Gear up for Grandmaster
As early as 2003, there was talk that actor Tony Leung Chiu Wai could be taking up the role of wing chun expert Yip Man. The prospect of Leung in an arthouse martial arts movie by Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar Wai was definitely intriguing.
But in the time it has taken Wong to finally complete his biopic, director Wilson Yip has already made two instalments about Bruce Lee’s teacher. Then again, the joke about Wong’s sci-fi romance 2046 (2004) was that it was going to be ready only in 2046.
The Grandmaster, almost a decade in the making and boasting a star-studded cast including China’s Zhang Ziyi, Taiwan’s Chang Chen and Korea’s Song Hye Kyo, has been given the honour of opening the prestigious Berlin Film Festival in February. It is slated to be released here on January 17.
Will Wong’s signature style of film-making (the swoonsome In The Mood For Love, 2000, and the kinetic and impressionistic Chungking Express, 1994) take the genre of martial arts drama to new heights?
Hopefully, the chemistry between director and his soulful leading man will once again result in a mesmerising movie. One thing is certain – The Grandmaster will be beautifully shot.
Hunting for Osama
Three years after director Kathryn Bigelow won the Best Director and Best Picture Oscars for her Iraq war drama The Hurt Locker (2008), she is back – with another picture about the American military, Zero Dark Thirty, a procedural about the hunt for Osama bin Laden seen mostly through the eyes of intelligence operative Maya (Jessica Chastain).
It feels like 2009 all over again as critics are falling over themselves heaping praise on the fact-based film, once more penned by Hurt Locker writer Mark Boal.
“Intense” and “intellectually challenging” are some of words used for the work, which examines the massive, multi-year programme to capture or kill the terrorist leader – an effort which included the use of torture – and ends with the raid on his home late last year.
If it is anything like The Hurt Locker, it will contain strongly delineated characters, each trying to find his humanity in the oppression of war.
It has already been nominated in four major Golden Globes categories, for Best Director, Best Picture, Best Actress (Chastain) and Best Screenplay (Boal). It has opened in limited release this month and is scheduled to open in Singapore on January 17.
Spy mission accomplished
The five-year wait for fans of one of the local indie rock scene’s biggest bands, The Great Spy Experiment, is finally about to end.
That is how long it took them to release their sophomore album, a follow-up to their acclaimed debut Flower Show Riots that was released in 2007.
After a series of false starts, the quintet are confident that the new 11-track CD, titled Litmus, will finally be released in February.
Frontman Saiful Idris tells Life! that some of the new songs the band worked on from 2008 to 2010 had to be scrapped entirely as they were simply not good enough.
The 32-year-old singer, guitarist and principal songwriter for the band adds: “All of us in the band went through some major personal events such as weddings and having children and all those affected the recording process and led to the delay.”
According to him, the new tunes are a lot more mellow than the catchy, dance-rock songs on their debut. “After playing together for so long, we’ve developed our own sound. These new songs are less immediate than the first album but they are a lot more introspective.”
Still, fan reaction to the new batch of Spy songs has been positive. The quintet’s set at Baybeats music festival in June consisted mostly of songs from Litmus.
“Despite the fact that none of the songs has been released, the fans really got into them and it was the best crowd reaction that we ever got so far,” says Saiful.
More in store at Tangs
Its recently revamped beauty floor – and the first phase of its $45-million renovation – has taken department store beauty shopping to a new level, with beauty brands getting their own “boutiques” instead of standard counters.
Which is why shoppers cannot wait for phase two of Tangs’ three-year renovation to be completed in 2013.
Next month, beauty junkies will be able to get haircuts, facials, manicures and more on the new seventh floor. Dedicated to beauty and wellness, Seviin At Tangs – a play on the word seven and the Roman numeral VII – will house treatment areas for Decleor by Escentials, La Mer, Shiseido Qi and SK-II LXP, an Urbanhair salon offering Aveda hair treatments and a Gentlemen’s Lounge for men to enjoy services such as pedicures and reflexology.
Towards the end of the year, expect a bigger and better home department. Aside from an additional 7,000 sq ft, it will reportedly feature a cooking studio and new homeware brands.
A Tangs spokesman says that the existing department on Basement One will be closed for renovation in the second half of next year, and ready by Christmas. Going by how Tangs has always taken pride in its household offerings, shoppers know it will be well worth the wait.
Family friendly Chinese theatre
The Chinese Theatre Festival returns in 2013 with a line-up that promises to engage the entire family, and with a focus on intimate spaces.
The festival debuted last year and took a break this year with The Theatre Practice’s focus on commemorating the 10th anniversary of the death of theatre pioneer Kuo Pao Kun, who founded the group.
In next year’s edition, the kids will be entertained by a fresh retelling of the legendary Chinese war heroine Mulan and a puppet show by Taiwan’s Flying-Group Theater. Family-friendly programming plus mother tongue language appeal adds up to a sure-win formula.
The adults will have their share of food for thought too in a devised play by the newly formed Practice Lab, a wing of The Theatre Practice that is dedicated to honing the skills of its performers and giving a platform to emerging playwrights and practitioners.
Young director Liu Xiaoyi will take the reins – his previous directorial outings of devised work around the Stamford Arts Centre were a quirky and heart-felt exploration of the site’s physical spaces, as well as Kuo Pao Kun’s artistic legacy.
There will also be a stripped-down production based on the minimalist premise of “one table and two chairs” with three directors at the helm – giving the spotlight to the intimate relationship between the actor and the audience. Sounds like a winning combination of mass appeal with arty experimentation.
Gallery scene heats up
The mercury level of the local art gallery scene is set to rise as competition heats up from a slew of art gallery openings.
In the last six months, no fewer than 16 galleries have set up shop, including 13 at Gillman Barracks, with more slated to launch in the new year.
The competition may spell hard work for gallery owners but the diversity of art on show and for sale is good news for collectors and art lovers.
Artists can also be more picky about the galleries they show with and the terms of representation. Among the additions is Nikei Fine Art’s second gallery, which opens at Sentosa Cove in February. The Japanese art gallery specialising in abstract art debuted in August at the Raffles Hotel Arcade.
Other newcomers will include the prominent Pearl Lam Galleries and Kaikai Kiki Gallery at Gillman Barracks, and Indian gallery Volte at Artspace@Helutrans in Tanjong Pagar Distripark.
Gallery owners tell SundayLife! that the rapid rise in the number of art galleries will mean stiffer competition but they are confident that demand for art will grow in tandem. They are also prepared to work harder to woo collectors.
Russian gallery Raffian Art, which moves into its new space in Queen Street next month, aims to stand out with its niche offering of contemporary Russian art.
Ode To Art in Raffles City and Marina Bay Sands will beef up its arts education programme with monthly talks on art for clients and art lovers.
Galleries at Raffles Hotel Arcade, including Chan Hampe Galleries and Artesan Gallery + Studio, are finding strength in numbers by holding an art event on Jan 17 at the hotel, which will feature the joint opening of art shows.
The new year might just be the most electrifying year yet for the local art gallery scene.
A better Biennale
The fourth edition of Singapore’s premier international contemporary art event returns in October. Previous Biennales have drawn visitors by the thousands and generated both buzz and controversy, and the latest edition should be no different.
To run until February 2014, it will have a distinct South-east Asian and Asian focus. The 27 co-curators involved in the $6-million event can be expected to find something new as they work towards presenting fresh talent from the region.
This is the largest curatorial team ever assembled for the Biennale, with 12 curators from Singapore and the rest hailing from around the region.
Next year’s edition, titled If The World Changed, will present works in the Bras Basah-Bugis precinct. Organisers say that “it is an invitation to reconsider the world we live in and the worlds we want to live in”.
In previous years, the Biennale had taken cutting edge contemporary art to the masses with installations such as Japanese artist Tatzu Nishi’s hotel room constructed around the Merlion statue.
A building right out of Star Wars
What could be more fitting for the regional headquarters of American film-production company Lucasfilm than a building modelled after the Jawa sandcrawler?
Fanboys and girls will no doubt flock to pay homage when the eight-storey glass and steel structure at Fusionpolis is completed in the second half of the year.
Designed by starchitect Andrew Bromberg of international architecture firm Aedas, the Sandcrawler building brings to life the huge treaded fortress in the Star Wars movies.
While it was used to transport and house the Jawas, or sand people, in the films, Bromberg’s version will house production offices for Lucasfilm, LucasArts, TV and feature animation teams, as well as a 100-seat movie theatre.
Bromberg, 44, who is also behind The Star Vista at Buona Vista, has already won an award for the building – an International Architecture Award last year given out by The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design, the European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies, and the Metropolitan Arts Press.
A page-turning year
2013 promises an excellent array of new books. High on the reading list is The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, a new graphic novel from Singapore-based Malaysian artist Sonny Liew. It will be released in April by local publisher Epigram Books.
Liew’s most recent solo release was the whimsical comic about street kids, Malinky Robot, last year. Now, the recipient of the National Arts Council’s Young Artist Award sketches the tale of a forgotten Singapore comics pioneer who carved a small niche in the funny pages.
It may or may not be a true story – the artist would not say – but the execution is going to be superb, judging by a sample chapter sporting multiple drawing styles and soothing colours.
In May, Penguin Books will release a new novel by Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini. And The Mountains Echoed is another family tale from the best-selling writer who painted his country unforgettably in books such as The Kite Runner (2003) and A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007).
June will bring another goodie from someone famous in the graphic novel genre – Neil Gaiman, now hailed as one of the world’s foremost popular writers in the post-modern style.
Yes, the Britain-born author has announced a new novel for adults, The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, to be released in the United States and Britain on June 18.
Publisher Tor calls it “a fable that re-shapes modern fantasy” and offers this teaser: “It began for our narrator 40 years ago, when the family lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed.
“His only defense are three women on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is an ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.”
Can anyone remember a more exciting line-up of new books?
Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants
Come February 25, 2013, Marina Bay Sands will host the inaugural awards ceremony to honour Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants.
This list is part of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants programme, which is considered the most coveted ranking for restaurants next to the Michelin guide. It will rank the top 50 restaurants across North, East, South-east and South Asia. Iggy’s at Hilton Singapore (above, with owner Ignatius Chan) is likely to be the home-grown shoo-in for the list.
On the new list, Mr William Drew of publisher William Reed Business Media, which organised it, says: “This launch champions the significant growth of the industry in Asia and provides restaurants with international peer reviews and recommendation.”
The seven award categories will be for Lifetime Achievement, Best Female Chef, Best Pastry Chef, Chef’s Choice, The Best Restaurant In Asia, One To Watch and Individual Country awards.
Certainly, the list is an indicator of how Asia’s food scene – which has attracted a flurry of Michelin-starred chefs to set up shop – has become an undeniable powerhouse in the world culinary scene.
The world list will still contain restaurants in Asia, should they receive enough votes from The World’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy, which comprises an influential group of more than 900 restaurant industry experts from 26 regions.
Sweet treats from Laduree
The patisserie scene will get sweeter with the opening of Singapore’s first Laduree outlet. There will be no more hauling back the 150-year-old brand’s famous macarons, elegant cakes and chocolates from France or Japan.
The famed French luxury chain will open its chic Parisian-style tearoom in town, likely in Orchard Road, “not far” from its sister company Paul bakery in Ngee Ann City, said Mr Maxime Holder, 43, chairman of Paul bakery.
Both the boulangerie and patisserie are owned by French company Holder Group which bought over Laduree in 1993. Group owner Francis Holder’s eldest son, David, 44, and daughter Elisabeth, 40, currently run the chain.
Early this month, Laduree opened its first outlet in Hong Kong’s Tsim Sha Tsui. It also has outlets in Tokyo, Dubai, Beirut, New York and London.
And for those who may not fancy their sweet treats, Laduree also has its own line of home fragrances, body creams and candles.
A new restaurant joins the flock
A new bird will be descending on the Central Business District next year. Food and beverage group Lo & Behold’s founders Wee Teng Wen and Daniel He want to take diners back to the heady days of flappers: Think old-world glamour and sophistication.
The duo, both 32, will transform The Quadrant, an iconic low-rise art deco building among a sea of skyscrapers, into new bistro and bar The Black Swan.
And with their track record for creating hip, popular watering holes (such as Loof rooftop bar at Odeon Towers and Tanjong Beach Club on Sentosa) and restaurants (The White Rabbit in the Dempsey enclave), well-heeled foodies are taking note.
Come April, The Black Swan will spread its wings at the busy junction where Collyer Quay, and Market, Church and Cecil streets meet.
The 3,000 sq ft project at 19 Cecil Street is inspired by the fan-shaped building’s unique architecture and will be a throwback to the decadence, beauty and grandeur of the roaring 1920s.
The menu has not been finalised yet, but diners can expect comforting bistro classics. A raw bar with seafood, such as fresh oysters, will feature. So will steaks, charcuterie, artisanal cheeses and other small plates.
Mr Wee says: “We think that there is no better time for the arrival of an iconic food and drinking establishment to a discerning crowd who knows how to work hard and play hard.”
Wholesome Italian food
Diners here will finally be able to taste the simple, fresh and wholesome cooking of British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver when he opens his first restaurant in Asia at VivoCity next year.
Jamie’s Italian, which has more than 30 branches in Britain, and outposts in Dubai and Sydney, will open in the third quarter of 2013.
The casual, family-friendly Italian restaurant is conceived by Essex-raised Oliver, 37, and his Italian mentor and business partner Gennaro Contaldo, 53. They opened their first Jamie’s Italian in Oxford in 2008.
Famed for cooking shows such as The Naked Chef, Oliver is best known for his unfussy approach to cooking. Pastas will be made in the open-kitchen restaurant daily.
Oliver says: “Our food is all about really delicious, authentic Italian flavours. It’s the kind of food that you’d go to a little village in Italy and see people eating – nothing fussy, just great produce cooked well.”
This story was first published in The Straits Times on Sunday, December 30, 2012. Go to sph.straitstimes.com/archive/sunday/premium to read similar stories. Please note: You will not be able to access this section of The Straits Times website unless you are a subscriber. To subscribe to The Straits Times website, go to www.sphsubscription.com.sg/eshop.
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