This morning, woke up automatically at the exact time I wanted to. Felt refreshed from a reasonably good sleep. Checked emails and messages. Finally got the replies I was waiting for. My helper was her usual jovial self. Taking the lift down, I heard footsteps and held it. My neighbour entered the lift and thanked me profusely. As he was leaving the lift, he smiled happily at me and almost shouted, Have a good day! Before turning into Avenue One, I stopped my car ahead of a guy reaching the zebra crossing. He was hesitant if I had stopped for him. When he realised I had, he hurriedly walked then ran and upon reaching the other side of the road, turned to acknowledged me. I nodded and drove off. If any morning qualifies as a good morning, this morning surely does. Every little thing adds up. Good morning. Have a good Friday.
I remember watching Margaret Thatcher on the big screen and within a few minutes forgetting she was played by an actress. Meryl Streep went on to win an Academy Award for her role as ‘The Iron Lady’. Catching ‘Darkest Hour’ today during my lunch hours, I knew Gary Oldman had just won his first Golden Globe this morning for his role as Winston Churchill. He will probably win the Oscar. Oldman is less known compared to Streep. But some of us are familiar with his work, and unlike John Lithgow who won an Emmy playing a post-war Churchill, he is quite unrecognisable beneath the makeup, and again within minutes we forget we are watching an actor playing Churchill.
The movie is not a typical biopic. It narrows its focus from May 8 through June 4 of 1940, framed by two important addresses in the House of Commons – the ‘Norway Debate’ and ‘We Shall Fight Them On The Beaches.’ In hindsight, the fate of the free world hinged on the decisions made in these few weeks. The evacuation of Allied troops from Dunkirk was Churchill’s first definitive act as prime minister, and ‘Darkest Hour’ chronicles his decisions whether to capitulate or fight as the crisis of invasion grew more imminent. Oldman proves why he is considered one of the greatest screen actors of his generation, delivering a fully inhabited characterization that rewards the audience’s appetite for familiar speeches and gestures, while also taking into account Churchill’s talent for self-invention and stagecraft, statesmanship and political survival. As a portrait of a leadership at its most documented, emotionally vulnerable and morally courageous, ‘Darkest Hour’ is the movie we need to see right now. It is a timely reminder that words, powerful words, can change the world…
At lunch, I was seated next to a man and a teenage boy in school uniform. The tables were close and I could hear the boy, who was crestfallen, explaining something he did which was not up to mark or which did not work. The man could be his father. My food came. I tried to concentrate on eating my lunch but the boy seemed emotional. At this point, from how the boy was addressing the man, I realised the man could be his teacher. There was silence for while. Then the man started speaking in a steady voice. What he said made me look up. “No matter how many mistakes you make or how slow you progress, you’re still way ahead of everyone who isn’t trying.” As I was leaving the restaurant, I remembered today is a special day. Happy Teacher’s Day!
At a local movie premiere a few nights ago, an industry veteran who relocated here from China, pointed an artiste out in the crowd from across the cinema hall at the Capitol Theatre. “It is easy to over or underdress this evening. Her dressing is appropriate for the occasion,” he said. He was referring to Zoe Tay, fresh off winning Best Actress at the Stars Awards, 21 years after her first win.
I took a long hard look at her, almost rediscovering this acting icon. Have we, the entertainment industry and the public, perhaps taken this evergreen actress for granted? I also started thinking – how has she stayed on top through the years? Is she still relevant? Hers is probably the career that most closely mirrors the ever-evolving local media and entertainment scene in the last three decades. Suddenly I wanted to know more.
I made arrangements to meet her. We worked together many years ago, and have not met for a while. When she turned up, she was immediately disarming. We started talking like old friends. The years have been more than kind to her, she looks almost the same, and during our nearly three hours chat, I noticed her English has improved by leaps.
Zoe is quite an unusual name in the 1990s. But this girl from the pig farms of Lim Chu Kang would make it a household name. Now, this country owns the name – Zoe Tay.
In a recent gathering with two friends, one in education, the other in public transport, I felt a new-found sense of validation as a Singaporean film-maker. One of them said: “You should be proud of me. This year, I watched two local films: Long Long Time Ago and Apprentice. And you should be happy to hear I am warming up to Singapore movies.”
To them, film-making in Singapore is a fridge industry. As a film-maker, faced with two long-standing challenges — our market is small, our movies do not travel — I ask myself all the time: What will it take to push the Singapore film industry to a level where it can come of age? This year, for the first time, I am starting to see it less as wishful thinking and more of a probable reality.
I never thought I would see the public listing of a local movie company in my lifetime. In 2014, MM2 Entertainment was listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange. This year, it consolidated its standing as the de facto “movie studio” in Singapore and a prominent regional movie producer. Working with veterans, and nurturing new film-makers, including creators in the online space, MM2 founder Melvin Ang and his team have become the kind of producers the film industry in Singapore sorely needs. Producers who find the money to make films. “I am a businessman through and through, but I work well with creative people. I make them comfortable because they know I genuinely want to help them succeed,” Melvin told me about his successful mix of art and commerce.