3.31.2008

donnie yen talks about flash point


Rotten Tomatoes has a pretty decent interview with Hong Kong action star Donnie Yen, whose movie Flash Point recently hit U.S. theaters in limited release: Ten Questions with Flash Point Star Donnie Yen. I haven't seen it, but it supposed to have some rather brilliant action choregraphy—one of Donnie's trademarks. This one, however, apparently has more of a MMA flavor.

If you're not familiar with Donnie Yen's work, check out his fight scenes with Jet Li in Once Upon a Time in China II and Hero. Also check out his work more recently in the very badass S.P.L. (most unfortunately re-titled Kill Zone in the US). I thought his character in Flash Point, Seargeant Ma, is the same dude he played in S.P.L., but it turns it's a totally different character. Anyway, the U.S. version of Flash Point hits DVD on April 22.

purse snatchers targeting asian women in san jose

Lately, we seem to be hearing about quite a few rashes of crimes targeting Asian women. The latest news comes from San Jose, where police are trying to stop packs of purse-snatchers who are going after Asian women walking through parking lots: 'Rippers' Target Young Women In South Bay Parking Lots. They've released surveillance video that shows two of the so-called "rippers" in action. In one of the videos, a man walks behind a woman walking through a parking lot and grabs her purse. Another man walking in front of the woman appears to be a part of the scheme and runs ahead after the other snatches the woman's purse. Both men are seen running away in the same direction.

Again, why are these thieves specifically targeting Asian women? Currently, 13 of the 21 cases have reportedly been solved. Investigators have made four arrests so far but the robberies haven't stopped. There could actually be as many as three different groups of people running the scheme, but police are stopping short of calling the groups gangs. The only description they've got to work with is the thieves are young Latino males. Read the news story here, and watch the accompanying video. It's pretty crazy. Please, my Asian sisters, if you live and dwell in that area, stay vigilant and watch your back.

queens mom finds her abducted son in korea

Last week, a Queens mom whose 7-year-old son was abducted by her ex-husband last summer was reunited with him after locating him in South Korea: Queens mom finds her abducted 7-year-old son in South Korea. Tiffany Rubin arrived back safely in New York with her son Kobe on Wednesday night after "snatching" him back at a school near Seoul. Her ex-husband, Jeffrey Sako, a native of South Korea, had been battling Rubin over child custody, when he took him away to South Korea last August. Rubin was able to track him down again, thanks to the help of the American Association for Lost Children, a nonprofit group that finds missing kids.

This is a great story, and I'm glad to a mom was able to track down her abducted son. No mother should have to go through that. Props for her courage and resolve. But why does the news story make it sound like she smuggled him out of North Korea? Of course, I don't know the full details, but it seems odd that should would have to go to such great lengths, including smuggling the kid out of the school disguised with a wig, to make "a clean getaway." Did getting him back really require "an act of derring-do that would make James Bond proud"? Just seems rather dramatic.

q & a with planet b-boy director benson lee


The fantastic documentary Planet B-Boy is now playing in select theaters. It's a great film, a real crowd-pleaser, telling the story of international B-boy crews competing for the coveted title of champion at the Battle of Year. I can't recommend it enough. Read my review here. To learn more about the film, go here.

I recently got to chat with director Benson Lee about making the film, examining the culture and politics of b-boys, and hanging onto passion for your art. He had some pretty cool things to say. Check it:

Hey man, what's up?

Not much. Just getting ready for tonight's big premiere.

Were you in San Francisco over the weekend for the festival?

Yeah, man. Just got in from San Francisco this morning.

How did the screening of Planet B-Boy go over there?

Bananas, man. It was sold out. It was one of the first films to be sold out at the festival way in advance. I heard that people were trying to get tickets on Craigslist. And the reception was phenomenal, because we had lots of b-boys in the audience, and of course we had lots of Asians. So you couldn't have asked for a better screening. We actually had two screenings. One was for the public, and the other one was actually a special screening for three hundred high school students.

That's awesome.

Yeah, and that was amazing. They had six different high schools come to the festival to check out the film. You've got a lot progressive teachers these days, man—taking the kids to see hip hop documentaries on a Monday. So yeah, people are definitely warming up to hip hop, and realizing that there's a very serious, meaningful culture there. That makes me happy.

Where did the idea for Planet B-Boy come from? Did you start off wanting to make a doc on b-boying in general? Or did you specfically set out to do a documentary on Battle of the Year?

I definitely wanted to do something on B-boying in general. It's just an amazing urban dance. The original hip hop dance that everybody remembers but nobody knows that still exists. Of course, I didn't want to do a doc that was about the entire culture or history, because that actually had been done before in other documentaries. I just wanted to focus on one particular angle, which happened to be through the guidelines of this competition. We'd start out with this competition and the people who were involved in it, who were eventually going to meet and compete. So, that was my angle.

I feel like the film really has the eye of someone who's very familiar with b-boying and the culture. Do you have a background in breakdancing at all?

Well, it's funny, because I have a background in breakdancing, but not b-boying. And what I mean by that is, back in the eighties, I was one of those kids who saw those movies like Flashdance or Beat Street, and was completely mesmerized and compelled to take out a piece of cardboard and do my thing. You know? But I totally missed out on what actual "b-boying" was. It's a dance form that has its own foundation, that originated in the Bronx, and I didn't know anything about that. Because I wasn't in that community, and I didn't have access to that information. Nor did millions of kids around the world, for that matter, who saw it. But then the people who got really got into it eventually discovered that, yes, there really is a method to the madness, there is some rhyme to the reason, and this was an actual dance form. So, I got into the trend, and the trend was called breakdancing. But the real dance is called B-boying. So, just to clarify, no real b-boy or b-girl would use the term "breakdancing." They call it b-boying, b-girling, or breaking. And even though it's just a term, it's very important. In fact, it's a little politically incorrect, because it's kind of like calling an Inuit person an "Eskimo." It's just a label that was created by somebody else, but not the culture itself.

Wow. I feel like I just got schooled.

Well, you know what? It's important because a lot of people don't realize... I had actually done some interviews where people just said to me, like... I'd clarify some things, and they'd still use the terms "pop" and "lock"... You've heard that before, right? A lot of people think that's part of b-boying or breaking, but it's not. Popping and locking is actually like a whole other form of dancing that came from Northern California, even before hip hop came around. So poppers and lockers hate when people use that term in association with b-boying. And they have their own culture, their own dance... it's almost like saying that a ballerina has great jazz moves. It's a totally different dance form.

Really, the reason why breakdancing died in the eighties is that people completely exploited the whole culture, and never represented what I truly was. So this time around, we're hoping that people will want to know a little bit more. This documentary serves almost as that next step to say, look, this has its own history. It's part of the hip hop diaspora. It is one of the elements of hip hop. It played a major role in the eighties, but we really want to throw that away. It's about here and now and the future. It is an entire dance form, and the fact that it's survived this long is a testament to the fact that it is. And on top of that, there's so many people who practice it around the world. So what turns me on the most is when people actually say about the film, wow, I had no idea this was around. I had no idea about the effort these kids put into it. I had no ideas so many countries were involved. I had no idea hip hop had this side to it. That's truly our mission.

Going into shooting the film, what are some of the themes and ideas you wanted to explore? What are some of the themes you discovered that emerged during the course of making the film?

That's a really good question. When making a documenary, you don't really know what lies ahead. You have these general ideas. And for me, one thing that heavily impacted me was when Korea first entered the Battle of the Year in 2001. When new countries enter the Battle of the Year, they usually end up last or on the bottom of the rankings, because they don't have the experience. But Korea came in 2001, out of nowhere, and came in second. And everybody was like, what the hell, who are these Koreans, and where do they come from? When did they learn all this shit? They just brought this whole other power element to the game. And so for me, I was really fascinated by that. Because I mean, I am Korean American, but at the same time, I'm like, "What the hell?" too. Where do they come from... and why? And so I went to Korea and I met this Korean hip hop promoter Charlie Shin, from New York—you saw him in the film. He's one of the guys who has singlehandedly created a whole scene.

But what was really intriguing was that these guys got really d'ed for a lot of social and political reasons. Social because when hip hop first entered Korea, people were just like, "What the hell is this?" Korean society just didn't even know how to digest it. But the kids liked it right away, and they embraced it. They liked it because hip hop was originally created for the youth in the Bronx where they were pretty much ignored and dismissed, because A) they were poor, and B) they weren't well-educated, and C) they were disenfranchised, whatever. This was the voice of those people. Hip hop. And when it went to Korea, it spoke to the same people. People who weren't academically inclined, or socially well-off. These people embraced it, and it exploded. They found a way to express their angst, and express themselves. And when they did that, at that time, people were like, look, you're not walking that line you're supposed to walk, which is to go to a good school, get a good job... you guys are fucking losers. So you take that angst, and that label, and then you add it with the fact that you have to go to the army when you're 21... you're going to have some motherfuckin' explosive dancing. That's what I realized happened in Korea. And that's what I've learned though this film.

It's like, wow, taking something like street dance as profoundly impacted by environment, culture, politics, personal issues—all of that—and seeing that being transmitted and translated through the dance, to me, is beautiful. It's really touching and meaningful. You know, a lot of people will just see [b-boys] and see a bunch of running around on the street cleaning the floor. But I want them to see these people as people, and say, oh wow, there's something going on there. It's more than just these kids working here for you to give them a quarter or something. There's absolutely a deeper message that's coming out from that person's life through the dance. Ralizing all this, and being able to articulate it, that was amazing for me.

While the film definitely has a true appreciation for the international artistry of b-boying, a competition like this pitting nation against nation also sets up all sorts of drama around politics and national pride. How much would you say that aspect played into your framing of the Battle of the Year in the film? Especially between countries that have some serious negative history, i.e. Japan and South Korea?

You do see that politics does come out in dancing, especially between Japan and Korea. I mean, more so in Korea than Japan. The Koreans are much more nationalistic. The Japanese definitely feel it and understand it, but because of the fact that their history doesn't teach it to them, they don't really understand how deep this is. But at the same time, what's beautiful about hip hop is that you get to just channel it. You get to take it out on the dance floor, and you get to walk away and be like, look, it's all good. That's amazing, you know? Hip hop, through the context of dance, serves that role. You can take it out, and take, take, take, from it, and use it as a source of inspiration, and something to push and motivate you, or whatever. And you really take it out on the dance floor.

Because afterwards, they don't give a shit. Honestly, I always thought that it would be more antagonistic between them, but it's not. Honestly. They know what happened. But it's really like, they're young guys, they weren't directly affected, their parents might've been... but they're ready to move on. They're read to say, look, I don't care about that. It's between us as B-boys at the end of the day. It's beautiful in the respect. I mean, like in our film, who would've known that a racist French mother, through hip hop would learn that you can't judge people? And who would've known that B-boy Joe and his father would find some sort of platform where they could see eye-to-eye and find common ground? If it wasn't for this dance, I don't know if they would really connect that way.

To me, a huge part of the human narrative that comes across in the film are the relationships between two of the B-boys and their respective parents, particularly because it involves their struggle to gain acceptance and understanding from their families about their passion for B-boying. I think a lot of viewers, B-boys or otherwise, can relate to that dynamic in their own ways. Was that something that spoke to you as an artist?

Oh yeah, absolutely. Because children, regardless of where you're from, universally seek the approval of their parents. I mean, of course, that spoke to me because I didn't have it easy with my parents in terms of wanting to be a filmmaker. I mean, they were supportive... but, you know, that was really hard to explain. When you have parents who equate success with financial contexts, it's hard. Because in that sense, you're not successful at all, if you're an independent filmmaker, or a dancer, or a writer. I don't know, man. It's hard to explain to parents who've never been creative or never followed that path that I'm willing this risk. Well, it's not even a risk. It's like I have to do this. This is what I love. And it's hard for a lot of parents to understand that. I mean, I have friends who have parents who are writers, or artists, and they are still really hard on their kids. Because maybe it didn't work out for them, and they feel like it's not going to work out for their kids.

It's interesting. You know, like I had that screening the other day in San Francisco for the high school students, and told them, look, I made this for your parents. I want them to understand. Understand that hip hop is good for you, that expressing yourself is good for you. And there's something amazingly healthy about that, about a creative community of people, together. So yeah, that was very important to me.

Who are some of your creative influences?

First person that comes to mind is Gordon Parks. He's one of the first African American photographers who became a staff photographer for Life magazine. Spike Lee was huge for me. Ang Lee is huge. Kurosawa. All the usual suspects like Bergman, Fellini, Ozu. They had a profound impact on my life in terms of how they shaped my paradigm of cinema and the role of cinema.

What's next for you?

The feature adaptation of Planet B-Boy.

Oh really? I can totally see that.

Oh yeah. We're working with some pretty big producers right now. People are ready for something different than the usual urban dance fare about the ballerina-meeting-the-street-dancer bullshit. And then, I'm also working on other projects. One is called Seoul Searching, an old feature script of mine that's based on when I went to Korea on this government school program n 1986, and I met all these Korean guys from France, and Brazil, Germany. We were all roommates. It's a teen comedy coming-of-age film that's really close to me.

What makes you angry?

You know, that's a real good question. What makes me angry is people who are subconsciously racist, and not even aware of it. Basically, I'm a really proud angry Asian man, which is a lot like being an angry African American. The commonality being aspects of white culture, where people have certain subconscious impressions of minorities. It's not that I go out of my way to break the mold of being an Asian, but I go out of my way to very passionate and always stick to what I really believe in. That's the one thing that's really helped me to endure a lot of suffering in order to yield really good results. And so when you deal with people out there, you really have to stick to your guns, and you really have to believe in yourself and your ideas. And you've got to protect them. But it's not easy, and that's what ultimately makes me very angry... You've got to be angry to protect what's yours, man.

Thanks, Benson.

UPDATE: If you enjoyed Planet B-Boy, and really dug the movie's music, you can purchase and download the theme from Planet B-boy, "Live From Planet B-Boy" by Woody Pak & MC IAMISEE, right here.

3.30.2008

cung le is a badass


A lot of you out there are apparently MMA fans, because a got a truckload of emails from folks informing me that Cung Le is the new king of asskicking. On Saturday night, fighter Cung Le defeated Frank Shamrock and took the Strikeforce middleweight championship title, cementing himself as one of the fiercest mixed martial arts fighters in the world: Cung Le takes Shamrock's title.

Le won the fight by TKO, after his kicks broke Sharock's right arm and the physician in attendance stopped the fight at the end of the third round—at Sharock's request. Basically, Cung Le kicked his ass. It was apparently a pretty awesome fight, televised on Showtime and drawing a crowd of 16,326 at HP Pavilion. Both were considered San Jose's hometown heroes going into the fight... but Cung Le has come out on top.

no new chink's in south philly

An update on the Chink's Steaks situation... A few weeks back, we heard that the historic Philadelphia eatery, unfortunately named after a racial slur (the original owner apparently had "chinky" eyes that got him the nickname as a kid), would be opening an additional location in South Philly. It looks like this apparently won't be happening after all. I got the following message from Tsiwen Law, of OCA's Greater Philadelphia Chapter:
Due to lobbying by a new coaliton of community groups, the Philadelphia River Port Authority has informed Joseph Groh that he will not be able to lease the Columbus Blvd site in South Philadelphia. Mr. Groh had put up large signs announcing the imminent opening of his second Chink's Cheeseteak outlet this weekend. Wednesday March 26, 2008, the signs came down. In 2004, a barbershop named "Chinks" in Philadelphia agreed to change its name with assistance from local Asian American groups. The groups paid for the sign replacement and filing amendments in Harrisburg.
So no new Chink's in South Philly, thank goodness. The original location, however, still exists and will continue doing business as usual, racist name and all. I cannot comprehend how a business with a name like this can exist for so long... and no one gives a crap. The fight continues.

"killing fields" survivor dith pran dies

Dith Pran, the Cambodian-born journalist whose story of survival and escape from murderous Khmer Rouge revolutionaries in 1979 became the inspiration for the 1984 film The Killing Fields, died today of pancreatic cancer. He was 65: Killing Fields' survivor Dith Pran dies
Dith was working as an interpreter and assistant for Schanberg in Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital, when the Vietnam War reached its chaotic end in April 1975 and both countries were taken over by Communist forces.

Schanberg helped Dith's family get out but was forced to leave his friend behind after the capital fell; they were not reunited until Dith escaped four and a half years later. Eventually, Dith resettled in the United States and went to work as a photographer for the Times.

It was Dith himself who coined the term "killing fields" for the horrifying clusters of corpses and skeletal remains of victims he encountered on his desperate journey to freedom.
Dith's ordeal was chronicled in a 1980 magazine article, "The Death and Life of Dith Pran," which later became a book, and the basis for The Killing Fields. The film won three Academy Awards, including Best Supporting Actor for Haing S. Ngor, another Cambodian escapee from the Khmer Rouge, who played Dith Pran. Here's the New York Times' obituary: Dith Pran, ‘Killing Fields’ Photographer, Dies at 65

3.28.2008

america's best dance crew: season finale


JabbaWockeeZ are America's Best Dance Crew! Hell yes. They win it. I actually didn't get to catch the finale last night, but hot damn, I was glad to hear the news. The above video clip is Jabba being named the winner, plus their victory performance to Kanye West's "Stronger." Congratulations, JabbaWockeeZ. Throughout this entire season, they've impressed everyone with their unique style and originality. This is a truly deserved win.


And here's the West Coast crews (including JabbaWockeeZ, Fish N Chycks and our beloved Kaba Modern) doing a joint routine to "Tell Me When To Go." West Siiiiide. Man, I really enjoyed this show.

3.27.2008

grace lee's american zombie opens in los angeles

If you're in Los Angeles, Grace Lee's mockumentary of the undead, American Zombi makes its theatrical debut this Friday from Cinema Libre. The filmmaker who brought you the inventive, hugely entertaining personal documentary The Grace Lee Project comes back at you a very different sort of tale... The film follows the struggles and exploits of a community of zombies--yes, the dead-but-alive--currently living, working, and just trying to get by in Los Angeles. It's a creative, humorous take on the flagging zombie genre, with some great characters grappling with very unique notions of identity and acceptance. It's good stuff.

The movie opens this Friday, March 28, for one week only at the Laemmle's Sunset 5 in West Hollywood. Showtimes are 12:30, 2:50, 5:10, 7:30, 10:00. Director Grace Lee and the film's cast will be in attendance for a special Q&A on Friday, March 28 and Saturday, March 29 after the 7:30pm showing. I highly recommend checking it out, as it's definitely not the kind of film that comes along every day.

As a special promotion, Cinema Libre is offering a special discount ticket, good for opening weekend only. You can see American Zombie for just $6.00. Six bucks! I believe tickets are normally ten dollars at the Laemmle Sunset. Just present the printable coupon at the box office, and you'll save yourself a little cash. To learn more about American Zombie, go here.

fill your reading list with "crazy chinese words"

Goodness. The kind of ignorance that permeates our culture, particularly from people who are supposed to know a few things, is just astounding. This latest bit of idiocy comes from someone who actually has the responsibility of caring for the education of American youth...

The Texas State Board of Education recently issued a recommended reading list, which has been criticized for lacking diversity: Educators rip book list in English plan. Okay, that's almost going to be a given. But note the comments of Board Chair Don McLeroy, who responded to criticisms by saying:
"'What good does it do to put a Chinese story in an English book?" he said. "You learn all these Chinese words, OK. That's not going to help you master... English. So you really don't want Chinese books with a bunch of crazy Chinese words in them. Why should you take a child's time trying to learn a word that they'll never ever use again?'

He added that some words -- such as chow mein -- might be useful.
This guy is on the board that determines education standards for the entire state? Where exactly did he get the idea that a reading list with more "diverse" stories and authors somehow means "a bunch of crazy Chinese words."

We do write and speak English, you know. We've written whole books in English, Don. Sometimes, call me crazy, there's more to reading than just learning "words." Like, um, themes and ideas and stuff. But I guess Don is only interested in learning words you can find on a Chinese food menu.

UPDATE: Here's some contact info for Don McLeroy, Texas State Board of Education Chair, in case you have some things you want to say to him:

Don McLeroy
9277 Brookwater Circle
College Station, TX 77845
979 255-2538
979 846-1174 (FAX)
sboesupport@tea.state.tx.us

It might helpful to drop a few "crazy Chinese words" in your comments.

doctors remove six organs, then cut out tumor

This is a crazy story out of Florida about the work of transplant specialist Dr. Tomoaki Kato, who with a team of nine doctors detached and removed six of a patient's organs, cut out a cancerous lemon-sized tumor in her abdomen, then successfully reassembled her insides: Doctors Remove 6 Organs, Then Cut Out a Tumor. The surgery lasted 15 hours and was one of the first to involve taking so many organs out of the body: the stomach, liver, pancreas, spleen, small intestine and two-thirds of the large intestine. I've been told by several folks in the medical community that this feat was nothing short of badass. I believe it.

2008 asian excellence awards nominees announced

At a press conference held yesterday in Los Angeles, Dancing with the Stars' Carrie Ann Inaba and MADtv's Bobby Lee announced the nominees for the 2008 JCPenney Asian Excellence Awards. Yes, that thing is still around. Back for its third year, the televised awards show honors "the outstanding achievements of Asians and Asian Americans in film, television, music, and the performing arts."

Here's the full list of awards categories and nominees:
OUTSTANDING FILM
Finishing the Game - Director, Justin Lin
Lust, Caution - Director, Ang Lee
Rush Hour 3 - Director, Brett Ratner
War - Director, Philip G. Atwell

OUTSTANDING FILM ACTOR
Naveen Andrews - The Brave One
Jackie Chan - Rush Hour 3
Chow Yun-Fat - Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
Tony Leung - Lust, Caution
Jet Li - War
Lee-Hom Wang - Lust, Caution

OUTSTANDING FILM ACTRESS
Devon Aoki - War
Joan Chen - Lust, Caution
Vanessa Hudgens - High School Musical 2
Sharon Leal - This Christmas
Maggie Q - Balls of Fury
Tang Wei - Lust, Caution

OUTSTANDING TELEVISION ACTOR
Naveen Andrews - Lost
Daniel Dae Kim - Lost
Masi Oka - Heroes
Sendhil Ramamurthy - Heroes
B.D. Wong - Law & Order, SVU

OUTSTANDING TELEVISION ACTRESS
Yunjin Kim - Lost
Lucy Liu - Cashmere Mafia
Parminder Nagra - ER
Sandra Oh - Grey's Anatomy
Lindsay Price - Lipstick Jungle
Navi Rawat - Numb3rs

SUPPORTING TELEVISION ACTRESS
Moon Bloodgood - Journeyman
Michaela Conlin - Bones
Janina Gavankar - The L Word
Mindy Kaling - The Office
Michelle Krusiec - Dirty Sexy Money
Sonja Sohn - The Wire

SUPPORTING TELEVISION ACTOR
James Kyson Lee - Heroes
Rex Lee - Entourage
Will Yun Lee - Bionic Woman
Ken Leung - Lost
Kal Penn - House M.D.
James Saito - Eli Stone

Fans will also have the opportunity to vote for their favorites online at http://www.asianexcellenceawards.com in the following categories:

FAVORITE TV PERSONALITY (Internet Voting)
Cheryl Burke - Dancing with the Stars
Julie Chen - Big Brother
Mark Dacascos - Iron Chef America: "The Chairman"
Padma Lakshmi - Top Chef
Tila Tequila - A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila
Vern Yip - Deserving Spaces
Carrie Ann Inaba - Dance Wars: Bruno Vs. Carrie Ann
Kimora Lee Simmons - Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane

FAVORITE REALITY STAR (Internet Voting)
Ronald & Christina - The Amazing Race
Yau-Man Chan - Survivor: Fans vs. Favorites
Victorya Hong - Project Runway
Hung Hyunh - Top Chef
JabbaWockeeZ - America's Best Dance Crew
Kaba Modern - America's Best Dance Crew
Ramiele Malubay - American Idol
Nicole Niestemski - Your Mama Don't Dance
Jonathan Silva - Your Mama Don't Dance

Voting is underway and runs through April 16. The winners will be announced during the telecast.
Once again, as I've noted in previous years, I certainly like the idea of an Asian American awards show, but the way they've put it together here is... well, kind of lame. I think it's great to celebrate the achievements of the Asian American culture/arts/entertainment community--we, like other groups, deserve our own excuse to get dressed up, gather up all the "stars" and have a big, televised party to pat each other on the back.

But sometimes I have to wonder about the rationale that goes into picking these categories and nominees, and how ridiculous of a stretch they can sometimes be. I mean come on... Rush Hour 3 for Outstanding Film? War? No. Hell no. You've absolutely got to be kidding me. And dude, Naveen Andrews, for Outstanding Film Actor in The Brave One? As much as I like him as an actor, and I even sort of like that movie, he's in it literally for about the first five minutes. I don't even want to talk about the kind of random nominees they put together for Outstanding Film Actress.

It's not all bad. The names rounding out most of the TV categories are all pretty solid. Hell, the fact that you can actually name 5-6 actors to place in each category is a big deal. There's no way these categories could've existed as they are even ten years ago. We've got a long way to go, but there have been vast strides in Asian American representation on television. That certainly counts for something. (Anything that includes Balls of Fury on its list of outstanding anything loses huge points in my book.)

Anyway, Carrie Ann Inaba and Bobby Lee will co-host the show, which will be taped at UCLA's Royce Hall next month. Comedian Russell Peters will serve as backstage host. The televised version of the Asian Excellence Awards will premiere on E! on May 1. In addition, beginning May 7 and throughout the month of May, the show will be available on Comcast On Demand. Yay, I guess.

rob ford arrested on assault charges

Rob Ford, Toronto's controversial jerk-ass Councillor, has been arrested on charges assault and threatening death: Toronto city councillor charged with assault. I gotta admit, this kind of brings a smile to my face. Not the fact that he assaulted his wife and made death threats, but the fact that this loser has gotten himself arrested. Ford, of course, denies the assault ever took place and will plead not guilty.

Just to refresh everybody's memory, Rob Ford is the guy who got into a little bit of hot water (not enough, if you ask me) a few weeks back after making remarks about hard-working Asian people, saying "the Oriental people, they're slowly taking over." Yup. I hope he gets some quality time to think about what he's done, and what he's said.

man kills wife, four children in iowa city

This is just... shocking. And unbelievably tragic. Earlier this week, a man in Iowa City violently killed his wife, his four children, then himself. Autopsies show that the five family members found in Steven Sueppel's home died from blunt force trauma to their upper torsos and heads. Sueppel first apparently tried to kill his kids and himself in their garage with carbon monoxide. When that failed, he beat them to death: Iowa City mom, kids were beaten to death. The four kids, Ethan, Seth, Mira and Eleanor, were adopted from Korea: Four Korean Adoptees Murdered in U.S.

After the children died, Sueppel tried to drown himself in the Iowa River without success. He then made a 911 call directing officers to his home and a few minutes later deliberately crashed his car on the freeway. The family van was found wrecked and burned on the interstate. The Des Moines Register has all the gruesome details on the crime, including various multimedia and a timeline of how it all unfolded: Police release more details of Iowa City deaths.

Sueppel was a former banker who had lost his job and was subsequently indicted on federal embezzlement and money-laundering charges. He was scheduled to go on trial next month.

Unfortunately, we seem to hear this kind of horrible family murder-suicide news a lot lately. I guess isn't much you can really say when something like this happens... But I'm going to. Only Sueppel will really know why he did what he did. But to me, this is the most selfish and cowardly act anyone could perpetrate. What kind of man does this? A guy who has no regard for anyone but himself. So he was facing a criminal trial. Time for him to man up and face the consequences of his action. There was simply no need for him to do this. What the hell did his children have to do with any of this? Coward. Do I sound out of line? Fine. The more I think about it, it makes me mad as hell. My sincere condolences to their friends and family.

3.25.2008

sfiaaff award winners

Forgot to mention the prize winners from the 26th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, which finished its run last week. Here's the official press release summing it up, and naming the awarded films:
26TH SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL ASIAN AMERICAN FILM FESTIVAL WRAPS

OM SHANTI OM WINS AUDIENCE AWARD FOR BEST NARRATIVE FEATURE
PLANET B-BOY WINS AUDIENCE AWARD FOR BEST DOC

The San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (March 13 - 23, 2008), presented by the Center for Asian American Media, wrapped with an estimated attendance of 29,000, including over 225 filmmakers, actors and industry guests. 57 of 113 shows-more than half-sold out, creating an exciting buzz throughout the event. The program featured eight world premieres, three North American premieres and four U.S. premieres of feature length films.

Award Winners Announced
The winners of the jury awards were announced on March 20 before the Closing Night screening. The competition films represent the best in Asian American and Canadian cinema. The winner of the Best Narrative Feature Award in the Narrative Competition section was Amal, directed by Richie Mehta. The Special Jury Award was a tie between John Kwon's Always Be Boyz and Ron Morales' Santa Mesa. The jury was comprised of playwright/filmmaker Philip Kan Gotanda (Life Tastes Good), producer Gina Kwon (Me, You and Everyone We Know) and screenwriter Iris Yamashita (Letters From Iwo Jima).

The winner of the Best Documentary Feature Award in the Documentary Competition Section was Planet B-Boy, directed by Benson Lee. The Special Jury Award was given to Wings of Defeat, directed by Risa Morimoto. The jury was comprised of Kathryn Lo (Associate Director of Program Development and Independent Film at PBS), filmmaker Stanley Nelson (Jonestown: The Life and Death of the People's Temple) and scholar/filmmaker Celine Parrenas Shimizu (Super Flip).

At the conclusion of the screenings in San Jose that ran March 21 - 23, the winners of the Comcast Audience Awards were announced. The winner of the Comcast Audience Award for Narrative Features was Om Shanti Om, directed by Farah Khan, while the winner for Documentary Features was Planet B-Boy, directed by Benson Lee.

Narrative Competition

Best Narrative Feature Award:
Amal, Dir. Richie Mehta

Special Jury Award (tie)
Always Be Boyz, Dir. John Kwon
Santa Mesa, Dir. Ron Morales


Documentary Competition

Best Documentary Feature Award
Planet B-Boy, Dir. Benson Lee

Special Jury Award
Wings of Defeat, Dir. Risa Morimoto

Comcast Audience Awards

Narrative Feature
Om Shanti Om, Dir. Farah Khan

Documentary Feature
Planet B-Boy, Dir. Benson Lee
Congratulations to all the winners. These are definitely films to seek out in the future. (Benson Lee's Planet B-Boy is currently in theaters.) And congratulations to SFIAAFF on another amazing festival. It's easily one of the best Asian American film festivals in the country, and I look forward to it every year.

win a dvd copy of summer palace

Hey. Everybody likes free stuff. How about another giveaway? Lou Ye's epic melodrama Summer Palace was recently released on DVD. I've giving away 5 copies to you, good readers, courtesy of the fine folks at Palm Pictures. To enter for your chance to win, answer this simple question correctly: Summer Palace is a love story revolving around Chinese college students during the late 1980s. What school do they attend?

Email me your answer, along with your name and mailing address (where to send the DVD if you win) by the end of Friday, March 28. Be sure to include "SUMMER PALACE DVD" in the subject line. Duplicate entries, as well as those that do not follow these simple instructions, will be tossed out. I'll throw all the correct entries into a basket, then pick five winners. Easy. Get your entries in, and good luck. To learn more about Summer Palace, go here.

the cringe-worthy legacy of long duk dong

NPR's All Things Considered recently did an interesting piece on Long Duk Dong from Sixteen Candles, of all people, as part of their "In Character" series: Long Duk Dong: Last of the Hollywood Stereotypes?

Ohhhhh man. There are few characters in modern popular culture that illicit the kinds of groans that the stereotypical character of Long Duk Dong induces. If you were growing up Asian American in 1980s, Long Duk Dong basically made your life miserable. Gedde Watanabe's role as the wacked-out Asian foreign exchange student introduced, with a resounding GONG, a painful new Asian icon into the pop culture pantheon: the Donger. As if mainstream hadn't found ways to make it hard enough for Asian American kids in the schoolyard.

The feature includes quotes from the likes of Giant Robot's Eric Nakamura and Martin Wong, and some insights on the role from Gedde Watanabe himself, now 52-years-old and fully cognizant of the cringe-worthy legacy he's created. I curse you, Long Duk Dong.

racist casting and 21

There's been a lot of chatter and gripes lately about the movie 21, which opens in theaters nationwide this Friday. Longtime readers know that this movie has been on our radar for several years, ever since it was announced that Sony had the film in development, with Kevin Spacey attached to the project. Based on the bestselling book Bringing Down the House by Ben Mezrich, it tells the story of how a team of gifted blackjack players from MIT developed a highly successful card-counting system and took Las Vegas casinos for millions. Based on a true story, it's a great premise, and the perfect idea for a big budget Hollywood movie. Right? Not exactly.

You see, in real life, the blackjack team was a group mostly made up of Asian American students. This was actually advantageous to their strategy, as it happens, because Asian dudes winning big money at the casinos apparently aren't quite as conspicuous as white dudes who win big at the casinos. That's just the way it is. Anyway. As we all know, Hollywood studios seem to have a great of resistance to creating interesting, fully-fleshed, three-dimensional roles for Asian American actors. They seem to think we can't carry a movie, and more often than not, will instead create roles and stories for pretty white people instead. I know this, you know this, we all know this. Hell, they know this.

Case in point, 21. Except here, we actually have a true story that involved real living, breathing Asian Americans, who have been magically switched out on celluloid into—you guessed it—pretty white people. Namely, Kate Bosworth and Jim Sturgess. This has pretty much been the plan since the beginning, and now, the movie finally hits movie screens this week. Business as usual. That's racist!

AICN has an interview with Jeff Ma, the guy who Sturgess' character is based on. He doesn't seem to mind that they've changed his character's ethnicity... I guess he's entitled to that. It still doesn't change the fact that this movie was born out of the stereotypical Hollywood casting process. This is from an article on author Ben Mezrich and Bringin Down the House from 2005:
This view is brought about in part by Hollywood, with films like "Ocean's Eleven,"in which gambling is made to seem exotic and sexy. Incidentally, Mezrich's "Bringing Down the House" is now being turned into a feature film by Kevin Spacey, who will play the MIT professor who trained the blackjack team described in that book. During the talk, Mezrich mentioned the stereotypical Hollywood casting process--though most of the actual blackjack team was composed of Asian males, a studio executive involved in the casting process said that most of the film's actors would be white, with perhaps an Asian female. Even as Asian actors are entering more mainstream films, such as "Better Luck Tomorrow" and the upcoming "Memoirs of a Geisha," these stereotypes still exist, Mezrich said.
I must note that the movie's cast includes a couple of Asian American characters, played by Aaron Yoo and Liza Lapira. They're part of the blackjack team, and do have a (less prominent) place on the movie poster. It counts for something. I really am glad that these two are in the movie, apparently added later to mitigate some of the initial controversy stirred up by this casting nonsense. Sure, it feels like the producers are throwing us a bone. They are. What they're crafting is pure Hollywood falsity. But I'm happy to see that these two rising stars will get due exposure in a high-profile movie a lot of people are going to see. I'm okay with that. (I might have to take these statements back if/when I actually see them in the movie.)

Now, there's a pretty vocal anti-21 movement that's been growing over the last few months. This movie has got a lot of people angry. There have even been calls for a an all-out boycott of 21. I'm going to put it out there—I'm not necessarily in favor of a boycott, nor am I against one either. I'm not sure where I stand on that. But I'm certainly in favor of anything that draws attention and educates people on the issues at hand. This is a good one, because it brings scrutiny to the nature of Hollywood's racist casting processes, with a very obvious, high-profile example. People are interested in this movie, without a lot of background knowledge, but this is an opportunity to create dialogue on a general practice that has systematically shut out Asians in Hollywood for years. I hope it prompts folks understand what's going on here, learn the details for themselves, talk about it, and perhaps approach 21 (and future Hollywood product) with a more discerning eye.

3.24.2008

crazy for kaba modern


This is a clip of Kaba Modern performing Friday on KTLA's morning show. This is the routine they would've done had they made it to the finals. Once again, it shows that they are just an amazing, talented, entertaining group of dancers. It also makes me more bitter that they were voted out.

Man, there are a lot of Kaba Modern fans out there, and many of you wrote in to tell me your various conspiracy theories on why they were unjustly eliminated from the finals of America's Best Dance Crew. I don't think it's too outlandish to suggest that MTV might have manipulated the results so the final battle would have a certain "look." Two (mostly) Asian American crews killing it all the way, then making it into the finals? Perhaps MTV thought America wasn't quite ready for it. Consider this choice line of fine print on the MTV website, regarding the selection of the winners:
"MTVN reserves the right at its sole discretion to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend either or both the phoning in or text messaging voting process and reserves the right in its sole discretion to determine the winner(s)."
Basically, regardless of how well anyone danced, or how many people voted, in the end MTV still has the right to do whatever the hell they want. I'll leave it at that. All I know is, Kaba Modern and JabbaWockeeZ have crazy legions of fans. Your emails prove that. I'm told by one person who attended the taping of last week's episode that when Status Quo was announced as the top vote-getter, audience members apparently booed and chanted "Recount!" This, of course, didn't make it on the final edit that aired.

Finally, here's a big batch of photos from Thursday's episode, for all you Kaba fans:









Yeah, I'm a fan. Can you tell? Though they're out of the competition, I'm pretty sure you can expect them to be back on the show this week for the finale.

sdaff presents reel in the vote

My friends at the San Diego Asian Film Foundation inform they've got a very cool campaign going on... SDAFF is challenging any and all concerned citizens with access to a video camera and a few creative ideas to take part in their REEL IN THE VOTE contest. Just submit a 30-second PSA encouraging voter registration and participation in the APIA community. You could win a thousand bucks and a new camcorder (plus supreme ultimate bragging rights). The winning PSA will be screened before all film programs at the film festival. Here are the details:
"REEL IN THE VOTE" IN 30 SECONDS
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT CONTEST for $1000!

If you have access to a video camera and a great idea, here's your chance to take action in 30 seconds! The San Diego Asian Film Foundation is challenging YOU to submit a 30-second public service announcement that promotes civic responsibility and democratic participation in the electoral and public policy processes. In other words, your PSA should help encourage voter registration and participation in the APIA community. Entries will be judged on creativity, originality, and message.

PRIZE: $1000 and a Sony HDF-FX1 HDV Camcorder (worth $3700), plus bragging rights -- the winning PSA will be screened before all film programs at the film festival.

DEADLINE: Entries must be postmarked by July 31, and no more than 30 seconds in length.

RULES & ENTRY FORM AVAILABLE ONLINE AT WWW.SDAFF.ORG

Why Reel in The Vote?
Statistics show Asian Pacific Islander Americans have the lowest rates of voter participation among all ethnic groups, and Asian American women have the lowest rates of voter participation among all groups, with less than one quarter of eligible voters actually registering to vote. While there may be many cultural reasons behind the dismal numbers, APATHY is our worst enemy.

As an Asian Pacific Islander American, your right to vote is one of the most valuable rights you will ever have. The freedom to choose the direction of a nation is a powerful and liberating force. We need to start talking about voter participation in the APIA community, challenge ourselves to become civically engaged, empower ourselves with knowledge of the candidates, and ultimately, have a voice in where we believe this country should be headed.

REEL IN THE VOTE is a non-partisan campaign launched by the San Diego Asian Film Foundation to encourage more Asian Pacific Islander Americans (APIAs) to participate in the democratic process during this crucial election year. Additional details about the Reel in the Vote campaign and competition rules and entry form is available online at http://www.sdaff.org/reelinthevote.php

The SD Asian Film Foundation, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the Pan Asian experience through the media arts.
Got that? It's time to get off your ass and take part! A cool contest, for a great cause. To read the rules, download an entry form, or get more information about the Reel in the Vote contest (or SDAFF in general), visit www.sdaff.org.

4th annual vascon, april 4-6 at georgetown

Check it. The fourth annual Vietnamese American Student Conference (VASCON) is going down next week, April 4-6, at Georgetown University in Washington DC. The conference was co-founded in 2004 by students at UT Austin and Yale University, and has since gathered 1000 students and young professionals to engage in open dialogue about the state of Vietnamese America.

This year, the conference seeks to share and showcase the "beating heart and soul" of Vietnamese America, with the theme of "Planting Seeds." It looks like it's going to be a pretty awesome event, with a solid, strong lineup of speakers, workshop topics and performers, including keynote speakers Duy-Loan Le from Texas Instruments and Adrian Hong, Executive Director of Liberity in North Korea (LiNK).

The conference will also include performances from Orange County pop/rock band Seriously, Carol Bui Band, Applesauce Tran, Nam Ninja and Magnetic North. The mini-film festival they've put together is also really cool, reflecting the emerging Vietnamese film wave, with special screenings of the critically acclaimed Owl and the Sparrow, Dust of Life, and Oh, Saigon. Lots of great stuff there. It's all going down next week at Georgetown. To learn more about the conference, visit the website here.

3.21.2008

photo friday: snake eyes

I know I've mentioned the upcoming G.I. Joe movie a few times now... I was a big fan of the cartoon as a kid, so I can't help it. So you know I got a little excited when these first official photos of Snake Eyes popped on the web today:


Okay, so this is just an excuse to post some cool photos. But you gotta admit, they're pretty darn badass. They really nailed it. I guess that's Ray Park (not Asian) under the mask, not that you can really tell. Now, I eagerly await photos of Lee Byung-hun as Storm Shadow.

america's best dance crew: week seven

Sad, stunning night on America's Best Dance Crew. We said goodbye to the super-talented dance crew, Kaba Modern, who I've been rooting for since the very beginning. It was apparently an extremely close vote, but when it came down to it, Status Quo was on top (load of crap), and Kaba Modern and JabbaWockeeZ were left to battle it out. What a huge bummer, right? I was really hoping to see Kaba and Jabba as the final two crews, and I know a lot of people were with me on that. I feel we actually saw the real championship battle last night—between Kaba Modern and JabbaWockeeZ.

In the end, both crews put on the performances of their lives, but as I expected and feared, it was time for Kaba Modern to go home. But man, how awesome was it to see those two groups of (mostly) Asian dancers standing there next to each other, and seriously representing? It was bittersweet. Did Kaba and Jabba fans somehow split the vote? Does it sound too bitter to suggest that the competition might've been rigged? Was it too much for MTV to have two Asian American-heavy crews at the top? It's lame, but it's a thought. Anyway, here are their performances from last night, brought to you by the power of YouTube:


Kaba Modern's swan song. They really gave it their all, showing off that amazing charm and flair that won them so many fans. These kids rock so much. I'm sure this isn't the last we've seen of them... Goodbye, and thank you.


JabbaWockeeZ, doing their thing. These guys have easily set themselves apart with the unique style and showmanship from the very beginning. To me there is no question who should win. Hell, they've had it in the bag from day one. To vote for JabbaWockeez, go here, call 1-866-856-8302 or text 2 to 23882. You can vote throughout the next week up until the final. To me, there is no way Status Quo deserves to win, especially after the shoddy final performance they gave last night. It's JabbaWockeeZ all the way!!!

an actor way ahead of his time

Here's a nice article that's been making the rounds on pioneer Asian actor Sessue Hayakawa, a legend in his own time: Cinema can't keep up with Hayakawa's strides. If you're unfamiliar with his work, back in the day, he had iconic roles in films like The Cheat, The Dragon Painter, and The Bridge on the River Kwai, which earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in 1958.

Imagine a Hollywood actor with the looks, talent and leading man appeal of Brad Pitt... except he's Asian. Can you imagine that? Ninety years ago, that was Sessue Hayakawa, one Hollywoood's biggest stars... until somewhere along the way it was decided that Asian actors were only fit to play foreign exchange nerds, delivery boys, and martial arts masters. What happened? What is Sessue Hayakawa's legacy today?

I remember seeing The Cheat back in college, still getting acquainted with film history studies. I was amazed that there was actually a star like Sessue Hayakawa back in the day. It really opened my eyes. While the film's frightening Yellow Peril portrayal of Asians is problematic, you can't deny that Hayakawa's performance is stunning. Even as a silent film star, he had an exciting, powerful screen presence.

To learn more about Sessue Hayakawa's life and career, check out the book Sessue Hayakawa: Silent Cinema and Transnational Stardom by Daisuke Miyao, published last year from Duke University Press. Also, one of his most acclaimed works, The Dragon Painter, restored and digitally re-mastered with a new score, was just released on DVD this week.

police won't pay up for raid damage

This is ridiculous. You remember the fatal shooting of 15-year-old Ichinkhorloo "Iko" Bayarsaikhan last October in Alameda, CA. Police eventually arrested the individual they believe was responsible, but not first without pissing off a lot of members of the lu Mien and larger Asian American communities in the area for the way they handled the case. Some Southeast Asian youth and families said they were unfairly targeted and harrassed during the investigation, with house raids and wrongful arrests...

This includes Leo Saephan, whose son mistakenly arrested in connection with the shooting. He wants the city of Alameda to pay for the three doors the police busted down when they raided his house back in November. But they're apparently not paying a dime: Alameda won't cover cop dama ge, man says.

It seems that police are largely protected from liability when they damage property in the course of duty. State laws protect public employees, including police, from liability "in the execution or enforcement of any law." They're not liable even if it turns out the suspects are innocent. That seems rather unfair. You broke down his doors for a bogus raid. Give the man his money!

help rodney kageyama

I just read this urgent post by Chris Tashima over at the Cedar Grove OnStage blog, about renowned character and comedic actor Rodney Kageyama, who's fighting Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma:
Help Out Our Friend, Rodney Kageyama

Message from CGO co-Artistic Director, Chris Tashima

One of my first gigs, back in 1984, was a series of Coke commercials, for Japanese TV. They were shot at a 50s diner in Visalia, CA, and at Magic Mountain. I was an extra, which wasn't the highest profile, or most challenging work, but it was fun. I got to travel out of town, learn the Japanese lyrics to the "Coke is it!" song, learn choreography, play dress-up (50s), and dream of being broadcast over the airwaves in Japan – and becoming an international star. I never saw the completed spots, until recently: thanks to YouTube, I discovered these long-lost ads, and was finally able to see the fruits of my labor:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwzVM590whI

Long lost indeed – lost way, way in the background. I think I can spot myself in one shot, way in the blurry distance, for all of maybe 1.5 seconds.

The memories are still fond, though. One very clear memory is meeting renowned character and comedic actor, Rodney Kageyama (at 00:41 in the above video). Not only did this swell guy befriend me on this shoot, he later introduced me to many of the folks at East West Players in Los Angeles, and to many more in the larger Japanese American community in Southern California. He also supported all of my work, designing costumes for my first film project with Visual Communications, and volunteering on crew for both "Visas and Virtue" and "Day of Independence." In countless many other ways, he has help me continue with the work that I do, and aspire to do. As I think about all that he has done for me, sadly, I can't say I have done much in return. But, the warmth of his friendship hasn't ever made me feel like I needed to. Well, now's my chance to try to give back.

Rodney Kageyama needs our help.

Late last year, Rodney was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a group of cancers that affect the cells that play a role in the immune system. Since his diagnosis, he has been undergoing intense chemotherapy treatments. So far, the results have been hopeful, but his fight against this disease is far from over. This illness has knocked Rodney out of work, and he misses everyone because he hasn't been able to appear at any community functions or support our community organizations as he has for so many of us over the past 25 years. Rodney has spent a lifetime giving so many of us his time, giving us so much joy and laughter, and has helped us all in so many ways along the way. His greatest gift is his ability to laugh and to make us laugh, sometimes at him, sometimes at ourselves.

Now is the time for us to give something back. This is where everyone can help.

Our goal is to raise at least $25,000 so that Rodney can put all his energy into fighting this fight, and not have to worry about rent, food, utilities and hospital bills for the next year. One hundred percent of your contribution will go directly to Rodney, and his fight for his life. For all he's done for me, and so many others, I ask you to give a gift from your heart.

The $25k is an estimated minimum, to help Rodney for one year. I don't think it's much to ask, especially considering how far and wide-reaching his efforts for the community have been. If all who his gift of giving has touched, reached out to give something back, I think this figure would be blown out of the water, which wouldn't be a bad thing.

Very fitting, I'd say.

Thank you for your consideration.
And, thanks again, for reading

—CT

PS: Please make your check payable to FRIENDS OF RODNEY KAGEYAMA,
and mail to:

Rodney Kageyama
4891 Round Top Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90065

PLEASE FORWARD THIS MESSAGE!
I've seen Rodney's work here and there over the years, mostly bit parts in cruddy TV shows. But this guy's an old timer, a class act whose been in the industry for a long time, and has done a great deal for the community. Please consider helping him out, if you are so able. Every little bit will count.

planet b-boy in theaters today


All right, everyone go watch Benson Lee's Planet B-Boy, opening in theaters starting today from Elephant Eye Films. It's a fantastic documentary set in the international world of B-boying, following crews from all over the world competing and colliding at the "Battle of the Year," where the winner will walk away with title of World Champion. It's an engaging, hugely entertaining documentary with a lot of heart, and deserves to be seen by as many people as possible. I can't recommend it enough.

The film focuses on several b-boy crews from all over, including the United States, France, Japan and South Korea, all with their unique personal and cultural perspectives, but unified in their love of breaking. It's a great portrait of young people who are passionate about their art—it truly is an art—struggling to follow their dreams while being largely misunderstood their families and society at large. And you get to see a display of some truly awesome dancing—literally, the best b-boys in the world. It's a hell of a crowd-pleaser.

Planet B-Boy opens today at the Landmark Sunshine in New York and the Landmark Nuart in Los Angeles, with more cities in the following weeks. Here's are upcoming dates on the schedule:
SCREENING DATES & LOCATIONS

March 21st
NYC - Landmark Sunshine
LA - Landmark Nuart

March 28th
SF - Landmark Lumiere
Berkeley - Landmark Shattuck
San Diego - Landmark Ken
DC - Landmark E Street

April 4th
Boston - Landmark Kendall Square
Austin - Landmark Dobie
Chicago - Landmark Century Centre
And more theaters to follow... If you're in any of these cities, see this movie. Make your plans, grab your friends, and get your ass out to the theater. You're going to have a fantastic time. That's all I can say. Check out this interview with director Benson Lee: indieWIRE INTERVIEW | "Planet B-Boy" Director Benson Lee. To learn more about Planet B-Boy, and to watch the trailer, visit the website here. And the MySpace page here.

UPDATE: If you enjoy Planet B-Boy, and really dig the movie's music, you can purchase and download the theme from Planet B-boy, "Live From Planet B-Boy" by Woody Pak & MC IAMISEE, right here.

3.20.2008

steve byrne's happy hour on comedy central

Oh yes. Looks like funny man Steve Byrne has got a lot going on right now. This Friday, March 21st starting at 10pm, he'll be hosting Friday Night Stand Up on Comedy Central, where he'll be doing a bunch of sketches to promote his upcoming one-hour special. Then next Friday, March 28th, they'll be re-airing his previous half-hour special, Comedy Central Presents Steve Byrne. Got that? All this rewind is leading up to Steve's all-new one-hour comedy special, Steve Byrne's Happy Hour, airing Saturday, March 29th at 11pm. Set your TiVos, friends.

If you miss Happy Hour, or enjoy it so much you wanna watch it over and over again, it'll be available on DVD shortly after, on April 1. Just $9.99 over at Amazon.com. I'm told it's the uncensored version, with 30 minutes of extra material that didn't make it on TV. He's a funny dude, so don't miss out.

man pleads guilty to filming sex with young girls

This is truly disgusting news. Last week in Boston, a man pleaded guilty to child pornography charges after filming himself sexually assaulting young Asian girls: Man pleads guilty to sex with girls. William Constable, 54, was arrested when he tried to retrieve a camera he left in a hotel room. A hotel employee who found the camera called police after seeing images of a man having sex with young girls. According to prosecutors, dozens of cassettes and compact discs later seized from Constable's home showed him sexually assaulting girls as young as 5, sometimes two at a time. This guy is a sicko. All right, I'm done talking about this guy. It's making me sick to my stomach. He needs to go to prison and rot forever.

4th annual asea conference: awareness to action

Heads up, some information on an upcoming conference for Asian American educators... next month, Asian Educators Alliance presents the Fourth Annual AsEA Conference: Awareness to Action, happening April 18-19 at Chinese American International School and International High School in San Francisco. Here's a little blurb about it:
United under the theme "Awareness To Action," the Asian Educators Alliance invites you to the 4th annual AsEA National Conference. This year's Conference will take place on April 18 – 19 at the Chinese-American International School in San Francisco. We are honored to have as our confirmed speakers at the conference:

- Yul Kwon - winner of CBS' Survivor: Cook Islands. He has worked to raise awareness on issues for Asian Americans
- Michael Omi – professor at UC Berkeley's Ethnic Studies Department whose work includes race theory, Asian American studies, and antiracist scholarship.
- Anisha Desai – executive director of the Women of Color Resource Center
- Katherine Dinh - Head of School at Prospect Sierra School (K-8 independent school in El Cerrito, CA)
- Ling Chi Wang - distinguished scholar and activist on Asian American issues and coordinator of the Asian American studies program at the UC Berkeley

Founded in 2004, the Asian Educators Alliance (AsEA) is an affinity organization that provides support and outreach for self-identified Asian and Asian Pacific Islander (API) educators.

The Asian Educators Alliance 2008 National Conference is by and for API educators. We welcome all self-identified API colleagues in independent, charter, and public schools and current API graduate students or professionals in the field of education. While we appreciate and honor the support of our non-API allies, we ask that they respect our intentions for this space. As an alternative method of support, we encourage our allies to help in publicizing this event to their API colleagues.
Looks like the event is going to be a really great opportunity for community dialogue, support and professional development for API educators, with some really distinguished speakers in attendance. Good stuff. For information on the conference, follow the link here.

sfiaaff's closing night: the home song stories


Tonight, the 26th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival winds down its San Francisco leg with the Closing Night presentation of The Home Song Stories, from Chinese Australian director Tony Ayres. I don't know much about this film, except that it stars Joan Chen, and I love Joan Chen. The film was Australia's Oscar submission for Best Foreign Language Film, and is a story about "the lives of a young family valiantly trying to hold itself together despite the complicated world around it." Here's the plot synopsis from the festival catalog:
The story begins in 1964, when the stunning nightclub singer Rose (Chen) arrives in the Australian suburbs with her two children Tom and May. Wed quickly to a shipman ("Uncle Bill" to the children), whom she met while performing in Hong Kong, she abruptly leaves him ten days later, and sets the family off on a journey that will change their lives forever. As the three move from "uncle" to "uncle," none are as affected as deeply as the eleven-year-old Tom, from whose perspective their story is told.

When Rose settles in with the much-younger Joe, a chef at the local Chinese restaurant, the four create a family, or their most honest attempt at one. Amidst moments of genuine connection--going to the beach, watching The Partridge Family--is a dangerous tension, one driven by Rose’s volatile, erratic behavior, a remnant from her tragic past. When Joe notices May's growing beauty, their carefully balanced lives are upended.
I'm looking forward to seeing this film. For those of you saddened by the closing of the festival, do not fret. SFIAAFF continues on though the weekend at the PFA in Berkeley and Camera Cinemas in San Jose. Lots of great stuff there for you audiences in the South Bay, like Amal, Ping Pong, Blood Brothers, and Pretty to Think So. For more information about SFIAAFF, go here.

city panel says "speak english" signs can stay up

This week in Philadelphia, a city panel ruled that the owner of a famous cheeseteak shop did not discriminate when he posted signs asking customers to speak English: 'Speak English' signs allowed at Philly shop. I guess he's not really interested in making money.

The sign reads "This is America: WHEN ORDERING 'PLEASE SPEAK ENGLISH'" and apparently does not violate the city's Fair Practices Ordinance. Okay, so it's not illegal. But it damn sure makes me uncomfortable. Shop owner Joe Vento has said he posted the signs in October 2005 because of concerns over immigration reform and an increasing number of people in the area who could not order in English.

While he may not admit it, I think the sign represents an underlying sentiment of intolerance and discrimination towards immigrants and racial minorities. Did Vento really have legions of customers coming up to his counter literally trying to order in Spanish or Mandarin? Or did he just get tired of paying customers who did not quite speak English good?

As hard as this might be for native English speakers to grasp, and as convenient as it would be for everyone to possess the magical ability to instantly master English, for most folks, learning a new language takes time and patience. This is the reality of the changing world you live in, Mr. Vento. Sometimes, all you wanna do is order a freaking cheesesteak.

kaba modern on the chopping block tonight?


Dance fans, remember to tune into MTV's America's Best Dance Crew tonight... Kaba Modern and JabbaWockeeZ have danced their way into the final three. Last week, Kaba was voted into the bottom two, where they had to battle to stay in the competition. They won, but not without a little drama. Yuri slipped up at one point during their Broadway challenge routine, making a small mistake, and one of the judges called her out on it. It actually drove Yuri to tears, which kind of broke my heart to see.

But can you blame Kaba Modern for not being totally on point? Their music apparently got changed last minute last week, so they had to make adjustments to their choreography the night before. It's gonna be a fight tonight: Kaba Modern in Final 3 fight for 'Best Dance Crew'. I've heard a few not-so-encouraging spoilers about tonight's results, which were taped earlier this week. But we shall see.

"beacon hill groper" targeting asian women

Police in Seattle are still looking for a man who is sexually attacking Asian woman at bus stops: Community alarmed as Beacon Hill attacks continue. The "Beacon Hill groper," who I mentioned back in November, is still at large and might be responsible for a string of 24 attacks on Asian girls and women in the area over the past year and a half.

The latest attack happened last Thursday in the driveway of an apartment complex. According to police, the suspect has apparently gotten bolder, and the attacks have escalated. The assaults have typically occurred after dark, but now they're happening in daylight. Police are telling women in the area to avoid being out after dark, to travel in pairs, and to be aware of their surroundings. Be vigilant! They're only going to catch this sicko with the help of the community.

Police believe the attacker is "a black man in his 20s or 30s who is at least 5-foot-5 and 150 pounds." If anyone has information on the case, detectives say they should contact the sexual assault unit directly at 206-684-5575.

a few details on the fast and the furious 4

It's been a little while since I've heard from Justin Lin, who is currently hard at work at the fourth Fast and the Furious movie for Universal, to be released next year. Yes, they said it couldn't be done. But why the hell not? The movie will reunite Vin Diesel and Paul Walker, the stars of the original movie. That ought to be at least mildly interesting.

Turns out, one more cast member from the first movie will be on board for this as-yet-untitled installment: Michelle Rodriguez Will Be Fast and Furious Again. Nice. Looks like Justin's got his hands full. Big budget, fast cars, lots of stars. Good luck with that. But what's it about? Here's the quick and dirty synopsis that's been floating around the web:
Brian (Paul Walker) is freed from prison (the authorities found out that he let Dominic played by Vin Diesel go at the end of the first film) to help the feds stop a heroin importer known as Braga. With the help of an informant named James Park, Brian – and ultimately Dominic Toretto--wins a place on the criminal's team, where he--and his flashy Nissan plan to catch the man red-handed.
Who's this James Park fellow? That's what I want to know. Word on the street is, the movie is actually a prequel, so it looks like we may see Sung Kang back as Han. (It was established in Tokyo Drift that Han used to run with Dominic at some point.) Sweet. Hoping to hear a few more upates on this project in the near future... Justin, throw us a bone! The movie is scheduled to hit theaters in summer 2009.

fugitive arrested in chicago's chinatown

When I first read this story, I thought it was about the capture and arrest of international murder suspect Nai Yin Xue, but it's another case entirely. Turns out, there's another Asian murder suspect who was featured on America's Most Wanted, and captured with the help of citizens who recognized him from a Chinese-language newspaper: 'America's Most Wanted' fugitive arrested in Chinatown, police say.

This week, Chicago police arrested Fu Lin Wang in connection with a California 1998 double homicide. They apparently received a tip from someone who showed them a World Journal article about the suspect, and told officers that he was staying in Chinatown. Wang is accused of shooting and killing his estranged wife and her son in December 1998 in Alhambra, California. Now you're caught, sucka! Who knew Chinatown residents were so vigilant?

3.19.2008

lots of screaming asians in tropic thunder trailer

The trailer for the comedy Tropic Thunder recently hit the web, and it looks pretty bad. Ben Stiller, Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr. stars as self-absorbed actors making a big-budget war movie. But things go horribly wrong, and the cast ends up in the jungles of Southeast Asia, where they encounter real bad guys. You know what that means, baby. It's like Rambo all over again. Watch the trailer here. Here are some choice images from the trailer:


Yes. Let's.


I think that's a dude in drag.


This guy appears to be the leader.


It's nice to see the kids participate too.

It looks like a bunch of Asian actors got to work for a few weeks, toting guns, running around in the woods, and doing a lot of screaming. Yay. Once again, can't say I'm looking forward to this one. The movie opens on August 15.

napawf weighs in on chinese laundry

Got this officially statement from the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (NAPAWF) the other day, presenting the organization's deep objection to Chinese Laundry's offensive ad campaign:
March 18, 2008

NAPAWF Denounces Ad Campaign for "Chinese Laundry" Fusion Restaurant, Launches Petition

METRO WASHINGTON, DC - The National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (NAPAWF) joins community members and activists in expressing deep objection to an ad campaign printed in February and March of this year to publicize a new Asian fusion restaurant owned by Chow Fun Food Group, Inc.

A print advertisement in last month's Providence Monthly magazine signaled the upcoming opening of Chinese Laundry, an Asian fusion restaurant in downtown Providence, RI, built on the site of a former Chinese laundry business that closed six years ago. The advertisement prominently featured a black and white image of a faceless nude female torso with traditional Chinese characters tattooed down the side of her body, and a black banner containing the text "see what you are missing" across her breasts. A bar of text across the top of the advertisement read, "good things come to those who wait." Earlier this month, the advertisement was again printed in Providence Monthly, this time with the words, "the wait is over." Click here to view the actual advertisement. Click here to sign a petition denouncing the ad.

In an apparent response to public objection to the advertisement led by Asian American activists, Chow Fun Food Group owner John Elkhay recently announced that the ad campaign will be pulled.

This is only a first step. NAPAWF denounces the Chow Fun Food Group for leveraging, in this marketing campaign, the lowest common denominators of Asian female exoticism and the commodification of a generalized Asian culture. NAPAWF is also disturbed by the flippancy with which the restaurant appropriated the name "Chinese Laundry" without recognition of the significance that line of business played in Chinese American history and oppression.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Chinese Americans were largely forced to enter the laundering business due to intense discrimination that closed the door of opportunity to most other forms of work. Chinese Americans came to be associated with the laundry business because, as with railroad work during the mid-19th century, it was one of the few available industries that Chinese workers could enter into to pursue a livelihood. Mr. Elkhay clearly missed the mark in naming his restaurant "Chinese Laundry" to "honor the time honored traditions of those before us," as Mr. Elkhay has stated.

Similarly, the advertisements' evocations of passive, faceless hypersexuality resurrect the struggles that Asian American and Pacific Islander women have historically fought against. For centuries, Asian American and Pacific Islander women have been represented as objects of submission, foreignness and sexual exoticism. The advertisement is proof that this "orientalism" continues today.

NAPAWF calls on Mr. Elkhay to take seriously his own proclaimed desire to respect the cultures that he seeks to profit from, by acknowledging their histories and realities rather than packaging them into offensive and oppressive pop culture quips. We urge Mr. Elkhay, as a successful business owner, to wield his powers of publicity in ways that are constructive to dismantling, rather than propagating, culture and gender oppression.

Send a message to the Chow Fun Food Group! Click here to sign a petition calling on Mr. Elkhay to issue a formal apology and discontinue this "business practice." Please contact Bonnie for more info or if you would like to get involved in local campaign efforts.
A little late, but every little bit of pressure helps. But I think it's going to take a lot more pressure and publicity to get Elkhay to change up Chinese Laundry, as Chow Fun Group has probably poured a truckload of money into that place. Let's keep it going...

the first asian player in nhl

Last week marked the 60th anniversary of the first player of Asian descent in the National Hockey League. On March 13, 1948, the New York Rangers called up 24-year-old Larry Kwong from the New York Rovers for a one-game stint against the Montreal Canadiens, making him the first: Kwong Made History 60 Years Ago Today. He only played for one game. One quarter, actually—and for not much longer than a minute. But the moment was historic, broke a long-standing racial barrier in the sport, and remains noteworthy 60 years later.

byung hun lee begins shooting on g.i. joe

Well, I guess it's really happening. A few months back, it was announced that South Korean actor Byung-hun Lee would play the ninja Storm Shadow in the upcoming G.I. Joe movie, based on the 1980s cartoon/comic book/toy line. For those unfamiliar with the franchise, Storm Shadow is one of G.I. Joe's coolest, most popular characters, next to Snake Eyes.

Well, it has begun. Paramount Pictures just put out a press release saying that the actor has completed his first day of filming: Byung Hun Lee Starts Shooting G.I. Joe. While I have some misgivings about this movie (it has the serious potential to be disastrous), I'm looking forward to seeing a talented actor like Lee in his first Hollywood role. And ninjas are awesome.

desperate (silicon valley) housewives

The San Francisco Chronicle recently had an interesting story on the large population of housewives in the Bay Area who came to the United States on the coattails of their husbands' H-1B visas, granted to highly skilled professionals to fill jobs at the software companies and technology labs of Silicon Valley: Indian women isolated in Silicon Valley.

While many of them come from highly educated and skilled backgrounds, under the conditions of their H-4 dependent visas, they're not allowed to work here. So they find themselves in the uncomfortable position of social and financial dependency on their husbands, while struggling to adjust to life in a new country. Their situation can be rather demoralizing.

3.18.2008

thao nguyen's "bag of hammers"


This is the music video for Thao Nguyen's "Bag of Hammers." Silly video, with a bunch of funny stop motion people and trippy visuals. Love the song. The new album, We Brave Bee Stings and All, came out back in January. I haven't picked it up yet, but I'm digging the sample tracks over at her MySpace. This is rock and roll.

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