Thank You, OneRepublic!


Making my second entry of the year, in honour of my favourite band, whom I still can't believe I got to meet, after being such a huge fan for 10 years!

I first saw them at Fort Canning Park in 2008, when they were part of the day lineup for SingFest. They were still relatively new at that time, so the prime night slots were reserved for the likes of Jason Mraz. But I can still clearly remember what happened - from the sweltering weather and already significant crowd ( I couldn't get anywhere near the stage even at that early time ), to Ryan Tedder's perspiration ( poor guy ) and of course, THAT VOICE. Belting recent hits like Stop And Stare and Apologize, I recall shaking my head in pure wonder at the sheer power of his performance. Even in the unrelenting heat, his voice soared to the heavens and gave me chills!

It took another 9 years before I saw them again at the F1 race in 2017. Somehow, I missed their 2013 show at Sentosa's Coliseum ( maybe I was overseas? ). Strangely enough, none of my friends is a 1R fan ( you don't know what you're missing! ), but that didn't stop me from flying solo. And it was mind-blowing! Crammed within a horde of 50,000-plus screaming, jumping fans, it was one of the most exhilarating moments of my life, and everyone was so well-behaved that I made it through fully intact. OneRepublic was magnificent, but I would like to express my gratitude to them and the organizers for making the whole event possible, for yanking me out of my comfort zone so I could be part of this incredible experience.

Although I didn't watch them live for 9 years, I followed their career closely, purchasing their albums, subscribing to their social media account and watching their beautiful music videos. The F1 gig was such a treat, as they covered hits from the entire past decade, whipping the audience into a frenzy. What I love most are the melodies ( since I'm really bad at memorizing lyrics ), which possess a haunting quality and stick in your head forever. And their anthems! Singing along with 50,000 fans is something I will never forget!

It's highly unusual for the band to return to Singapore after just 7 months without a new album, but they did exactly that, and the response was spectacular. The Star Theatre was packed to the rafters, and nobody sat down for 90 minutes. While the set list was quite similar to the one they did for F1, the venue was much smaller, more intimate, and thankfully, air-conditioned. And this made all the difference in Ryan's performance. He was amazing at F1, but not being dehydrated definitely augmented his energy level, and he was ON FIRE that night! From the first song to the final encore, his voice never flagged, and he was all over the stage. At one point, he even decided to hop over the barricade and mingle with the audience, though he couldn't get beyond the first few rows as fans went running over and he ended up getting mobbed. It looked 100% unplanned, since security was nowhere to be seen. But thanks for trying anyway, Ryan, we appreciate the thought. :)

As for the photo, a million thanks to Live Nation Singapore, who picked 5 entries from about a hundred for a meet and greet contest, and I honestly never imagined that mine would be selected. All I can say is, the judge(s) is/are extremely perceptive!

The M&G was tightly regulated, so our time with the band was short. No hugs, autographs or chatting were allowed, but in spite of this, the 1R guys were really friendly, and blessed us with a beautifully posed picture. We couldn't see the band from the holding area where we were asked to wait, so everything happened super quickly. When it was my turn, I walked over, smiled, waved and said hello, then scanned their faces to figure out where Ryan was standing so I could position myself in front of him. As the photographer started focusing, I felt someone's hand gently rest on my right shoulder, and turns out it was Ryan's! Before we left, he said, "Thank you for coming, enjoy the show." then put his hands together in the "namaste" position. I recall having to tilt my head up 'cos he's so tall, and he looks better up close in person - definitely younger compared to the photos and videos.

There were 4 other fans behind us so I didn't want to ruin anything by flouting the rules. But if I'd been last, I might've tried shaking Ryan's hand, or requesting a hug if he seemed up for it. Having met other famous people previously, rules aren't always strictly followed, and ultimately it all depends on the celebrity. But at least I got to pass him a gift and a fan letter. The gift is food-related, since it's been mentioned that he loves to cook, co-owns a restaurant franchise with Justin Timberlake, and loves Singaporean cuisine. Hope he gets to try some of the stuff I gave him. :)

Aside from 1R, I also had contact with another famous rocker earlier this month - Danny O'Donoghue from Irish band, The Script. He spent a considerable amount of time among the audience during their Indoor Stadium show, and touched my hand as he passed me. Woohoo! :)

So as the month of April comes to a close, I prepare to begin a new chapter in my life, with a new job and new colleagues. The past 3 months have been a godsend, allowing me to rest, do what I love, reconnect with people who matter to me, and fully enjoy experiences like attending concerts.
My mum's in her 70s but I took her to see OneRepublic because I wanted to share the evening with her. FYI, she was also with me at SingFest 10 years ago, so this isn't her first time seeing the band. She's been instrumental in shaping my love for music, taking me to shows when I was a child then a teenager, watching a wide selection of artists from Barry Manilow and Cliff Richard, to Sarah Brightman, Take That, Robbie Williams, Michael Bolton and even the late Michael Jackson. She's one of the coolest people I know!

If you're not a fan of concerts of any kind, you don't know what you're missing. They're nothing like listening to music on the radio or on your MP3 player. Concerts are communal events, where you connect with fellow fans and often with the artists themselves. And the feeling is palpable, both when I'm at the Esplanade Concert Hall being moved by the SSO Pops playing John Williams, and at the Padang singing my guts out with Maroon 5 and OneRepublic. I live for such moments!

Not sure when I'll be able to make my next entry, but in closing, here's a recommendation: watch The Alienist. It's on Netflix, it's R21, based on Caleb Carr's novel about a serial killer hunting boy prostitutes in 19th century New York, and stars Daniel Bruhl and Luke Evans. It's awesome. :)

Godless


My blogging frequency has dropped significantly, partly because of lack of time and/or energy, but also due to a change in mindset, such that the urge to write no longer occurs as readily as it used to.

So when the urge does come, it's a compelling one, and here's my first entry for 2018: a review of Netflix's Godless.

This series debuted a few months back but I got sidetracked by other shows ( Riverdale, in particular, is very good ).

I knew about Godless but guess I might've been a little put off by the Western premise, since I'm not exactly a fan of this genre ( the ones I like include Silverado and Dances With Wolves, which are considered more Western-lite ).

I can't say why I finally decided to put Riverdale on pause and switch to Godless, but the latter is now my second favourite Netflix show so far ( just behind Narcos ), and one of the best TV series of all time, IMHO.


***spoilers alert***

***spoilers alert***

***spoilers alert***


There's A LOT going on in the various story lines but I don't want to ruin it for those who haven't watched the show yet. So let's just say there's an evil villain out for revenge, his young protege who's gone into hiding in a town with an unusual demographic makeup, and many colourful, memorable characters everywhere you turn.

Written and directed by Scott Frank - who wrote the screenplays for Logan and Minority Report, among many others - Godless boasts an exquisite script and powerful performances from the entire cast, so huge credit goes to Frank.

Even the subplots are excellent - examples include Roy Goode's paternal nurturing of a fatherless young boy at the ranch where's he's hiding, the town sheriff's personal struggle with visual impairment and losing the respect of the people he failed to protect, how the deaths of practically every man in the town change the women's life choices, and there's even one about a reporter propagating fake news.

But the show clearly belongs to the 2 lead characters, Frank Griffin and Roy Goode, played flawlessly by Jeff Daniels and Jack O'Connell.



I've watched Daniels in quite a few movies these past 2 decades ( Speed, Dumb and Dumber ), but was most pleased when he clinched leading man status with The Newsroom ( a terrific series I love very much, but which didn't garner a following that warranted a renewal after season 3 ).
He plays Griffin with great relish, no doubt buoyed by the deliciously nasty lines he gets to deliver in every scene. I especially appreciate Frank's style of using short flashback sequences ( plus a few choice monologues ) to give viewers tidbits about the characters' backgrounds.
Griffin is what you might call the inevitable result of a violent history - irreversibly altered by the savagery he witnessed as a child, then groomed by the monster who murdered his family to become a beast himself. Here's a man who proudly wears a priest's collar and calls himself a preacher even though he's far from one, then spews Scripture to the cowering masses before having his posse slaughter them.
His ability to "see my own death" is a recurring theme and fuels his bold aggression, but more on this later.



The best reason to watch Godless is, of course, Jack O'Connell. He first caught my eye ( and blew my mind ) in Angelina Jolie's superb 2014 directing effort, Unbroken, but I recently discovered that I actually saw him much earlier, in the unnerving 2008 horror film Eden Lake ( costarring Michael Fassbender ).

I still don't quite understand how a British chap got cast as a cowboy, but kudos to whoever selected him, because I can't imagine anyone else playing Roy Goode.

I haven't delved in-depth into any interviews yet, but it's possible O'Connell had no experience in horse-riding, twirling guns or lassoing livestock before this role. And he nails the Southern accent and the swagger! I'm really really impressed.

Look out for a number of standout scenes: the one where Roy shoots the head off a rattlesnake that's about to strike a toddler, where he teaches an awkward boy to find the courage and strength to break a wild horse, and definitely the epic shootout in the final episode, during which he switches guns at lightning speed when the bullets run out ( reminds me of John Wick: Chapter 2 haha! ).

Perhaps the only grouse I have involves Griffin's aforementioned "see my own death" pronouncements, since we're never told what he saw, just that every time he stared down the barrel of a gun or walked into a house full of dying smallpox victims, he said he knew it "wasn't my time" yet.

So when he and Roy finally confront each other, mano a mano, why is there no reference to this? Mr. Frank, wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied?!


But as I said, it's a very minor complaint about an otherwise stellar piece of work. The last 15 minutes of the finale were extremely moving, and I realized how invested I was in the characters as I frantically dabbed my eyes with tissue. The closing shot of Roy on his horse, admiring the Pacific Ocean, is one I will remember for many years to come.

p.s. Pay attention to the soundtrack - it's incredible!

No word about season 2 yet, and chances are slim that it will happen. Even if it doesn't, 7 episodes of Godless are better than none, and you can be sure I'll watch them again in the not too distant future.

Jack O'Connell is now in the top 3 of my favourite actors list. I look forward to seeing him win an Oscar one day!

Addressing A Scandal

Posting this entry saddens me immensely.

Readers of my blog are well acquainted with my decades-long admiration for Mr. Spacey, which was further reinforced through various personal encounters.

My suspicions about his sexuality have been brewing for quite a while, and in hindsight, it really is remarkable how incriminating tabloid photos have managed to stay out of widespread circulation this long.

Let me be clear: I abhor any act of sexual harassment and assault, particularly when minors are involved.

And while Mr. Spacey was never formally investigated until now, the sheer number of accounts - many of which share eerily similar details - indicates a disturbing pattern of behaviour which, unbelievably, has been left unchecked for too long.

The severe backlash is understandable, of course, because Mr. Spacey has won multiple prestigious awards, even hosting the Tonys ceremony just a few months ago. However, this also stinks of blatant hypocrisy, as many industry insiders admit that such incidents were an open secret, thus implying that those in positions of power who could or should have intervened chose not to do so, thereby further emboldening him.

As for my feelings about Mr. Spacey, I can only say that I did consider severing ties, e.g. by changing my Facebook profile picture, Twitter and Blogger profile descriptions. The reason I still can't do it is I've met him. Twice. Here're links to my blog posts about those meetings: from 2010, and 2011.

My accounts are lengthy but I urge you to read them. Our second meeting was especially significant because there was zero media coverage. It was the production's closing night and Mr. Spacey was exhausted. He could've ignored us or told us to leave him alone but he didn't. Instead, he decided to roll down the car window, engage us in conversation and sign autographs. It is a memory that I greatly cherish.

What's not mentioned in these posts is how he also signed and returned DVD covers I mailed to The Old Vic. It took 2-3 years to get them back, but he made the effort to respond to fan mail, which I think is highly commendable.

If these encounters hadn't occurred, it would be easy for me to condemn him. But my interactions with Mr. Spacey illustrate his capacity for kindness, and how much his fans mean to him. I can only conclude that he's skilled at compartmentalizing his divergent personalities, a Jekyll-and-Hyde character in dire need of therapy.

It took a scandal like this to force him to seek treatment, and right now, I choose to support him. I hope he'll get better, and one day, it's possible he'll be forgiven.

And while all this is going on, Donald Trump continues untouched as POTUS. As Kevin Spacey fans correctly pointed out, it's insane that a man who only plays the president on TV is held to a higher standard than the actual leader.

America really needs to sort out its priorities.