Archive for the ‘Not So Random Thoughts’ Category

It’s award season around Hollywood and it’s that time of year when we celebrate everything from actors to writers, costumes and songs but mostly movies and stories… the best stories on the screen for us. It’s a dream for everyone who makes it to this town to someday win an Oscar, it’s literally winning the Super Bowl in our creative industry.

In the last few decades, or for as long as I can remember, the irony of it all is many of the movies celebrated by the Hollywood elite more than not don’t resonate with the audience at large, even among many Hollywood insiders we have a hard time to remember the last handful of winners of Best Film of the Year. What does that mean? I’m not sure, I am sure all the films that won are great films… to even get nominated is proof of great work. The fact that we may not know exactly who or what won just a few years ago may just speak to how much impact on the community at large a film may have had on the masses regardless of the exceptional work that had been done.

This year these issues are getting more called into view with actors of color calling a boycott on the Oscars due to lack of ethnic artist being nominated. Are Oscars so white, as the trending hashtag on twitter seem promote? Well, of course they are, but that is nothing new, there are more films being made in Hollywood with Caucasian stars and about “white” stories than any other groups. At the end of the day, the majority of the country is Caucasian and so is the majority of the people running this entertainment industry. That being said, I still feel there should be more inclusion, not too just recognize people of color working in the industry, but to recognize work that is worthy and I do feel that there was some work that was worthy. Also, outside of just winning some subjective award, it actually means a lot when it comes to business and negotiations in future projects. That kind of recognition can definitely be life changing for years to come, so it’s important to be included.

But beyond the race conversation surrounding the whole awards, what about the fact that most of the time, movies I actually love don’t get recognized by the Academy. Many people I know think if an film wins an Oscar, it’s guaranteed to be a boring movie! I’m not going to go that far but here are my favorite movies of the year.

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Straight Outta Compton: this movie was just an important to me because it was about guys from my neighborhood at time I was growing up, the music and the memories that ran through my mind when I was watching this movie is unexplainable. Certain moments that happen in the movie, I was thinking where I was when that happen, the first time I heard this song, when I met certain people in that film around those times. To be honest, I didn’t know if this was going to be good when I first heard they were putting this film together, it’s just a story that was so fresh in our minds still and the music that still played on radios everyday. I feared it would turn out cheesy and taint that time, but shout out to director F Gary Gray for making an amazing film that romanticized a special time in my life and showed these black kids from the neighborhood become rock stars and changed the world forever. I’m still convinced “Fuck the Police” is the craziest thing that any musicians have put on wax, I think this will be remembered as an important film because its an important story.

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The Hateful Eight: this is my favorite movie of the year, hands down… I watched the 70mm version, it over three hours with overture at the beginning and an intermission in the middle of the flick, I watched the 10:45pm showing knowing I had a flight in the morning and I was swept away into another world, lost in the adventure of this movie the whole time! I love Tarantino as writer and director, the story is filled with twist and turns and has racial undertones and dark witty humor throughout. It’s my favorite film this year, it baffles me that it didn’t even get a nomination for Best Film by the Academy, I don’t want to give out any spoilers, if you haven’t seen this film, you got to go see this film. I can feel Tarantino’s ode to classic Western films and then he puts his mark on the genre and takes us to whole new places that world’s never seen.

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Mad Max Fury Road: then there’s this film… I watched it over the summer after getting off the set of a movie I was shooting in Texas. The cast wrapped and rushed to a movie theatre in Taylor, Texas, arriving 5 minutes before it started only to find out due to no tickets in this little town had been sold for the last showing of the night, they decided to close early. But somehow we talked them into to opening it for our own private screening! (the kid closing down recognized us as actors and called up his manager and convinced him to play the movie for us… thank you!) It’s a great memory, and as we sat in this 100 year old theatre to watch this film on summer night in Texas I witnessed a roller coaster ride of lifetime. I literally got to see a masterpiece, George Miller did something that some may have thought was impossible, he made an art film and a summer blockbuster, a thrill every 5 minutes and I can take any number of frames of the movie and blow it up and put the image in museum to rival any masters of all the ages. Got to admit, the Academy got it right on giving this unlikely contender a nod for Best Film of the Year.

I just love movies… if you haven’t seen these ones yet, I highly suggest it, you may not agree with me, but these are my favorite movies of the year.

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In the new year I’ve decided to be more proactive in something I helped to create called #WeOwnThe8th, a movement that celebrates Asian American media in America. Now beyond producing and acting in videos, as well as helping to organize our monthly meeting of the minds in Downtown Los Angeles, I’ve decided to start dropping monthly essays on this subject matter. Now, like most things I do, I’m just now deciding to do this without a lot of foresight or parameters that I’ll be writing about, I just love writing and I think this is a great excuse as any for me do sit down and just write.
Now I usually try to stay away from being controversial when I wonder around online, just my politically correct upbringing and my coming up in the public eye at the turn of the millennium, I understand what and what not to say in public, and Internet, for those of my comrades who happened to acquire some celebrity, the Internet is most definitely in public, and you shouldn’t go saying things online you wouldn’t say in public. That being said, I’m sure whatever I write in concerns of our community may not be well accepted or liked, even by the community itself, but I’m using my blog as place for me to write and think out loud about the subject, maybe even spark conversation… and I’m always opened to new points of view.
Now on to my first essay… the Serial pod cast.
I was turned on to this pod cast by an actor friend of mine, Chris Sabat, while having dinner at convention in Oklahoma City. He told me to listen to the first episode and guaranteed I would be hooked! He was right… now I must admit to you, that was the first time I even opened the podcast app on my iPhone! I didn’t even know I had a podcast app. But none the less, he forwarded me the link and I was opened up to a new world.
Like the rest of the country, I’ve become fascinated with this story of the murder of a young girl and the ex-boyfriend who may be possibly innocent, sitting behind bars in prison for the last 15 years.
There are several blogs about this podcast, as it has become the most successful podcast of all time, there’s has been podcast about the podcast… crazy, I know… crazier, I’ve listened a bit to them.
The reason I’m writing about this is its because this story, this American tragedy happened to happen to a teenage couple… an Asian American teenage couple. The writer Sarah Coenig did a great job of of telling and investigating the story, there’s people that says she was biased one way or another, but I really want to highlight that this story that caught on like a phenomena and spread like wildfire is an American story and even more specific, an Asian American story.
It’s also a story about children of immigrants, which is a very large part of the API community here in the states and the intricate dealings of how second generation Asians have to maneuver with functioning and adapting to this new world and at the same time, being so close connected to the culture of our parents and grandparents and how that can be misinterpreted by others that haven’t lived that life. The life of being a regular American youth at school and with friends and then going home and still trying to adhere to the customs and rules that have been carried over from our homeland countries just a generation ago, which could be 20 years ago, 10, maybe even less, countries like Korea, Pakistan, Philippines, India, China.
I have nothing profound to say about the story, I’m a fan and follower like several other millions, still seeing and waiting for this tragic tale to unravel. I simply want to bring light to an amazing story, maybe one of the most amazing stories being in told within the last year and point out that it is in fact an Asian American story. These stories are invisible and for one reason or another not apart of the stories told in the Hollywood studio system, but the success of this story reinsures me that we, Asian Americans, are apart of the fabric that make up America today and our stories are helping to write our modern history.
My heart goes out to the Lee family and Syed family, this kind of tragedy is something I would not want to wish on anyone and the pain of your loss is immeasurable. But I also see my family in your story, my aunts and cousins and friends and it feels like this could of happen to my family or close friends.
All my community work is to help inspire the next generation to tell our stories because its important, our stories are important and it’s even more important for us to tell them. But I also hope Serial helps show Hollywood that our stories can be marketable.
to check out Serial go to: http://serialpodcast.org/#episodes

I was just awaken in the middle of the night, I heard what sounded like a hand on the doorknob of my bedroom and padded feet walking across my hardwood floors to the side of my bed. Half asleep, I admit I was a bit scared, well not scared per say, but nonetheless, a bit frozen. As I felt a presence next to my bed I struggled to open my eyes slowly, thinking, I live alone, I wonder if a cat or something somehow got into my apartment and was wondering around or my girlfriend, decided to come back in the middle of the night and climb into bed. And as I struggled to slowly open my eyes to see what visitor I had in my room in the middle of the night, my mind flashed back to my youth…
I remembered being less than 10 years old in the back room of my grandma’s house. Now this was sometime in the 80’s. That night happened to be a night of a “prayer,” which usually meant there was a potluck in the neighborhood and many families would gather to someone’s house, tonight, being my grandmothers. It was basically a potluck, everyone brought different dishes and mostly the kids would play, men would be in the living room eating and watching tv while the women would be in the back doing a prayer, usually the Rosary. See, I’m Filipino and as Filipinos, we are Catholic and my grandmother being from the homeland, the Catholics there can sometimes lean towards a Catholic religious way mixed with some old world practices that may remind you of occultism. In any case, I remember being in the back room where all the old ladies gathered around the the alter, portraits of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, usually a plate a food that sat at the alter as a form of offering. Now, this gathering happened every week, somewhat of a social gathering in the Filipino community, but tonight was different.
As me and my brothers made our way to the back room, I remember seeing the elders on their knees, dressed in all white in prayer, with cloths gracing their heads, the difference tonight is they weren’t saying the Rosary, no tonight they were saying some different kind of prayer. Matter a fact, I remember there were women I didn’t know in town from the Philippines and the prayer seemed so much more serious on this night. No how I remember it all was that woman were praying and praying hard. What does that mean? Well, I don’t know, it does seem kind of ridiculous now describing it, but let me tell you, however they were praying, it was fast and furious, so furious in fact that it began to physically change them. Yes, as they furiously prayed, their bodies would begin to move, first swaying then into a full convulsion, some would have tears streaming down their cheeks, others not so much, and then at the peak of the commotion, they would drop. Yes, drop to the ground, pass out cold. I remember one lady, who was my Auntie Alice from the Philippines, passed out and was caught by my grandmother to ease her collapse to the wall to wall brown carpet of my grandma’s bedroom floor. Then in the next moments she awoke, yet she awoke, not as my Auntie Alice, the cousin of my mother that recently came from the Philippines and would sometimes babysit us on nights my mom and dad stepped out, no Auntie Alice all of a sudden had become someone else entirely! As she woke up, she became this child. Yes, all of a sudden she had become a little girl, a little girl with a different voice. Auntie Alice’s Filipino accent had been replaced with the voice of a young girl, a girl with from England, with a British accent in fact and her name was Littles. If you think I am telling you that I witnessed my aunt get possessed by a young British soul… you would be right, that is exactly what I’m telling you! This thirty something year old Filipino women had prayed so hard that she somehow got possessed by an eight year old English girl. Now for some reason me and my brothers weren’t scared by this extraordinary event, I remembered being more fascinated more than anything. Maybe because it was my grandma’s bedroom and it was Auntie Alice or maybe because the spirit that possessed her was so close to my age, it didn’t scare me. Auntie Alice, now Little’s was this total jubilant little girl that was kind of playing with us. She kept asking for grapes, she said she liked grapes and she explained to me and my brothers that she missed food, being a spirit, they don’t get need to eat and can’t taste food anyway, but she misses it nonetheless. We asked her questions like how she died, which she explained, in an accident on a bridge and we wondered what exactly she was doing here. She explained of the spirits or ghost that still are around the living and the people they watch, something about things that need to get done before they can move on and my Auntie Alice was one of the people she had to watch. As she moved around the room she would walk on her tippy toes, as would the others that were possessed, Littles explained that what happens when they enter someone’s body, “We’re not of this place anymore.” Then she she said, almost suddenly, “I have to go,” and in the next instance, her body collapsed and upon opening her eyes, it was once again my Auntie Alice, although with significantly less energy, no longer the mischievous 8 year old, now she was back to being my aunt from the Philippines and she exclaimed how tired that ordeal was on her body. Throughout the night we met a few other ghost, even had a conversation with the Virgin Mary herself… I hadn’t thought about that night in a long time, but with the feeling of a ghost in my room, all those images and feelings rushed through my mind once again.
As I finally got my eyes open, I was half expecting to see someone leaning over my bed, but nothing, my room still dark, I can feel the ceiling fan gently moving the air around my room. I look at the clock to find that it’s 6:19am and I lay awake a bit. I justify that it was probably just the ceiling fan making noises around my room. But as I listened, there was just the subtle sound of the fan spinning round, no doorknob sound, no footsteps, just me laying in the dark… Then I look outside my window to see in the dark that the first sliver of light is cutting through the night, I realize, I probably was awaken just to see the sunrise and so I stayed up to watch the day begin.
Now if you ask me if I believe in ghost, what would I say? Just because I met one when I was a kid doesn’t mean I do, just means I’m not that scared of them.

 

So here are a few examples of my 15 year old face adorning the bodies of a few people out there in the world… Over the last few years, as tattoos have become apart of our generation’s way of expressing ourselves, I’ve been stopped a few times by people that recognize me to point out that someone they know has my face tattooed on their body.

How does that make me feel?

Well, being a person with tattoos myself, I know what each one means to me and how I spent many hours contemplating exactly what I wanted to be on my body for the rest of my life. So quite honestly, I’m flattered that a role I’ve played means so much to some people that choose to carry my mug around with them for the rest of their lives. I understand that character, that movie, means something to all the Lost Boys and Girls out there. With all that being said, it is a bit weird to see your own face on someone’s arm or leg or wherever… Of course you take in the fact that this is an artist’s rendition of how you look, or how I looked over 20 years ago… Rufio, in all his glory, red tri-hawks and all.

And then there’s the realization that I am officially a part of pop culture. Growing up, the tattoos I saw were Playboy bunnies and Mickey Mouse or actors like Jack Nicholson in “The Shining,” tattooed in indelible ink on some bad ass’s body letting the world know a little something about themselves, now here I am staring at my face etched into someone’s body… I don’t know what it all means, I’m not sure if it means anything at all, but I have to admit it’s kind of cool.

To some people I’m a hero… or anti-hero, but to all those who are rockin that Rufio tatt, we all know its BANGARANG!

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Having just gone through Asian Heritage Month, (for those of you that don’t know, it’s the month of May) and touring around the country speaking on the issues concerning the Asian American/Pacific Islander community, I’ve been able to have great conversations about all kinds of ideas. Talks in San Francisco to New York, from Los Angeles to Portland. And one of the ideas I want to talk about right now is the idea of the Asian Leading Man.
Now, I’m a film maker and creating characters is important to me, as both an actor and writer. But the idea of trying to prove that to others has lead me to thinking about it all in a deeper way. On the surface, the Asian community’s cry for more roles and more substantial roles is one demanding more representation and point blankly, employment in the mainstream media in which we call “Hollywood.” I would be lying if I said I did not want more opportunities to work in my given profession. I think the Asian community at large wants to see characters that resemble them more throughout film and television. This is all true and I also believe Asian leading men and leading men of all ethnicities is important, leading women too (I don’t mean to be sexist) and ultimately help in race relations in a very special way.
How I see it, when we as an audience see the film, we live out the story through the star of the movie… the “Leading Man.” In most cases it happens to be a caucasian man. When we do this, we live a whole experience through their eyes and emotions. Thus, we grow up wanting to be Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt or Travolta, Eastwood the list goes on and on. You see, when we’re living out our fantasies in films, we aren’t considering race or ethnicity, we are being scared or surprised or emotionally shattered or triumphant, we’re experiencing the human condition, as if we are the “leading man” ourselves!
Being ethnic in America, we have always seen ourselves through a Euro-centric perspective, it’s the culture that America was built on, but America has gone through many changes, like the world at large. Connecting with characters and living their stories makes us better understand or even better, makes us feel for that person, or even kind of person, more.
In reality we all see ourselves like the movie stars, we have deep connections with them, because they remind us of ourselves… or our friends and family.
You ask a group of Asian friends, who in their group reminds them of Tom Cruise or Will Smith… They’ll give you one of their buddies, because we see aspects of ourselves through movie stars. We’re funny or cocky or ernest or sexy… just like the guys on the big screen.
The problem for Asians in American media, is there isn’t enough representation out there. The predominant amount of rolls depicted of Asians in the media still circle around the old played out stereo types. We can all name them… The nerdy, heavily accented, kung fu master! Look, I’m not saying there isn’t any truth in the stereotypes, all these exist in the Asian American community and I’m not trying to protest any of these characters, I’m trying to include all the other attributes we have and pressing forward to help create more Asian Leading Men. Because you see, when we can live adventures and fantasies through others that may be Asian or Black or Latino, we actually humanize each other, we realize that we all react to things in very similar ways. We are scared shitless when being attacked by someone with a mask on in the middle of the night in the woods or proud when we have saved the world or saddened to tears when we come into the room a second too late to save the life of your one true love.
So yes, one of my goals is to help create the Asian American genre and help create many Asian leading men and women… I don’t know if it will change the world… But it won’t hurt it.

Hope you had a happy “Asian Heritage Month.”

I’ve been really wanting to write more… Just long form, to exercise my writing muscles and I guess just, workout some of these thoughts that swim around my mind. So from time to time on my blog, I’ll be writing these essays on just things. You may not agree with my point of view of some of the things going on in the world, but that’s ok, I won’t be offended, I’m just writing to add to the great conversation that is the internet… So with that, here’s my first essay from this series I’m calling, “Not So Random Thoughts.”

So now that the Olympics are done and all the hoopla has run us over about who won, who lost and who came close. Still hung over with the comical conditions of bathrooms and facilities for the media members attending the events and the mishaps of things gone wrong, like the last olympic ring having somewhat of wardrobe malfunction, not being able to thouroghly be exposed, my head begins to clear and other realizations begin to set in. We are so concentrated on, through patriotic pride of our personal countries, our respective medal count, who beat who and who should have done better than they did. I can’t help but to be somewhat taken aback by the fact that at times like this we totally missed the point. 

     At times like this, I remember things like… to win at the Olympics, is not the actual point of the whole thing. Sometimes watching ESPN or the nightly coverage, it might lead us to believe that it is, that to win at any cost, to bring pride and fame to your homeland, is what the Olympics are all about. But that’s not it all, I mean, I know it’s apart of it all, but it’s not actually the point. The point is actually being there. Yeah, just being there… all of us, the whole world, competing in a goodwill games in the hopes of the highest form of competion, not the definition that pins us against each other to tear us down, but rather the type that unifies us and pushes us to excel to heights beyond any of our expectations. The point is us, the world coming together, walking, competing… and yes playing, not unlike we did when we were kids, along side each other, you know, even the countries I never even knew existed. And somehow through these frivolous games we play with each other (like kids in a sandbox) we find out we’re really not that different.
     Now, I’m not an athlete, and I’m sure some of you athletes out there, may feel, that me, an artist pontificating about all of this, has definitely missed the point and the passion of the athlete. Well, I’m not an athlete, but I am a fan, and of course I root for my country, I was bummed we didn’t get the gold in women’s hockey, was even more shocked we didn’t medal at all in the men’s, (I’m sure all my Canadian friends are loving life with bragging rights for the next four years) I was happy we got the gold in couple’s figure skating (yeah, Canada, it was close, I’m not quite sure how they figure who’s actually better when it comes to that, but we’ll take it) also it sucks that Sean White didn’t get a medal and I reveled in the fact JR Celski got a silver medal being a Filipino American like myself. (Heck, I even rooted for the lone Olympian from the Philippines when he did his figure skating routine)
     So I don’t want to say that it’s not good to win, or that I didn’t want us to win, because I did and I cheered like everyone else for our guys and girls, I just never want to lose sight in life, of what the actual point of things are, I don’t want it all to just fly over my head. I don’t want to forget the importance of us competing in a country, Russia, in which a few decades ago, we refused to do, as they did too when we held the games in Los Angeles, side effects of the Cold War. Growing up in the 80’s having total fear of this mortal enemy of ours, actually finding it hard to sleep at nights as a kid, with the fear that nuclear war could break out at anytime, causing World War III and the destruction of Earth itself… And now here we are, playing games with each other, in the snow, even having a few chuckles due to silly things like technical hiccups. It’s a magical thing that every few years, the excuse of getting together to play games, like children, can make this great big world, a small world after all.