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That would be the beautiful body of co-host Bobby Lee, likely the only genuinely wonderful thing about the upcoming AZN Asian Excellence Awards. It definitely won't be the nominees, which our writers are still scratching their heads over.
It should be clear why the Asian Excellence Awards exist: to celebrate the Asian American community's ability to throw an awards show as gratuitous and gaudy as any Hollywood ever has. That there are even awards and nominees should be secondary to the faux glitz and trashy self-indulgence.
Ah, that is until you actually see the nominees. Because this year, the AXAs have managed to make the nominations as wildly over-the-top as the cringeworthy video interludes and red carpet of unknown stars. Nothing makes me prouder of our community than the fact that we can nominate Rush Hour 3 for best picture and still pretend to be sincere. Try using the words “excellence” and “Brett Ratner” in the same sentence without laughing. Yeah. Didn't think so.
And if the AXAs can nominate these films with a straight face, the least we can do as a magazine of arts criticism is to meet them on their own level and cover them as we would any other awards show. That's right... predictions!
Believe me, it's tougher than it looks. What could possibly be the criteria here? Who picks the winners? Will the fact that few of the nominees will even show up to the awards show affect who wins? These are pressing questions, indeed. To play along, print out the list of nominees and mull over it incredulously as we've been doing since they were announced on March 26.
Going by the wisdom of our writers probably won't help. In fact, I think we're more confused now than when we started. --Brian Hu
Devon Aoki (War), Joan Chen (Lust, Caution), Vanessa Hudgeons (High School Musical 2), Sharon Leal (This Christmas), Maggie Q (Balls of Fury), Tang Wei (Lust, Caution)
Brian Hu: Where do I even begin here? That Devon Aoki and Tang Wei are mentioned in the same breath goes to show how surreal this whole Asian "excellence" venture really is. To give the award to Tang Wei or Joan Chen -- who probably deserve it -- would be an insult to them. It's like giving Giorgio Armani a $25 gift certificate to Target, or A-Rod a coupon for free hitting lessons at the neighborhood batting cage. So scratch them. Maggie Q won last year and I don't think AZN will make the same mistake twice. Vanessa Hudgens and Sharon Leal: sorry, probably not Asian enough. Which leaves us with Devon Aoki, truly the outstanding film actress of 2007.
Janice Jann: Let's get straight here. Tang Wei or Joan Chen may be groundbreaking actresses in their field of dramatics or whatever but are they a TRIPLE THREAT? Can they sing AND dance AND act while asking, "what time is it?" Can they get some sexy nude pictures to transform them from a mere "Disney Channel star" to a full-fledged Hollywood "it" girl? And most importantly, can they call Zac Efron their honey bunny? I didn't think so. So while Chen or Wei may be off polishing the art of their craft or making movies that actually mean something, Vanessa Hudgens is here to claim her AXA statuette.
My Thanh Mac: I wouldn't be surprised if Vanessa Hudgens from High School Musical 2 took home the award. HSM has become a major pop phenomenon, and Vanessa Hudgens is one of the central forces behind it. With a third and fourth installment coming up, it's going to be hard to keep this girl down. And let's face it, those teeny boppers love her. That's how you win, right?
Ada Tseng: As everyone who is "in" with the Asian American entertainment community knows, each year the Asian Excellence Awards sends out screeners to the Asian American Film & Television Academy Board of Excellence in Achievement, so the elite industry peeps (headed by Roger Fan) can choose their nominees and organize publicity campaigns for the winners. This year, Katie Leung was pretty much a shoo-in for a Best Actress award -- because, let's face it, the kiss between Harry Potter and Cho Chang was basically the only reason to go to the movies in 2007. But in early February 2008, an unknown source started circulating an emotionally-moving performance tape of Katie Leung's alter ego in the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix video game, and rallying the troops to make "her" the first ever video game human to ever be nominated for an Asian Excellence Award. "It's not about technology or 'acting,'" protested a man on the street. "It's about Asianness." But it was too late. The two Katie Leung camps ended up splitting the vote, and neither made the cut, paving the way for Devon Aoki's surprise nomination. My theory is that Devon Aoki was the mastermind all along, and there is no such thing as a video game human.
Naveen Andrews (The Brave One), Jackie Chan (Rush Hour 3), Chow Yun-Fat (Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End), Tony Leung (Lust, Caution), Jet Li (War), Lee-Hom Wang (Lust, Caution)
Brian: They've managed to nominate four legends of Hong Kong film and one prince of Taiwanese pop. So I'm guessing Naveen Andrews doesn't stand a chance, especially because he gets killed off in the trailer of The Brave One. Common sense says Tony Leung will win. But the Asian Excellence Awards have never been about common sense. So I'm going to guess Leehom Wang for the same reasons Maggie Q won last year.
Janice: Yea, my bet is on the charming and talented Leehom Wang as well. But only because he's hot and I want to see him smile and wink at me on the red carpet. Oh, but that's not the criteria for winning? But Maggie Q....
My Thanh: This category is split into the veterans and Leehom Wang. While Tony Leung was spectacular with the same cold face in every scene of Lust, Caution, it might not be so bad for Leehom Wang to be the odd person out in this category. The odds are that his charming looks and romantic songs will hypnotize whoever is behind this show to choose him. Hey, it worked on me.
Ada: I vote for Keanu Reeves. One might argue that Keanu didn't even have a film in 2007, but I'm still pissed about last year's omission. His performances in A Scanner Darkly and The Lake House were both eligible for competition last year, and The Lake House was even based on an Asian film! Plus, last year they had three nominees for Best Actor (Kal Penn, Jet Li, and Ken Watanabe) and four nominees for Best Actress (Rinko Kikuchi, Maggie Cheung, Gong Li, and Tabu), so they could have easily evened out the Best Male category by showing Keanu some love. It's a blatant conspiracy, I say. He's the Susan Lucci of the Asian Excellence Awards, except he, unlike Mark Paul Gosselaar or Quentin Tarantino, doesn't even get nominated. Just you wait: Keanu's going to be in a film with Jennifer Connelly this year, win an Oscar, thank the Chinese-Hawaiians that he hung out with 0.39 of the time growing up in Canada, and you'll all be lining up to capitalize on his excellence next year.
Finishing the Game (dir: Justin Lin), Lust, Caution (dir: Ang Lee), Rush Hour 3 (dir: Brett Ratner), War (dir: Philip G. Atwell)
Brian: Gee, which of these titles does not belong in this picture? Three feature ridiculous martial arts (though admittedly, one does so intentionally) and are marginally "Asian." The outlier of the bunch is a brilliant Eileen Chang adaptation with excruciatingly intense and masterful scenes of drama and passion. Why did they even bother to nominate Lust, Caution? They should have just thrown in Balls of Fury and then thrown out the category altogether. I hope somebody gets fired for this. Oh wait, Comcast fired the entire AZN staff already.
Janice: Lust, Caution was outstanding. Outstandingly loooooong. And War has not rigged up enough media attention. The same goes for Finishing the Game. So, as bad as Rush Hour 3 may have been, it does have a possibility of winning just because of the impact the franchise as a whole has had on Asians in the Western media. I may not love Ratner's last flick about the two havoc-wreaking cops but my love for the first two movies overrides this last mistake.
My Thanh: Hands down, the winner of this category has to be Lust, Caution. It's the only one in the bunch that has any kind of accreditation and Ang Lee is our favorite promiscuous director. It can only be right that a film that has been banned by China be accepted with open arms in the US of A.
Ada: So the obvious snub is Balls of Fury. The less-talked-about snub: I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. A lot of people threw a fit because of one scene where Rob Schneider is in yellow-face. It's so easy to just assume that yellow-face is racist, but if Rob Schneider critics had actually watched I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (instead of automatically jumping to conclusions and boycotting the film because a Facebook group told them to), they would have realized that his character was actually very three dimensional. The minister with the black thick-rimmed glasses and bowl haircut Schneider plays was actually a Korean warrior from a half-a-million years ago, whose spirit is reincarnated into a contemporary American man, right before the city is attacked by dragons, Buraki serpents and other enormous minions. That explains why Rob Schneider is such a huge box-office star in Korea. And why he's best friends with Jason Behr. If that's not excellent, then I don't know what is.
Yunjin Kim (Lost), Lucy Liu (Cashmere Mafia), Parminder Nagra (ER), Sandra Oh (Grey's Anatomy), Lindsay Price (Lipstick Jungle), Navi Rawat (Numb3rs)
Brian: Lucy Liu... why not.
Janice: Why not Lucy Liu? I'll tell you why not. Though Lucy Liu and Lindsay Price may have grabbed the most headlines this year for their roles as extremely well-dressed, wealthy and powerful career-women juggling person and private lives all the while making time to grab cocktails with their girlfriends on ABC's Cashmere Mafia and NBC's Lipstick Jungle, neither did much more than tote around expensive handbags and make out with hot men. The talented Sandra Oh, with her nuanced, biting, and often hilarious portrayal of Dr. Christina Yang on Grey's Anatomy deserves to win every award she gets nominated for and with Parminder Nagra, another doctor on ER, having already scored a win at last year's show, this may be the year that Oh can claim that crown she is oh so worthy of winning.
My Thanh: There can only be one Sex and the City and even though people say it's unfair to compare Lipstick Jungle and Cashmere Mafia to SaTC, it's too late. Sorry Lucy Liu and Lindsay Price, it's been done. Parminder Nagra received this honor last year, so let's give Sandra Oh a chance! Her character is so loveable on Grey's Anatomy and she's received a Golden Globe and 3 Emmy nominations. Sounds like an excellent Asian to me.
Ada: CBS's Moonlight just got picked up for a second season. I think Shannyn Sossamon should have been nominated. Not sure if 1/8 Filipino and 1/8 Hawaiian doesn't add up to enough Asianness to be a power player at this awards show, but in an any-Asian-is-Asian-enough utopian world, Sossamon would have dominated. Wristcutters: A Love Story was a really unique and original film that didn't get enough attention. One theory to explain the exclusion: perhaps One Missed Call's January 4th, 2008 release date made it ineligible for Asian Excellence nomination submission. Timing is everything. How else can you explain Vanessa Hudgens' devastating non-nomination for the first High School Musical (release date: January 20, 2006)? This year's Hudgens nomination came from High School Musical 2 (release date: August 17, 2007). Smart, Disney, very smart.
Naveen Andrews (Lost), Daniel Dae Kim (Lost), Masi Oka (Heroes), Sendhil Ramamurthy (Heroes), B.D. Wong (Law & Order, SVU)
Brian: Seriously, B.D. Wong needs to win this award, not because he deserves it the most, but because we seriously need more B.D. Wong in our lives. It doesn't look like the studios will wise up and produce Father of the Bride Part III, so I think this is the best B.D. fans can look forward to.
Janice: Masi Oka just because he is so darn cute and one of the few who can actually claim that he made geeks cool (again? Were they ever cool in the first place?) I'll admit that this year, he didn't have a very strong storyline to work with but he's got a new movie, Get Smart, with Steve Carrell coming out so his popularity level is still as high as a superhero can fly.
My Thanh: I am embarrassed to admit this, but I'm going to say Masi Oka because he's the only name I recognize from my obsessive perusal of entertainment news. As a pop culture enthusiast, I think this can only mean one thing: Masi Oka is the only one of these nominees that America would be able to recognize and applaud.
Ada: To be honest, I haven't been watching Lost, Heroes, or Law & Order, and I don't feel the same kindred-spirit aura connection here that allows me to root for other things that I haven't seen.
Moon Bloodgood (Journeyman), Michaela Conlin (Bones), Janina Gavankar (The L Word), Mindy Kaling (The Office), Michelle Krusiec (Dirty Sexy Money), Sonja Sohn (The Wire)
Brian: Nice to see the mixed-Asians get props here, although my fingers are crossed for Mindy Kaling for explaining Diwali to America. Also, she said "awesome" 12 times in a single monologue, which is as impressive as the AXAs nominating a Brett Ratner film for outstanding film of the year.
Janice: The Asian Excellence Awards seem to favor the "I scratch your back, you scratch mine" mentality and has given honors to those stars who may be more likely to show up. So since Michelle Kruseic got all dolled up for them last year and won in the Outstanding Actress in a Film category, it's very likely she'll get dolled up again this year and win for this category. But hey man, I am all for the "awesome" Mindy Kaling. I mean, she's just awesome!
My Thanh: Like oh my god, Mindy Kaling should totally win this award because if she wins then that means she's totally doing her part in The Office and it is the funniest show EVER so like please just let Mindy Kaling take it!
Ada: I'm not sure why Moon Bloodgood is in the supporting actress category. I think she has higher billing on Journeyman, than most the Best Actor/Actress nominees have in their respective shows. Mindy Kaling's is too cool for the Asian Excellence Awards. My vote is for The Wire's Sonja Sohn, for being such a good actress that we forget she is Asian and only care that her character is a lesbian.
James Kyson Lee (Heroes), Rex Lee (Entourage), Will Yun Lee (Bionic Woman), Ken Leung (Lost), Kal Penn (House M.D. ), James Saito (Eli Stone)
Brian: If Ken Leung doesn't win this, I think the AXAs will have lost all credibility. Oh wait.
Janice: Yea, it's all about Kenny. And I don't mean Kenny G.
My Thanh: Ken Leung gets my vote for this one. He's been on Broadway, and I don't think there's anything he can't do.
Ada: Someone just told me that we were putting money on our predictions this year. That can't be good. James Kyson Lee!
Date Posted: 4/18/2008