Genre Equality podcast Hidzir Junaini Isa Foong Singapore Community Radio
Photo credit

The duo behind Genre Equality puts out a monthly review of the best and worst each month — whether if it’s a new series on Netflix to binge, a film to catch in cinemas (if you use TraceTogether, that is), or a book to simply plug out from the outside noise.

While you can listen in to their latest episode for a full breakdown of their verdicts, scroll down to dig into what they’ve loved (and disliked) from the first month of 2021.

Follow Genre Equality on Facebook for more updates.



Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Film/DC Films
Where to watch: HBO GO

The fabled #SnyderCut of Justice League delivers a four-hour epic that significantly improves upon Joss Whedon’s version. While a much stronger and more coherent film overall, your mileage may vary in this indulgent combination of the best (operatic grandeur) and worst (slow-mo, style-over-substance excess) of Snyder’s artistic vision.


Raya and the Last Dragon

Film/Disney
Where to watch: Local cinemas & Disney+ (additional fee required for Disney+ subscribers)

Disney’s first Southeast Asian princess leads this thrilling fantasy action-adventure. Buoyed by breathtaking fight sequences, stunning visuals, ambitious world-building, excellent humour, and a star-studded voice cast – Raya proves to be a fun, all-ages fable about the power of trust.


Dota: Dragon’s Blood

Season 1

TV/Studio Mir
Where to watch: Netflix

Dragon’s Blood is an exceptional adaptation of the DOTA 2 video game franchise that should delight fans and newbies alike. Featuring compelling characters, spectacularly violent action, beautiful animation, and emotional complexity on all sides – this stunning adult anime is a must-watch.


Godzilla vs. Kong

Film/Legendary Pictures
Where to watch: Local cinemas

This heavyweight monster battle is a jaw-dropping spectacle. However, the movie is severely hampered by bafflingly stupid human subplots that distract from what we came to see: two titans clobbering each other.


La Llorona

Film/La Casa de Producción & Les Films du Volcan
Where to watch: Shudder (requires VPN)

This sophisticated horror film blends together the terror of myth and reality in a modern retelling of the genocide against the Mayan community in Guatemala. Smart, elegant, and suspenseful, director Jayro Bustamante uses folkloric fears to unpack even greater political atrocities.


Come True

Film/Copperheart Entertainment
Where to watch: Amazon (VPN required)

Come True is helmed by the one-person filmmaking crew of Anthony Scott Burns, who wrote, directed, edited, and composed the 80s synth-wave soundtrack under the pseudonym Pilotpriest.

The indie film is a surreal, unsettling, and genuinely disturbing horror sci-fi. Filled with nightmarish sounds and imagery that trigger deep, primordial fears, this film is one for fans of minor-key arthouse horror.


Solar Opposites

Season 2

TV/Justin Roiland’s Solo Vanity Card Productions!
Where to watch: Hulu (VPN required)

Rick and Morty co-creator Justin Roiland returns with the second season of his hilarious animated sci-fi comedy. This fresh spin on 3rd Rock From The Sun flies with a breakneck pace — it coasts on a witty mix of goofy absurdity and good-natured warmth.


Chaos Walking

Film/Lionsgate
Where to watch: Local cinemas

A loud and tedious dystopian mess that should be avoided at all costs. Stars Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley need to be more careful about the roles they pick.


Boss Level

Film/Highland Film Group
Where to watch: Hulu (VPN required)

This fun time loop adventure is like the action hero version of Groundhog Day. Starring Frank Grillo (of Captain America: The Winter Soldier fame), Boss Level is a muscular popcorn movie with plenty of thrills and little brains.


The Irregulars

Season 1

TV/Drama Republic
Where to watch: Netflix

Take pretty much any established cultural touchstone — here, it’s Sherlock Holmes — add a group of teenagers, and you’ve got a TV show. To play it safe, inject the storylines with supernatural mumbo jumbo for color and special effects. Voila, a perfectly mediocre Netflix show to put on the background at dinner parties.


Pacific Rim: The Black

Season 1

TV/Legendary Television
Where to watch: Netflix

Clunky cell shading animation and shoddy character work hinder what could have been a fun mecha vs kaiju romp.


Snowpiercer

Season 2

TV/CJ Entertainment
Where to watch: Netflix

Aided by the addition of Sean Bean, season two proves Snowpiercer to be a perfectly watchable yet totally inessential show. We’d still recommend Bong Joon-ho’s film version instead.


House of Leaves

Book/Pantheon
Where to buy: Local bookstores

In light of the book’s 21st anniversary this year, Genre Equality explores House of Leaves, which originally released in March 2000.

House of Leaves is one of the most disorienting and creative novels ever written. Mark Z. Danielewski’s cult classic book is an incredibly complex work of existential horror that plays with a variety of formatting and writing styles. The result is a story that is both intellectually challenging and profoundly disturbing.

Genre Equality podcast Singapore Community Radio
Photo credit Disney+

The duo behind Genre Equality puts out a monthly review of the best and worst each month — whether if it’s a new series on Netflix to binge, a film to catch in cinemas (if you use TraceTogether, that is), or a book to simply plug out from the outside noise.

While you can listen in to their latest episode for a full breakdown of their verdicts, scroll down to dig into what they’ve loved (and disliked) from the first month of 2021.

Follow Genre Equality on Facebook for more updates.



WandaVision

Season 1

TV/Marvel Studios
Where to watch: Disney+

This wonderfully weird love letter to vintage sitcoms is easily the most daring and experimental thing the MCU has ever done. Formatting flourishes and the versatility of Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany finds charmingly inventive ways to plumb Wanda’s traumatic history.


Saint Maud

Film/A24
Where to watch: The Projector

Rose Clarke’s directorial debut is the first great horror movie of 2021, and a great addition to A24’s arthouse horror canon. Led by fantastic performances from Morfydd Clark and Jennifer Ehle, this character study of religious fervour vs. mental illness is deeply unsettling.


Little Fish

Film/IFC Films
Where to watch: Amazon Prime (VPN required)

This melancholy indie sci-fi romance focuses on a world plagued by a contagious Alzheimer’s-like epidemic. Little Fish is a dreamy and devastating film about the disintegration of relationships without reason or closure.


Space Sweepers

Film/Bidangil Pictures
Where to watch: Netflix

This South Korean space opera may look great, but its story is a derivative slog.


The Watch

Season 1

TV/BBC Studios
Where to watch: BBC America (US cable access required)

Fans of Terry Pratchett’s satirical-fantasy Discworld novels will be sorely disappointed by BBC America’s moronic mess of an adaptation.


Superman & Lois

Season 1

TV/DC Entertainment
Where to watch: Amazon Prime (VPN required)

The latest entry into the CW’s Arrowverse is a mixed bag — buoyed by the charisma of Tyler Hoechlin and Elizabeth Tulloch, but dragged by clunky melodrama.


Earwig and the Witch

Film/Studio Ghibli
Where to watch: HBO Max (VPN required)

Studio Ghibli’s first-ever CG film is ironically flat and lifeless, lacking the sense of wonder and whimsy of its hand-drawn predecessors.


Tribes of Europa

Season 1

TV/W&B Television
Where to watch: Netflix

From the creators of Dark comes this German post-apocalyptic series that feels like a tired re-thread of a million other YA dystopian stories. Disappointing.


Attack on Titan

Season 4

TV/MAPPA
Where to watch: Netflix

The insanely popular anime finally sheds its perennial problem with poor pacing. Now with mysteries revealed and questions answered, Attack on Titan steadily progresses to the exciting and action-packed conclusion to the saga.


Re:Zero − Starting Life in Another World

Season 2

TV/White Fox
Where to watch: Crunchyroll (VPN required)
Season 1 available on Netflix

Subaru-kun is back for more crying, suffering, deaths, and resets in the second half of the franchise’s returning season.


That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime

Season 2

TV/White Fox
Where to watch: Crunchyroll (VPN required)
Season 1 available on Netflix

Building upon a very well-received first season, overpowered slime lord Rimuru Tempest and his newly founded nation of monsters face threats from enemies new and old.

 


Dr. Stone

Season 2 (Stone Wars)

TV/TMS Entertainment
Where to watch: Crunchyroll (VPN required)
Season 1 available on Netflix

Senkuu and his allies in The Kingdom of Science finish their preparations. Armed with a host of new science gizmos, they begin their preemptive attack on Tsukasa’s Empire.


Beastars

Season 2

TV/Orange
Where to watch: Netflix (scheduled for release in July)

Beaststars is back. The herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores at Cherryton Academy continue their tense coexistence while navigating their own complex emotions and interpersonal relationships.


Cells at Work!

Season 2

TV/David Production
Where to watch: Crunchyroll (VPN required)
Season 1 available on Netflix

We continue the journey with our favorite hardworking Cells, including lessons that important cells can make mistakes, and not all bacteria are bad. Cells at Work! (stylized for season 2 as Cells at Work!!) continues to be one of the best educational animes that we’ve seen.


Cells at Work! Code Black

Season 1

TV/David Production
Where to watch: Crunchyroll (VPN required)

Cells at Work! Code Black is a much darker, more mature spinoff of Cells at Work!, set in a human body that’s in constant turmoil from poor life choices — making this a very different but no less enjoyable viewing experience.


The Promised Neverland

Season 2

TV/CloverWorks
Where to watch: Hulu (VPN required)
Season 1 available on Netflix

Having escaped Grace Field House, Emma and the older kids try to survive as they continue to escape capture from the demons. They are, instead, afflicted by the troubles of a missing story arc that has drawn the ire of fans.


World Trigger

Season 2

TV/Toei Animation
Where to watch: Crunchyroll (VPN required)

Six years after their initial 73-episode run, World Trigger picks up where it left off with a second season. Ardent fans are treated to more great world-building, the continuation of Team Mikumo’s adventures, and some impressive improvements in animation and soundtrack.


Log Horizon

Season 3 (Destruction of the Round Table)

TV/Satelight
Where to watch: NHK Educational TV (subject to scheduling)

Log Horizon’s initial two-season run garnered a fair number of fans for their very different, detailed, and expansive take on the trapped-in-a-game-world genre. Now seven years later, we are brought back to the world of Elder Tale, starting Season 3 off with a heavy look at the political turmoil Shiroe and gang have become embroiled in.


Wonder Egg Priority

Season 1

TV/CloverWorks
Where to watch: FUNimation (VPN required)

With its gorgeous art style, amazing animation, and a top-notch soundtrack and sound design, Wonder Egg Priority is an arthouse film of an anime. Coupled with a compelling story, great voice acting, and some unexpectedly awesome fight scenes, this might easily be one of the best animes of the year.


HoriMiya

Season 1

TV/CloverWorks
Where to watch: Hulu (VPN required)

A solid high school, slice of life rom-com about two teens living double lives, dishing out spot-on doses of romance, comedy, and drama in equal measure.


Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation

Season 1

TV/Egg Firm
Where to watch: Hulu (VPN required)

In yet another entry to the Isekai genre, a 34-year-old NEET has his fateful encounter with Truck-kun and gets reincarnated into a fantasy world with swords and magic. But with his memories from his past life intact, old trauma and wounds continue to haunt him even as he is given a new lease on life.


So I am a Spider, So What?

Season 1

TV/Millepensee
Where to watch: Crunchyroll (VPN required)

Basically, this is That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, but instead of slime, you get a spider instead. Despite the familiar (and at this point, frankly done to death) premise, this anime is a fairly hilarious take on the well-worn genre.


Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki

Season 1

TV/Project No.9
Where to watch: FUNimation (VPN required)

Top-tier gamer Tomozaki thinks that real life is a crappy game, with no proper rules and no way for a bottom-tier character like himself to ever beat it. An unexpected encounter with his gaming rival convinces him to give this game life a shot. An interesting and funny look at the idea of the “gaming” life.


Heaven’s Design Team

Season 1

TV/Asahi Production
Where to watch: Crunchyroll (VPN required)

What if God decided to outsource the creation of all the creatures on earth to a design agency? This anime is what you get. It’s an easy watch that’s funny, irreverent, and even educational in parts, and hits close to home for anyone who has lived the agency life.

Photo credit Ricks Ang

Imaginary Regions is a series of mixes made by Ricks Ang, head honcho of KITCHEN. LABEL. These mixes comprise of new age, ambient, environmental, and relaxation records, compact discs, and cassette tapes.

This episode, Fourth World SBC, features music channelled and shazamed from BGM used in shows by the now-defunct Singapore Broadcasting Corporation (SBC), which was active in the 1980s and early-1990s.

Most record finds were unearthed from the vaults of the legendary Red Point Records who had previously acquired the albums in job lots from defunct radio libraries in Singapore.

Here, Ricks Ang pens a piece about the music that defined this era — how new age and ambient tracks helped soundtrack stories of a reimagined and fantastical Singapore, and how he found these records at a local record warehouse.

Ricks Ang, pictured.

Listen to “Fourth World SBC”, the first Imaginary Regions mix:


How do we go beyond the “fourth world” musical ideas of pioneers like Eno and Jon Hassell?

Defined by Hassell as a kind of folk music from “unknown and imaginary regions”, the method behind making “fourth world” music was to disengage and create some other world while blurring our very own.

Subliminally, in television, fantasy/sci-fi/horror and melancholic drama series in the 1980s, produced by the then-SBC (Singapore Broadcasting Corporation, now Mediacorp) such as Mystery (迷离夜) and Romance of the Season (恋曲 1991) — to name a few — are fine examples of what happens when you dive into this world.


Stills captured from existing footage of Romance of the Season.


The directors responsible for these works, hailing from Hong Kong, decisively chose to disengage from everyday Singapore life to draw a new myth of where we live.

From perfectly-dubbed Chinese dialogues, proto-vaporwave graphics, 80s interiors, and fashion, dreamy pastoral landscapes, to unrealistic story plots of a world reimagined, there was also a curious mix of music that straddled the line of pop, smooth jazz, new age, ambient music, and pure synthesizer noodling.

Before the advent of Netflix, reruns of these shows would air after midnight during weekdays. With the use of song identifiers such as Shazam, it has helped to find matches to musical accents and deep cuts, which unleashed a whole new music discovery level. There are some saxophones and a lot of crystalline synths, and that is a different kind of obsession I cannot escape from.

Aside from more prominent names like Enya, Kenny G, and Ennio Morricone, there was a treasure of musical delights by artists less-known in the public spotlight but prolific in their work. Keiko Matsui’s ‘Under the Northern Lights’ is found on the drama series The Magnate (叱咤风云), and the track ‘Chakra 4’ by Mannheim Steamroller was captured on an episode of Mystery.


The theme song for Mystery, which is currently available to stream on Netflix.


The first few seconds of the track ‘Belissima’ by Atmosphere (released on krautrock giant Klaus Schulze’s iconic label Innovative Communications) were often used on various scenes of heartbreak and shock throughout the era.

There are cuts from obscure Taiwanese ambient pioneer Chen Shyh Shing — released on Rock Records before the label’s mainstream success — and Toshifumi Hinata.

During this era, the latter was a much sought-after composer for Japanese film and TV, such as Tokyo Love Story, Long Vacation, and Gift, and whose work was recently reappraised by ambient music label Music From Memory with the compilation Broken Belief).

The old broadcasting station also had a streak of using instrumental pieces from labels such as Windham Hill (in particular, George Winston and Will Ackerman), New World Company, and Narada Mystique. For an extended period since then, the artists from their rosters were somewhat detested for being associated with that tag: New Age. Thirty years after, they have somewhat come full circle, regaining contemporary relevance among ambient music connoisseurs.

During this time, I started to put a lot of effort into research, and the experience made me understand what I wanted to reach for with my sound as a music selector. At that point, I began to buy records.

I buy most of my stuff on Discogs or during trips to Japan. In Singapore, I spend the most hours digging at Red Point Record Warehouse.

The owner Mr Ong is a massive collector. He helped me with the records that I wanted, always simplistically streamlining my preference as “the Enya type of music” (not that I mind) before unloading crates of 80s-90s new age LPs and CDs, inherited as job lots from defunct sound and radio libraries in Singapore.


The pile of CDs, vinyl, and cassette tapes used for this mix.


A lot of these have library reference numbers written on labels in marker pens. The album Crystal New Age by Robert Haig Coxon Jr even has a handwritten note to describe each track’s moods, quite likely as a reference to how it can be used as background music for films.

I might have completely missed out on Chen Shyh Shing’s album Emptiness if not for the fact that I vaguely remembered seeing the name on my Shazam list. I scored the LP for $15, and today it is worth US$150 on Discogs(!).

Coincidentally (or not), many of these songs and albums on my Shazam list were rediscovered at the record store. We cannot be entirely sure, but we hope to be optimistic in thinking that some of the rediscovered records at the record store might have been the same original source where the music was sampled for TV in those days.

The lost moods of old SBC drama serials and 80s new age records found at Red Point Record Warehouse have been an immense source I can draw from to create the mix “Fourth World SBC” as part of my new series “Imaginary Regions” on Singapore Community Radio.

I selected songs from tracks found on Shazam and mixed them with music from vinyl records, compact discs, and cassette tapes salvaged there, leading me to this imaginary atmosphere.

These are tracks that everybody could listen to with pleasure — but, at the same time, to be able to dig into strange elements that can be appreciated on a deeper level. It comes to mind a term I often use as “hard easy listening”.

I think you can find something in this mix to reimagine some of the inner scenery around you. And sometimes, these sounds have a way of coloring our memory in ways that we’ve yet to imagine.


Follow Ricks Ang on Instagram and visit KITCHEN. LABEL’s official website here.

Photo credit Jet Tone Production

One of cinema’s most beloved auteurs is getting a retrospective at Asian Film Archive in March.

Retrospective: Wong Kar Wai is the latest programme put together by the institution, which will be screening eight of Wong’s films at Oldham Theatre from March to April 2021.

Seven of these films have recently undergone brand-new 4K restorations, which will debut in Singapore under the programme. The list of films are as follows:

As Tears Go By (1988)
Days of Being Wild (1990)
Chungking Express (1994)
Fallen Angels (1995)
Happy Together (1997)
In the Mood for Love (2000)
2046 (2004)
Ashes of Time Redux (2008)

Ashes of Time Redux is a re-edited version of 1994’s Ashes of Time, and will be screened in its existing form since its premiere in 2008.

“The eight films presented as part of this retrospective are an invitation into the charismatic and wistful world of a deeply influential artist,” Asian Film Archive writes.

“Whether tragically romantic, soaked in blood, or quirkily comedic, his distinctive works have enthralled a worldwide audience and inspired countless filmmakers with their bold stylistic strokes and an enduring enigmatic beauty.

Watch the latest episode of Coming Attractions with Asian Film Archive below, where programmers Thong Kay Wee and Viknesh Kobinathan talk about film on Singapore Community Radio.

The 4K restorations first premiered in New York last year at Film at Lincoln Center. With the programme, Wong provided a Director’s Note on the multitude of changes made during the restoration process, which he deems most satisfactory to the original vision for each film.

This includes remixing sound and restoring aspect ratios for Chungking Express and In the Mood for Love, along with creating entirely new credit sequences for all films.

He also mentions that for Happy Together, the tragic drama starring Tony Leung Chiu-wai, portions of his monologues had to be shortened due to original negatives perishing in an accident.

“Since the beginning of this process, these words have reminded me to treat this as an opportunity to present these restorations as a new work from a different vantage point in my career,” he writes. “Having arrived at the end of this process, these words still hold true.” Read the full note here.

The full schedule of screenings will be released on Feb 15, with tickets going on sale Feb 17.

GOFY singapore art trail for art's sake
Photo credit GOFY

Creative community space GOFY is unfurling art history to the masses with a new project, tying together spaces in Singapore with a new arts trail.

The exhibition For Art’s Sake: Shaken & Stirred, running from 5 Feb to 2 May, will encompass several spots in Singapore that run the gamut from F&B hideouts (Moonstone Bar, 8ASH, Common Man Stan), lifestyle joints (The Projector, Palm Ave Float Club, Goodluck Bunch), and nightclub-turned-eateries (Nineteen80, Upstairs).


Participating venue 8ASH, a multi-concept diner in Chinatown.


With a hefty total of 62 art pieces on display, the remarkable project’s aim is two-fold: to open up visual art to a wider audience, and to integrate it into familiar spaces.

“We wish to show people from all walks of life just how much value art can bring to our everyday,” says Tiffany Soh, GOFY’s curator and creative producer.

For Art’s Sake explores the flourishing Southeast Asian identity and its history, featuring pieces by 50 regional artists that reimagine iconic artworks across decades and movements.

The pieces were produced across several mediums: digital illustration, painting, mixed media, and photography.


Singaporean artist Tess Moh pays tribute to our long-serving culture of hawkers by drawing from Grant Wood’s American Gothic, a painting often parodied in Western pop culture.


Indonesian artist Riandy Karuniawan — known for conjuring distinct sci-fi and fantasy landscapes in his work — adds a uniquely psychedelic bent to the abstract art of Piet Mondrian.


Hey Mady!, hailing from the Philippines, remoulds the smoky noir of Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks into the warmness and comfort that a 24/7 lugawan — a non-descript Filipino diner — brings to patrons of all stripes, whether if it’s “a drunk guy passing by to soothe his hangover, a nurse who just ended their night shift, a taxi driver having his late dinner,” as the artist describes.


“Even for those who aren’t usually engaged with the arts, there’s something for everyone to connect with in our exhibition,” Soh explains. “From there, we hope that this would spark their curiosity and kickstart their journey into discovering and embracing more Southeast Asian arts & culture.”

Art prints will be available to purchase at S$300 via the exhibition’s website. Patrons visiting the exhibition at the respective venues will receive an exclusive code that will entitle them to S$50 off each print, with portions of the proceeds going straight to the spaces.

For Art’s Sake: Shaken & Stirred will commence from 5 Feb to 2 May at these venues:

● Common Man Stan (11-12 Stanley Street, Singapore 068730)
● Cure (21 Keong Saik Rd, Singapore 089128)
● Goodluck Bunch (26 Bali Ln, Singapore 189862)
● Grids & Circles (200 South Bridge Rd, Singapore 058749)
● Kream & Kensho (35 Kampong Bahru Rd, Singapore 169355)
● Moonstone Bar (103 Amoy St, Singapore 069923)
● NINETEEN80 (21 Tanjong Pagar Rd, #01-05, Singapore 088444)
● Palm Ave Float Club (66 Kampong Bugis, #05-01, Singapore 338987)
● Sago House (40B Sago St, Singapore 059029)
● The Projector (6001 Beach Rd, #05-00 Golden Mile Tower, Singapore 199589)
● Two Men Bagel House, Holland Village (17D Lor Liput, Singapore 277731)
● Upstairs (66 Boat Quay, Singapore 049854)
● 8ASH (8 Ann Siang Hill, Singapore 069788)

The full list of artists and pieces can be viewed here.

Photo credit

The duo behind Genre Equality puts out a monthly review of the best and worst each month — whether if it’s a new series on Netflix to binge, a film to catch in cinemas (if you use TraceTogether, that is), or a book to simply plug out from the outside noise.

While you can listen in to their latest episode for a full breakdown of their verdicts, scroll down to dig into what they’ve loved (and disliked) from the first month of 2021.

Follow Genre Equality on Facebook for more updates.



The Expanse

Season 5

TV/ Amazon Studios
Where to watch: Prime Video

This continues to be the best sci-fi show on air. Season 5’s gamble of splitting up the Rocinante crew to explore the nature of family, survival and the politics of radicalization pays off with richly layered stories.


Star Trek: Discovery

Season 3

TV/ Secret Hideout
Where to watch: Netflix

To a superfan like Hidzir, Star Trek is religion, and Discovery is blasphemy. In season 3, Discovery further abandons Trek’s thoughtful explorations of culture, faith, race, science and diplomacy in favour of dumb action.


Carmen Sandiego

Season 4

TV/ WildBrain Studios
Where to watch: Netflix

The fourth and final season cements Carmen Sandiego as one of the best kids cartoons Netflix has ever made. This educational espionage caper remains stylish and enormously fun till the end.


His Dark Materials

Season 2

TV/ Bad Wolf/New Line
Where to watch: HBO Go

While managing to be a slight improvement on the wonder and spectacle of season 1, this HBO adaptation of Philip Pullman’s beloved fantasy novels remains frustratingly imperfect and devoid of excitement in season 2.


Last and First Men

Film/ Zik Zak Filmworks
Where to watch: Vimeo via Anticipate Pictures (link)

The last project of late Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson is an experimental and immersive sci-fi documentary about the survivors of an advanced society two billion years in the future. It is profoundly haunting, poignant, beautiful, and ethereal.


Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

Part 4

TV/ Warner Bros. Television
Where to watch: Netflix

The final season of Sabrina is bolstered by familiar strengths (it’s queer, horny and Satanic af) and hindered by familiar weaknesses (messy stories, too many characters pulled in too many directions). In the end, this show remains a mixed bag of untapped potential.


Doctor Who: “Revolution of the Daleks”

TV/ BBC Studios
Where to watch: BBC/Prime Video (requires VPN)

Doctor Who’s New Year special is a contemplative endeavour focusing on why the Doctor is always the centre of the series’ universe — and if her companions should break free of her orbit. A good, if inessential, episode that clears the slate for Doctor Who’s upcoming season.


We Can Be Heroes

Film/ Double R Productions
Where to watch: Netflix

Robert Rodriguez’s loose sequel to The Adventures Of Sharkboy And Lavagirl has its lo-fi, campy charms. But it’s ultimately too insipid and uninspired to enjoy.


The Stand

TV/ Vertigo/CBS/Mosaic
Where to watch: CBS All Access (requires VPN)

The latest miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s iconic pandemic/supernatural novel is bolstered by great performances and production values. Unfortunately, it’s also dragged down by horrendous pacing, hollow exposition, and muddled stories.


The Promised Neverland

Film/ Shueisha Inc.
Where to watch: Golden Village

This live-action adaptation of the popular manga and anime is faithful to a fault. Sadly, condensing 12 episodes of story and character development into one movie isn’t the wisest of moves.


Equinox

Season 1

TV/ Apple Tree Productions
Where to watch: Netflix

Based on an acclaimed podcast, this Danish series uses Scandanavian folklore to propel a captivating mystery and investigate philosophical conundrums such as determinism vs. free will, alongside the toll of grief and loss. A decent binge that is impeded by a rushed climax and occasional leaps in plot logic.


Shadow in the Cloud

Film/ Automatik/Four Knights
Where to watch: Local cinemas

Centering on a WWII pilot (played by Chloe Grace Moretz) who fights off gremlins on her B-17 Flying Fortress, this indie sci-fi could have been a fun adventure. Instead, it devolves into something excruciatingly stupid.


Outside the Wire

Film/ Automatik/42 Films
Where to watch: Netflix

This Training Day-meets-Terminator hybrid is a flat, dour, snoozefest.


We Only Find Them When They’re Dead

Comics/ Boom! Studios
Where to buy: Local bookstores

Al Ewing’s gorgeous, cosmic series is one of the best new indie comic books out right now. Set in a future when Earth’s resources have depleted, this tale of poor miners who strip the corpses of giant space gods to survive is fun and propulsive.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin

Comics/ IDW Publishing
Where to buy: Local bookstores

Kevin Eastman’s climax to the TMNT series jumps to a post-apocalyptic future where only one Ninja Turtle has survived (his identity is a mystery). Seeking vengeance for his murdered brothers, The Last Ronin returns TMNT to its dark and gritty comic book roots for its heartbreaking final story.

Genre Equality podcast Singapore Community Radio
Photo credit Disney

The duo behind Genre Equality puts out a monthly review of the best and worst each month — whether if it’s a new series on Netflix to binge, a film to catch in cinemas (if you use TraceTogether, that is), or a book to simply plug out from the outside noise.

While you can listen in to their latest episode for a full breakdown of their verdicts, scroll down to dig into what they’ve loved (and disliked) from 2020’s last gasp.



The Mandalorian

Season 2

TV/ Disney
Where to watch: Disney+ (coming to Singapore Feb 23)

Season 2 of The Mandalorian was an exciting, emotional triumph! Economical episodic storytelling made it a breeze for casuals, while us hardcores freaked out over how the show organically weaved elements of Dave Filoni’s animated series, the expanded universe books, and video games into its plot.


Wonder Woman 1984

Film/ Warner Bros. Pictures
Where to watch: Local cinemas

While we appreciated the film’s powerful message and brightly optimistic tone, they barely redeemed this overlong sequel’s many flaws — namely its nonsensical internal logic, horrendous pacing, and cheaply earned character beats.

Soul

Film/ Disney/Pixar
Where to watch: Local cinemas

Pixar hits it out of the park again! Featuring the studio’s first Black protagonist, this poignant exploration of jazz music and the afterlife tackles weighty existential questions about mortality and the meaning of life, while still offering lots of broad comedy for kids.


Wolfwalkers

Film/ Cartoon Saloon
Where to watch: Apple TV+

‌Easily the most dazzling animated film of 2020. This underseen gem from Ireland’s Cartoon Saloon impressed us with its intricate and lush hand-drawn visuals alongside its potent themes of empowerment, anti-colonialism, and environmentalism — which reminded us a lot of Studio Ghibli’s canon.


Big Mouth

Season 4

TV/ Titmouse, Inc.
Where to watch: Netflix

From Missy’s identity crisis as a biracial girl (which elegantly leads to Jenny Slate being recast with Ayo Edeberi) to episodes hilariously tackling gender transition therapy, handjobs and tampons – season 4 of Big Mouth continues to mix obscene humour with genuine insight into the confusion of adolescence.


Hilda

Season 2

TV/ Silvergate Media/Mercury Filmworks
Where to watch: Netflix

Season 2 of Hilda remains one of the most charming, wondrous and magical children’s animated shows on Netflix. Its blend of Nordic folklore adventure and warm family dynamics between the free-spirited Hilda and her worried mom makes this one of our favourites.


The Midnight Sky

Film/ Smokehouse Pictures
Where to watch: Netflix

George Clooney’s bleak post-apocalyptic thriller tries to evoke the melancholy, thoughtfulness, and introspection of films like Gravity or Ad Astra. Unfortunately, it lacks the dramatic heft to pull it off. A worthwhile effort that’s watchable but ultimately forgettable.


Archenemy

Film/ SpectreVision
Where to watch: Amazon (VPN required)

This isn’t the best entry to the “grimdark deconstruction of superheroes” trend, but its raw energy, colourful palette, and Joe Manganiello’s lead performance makes this a fun if middling action-adventure.


The Walking Dead: World Beyond

TV/ AMC
Where to watch: Amazon Prime

The Wa‌lking Dead franchise continues to milk its undead premise for all its worth with a 3rd spinoff. World Beyond focuses on the kids who grew up during the zombie apocalypse, but it fails to add anything interesting to the franchise while continuing to bore us with contrived cliches.


Alice in Borderland

TV/ Robot Communications Inc.
Where to watch: Netflix

Finally, anime to live-action that works! ‌While it still pales in comparison to its source material, Alice in Borderland manages to engage with breakneck pacing, exciting survival challenges, and striking imagery of an empty Tokyo.


Detention

TV/ Outland Film Production
Where to watch: Netflix

This Taiwanese supernatural horror movie is a failure on nearly every level. It fails to use its “White Terror” period setting to craft any meaningful allegory, it fails to develop investment in character and, worst of all, it fails to be scary.


Monster Hunter

Film/Sony Pictures
Where to watch: Local cinemas

The king crappy video game adaptations, Paul W.S. Anderson, returns for another crappy video game adaptation. Due to a racist controversy over a distasteful joke, Monster Hunter was banned in China, but that’s the least of the film’s multitude of problems.


Piranesi

Susanna Clarke

Book/Bloomsbury Publishing
Where to buy: BooksActually, Littered with Books

After 16 years, Susanna Clarke’s long-awaited sophomore novel proves that she remains one of the best fantasy authors living today. Though this isn’t the 800-page behemoth of her debut, this slim new story is just as weighty. Piranesi is a complex, challenging, and transcendent puzzle box of a novel that leads readers to profound rewards.

Photo credit Chong Lingying

Saying Out Loud is a new recurring column by Chong Lingying — a book publisher, editor, and writer — where she shares her unfiltered views on work, creativity, and the conversations happening around her in Singapore.

She manages Asiapac Books, an independent publishing house specializing in illustrated and comic books on Asian culture, history, philosophy, folktales, and life skills.

In her inaugural piece, Lingying talks about the misfortune 2020 brought upon to Singapore’s creative scenes and how it affected her own workplace.


It was going to be a great year. The best ever!

Asiapac Books had an exciting publication plan for 2020: a graphic novel retelling of Elizabeth Choy’s World War II story, a Southeast Asian superhero saga, an illustrated book on the goddess Mazu, and more. A fan-backed collector’s edition of Return of the Condor Heroes was on the way.

As is the norm in book publishing, we had scheduled the new releases a year in advance, not including the years of development that each creation required.

Beyond our own publications, my team and I were starting work on Comix.sg, a new platform for Singapore comics. I had scheduled trips overseas to promote the new titles at book fairs and comic conventions. There was so much to do and so much to talk about!

And it was the last year of my twenties! I wanted to fall in love, write my first novel, publish a volume of poems, and do a painting show.

What happened? Everything was postponed, or cancelled, or downsized.


Comic artwork by Wee Tian Beng from the upcoming collector’s edition boxset of Return of the Condor Heroes. Buy it here.


The hardest thing was losing all expectations of perfection. You might think that with a great idea and great plan you’re at least somewhat likely to succeed. But none of that matters when you can’t see what’s coming. All you can really do is execute, fail, learn, and move on. Don’t forget to lubricate the painful process with copious glasses of wine, sake, beer or whatever you have in the fridge.

Bookstores were closed at one point, which was downright terrifying. If it could be done online, we did it online. We had already cancelled all new book projects. Then we let go of the warehouse and downsized our office.

Even during the Christmas season, I could see that the industry was still hurting. Bookstores are dependent on tourist dollars and lose out to international players online. I don’t think any of them are on the way back to recovery yet. Publishers have been running on the bare minimum, knowing that the little demand we have now could disappear overnight.

The small Asiapac Books team knuckled down to get through the first few months with Zoom calls, live-streaming, Facebook ads, and all that jazz.

My colleagues and I didn’t talk much about it, but as we sat one metre apart from each other there was a shared realism about the state of the company, the industry, and the economy. The company simply couldn’t take care of us. We’d have to find our own way out of the hole.

At the end of the office move, the company had one full-time employee left: me.


The messy remains after Asiapac Books’ move from their former warehouse and office.


I wish that I could say something good. I wish that I could reflect some positivity back on the smiling faces, wholesome thoughts, and balanced ruminations in my friends’ social media updates. They’re comforting, inspiring, even if a little grating on the nerves.

Wasn’t it a hellishly painful year? Wasn’t it exhausting? Reaching and grabbing non-stop for months, asking for help, frantically filling up forms? How quickly one realizes that there’s no end to it. It’s not a matter of managing risk when the uncertainty is this extreme. There’ll never be enough client work to pay the bills.

Government grants and subsidies, even loans — for most of the time, it’s less than what we asked for and with strings attached. What can we do? There aren’t many choices if you want to survive.

So, to be honest, I’m struggling. My publishing house is struggling. The book industry is struggling. The whole creative and arts scene in Singapore is struggling.

Things have been scary, but soon they’ll be just plain bad. All of the help we have had over the past few months has shown us one thing: it’s still not enough.

So what do I have for you today? A moment of catharsis, if anything.

2020, what the fuck was that?

Let’s forget about 2020 and everything else that came before it. It’s up to us to support and keep each other alive. If you’re still here, it’s because you chose to survive. Find your energy and confidence and hang on tight. Nobody will give you the power to go on. You’ll have to make it for yourself.

For 2021 and beyond, there are no rules in the game, only what you can get out of it.


Follow Asiapac Books on Facebook and Instagram.

Squelch Zines interview Singapore Community Radio
Photo credit Squelch Zines

The tradition of making and publishing zines spans decades. But even in our overwhelmingly digital, post-social media age, the zine remains an expressive medium for anyone looking to tell their own stories. Whether if it’s about punk music, film photography, obscure comics, or poetry, the art of zinemaking is resolutely DIY and accessible.

Squelch Zines was put together as a platform to showcase zines of different stripes, shapes, and interests in Singapore. Formed by enthusiasts Nicholas Loke and Janice Chua in 2013, Squelch now exists as a collective within the country’s niche and blossoming zine community.

Their Instagram page features titles from their vast repository of zines, and their ongoing show on SGCR — Squelch Zinecast, hosted by Janice — leans closer into the topics and spaces that these publications emerge from.

Get to know more about Squelch Zines through the words of Janice, who also shares a list of favourites that experiment with the medium itself.


How did Squelch Zines first come to be?

Squelch Zines was started back when Nicholas and I were still in Lasalle. We wanted to do something out of our curriculum, so we started Squelch Zines. It only started to become a zine platform after our first Singapore Art Book Fair in 2013.

Since then, Squelch Zines have evolved its platform into a library, as we see it more fitting for the local community.

Since its formation, how has the platform developed and grown into what it is now?

It first started as a project for ourselves. Since the art fair that year, we decided to use our space for people to sell their zines, which led us to have Zha Zhi Dian, which became our Squelch Zine Shop. It was short-lived as logistics and accounts got to more than we can handle.

Since then, we focused on our workshops (Zine Jams) so that more people can get exposed to the making of zines. As our collection of zines grew, we decided to turn it into a library to share with people.

Listen to the latest episode of Squelch Zinecast,
where Janice speaks with Joy Ho of Queer Zinefest,
an annual gathering of queer zine-makers from Singapore.

What draws you to zines?

The versatility of the medium and its history.

What do you look for in a zine?

Personally, I look for content that’s more controversial — something that mainstream media does not cover as much.

Otherwise, cultural stories are something I enjoy as well. I get intrigued by some of the interesting ways zinesters make their zines, where it isn’t just stories but also interaction. It’s a whole experience!

Could you share some examples of zines that take a unique approach with presentation and content?

Baby Driver
by @donutpie_mi

These are zines that explore layout and presentation — how different materials and treatments are applied, to the way content is laid out even when taken off the Internet, provided insight for me. (The photo I took of this is accompanied by another Baby Driver fanzine by Zinema)

A FriendZine
by Superandom Zine, Alif Seah @fueledbypotato

It’s a compilation of film photos of Alif’s friends, but he decided to lay them out in a uniquely shaped book that’s fit to be rolled up and stored in a regular film roll container. It’s such a cute and smart way to present a photography zine.

Letters in Arial
by Beverly Ng, @madebybeverly

Letters in Arial comprises of scanned images of envelopes, but the letter contents are neatly patched together like a collage. The little design embellishments, like the barcodes on top, add a nice relation to the experience of receiving letters. The cover piece was the fun part: it’s a little word search game on its own!

10 things you should do after you died
by Benyatip Sittiwej, @paundz

The make of the zine is nothing like a traditional zine — this one toys with the folds and layout of the paper. Benyatip uses a paper fastener as the binding tool choice. Another fun bit is that there is a page with a transparent sticker — a detachable line illustration of a ghost for you to use.

Instructions for Instructions
by Atelier HOKO, @atelierhoko

Is it still a zine? Is it just a folder of postcards? I don’t really know. But I do know it is a form of documentation and the whole content has a message to it. Atelier HOKO’s works are always something in a form of documentation.

The cover folder gives “instructions” to follow instructions. Take a postcard and you will get an instruction to do something.

There are a total of 60 postcards: each one instructs you to perform an activity in the comfort of your own home, and then to record the encounters down on the flipside of the postcard.

How would new readers find zines? Especially ones that would cater to their interests.

With the internet so available with information, we can just search with keywords! I always search for the kind of content I want and end it with a “zine”, eg. “queer” + “zine”.

Another way is to go to Instagram and search using hashtags. There are many accounts of different zine groups and initiatives post their zines and submissions! Activist zine groups are even easier to find there.

I also find artists and zines through zine fests.

Some of my go-to zine sites are:

Printed Matter
They are an online catalog — they have one of the most comprehensive databases.

Nieves
One of the oldest and most established platforms I know of. They have an online shop that sells a wide catalogue of zines.

Five O’Clock Zine
If you’re looking for a zine to get but want to know more about it, this dude here publishes zine reviews. He also has a podcast!

Broken Pencil
This is another platform that I’ve been checking out recently. They have reviews on their website and information on zine fests, with handy descriptions of each event.


Squelch Zinecast will be back with a new episode on SGCR later this January. Follow Squelch Zines on Instagram.

Photo credit Tiffany Ho

Chances are you won’t find a bigger advocate for Taiwanese indie music in Singapore than Tiffany Ho.

The effusive fangirl helms High Tide 開台, our monthly show on all things Taiwan indie — from its consistent output of accomplished albums to its staple music festivals.

The last episode of the show saw Ho and her guests relieve their memories spent at Wake Up Festival last year, an event billed as “the biggest summer music festival in Taiwan”. For these music junkies, recording the episode was simply filling in the void of the lack of travel this year.

 

But the conversational elements and laid-back nature that tie the show together, along with Ho’s extensive knowledge, is what makes High Tide 開台 a fun peek into its scene. Less music history, more music conversations that would last till 3am (if not for our programming restrictions).

Bands such as Sunset Rollercoaster, Elephant Gym, and No Party for Cao Dong are some of the successful crossover examples from the country, each gaining fanbases around the world. But ask Ho, and she’ll immediately dig out at least ten more acts worth a listen.

“I could count on one hand the number of people I know who listen to Taiwanese indie and I really, really want to be proven wrong,” she says, “that there‘s actually a lot more people who like the music than I’m personally aware of. I just haven’t met them yet.”

Read on to find out more about the host of High Tide 開台 on her fascination with Taiwan (and feel free to reach out if you’re part of the people Ho doesn’t know yet!)


When did your love for Taiwan and its music start?

Since it’s US election season this week, we can trace everything back to Trump.

As Singaporeans, our media diet is dominated by the West. Back in 2017, when Donald Trump was newly elected as president, the entire western world was going through a collective mental breakdown — every headline was a reaction to what Trump did and it got really overwhelming overtime.

I was looking for an alternative to this madness and that’s when I stumbled into the Taiwanese indie renaissance.

It started on a drowsy weekday afternoon — Spotify was blocked on my office computer and I was secretly looking for music on YouTube.

God knows how YouTube algorithms work, but Sunset Rollercoaster’s ‘My Jinji’ started playing in the background and that brought me down the rabbit hole of Taiwanese indie gold.



My love for Taiwan kicked into full gear during one particular trip to Taipei in 2018.

It was a short three nights, but my friends and I were so well taken care of by our friends from a local production company.

One of them couldn’t make it for dinner because he had to get some drinks going with some triad bosses to convince them to make an investment in a film they’re producing.

It felt like a plot straight out of the movies, but it was nothing more than a regular, even common business practice in Taiwan. I was so intrigued — like I found a secret basement into the mechanics of how Taiwan functions.

After reading more into Taiwan’s history, it made me realize that there’s a whole different layer to Taiwan that I didn’t know about. I never knew that Taiwan is actually an extremely young democracy — that it was ruled under martial law for a period of 30 years and it’s first presidential election was held only in 1996.

Since then, Taiwan has been the main exporter of cultural soft power until China’s recent emergence. What was the catalyst for Taiwan’s vibrant cultural landscape? Could Singapore do the same?

We’ve barely scratched beneath the surface of Jay Chou, bubble tea and the old-dated variety shows that we grew up watching. The cultural anthropologist in me has been hooked ever since.

How do you usually look for new music?

I think about this question a lot. With social media, YouTube and Spotify, the discovery process is a lot more convenient — but I do miss how deliberate looking for music used to be.

Online, Streetvoice is probably one the best platforms to discover new music from Taiwan — think Bandcamp but Taiwanese.

There is a recent trend of shows online that are more music-centric — my favourite is Shot Gun, a weekly 90-minute programme on YouTube hosted by the lead guitarists of Wayne’s So Sad and Bisiugroup.

[The video below contains content in Mandarin with no English subtitles.]

The show is filled with industry gossip and insider jokes about the indie scene. They have a dedicated segment where they make recommendations of the latest releases — often from bands who are their friends.

The set-up might seem overly casual and nonchalant but you’ll be surprised by how informative it can be. I learnt so much about the music industry business just by watching that show.

Offline, nothing beats walking into a record store and keeping your ears peeled to whatever playing in the background.

Plus, music festivals will always be the best way to be exposed to new bands. Can’t go for one? Here’s a cheat code: look for the line-up and start listening to every band on the list. Works for any kind of music.



Your episodes for High Tide features friends who share your enthusiasm. Did this mutual appreciation grow over the years? Who was responsible for turning the other onto new music?

I have to thank Instagram stories for this.

If a friend is posting about Taiwan/Japan too often, you could probably guess that they might be into Chinese indie, but nothing confirms it until they start sharing a track from one of the bands you know.

It’s almost the equivalent of seeing someone wear a band tee or carrying a gig tote bag — the low key signalling of “I really hope someone out there knows, and if you know, you know.” Knowing how small the circle could be, my friends and I would slide new releases and good tunes into each other’s DMs regularly.

I could count on one hand the number of people I know who listen to Taiwanese indie and I really, really want to be proven wrong — that there‘s actually a lot more people who like the music than I’m personally aware of. I just haven’t met them yet.

I like to think that the ultimate goal of High Tide 開台 is to bring everyone who shares that same enthusiasm together.

High Tide started off with a primer for Taiwanese indie music. For those unaware, explain what has been the most exciting thing about its scene over these past few years.

For one, the generation handover from Mayday to No Party for Caodong, when the new band beat the old guard to the Best Band award at the Golden Melody Awards, the Emmys equivalent of the Mandarin-speaking world. If there was any indication that a new generation has arrived, this had to be it.

Another is the stronger crossover between mediums.

Along with music, we see an entire new generation of filmmakers, content creators, and bands collaborating together.

There are many outstanding pieces of storytelling in music videos – I highly recommend the music video for deca join’s 海浪, the works of 郭佩萱 Pei-Hsuan Guo, Jung-Kuan Chen a.k.a 陳容寬, and Spacebar productions.

You’ve made a playlist for some of your favourites. If you could list five modern Taiwanese indie albums people should check out, what are they?

Selecting these albums was a lot tougher than I thought! There are so many good albums that represent the many different facades of culture.

These five were picked ultimately for being each genre’s best, their rootedness in the Taiwanese culture, the way they‘ve blended influences to create a soundscape unique to them, and their potential in appealing to audiences worldwide.

Shallow Levée – The Village

Sunset Rollercoaster – Cassa Nova

拍謝少年(Sorry Youth) – Brothers Shouldn’t Live Without Dreams

Soft Lipa – Homely Music

Soft Lipa has made Homely Music available for digital purchase only. Preview the album here.

Prairie WWWW – Pán

What can we expect for future episodes?

As a long-time closet listener of hip-hop, I’m really excited to do a proper introduction of Taiwanese-hip hop. That should be happening pretty soon! (fingers crossed)


The next episode ofHigh Tide 開台 is scheduled to air on November 17th.