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Slumdog's a power player during awards season, M.I.A. nabs Grammy nomination, and Se7en set to debut in the US with the help of Lil Kim. All this and more in the latest edition of News Bites.
Slumdog Scores Well
The National Board of Review recently named co-directors Danny Boyle and Loveleen Tandan's Slumdog Millionaire the Best Film of the year. A story about an Indian teen who goes on a game show to win a girl's heart, Slumdog Millionaire is also nominated for four Golden Globe nominations: Best Motion Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Score for legendary Indian composer A.R. Rahman. Slumdog's journey so far has been as unpredictable and exciting as the film's storyline. Boyle's American distributor Warner Independent Picture was shut down at the film's completion, and Warner considered releasing Slumdog straight to video. Now it's a likely nominee for an Oscar. The Golden Globe awards will air on January 11th, 2009. --Christie Liu
Grammy nominee M.I.A.
Although her album Kala has been out for over a year, M.I.A. got some unexpected publicity when Seth Rogan and the Apatow team used her "Paper Planes" song in the trailer of their high-profile comedy, Pineapple Express. Soon, everyone wanted to know who sang the song with the cash register/gun sound effects and the girl threatening to take your mon-ay. "Paper Planes" has been nominated for Record of the Year at the 2009 Grammy Awards, which will be airing February 8, 2009. The song is also featured on the soundtrack to Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire, and M.I.A. collaborated with legendary Indian composer A.R. Rahman to create "O... Saya," the Bollywood-hip hop hybrid that kicks off the entire film.
Another artist that got a lot of Grammy love was Ne-Yo: nominations for Album of the Year (Year of the Gentleman); Best Male Pop Vocal Performance and Best Contemporary R&B Album ("Closer"); and Best Male R&B Vocal Performance and Best Hip Hop Song ("Miss Independent"). --Ada Tseng
Se7en and Lil' Kim
For his first American album, Korean R&B/pop star Se7en has been working with the former CEO of LaFace Records Mark Shimmel and Grammy-winner Rich Harrison. He is scheduled to shoot a music video for his first debut single “Them Girls” in Los Angeles. The Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins-produced track,“Them Girls," features the vocals of Lil' Kim, who will make an appearance in the music video as well. Also making a cameo in the video is producer Darkchild himself. --Kristie Hang
Clint Eastwood directs Hmong drama
Gran Torino is a Clint Eastwood drama film featuring a predominantly Hmong cast -- unprecedented for a mainstream Hollywood film. Eastwood stars as a racist Korean War veteran with nothing else to lose, except for his 1972 Gran Torino and M-1 rifle. After he catches a studious teenage Hmong neighbor attempting to steal his car as part of a gang initiation, the boy is forced by his traditional family to work for Kowalski in penance. Kowalski gradually learns about Hmong culture and becomes friends with the family, unexpectedly becoming involved in their son's life. Filled with racial slurs and stereotypes, there has been debate over the film's depiction of Hmong gang culture, with critics questioning its authenticity and fearing the perpetuation of stereotypes of Asian youth. Open casting calls for Hmong actors were held in the Hmong communities of Saint Paul, Fresno, and Detroit. All but one of the ten Hmong leads were acting in a film for the first time, as were many of the Hmong extras. For authenticity, Eastwood encouraged improvisation among the actors in their native language. Hmong crew, consultants, and translators were present as well. Nominated for this year's Golden Globe, it comes out in limited release December 12th, with a wide release slated for January 9, 2009. --Ellen Ho
Up the Yangtze is up for a Spirit Award
The critically acclaimed Up the Yangtze is one of five nominees for best documentary at the 22nd Spirit Awards. Founded in 1984, the Spirit Awards (originally known as the Findie Awards) was created to recognize independent films shot on limited budgets. Helmed by Chinese-Candian director Yung Chang, Up the Yangtze puts the spotlight on people profoundly affected by the creation of the Three Gorges Dam across the Yangtze River in Hubei, China. Chang explores the poignant dilemma of poor, rural families displaced in China's rapid modernization. Check out APA's review of the film and an interview with Chang. --William Hong
Take Out in San Diego theaters December 12th
Also nominated for an Independent Spirit Award (the John Cassavetes Award), Take Out is a film by Sean Baker and Shih-Ching Tsou that follows a Chinese food deliveryman on a critical day of his life. Ming Ding (Charles Jang) is an illegal Chinese immigrant working in New York City, and he's given an ultimatum by the smugglers that brought him into this country. He has until the end of the day to pay off his debt. Unfortunately, the only way he has to get extra cash is through his tips. The film was shot on digital video, at a real take-out restaurant, using both professional and non-professional actors. To watch the trailer, click here. --Ada Tseng
January 2009 release for Owl and the Sparrow
Owl and the Sparrow (Cú và chim se sẻ in Vietnamese) is a 2007 Stephane Gauger film that follows a hopeful tale of love and loneliness in urban Vietnam. In modern-day Saigon, three lonely strangers form a unique family as a headstrong ten-year old orphan plays matchmaker to an introvert zookeeper and a beautiful, heartbroken flight attendant. The movie was released in March 2007 at the San Francisco Asian American International Film Festival where it won the "Best Narrative Feature," and took the "Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature" at the LA Film Festival. The film is slated to come out in theatres in January 2009 in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Jose, and other selected cities. --Ellen Ho
John Cho in ABC's Flash Forward?
Playing Captain Sulu doesn't seem to be enough sci-fi action for John Cho. ABC is now negotiating with Cho and Joseph Fiennes to star in its new project Flash Forward, a series that will take over Lost in May 2010. Based on Robert Sawyer's novel, the show will follow the chaos after a 2 minute and 17 seconds blank-out -- during which everyone will have a glimpse of the future. While FBI agent Mark Banford (Fiennes) battles personal demons and a haphazard marriage, his friend Dominic Witten (John Cho) would try to solve a murder mystery involving his own death. Whether or not Cho would become one of the leading men for ABC primetime TV is still uncertain. For now, how John Cho gets to play a character named Dominic Witten might be the biggest mystery of it all. --Winghei Kwok
Teriyaki Boyz's American release in March
Having already collaborated with artists Kanye West and Pharrell, Japanese hip-hop group Teriyaki Boyz will release their first U.S album in March of next year. Titled Serious Japanese and released under Pharrell's Star Trak Entertainment label, Teriyaki Boyz will be the first Japanese hip-hop group to debut overseas under a major American label. –Kanara Ty
All-star Asian American cast for Wedding Palace
Wedding Palace, one of the biggest Korean American transnational productions to date, is a comedic feature starring Angela Oh (Criminal Minds, Boston Public), Bobby Lee (MadTV), Brian Tee (The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Entourage), Margaret Cho, Cindy Chiu (The Shield), and Joy Osmanski (The Loop, Grey's Anatomy) among other fellow Asian American artists. Casting director and producer Jory Weitz (Napolean Dynamite) gave priority to Korean/Korean American actors to build a bona fide cast. A majority of the film was shot in Los Angeles, while some scenes were shot in Korea, most of which consisted of b-roll for authenticity. The plot revolves around a 29 year-old man who is pressured by his friends and family to get married by his 30th birthday to ward off an ancient family wedding curse. Advertising executive Jason Kim resorts to finding the woman of his dreams on the internet some 9,000 miles away in Seoul, Korea. Complications arise and cultures clash when his bride-to-be arrives in Los Angeles for the first time. --Ellen Ho
Ayumi Hamasaki goes global with Dragonball
After ten years in the music business, Ayumi Hamasaki finally makes her international debut with an upcoming contribution to the Hollywood-produced Dragonball Evolution: a brand new rock song entitled "Rule." Chosen by director James Wong, the international release will be recorded in Japanese. The official trailer for Dragonball Evolution was also finally released this past week. The film's will come out in Japan first in March of next year, with the American release to follow in April. –-Kanara Ty
Danny Lee Wins Annual Program to Develop Film in America
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Danny Lee has emerged the winner of the 2008 KOFIC Filmmakers Development Lab. The Filmmakers Development Lab is an annual program to help talented Korean and Korean diasporic filmmakers network with industry professionals. Lee received a large grant for his feature film script Winter War. His first project was Rock Fresh, his 2004 documentary on graffiti artists. In 2006, Lee wrote and directed his narrative debut King of Hollywood, a dark comedy about a street hustler trying to make it in Tinseltown. --Christie Liu
Baby comes to SF theaters
VC Film Festival award-winner Baby is getting a theatrical release in the Bay Area, starting December 12th. Directed by Juwan Chung, Baby stars David Huynh as a young kid that gets involved in East Los Angeles gang life. Drugs, alcohol, violence -- all taking place on the streets of Monterey Park and Alhambra. Other cast members include Tzi Ma, Feodor Chin, Ron Yuan, Kenneth Choi, and Kenzo Lee. To watch the trailer, click on their MySpace page here. --Ada Tseng
Date Posted: 12/12/2008