Monday, March 29, 2010

Random Musings

Thought I'd put a lid on the Bliss theme, at least for the time being. :)

Completed Dexter By Design last week. Started off fabulously, but once Dex's sister Deborah became incapacitated - won't post spoilers here - and was left out of the picture for at least half the novel, it became clear how important a character she is.

Guess a lot of the humour and fun comes from her quick-fire verbal battles with Dexter. Once that disappeared, things started to get really draggy.

I can only hope that Book 5 - which will finally catch up with the TV series where Dexter's biological offspring is concerned ( though I wonder if author Jeff Lindsay will adopt the name the scriptwriters have chosen ) - will be tonnes better.

Something to look forward to - Dexter season 5 has been confirmed. YES!

My current tome: a copy of Shakespeare's The Tempest. It's more like a super-advanced reference text, featuring a lengthy introduction which discusses the characters, historical background, various stage versions, and a number of other topics that I can't digest.

Had to filter out the less useful trivia before starting on the play itself. Appreciate the generous amount of footnotes though - helps me understand all the fancy language which would otherwise induce a migraine.

Can't wait to see The Bridge Project's version in a week's time!

Speaking of The Bridge Project, the Singapore Repertory Theatre - I'm on its mailing list and correspond with its executive director via email - recently sent me an ad featuring a very dapper Kevin Spacey posing with a banner of The Tempest.

You know I'm a huge KS fan, and I've seen A LOT of his photos, but this is one of his best.
Unfortunately, I can't copy and paste the thing here because the software doesn't allow it. But KS looks fantastic! Dressed in a simple yet beautifully tailored black suit, standing casually with left hand in a pocket, beaming from ear to ear. I swear I stopped breathing for a few seconds. :)

Another long 12 months to get through before I'll actually see him on the local stage - and possibly even closer than that if the SRT is able to arrange something - but it's a small price to pay.

Other good stuff worth mentioning: cable screenings of Law & Order season 4 and L&O: Criminal Intent season 1. ( Channel 99 daily, check the schedule. )

The former is especially good because it stars Chris Noth ( Big from Sex And The City ), Jerry Orbach ( best known as the voice of Lumiere from Disney's Beauty & The Beast ), Jill Hennessy ( later the lead in TV's Crossing Jordan ) and Michael Moriarty ( whose work I don't know that well, but whom I really enjoy watching on this particular show ).

I've already seen the latter programme once before - I think it may have been in the U.S. when they had a chunk of L&O marathons - but Vincent D'Onofrio is outstanding as Robert Goren, a detective on the major case squad, investigating crimes that are never what they seem.

He cuts an intimidating figure with his massive frame - 6'4''? 6'5''? - and laser stare. His instincts are razor sharp, and if you try to outsmart him, he'll come down on you like a sledgehammer.
I especially enjoy the chase scenes, which invariably end with Goren effortlessly grabbing a suspect as the latter puts up a pathetic struggle.
And the last 10-15 minutes are always the best. Goren usually sits the suspect down in the interrogation room, engaging him/her in an elaborate mind game before s/he finally confesses or gets caught in an obvious lie. Even senators, celebrities and powerful tycoons squirm in his presence.
How cool is that? :)

More thoughts on American Idol: aside from Alex Lambert, those who've been booted off so far pretty much deserved it.
Andrew Garcia has been disappointing, but I suppose he has a strong Latino fanbase voting for him.
Aaron Kelly greatly impressed with his Aerosmith cover last week, managing to belt out glory notes despite suffering from laryngitis, wow!
Casey James gets mixed reviews from me. He's a good-looking fellow and an excellent blues guitarist, but there's just something off about his stage performance. Stiff? Corny? His voice definitely isn't anything special, and AI markets itself as a singing competition after all. What's going to happen to this guy?

Girls-wise, I'm rooting for Siobhan and Crystal. They're both vocal powerhouses with interesting personalities, though I do wish Siobhan would stop screeching every time she reaches the end of a song. If you can't hit the high note, then opt for a key change.

My next foray into the cineplex - hopefully later this week, to catch the remake of Clash Of The Titans. Could turn out to be really cheesy, but crossing my fingers that I'll enjoy this.

Am also eyeing the complete set of Nip/Tuck DVDs on Amazon. It's probably the only TV series I'd consider purchasing, because it's absolutely sinful yet also supremely intelligent. Plus, I love the 2 leads - Dylan Walsh and Julian McMahon. Have been watching clips on YouTube - delicious!

Almost forgot to mention Jersey Shore, an MTV reality show that's become a huge hit in the U.S.
It now airs on MTV Asia on Friday nights, and I almost missed the pilot episode when I got the date wrong, whew!
I must warn you: this is a super-trashy series. It features 8 Italian-American 20-somethings with fake tans and loose morals, shacking up together in a beach house for the summer.
The men - also known as "guidos" - are fitness freaks with too much gel in their hair, and the women have fake boobs, wear too much makeup, and spew obscenities like pros.
There was a segment that had so many bleeped-out syllables I didn't even know what the heck they were saying.

The first episode alone was scandalous enough - the guys invited complete strangers ( young women, of course ) off the street to lounge in their hot tub. Everybody got drunk, then one of the girls stripped naked, right in front of the camera crew.

I'm watching this because I know about the major hype in America. A later episode will have the JS gals at a nightclub, wearing short dresses and dirty dancing sans underwear.

Call it morbid curiosity. My mom's eyes were glued to the screen, though all she could say for most of the hour was, "Tsk Tsk!" and "What the...?!"

But we were wide awake the whole time, which says something about the entertainment value, heh!

Signing off...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Bliss Part 10

... comes in the form of Jeff Lindsay's Dexter By Design, aka Book 4 in the Dexter novel series, which I'm now roughly halfway through.

Was hoping to lift a few quotes for this entry, but will leave that for another time since I don't have the books with me at the moment.

As always, there's much to gush about, but I need to hold back a little so I don't end up revealing spoilers.

Rest assured that Dexter's - or should I say Lindsay's - signature brand of super-dark humour is still present in ample doses, and early chapters set the tone fabulously as the corpses pile up in quick succession.

There's a short lull in the breakneck pace when Dexter gets side-tracked by a family crisis, but at least there're no protracted Dark Passenger monologues like those from Book 3 ( Dexter In The Dark ).

Thus far, however, Book 2 ( Dearly Devoted Dexter ) is the best of the 3 novels I've read, although I've decided to pick up Book 1 ( Darkly Dreaming Dexter ) once I get the chance, as it's become clear that something really major happened in the 1st installment, which I consider quite a shocker.

Again, I'm endlessly fascinated by Dexter's many private musings, as well as the numerous peripheral characters who flit in and out of the main picture.
I've probably said this before, but will say it again anyway - the novels are satisfying primarily as hilarious commentaries on human behaviour, with the crimes taking on a more secondary role.
But it is a testament to Lindsay's amazing writing that I'm willing to forgive the less-than-challenging crime-solving techniques just because I enjoy his witty sarcasm so much.

Still, you can have your fix of nail-biting suspense and much more fulfilling detective work by watching the equally terrific TV version.

Don't think I've ever latched onto a TV show and its novels before. This is so addictive it's positively terrifying. All my People and Time magazines haven't been touched in months! :)

I guess my great appreciation for a character like Dexter Morgan also stems from the fact that I share a few of his traits. There's the overwhelming cynicism, the morbid sense of humour, the lack of interest in physical intimacy and social interaction, and maintaining a constant balance between one's public and private personas.

A memorable quote comes from TV's season 4, where a stressed out Dexter asks, "Who are any of us really? We all have our public life, our private life...", to which his deceased foster father's ever-present spirit replies, "And your secret life -- the one that defines you."

I may not lead a secret "life" in the literal sense, but there's definitely a part of me that I share with no-one, not even my best friends or my own parents. And obviously not anywhere on this blog.

And you can bet I have a reaaally dark side. :)

Monday, March 08, 2010

Bliss Part 9

There is, of course, a Part 8. It's titled "Kevin Spacey's In Singapore!" :)

So the latest upper in my otherwise monotonous life is none other than Dexter Season 4, which I'd been watching sporadically online these past few weeks. Am happy to report that I finished the last 3 episodes on Sunday evening. What a rush!

I've raved about a number of TV shows over the years - CSI, House, Monk - but even the best of the lot tend to lose momentum after a few seasons, either due to writer fatigue, cast changes, or the biggest mistake of them all: taking the viewers for granted.

CSI is a prime example of the last sin. The Las Vegas version - which I've always enjoyed the most - began to annoy the hell out of me somewhere in its 4th or 5th run, when the writers tried to come up with more creative ways for people to die, and invented dumber methods of spiffy crime-solving.

Not so for Dexter. It has succeeded in outdoing itself with each new season, in terms of characters and storylines. The villains are diabolical yet ambiguous. Season 1 featured a serial killer who turned out to be Dexter's long lost older brother. Season 2, a psychotic girlfriend. Season 3, a District Attorney turned crazed vigilante. Season 4, a church deacon whose dark history fuels his massive bloodlust.

The cast is outstanding. Michael C. Hall is only getting better with age, and in S4, he looks damn bloody gorgeous at times ( no pun intended ), with the ruffled hair, buff bod and occasional mischievous smirk as he zooms in on yet another target. He's also letting his flair for comedy take flight. There're moments in S4 where I found myself laughing out loud at Dexter's antics, many of which revolve around his desperate attempts to balance a new family with his nocturnal adventures. Lots of nail-biting moments!

Jennifer Carpenter also finds her mojo as Dexter's foul-mouthed detective foster sis, Deborah. Some real-life couples can't play siblings convincingly, but no problem here. Even though they're married now, they stay perfectly in character, without any of that sexual tension interfering with the flow of the story. Amazing!

Season 3 had Jimmy Smits. Season 4, on the other hand, features John Lithgow, of all people, playing the Trinity Killer - a fellow so twisted he gives even me the heebie-jeebies. And I already have a pretty high threshold for gore.
This was a stroke of genius in terms of casting. Who would've thought the funny guy from 3rd Rock From The Sun could play creepy so well?

The best thing about watching Dexter online is being able to bypass the irritating local censors, who love to erase all the nudity, violence and foul language. Unfortunately, these are vital ingredients where this particular show is concerned, so trashing them just spoils the entire flow, and important plot points end up being lost.
E.g. The Trinity Killer displays a pattern which includes slaughtering women in bathtubs. So both he and the victim are naked. I found it insightful rather than exploitative.

I do wonder if my recent appreciation of the Dexter novels, on which the TV show is based, could have something to do with the sudden surge in enjoyment. Answer: there's a definite correlation. I would recommend Dexter fans to watch the series AND read the books. Only the first novel, Darkly Dreaming Dexter, shares the same storyline as season 1. After that, almost every major / subplot is different. For instance, Book 2 aka Dearly Devoted Dexter mentions that a certain central character was killed off in Book 1, which did not happen on-screen. Quite a big shock, that one!
The villains also share zero similarities. So it's like getting 7 doses of Dexter instead of 4! :)

I'm halfway through Book 2, and just picked up Book 4 when it finally reappeared on the public library's shelves. Can't wait to get through them ASAP. :)

Oscar news: I'm thrilled that The Hurt Locker helped shatter the glass ceiling for director Kathyrn Bigelow, and whacked Avatar in the Best Picture category. Haven't seen Locker yet, but I love to root for the underdog, especially when James Cameron so clearly wants to win big yet again. C'mon, Avatar was fun, but a little too cheesy for Best Pic. A recent blockbuster that deserved to win that award was The Dark Knight.

Signing off. Till next time...

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Kevin Spacey's In Singapore!

I apologize for the unbridled enthusiasm, but the fact that my all-time favourite actor - whom I've idolized for more than a decade, and after whom this blog is named - is in such close proximity, is just too much for me to handle. :D

There was no indication of the visit on his Twitter page, and I haven't been bugging my grapevine of inside sources, so imagine my shock when I saw the front-page headlines in today's Life! section, complete with a sprawling interview. I was in a stupor following less than 6 hours of sleep, after a hellish evening shift last night. The article definitely woke me up, no caffeine needed!

He'll be giving a talk at the Singapore Repertory Theatre today - those lucky lucky theatre students! - followed by a tour of the Esplanade. I can't worm my way anywhere near him because I'm stuck at the hospital all day ( argh! ), but I'm thrilled that he's confirmed he will tour with the Project in 2011.

Regular readers of this blog may remember he replied to my tweets last year about whether he'll tour in the near future. He ruled out 2010 because of other commitments, but did hint at 2011. Ain't it cool? :D

So what Shakespearan roles are you gunning for for the great Mr. Spacey? He excels at both drama and comedy, so if it's age-appropriate ( i.e. not Romeo ), he can do it.

I have a preference for The Merchant of Venice's Shylock, or even Hamlet. As for comedy, I like Benedick from Much Ado About Nothing, or Petruchio from The Taming Of The Shrew.

You can bet I'll attend more than one performance if Mr. Spacey's in the cast. And yes, I will do everything in my power to meet him in person. It's one of the items on my bucket list!

I hope he enjoys his 2 days in Singapore. Wonder if he'll be brave enough to try some durian? :)