So tonight, after a long weekend of holiday parties, I got to sneak out to the theatre to see “La La Land.” I was super excited because, I admit, I love musicals, they hold a special place in my life. I said many times that… probably John Travolta in “Grease,” is first reason why I wanted to become an actor. Anyhow, I love that musicals have made their way back into Hollywood, with all the live events of revival musicals on television and even dating back to “Moulin Rouge,” weaving in pop songs to tell the story. I was excited for this film to come out.

Some disclaimers, I always thought Justin Timberlake should be doing musical films, he is a true triple threat, (singing, acting & dance) but I mean, you got to take Ryan Gosling, JT may be a better dancer and singer, but Ryan has some of my favorite performances in the last few years. And hey, they were mousekateers together back in the day on “The Mickey Mouse Club.” (a show I auditioned for in my youth and didn’t make the cut) Also, I am a fan of Emma Stone, despite her being cast as a half Asian girl in “Aloha,” I’ve always found her adorable and an actor, like Gosling, who to me is infinitely watchable on screen, partially because they take risk in they’re performances and make quirky choices in their work.

So the movie… I watched the film tonight, in the company of my brothers and a friend who is an accomplished dancer who’s appeared on stage in Broadway touring shows. So, you know the conversation after this flick is going to be fire. Ultimately, I really like the movie. First and foremost, it paints LA with the most vibrant colors, grabbing all the old world charm of neon signs and buildings that take you back to the Golden Era of Hollywood, both on screen and in the streets. I can appreciate that, I can appreciate a lot of things from this is film, the references to “Rebel Without a Cause,” to jazz, to all the cool nuggets of LA that set the scene for the movie, it was cool to try to guess in your mind the location of some of those places and think of the moments you’ve had there. I grew up here, in this town, in this business, watching all the old movies, that’s our history, that’s what we studied.

Some Broadway purist are going to take offense to maybe the singing and dancing weren’t up to snuff with the stars that grace Broadway, and to tell you the truth, I wouldn’t disagree. The choreography was simple, yet well executed, Emma Stone’s voice was pretty thin when it came to the singing, but she was so fierce to attack the role and all it takes to do a musical. Her acting was amazing, she had some incredible moment, the audition scene in the film stands out. But, it all worked, I thought she was really good. Gosling was great, funny and charming… even when he’s being an asshole… He played the piano so well in the movie, makes you wonder how good of a piano player he actually is.

I grew up in this town and I like the movie because I identify with the story and the struggle of the artist that live here because I’ve gone through it and so have all my friends… we still are! There so many funny moments in the movie that ring true, I don’t know if it will to everyone, but to us, we were cracking up. There’s just an insanity, or craziness that we all have in this city, chasing our dreams and it’s in there in this movie, with these these two characters. Beautiful, romantic… heart breaking, I mean, that’s LA, that’s Hollywood.

Now I like it… I really like it… but there’s other feelings that rise up in me when I watch the film. It’s stylized and beautiful and shows an LA story, but ultimately it’s pretty light weight. It portrays an almost “lily white” Hollywood, a Hollywood from yesteryear. And I understand, that’s the look they were probably going for, but you can see that they tried to add ethnicity in the film with John Legend and the sister marrying an African American, but it all felt a bit token. I mean, this is LA, one of the most diverse cities in the world. And with the climate of musicals like “Hamilton,” and just where we are as a nation in this moment, the film feels a bit vanilla. 

And as charming as the film is, and it is very charming, I would love to see some actors with some big voices and major dance chops to do some of the songs and dance numbers. Even though they are both fine actors, sometimes you can see a musical performance and be impacted by that powerful voice or blown away by the skill and grace of that special dancer, some of the numbers left you with a wanting for that feeling.

But non the less, I really enjoyed the movie and I’m sure it will be well received during awards season and rightfully so. And I loved it’s point of view on love… that last sequence really resonated with me. (No spoilers) I’d like to think that relationships that were important to you, we’re just as important to them, and we all play that “what if?” game in our head.

I’m just laying in bed thinking about the movie. I know some who follow this blog see that I haven’t posted in awhile. Life has been crazy, I’m just trying to write more, using my blog to get some thoughts out there. There’s going to be a lot of stuff going on in the new year, so I need to getting my writing appetite back… so, I’m just writing. Thank you for reading. -Dante

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King & I at Pantages Theatre

Posted: December 16, 2016 in Uncategorized

Last night I got the pleasure to attend the opening night in Los Angeles of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “King and I.” It’s always amazing to go see theatre, especially the Broadway extravaganzas. You really get to see how creative people can be to tell a story, especially in the set design and how objects move and people flutter sheets but somehow with the richness of the lights, we’re transported to another world. I mean, I’m a Hollywood kid, growing up more in film and television, but you watch a grand theatre production like this you feel the connection, you can see how productions like this a half century ago became movies like “Star Wars” or something like that.

The performances were great, I loved Jose Llana playing the King, it’s great to see Asian American artist working and this production was stacked deep with beautiful and talented Asian actors and dancers. This play is one of those titles that, as a young upcoming actor, who happens to be Asian, everyone would be like, “Someday, you’ll play the King.” As a kid watching the Yul Brynner version from the 50’s, I always related more to the son, the King to be, with doubts of himself. Now, watching it as an adult, I do relate more to the King… who still has his own self doubt.

Beyond the story, it’s interesting to see how artists back in those days, housed the conversation of race relations. I think the first production of this play was 1951, over sixty years ago! And the play takes place, some hundred years before that. Of course the play is about a white person going into a non-white world, teaching them what’s right and wrong or how to do something better… even going as far as having a school teacher, ultimately giving a head of state the advice and practically running International Relations. It’s kind of a funny and ridiculous, yet is probably 90 percent of the story lines of today’s movies in regards to ethnic people… so not much has changed there. Also, things stand out like the King and Anna’s relationship, there are moments written in there, like “Shall We Dance” but ultimately, no real romance, no kiss. I wonder if there was a different version written or how things were back then, if it was even possible to have an interracial relationship. I wonder if it were written today, if something like that would change.

In any case, the show was wonderful, if you’re in LA and you want to see some throwback epic theatre, this is a good one to see. Great songs and dance numbers, some real issues about race relations and slavery are intertwined in the story. It also made me personally think about a Thai girl I used to date, I mean, the place the play takes place in Sia, now known as Thailand. My ex girlfriend would humorously explain the superiority of Thailand over the Philippines, as place that was never conquered and colonized like the Philippines, which I guess I can appreciate… but now, a Filipino is playing you’re King… so, I’ll take that.

Creative Writers

Posted: May 14, 2016 in Uncategorized

Last night I spoke and did a poetry set at University of California Riverside. It was a fun night, there was fellow poets and performers, some students and also a friend, poet/rapper, Jason Chu on the bill. I thought the night went well, I did more of a political set, as it is a political year and we we’re celebrating Asian Pacific Islander Heritage month, so I touched on those topics, as well as my own career.
But that is not the reason for this post… I write now because I met two girls after during the meet and greet portion of the evening. I’m outside the venue they loving call, “The Barn,” at UC Riverside, it was warm inside, due to all the audience and lights, so it was nice to meet folks outside in the evening air. I’m just shaking hands, taking pictures and signing things and then I meet these two students. I sign the DVD for one girl and a notebook for another, they then tell me they’re creative writing students and they ask me the simple question, “What do you write about?”
It’s such a simple question and I gave them a concise answer, I write about what I know, what I see. I mean, I’m not much of a researcher, uncovering some beautiful, historical stories and writing poignant non-fiction material, I kind of just write about my experiences, even the fiction I’ve written for screenplays or plays have had seeds of my life experience. I’m sure when the people in my life read or see my work, they may recognize the scenes or dialogue, because they lived it with me.
Not only did these students and that simple question get me to think about what I write about, also got me thinking of why I write. Why do I? Well, the truth is I love writing, I like to think about things and have this discussion with myself and words, sometimes I publish it to have the discussion with the world, other times I just write to digest happenings around me. I think about when I began writing, it all started in my journals as a teenager. I’m sure that’s where many of writers begin. Just chicken scratch on blank pages, random poetry lines describing that girl who you always see walking through the hallways between 3rd and 4th period. Entries about falling in love for the first time, trying to put in every detail you can about the first times of everything, fearing you if you don’t you might lose the memory and something as precious as this deserves to be kept pristine. I remember writing an essay in junior high, it was about gangs and I actually won the essay contest, I didn’t want to read it in front of the school because I had friends in gangs and I didn’t want to speak ill of them, especially in public. I just now remember I probably tried extra hard to write that essay well to impress my visiting aunt who was helping me by proof reading the essay before I turned it in… and it just so happens she was beautiful.
I love reading good writing because I can see the places described, I’m transported into stories and world’s I’ve yet been to. I love eloquent writing, when I read something in which the style of the writer uses words in a way that is interesting, puts things in a way I’ve never thought about, or has an ease with language that makes it easy to follow. I’m envious of that… Intellect and grace.
That all leads me to feeling guilty for not writing enough. Seems like forever since I’ve sat down to have a conversation with myself. Check in to make sure my thoughts are still my own. Traveling, keeping up with the ever so fluid world and balancing personal responiblities and the business pursuits of assumed glory… or at least fulfillment, I need to write more. If nothing else but to slow my mind down, to just sit and think a describe the moment I’m in. Yes, there’s a lot to get done, and there’s a lot I have done, but I’m on a plane to Denver on this late morning and the pillowy clouds move in slow motion across the oval window, reminding me I didn’t get enough sleep last night. I can see the mountains, I guess those are the Rocky’s, and there’s still snow on their caps even though we’re so close to summer. My lower back is soar, too many hours on plane rides. My younger self yearned for a life of travel, as things become reality, I get to experience the undisclosed details of my desires, the good and the bad…
So, I promise to write more, some things I’ll publish, some I’ll keep to myself. And if I write something you may not get or like, my apologies, I’m working things out with myself.

(thank you to the two writing students for reminding me write…)  

Comic Con has been a buzz word for years now, a place where it looks like comic books, super hero movies and Halloween collide in a weekend for grown up to get back to the kid in themselves… I’ve been fortunate to fall into this world due to the popularity of some of the characters I’ve played in my career and here is the behind the scene looks of one of my latest outings in Seattle!

i’m caught up! here’s a quick little fun poem i wrote earlier… i just landed in seattle, let’s see what inspires me while i’m here!