Tuesday, December 6, 2011


This is a 2010 movie directed by cookbook author Nigel Slater whose work inspired me as I wrote the 'Care, Cook, Connect' cookbook in 2010. The movie is mainly autobiographical.

Like Nigel Slater, I grew up with a similarly reticent mum who spent much time in a banal kitchen. In comparison, neighbours’ kitchens were always alive and robust with the aroma of coffee in the morning and the industrious firing of the stove at lunchtime. But because my mum cooked primarily Cantonese food, aroma of any kind never really materialzed in our kitchen.

Perhaps every kitchen is an expression of the woman who runs it. One who is reserved and quiet will not draw any attention to herself and will carefully keep her kitchen activities quietly below all expressions of enjoyment, while one who’s energetic with culinary skills to match will make every meal time an overt expression of her talent and an event for the family to look forward to!

The young Nigel witnessed his mother’s fair share of kitchen failures – cake that flopped so badly that even elaborate icing could not salvage or conceal it, and canned food that dried up in the pot! Such scenes are also common sight in my kitchen where I lack not epiphanies and inspirations but the knack for timing and interest in the scientific processes involved in cooking.

In the midst of the adversities in her kitchen, Nigel’s mum was also battling breathlessness as chronic asthma tightened its grip on her. The movie was very telling of the psychosomatic nature of her COPD [chronic obstruction pulmonary disease] with her reaching for the inhaler each time tension escalated between Nigel and his hot-tempered father.

In one scene, when burnt toasts re-appeared on the dining table to replace Nigel’s first attempt at spaghetti bolognaise – rare real food to him for a change – which was rejected by his father, the forgiving young Nigel gazed adoringly at his mother and thought: “No matter how bad things get, it’s impossible not to love someone who makes you toast. Once you’ve been through the crispy surface and get to the soft underneath, and taste the warm salty butter, you’re lost forever.”

Helena Bonham Carter [the Red Queen in ‘Alice in Wonderland’] was the stodgy and formidable Mrs Potter who came to work after Nigel’s mum passed on and the kitchen came to a standstill. Complete with net stockings, she ‘scrubbed, polished and bleached her way’ into Nigel’s household and his dad’s heart.

The contrast of cooking talent between Mrs Potter and his late mum was hard to ignore in all senses – one could see, smell and be excited by the sight of Mrs Potter's food. It was her snare, trap and strategy to hit on his dad. Her flirtation was palpable - first with an apple pie; right from the kitchen that had only seen canned food and burnt toasts.

In one of the several confrontations Nigel had with her, the measure of her covert-aggression was obvious.

YOUNG NIGEL: “What are you doing?”
He was addressing her unspoken goal to seduce his father.

MRS POTTER: “I’m darning your father’s socks.”
She hid her real goal behind small issues.

YOUNG NIGEL: “Why are you doing it?”

MRS POTTER: “They have holes in them.”

YOUNG NIGEL: “I know what you’re up to…just off his socks!”
He stuck to addressing her real motive.

Finally, she revealed her candidacy for the spousal position with his dad.

That officially launched her open aggression towards Nigel…while looking good to the father in the process. So typical of covert-aggressors [see my book review for ‘In Sheep’s Clothing’]. Their war zone is the kitchen. Their ammunition – food.

Round 1: Nigel’s first success from home economics class were scones; after his father tasted it, the score was 1-0 in favour of Nigel. His father then declared that Nigel would take care of desserts on Wednesdays.

Round 2: The next week, he brought back trifle. But stepmum counter-attacked with lemon meringue pie and served dinner and dessert earlier before he came back. The father declared it ‘the best lemon meringue ever’. So the trifle was put away. The score now is 1-1. But he was determined to also make a perfect a lemon meringue pie.

Round 3: He studied recipes and spied on his stepmum for the lemon meringue, and finally, created one of his own. But once again, timing was not on his side, and his dad who rejected the perfect lemon meringue that he made. The stepmum accused him of stealing her recipe and threw a slice of the pie to the floor, triggering the father’s rage towards Nigel. He promptly announced that he and Mrs Potter were going to marry, and if Nigel didn’t agree to it, they’d put him into foster care. In concession, Nigel made the wedding cake: a conciliatory move that the father observed was a ‘lovely gesture’.

Meantime, the father’s growing waistline and lassitude from the war of food was becoming an increasing burden upon his heart – literally. As things came to a head, he pleaded with Nigel and his new wife, “Just stop it, enough is enough…enough fighting, enough food…this is miserable!”.

As his father wept in the front yard, and his stepmum sobbed in the kitchen, it was Nigel - now a teenager- who approached each one to show his concern. Finally, his father died presumably of heart problems while mowing the lawn.

Music and lyrics from Dusty Springfield provided powerful narrations for two poignant scenes.

Soon after his mum died and the dad had gone out dancing with the maid, “If You Go Away” provided solace for the grief that he could not express as he danced with one of his mum’s dresses.

If you go away on this summer day,
then you might as well take the sun away.

Then, after his father died and he decided that he could now leave the family home, “Yesterday when I was young” was the theme song to mark the end of chapter and the beginning of a new one for him.

The thousand dreams I dreamed,
The splendid things I planned…
Yesterday when I was young,
So many lovely songs were waiting to be sung,
So many wild pleasures lay in store for me,
And so much pain my eyes refused to see,
I ran so fast that time and youth at last ran out,
I never stopped to think what life was all about.

This is a beautiful movie, with beautiful songs and beautiful food.

Freddie Highmore [the adorable boy from August Rush] as the teenaged Nigel, is once again the linchpin of a story about parents and family. (There is a certain intensity in his gaze that bears an adorable resemblance to my nephew.)

*Warning: one gay kissing scene.

Available on DVD at Rida Video, Serene Centre.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

When a country flings wide its doors to foreign trade investments and foreign talent, it opens itself to rapid changes for good or bad. One of such outcome is the creation of a 'credentials society' where educational qualifications are prized over experience, competence and good thinking as the local workforce is forced to face competition from foreign talent with better qualifications who are willing to settle for less pay. 

WITHIN A SPAN OF 7 DAYS, I was drawn to two movies about the manipulation of the working class by those with power. Is this a co-incidence or simply a reflection of vibes on the streets that have gone to the big screen. Singaporeans, braced with a new level of social consciousness since the General Elections in May, will find hope in reflective self-upgrade [Larry Crowne] and the place for working together as a community [Made in Dagenham; pronounced 'dag-uh-n-uhm'] to build a society where meritocracy has wider interpretations than paper qualifications alone, and where no one is marginalised by age, education, race or because they do not fit a single social model of success.

Stories about workplace discrimination are familiar. One tells of a hardworking team leader of a big-box company [or megastore] who had garnered a string of 'Employee of the Year' awards yet faced discrimination for promotion because he 'was not matriculated into college'. The other is a real-life account of 187 machinists in the Ford factory in Dagenham, UK, who were downgraded from semi-skilled to non-skilled workers because they were women and expected to accept the decision.

So what do you do when faced with discrimination that seems like a personal attack against what you are not - a degree-holder or a man? What do you do when you are told it's the end of the road for you in spite of your proven capabilities and track records?

Larry Crowne took to lying in bed and crying for days. Suddenly, the meritocracy he believed in collapsed under the weight of a degree certificate. The mega store he had been running so efficiently had to let him go because the new management would only allow someone with a college degree for his post. His black neighbour, who presumably had a degree but ran a permanent garage sale out of his front yard, looked at Larry knowingly and said, "If they want you to go, they'd say anything." Ironically, a colleague who had once flaunted a college ring to Larry was later delivering pizzas to him - as a pizza delivery man.

Larry took a rational approach to his loss of job and regular income. He applied for a foreclosure on his house to cut mortage payments he no longer could afford, moved his furniture to his neighbour's garage sale yard, moved into a small apartment, and finally traded in his MPV for a scooter that ran on low-cost diesel. Then, he went back to school. The first two courses he took? Communications and Economics. For someone who was used to multi-tasking and motivating his team as a team leader at the big-box, the discipline he possessed was put to good use at college. He excelled.

In the 1960s, Ford Motors was the single largest foreign employer in the UK. Across the country, 55,000 men were employed at Ford factories producing automobiles while only 187 women machinists worked in sweathouse conditions to sew leather covers for seats and doors. It was so stuffy that the women undressed before they sat down to start work. At a time when women were expected to play subservient roles both at home and in society, no one took the machinists seriously when they had their first walkout in protest against the downgrade of their skills. The press didn't even show up. It was normal for men to be on strikes - since 1966, there were 26,000 strikes a year resulting in a loss of 5 million working days - and for women to support them, even when their work came to a halt as a result. But when the women took their campaign for equal pay to the national level, they were bullied by the men - in management, in unions, in politics, in the workforce and at home - to give up. More accurately, the men with power manipulated the working class men against their wives, mothers, sisters and daughters. The tide turned when the key advocate for the women industrial action reminded the men that they were part of the working class that would benefit as a whole if working women had equal pay to bring home.

This may seem like ancient history when we look at modern society, but is it really? Aren't high-level women executives manipulated by materalism and the constant desire for the status symbols that keep them broke and needing to work long hours? As a result, more expensive holidays are needed to fix the repair of burnout. The modern woman - though better educated than their machinist predecessors whose class action brought about legislation for equal pay not only in the UK but also other countries - sadly, cannot afford to stop working or even to slow down. She has only known life with work: without work, there's no life.

Interestingly, in both films, the same scenes were being played out on the home front: being male had its 'privileges'. In Larry Crowne, Julia Roberts played a disillusioned professor who came to life only after a drink, and had to bear with a husband [PhD qualified no less] who justified his day-long pasttime visiting adult websites simply because he was just being a man. In Made In Dagenham, the main protagonist defiantly fought for women's rights to equal wage as the men, yet had to listen to her husband rant about how fortunate she was that he did not womanize, drink or lived irresponsibly.

Evidently, throughout history, the hardest battles for women are those fought at home.

Overall, totally enjoyable movies!

Thursday, June 30, 2011


This is the story about a man and his struggle with depression. It is also about his family’s struggle with the effects of the illness which alienates him from work, from his wife and children, from himself and just about everything else in life.

What’s powerful about this story is that the wife deals with her lot in life with her eyes wide open – an ineffective husband, a preteen son victimized by school bullies and thrown into the dumpster, and a teenaged son who copes with banging his head against a hole in the wall, thinly camouflaged by a world map. She deals with her realities with the sanity at hand for the moment. She doesn’t have the compulsive need to resolve all her problems to get on with life, nor to prescribe to others the proper expressions for anger and frustrations, even when their personal problems become fodder for the headlines. She knows intrinsically what human limits are, and that it’s okay to fall and fail to keep up.

In the midst of the hullabaloo, they take a family portrait … picture perfect.

Herein lies what family portraits often conceal: shadows lurking behind the faces of hope. Everyone learns to keep their struggles private and separate from each other to keep up the façade of togetherness. In the end, no one is really connected to each other, and insidiously, even as more photos are taken, the rift widens.

Sadly, all the modernity and affluence of society does not do much to improve the human ability to deal with his fears and failings. Dysfunctions are re-labelled with medical-sounding terms such as “something-maniac”, while those with unhealthy coping behaviours to struggles common to man, find identification with groups that declare “we are born this way”. Even benevolence is a good cover-up where the compulsive desire to help others with their problems – even in the name of charity – gives a mastery and control over other people’s lives that are missing in one’s own.

I care little for what gutter journalism says about Mel Gibson, but when Jodie Foster and him collaborate, it is a movie I want to catch. This movie is dark, deep and because it’s also realistic, the proverbial light came at the end of the tunnel.

Monday, June 27, 2011


My face was openly drenched with tears watching 'The Notebook' on Sunday night. It is a compelling story of a husband's enduring love for his wife whom he is losing to Alzheimer's Disease - a cruel illness that progressively erases the memories of those who suffer it, degenerates their cognitive and physical functions and emotional capacities leading to severe disorientation and disconnect with self and others. Alzheimer is a nefarious disease that inflicts suffering on not only its patients, but also their loved ones. 

Yet, Noah, the husband [played by James Garner] persevered. Everyday, he would pop in to visit his wife, Allie, [played by Gena Rowlands] and introduce himself to her as though they were meeting for the first time. And he would read to her  from a book she had written about their lives together before she slipped away, in the hope that she would remember him for even just 5 or 10 minutes. And he would have her back during those precious brief episodes of lucidity.

It was not like Noah was romanticizing his role as the husband caring for a disabled wife. He had always planted surprises throughout their romance and leaving her alone in the nursing home would be the most unnatural and unthinkable thing to do.

Thinking out loud: is being demented a great way for one to forget a painful past? But not knowing yourself, the people and places around you produces constant stress! Perhaps there really is no such thing as the bliss of oblivion for those suffering dementia.  

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


World Cup 2010 may have passed, but the tale of a group of friends made in the trenches of life sharing a common dream is as timeless as Robin Hood. There's Dudu, a stodgy street kid who operates as 'Manager'; his little sister, Beatrice, who dreams of being 'a doctor who finds cures for illnesses'; Fabrice, an upper-class soccer talent/prodigy; George, a youth with a dark past whom they meet at a refugee camp where able-bodied youth are abducted in the night by the militants; and finally, a teenaged sex worker, Celeste

The entirely non-Hollywood cast speak with African accents that give the movie a more documentary rather than a drama feel, while the use of animated graphics to illustrate Dudu's fairy tale rendition of their expedition from the north of Africa to Johannesburg in the south gives it the feel of a folklore. The total effect is a childlike journey towards a dream that is unadulterated with over-caution, self-doubt, and the fear of the unknown.

Aren't believers also told to hold onto our dream - working towards the return of Christ? Hebrews 10:24-25 reminds us: 'And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.'

To the African youths, the World Cup was 'the Day'; everyday moves in linear progression towards that day in terms of their choices and decisions made. Why then do those who profess their faith as Christians, not live out their lives as though 'the Day' matters? 

Do we live our lives as a continual memorial of our yesterdays or as a legacy towards 'the Day approaching'? 

This movie restores in me the power of childlike belief in dreams, and reminds me of the goodness of having friends around who share with me the joy of seeing my dreams come true - knowing that the journey will involve travelling through rough terrain, and often wrought with tearless pain and countless challenges.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

AJANI [dvd rental]

This award-winning Hebrew-Arabic film [also nominated for the 2010 Academy Awards in the foreign language film category] presents different aspects of the social, religious and political tension between Palestinian-Arabs, Jews and Christians in Ajami, a neighbourhood in Jaffa, Tel Aviv. The predominantly non-professional cast lends weight to the drama of social realities on the shanty streets of Ajami, powerfully portrayed through a 5-part staccato in non-chronological order, with each part bearing out the facts of the other in different ways.

For those not familiar with war-torn poverty-stricken Palestinian-Israeli landscapes, it is hard to find any features that distinguish one community from another without looking closely at the people, their languages and stories that dichotomize power and powerlessness, state of alarm and security. I had to view it twice over to follow the fast pace and intricate twist of plots, plus speed read the English subtitles!

Do catch this 2009 Israeli film directed by Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani, who have been reported to differ in their opinions of whether AJAMI is in fact a political or apolitical movie.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean - On Stranger Tides

Pirates of the Caribbean has always been not just about fantasies, adventures and treasure hunts, but also Johnny Depp; and this time, Penelope Cruz, as well. As Jack Sparrow and Angelica, they are feisty and fabulous equals. Having personas bigger than their great looks help them portray their characters without too much acting.

Other enigmatic pairings are arch enemies Blackbeard [Ian McShane] and Barbossa [the brilliant Geoffrey Rush], as well as the young missionary, Phillip, and the mermaid, Syrena, in the romantic sub-plot.

For me, the storyline is secondary to the uber enjoyment of watching talented actors throw themselves into characters who make the dishevelled look fashionable, and the basic comforts of life like shower, clean clothes and a bed, non-essentials. They move with such ease in cumbersome clothes and messy hair, you have to give it to them. They are in a fantasy world, and who thinks of combing hair or changing clothes in such a world?! Set in contra-reality, Depp, Cruz, Rush and McShane look like they are really enjoying themselves as Jack Sparrow, Blackbeard and his recently-found daughter, and Barbossa. 

To the vexation of my teens, I seriously cared not for the trek to the Fountain of Youth  because just luxuriating in the new couches of Lido 1, and listening to the quick-witted talk and retort of the characters already provided so much pleasure.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Biutiful [Spanish]

This is a powerful drama that depicts the realities of people with no money and no choice whose solutions to life often confound those with the economic means to choose. While it's easy for those in the middle- and upper-class who have power and prestige to talk about human rights, dignity, and justice, these issues of self-respect go over the head of the underdogs in society whose grim agenda each day is mere survival. [I may very well fight for the mistreatment of the lowly worker but to that person holding a low-wage job that feeds his family, his only fear is to lose his job or that my sense of justice might jeopardize his only livelihood.]

Biutiful starts and ends with an after-life dialogue between the protagonist Uxbal [Javier Bardem] and a young man about the sounds of the wind and the ocean. It then moves to precious whispers exchanged in the deep of the night between Uxbal and his preteen daughter, that unknown to them, is their last conversation. Uxbal tells his daughter what his own mother told him about the sound of the ocean.

As an actor, Javier Bardem seems to have an affinity with the big blue sea. In the movie, his bipolar and distraught ex-wife had begged him to live with her with the incentive that he could hear the ocean from her house. In 2004 Bardem played a quadriplegic in 'The Sea Inside' who fought for the right to euthanize himself. He often had flashbacks to the day of a clear blue sky and blue ocean that framed the freak diving mishap that trapped him in a dead body for 29 years.

This movie captures scene upon scene of people in the guts and bowels of society - those we don't really want to know or see. Driven by poverty in their home countries, many flee China and Somali to find 'better lives' as illegal immigrants living in banal conditions and surviving on illegal work. Unfortunately, they are not alone: there are wives and young children in tow.

Living in a decaying segment of society, Uxbal fights his own physical decay through the final stages of prostrate cancer, passing out dark red urine daily. Yet in the grim of his own imminent demise, he upholds the dignity of eating with his children, training them good manners at the table, being around to keep an eye on their homework, and doing his utmost to provide them with a safe home environment. Aren't these universal expressions of a father's love whatever your life situation?   

There are many surprises for me in this movie: that it is set in beautiful Barcelona that I love, that the ocean I love is brilliantly brought into the script like the gentle ebb and flow of waves, that it deals with the grim realities of illegal immigrants in Barcelona's underworld, and finally, that it captures the tenderness of a dying father towards his children and ex-wife. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu brilliantly weaved scenes of debauchery, brutality and human waste with  priceless moments that capture children being loved in ways that cost nothing while living in the throes of poverty. My favourite moments are those that show the dignity of motherly love involving Lili [an illegal worker from Mainland] who babysits and cooks for Uxbal's children after school, and Iq [another illegal immigrant whose husband is deported to Somali for dealing in drugs and counterfeit handbags] who takes care of his children in his final days.

This is a movie with multiple themes and can be very uncomfortable for the ethnocentric - those who are apathetic to people different from them. Apart from Uxbal's sideline as a link to the after-life [he hears the final words of the deceased who have no chance to utter them] and desperate cry for redemption and forgiveness from a psychic, there are graphic scenes of deviant subcultures that can be hard to stomach for those caught unawares - full frontal topless dancing, drunkenness and drugs, sexual scenes, gay intimacy, modern day labour camps, death and murder, multi-cutural existence in the ghetto of a modern city. It shows me a side of Barcelona I have not known before. Maybe there's one in every modern city.

Friday, April 22, 2011


This is a 2011 take on the original version made 30 years ago. Russell Brand and (lesser known) Greta Gerwig reprised the roles played by the late Dudley Moore (passed away in 2002) and Liza Minnelli. Both English comedians, Brand and Moore's brand of gag is nothing short of crass and deviant which has always been effectively therapeutic for audiences trapped in the regiment and rigour of modern life. At the same time, their disparity in height is as outstanding as how they bring out the heart-warming qualities of a drunkard living in the stupor of a hedonistic lifestyle.

Brand's delivery of Arthur's antics makes you laugh, and his tender moments move you to tears - like when Hobson fell sick and he instinctively switched role to be her caregiver. They have an on-screen adult-child bond that is palpable beyond performance.

Helen Mirren as Arthur's nanny, Hobson, symbolizes the human dignity, household stability and wholesome morality that always bring the recalcitrants back home...to where the heart is.

I cannot remember if I watched the original version three decades ago after exams, but it was certainly the right movie to catch after my exams this week!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Morning Glory

What is it about woebegone guys that give them the starring role? Harrison Ford is a brooding, over-the-hill news anchor [and Jason Bateman is another woebegone lead in The Switch!] forced to co-anchor a morning news programme with fledgling ratings with Diane Keaton. The co-producer tasked with the formidable problem of resuscitating show ratings is an incredulously naive Becky Fuller [played by Rachel Adams] who has indefatigable amount of perseverance that makes up for her lack of sterling academic credentials. 

I like the behind the scenes of broadcast studios with realistic cramped, cluttered and chaotic offices [much like Mediacorp's behind-the-scenes], I like Diana Keaton anytime and I like the combination of Keaton with Harrison Ford. But most of the time, I was irritated with the character of Becky Fuller and the over-the-top acting of Rachel Adams. My girls loved it and thank goodness, the husband was released only by business demands; he would surely have emerged as the other over-the-hill brooding guy. 

I would classify this a comedy because the laugh quotient was consistently moderate, a drama because it has a story line though lame, but definitely not a romance though the Becky Fuller character often destressed by sleeping with a colleaque after she put her mobile phone in his fridge.  

Saturday, March 26, 2011


It's good customer service when the young chap behind the counter at the local video rental offers to help a customer select a suitable movie, understands instinctively when the customer says 'I'm looking for a movie that does not irritate me', and promptly suggests The Switch.

The front of the DVD jacket tells you 'From the people who brought you 'Juno' and 'Little Miss Sunshine' and the back reads '© 2011'. I put down $7, grabbed a pack of No Salt Kettle Potato Chips for no-guilt binge and headed home ready for an enjoyable evening with a girl's best friend, Jennifer Aniston.

The movie is about Kassie - a self-sufficient single woman who decides she is going to jumpstart family life by having a child through artificial insemination. Her best guy buddy is a loyal and brooding Wally [Jason Bateman] who, intoxicated by some herbal pills Kassie's female best friend handed to him, fumbled the sperm donor setup and decided to put his own 'content' in to the plastic container. Seven years later, he recognised his own 'contribution' through the idiosyncracies of Kassie's neurotic son, Sebastian.  

For me, this enjoyable 97-minute entertainment is an affirmation that family cannot be systematically created in a way that disregards relationship, love and genetic mysteries and influences. Material comfort cannot create a happy family anymore than good food creates health - more thought needs to be put to the process for a desirable outcome.

Monday, March 7, 2011


Finally caught the movie on MIO over dinner [ie TV dinner] on Sunday night to the exasperation of the rest of the family. I guess my teens couldn't see any appeal in the title 'Eat Pray Love' or consider the story of a woman facing mid-life crisis palatable dinner entertainment. They were right.

I watched it for a dose of Julia Roberts. But it turned out that even Roberts [or maybe because of her!] could not save a celluloid diet severely deficient of 'eating, praying and loving'. For a start, Roberts' character, a Liz married with-no-kids professor of something, had an epiphany that she was devoid of any more love to give to the jig and dance of marital life [ie, she's tired of the giving part, no mention of the receiving though]. So she initiated divorce with a husband who wouldn't trade in their marriage for 100 percent of her assets because he happened to remember and believe in 'till death do us part'. If it was a 'painful divorce' for her, it was only because it couldn't happen as quickly as a shower. Perhaps 'till death do us part' holds different meanings to different folks: for some, it could be a dying of boredom, dying to get out, dying to find something new! On that premise, this would not be a movie about love, but about self-absorption and the confusion of a woman in midlife.

Praying, by definition, is speaking to a divine being or object of worship. What is divine or god, by sociological postmodern understanding, has become increasingly secular. Hence, whatever experience you prefer or find to enhance your mental wellbeing is considered spiritual or divine. Whoever you speak to - your armchair, the air saturated with the aroma of ginger and spice that you don't find at home, the tree under which you find solace, the waters of the little man-made waterfall in your favourite spa where people speak in whispers, what's-the-name god, and Jesus Christ - all constitute 'prayer'. So to me, the element of prayer in this much-hyped movie that comes from a much-hyped book of the same title, is nothing more than a woman in her 40s saying what she wants to say that she likes to hear herself saying that is her own construct of what spiritual is. In the end, she is god.

You can imagine then, that even immersion into full-blooded Italian culture, the spiritualism of India, or a tempestuous love affair in Bali is not going to help much. I couldn't but feel sympathetic at the end of the movie, when she made the choice for the tempestuous love adventure, that it would not last beyond one month...[actually my gut feeling is one week for two narcissistic self-absorbed humans to be together.

Have I mentioned eating??? Well, I haven't seen much. My dinner was better.  

The basis for this movie must be that there are enough women in their 40s transiting into later life who suddenly find ample time in their hands because the kids have grown up, while they still have some vitality left for exotic experiences and unbridled self-indulgences. Probably the same audience who would love 'Sex and the City' 1 and 2. A phenomenon that can be aptly described by what I once read: 'Mutton aspiring lambhood'.

I should listen to my 3 lambs the next time they say a movie is not worth the time.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


The title tells you defensively upfront that gay families are all right... perhaps as all right as traditional families declare they are all right. After all, the actors are the same: parents, children and extended families. I was happily surprised to find some mature faces in the audience catching the opening of the movie today. They looked like parents with adult children. Perhaps something else is playing out in their lives and they had come to take a peak at what gay family life was like. Buffered by the security of the darkness in the theatre, our reflection and response privately held court as we watched the life of a gay family unfold before us.

[Annette Bening is an actor I have long admired, one who has an aura of old Hollywood glamour that eludes many today. For Warren Beatty to be smitten enough to get hitched, she must be some woman.] 

I like the realistic portrayal of marital relationship, parent-teen conflict, [Bening's character sounded like me!], teenage angst, the vulnerability of loneliness in a troubled marriage, and the pain of betrayal. But there was something else that made me feel heavy: I sensed an unspoken sadness in a gay relationship that seems absent even in the worst heterosexual relationship. A buddy of the gay couple's daughter made a pointed remark about another teen: that she sexualized everything. That gave me the thought that maybe that is what gives place to same-sex romance: that perhaps something very good has been sexualized and romanticised.  

This is every bit a family drama but of a different kind. Julianne Moore and Bening are as credible as any married couple and parents. The drama was realistic and I cried when they cried. Maybe that can't be avoided when both partners are women. 

I hope people will see humanity and be humane in their attitude towards gays even though we may see things differently. At the end of the day, what makes them cry, will also make you cry; and vice versa. We can make more room for empathy.  

Friday, February 18, 2011

The King's Speech

Perhaps oratorical eloquence is something we always expect from other speakers, yet something elusive if we have to speak before any size of audience ourselves. Whether royalty or not, public speaking has certain universal effects on body parts - it induces the condition of being tongue-tied, and produces butterflies in the stomach, wobbly knees and cold feet - to the extent of resembling severe deformities!

So it must be with unspoken hidden agenda that others and myself sat around to watch this movie, hoping perhaps to pick up a tip or two to help alleviate the onset and extent of sudden dysfunctions when we have to face our personal ordeals of speaking before an audience!

Adapted from the book 'The King's Speech: How One Man Saved the British Monarchy', the movie is an emotional depiction of the relationship between a stammering king, King George VI [played by Colin Firth] and his speech therapist, Lionel Logue [played by the enigmatic Geoffrey Rush]. The book was written by Logue's grandson. If it's true that one who touches your heart helps you find the voice of self-confidence, then one who empowers you to speak will naturally have an effect on your heart. The therapist's deep empathy for the king and his unorthodox practices helped improve his client's public speaking remarkably. The king was grateful to his therapist for his loyalty and dedication to help him overcome his speech impediment.

If gratefulness and loyalty are ingredients for a great friendship, it's not surprising that their relationship solidified into a steadfast alliance. The epilogue of the movie made mention of this life-long friendship. I saw too the tension and risks inherent in any true and enduring friendship that produce the conditions for maturity. Helena Bonham Carter [I love her as the quaint Red Queen in 'Alice in Wonderland' who shoots off 'off with the head!'] is of course brilliant but real as the resourceful, courageous and just-as-determined-to-help King's wife or Duchess - one with a good head on her shoulder and a good heart to match: must-haves for authentic womanhood.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

I Love Hong Kong

We just have to live with it, that in Singapore, any Cantonese movie will be dubbed into Mandarin which does a poor job delivering the punch of indigenous Cantonese puns and dry humour. Yet with moral courage, we put up with less to keep up the family tradition of catching a Chinese movie on CNY eve.

Sandra Ng was the undisputed star of the show - totally held her audience, watchable, funny and the linchpin of the whole story. Her comedic talent and expressions more than compensated the placid Mandarin dub. My girls enjoyed it and husband surprisingly stayed awake.

To be fair, this was better than last year's '72 Tenants'. Most of the recent Hkg-made CNY movies are so bad they should consider putting in a charitable component to ticket sales; that is, have ticket revenue go to charity instead of crappy cast and comedy. Or maybe that is charity. Suffice to say, it makes one crabby! Mo lei gum ho hei [in Cantonese means 'not to fight it anymore'] may just be the best way to enjoy a CNY movie, or 'Mo Lei Gum Ho' hei may be the best movie to watch! [in Cantonese, hei is also the sound of the word movie].

Anyway, watching a mindless movie on the eve of CNY is a good tradition to follow.