A monthly column about all things Asian in popular culture
By Vivian Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly
Asians hailed as most influential by TIME magazine
In April, TIME magazine released its annual 100 most influential people in the world list, highlighting individuals for their powerful contributions or status in society. Of many Asians who made the list, two stand out as pop culture icons. Pop and R&B singer Bruno Mars, of Filipino descent, made the list for his records-smashing debut album, “Doo-Wops & Hooligans,” and multi-ability to sing, play, produce, and write his own songs.
Mars is lucky. This honor comes as a nice reputation cleanser for him after his arrest for narcotics possession last year.
Also on TIME’s 100 most influential list was South Korean pop star and actor Rain, who won the reader’s choice poll for the third consecutive year, beating out heavyweight competitors like President Barack Obama and pop superstar Lady Gaga for the spot. Considering that Rain is best known to Western audiences for his work in the movie “Ninja Assassin” — let’s say it together now, “What movie?” — he must command quite the online fan base to have pulled off this honor. Talk about influence!
Asian American director gears up for movies about fast cars and cyborgs
The action-packed street racing movie, “Fast Five,” opened up in the theaters late April. Directed by Taiwanese American Justin Lin, it is the fifth installment in the “Fast and the Furious” film franchise. Lin may best be remembered for directing and co-writing “Better Luck Tomorrow,” a 2002 crime-drama film focused on the underbelly lives of model-perfect Asian American teens. “Fast Five” stars Korean American actor Sung Kang and wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, of Samoan heritage.
Though the films historically do not fare well with critics, the “Fast and the Furious” movies usually rake in cash at the box office. “Fast Five” proved to be no different and has already pulled in $86.2 million in its opening weekend.
Will there be a sixth movie in the “Fast and the Furious” series?
Though Universal Pictures, the film’s distributor, had no comment on the matter, Lin was quick to express confidence in a sixth film.
“After this big weekend, we’re going forward,” Lin told USAToday.com about a sixth movie. “It’s pretty much 100 percent. It’s going to happen. At [movie number] five, we’re just hitting our stride. We’re growing. People want to continue this journey.”
“Fast Five” opened in Taiwan and China this month. Building off Lin’s financial success with “Fast Five,” Universal Pictures has also confirmed that Lin will direct the next installment of the studio’s “Terminator” movie series. According to Hollywood insider website Deadline.com, there is also a rumor that the former governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, will also return in his iconic role as the Terminator. Is everyone ready to see the Governator on the silver screen again?
The secret life of a South Korean pop star
Scandal rocked South Korea’s entertainment industry in April when it was publicly revealed that 90s Korean pop singer Seo Taiji — revered by many as the father of modern Korean pop music — had been secretly married to South Korean actress Lee Ji-ah for nine years. They managed to hide their marriage and eventual divorce for more than a decade from the public. The ex-couple cited personality and lifestyle differences as the reason behind their breakup.
Their relationship came to light only recently when reports started circulating of a then-upcoming court date, in which Lee was suing Seo for 500 million won in alimony and 5 billion won in assets — approximate sums of $460,000 and $4,600,000, respectively, in USD.
According to the website of South Korea’s English newspaper giant, KoreaHerald.com, many friends and acquaintances of the former couple were also unaware of their marriage, including Lee’s current boyfriend, South Korean actor Jung Woo Sung.
But it’s as they say in show business, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” Even though the public is in shock over superstar Seo’s secret marriage, it has only served to boost his digital music sales, which have quadrupled since his past marriage and divorce went public.
Considering how well Seo kept his private life hidden for years, is it possible that this news is just a well-timed publicity stunt to jumpstart his music sales?
Or was the news leaked to distract the public from South Korean President Lee Myung-bak’s recent stock manipulation scandals with the BBK company?
Seo and Lee had better prepare themselves for the media onslaught. The gossip is just beginning to brew for them. ♦
Vivian Nguyen can be reached at email@example.com.