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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 May 2014 (NB: I update it in the Singapore time zone.)
So...hello there![wave3] The most basic stuff about me you need to know...
Where I come from: Singapore
Other miscellaneous stuff, and all preferences in no particular order...
Books: Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, the Harry Potter series, Sense and Sensibility, The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons, the Malory Towers series, Les Miserables, The Great Gatsby
Music (aka my musical guilty pleasures[bigrazz]): Spice Girls (NB: I know. Don't laugh![laugh]), S Club 7, The Corrs, Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, ABBA (I know...but I like their songs even more after watching the musical based on their hits - Mamma Mia!)
Food: Japanese, Chinese, English, Italian, French, Korean
Hobbies: Reading, listening to music, eating, singing, using the Internet
The lesser known facts: Listening to classical tunes and retro songs, badminton, football (or soccer, and I am more of watching), watching tennis, golf and Formula One, used to play bowling for a period of time, speaking more of second language Mandarin than first language English in real life, almost being born as a New Zealander (long story for that)
By the way, I am also on Twitter and Facebook as well. Updates may differ from time to time for both - https://twitter.com/dy158 (Twitter account), https://www.facebook.com/dianayeow158 (Facebook account)
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. (Last line in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, as narrated by the narrator in the novel Nick Carraway)
Past siggys - Do not pity the dead, Harry, pity the living. Above all pity those who live without love. - The late Albus Dumbledore to Harry Potter, from 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows'
Magic Is Might (NB: It comes from one of the chapter titles in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It stands out for me, for some reason.)
The first siggy - 'Treat each day as if it's your last'
P.S.: I was almost at death's door before (Yes, it's true. Long stories over there.) more than once, and so that makes it all the more important and true whenever I think about what my former school teacher used to say in class.
P.S.S.: The link you see at Website http://littlemissdiana.blogspot.sg/ is a link to my blog. I tend to type a lot over there from time to time, but just bear with it.
The early days of the Minions
When do the minions really began their place in history? Definitely longer than the human species. Ever since the beginning of time, minions have always wanted to serve the baddest, meanest villain around. Over centuries through history, they have come to find serving humans is what they find most enjoyable.
But it was during the time of Napoleon, things did not go quite as planned, and the minions were driven into isolation and started a new life in the Antarctica. The minions would come to grow restless over the years with no purpose in life, but it was to be one minion Kevin who decided to do something. He would be joined by the musically-inclined Minion Stuart who had no idea what he was joining in for, and the young and inexperienced Bob, and the trio would come to find their journey take them to 1968's New York City.
After trying to blend into their new surroundings, the trio came to find themselves at a departmental store and spent the night there. They would come across a television advertisement advertising Villain- Con, a convention for villains and supervillains in Orlando. That got them eventually hitchhiking a ride with a family of villains called the Nelsons who were also heading there, and the Nelsons were to be impressed at their skills. At the Villain-Con, the Minions would come to meet the first female supervillain Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock) and they did enough to impress her, leading Scarlett to send them over to England with her, where the Minions would also come to meet her husband Herb (Jon Hamm).
It was in England where the Minions came to know what they needed to do. Scarlett came to tell the Minions of the plan to steal the Queen's crown jewels, and gave them the tools needed to be successful in their heist. But what the Minions came to attempt to do would soon be heavily publicised, and the whole of Britain would come to be heavily destabilised for a few days.
While much like the two Despicable Me films, the comedic elements were there with the Minions around, but at the same time, the Minions could not quite hold it in their very own film of how they would come to find their eventual owner. Still, what made this enjoyable like the human characters in Scarlett and Herb. But it definitely takes the viewers on a journey of how the Minions came to settle for the owner we would see in the two Despicable Me films.
A racially-divided Singapore, before independence
There are three prominent moments in the history of Singapore which are being explored in this film: The aftermath of the racial riots on 21 July 1964, the undeclared war on terror in Singapore in what is called 'Konfrontasi', and Singapore's eventual separation from Malaysia on 9 August 1965. In fact, it is the final moment which formed the basis for the film title. And that was what opened the film, revisiting the first part of when Singapore's first prime minister in the late Lee Kuan Yew (with his younger self being played by Singapore's veteran theatre actor Lim Kay Tong) trying to explain the separation to local and foreign journalists which was also broadcasted on television throughout Singapore, when he broke down on television.
The film takes on a narrative format, with retired policeman Adil recalling and reflecting his time serving in the police force which also coincided some of Singapore's pre-independence turmoil, and his working relationship with his superior Seng during those times. When the story really began, it came during a time when Singapore was still living from the after-effects of the July 21 racial riots of 1964 when the Malays and Chinese had clashed during a procession. Everything had looked peaceful on the surface, but racial tensions still linger.
The film audience is also being introduced by this time to Adil's mother and youngest brother Rafi, Seng's family which included his younger idealistic Chinese-educated brother and charming daughter Xiao Yun, and the girlfriend of Seng's younger brother who helps out in her father's coffeeshop. Everyone leading their own lives despite the racial tensions, before how an argument which had started between a group of Malays and Chinese over the death of a Malay man broke the fragile peace on the streets of Singapore once again. The severity of the riot also brought out the curfew onto the streets.
But away from the casualties at the riot, came the start of a misunderstanding which would have consequences. Seng being accused of not helping a young Malay boy to safety during the riot by his mother, and the boy had died as a result. The boy is Adil's youngest brother. The misunderstandings which came as a result of that nearly led to Seng losing his cool when trying to find out what might had caused the disappearance of his daughter on the Chinese New Year of 1965.
While most of the characters are fictional, it is all based on what were happening in Singapore in the lead-up to the separation between Singapore and Malaysia. Only one person in the film is based on someone real, and it is the late Lee Kuan Yew. How his push for a Malaysia for all Malaysians did not work out, even if there were people as shown in the film who had worked hard to make life in Singapore not working along racial lines.
There is a sense of poignancy in terms of how the film came to end, coming to an end like how it began. It is a moment in time the older generation of Singaporeans remember, and the turmoil which preceded it. But that also what makes this film worthwhile, even if it may possibly look out of order at times especially for anyone who may not have much inkling of what took place before Singapore's eventual independence. And how those times still serve as a reminder of working towards a society not bounded by racial lines.
Kung Fu Panda (2008)
Believing in things they are to be
The Valley of Peace could soon see the escape from prison of the snow leopard Tai Lung (Ian McShane), as being visioned by Grand Master Oogway, an old tortoise. Tai Lung is also used to be the adopted son and former student of Shifu (Dustin Hoffman), an elderly red panda. He wants revenge for being denied the Dragon Scroll, which is said to hold secrets to limitless power. That alarmed Shifu, who sent the goose Zeng (Dan Fogler) to prevent the escape of Tai Lung.
Meanwhile, giant panda Po (Jack Black) who has always being a kung fu fanatic and a fan of the Furious Five in Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Viper (Lucy Liu), and Crane (David Cross), somehow managed to arrive in the arena which was to select the next Dragon Warrior to defeat Tai Lung. It was suppose to choose from one of the Furious Five who had all being trained by Shifu himself, but Po ended up becoming the Dragon Warrior instead, much to the dismay and shock to the Furious Five where they questioned Po's abilities to be one. Po is originally the son of a noodle restaurant owner in his goose father Mr. Ping (James Hong), and that originally stood against him.
But what was originally thought of an accident from Oogway's part in his way of selecting the next Dragon Warrior, would lead to Po train hard under the guidance of Shifu. That is even if the Furious Five themselves tried to deal with Tai Lung himself, before realising how powerful he has become.
What happens when it comes to the crunch, when Po and Tai Lung comes face to face with each other is definitely worth thinking about. In terms of how Po thinks about his kung fu abilities, and how Tai Lung sees his own as well. It is also what the film is trying to drive home as well.
It is a film which moves away from the traditional stereotypes about kung fu, and brings home a simple universal message. It does have its comedic moments, but it is all done without resorting to clichés and stereotypes. It is actually enjoyable to watch to begin with.
Killing Kennedy (2013)
The Kennedy assassination, retold
It is a story where we know what would happen in the end, as the title speaks for itself. Much had been said and written what happened on that day in Dallas, Texas and what could have motivated Lee Harvey Oswald and whether he acted alone in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. But this television film deals with none of that, and only what the world actually knows took place on that day and the backstories of the two people at the heart of it in Oswald and the US President John F. Kennedy.
Before their respective lives crossed with each other, Lee Harvey Oswald (Will Rothaar) has been a former US Marine who has grown disillusioned with his own country in the United States and John F. Kennedy (Rob Lowe) is a senator and a politician on the rise and his own political career took a dramatic turn after the assassination of his senator brother Robert (Jack Noseworthy) on the presidential campaign trail for the Democrat ticket for the 1960 presidential election. While Oswald would head for the Soviet Union and seek asylum there and becoming a defector in the process, Kennedy would eventually come to come up against the Republican candidate Richard Nixon and would win the election along with his vice-presidential candidate choice in Lyndon Johnson (Francis Guinan).
After initially settling down in Russia, Oswald would move to Belarus where at a dance, he met his future wife Marina (Michelle Trachtenberg). The Oswalds would be on the move again after the birth of their child, and this time it is back to the United States after Oswald realised the Soviet Union was not what he had imagined to be. The young family would eventually end up in Dallas, Texas.
Meanwhile, Kennedy would come to make a visit to Dallas, Texas as part of campaigning for a second term in the 1964 presidential election. This will be when the lives of both Kennedy and Oswald would come to cross with each other, and things will never be the same again for them and for the United States in the aftermath of what would come to take place.
It is more than just what happened on that fateful day in Dallas, it is also what led up to it. It is also the story of how two people who are not related to each other would come to find their lives cross with each other in one day, and their respective spouses in Marina Oswald and Jacqueline Kennedy (Gennifer Goodwin). It is as poignant, as chilling, and as haunting it could be for a story to be told to a new generation.
Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
When love is next to you
Charles (Hugh Grant) has always been afraid of marriage commitments. But he and his group of fellow friends who are also single including his female flatmate Scarlett (Charlotte Coleman) have always been able to find themselves being invited to weddings, while searching for the true meaning of love at these events.
Charles would become the best man in the first, where his friend Angus (Timothy Walker) is marrying Laura (Sara Crowe). But he was almost late. Still, he manages to arrive at the church in time. It was at this wedding where he first met Carrie (Andie MacDowell), an American who had been invited to the ceremony. It became love at first sight for Charles, and the two would spend the night together.
The second is the wedding of Bernard (David Haig) and Lydia (Sophie Thompson), where Charles would come to find himself face-to-face with several of his ex-girlfriends relating embarrassing stories about him, including one his friends has always called 'Duckface' in Henrietta (Anna Chancellor). He would meet Carrie again, but this time her Scottish fiancé is also at the ceremony in politician Sir Hamish Banks (Corin Redgrave).
He would find himself being invited to Carrie's wedding, which becomes the third in the film. Though in the lead-up, he had actually accidentally came across Carrie in a shop while shopping for presents himself. Charles would find himself having the unenviable task of helping Carrie select her wedding dress, though it was what Carrie would later tell him about her past which surprised him. While he did attend Carrie's wedding which took place in Scotland after all, it would eventually be marred by one of his friends Gareth (Simon Callow) who died suddenly of a heart attack, leading to the funeral which Charles would attend and meeting Carrie being of Gareth's.
The fourth and final wedding in the film would be of Charles's, though the appearance of Carrie without her husband Hamish until Charles learned the full story between Carrie and her husband before the ceremony starts made him think twice of whom he really wants to spend the rest of his life with, with his deaf brother David (David Bower) and friend Matthew (John Hannah) helping him out to decide.
What makes this film appealing and charming is how the group of friends in the film, with Hugh Grant's Charles being among them who are proud to be single themselves, are constantly searching for the meaning of 'one true love' and whether it exists at the weddings they go to and unexpectedly at the funeral of one of their friends who had died. But there is also Grant's character and whether his 'one true love' was right there all along.
It is the film which gives one the feel-good factor about love and romance, making us still want to believe in love again. It is also the film which makes one want to believe in the 'happily-ever-afters'.
Captain Phillips (2013)
Survival on pirate-infested waters
Popular culture meant that piracy has always been romanticised. But in the real world, piracy is a real and serious issue and is happening. One such example took place in 2009 when container ship Marsek Alabama found itself to be a victim of hijacking off the Somali coast, a known hotspot for maritime piracy.
Experienced ship captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) had been tasked to take command of MV Marsek Alabama, which is an unarmed container ship docked in Oman with the orders to sail through the Gulf of Aden to Mombasa, round the Horn of Africa. Meanwhile in Somalia, a team had been selected for preparing to head out to sea with the mission of hijacking a ship.
With the route MV Marsek Alabama was taking, a warning system was issued to the ship on the possibility of piracy activity. Wary of what could happen when the vessel is off the coast of Somalia, Phillips decided to ramp up on security around the vessel and having practice drills with the crew. It would be during a drill where the vessel would be chased by Somali pirates in two skiffs. One of the two would be fended off after Phillips had outrun them and when he had called for support.
But the day after, one of the two skiffs would be returned with four heavily armed pirates led by its own leader Abduwali Muse (Barkhad Adi) but with the ladder hastily welded the night before. Despite the best efforts from Phillips and his crew, the Somali pirates managed to board and capture the Marsek Alabama. By this time, the crew were hiding in the engine room as Phillips had told them apart from cutting the ship's engine power to while he had been captured by the pirates themselves. Even if Phillips had tried to negotiate with the pirates, they were insistent on wanting to head for the engine room.
What happened in the film is actually based on the real-life events of the MV Marsek Alabama hijacking in 2009, the first time an American cargo ship had been hijacked in two hundred years. But it is also based on the experiences of experienced ship captain Richard Phillips who captained MV Marsek Alabama when it was hijacked from his book 'A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea'.
What took place in the film may look dry at times to the viewer who may not be familiar with the workings of the maritime industry, but it helps to shed light to the challenge which has always plague the industry when it comes to piracy on the seas especially off the Somali coast. But what happened in the film is a reminder of how it can turn into a matter of between life and death, where it was exemplified by Tom Hanks's character. For how he did in the film is something recommended and worth the watch, alongside with the man who played the leader of the pirates in Barkhad Adi.
The King's Speech (2010)
Speaking with a voice
Prince Albert, the Duke of York (Colin Firth) was tasked to represent his father King George V (Michael Gambon) to give a speech closing the 1925 British Empire Exhibition at the Wembley Stadium. He stammered throughout, and that was being broadcast by radio worldwide and those present at the stadium. Even if the Duke had given up finding a cure to his stammer, his wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) has not and sought help with Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), an Australian speech therapist living in London.
The Duke of York would be persuaded by his wife to see Logue and during the first session, he calls him 'Dr. Logue' while Logue calls the Duke 'Bertie'. The Duke of York was surprised, given that is the name only his family uses to call him. Even if he felt that Logue's methods and his manners are unsuitable, Logue would wager a schilling with him that he would be able to recite Hamlet's 'To be not to be' soliloquy while listening to 'The Marriage of Figaro' on headphones at the same time without trouble. Logue would put the Duke's performance on record, and the Duke was convinced he had stammered throughout after the end and out of frustration, declared how he did as 'hopeless'. Logue would give the Duke the record as a keepsake.
It would be after King George V had delivered his 1934 Christmas radio address, he explained to his younger son Prince Albert of the importance of broadcasting. The King was worried of how Albert's older brother David (Guy Pearce) would bring ruin to the family and country when he ascends to the throne, an indirect reference to David seeing the soon- to-be twice-divorcée in the American socialite Wallis Simpson (Eve Best). The King would let Albert recite the radio address he gave earlier as a form of practice, but to no avail.
The Duke of York would later listen to the record of him reciting Hamlet, and he realised he had actually did it unhesitatingly. He and his wife would return to seeing Logue again, where the Duke would do physical exercises, even if Logue would gently probe along the way on the root causes of the Duke's stammer. That was when the Duke began to open up, and the two men became friends.
King George V would pass away on January 1936, meaning that David would succeed his father on the throne and becoming Edward VIII. But it further complicated matters when the new king insisted on wanting marry Wallis Simpson even with his position as the head of the Church of England when the two brothers was at Balmoral Castle where the Duke of York and his wife were invited to a party hosted by Edward VIII. Edward VIII's insistence sparked a constitutional crisis, and he would return to his younger brother's stammer and accusing him of wanting his place.
But before Edward VIII would eventually abdicate and thus thrusting his younger brother into the spotlight, the Duke of York would meet Logue again and spoke of the progress he has make. But the condition never improved whenever he is speaking to his older brother. Logue's suggestion that the Duke would make a better king than his older brother got the Duke accusing his speech therapist of treason and dismissed him on the spot.
There were times watching Colin Firth first as the Duke of York before becoming King George VI, it was painful trying to imagine how it was like for the real Bertie trying to speak in public with his stammer. But it is only after the belief of Elizabeth and Lionel Logue, the future King George VI was able to believe in himself where all that training would prepare for his biggest challenge yet as a monarch. It is the story of a future king who had never believed in himself when speaking in public, and the wife and speech therapist who do.
It is a film which gives hope to anyone, anywhere that if a king is able to overcome his stammer, they are able to do it as well. It became poignant when Firth as King George VI would say 'Because I have a voice!'. It does make one want to root for the king in the film, as what makes it compelling that it is actually based on real events and the personal notebooks of the real Lionel Logue. It even has the royal seal of approval from the reigning Queen Elizabeth II, the daughter of the king depicted in the film.
Art of America (2011)
Looking at America, through art
There are various ways in trying to understand the American psyche, and while popular culture is one medium which often springs to mind, there is also art as well. As in how since the days of the Puritan settlers to America in the post-9/11 world are being interpreted through art.
The three-part series is as much as looking at the evolvement of a country and its place in the world as it is American artists looking at their own country through whatever artistic medium they use to express their view of the country as each era come and go. It is also having a crash course on the history of the United States as each episode deals with certain periods in the history of the country and how it is also being reflected in art as well. It has always being acknowledged that the Puritan settlers were the first group of Europeans who arrive into the country in search of their own paradise, away from religious persecution in Europe. And when the lives of these people were immortalised in paintings, what does it tell about the sense of idealism these people wanted to build in the New World?
The idealism as evoked from the days of the Puritan settlers would be challenged time and again, in the various flashpoints in American history. Paintings which would have been familiar to Americans when it comes to tell the history of their country, what do they actually trying to tell the viewer who is looking at it? The second episode will come to look at how American artists have to battle between European influences and creating their own brand of art for the American public to strike a chord with. It is revealing where an example raised in this episode was how ordinary Americans reacted to an exhibition on European art as the country reaches the 20th century. But it is also an episode which looked into the various art movements which come about in the 20th century which would come to define American art, by American artists themselves.
The third and final episode takes the viewer to modern-day America from post-WW2 to a country looking for its place in the world in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks in 2001. Much of how the world looks at America is actually sprung from how the age of consumerism in post-WW2 America help to redefine the American ideals, the ordinary American family living in the suburbs. This period would also see how American artists interpret consumerism through pop art, where Andy Warhol and his famous series of Campbell soup cans comes to mind. It also reminded the viewer that there was a time until the election of Ronald Regan, a former actor, as president, the country went from being confident about itself to how the Soviet Union threatened its hegemony, and thus making a country unsure of its place in the world.
It is striking that the third and final episode began with an overview of Las Vegas, the symbol of how something can be created out of nothing, much like how it mused about the election of Regan who was a former actor who became president. It is like telling the American narrative itself through a city which was created out of a desert. But the September 11 attacks in 2001 would come to change how a country is being interpreted through art. One piece which comes to mind is the memorials which are placed at the exact spot where the twin towers were hit on that fateful day.
Time and again the documentary series would come to challenge the America the world has come to know, as compared to how American artists look at their own country depending on the era they live in. Regardless what is one's view of the country in general and the knowledge of American art, the series does make one look at the country in a different light through the means of art, the American way.
Despicable Me 2 (2013)
More minion action
Something is amiss in the Arctic Circle and is worrying the Anti-Villain League, or the AVL. The AVL, headed by Silas Ramsbottom (Steve Coogan), had tried to recruit Gru (Steve Carrel), a former villain-turned-businessman and busying being father to Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier), and Agnes (Elsie Fisher). Gru would change his mind after his friend and assistant Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand) decided to leave for new employment, and he would reluctantly work alongside AVL agent Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig).
The bakery shop 'Bake My Day' at the Paradise Shopping Mall would be Gru and Lucy's headquarters while they go undercover to investigate who might have been behind what happened at the Arctic Circle. Gru would come to suspect it could be the owner of the Mexican restaurant Eduardo Perez (Benjamin Bratt), whom Gru felt reminded him of the villain 'El Macho' and believed to be dead.
In between Gru and Lucy investigating if it was Eduardo or somebody else, Gru also has to deal with the realities of fatherhood and fending off claims from Agnes that he will fall in love with his new co-colleague Lucy. But just like in the first film, it was the minions which stole the show yet again. Whenever the minions get their space in the film like in the first, they never fail to provide the laughs.
Watch it for minions who are as adorable as ever, but also for the transformation of Gru as compared to how he was like in the first film.
Killing Lincoln (2013)
Re-examining an American political assassination
The assassination of the 16th US President Abraham Lincoln might had been one of the most-documented moments in the history of the United States, but there are also conspiracies on what led to what would be remembered in history as the first successful assassination on an American president.
It began with the person who had successfully did so in actor John Wilkes Booth along with his co-conspirators hatching the plan to not only assassinate Lincoln, but also key members of his administration in Vice-President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William Seward. Booth, who was already a prominent theatre actor in his day, had a genuine dislike for Lincoln. But assassinating the president who freed the slaves, something which Booth detested, was not originally in his plan. His original plan was to just kidnap Lincoln in order to demand release of captured Confederate soldiers.
As for Lincoln, along with the story of Booth's, it concurrently charted the key moments leading up to the end of the American Civil War. It was 10 days before the day of the assassination happened, Lincoln had a dream of a body lying in a coffin in the middle of the White House and people were mourning the death of the person. When he asked who had died, he got the reply that it was the president.
While that was the biggest indicator of what was to come at Ford's Theater, the docu-drama had also mentioned that there had been assassination plots on Lincoln throughout his presidency, but they were always being discovered. It was suggested that it came as a result of the level of dislike and hatred towards him, which was not seen on such a scale during the Civil War. Before the dream Lincoln had took place, the most prominent attempt came when Lincoln, all alone, was riding his horse to the War Department where his horse was being shot.
History has always has a knack of pinpointing people into various labels, but despite Booth's hatred of Lincoln is well-documented; he was actually born in the state of Maryland which did not ceded from the Union. But it was also fascinating watching how those who witnessed the assassination had actually varying accounts from each other, such that there is no official account of what happened.
Whatever one's views of the assassination is, the docu-drama is definitely worth your time.