Tag Archives: actors

NEON: A Short Film Review

neon

In a grim and rain-soaked city, what begins as a couple’s phone conversation swiftly becomes a desperate negotiation for their future. NEON plunges us headfirst into a world of quiet desperation as we watch one man’s desperate bid for his own future against powers beyond our comprehension.

Or perhaps even a universe beyond our comprehension.

Director Mark J. Blackman (along with his team) makes spectacular use of special effects to give us a throbbing, vibrant world. Gorgeous panoramas of storm clouds and cityscapes, decrepit warehouses, and lonely streets all serve to make the setting as dynamic and alive as any of the film’s characters. Hell, based on a few of the clues dropped throughout the film, that might even be the case; the sometimes-indifferent, sometimes-capricious backdrop serving as a stand-in for the unnamed antagonists in play. Continue reading

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Can Casting Choices Promote Global Cultural Dominance? A Possible Explanation for Whitewashing in Cinema

This is a weird, random, and controversial thought, but….

I wonder if this consistent pattern of replacing Asian characters with White actors (even with more and more Asian actors getting more screen time [at least on TV] and all these articles highlighting whitewashing) is a subtle and unconscious battle of cultural and racial dominance? If it stems from a fear-based place of “if you put more Asians as leads in mainstream, worldwide entertainment, then it removes some of the cultural dominance of the status quo”.

I’m really not trying to bash White people, but you really can’t argue that White people overall have more privileges than any other race. And White men are the heads and execs at basically every major company in Europe and North America. And in entertainment, which has major worldwide influence, White people and predominately men are the execs, directors, writers, producers, and agents. Ironically, they welcome foreign money with open arms from Chinese to Middle Eastern investors.

Asians, population-wise, are more than 50% of the world; China and India have enormous populations with a lot of spending power. Asian countries have created very popular forms of entertainment with anime, manga, and video games. They frequently feature characters of Asian descent. Japan has always been a powerhouse country, but their status as an Axis power in World War II has set them up historically as a bad guy. Then their strength in electronics and cars in the 90’s set them up as the “competition” (i.e. not American and not us). And Chinese is ALWAYS the bad guy in the news. “We can’t have factories in China. The Chinese are gonna take over.” There’s a history of US vs THEM. Besides the military, the only industry of world dominance that White America has complete control over is the entertainment industry. American movies make so much internationally. Ironically, the US entertainment industry depends on the income from the foreign markets, but cater very little to their populations by representing them on screen. They know that the foreign populations will come see their movies no matter what, because they aren’t doing huge budget CGI movies where they are. Continue reading

Aaron Sorkin and Flash Boys: The Difficulty with Bringing Asian Heroes to the Big Screen

Asian Superheroes. The perfect intersection of two of my passions: racial diversity, in particular the representation of those who look like me, and the stars of my favourite medium, ie. comic books. It was just earlier today that I picked up the second issue of Silk, which [as briefly mentioned in another post] features Marvel’s newest hero, a Korean-American who received her powers from the same spider that bit Peter Parker.

okay

Similar to Spider-Man she has enhanced speed, strength, reflexes, and a danger detection system [aka. her self-coined “Silk-Sense”] as well as her very own ability to shangchicreate biological webs from her fingertips. Other favourites from the same publisher include Shang-Chi, the Master of Kung-Fu, an Avenger at the time of this writing. He primarily relies on his master of martial arts, an ability which didn’t keep him from participating in an intergalatic war to save the universe. Another is Amadeus Cho, a teenager who attained the title of “7th Smartest Man in the World” and frequently took down superhuman assailants with only his intelligence and whatever else was available. Yes, at one point one of those superhuman assailants was the Hulk. The Hulk.

amadeus

Each of these heroes is wildly different from the next, but share a few key similarities [besides their belonging to Marvel and being of East Asian descent]. The first is the quality that makes them heroes, the self-sacrificial desire to protect the innocent and defeat those who would do them harm. The second is that I would love to see any and all of them make it to the big screen one day, to fight alongside the White, square-jawed Chrises of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The third is that every one of them is a work of fiction.

Bradley Katsuyama is a real-life currently existing person. He is an Asian-Canadian and has been a doer of objectively heroic actions surrounding the investigation and consequent combating of algorithms that preyed on unwitting investors. While not the intellectual property of a company creating and producing recent years’ largest blockbusters he is the focus of the novel Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt, a film adaptation of which Aaron Sorkin is set to write the screenplay for. Yet at this point Katsuyama is no closer to having his story told than Shang-Chi or any of the rest of them.

Continue reading

Shame Day: Hollywood’s Attempts to Remake Akira

If you know nothing else about the Japanese animated film Akira you should know this: it’s worth every bit of praise it’s ever received. If you want to add another jot of information to that knowledge you should also be aware that it is beautiful.

It’s some of the most gorgeous animation that I’ve ever laid eyes on, and the gif above is only the smallest sliver of the visuals the movie contains. Even if you want to throw aside its mountain of accolades there’s the unquestionable fact that nearly every character skidding their motorcycle to a halt owes a debt to this film-

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Shame Day: Rebranding

In the latest batch of lectures offered through the ISO’s [International Socialist Organization] annual Socialism conference, there is a speech regarding the issue of post-modernist philosophy. While the title and speaker escape me, as does the majority of the lecture, one particular line stood out to me, and it went a little something like this:

How do you prove a post-modernist wrong? Drop him in the middle of the ocean and tell him that his petty and self-imposed definitions are the reasons he’s drowning.

Now that’s not exactly how the line went- but that’s pretty much the gist of it. The whole point of the speech was to point out the flaw in post-modernism, that while we do tend to make problems for ourselves with our adherence to self-imposed definitions (you can hear a lot of this reasoning used in the whole debate over sexual orientation), there are nevertheless certain inescapable truths regarding our situations that can’t be overcome by changing our attitudes. Your refusal to adhere to any preconceived notions of health doesn’t stop cancer from killing you. An oncoming train doesn’t care one way or the other if you choose to accept society’s standards.

All of that’s just to say: perspective isn’t everything; some facts are simply immutable; which brings us to the topic of this fine Shame Day.

Rebranding.

I recently came across this collection of shots taken from a Family Guy episode.

As much as you can rail on the show, you have to admit that every once in a while it manages to make some pretty clever points. Obviously the joke here is that we have a pretty twisted double-standard in this country. Simply paying for sex is prostitution, but add a camera and a few loose titles and you suddenly have a completely legal act. Pretty much nothing has actually changed, and as ridiculous as it is, this idiotic mentality is actually taking sway.

You may have heard of the rather clever bars in Minnesota (and England, though I can’t confirm the Brits) circumventing anti-smoking laws by declaring their patrons to be actors, and their cigarettes/cigarillos/pipes/cigars/etc. to be props. Obviously this isn’t actual theater, but because the law prohibits smoking in some situations but not in others, the bars can pretty easily get around the issue (which, by the way, I applaud them for). This isn’t meant to be an example of this mentality going wrong, just an example of it being used (even if somewhat sarcastically). But don’t worry, the uglier side of this is just ahead.

You may also have heard of cadmium, a toxic chemical sometimes used in paint, being used in the making of Shrek glasses sold by fast food empire McDonald’s (though other companies were complicit as well). Upon being discovered, many of these companies simply rebranded their products as being “adult collector’s items,” the FDA having separate standards for acceptable cadmium levels in products geared towards adults. Obviously these items are not “adult collector’s items” and would still wind up in the hands of kids, but hey, what do these guys care? They can get away with it by ducking through this little definitional loophole.

That even goes for the commander-and-chief, who drew fire (rightly so) from most every side of the political sphere when he, to reduce the embarrassment of collateral damage from drone-strikes, simply expanded the definition of militant to include anyone within the bast radius of the strike. There are inner-party members of IngSoc who would call that “a bit much.” I mean, think about it. The single most powerful individual on the planet has declared that the weapons of his country have something that resembles a cross between the logic of a four year old and the papal bull of inability. “We only kill terrorists, we killed that twelve-year old, therefore, we killed a terrorist. High-fives all around.”

My view of pretty much everything the president does

Look, rebranding can be sleazy, but this is simply insane. Naming a fish a bird will not result in different results when chucking it off of a roof. Some things simply are. A smoker is a smoker, cadmium is toxic, and a dead kid is only ever a dead kid.

And that’s just a shame.

Missing: Non-White Actors

This past weekend I asked my friends over lunch who the new generation of actors are. Who are this decade’s Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks? Who are the actors who will be representative of these years?

We came to a few conclusions. Nostalgia is a powerful force, and that’s why our Bruce Willis is still Bruce Willis. Leonardo DiCaprio has been acting since Romeo + Juliet in the mid-90s and has continued to go strong with 2010’s Shutter Island and Inception. Newer stars such as Michael Fassbender and Sam Worthington have only really begun gaining recognition in the past five or so years. Name recognition is what matters, and they’re still earning theirs.

Having answered that question, I posed yet another one: Where are all the new non-white actors?

There are actors [using the gender-neutral version of the word] making a reputation for themselves, but they’re men and women like Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield [yes, the leads of this summer’s The Amazing Spider-Man, I think in comic book movies, okay?]. But where are their non-white counterparts? The following are short lists I’ve made categorized by ethnicity-

AFRICAN-AMERICAN/BLACK
Donald Glover tops the list. NBC’s Community has done a lot to get him out there, and he’s beginning to become a household name. Idris Elba will be in this year’s sci-fi epic Prometheus and in Guillermo del Toro giant mech vs. alien action flick Pacific Rim. Anthony Mackie took a backseat to Matt Damon and Emily Blunt in The Adjustment Bureau, but will be starring in a number of films both this year and the next.

HISPANIC
Édgar Ramirez starred in 2008’s Ché, and will be in this summer’s Wrath of the Titans as the Greek god of war Ares. Javier Bardem has been in show business for quite a while, but will be the primary antagonist [okay, villain] of the next Bond film, Skyfall. Gael García Bernal starred opposite Will Ferrel in Casa de Mi Padre, and will be appearing alongside acting greats Pacino and Daniel Day Lewis in the upcoming years.

EAST INDIAN
Similar to Donald Glover television is where Aziz Ansarfi thrives and he’s gained the most recognition for his role on Parks and Recreation.  Russell Peters was in last year’s star-studded New Year’s Eve, and primarily works as a stand-up comedian. Kal Penn [Kumar, of Harold and Kumar fame] will be in the yet to-be-announced Bhopal: Prayer for Rain.

CHINESE, KOREAN, JAPANESE
Ken Jeong has been running around screaming ever since The Hangover; he’s going to keep finding work. John Cho  will be in the Star Trek sequel reprising his role as Hikaru Sulu. Daniel Dae Kim continues to be ridiculously good-looking on CBS’ Hawaii Five-0. Really, all of these actors are Korean.

As far as Asian actors go martial-arts movies are not as popular as they once were. In fact, the two most recent listed on Wikipedia are MMA [mixed martial arts] films, starring White leads. Actors of Asian descent must find work elsewhere, and normally this means in comedy movies.

In general non-white actors find themselves relegated to supporting roles, most lacking the clout in the industry that heavyweights like Will Smith have. There’s an immense multiethnic audience out there but few studios willing to cast actors of different ethnicities in roles where names mean everything.

Actors like Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, Chow Yun-fat, and Jackie Chan aren’t getting any younger. These are all names that once were, and still are, recognizable by most. One day, however, they will inevitably retire, and once that happens who will be there to take their place?