Tag Archives: movie

why i can’t be an actress

posted by ellephanta/Celine

I told my mother that I wanted to be an actress a long time ago, and she said, I support you no matter what you do, but here are two things about it you should consider before making that decision and pursuing it.

1. A woman’s beauty is prone to constant decay in the eyes of the society, and this is extremely the case when it comes to show business, which is aggressively superficial. It wants a specific kind of beauty and as a result, my professional career will depend entirely on the judgment of others. Intelligence and wisdom, however, knows no gender and it is certain and relatively within your control. It doesn’t decay with time, it only deepens and widens, and it is certainly a better horse to bet on.

2. Being a colored person, you will not get the title roles. You will get to be the title character’s best friend or brief love interest. If you do get a role, you will often be expected to discuss your identity as a racial minority, either insultingly vaguely or painfully in depth. It will be used against you everywhere. This is painfully wrong, but it will happen because show business is a place run by people who will do that to a colored person, for an audience that will eat it up exactly as is and demand more of the same. If it’s hard to make it as an actress, it is unimaginably harder to be a colored actress.

This was really painful to hear, not because I was that invested in wanting to be an actress (I had basically wanted to be everything in those days, from a teacher to a rock star) but because I realized in my young age that the North American promise of “endless opportunities and infinite possibilities” was a gross exaggeration.

There is a reason why there aren’t enough Azn/colored people in the media, why there are so few out there for the casting directors to hire (“well, bring me a sexy Azn girl who’s right for the role, we’ll hire her for sure!”). It’s because most casting directors don’t want them.

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a note on incendies, québécois cinema and its race politics

posted by jroselkim

If you haven’t marked Denis Villeneuve’s new film Incendies as one of the films to check out this year, you should. It’s a beautiful and compelling story of two Montreal siblings on a journey of self-discovery to their homeland Lebanon (which they left as infants with their mother). The film screened at TIFF to a very positive and receptive crowd and opened in Montreal on September 17 – I believe (I hope?) there will be a Canada-wide screening soon. The non-linear storytelling is both intricate and startling, leading to a very shocking twist at the end – which, I must say, does not really make sense chronologically. I can’t say much else about it, because I would have to spoil the ending for you.

However, the movie still displays some problems when it comes to its casting. Both of the main actors, Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin and Maxim Gaudette, are of Québécois decent and not Lebanese. This leaves Lubna Azabal, who plays the mother Nawal, as the only actress of colour in a film that centres around a Lebanese-Canadian family (Azabal is a Belgian-Moroccan actress).

This is not to say that white people can’t “act” in other ethnic parts. But when opportunities for actors of colour are already so limited as they are at the moment, why is it that studios would give opportunities to other white actors where an actor/actress of colour would be perfect for the part?

I am reminded of Jacob Tierney (director of The Trotsky, yet another excellent Québécois fare, anglo-style)’s recent interview with La Presse, where he bluntly stated: “Quebec society is extremely turned in on itself. Our art and our culture shows only white francophones. Anglophones and immigrants are ignored. They have no place in the québécois dream. It’s shameful.”

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knives chau: the pleasant surprise of scott pilgrim

posted by jroselkim

Being a good Canadian (who also wondered whether Michael Cera could pull off yet another similarly constructed awkward-boy role), I went to see Scott Pilgrim last week. And I had a surprisingly positive experience.

There are lots of good reviews and commentary about the film’s graphic novels origins, its soundtrack, and everyone’s acting abilities, so I won’t go into it too much. What I DO want to talk about though – because I haven’t seen this discussed in too many places yet – is how the film actually does a semi-okay job of portraying an Asian woman through the character of Knives Chau (played by Ellen Wong).

Okay, perhaps changing that ridiculous name could’ve been a huge improvement in making her portrayal semi-okay to okay. I also realize this is not the screenwriter’s fault, but rather the original graphic novel writer’s. Now, onwards with more in-depth commentary! SPOILER ALERT.

When Knives was introduced onscreen, I couldn’t help but groan at another Geeky and Asexual Asian Girl and whispered to my movie companion, “not again!” Yes, she is a token Asian character in an exclusively white Toronto-scape. Yes, she starts out in the movie as an annoyingly chaste and innocent girlfriend, the only person in the whole world who is blind to utterly loser-like characteristics of Scott Pilgrim. Then again, we could attribute her blinding and irritating naivete (I almost typed “knivete,” true story) to her young age and not her ethnicity, as she is the only teen in a film (although everybody else behaves like a teen I knew in high school).

I was totally ready to lose Knives after Scott Pilgrim appropriately used her to get over his too-cool ex-girlfriend then dump her once he spotted the even-cooler-than-his-ex girl (whose name I cannot remember for the life of me. That must be a bad sign for the screenwriters in selling that girl’s character as “cool,” no?) But then the movie pleasantly surprised me by a) having Knives stick around and b) giving her a pretty central role in defeating the Ultimate Bad Guy of the movie. She even gets to say to Scott Pilgrim: “I’m too cool for you anyway”!

Some of you might say: well, the writers make her say that so Scott Pilgrim can continue his “real romance” with the white girl as he was always meant to. And that is probably true. It’s kind of sad to see Asian women be the “exotic in-between” girlfriends who aren’t even real girlfriends, but pure ego boosters for the main character’s lack of masculinity. However, I think the film at least tried to break away from that flat characterization by evolving Knives’ character by giving her a chance to grow up into a more substantial person on her own.

(note: I have not read the graphic novels so I have no idea how much of this is from the books themselves, or the screenwriters’ adaptations. )

Am I praising this movie for making its only Asian character stick throughout the whole story? Have my standards dropped this low?

(By the way, I think Scott Pilgrim’s character is what irritates me about “nerdy boys” coming back in style. First of all, the guy is all self-involved and more whiny than my 16-year-old brother, then he manipulates and deceives Knives all the time. Dear media: these are not “cute, nice guys” – these are just douchebags with youthful-looking faces. Stop conflating the two categories.)

[Photo from Slashfilm.com]

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fantasia international film fest 2010: azn films galore!

posted by jroselkim

Poster for the South Korean film 'A Little Pond,' official selection of Fantasia Film Festival 2010


If you’re a fan of independent/sci-fi/azn films and are in Montreal, check out Fantasia International Film Festival for some great film gems, including many fine azn films. The festival kicked off on Jul. 8, but there is still plenty of time to catch numerous film screenings – many of them North American premieres – including free outdoor screenings until Jul. 28.

Here are some azn films I’m particularly excited about:

The Executioner (South Korea, 2009, North American premiere)– this film drew a lot of attention and controversy as it was the first film to be shot in an actual Korean prison. The story is about a rookie prison guard learning the harsh and brutal realities of the Korean prison system through a jaded, senior guard. The arrival of a notorious serial killer, whose crimes have garnered much public outrage, opens up the possibilities of a death sentence – a first since 1997 – which threatens to change the lives of the guards forever.

J.A. de Seve Theatre, Concordia University (1400 de Maisonneuve West)
July 18, 9:30pm and July 20, 3:20pm
$8

A Little Pond (South Korea, 2009, North American premiere): This is another film that met a lot of resistance from the Korean government (and public) due to its critical nature of the American troops (who are often seen as heroes who saved Korea from the Evil Communists). But after 8 years of planning and financial struggle, it’s finally here! The film takes place in a peaceful village in Korea, which turned upside down when the Korean war breaks out, with one of the most brutal massacres of the war on Nonguri Bridge.

J.A. de Seve Theatre, Concordia University (1400 de Maisonneuve West)
July 25, 9 :30pm and July 26, 5 :30pm
$8

Power Kids (Thailand, 2008): Move over, Nickelodeon, here comes the muay thai champions. Four friends must unite their muay thai powers to save their friend in a hospital with a heart condition.

Free outdoor screening, part of ‘Fantasia Under the Stars’ – at Parc de la Paix (Boul. St-Laurent, between Ste-Catherine and Rene-Levesque), 7pm

Other highlights include a digitally restored, original cut of Fritz Lang’s classic film Metropolis at Place-des-arts on July 28 (along with the Fantasia gala) and “Le sang d’un poète,” where Steven Severin (of the Siouxie and the Banshees) performs a live score to Jean Cocteau’s avant-garde film of the same name at the Rialto Theatre on July 22.

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the last airbender mindbender

posted by missmsian

Okay, I get that The Last Airbender movie is racist because it casts white actors to portray heroic Azn roles and actors of Azn descent to play villains. And the TV show, Avatar: The Last Airbender, was a million times better because it let little Johnny (Lee) and Sarah (Nguyen) have cartoon role models who looked like them.

But nobody’s bothered by the fact that the TV show was created by two white dudes?

Mike and Bryan (or maybe it's Bryan and Mike), white dudes and show creators

The show creators said they used Edwin Zane as a cultural consultant. Who the heck is Edwin Zane? Is he Azn? And, if so, when was he elected Ultimate Knower Of All Things Azn? ‘Cause I think I missed that vote …

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free & cheap things to do in toronto

posted by missmsian

New to T.O.? Just visiting? A longtime-local who’s never stepped outside your neighbourhood?

Here are eight fun thangs and happenangs around the city. Not entirely ‘mainstream’ but not so far off the beaten track that you need an ice pick and bottled water to do them.

1. The Bluffs

One of the most beautiful areas in Toronto, and I’m not bluffing! Okay, that joke failed … but the view is for real. The bluffs run for 14 km along the Lake Ontario shoreline in Scarborough. Bluffer’s Park, accessible from Brimley Rd., is probably the most foot-friendly area.

2. National Film Board (150 John St.)

I can’t count how many hours I’ve spent at the digital viewing stations since I discovered the NFB two years ago. Settle down in a comfy chair and access more than 5,500 NFB films on a personal, flat-panel, touchscreen monitor. Here’s the clincher: for free.

The films are organized into categories for easy searches. My favourite search? “Cultural Diversity and Multiculturalism.”

3. Subway station tour

Have you ever ridden the entire subway system in one trip? It’s pretty fun.

Take pictures with tacky, fake artifacts at Museum station. Visit Bathurst station’s Bakery On The Go–the best subway bakery in the system. Buy half-priced books at Eglinton station. Enjoy busker performances at most stations.

Need more ideas? How about a subway dance party, some spoken word or …

4. CBC building (250 Front St. W.)

Visit the CBC Museum (free admission!) to learn about the history of Canadian broadcasting. You’ll probably run into a lot of school groups there. If you’re looking for something more grown-up, try to score tickets to a taping of The Hour or The Rick Mercer Report.

Stop by the Glenn Gould Theatre to see what’s on. There are usually cool artistic performances, but I prefer the media-related panel discussions they run every once in a while.

5. Riverdale Farm (201 Winchester St.)

Farm! In! The! City! Worth a visit if you’re a city snob with no knowledge of, or inkling to visit, farming communities. The farm was my first school field trip as a newly-arrived immigrant to Canada, so I have fond memories of it.

6. Heritage Toronto self-guided tours

From May to October, HT offers free neighbourhood walking tours. If you’re like me and embarrassed to be the only 20-something single person on one of these (okay, to be fair, I’ve only had one awkward experience), try downloading self-guided tours off the HT website.

I recommend the Spadina Ave. tour because it’s the only one I’ve done … it takes you through Spadina’s development as an industrial centre and waves of Jewish and Chinese immigration.

7. York University observatory

Bring a date and a camera to the University’s observatory on public viewing nights. This summer, it’s Wednesdays from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. On clear nights, you can try the telescope with the help of observatory staff. On cloudy nights, there are info sessions and a planetarium show.

8. The Docks (Polson St.)

Now known as Polson Pier, it’s home to concert hall/nightclub Sound Academy, go karts, mini golf and the newly-opened Oh Boy! Burger Market. But the real treat is Toronto’s only downtown drive-in movie theatre.

What have I missed?

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the karate kid? yeah i did.

posted by missmsian

AAAARRRGGHGHHHHGHGHGHAHAAARHGHGHGHGHAHG.

That’s my best Karate Kid impression. Also, my conflicted feelings about the movie. I saw it last night with three friends. And, to my surprise, I really enjoyed it.

But what to make of a movie that smashes as many stereotypes as it reinforces?

*Spoiler alert*

For starters, the plot in three lines: Jaden Smith and mama move to China. Chinese kids beat up Jaden. Jaden learns kung fu from Jackie Chan to try to beat the boys in a competition.

The Good

This shoulda been/wasn't my childhood. So jealous.

Cutie-patooties Jaden Smith and Han Wen Wen: they’re young, they’re in puppy love and they traipse around Beijing a la Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday.

Fiiiiiinally, a love story goes right for a black person, a Chinese person and, significantly, an interracial couple.

Jackie friggin’ Chan SHEDS A FEW TEARS: I haven’t seen all 80 million of his movies, but I’m pretty sure it’s not often Hollywood lets a ninja cry. Or gives his character a wife and kid. Think about this!!! That means he had SEX!!! That means Azn men aren’t sexless fighting machines!!! They have lives and histories and emotions …. like real humans!!! It’s, like, a breakthrough for Azns here!!! Get pumped!!!

Jaden Smith gets his behind whupped–twice: hey, not all Black men are thugs. Sometimes they’re victims. And Jaden’s not the annoying, whiny, helpless, silent victim, but the one who gets knocked down and gets back up.

Harry, the white guy who speaks Chinese: without making fun of it. Luke Carberry’s character blended perfectly into the landscape, without pretense of overtaking it or appearing awkwardly out of place.

In fact, all of the non-native Chinese characters navigated life in China well. While Taraji Henson was stunning in a cheongsam, there were no proclamations of, “Oh em gee, that’s so foreign and hawt!” like Carrie and the girls would have shrieked had they gone to Beijing instead of Abu Dhabi in Sex & The Racist–I mean, City.

Han Wen Wen’s DDR moment: yeah, it was awful, but, to be fair, she was imitating Gaga. If Azn men are almost always the fighters and terrorists in Hollywood, Azn women are almost always humourless wallflowers. It was good to see her fling off all reserve and groove to “Poker Face”.

Jaden Smith loves kung fu: he even wants to go back to China to master it. Jaden’s genuine appreciation and, more importantly, respect for the martial art was evident in every scene where he was training or competing.

The soundtrack: Jay Sean (hot Azn alert!) gets the opening song–“Do You Remember”–and Jaden/Wen Wen have their love montage to K’naan’s “Bang Bang”.

The Questionable

Karate is Japanese: kung fu is Chinese.

Do Azn actors cost more to hire?: is that why they’re left out of movies like Dragonball: Evolution and The Last Airbender, and why The Karate Kid had to use white people as extras in almost all of the scenes? I’ve never been to Beijing so maybe I’m wrong. Maybe more than half of Beijing is white.

Bullies got (no) back: no back story, that is. Sick and nasty skills, yes. But there was never an explanation for how the boys got started with Evil Kung Fu Master’s classes or why they were out to get Dre. We’re back to the sexless fighting machine stereotype again.

No foolin' around!

At least with Meiying’s parents, we could guess they didn’t like Dre ’cause they hate Black people. Speaking of Meiying’s folks …

Black-yellow animosity and racism: it’s important to show that racism occurs in all cultures but, in this movie, racism and ethnic tension function as a cutesy side story, devaluing the issues it raises.

And white kid Harry could be read as a character who’s meant to represent all white people’s supposed neutrality and goodwill in race issues. Dre hates China, the bullies essentially tell him to go home, Meiying awkwardly wants to touch Dre’s hair … and cute, little Harry’s just smilin’ and lovin’ through it all.

Nuh uh. White people can’t wipe their slate clean that easily.

So there it is. The good, the bad, the ugly. I liked the movie. Your thoughts?

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