Opinion| Stuff you’ll be glad you watched before 2019 runs out
Being in the entertainment business, watching television or movies often seems like work to me. I have, therefore, developed my own classification system for films and shows. One, the titles that friends are watching and I would like to discuss with them. Two, titles that seem to have an interesting main character. Three, titles based on real-life events that have my attention. This slotting of films and TV shows may seem arbitrary, but it has helped me successfully schedule my viewing priorities. Here is a selection of a few released over the year that I would recommend for a 2019-end catch-up spree, though not in any particular order.
Back in 2015, the 1MDB scandal in Malaysia rocked banks and financial advisory businesses from Singapore to New York. Its fallout was not just limited to cocktail party murmurs about overzealous transaction compliance norms, it underlay a “never before” political event in Malaysia. Naturally, when a documentary on the scam’s central characters, The Kleptocrats, was announced in November 2018, I was waiting to catch it. I only managed to do so a couple of months ago. Like other such fare, it’s a reminder of how thin the lines between legal banking transactions and major financial frauds are.
While on frauds, one that blew up like a supernova involved the Silicon Valley health tech company, Theranos. The story of this company, its founder Elizabeth Holmes, and its loop from nothing to $10 billion in valuation and back is a superb case study of a private equity bubble, inflated by the herd mentality of tech investors and talk edging out evidence. Much of it is beautifully captured in the HBO film, The Inventor: Out For Blood In Silicon Valley. Had it not been inspired by real life events, it would still be a thriller. I sat up watching it late into the night before I wrote this.
Like a lot of other people, to me, one of the most inspiring people in this world is Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates, on whom I have read almost all the worthy books available. A teenage geek who creates one of the world’s most influential companies, becomes one of the greatest philanthropists in history, and yet lives a life of relative simplicity is compelling enough as a story. However, whether or not you are a fan of his, the four-part Netflix series Inside Bill’s Brain is a must-watch. The series offers a peek into the unique problem-solving capabilities of the man and also the discipline with which he goes about doing it. There is so much to learn from Gates and the series is an education in itself.
It’s not always real-life stories that hold valuable lessons, however. Fiction does that too, and more often than we’re ready to accept. Why else do people inadvertently imitate behaviour they’ve seen on screen?
Of my two favourite fiction picks of the year, the first was debut director Chiwetel Ejiofor’s The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind. No prizes for guessing what the main character of the story would do for his village. While the film could perhaps have been better made, that doesn’t take anything away from the fact that its protagonist grapples with a subject matter that is as real to us in every major city of the world as it is in a small village in Malawi. The next one I recommend is Eric Khoo’s Ramen Shop. Really well made, the film tells the story of young man trying to find his roots in a different country. I can assure you that no matter what I write, my words cannot do adequate justice to the film.
What is common, though, about both films is the passion in the main characters. If you are an entrepreneur or hope to become one someday in the future, don’t forget to imbibe good stories about passionate people every now and then. Both those works of fiction deliver on that aspect.
Finally, I never forget why I originally started watching movies and TV—for some good, old-fashioned entertainment.
Earlier this month, my son and I bought a light saber at the Singapore Comicon. For the next couple of hours, we took turns to swing it around at pretend outer-rim galactic scum. Yes, you guessed right. I am a major Star Wars fan. Do not believe reviews. Just go watch Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker. Till then, don’t forget to temporarily sever ties with friends who’ve demonstrated a habit of leaking spoilers. This one has an end you will be glad to have seen.
Last but not least, my favourite go-to genre on TV is comedy. Here, I prefer the outrageous variety more than others. So, titles such as Curb Your Enthusiasm have been my staple for repeat viewing. One that I would’ve gone great lengths not miss in 2019 was The Grand Tour: Seamen. Host-in-chief Jeremy Clarkson and his buddies are put through a crazy adventure that literally swerves the host trio of brave motorists off their comfort track. If you haven’t yet, go back and watch some of this show’s previous seasons too. They are all stand-alone episodes and need not be watched in any sequence whatsoever. If you want a sample, you may want to try my favourite in that series. It is Season 1, Episode 12, [Censored] To [Censored].