There is a massive revamp for this year’s Star Awards, and they have drawn much debate. Perhaps rightfully so. Here are some key changes:
‘Best Evergreen Artiste Award’ – New
‘Best Programme Host’ – 2 combined into 1
Top 10 Most Popular – Female in Show 1; Male in Show 2
Backstage Awards – Moved backstage
The ‘evergreen’ award for long-serving artistes may be well-intended, given how they often lose out on roles and votings. But it does imply that they are no longer good enough for ‘Best Supporting Actor/Actress’. [Edit: Another interpretation is that seniors seldom get meaty enough roles to merit nominations.] The amalgamation of hosting categories is reasoned by their increasingly blurred distinctions, but that’s ridiculous because there are still 3 awards for variety and info-ed programmes. This is just short-changing hosts, a year after the newscasters. And in yet another reversal, backstage awards go backstage. All these suggest that entertainment values now clearly override recognition in itself.
On the bright side, the Rocket Award remains, and it remains the most inclusive award not swayed by popularity, but critical recognition: “in honour of a MediaCorp artiste who have made most improvement in the performance of his/her respective field of profession for the past year” (Wikipedia). Last year I backed Shaun Chen with the caveat of Best Actor complications, but he ended up winning both! It was the second year running that a mid-career artiste is recognized. Could this year make three?
To restate what I noted last year, the Rocket Award is given in recognition of a single performance, rather than the aggregate of a year’s work. With that in mind, here is my list of contenders:
1. Julie Tan 陈欣淇
Role: 董子怀 in The Dream Makers II 志在四方II
This is the 3rd year running I’m bringing up Julie, and it’s her best chance yet. Her turn as main antagonist 董子怀 in a stellar cast was downright repulsive. I was quite annoyed at how often we see her sly smirks in the meta-narrative (the real “actor” in a storyworld of actors and actresses, portrayed by real actors and actresses). Perhaps there could be more symbolic stage directions than constant close-ups. Perhaps a more experienced actress – Jeanette Aw, maybe – would be more understated at certain moments to demonstrate true craftiness. Nonetheless, Julie’s first ‘bad’ role was memorable, and in this list, is set apart by being the only truly dramatic one. If not Rocket-worthy, then surely Best Supporting Actress-worthy.
2. Ya Hui 雅慧
Role: 洪金枝 in 118
Having taken on not one, but two ‘fat’ roles, Ya Hui finally gets a breakthrough role as the standout character in a long-running 30min/episode drama. The best part is doing so with a presumably ordinary, plain Jane character. This demands nuance, and as the eldest of siblings with a love triangle complicated by memory loss (admittedly cliché, but well-fleshed-out within its longform medium), she is deservingly nominated for Best Actress. That appears out of her reach though, considering the trio from The Dream Makers II (I’m backing Jeanette again for nuanced portrayal in an easily over-the-top role, though Zoe Tay was great too). Though the past winners all had dramatic roles, I think the Rocket Award is best-placed to recognize roles and performances which are not instantly eye-catching. For that I’m rooting for Ya Hui.
Role: 刘媚媚 in 118
Acting as Ya Hui’s mother in 118, the difficulty here also lies in characterization. She plays a character prone to mood swings, and rather than fall back on flat stereotypes, Lingling made me pause on multiple occasions. The longform of the drama allows for protracted disjunctures, and in 刘媚媚 I found a more believable character than most we get to see on our screens. Lingling merits consideration for presenting a character who is not inherently likeable or unlikeable, but consistently in between. It’s reflected in how she regards her daughter 洪金枝 (selfish, selfless, self-reproaching) and the converse (puzzled, yet unwaveringly filial). It just feels very real. Thing is, Mediacorp seems to be going ‘youth’ this year.
4. Darren Lim 林明伦
Role: 罗大卫 in Crescendo 起飞
罗大卫 is the mediator among 3 buddies and a hopelessly devoted romantic to a school crush. As the Wawa drama meanders a bit in predictability, his character provided the shocking twist, before the plot winds down to a bittersweet conclusion. Crescendo had a stellar cast as well, and while I’m backing Christopher Lee full-on for Best Actor – for a full palate of drama and subtlety, impulse and introspection – Darren also did great as the underdog, overlooked but immeasurably important. A fitting role then, since the actor often resides in the boundary between lead and supporting actor. He’s always quite good, but in 大卫 I finally felt a connection to his character, and so he deserves mention.
Sora Ma 马艺瑄
Role: 何心莹 in Hand in Hand 手牵手
She showed off her comedic chops in full force here, which is totally refreshing given her run of quirky, questionable characters, most recently in 118 (though the image was repaired by the end). It was over-the-top, yet not over-the-top given the unabashed innocence of her character. But she was rather peripheral to the plot, and comedy isn’t ideal for such recognition (Auntie Lucy lost out in the first instalment too).
Ian Fang 方伟杰
Role: 陈浩威 in Tiger Mum 虎妈来了
Another artiste who has broken out of typical molds, his turn as a shy and abused office worker is rewarded with a Best Supporting Actor nomination. On the downside, as Elvin Ng and Romeo Tan have done before him, he floundered at playing a ‘bad’ role in The Journey: Our Homeland, and that will certainly scupper his chances.
Sheila Sim 沈惠怡
Role: 洪姗姗 in 118
Her turn as a messy and uncouth lady flies in the face of our usual entertainment expectations. There are such characters elsewhere, but they are usually “repaired” to exude beauty. While 姗姗 did get her model catwalk eventually, her image subsequently endures. The interactions with 粽子娘 (Chen Hanwei) were real funny. Again though, comedy isn’t ideal for such recognition, but maybe Rebecca Lim’s Best Actress win last year is no anomaly?
Chen Tianwen 陈天文
~ Un-un-un-un-unbelievable, that’s what you are ~
Images courtesy of Mediacorp and Google Images.