R.I.P. Ken Takakura

Ken Takakura Dead: Japanese Actor Was

Variety:

Ken Takakura, who first rose to stardom in the 1960s playing yakuza outlaws, but later became Hollywood’s go-to actor for made-in-Japan films, died on Nov. 10 at age 83 of malignant lymphoma. A private funeral had already been held when the Japanese media broke the story today.

The legendary actor most recently starred in “Dearest” and Zhang Yimou’s “Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles.”

Western audiences best know Takakura for his roles in Ridley Scott’s “Black Rain” and 1992′s “Mr. Baseball.”

Born on Feb. 16, 1931, in Fukuoka, Japan, Takakura entered the Toei studio in 1955 after graduating from Meiji University. His breakout role was as an escaped prisoner in Teruo Ishii’s 1965 hit “Abashiri Prison,” which was loosely based on Stanley Kramer’s 1958 “The Defiant Ones.” The film spawned a long-running series, while Takakura churned out hit after hit for Toei in the remainder of the decade and beyond. Usually playing stoic loners who move into action only after repeated provocations, Takakura became an iconic figure for a generation of Japanese moviegoers, much as Clint Eastwood did in Hollywood.

Takakura played a version of this character in Sydney Pollack’s 1974 “The Yakuza,” with a script co-written by yakuza movie aficionado Leonard Schrader, together with Pollack and Robert Towne. By this time, however, Japanese moviegoers had tired of Takakura’s brand of gang actioner, whose good guys followed a code of yakuza chivalry routinely disregarded by the more realistic hoods of Kinji Fukasaku’s popular 1973 “Battles Without Honor and Humanity” and its sequels.

Even before leaving Toei in 1976 Takakura had begun moving away from his signature yakuza genre, playing a bankrupt-businessman-turned-extortionist in the 1975 Junya Sato thriller “The Bullet Train.” In the remainder of the 1970s and after he appeared in a succession of starring roles, including an ex-con journeying to reunite with his wife in Yoji Yamada’s 1977 hit “The Yellow Handkerchief.” Based on a story by Pete Hamill, the film was remade as a 2008 film of the same title by Udayan Prasad, with William Hurt starring in the Takakura role. Takakura also played a veteran dog handler in the 1983 Koreyoshi Kurahara smash “Antarctica,” which set a record as the highest-earning Japanese film of all-time that was only surpassed by Hayao Miyazaki’s animation “Princess Mononoke” in 1997. “Antarctica” was remade as the 2006 “Eight Below,” with Frank Marshall directing.

In 1989 Takakura appeared in “Black Rain” as a forbearing Japanese cop assigned to deal with Michael Douglas’s hot-tempered detective, who is after an escaped yakuza played by Yusaku Matsuda. He followed with a similar role as a pro baseball manager dealing with Tom Selleck’s spoiled former major leaguer in the 1992 Fred Schepisi comedy “Mr. Baseball.”

After the turn of the millennium, Takakura appeared only in a handful films, including 2005′s “Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles” and his 205th and last film, Yasuo Furuhata’s 2012 “Dearest,” playing a retired prison counselor making a journey of remembrance to the port where his deceased wife was born.

From 1959 until their divorce in 1971 Takakura was married to singer Chiemi Eri, but they had no children.

Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival, running November 12-22


Angry Asian Man:
Film lovers of Philadelphia! I would be remiss if I did not help spread the word about this year’s edition of the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival, running November 12-22 at the International House of Philadelphia in University City and Asian Arts Initiative in Chinatown North. The 7th annual PAAFF includes 16 features, 5 free shorts programs and a host of new peripheral programming.

Here’s the festival trailer:

 

Here are some programming highlights:

A Leading Man
I-House, Wednesday, Nov 12th at 7PM

When a young and talented Chinese American actor is fired from his starring role on a television show, he attempts to salvage his career by sleeping with a successful casting director.

Family Ingredients
I-House, Thursday, Nov 13th at 6:30PM

Join host Chef Ed Kenny as he travels the path of ancestors, from Hawaii to the homeland in this TV pilot of an Emmy Award-winning food genealogy travel show that explores the links between ethnic heritage and culinary cuisine.

Cicada
I-House, Thursday, Nov 13th at 8:30PM

When Elementary School administrator Jumpei Taneda finds out he is sterile, he is thrust into an existential crisis that turns his life upside down.

Awesome Asian Bad Guys
I-House, Friday, Nov 14th at 6:00PM

Bad guys are awesome, especially Asian ones! American movies in the 80s and 90s always had hard-hitting Asian bad guys in flicks like Die Hard, Bloodsport, and Karate Kid 2.

Uzumasa Limelight
I-House, Friday, Nov 14th at 7:30PM

The Uzumasa studio complex in Kyoto is widely regarded as the Hollywood of Japan, having produced many of the best jidigeki films (period dramas with sword fighting) beloved by Japanese and the rest of the world.

Eat with Me
I-House, Saturday, Nov 15th at 2:15PM

Tired of being invisible in a bland marriage, Emma moves in with her son Elliot in his loft in downtown LA. Elliot is a chef at a lackluster Chinese restaurant facing foreclosure. Also, he’s gay.

Farah Goes Bang
I-House, Saturday, Nov 15th at 6:30PM

During a cross-country road-trip campaigning for John Kerry in the 2004 Election, a Persian American woman in her twenties tries to lose her virginity.

Faraway
I-House, Saturday, Nov 15th at 8:30PM

A determined young American woman named Audrey arrives in the Philippines with a mysterious mission, little money, and no chance of success.

Revenge of the Green Dragons
I-House, Saturday, Nov 15th at 10:30PM

When a gangland double cross threatens to ignite a war amongst the Asian American gangs of NYC, two friends must decide where their loyalties lie in this visually striking, high-octane thriller.

And there’s a lot more where that came from. Support independent Asian American film! For further information about the festival, including the full schedule of screening and events, tickets and venue details, head over to the PAAFF’14 website.

What’s Pho stuffed into a burrito called? A Phoritto, of course

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FoodBeast:

If you told us a few years ago that there would be a burrito that held the contents of a bowl of phở, we’d probably reply with “Why not make a burger out of ramen noodles while you’re at it?” Yet, here we are. The present.

Earlier this year, we discovered a restaurant that serves an orange chicken burrito stuffed with chow mein. Heaven, right? Looks like you can now enjoy a bowl of on-the-go phở by also wrapping it into a burrito.

Komodo invited us to come out and try their new phở burrito, fittingly titled the Phởrrito, at one of their brick-and-mortar locations. Made with thinly-sliced rib-eye steak, bean sprouts, cilantro, onions, Thai basil, jalapeño, lime juice and phở noodles, the burrito is wrapped with a large flour tortilla and served with sriracha and hoisin sauce.

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A close-up look at the Phởrrito. Screen licking is highly encouraged. 

What surprised us most about the Phởrrito is how much it actually tastes like a bowl of phở, the popular Vietnamese noodle soup that inspired this creation. Obviously it’s missing the key factor of broth, but then you’d get nothing more than a soggy burrito. Perhaps a phở broth-based au jus might be a possibility in the future? In the meantime, we’re more than happy chowing down on this beauty.

Oh, they also had a few other delicious munchies to offer.

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The Java, the MP3 and the Fish N’ Grapes.

Komodo has a pretty sizable menu of tacos inspired by different cultural cuisines. The Java features Indonesian pork braised in coconut milk. Marinated sirloin, tater tots and a fried egg make up the MP3. The Fish N’ Grapes includes a deep-fried Alaskan cod topped with a mixed salad of lettuce and grapes.

Obviously their portions are much larger, but after killing an entire Phởrrito, these itty bitty bites were all we could handle.

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The Komodo 2.0, the Loko Modo and the Asian Marinated Chicken.

The Komodo 2.0 is made with sirloin steak topped with southwest corn salad and jalapeño aioli. The Loko Moko features Hawaiian-seared Angus ground beef and teriyaki pineapple sauce topped with a fried egg. Finally, the Asian Marinated Chicken boasts grilled chicken, jalapeños, stir-fried rice and mandarin oranges topped with a soy sauce glaze.

All were pretty delicious, but we just can’t stop thinking about that Phởrrito.

 

New Totoro plush is super pricey, rarer than an encounter with the big guy himself

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RocketNews 24:

As fictional (sorry, I mean completely real and definitely not made up) creatures come, furry forest spirits like Studio Ghibli’s Totoro are pretty rare to begin with. Heck, even the theme song to My Neighbor Totoro tells us that we can only see them when we’re “very young”, so it’s not like we’re tripping over the things in the street.

But if you’re the kind of person who simply must have every piece of high quality Ghibli merch, the rarer the better, then this limited edition plush is definitely one you’ll want to look out for.

The product of a collaboration between Studio Ghibli and the Japanese arm of German plush toy company Steiff, this 25-cm (9.8 inches) handmade Totoro plush is set to go on sale in Japan sometime in June 2015 and will cost a whopping 42,000 yen (US$361).

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The price, however, isn’t the only hurdle that would-be buyers will have to overcome. Only 1,500 units of the cuddly toy will be made, with each one stamped with an individual serial number to prove its authenticity and uniqueness. Sure, 1,500 cuddly toys may sound like a lot at first, but when you consider that the population of Japan (all of them Ghibli fans from birth, of course) currently stands at roughly 127.6 million, you’ll realise just how tricky it will be to get hold of one of these things.

Orders for the rarer-than-rare forest spirits will reportedly start being taken “one day soon”, but whether that means sometime this week or by the end of the month is anyone’s guess, so if you’re in the market for one you’d better keep a keen eye on Steiff Japan’s homepage.

George Takei: Star treks to the Smithsonian

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Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center:

There are few people in today’s public forum that have made cultural and political impact like that of George Takei. From his iconic role as Hikaru Sulu in Star Trek, to his deep involvement in obtaining a redress of Japanese Americans who were forced into relocation during World War II, to his fervent fight for LGBT rights, George has proven himself to be a force to reckon with. Plus, his cat memes are awesome!!!georgetakei-catGeorge and Brad Takei graced us with their presence at the DC Film Premiere of To Be Takei, a new documentary starring the couple. We also found some time to show him some powerful pieces from the Smithsonian collection (thanks to National Museum of American History curators Noriko Sanefuji and Katherine Ott!) and hung with him backstage. Join our play-by-play!14220415211_4315e6b839_oThe evening kicked off with a special reception to honor our friends and supporters. As you can see, Brad Takei thoroughly enjoyed the regal wallpaper at the VIP room. DSC_003914037268619_c09b92332f_bThe WB Theater was packed for To Be Takei! DSC_0076Our director Konrad Ng, along with Daphne Kwok – AARP Vice President of Multicultural Markets & Engagement for the Asian American and Pacific Islander Audience – introduced George, and then the man of the hour came out to introduce the film. DSC_0115While the film played, we took George and Brad upstairs to view some items selected by NMAH curators, including the Congressional Gold Medal for Nisei World War II veterans. DSC_013914037132770_474163c91e_bIrene Hirano Inouye, President of the U.S.-Japan Council, Daphne Kwok, and Floyd Mori, President of the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies joined them while Noriko and Katherine led a conversation around pieces from Japanese American families who were forced to relocate during World War II, as well as items from the National Museum of American History’s LGBT collection. DSC_019914223581844_2690d14479_bPowerful pieces included artifacts from Rohwer Confinement Site, where George was incarcerated as a boy before his family was sent to Tule Lake. 14037187699_3051e269ca_bBackstage, George sat down with Adriel Luis, our Curator of Digital and Emerging Media, to talk about how his career has been driven by a range of influences – from old Samurai films to African American civil rights leaders. 14243958873_12e14dd261_bSenator Mazie Hirono stopped by to say “Hello.” DSC_0011After the film, George and Brad went back to the auditorium to participate in a Q&A moderated by Gautam Raghavan, Public Engagement Advisor for the White House. 14037114548_920ced67ec_b

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We had a spectacular time with George and Brad! Check out a trailer of his film below, and stay tuned for more amazing events!

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12-year-old boy in China was diagnosed with diabetes after eating fast food every day for three months

 

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FoodBeast:

Who would have thought that eating nothing but fast food for a quarter of the year would have negative side effects? Probably everybody.

According to Shanghaiist, a 12-year-old boy in China was diagnosed with diabetes after going on an ill-advised diet, eating fast food every day for three months. This was done as a form of rebellion after his mother had him on a strict diet. As soon as she went away for a three-month business trip, young Linlin took it upon himself to stuff his face with cheeseburgers and fries on the daily.

He gained about 11 pounds in those three months, felt a constant thirst and had to run to the bathroom constantly.

After getting checked out by a doctor, he was diagnosed with diabetes and the fast food diet was said to be the culprit.

You can argue that not listening to mama could have been the culprit as well.