Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Odds and ends

R.I.P. Anthony Minghella and Arthur C. Clarke. I can't really offer a proper tribute to either since I've seen only three of Minghella's films ("The English Patient", "The Talented Mr. Ripley," and "Cold Mountain") and read only a couple of Clarke's stories. But that's enough for me to affirm that the former was a filmmaker of exquisite taste and discernment who somehow managed to meld both elegance and passion in his work, while the latter would be justly remembered for 2001: A Space Odyssey alone, though it was far from his only major contribution to science fiction.

In other movie-related news, I've been in such cinema-withdrawal lately that I agreed to pay full Arclight price to see "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day," a film that barely sparked my interest, because one of my friends wanted to see it. It proved to be an agreeable trifle with an occasional minor chord and a couple of delightful performances (oddly, not from the two lead actors) that saved it from being completely forgettable. Review to follow soon, though it may be rather abbreviated.

Finally, an update on my spring movie preview, specifically with respect to the upcoming "21": I had no idea, but apparently *all* of the students at the center of Bringing Down the House, the book on which the movie is based, were Asian American, whereas the movie makes whiter-than-white Jim Sturgess the lead card shark, with equally-white Kate Bosworth as his romantic interest. This news annoys but hardly surprises me. It won't necessarily keep me from seeing the movie - bad reviews are a much more likely deterrent. Still, it's a fresh and stinging reminder that Asian Americans still have a long way to go in the entertainment world. In many ways I feel like they've made greater progress recently in television than in the movies: on TV, at least you've got fully fleshed-out, three-dimensional, principal characters played by actors of Asian descent in powerhouse shows like "Lost," "Heroes," and "Grey's Anatomy," as well as evanescent but high-profile froth like "Cashmere Mafia" and "Lipstick Jungle." Whereas, on the silver screen, American studios still haven't figured out how to present Asians and Asian Americans other than as martial artists, exotic geishas, pidgin-speaking FOBs, nerds, and/or comic sidekicks - the subversions of "Harold and Kumar," "Better Luck Tomorrow" and "Letters from Iwo Jima" notwithstanding.

Oh well...someday a major studio will have the guts to cast an Asian American actor as a lead character who also happens to be an everyday human being, without a funny accent or flying fists of fury...In the meantime, I'll have to seek solace in such springs of Asian American creativity as the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (currently ongoing and being aptly covered by our favorite Frisco film correspondent) and up-and-coming directors like this one, whom I met briefly the other day at a friend's wedding. Haven't seen his movie yet, but plan to eventually.

Peace on out, and happy post-St. Pat's-hangover day to all.


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