ( even my mother ) have asked me to pursue ( without jeopardizing my day job, that is ). A dream one friend seriously offered to finance, if I ever needed assistance. A dream which almost took flight 7 years ago when this blog gained global attention during the SARS epidemic.

While medicine - emergency medicine, in particular - is something I enjoy to a certain extent, it has become clear over the past decade that it is not fulfilling a deep void in my psyche.
Sure, I get to help people, earn good money, blah blah blah. But at the end of the day, what I yearn for most is a chance to express myself, and to make an intellectual and emotional impact on others.

I know that I will never be a renowned expert in my current profession. No passion for medical research, little protected time for teaching / mentoring, hate administrative duties. Work has become an endless stream of undifferentiated shifts, fraught with PR annoyances and systemic obstacles. The monotony is mind-numbing, and patients / relatives these days offer minimal appreciation for healthcare providers.

This past week, I made a number of decisions and took action to set things in motion.
First, an effort to establish collaborative working relationships with key people in the entertainment industry, to further the objectives of a group blog I contribute to.
Second, joining an online community which provides peer support and critiques on writing efforts. I haven't provided a link to the site because my username's a little obvious, so would prefer to maintain a degree of privacy in that area.
However, if anything interesting occurs, I'll be sure to post an update here. :)
Third, contemplating a medical website idea proposed by a tech-savvy reader. Anticipating a minefield of restrictions to manoeuvre around, but hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Initially planned to blog at the end of the month to herald in the New Year, but since I'm at the computer now, it wouldn't hurt to do a quick summary of 2010's main events.

1) Not to belabour the point, but meeting Kevin Spacey wasn't just the highlight of the year, it has been the highlight of my life!
The fact that it occurred so unexpectedly is definitely a bonus. Sometimes, when you have lots of time to anticipate something, the actual event itself loses the oomph factor.
Although I think being post-call that evening resulted in a degree of lethargy which blunted my affect. If I'd been physically and mentally optimal, I would've bordered on manic!
Never in a million years did I ever think I would have a chance to come face-to-face with my favourite actor.
Add this to my meet-and-greet with Jason Mraz ( my favourite singer ) in March 2009, and I'm pretty much done with my personal list of People I'd Like To Talk To Before I / They Die.

2) France. Or more specifically, Paris.
Again, an unexpected surprise. This country has never been a priority in my travel plans, and was chosen only to accomodate my mom.
Even I was shocked by the effect it had on me. I've never visited a place that made me exclaim, "I don't want to go home!" before.
Paris is so exquisite, but I didn't have time to see most of the city, so a definite return is on the cards. Think maybe on my 40th birthday. Might hop through a few favourite destinations at one go. :)

3) Got promoted at last. My habit of procrastinating proved dearly when a journal writeup was massively sidetracked. But I proved a few things to myself in the process. On to the next 5, so I can make senior consultant when the time comes.

4) Took the plunge and went for Lasik surgery, because my glasses were giving me intractable headaches and contact lenses were becoming a problem. My high myopia and astigmatism haven't deterred the wonders of modern technology, and thanks to an opthalmologist who comes highly recommended by many, results have been good so far, and will probably improve with time.
No regrets at all. :)

5) Memorable concerts: attended very few shows this year, but Jamie Cullum and David Foster were both fabulous and worth every single cent.

6) Favourite movie of 2010: hands down, Inception. Didn't get to see The Social Network, which I'm pretty sure I would've enjoyed as well, so will have to wait for the DVD release.
In any case, if it wins the Best Picture Oscar and Kevin Spacey makes the thank-you speech, I will hit the roof. Literally. :)

7) Favourite TV shows of 2010: Dexter and The Closer. This is, in my opinion, as good as it gets in terms of acting and writing. I do have other favourites, but none comes anywhere close to these two.


Plans for 2011?

1) Non-work-related projects, mentioned earlier.

2) A trip back to the USA with both parents, visiting a couple of cities we haven't seen yet. But Manhattan is definitely on the itinerary. Watching a few Broadway musicals, meeting up with old friends, maybe getting one of them to bring me backstage at the Lincoln Centre ( he's got connections :)).

3) Gearing up for Russell Watson and Michael Buble's shows. Have a contact in the music industry who might be able to grant me access to the artistes.

4) The Bridge Project, featuring Kevin Spacey in the lead role of Richard III! Okay, no more gushing for now. :)

Another good year is about to conclude. Here's to an equally great 2011.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Best Day Ever!




This entry contains additional details which Kevin Spacey fans may be interested in, so if you want a condensed version, go to the other post on Just Watch Lah.

As you know, my blog is named in Mr. Spacey's honour. So's my Twitter username.
And while he won Oscars for his roles in The Usual Suspects and American Beauty, it was actually The Negotiator that turned me into a diehard fan.
The exact moment? A tense scene where Spacey's character, hostage negotiator Chris Sabian, blasts the police and FBI for storming a building without his okay, then pleads for Danny Roman's ( Samuel L. Jackson's ) life.
If you watch that bit, you will hear Spacey's voice break. And that was when I knew that he was my all-time favourite actor.

Through the years, I've seen many of his films, often multiple times.
Personal fave: Swimming With Sharks, in which he plays the boss from hell, Buddy Ackerman. You absolutely MUST watch this movie. "You...have...no...brain." LOL!

Other faves: American Beauty, The Usual Suspects, Se7en, Beyond The Sea ( which he also directs ), Pay It Forward and Recount.

Ever since I started travelling annually, I've tried to see Mr. Spacey on stage, but the timing just never seemed right. And sending a fan mail package to The Old Vic 2 years ago didn't help either. He's probably too busy to read everyone's letters, or the envelope's gotten lost somewhere.

And when he came to Singapore early this year to promote The Bridge Project, I was devastated that I didn't get a chance to meet him.

So when an old friend alerted me about the Audi A8 event, I used every means possible to get tickets.

I've already discussed the interview segment and mentioned a list of general impressions, so here're a few extra things.

The majority of the audience didn't seem to be huge Kevin Spacey fans. Yes, he was bombarded by quite a few guests later on, but I suspect they were just making general conversation, and haven't seen a lot of his less famous films. From what I could hear, Spacey was talking about his work in the theatre more than anything else. Nothing very specific.

A few of the guests were rather rude. Even though I was quietly waiting my turn and arrived first, others barged in front of me before I could step forward, monopolizing the actor for the next few minutes as I waited. Again.

But this had its advantages. Since I had a reason to be there, I used the time to take a very good look at Mr. Spacey, who was just inches away from me. I also listened to him speak, and couldn't help thinking how surreal it was to be standing right next to a man I've dreamed of meeting for more than a decade!

My first encounter took place in the general buffet area, just outside the restricted access lounge. Mr. Spacey's assistant initially wanted to usher him inside, but I pleaded with him for a few minutes and asked if his boss would oblige with an autograph, to which he smiled and replied, "You can ask him!"

I wanted to take a quick photo with him, but MY CAMERA JAMMED. Yes, my brand new Nikon Coolpix which is only a few months old, decided to die on me at the most crucial moment, ARGH!

So the only thing I could do was fish a DVD out of my bag ( I brought 3 just in case ), and due to the time constraint ( his assistant was getting very antsy ), I decided to pass him the first one I pulled out, which happened to be Swimming With Sharks. How strange is that! :)

Once Mr. Spacey was done with the last guest, I quickly stepped forward and stretched out my hand. He immediately took it and gave me a smile, as I introduced myself and told him I'm a "very big fan" of his. I think I rambled on for a bit, explaining how my camera jammed and asking if I could have his autograph instead. He instantly agreed.

I promised myself that, in the event that I got to meet Mr. Spacey, I would do everything in my power to recall as many details as possible, instead of getting flustered and forgetting things, like I did with Michael Buble.

Here's what happened:

I gave him the Swimming With Sharks DVD box.
He opened it, likely looking for the booklet inside.
There was no booklet, because I'd mailed that to The Old Vic. But I didn't tell him this.
He then started to remove the DVD sleeve located on the outside of the box. It is, as you know, tough to manipulate, because there's a plastic cover over it.
When I saw what he was doing, I asked him to sign the disc instead, because "it's easier".
He didn't say anything to that, just smoothly whipped the sleeve out ( like magic, haha ), put it on a nearby table, and asked me for my name.
That really stunned me, because I honestly didn't expect it. I just thought he'd sign his name and that would be it.
So for a split second, I was speechless. But I recovered pretty quickly, and spelled out my name as he wrote it down with a marker pen I brought.
While he was doing this, I mentioned that he once answered one of my tweets, but he didn't acknowledge it specifically, though it looked like he heard my remark.
And since I'd met celebrities before, I took that as a cue to not push the issue, and stood there patiently as he scrawled the rest of the autograph for me.

Here's another surprise - I thought he'd just hand the stuff to me in pieces, but he slotted the sleeve BACK into the plastic cover, and closed the box, before returning it to me with a smile!
I thanked him profusely, and just as he was walking off, he spotted my pen still on the table, the same time I was about to reach for it.
He then REVERSED, took the pen in his hand, and gave it to me. At this point, I blanked out, but vaguely recall him saying something along the line of "Here you go."
I think. Sorry! :)
Before we parted, I passed him an envelope, saying that it's a "fan letter". It's from me, of course. Nothing mushy ( not my style ), just how much I admire his work, my tributes to him on Blogger and Twitter, etc.

Then he entered the lounge.

I loitered outside the area for a while, not because I wanted to bug him again, but for the simple purpose of looking at him a little longer. ( Hey, he's my favourite actor, I can't just walk away! )

About 5 minutes later, Mr. Reinhold Carl, managing director of Audi Singapore, said hello to my mum and I ( details of our earlier exchange on Just Watch Lah ). Upon hearing that my camera malfunctioned earlier and I never got a picture, he led me inside the lounge and deposited me behind Mr. Spacey, asking me to wait for my chance once he's done talking to the other guests.

The next 10 minutes were very tense. 4 ladies chatted with him, followed by a large Caucasian man - who, by the way, JUMPED QUEUE. Then Mr. Spacey's assistant tried to ask me to leave, since I'd already gotten an autograph. I told him that Audi's managing director asked me to get a photo, then he backed off a bit, but I could tell that the first chance he got, he was going to whisk his boss away from me.

Lo and behold, a male Audi staff member came to my rescue. I think it's because I helped him track down the event photographer earlier, and the gesture paid off! He took my camera and told me he'd snap a photo for me. Then when the assistant protested, the Audi guy sternly said, "One photo! Just one photo! She's been waiting for a very long time!" ( There's actually a double meaning there, 'cos I've been waiting more than 10 years, not 10 minutes! )

When Mr. Spacey was finally free, I stepped forward and apologized for bothering him again, explaining that my camera was now functional and could we take a fast picture?
It would've been understandable for him to say no, or to look unhappy about the intrusion, but none of that occurred. He smiled, faced the cameras ( mine and the event photog's ), moved in close and gently placed his hand on my back. I was a little worried that he might look at the wrong camera, but he gazed straight into mine, so the picture turned out great!

A quick thank-you and farewell, and I was outta there!

After getting home, I scrutinized his autograph because I couldn't tell what he'd written ( other than our names ). It's quite illegible! Later, I figured it out: To XXXXX, with thanks, Kevin Spacey.
Cool. :D


I can't wait to see him as Richard III next year! Will I try to meet him again? You bet! Hopefully there won't be such a big crowd to fight through, 'cos I'd really like to ask him a few questions.

It's been the perfect end to a very good year. Am so thankful for the many blessings I've received. And there're even more to come in 2011, I'm sure!

To end off, my permanent tribute to Mr. Spacey - am changing my profile to a quote from his late mother. Because so many of my own dreams have come true, and it's important to always have new ones.

Thank you again, Mr. Spacey, for your kindness and graciousness!

p.s. Finally, after multiple attempts, all 3 video clips are up! Part 3 contains Mr. Spacey's hilarious Bill Clinton impression, and ends with his mother's inspiring quote. Hope you enjoy it!
( p.p.s. that is NOT me coughing in the background )

Sunday, November 28, 2010

My Cup Runneth Over


I've been festering in a cesspool of blue funk this past fortnight, and it would've taken nothing short of a miracle to lift me out of it.

So the fact that 3 miracles occurred within days of each other is, in my opinion, nothing short of divine intervention. :)



First and foremost, my scoring 2 passes to one of Kevin Spacey's appearances at the Audi A8 event.
Initially, it was a near impossible task, especially since I had no inkling about the campaign itself, until a pal sent me an SMS and gave me the shock of my life.

Next, wrangling for tickets with the general public just didn't cut it for me, so I sent someone an email and basically grovelled, but was politely told, "Sorry, I can't help you." Which I totally understand.

The big break came when I recalled receiving an envelope with the Audi logo in the letterbox earlier this week. It was addressed to my dad, but since we receive a lot of junk mail on a daily basis, we end up tossing most of these in the recycling pile.

I called my mum from work - yes, I was desperate - and she rummaged through the heap before ringing me back with the best news ever: it was indeed the invitation I was hoping for!

Quick email back to the Audi guy, who happily put me on the guest list, and sent me the confirmation the very next day.

No word on whether there'll be any Q&A, meet-and-greet or autograph-signing. Programme shows a 30-minute slot for the talk itself, followed by a dinner buffet.

But you can bet I'll try my DARNDEST to get close to Mr. Spacey. No, I'm not stalking the man. But surely you can imagine how eager I am to shake his hand and take a photo, if possible. I absolutely love his work, and think he's sexy as hell. :)

More to follow after the event itself!

As a tribute to Mr. S, videos of his priceless impersonations. ( If I get to ask him a question in person, I'll either request an impression, or a short song. :))

At the AFI.

My personal fave, from Inside The Actors Studio.

As for the other 2 miracles: tickets to Russell Watson and Michael Buble's concerts! :D



By the way, I finished Dexter Is Delicious a few days ago.
As usual, not the strongest in terms of detective work, but explored Dexter's conflicting emotions in-depth, with a most unexpected plot development in the last chapter.

I mean, I thought I'd gotten used to Jeff Lindsay's wacky ideas after 4 novels, but even I didn't see this coming! Bravo for that!

And the TV series? Season 5 episode 8 deserves an Emmy. Just for that one episode. It's that good.

I'm not kidding when I say that I love Dexter Morgan. Not in a romantic sense, of course, but in a sisterly way. When you follow a show this closely and start investing your personal feelings in its characters, you begin to care for them very deeply.

And Dexter, in all his bloodthirsty dysfunction, is one of my personal heroes.

Why am I highlighting S5 Ep 8? Because it combines impeccable writing with flawless acting, and seals the bond between Dex and survivor-turned-accomplice Lumen.
Dexter, as many fans would know, is a solitary creature when it comes to murder. His attempt at partnership in season 3 ( with a trigger-happy Assistant DA, no less ) ended in tragedy, so having him try this out a second time is definitely dicey.

However, the writers are so adept at developing his relationship with Lumen ( plus the utterly convincing acting from Michael C. Hall and Julia Stiles ) that I never once doubt that they'll end up together.




*spoiler beware*


There's a scene where Lumen is attacked by a killer who recognizes her, and Dexter comes charging into the hotel room, strangling the scumbag until he loses consciousness and releases the poor woman.

It may seem routine to most viewers, but I found it extremely poignant. Dexter, with his propensity for cold, calculated violence, is also one of TV's kindest, most caring personalities.

There's also a conversation that discusses Dexter's motivation for killing.
D: Some people deserve to die.
Lumen: Is that what you believe?
D: Well, some people don't deserve to live.

If Michael C. Hall doesn't get an Emmy next year, someone's head needs to be chopped off!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Kevin Spacey Returns To Singapore!



So soon? He was just here earlier this year before The Bridge Project's The Tempest hit the Esplanade.

I'm not complaining! :)

Strangely enough, I didn't know about the Audi A8 launch campaign until a good friend brought it to my attention.

Just called the hotline to register, but they're going to draw lots for the public, so let's hope I get lucky.

He'll be there all 3 days. How cool is that!

p.s. Doesn't he look gorgeous in this photo? Should've made this year's People magazine's Sexiest Man Alive issue. :D

First Michael Buble and Russell Watson's concerts, now this. My heart can't take any more adrenaline!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Reviews

A couple of quick ones.



First, the updated version of Hawaii Five-O, which I absolutely LOVE. :)

Cable aired 2 episodes these past few days. The pilot was mind-bogglingly good, for many reasons.

There's the excellent cast, led by Alex O'Loughlin and Scott Caan, carrying on the bro-mance trend that's become so popular in recent years.

Whoever picked these guys deserves an Emmy award, 'cos I haven't seen such a great male pairing since Law & Order. Most detective shows these days prefer man-woman combos, probably so they can up the will-they-or-won't-they romance factor.
So it's very refreshing to see 2 hunky dudes bickering their heads off, and the scriptwriters really whip it up with the witty one-liners.

Of course, most of the credit goes to O'Loughlin and Caan, who share the most delicious chemistry on-screen, and trade insults with gusto. The former is all icy stares and business-like calm, the latter a ball of nerves and temper flares. I find it especially funny when the shorter Caan scolds the towering O'Loughlin. Just brings to mind an image of David nagging Goliath, heh!

Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park provide the obligatory Asian ingredient, but don't make that big an impression, in my opinion. However, I'm glad to see minimal makeup on Park, a welcome change from the goop that's usually piled on actresses' faces - good examples: all the CSI series, all the teenager shows ( 90210, Gossip Girl, Vampire Diaries ). But I don't exactly buy into the hard-sell that Park's character is a kick-ass tough-as-nails cop worthy of joining the task force. Better to just let her use her feminine wiles and leave the whacking to the macho men, no?

One more thing worth mentioning: the super-slick action scenes, which caused my jaw to hit the floor. A memorable chase sequence in Ep 1 had O'Loughlin slide onto the back of a stalled car just as another one came crashing head-on into it. Doesn't sound that fantastic when I write about it, but trust me, it was wild!

He's been through a number of short-lived TV series, like Moonlight and Three Rivers, so let's hope Hawaii Five-O will be his breakout role, just as McDreamy helped Patrick Dempsey jumpstart his career.

As for Hung season 2, the censors are turning the show into an incomprehensible mess, so I may have to resort to my online sources for help.
It's definitely losing steam because the novelty is wearing off, so I may not stick around for season 3.

In other news, Russell Watson is finally performing in Singapore!
I've been a fan since his debut album almost 10 years ago, so you bet I'll be at the concert, with mom in tow.
Am also hoping for some "special access" privileges, so fingers crossed. :)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Holiday Musings - Part 5

Due to a glitch in the Blogger software, some of the posting features aren't working very well, so let's see how this turns out.

It's been 3 weeks since my last entry about France, so I think it's about time for another one!

Choice of subject: the majestic Notre Dame cathedral.




I took A LOT of pictures, but picked these because they're among my favourites, and offer some of the best views.

From what I could see, most tourists cram themselves outside the main entrance ( right ), which features 3 separate doors and the famous Gallery Of Kings statues ( below ).





As a first-time visitor, I was initially disoriented by a long queue of people, whom I thought was lining up to enter the church. Turns out they were waiting to go up the stairs to the roof, which can take up to an hour!



Once inside, there's more to see, from statues of famous saints ( including Joan of Arc ), to numerous small prayer chapels, beautiful paintings, an altar, and of course, the famous rose windows.

I'm told by certain photography enthusiasts that my photos of the windows turned out great. Guess I got lucky, since I don't use a fancy or particularly expensive camera. Nikon Coolpix is good enough for me. But I did upgrade to a higher ISO, better zoom and 15 megapixels. :)



After spending about an hour strolling around the interior - was referring to my trusty Eyewitness travel guide on all the interesting sights - my mum and I went outside to walk a full round and view the exterior structure from a 360-degree perspective.

We met very few tourists along the way, which is a huge pity. The cathedral is breath-taking from every angle, and we stopped many times to gawk at the pure awesomeness of the architecture. Flying buttresses, hello!



There's also a lovely rose garden at the other end, where you can sit by a small fountain for a short breather, or bask in the sun.

Following our little walkabout, we ended the trip by listening to the church bells chime the 12 o'clock hour, after which they launched into a protracted bit of melodious clanging.
I was transfixed, and captured the interlude with my camera's video recording function.
I could practically picture Quasimodo in the bell tower! Such a beautiful summer day. My mom LOVED it. :)


Other Updates

Have been reading up a storm, zipping through Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan's The Fall, before moving on to Jeff Lindsay's Dexter Is Delicious.

The Fall - Book 2 of The Strain trilogy - was disappointing because it pales in comparison to Book 1, which blew me away.
The writing has lost the oomph factor, the chapters don't flow smoothly, the action scenes feel forced, and the plot fails to develop in a manner that sustains my interest.
I do a lot of bedtime reading - need to wind down after my frequent evening shifts. How easily I doze off is a good gauge of how terrific / abysmally bad a novel is. And I had a lot of trouble staying awake with this one. Unlike The Strain, which kept me up till 2am at one point.

Another gripe: the totally irrelevant blog and diary entries from Fet the pest exterminator, and Ephraim Goodweather the infectious disease expert. Not well-written at all, and worth skipping entirely.

Will I read Book 3? Of course. I wouldn't be able to live with myself otherwise. Just hope it will match The Strain in terms of excitement and plot / character development.

I also hope a film trilogy - or better still, a TV series! - is in the works. Am already imagining Robert Downey Jr in the Goodweather role, with Gerard Butler as Fet. If my choices become reality, I'm going to buy lottery tickets! :)

Dexter Is Delicious, on the other hand, is currently giving me insomnia. Book 4 - Dexter By Design - was unremarkable, but Book 5 has author Jeff Lindsay back in top form, exhibiting a degree of laugh-out-loud dark humour I haven't seen since Dexter In The Dark.

Can you possibly fathom how a novel about a serial killer can make me chortle heartily, even after a crappy shift at the hospital? Since I've been watching the TV series online, it's even more interesting that I'm experiencing what's essentially 2 separate realities in Dexter Morgan Land. On television, he has a baby son named Harrison, lost his wife to the Trinity Killer, rescues a young woman from a pack of perverted murderers and subsequently helps her hunt them down.
On paper, his new daughter is called Lily Anne, wife Rita is alive and well, the Miami police squad searches for a possible vampire / cannibalistic cult, and Dexter's bloodthirsty brother, Brian ( who was killed off in season 1 ), returns with what sounds to me like a sinister ulterior motive.

Balancing the 2 story arcs is making me dizzy, but I'm also loving every second. :)

Something else I highly recommend: The Walking Dead.
This new TV series airs on local cable just 5 days after its U.S. telecast, woohoo!
Based on a graphic novel and executive produced by Frank Darabont ( who directed the excellent Shawshank Redemption ), the pilot episode got me hooked fast, and Ep 2 convinced me that yes, this show is worth my time.
Why? Well, don't expect hard-core action, sex / nudity or any big stars. The pace is rather slow - lots of talking, strategizing, trying to escape from one place or other. Zombies don't make the most fascinating villains either.
Maybe it's my personal preference, but I enjoy the verbal sparring between the plucky survivors, with their power plays and heroic/ desperate attempts at staying alive.

The main draw, however, is Andrew Lincoln, an actor I never knew of until now. As deputy sheriff, Rick Grimes, he is believably gritty and handles the action scenes extremely well. The supporting cast benefits from solid direction, especially in Ep 2, when they look positively horrified while chopping up a dead zombie then smearing its foul-smelling innards on their clothes, in an attempt to disguise themselves during an escape.

Also helps that Lincoln reminds me of another favourite actor, Viggo Mortensen. Slight physical resemblance, especially that strong jawline and scruffy chin. And they both handle their firearms most magnificently. :)

I'm also currently into The Vampire Diaries. Granted, it's directed at teenagers - specifically the Twilight fans - but I have my guilty pleasures too ( Gossip Girl heh! ) and this show is much less annoying than the Twilight movies.

Are you on Team Stefan or Team Damon? I like the former, because honestly, Ian Somerhalder's range of facial expressions is so damn limited. He tries to look evil, but how badass can an arched eyebrow be?
Paul Wesley, on the other hand, excels at being tormented.

But I have to say, distorting the vampire legend is so WRONG. I prefer my bloodsuckers nocturnal. And why is it always a male vamp who goes after a human girl?

Other new TV shows on cable, which I will try to review soon: Hawaii Five-O, and Hung season 2.

Last but not least, any guesses for People magazine's Sexiest Man Alive 2010?

I have this horrible feeling that Robert Pattinson's going to be on the cover. But then again, People mag rarely bestows this title on someone in his 20s, so let's hope that trend continues.

If I had my way - quirky taste and all - I'd choose ( in order of preference ) Robert Downey Jr, Viggo Mortensen, Clive Owen, Keanu Reeves and Edward Norton.

I adore George Clooney, but he's been featured twice already.
Kevin Spacey is sexy in my book, but not an ideal candidate looks-wise.
James McAvoy's hot, but too young for such a title.

D-day: November 17!

Till next time...

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Review Of David Foster & Friends concert

Posted today, available at Just Watch Lah.

Enjoy. :)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Reviews

Okay, I'm going to abandon the Bliss theme because frankly, I've lost count.

Will also take a short break from the holiday posts, because I really want to write about some other good stuff. :)

Here goes.



Movies

An assortment of rented DVDs, online versions, and Krisworld fare.

Caught Knight And Day en route from Paris to Singapore. Surprisingly enjoyable! Not a particularly big fan of Cruise or Diaz, but this little caper turned out to be extremely fun, with great chemistry between the leads, a bonus in the form of Peter Sarsgaard ( I LOVE that guy :)), and another bonus - John Powell helming the excellent score ( he also composed for The Bourne Identity, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Shrek and other blockbuster animated films ).



Robin Hood was a major letdown. Lots of big players in the form of the Ridley Scott-Russell Crowe partnership, and co-stars Cate Blanchett and Mark Strong, but the script was so anti-climactic. Horrible ending! Supposed to set things up for a sequel, but frankly my dear, I don't give a damn.



Prince Of Persia gave me a headache. Was hoping I'd drool over Jake Gyllenhaal the same way a certain female Movies.com reviewer did, but my heart rate didn't budge one bit. All that supposedly witty / flirtatious verbal sparring between Jake and Gemma Arterton just falls flat. Yawn...



Shrek 4 is another big yawn. But hey, it was the last of a marathon session on the plane, so I guess I should give it a second chance when it hits cable.



Rented DVDs:



It's Complicated - hilarious! I started to appreciate Meryl Streep's acting skills very late in her career, specifically after her perfectly poised turn in The Devil Wears Prada. This rom-com provided an additional draw for me: Steve Martin, whom I absolutely adore.

Written and directed by Nancy Meyers, who's responsible for The Holiday and Something's Gotta Give, I knew from the get-go that I would love this film, because I've watched the other two multiple times and never tire of them.

The script is smart and realistic, the cast spot-on in terms of characterization and comic timing. I don't fancy the fat-and-hairy Alec Baldwin as a romantic lead, but hey, I thought Jack Nicholson was super-cool in Something's Gotta Give, so I can't explain my preferences.



Everybody's Fine - had me in tears half the time. Yes, I realize that as I grow older, I cry over movies a lot more. And 2010 has been a whopper. Actually, it's the cartoons that really get to me, but for some reason, this Robert de Niro drama was very affecting.

His portrayal of a lonely widower trying to connect with his grown-up offspring is poignant yet understated. All those shots of him travelling solo across the country were just soooo sad. Maybe it's because my own parents are hitting their 70s, and I would be devastated if they ended up like de Niro's character.

Special mention goes to Sam Rockwell, whose sensitive performance as an underachieving son is quite heart-breaking.

Thank goodness there's a happy ending to the whole saga. :)



Jennifer's Body - I know it didn't get the best reviews, but I kinda dig this movie! ( p.s. It helps that the DVD isn't censored. There's some girl-on-girl action which will definitely get snipped in the cable version. )

What saves this horror flick from B-grade hell is Amanda Seyfried, an actress I've never cared for much, but couldn't take my eyes off here. She does the terrified expression very well indeed!

Johnny Simmons steals some of the lead actresses' thunder with his boyish good looks and sweet demeanour. But it's Adam Brody's cameo as a Satan-worshipping rocker that provides the biggest jolt. Guy-liner, anyone? :)



Shutter Island is now my 2nd favourite Leonardo DiCaprio film, after Inception.

Equally trippy in terms of grand concepts, but much easier to understand. Thanks to Martin Scorsese, the overall result is effectively dark and ominous. Have you seen Cape Fear, also directed by Scorsese? Very Alfred Hitchcock-esque. Love it!



Up In The Air - made me think a lot more than I thought I would. Much has been said about lead stars George Clooney and Vera Farmiga, but I feel that supporting actress Anna Kendrick deserves the greatest credit here, for her memorable portrayal of an ambitious young graduate with unexpected weaknesses and complicated character flaws.

Ryan Bingham's comment about the irrelevance of marriage is a hoot - "I just don't see the value in it." ( Clooney is, after all, marriage-phobic in real life ) - yet also full of truth. I should know - I'm relationship-phobic too. And proudly so. :)



On to the animated films, both viewed online. Thank you, Megavideo!



Toy Story 3 - yes, definitely the best of the trilogy, and a fitting conclusion to a delightful franchise ( though deep down, I'm crossing my fingers that Pixar's execs will change their minds and continue this magical journey ). I laughed till my sides hurt and cried my eyes out. The new characters are beautifully fleshed out ( Timothy Dalton's Mr. Pricklepants and Michael Keaton's Ken doll are priceless! ) but never outshine the anchors ( Woody, Buzz, the Potato Heads, Jessie, Rex, Hamm etc ). It's a fine balancing act on the director's and writers' parts. The massive box office earnings are proof that they did everything right.



How To Train Your Dragon is the crowning glory of this list. I didn't have time to see it in the cinema, but watching it on a computer screen proved to be an amazing experience nonetheless.

Sure, I take issue with the accent discrepancies. I mean, the story's about Vikings, and you have an assortment of Scottish and American twangs, which make zero sense.

Still, I found myself completely engrossed in spite of the huge boo-boo, mostly because the cast members do such incredible jobs with their vocal performances.

Gerard Butler is perfect as the brooding, towering Stoick, while America Ferrera ( from Ugly Betty ) is a revelation as the ferocious tomboy, Astrid.

But it is Jay Baruchel as Hiccup, who steals the entire show. He resembles the cartoon character to some extent, and the artists capitalize on that by adding mannerisms which greatly enhance the whole awkward / comic element.

Once again, John Powell's soaring music drives many of the action sequences, especially the ones involving Hiccup zipping through the air with Toothless.

Ultimately, however, I love this film because of its big big heart. Even more than Toy Story 3, believe it or not! There're multiple emotional subplots that somehow manage to avoid stifling each other, and you find yourself rooting for everyone ( dragons included, 'cos they're the good guys too! ).

And being an ardent animal lover, the scenes where Hiccup bonds with the different dragons really got to me, man. There's a little one that curls up under his arm and starts purring. I'm not joking! Made me think of my pet cat, Nemo. Awww.... :)



Last but not least, some juicy TV.



Dexter season 5 is off to a rousing start, as Mr. Morgan indulges his Dark Passenger in an effort to cope after his wife's violent demise. He offs a vicious serial killer early on, but now has to contend with an unexpected witness who's proving to be a tad unhinged. Add to all this baggage the constant attention required by his infant son, Harrison, who's already begun to sink his teeth into fellow playmates. Plus a chain of bloody beheadings committed by a cult-like sect.

Michael C. Hall continues to enthrall, and was cheated of a well-deserved Emmy for season 4, argh! Let's hope he strikes gold with S5.

Julia Stiles provides the Hollywood cred this time round ( following in the footsteps of John Lithgow and Jimmy Smits ), and turns in the best performance of her career as Lumen, the mysterious survivor who may or may not result in Dexter's eventual undoing.



I also recently caught the premiere episode of The Good Wife season 2. Am extremely grateful to the writers for expanding Josh Charles' role in the series. Lots of similarities with his Knox Overstreet character from Dead Poets Society, as Will Gardner declares his love for Alicia Florrick, but is cruelly thwarted by image consultant Eli Gold ( deliciously played by Alan Cumming ). The injustice!!!

Anyway, much as I like Chris Noth, who plays Alicia's straying husband, Peter, I want Will to win this battle.



Yes, I watch waaay too many movies and TV shows for my own good. But they make me very very happy. :D

Friday, October 22, 2010

Holiday Musings - Part 4

aka Foodie Adventures. :D


If I'm not mistaken, this was taken in Sarlat, which
is famous for its foie gras, and listed on our
itinerary. ( Thank you, Google search engine! )

No-one on our tour wanted to try the dish, out of
respect for the poor geese. Our French guide
tried to make the whole process sound like the
most natural thing in the world, but we weren't buying it!

As you can see, there's a lot of canned duck over there.
They also sell canned escargots. Wonder what that tastes like.

A quaint restaurant ( right ) in the same town, where mum and I cooked our own seafood on hot stones for lunch.

Yes, I should've snapped a picture of the meal rather than the
eatery, but somehow, I didn't think the French would like it.












Over at Carcassone, everyone was practically sucked into this beautiful store located near a medieval castle.

And yes, I asked for permission before clicking away. :)

Bought an armload of goodies, mostly cookies and candies. Flavours for the former range from orange and various types of berries, to chocolate and nuts.

The interesting bit is how the cookies didn't go bad
even though it took us more than a week to finish
the stash, and had only a paper bag in which to store them.

Do they taste as good as they look? You bet. They literally melt in your mouth. Yum. :)









Of course, what would a trip to France be without
a little wine-tasting?

Sadly, I'm not a big fan of wine, and couldn't buy
any to present as gifts to friends and relatives ( airline restrictions and all ), but I do enjoy sampling the local fare. For free. ;)

I was very surprised at the affordability of the
products. One bottle of very decent rose wine, for
only 4 Euros!?
The best price I've ever come across anywhere in
countries I've visited. And I've been to vineyards in
Italy, Australia and New Zealand.

In case you're wondering, the booze is from Chateauneuf-du-Pape.


I've included the tree-lined main street in Aix-en-
Provence because I had one of the best slices of
fresh pizza here.
Hot from the oven, the size of my face, dripping
with cheese and tomato sauce. 3 Euros. GAH!





Here's Nice. Took this while waiting for our dinner
at a cafe which served a super-delicious meat-and
noodles dish, totally not what we expected.

And if you read the earlier entry, you may recall my
appreciation for the eye candy, i.e. the many gorgeous waiters. :)








Monaco's Grimaldi Palace is tiny, but the streets
are crammed with people, and finding food when
you're on a tight schedule can be a real nightmare.

Luckily, the restaurants operate like well-oiled
machinery, and we got our main courses within 5
minutes.

Better still, they were perfectly cooked, I constantly dream about the cream sauce on my escalope.
( Was also served by yet another super-handsome waiter. :))




The lakeside town of Annecy is picturesque and full of friendly locals who're generous with their smiles and greetings.

Believe it or not, we had Vietnames takeout for lunch. Good,
not awesome, but for some reason, sitting on a bench along
the canal and getting sunburnt despite the chilly temperature
made that afternoon very memorable for me.

The lake and mountains are in the other direction. Breath-taking!


Our next stop was the ski resort town of Chamonix,
where we froze our fingers off, in summer no less.
This is the photo I took from my hotel window. The real thing is HUGE. And I mean MASSIVE.
I ironed my clothes facing this! Cool? You bet. :)
Food-wise, we had a wonderful, leisurely afternoon
tea in the centre of town ( seated next to us were 2
hot American men who couldn't figure out what we
were saying - we spoke Mandarin and Hakka to
throw them off ). Followed by a dinner consisting of
heavenly Indian cuisine.
But the absolute best meal I had in France was at
this lovely little hotel in Beaune.
There was a group dinner on arrival, which was
delicious. But the next evening, we splurged on a
MUCH better meal for just the 2 of us.
The chef's Japanese, with jaw-dropping skills.
He made meat-flavoured mousse, which sat on
top of the most amazing aspic. We only ordered the main course, but received 3 additional goodies
before and after, plus macaroons ( with to-die-for
fruit-flavoured dip ) for the finale.
The wagyu beef made me clutch my chest with sheer pleasure,
and I can't even remember what my mom ate, just that she couldn't stop gushing about it either.
I'm sure there's something similar in Singapore taste-wise, but
it would probably cost tonnes more, and tweaked to cater to
Singaporeans' preferences. Nope, not for me.
Flower shot's from Dijon ( right ), where a street market stall sold the most delectable honey-roasted peanuts.
The peanut seller couldn't speak much English, but got really
excited upon finding out where we're from.
The Singaporean landmark he immediately identified with?
None other than Marina Bay Sands. All that gesturing actually
made perfect sense. They should incorporate it into the
official sign language vocabulary!
Once again, the water mill restaurant in Fourges,
with its unbelievable apple pie.
This is another part of the Tuileries Gardens. Put
it up because our hotel's behind that building to the right, and it's surrounded by excellent eateries.
I previously mentioned Angelina's, famous for its
rich hot chocolate brew and millefeuille ( a multi-
layered pastry with cream and custard ), where we
chatted for hours with my penpal, E.
There's also a lovely Irish pub close by, that serves
( I kid you not ) chicken with whiskey sauce, and
steak seasoned with Guinness stout.
I couldn't really taste the liquor ( I love steak! ), but
the beef couldn't possibly be any juicier.
The bartender, who brought us the menus, looked
like a 16-year-old version of Josh Groban, and had
the most adorable Irish accent.
He's obviously at least 18, since he pours booze
for a living. Extremely friendly chap. Wish I could've
chatted with him more, but mom was tired out so we returned to the hotel after filling our stomachs. Darn.
Last but not least, the Notre Dame cathedral.
A restaurant just across the street serves beautiful
escargots, cooked in a sauce with a name that I can't pronounce.
Again, top-notch service from the waiters, especially a bespectacled fellow who presented each platter with dramatic flair - i.e. he would swoop over to the table and move his arm in a wide arc, before setting the plate or bowl down and proclaiming, "Voila!"
It's common practice in France, but he definitely took first prize in terms of showmanship. I regret not tipping on this trip, but interestingly enough, the French don't expect it.
Also recommended: French tea. The leaves are imported from Asia, but blended in France. I LOVE it!
Underwhelming: French ice-cream. It's nothing special. You want the truly fabulous stuff? It's in New Zealand - brand name Tip Top, flavour apricot. Droooool. :)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Holiday Musings - Part 3


...is dedicated to Giverny.



I took loads - and I mean LOADS - of photos in the 2 hours we were there, but here're a few of my favourites.





Not going to write too much in this entry. Best
to just let you enjoy the brilliant colours of the
exquisite flora.




























A pity that Monet's water lily pond didn't have
any blooms when we visited. Too early? Too late?



The compound isn't large, and it's easy to feel
bored if you aren't into nature. No problem for
my mom and I though. We spent the entire 2
hours ooh-ing and aah-ing over the flowers.
I do, however, wish it could've been sunnier.
Photos never turn out perfect when it's cloudy.
Quite possibly my favourite shot from the entire
holiday.
Taken just outside a water mill / restaurant in
Fourges, where we had a delicious lunch before
heading to Versailles.
Couldn't believe my eyes when I spotted these
cows in the nearby river. They were surprisingly
quiet as they dipped and drank.
A few other tourists came over when they saw
me snapping with my camera.
They all had smiles as broad as the one on my
own face. :)
Last but not least, the beautiful water mill itself.
The whole region - Giverny and Fourges - is breath-taking to say the least. That coach ride through the countryside will always remain one of my most vivid memories of France.
It certainly marked the exact moment I knew I didn't want to return to Singapore.
Till next time...

Friday, October 08, 2010

Holiday Musings - Part 2

After finally downloading my holiday photos into the computer, it's been a little difficult deciding what to write about first.

In the end, the magnificent Louvre won the toss.

This entry isn't meant to provide exhaustive information. As you can see, I've left out the paintings ( yes, I have a shot of the Mona Lisa ), and won't be naming every single sculpture featured here.

Rather, I'm sharing my impressions, and hope these pictures will whet your appetite should you be fortunate enough to visit this museum in the future ( or if you've already been to the Louvre but bypassed the sculpture galleries, perhaps these will prompt you to hunt them down next time ).







I could not include all the photos I took, of course, so these are the highlights.

As mentioned in an earlier entry, the Met in NYC was breath-taking, but the Louvre's setup is literally jaw-dropping.

The fact that the building used to be a royal palace certainly makes a huge difference. But the layout of the many pieces is key to one's enjoyment.

Witness the vast spaces and natural lighting. Lots of staircases to navigate, with lots of benches where one can sit and stare for as long as necessary.

Interesting to note that staff numbers are almost negligible in these areas. You can probably touch the statues to your heart's content - I didn't though - whereas attempting to do so at the Met will get you a harsh reprimand ( yes, I brushed a finger over a marble lion and a guy came out of nowhere to tell me to stop. Hmph! )

It never fails to amaze me, how an artist can fashion such beautiful forms from hard rock. Surely sculpting is much tougher than flicking a paintbrush over a canvas?






Having walked through the Met's gallery at length, I also notice a different theme at the Louvre, primarily the predominance of the human form, with animals providing a more secondary presence.


I just love the melodramatic flair, from cherubs weeping in a kneeling position...







... to young women stabbing themselves in the chest.












There're also quite a few male figures posing erotically. Here's one good example ( miniature-sized ). I've got a photo of another that's much larger and bordering on obscene, but chose not to post it here.
However, if you're my Facebook friend, it's in the photo album. :)

I've read about visitors molesting sculptures in museums. Picked up on the security cameras. Now I understand why!








Another characteristic I enjoy about sculptures: they're 3-dimensional.

While most people prefer to view them from the front, I make it a point to walk a complete round, looking at the piece from every possible angle.
Impossible to do so with every single one, but a definite must for the more beautiful statues.

Even our guide brought the entire group behind the Venus de Milo, just so we could admire her curvaceous back.
Another famous sculpture you absoutely MUST see from a 360-degree perspective: Michelangelo's David in Florence. It's awesome!



























It was a lovely day indeed. The place was crowded but not stifling.







Made a short pit-stop on the way back to our hotel. Spent time sitting at this fountain in the Tuileries Gardens, facing the Place de la Concorde's obelisk, with the gorgeous Arc de Triomphe in the distance.

Lots of tourists and a few locals doing the same, as pigeons scurried beneath our chairs and seagulls flew in from the Seine to take a break.
One of the best days ever. :)
Am of course very saddened by recent news that France is high on the terrorists' hit list. While my mom and I are extremely lucky to have escaped potential danger, we hope nothing tragic will befall Paris and its locals.

In other news...
Am currently glued to a biography of Jeffrey Dahmer, by Brian Masters.
The book's been sitting on my shelf for a while. I tend to buy novels and ignore them in favour of borrowing others from the public library.
Had to start reading this to clear some space, and can't believe how terrific it is.
Will post a few choice quotes next time round.
I've known about Dahmer since my college days, when his crimes made global headlines. I had some inkling about his twisted rituals, and learned more about them through various documentaries on cable TV.
But Masters provides the reader with a truly in-depth analysis of Dahmer's actions, which are not fuelled by cruelty or sadism ( no matter how perverse and horrific they may be ). In fact, once you understand what motivates his bloody deeds, you actually start to pity him.
Don't think anyone's made a movie about Dahmer yet. Maybe someone should.