Thursday, April 18, 2013

Asian Star in PACIFIC RIM

I love the cinematic visions from that big bear of a director and screenwriter, Guillermo del Toro.  Did you see his feminist fairytale, Pan's Labyrinth?  His camera makes love to the macabre.  The esoteric is embraced.  Such beautiful images of scary things.

In Pacific Rim, director del Toro will, once again, give us magnificent monsters.

Something curious struck me about the marketing of this big movie when I saw the trailer.  Or maybe I'm being too sensitive.  But here goes:  Often when you see a trailer with stars who have won or been nominated for Academy Awards, it's referenced on the screen.  You may see something like "Oscar nominee Brad Pitt" or "Oscar winner Charlize Theron."  I'm sure "Oscar nominee" would accompany Guillermo del Toro's name in articles thanks to his screenwriting nomination for Pan's Labyrinth.  Well, there's an Oscar nominee in his Pacific Rim cast.  The nominee made Academy Award history.

I saw the movie Babel.  I felt that it went on too long and was repetitive in its message that privileged people are often clueless to the disenfranchised and less fortunate in other cultures -- or in their own neighborhoods.  Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett starred.  But the performance that really made an impact on me was the one given by Rinko Kikuchi as the Japanese schoolgirl dealing with death and rejection.  What a powerful portrayal.
That performance brought Ms. Kikuchi an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress of 2006.  She was the second Japanese actress in nearly 50 years to get an Oscar nomination.  And in that same category.  She followed Miyoshi Umeki, Best Supporting Actress winner for 1957's Sayonara.  That's a pretty significant achievement, if you ask me.  She made Oscar history.  Rinko Kikuchi stars in Pacific Rim coming out this summer.

Here's the current trailer for the upcoming big, new sci-fi monster action movie.

If a new trailer is edited and released closer to the movie's opening date, I hope there's a change.  I hope we can get a line of dialogue from her or see "Oscar® nominee Rinko Kikuchu" on the screen.  That is, if they're not too busy slapping us in the face again with that big cinematic mansack of butch, patriotic images.  Let us know who the male actors are too. A new trailer should look less like Transformers.

Hollywood needs to step up its game in giving some love to our Asian actors.  I've mentioned this in previous blogs.  An excellent film like Wayne Wang's The Joy Luck Club comes out, gets fine reviews and not one single Oscar nomination.  I still think that film should've been adapted into a network TV series that would give work to Asian-American actors.  I like Disturbia, that 2005 sorta-kinda teen remake of Hitchcock's Rear Window.  Shia LaBeouf took on the James Stewart duties as the righteous voyeur who sees and solves a neighborhood crime.  Sarah Roemer is in the "Grace Kelly" role.

LaBeouf's "Thelma Ritter," if you will, was now an Asian buddy who's a tech whiz. come Disturbia couldn't have been made with an Asian-American actor like John Cho, star of the popular Harold & Kumar comedies, in the lead role? Cho's currently in the sitcom cast of NBC's Go On.  He's talented, charismatic, sexy.  The Asian guy doesn't always have to be the sidekick.  Aaron Yoo co-starred in Disturbia.

Remember Jurassic Park?  If it wasn't for the scientist played by BD Wong, there wouldn't have been a story or a park.  He creates the dinosaur eggs that hatch.  But his character disappears after the first 30 minutes.  Giant dinosaurs come back to life but the Asian-American actor disappears.  And the black dude (Samuel L. Jackson as a scientist) gets eaten.  But we saw that one comin'.  In a horror or sci-fi creature movie, black actors usually get killed or eaten before the last act.  We're rarely around for the movie's wrap party.  Did you see the 1999 sci-fi thriller, Deep Blue Sea?  Samuel L. Jackson got eaten in that one too.  In a wetsuit yet.  Now there's a creature feature for you.  Deep Blue Sea had Samuel L. Jackson and LL Cool J in the water fighting a monster shark. It was like Ghetto Jaws.  For real. That shark had a grill on its teeth.
Back to Jurassic Park.  My question to Hollywood was "Why didn't you bring BD Wong's character back for the sequel?"  I even asked BD Wong on WNBC if he'd been considered for a sequel.  His scientist character, Dr. Henry Wu, should have returned. In the 1930s, Dr. Frankenstein returned in Bride of Frankenstein.  Because, without him, there would've been no Monster and no Mrs. Monster.  One of the most frightening things about Jurassic Park is that Jeff Goldblum was cast as the voice of reason.  Steven Spielberg should've brought back BD Wong along with Jeff Goldblum and Richard Attenborough for 1997's The Lost World:  Jurassic Park.

About the late Oscar-winning actress, Miyoshi Umeki.  In Sayonara, she and Red Buttons played an interracial couple battling bigotry after WW2.  The white American is a G.I. stationed in Japan.  Both actors got Hollywood gold for their supporting roles in the drama that starred Marlon Brando.  After she won the Academy Award, she starred in the original Broadway cast and in the film version of the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical comedy, Flower Drum Song.  The Broadway play was directed by Gene Kelly.

The Broadway production co-starred the dynamic singer/actress Pat Suzuki (left).

Fellow Broadway cast member and future Barney Miller sitcom star, Jack Soo, joined the Oscar winner in recreating his stage role for the 1961 movie adaptation.

After that, babyboomers loved Miyoshi Umeki on the heartwarming hit ABC sitcom, The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1969-1972).  She played the wise housekeeper, Mrs. Livingston, opposite Bill Bixby as Eddie's dad.  Mrs. Livingston, in the TV adaptation of a 1963 MGM movie, became sort of a co-parent with the widowed father.  She teaches many good values to little Eddie.  She's a dear friend of the family.

OK.  I didn't understand why the writers had this intelligent woman keep calling the widower "Mr. Eddie's Father," but this casting was a big step forward in diversity.  In the Vincente Minnelli movie, Mrs. Livingston was a Caucasian female and more a housekeeper than a co-parent.  Ms. Umeki brought more dimension to the character in the expanded role.  She added a wonderful soulfulness to this sitcom.

That's enough.  I'm off my soapbox.  Thanks for letting me vent.

Movie tip:  If you don't mind reading subtitles and want to see a terrific and intelligent sci-fi monster movie over the weekend, rent The Host.  This is a 2006 thriller from Korea.  A smart teen schoolgirl has to deal with her sometimes exasperating working class family...and a giant sea creature on the loose that eats people.  The Host is scary, funny, witty and has excellent special effects.  The girl is one of my favorite strong females in a sci-fi horror film since Ripley and Newt in the Alien franchise.  Enjoy.

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