A monthly column about all things Asian in popular culture
By Vivian Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly
“And the Oscar goes to…”
The holiest of red carpets and celebrity events took place on Feb. 27 in Los Angeles.
At the 83rd annual Academy Awards, Asian Australian illustrator Shaun Tan won the best short film (animated) category for his piece, “The Lost Thing” — an award he shared with co-director Andrew Ruhemann.
Producer Audrey Marrs, who is half-Japanese, and director Charles Ferguson, took home Oscars for their work on the film “Inside Job” which won the best documentary category. Marrs grew up and attended college in Olympia. Way to represent, Marrs!
Other Oscar nominees included part Filipina American Hailee Steinfeld for her supporting role in “True Grit,” Chinese American director Ruby Yang for her documentary short “The Warriors of Qiugang,” Indian film composer A.R. Rahman for his best original song and score “If I Rise” from “127 Hours,” and Filipino Matthew Libatique for his cinematography work on “Black Swan.”
Jon M. Chu makes action leap
Teenage girls rejoiced with the release of Justin Bieber’s 3-D documentary, “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never,” which showcases footage from the teen heartthrob’s 2010 My World Tour. Directed by Chinese American Jon M. Chu, on a budget of $13 million, the film grossed $53 million and locked Chu in as the director for the 2012 summer action flick “G.I. Joe 2.”
Both films are distributed by Paramount Pictures. Looks like the film production giant is hoping that Chu will replicate his “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never” success by turning the G.I. Joe franchise into a cash cow.
Controversy and casting changes in TV
Since its pilot, the NBC sitcom “Outsourced” has been heavily criticized for its low-brow, racist jokes against Indians. But “Outsourced” star Parvesh Cheena, who plays the hapless Gupta, argued that the show’s storylines have since moved past initial negative assumptions to create characters that are universally flawed and relatable.
“To be fair, I think our show is under the microscope a little bit more than other shows because it was the first of its kind … when you have the first show set in India on American television, there’s gonna be a Nervous Nellie kind of vibe,” said Cheena, to EW.com.
Cheena insisted that the show never meant to offend viewers, but rather to tell a story about a group of underdogs. “If our show had been all about the cool, awesome, A-team Indians, I don’t know if it would be a comedy.
Because comedy is in the struggle, and the underdog, and that conflict,” said Cheena.
I also found the show in poor taste when it first aired, but the endearing, misfit characters have really grown on me. Plus, it’s fantastic to see a group of Asians make top billing of a television cast for once.
Word on the street is that Indian WWE wrestler, The Great Khali, will guest star on a future episode.
A major casting change may be in the works for the ABC hit comedy “Modern Family.” Half Filipina American twins Jayden and Ella Hiller share the role of Lily, the Vietnamese baby adopted by a gay couple on the show.
“Modern Family” producer Steve Levitan told TVLine.com that he plans to make Lily start talking next season to create new storylines for the character.
“Whether our present ‘Lilies’ age into the role or we end up needing to find new little ones [is a question that will soon need an answer],” said Levitan. Hopefully, the current twins will start talking by the next season. It would be a shame to see fan favorite actors booted off the show.
Asian pop stars reach milestones in sales
Across the Pacific Ocean, the all-female Japanese pop group AKB48 — made up of 48 members (you read that correctly) — sold 1 million copies of their 2010 pop single “Beginner” last month.
This is a major milestone for the group and their first single to total a million sales since their debut in 2006. Another fun fact: AKB48 currently holds the Guinness World Record for being the “Pop group with the greatest number of members.” Just another achievement for the gargantuan group of girls! ♦
Vivian Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.