Academy apologizes for Asian jokes at the Oscars

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Yahoo/Variety:

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences apologized on Tuesday for the Asian jokes on the Feb. 28 Oscar telecast, after receiving a protest letter signed by 25 AMPAS members, including Ang Lee.

An Academy spokesperson issued the statement, “The Academy appreciates the concerns stated, and regrets that any aspect of the Oscar telecast was offensive. We are committed to doing our best to ensure that material in future shows be more culturally sensitive.”

ORIGINAL POST: Two dozen members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, including Ang Lee and several other Oscar winners, have asked the AMPAS board for “concrete steps” to ensure that future Oscarcasts will avoid the “tone-deaf approach” to Asians that was exhibited in the Feb. 28 ceremony.

The protest was delivered in advance of Tuesday’s board meeting, where diversity promises to be a key item on the agenda. The missive was sent to the board, AMPAS President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, CEO Dawn Hudson, and ceremony producers Reginald Hudlin and David Hill.

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The letter said, “We are writing as Academy members of Asian descent to express our complete surprise and disappointment with the targeting of Asians at the 88th Oscars telecast and its perpetuation of racist stereotypes. In light of criticism over #OscarsSoWhite, we were hopeful that the telecast would provide the Academy a way forward and the chance to present a spectacular example of inclusion and diversity. Instead, the Oscars show was marred by a tone-deaf approach to its portrayal of Asians.

“We’d like to know how such tasteless and offensive skits could have happened and what process you have in place to preclude such unconscious or outright bias and racism toward any group in future Oscars telecasts. We look forward to hearing from you about this matter and about the concrete steps to ensure that all people are portrayed with dignity and respect.

“We are proud that the Oscars reach several hundred million people around the world of whom 60% are Asians and potential moviegoers.”

In addition to Lee, other Oscar winners on the list include Chris Tashima (shorts and feature animation) and four members of the documentary branch: Ruby Yang, Steven Okazaki, Jessica Yu, and Freida Lee Mock. Aside from Mock, two other former governors signed, Don Hall (sound branch) and Arthur Dong (documentaries). Another three signers were Oscar nominees: Christine Choy, Renee Tajima-Pena, and Rithy Panh, again all docu-branch members.

Other signers were Yung Chang, documentary; Maysie Hoy and William Hoy, editors; Marcus Hu and Teddy Zee, executives; Janet Yang, producers; David Magdael and Laura Kim, PR; and six members of the actors branch: Nancy Kwan, Peter Kwong, Jodi Long, France Nuyen, Sandra Oh, and George Takei.

According to the International Energy Agency, Asians represent 4.3 billion, or 60% of the population. However, they are estimated to represent less than 1% of the Academy.

Sources close to the show told Variety that Chris Rock made decisions about his material (including a series of jokes about Asian children), while Sacha Baron Cohen’s crack was apparently ad-libbed. However, at a time of heightened sensitivity with racial matters, many viewers were shocked that old Asian stereotypes were trotted out for a laugh.

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‘Grey’s Anatomy’ alum Sandra Oh lends voice to new animated film

 

Rosie Ming is not your average animated heroine.

The two-dimensional stick figure, voiced by former Grey’s Anatomy star Sandra Oh, is the star of Window Horses, an animated film about a young Chinese-Iranian-Canadian poet who goes to Iran for a poetry festival and is confronted with new languages and a challenge to find her own voice separate of the world she grew up knowing.

Window Horses was written by Ann Marie Fleming, an independent Canadian filmmaker of Chinese and Australian descent. The film, which Fleming also directs, is inspired by her time during an artist residency in Germany where she met international artists who shared their stories of immigration, mixed cultures, and the re-discovering of one’s roots.

It was a revelation,” Fleming said, “because they had always been an ‘other’ in my world, and now I was that ‘other’ in theirs.”

Fleming said she was moved to use poetry to tell Rosie’s story because it was a medium that connected people across cultures.

It’s not just the words, it’s the spoken word. Even in the cacophonous babble of many cultures and languages, we can still hear beauty and longing through the human voice,” she said. “Writing poetry can be the most solitary of practices, but then it goes out there into the world and it brings us together.”

Screenshot from "Window Horses," an animated film about a young Chinese-Iranian-Canadian poet.
“WINDOW HORSES”
Screenshot from “Window Horses,” an animated film about a young Chinese-Iranian-Canadian poet.

 

The film stars Oh as Rosie and Nancy Kwan — one of Hollywood’s first major stars of Asian descent — as Gloria, Rosie’s overprotective grandmother. Much of the film’s cast has yet to be officially announced, and in an interview with CBC Radio earlier this month, Oh, who also serves as executive producer, said she was searching for actors who would help keep the authenticity of the story.

I would like to see…the people who are actually the central storytellers be people who are not white,” Oh said. “Look at the call sheet and number one, two, three, four, five, and that’s what I’d like to see change.

The project is currently in development and seeking funding through Indiegogo.

Image: ELLEN POMPEO, SANDRA OH

James Shigeta, top Asian-American actor of early ’60s and ‘Die Hard’ co-star, dies at 81

He starred in such films as “The Crimson Kimono,” “Flower Drum Song,” “Cry for Happy,” “Bridge to the Sun” and, later, as a terrorized executive in the Bruce Willis movie.

James Shigeta, a top Asian-American actor of the early 1960s who starred in the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical Flower Drum Song, died Monday in Los Angeles, publicist Jeffrey Leavitt announced. He was 81.

The handsome Hawaiian, who later appeared as the ill-fated chief executive of the Nakatomi corporation in the Bruce Willis action film Die Hard (1988), had a great two-year run in Hollywood starting in the late 1950s.

Shigeta made his feature debut in Sam Fuller’s Los Angeles-set noir The Crimson Kimono (1959), playing a young detective, and followed that by portraying a young Chinese man in the American Old West who battles a freight line operator (Jack Lord) over a woman in James Clavell’s Walk Like a Dragon (1960).

Shigeta then starred with Glenn Ford and Donald O’Connor as American Navy men billeted in a Tokyo geisha house in director George Marshall’s Cry for Happy (1961). And in Bridge to the Sun, he portrayed a Japanese diplomat who is married to an American (Carroll Baker) at the time of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

In Flower Drum Song (1961), set in San Francisco and directed by Henry Koster, Shigeta plays Wang Ta, who’s dazzled by a showgirl (Nancy Kwan) before he realizes an immigrant from China (Miyoshi Umeki) is really the one for him. A natural baritone, Shigeta did all his singing in the film.

The Golden Globes in 1960 named him (along with Barry Coe, Troy Donahue and George Hamilton) as “most promising male newcomer.”

Shigeta later had recurring roles on the 1969-72 CBS drama Medical Center and appeared on episodes of Ben Casey, Lord’s Hawaii Five-OEllery QueenLittle House on the PrairieFantasy IslandT.J. HookerThe Love BoatMagnum, P.I.Simon & SimonJake and the Fatman and Murder, She Wrote.

His film résumé includes Paradise, Hawaiian Style (1966) with Elvis PresleyNobody’s Perfect(1968), Lost Horizon (1973), Midway (1976), Cage (1989) and the animated Mulan (1998).

Born in Honolulu of Japanese ancestry on June 17, 1933, Shigeta moved to New York and studied at New York University, then joined the U.S. Marine Corps and fought during the Korean War.

He relocated to Japan and became a star on radio and television in that country, then returned to the U.S. to sing on The Dinah Shore Show in 1959. Also that year, he starred with Shirley MacLaine in a production of Holiday in Japan in Las Vegas.