If I ask someone their opinion on local films, I get 3 answers:
1. “Jack Neo!”
2. “They suck”
3. “Ah Boys To Men!” (which is also under Jack Neo but ever since his affair we’ve been slightly cautious about putting his name to films)
This is an extremely sad list, because Ah Boys To Men is a complete RIP OFF of Army Daze minus the quality. That film and the fact that it is what people think about when they hear “Singaporean Cinema” is a complete bastardisation of something that has alot of beauty and potential in it. It’s like saying Singapore is represented by the fun pack song.
However, I do understand why people think so. I, for one, don’t believe that Singapore is lacking the potential or talent to create a vibrant art scene. However, many people don’t see it that way, because many of the shows out there on local TV are pretty bad (i.e the final one). And since TV is the mode of the masses when it comes to “local made” entertainment, it forms a bad impression of the Singapore arts scene in the majority of Singaporeans if the shows are shit.
But no, I’ve found out that Singapore actually does have some pretty good movies out there. It’s sad to see that they’re so underground, but I feel that with time and the right development we could take this industry alot further. Anyway, here are some pretty good movies I’ve seen on the local screen before and some of the critically acclaimed ones which I haven’t watched yet.
1) Chicken Rice War
About: It is based on the Shakespearean story of Romeo and Juliet, except that the houses are culinary rivals in the chicken rice industry. Pretty funny + Pierre Png was really cute here. The camera work is unique but works very well with the movie, and the acting is pretty good.
2) Army Daze
About: Very similar to Ah Boys To Men except 1) Alot funnier 2) Better Acting 3) Better Directing 4) Better Script 5) Better Cinematography 6) Better Character Development 7) Came before Ah Boys To Men 8) No cheesy bad lame gay retarded screwed up CGI scenes. How can anyone not love Sheikh Haikel? Plus Ah Boys To Men was so freaking anti-climatic and didn’t laugh at all (pure NS propoganda).
THIS IS THE ORIGINAL
Sadly the full movie is not on YouTube, but here are a bunch of videos so whatever.
3) Home Run
About: Does anyone not remember this Chinese film? One of Jack Neo’s non-comedic films, it’s about the siblings who have to share a pair of shoes cause they are too poor (they end up doing things like missing school often because of this). Its actually a remake of an Iranian film but it’s so well done and wonderfully adapted to fit local Singaporean culture. It’s also set during the separation of Singapore and Malaysia so expect tons of political references. Last time I watched this movie was when I was really young, so my judgement may be off. I’m really sorry if it sucks.
4) I Not Stupid
About: How do you not know this movie? A funny socially commentary on Singaporeans and their “kiasuness” towards PSLE.
5) 12 Storeys
About: Many different characters and the hardships they face in everyday life (they all live in the same block of HDB Flats). Haven’t watched this one yet, but apparently it was the first ever Singaporean film to be screened at the Cannes Film Festival. Must be something worth watching.
(this movie is too old for them to have a trailer, in this case 1997)
6) Mee Pok Man
About: A late night hawker who sells Mee Pok meets a prostitute and he falls in love with her. Haven’t watched this either but looks interesting!
7) Singapore Dreaming
About: Remember watching this when I was 9! That dude always appears on the local screen. Basically about the stereotypical average Singaporean family.
About: Watched a bit of it at one of those rental shops where they play a snippet of a movie outside. Really wanted to watch it ever since but never found the DVD. It’s about a kid who’s gonna go into NS who lives with his grandparents after his father died many years ago. It seems like a coming of age/discovery kind of film because there’s an 18 year old boy+ grandparents+ a girl in it. It’s another film that was selected to be screened at the Cannes Film Festival so I do want to watch it.
9) The Teenage Textbook
About: The average “Singaporean girl societal pressure story”. Heard it’s decent but oh well if your bored here’s some free and easy entertainment.
10) Sweet Dreams And Turtle Soup
About: Like the above film except the other way around. A story about this girl who wants to mug, study and do well for her O’Levels, but is faced with disapproval from her mother who wants her to work at the hawker stall selling turtle soup after her dad died. Pretty heartwarming and I remember watching this movie wayyy back on Channel 5.
11) 15: The Movie
About: Actually this film is banned in Singapore (watched it on YouTube for ARC Censorship OP). It was pretty okay and was shown at the Cannes Film Festival. The onscreen depiction of violence and immorality is quite disturbing at some points, and sometimes I questioned the artistic merit of certain scenes (box cutter anyone?). However, it is a deeply powerful and intense film with a social message that is strong and clear. Not really fit for younger audiences or people who think that “The Hunger Games” is very bloody and violent.
Anyway, this isn’t really a foolproof list because I haven’t watched half of the films here. Hopefully someone will learn what these films did well and build on them. I’m all for starting a Singaporean Movie Revolution so if there’s anyone out there who’s good with a camera I support you 100%.
If any of you are interested, the arts house is screening three of the above movies for free at the end of this month and next month (Chicken Rice War, Sweet Dreams and Turtle Soup, Mee Pok Man) so if any of ya’ll are interested do go watch the films.