Asian and Asian American influences in ‘Black Panther’ (minor spoilers)

One of the many impressive aspects of the Black Panther movie is its costume design.  The look of the Dora Milaje, the elite Wakanda guard, is particularly striking. 

That said, I was surprised to found out from The Wife about this article about Anthony Francisco, a developmental illustrator for Marvel Comics, where he says that apart from the obvious influence from different African cultures, that there are Asian influences in the Dora Milaje costumes.  In this Buzzfeed article, Francisco details influences as disparate as Filipino tribesman and Japanese Samurai.

Photo by CEphoto, Uwe Aranas

Francisco grew up in the Philippines, where the Igorot people of Ifugao are well known for their UNESCO heritage rice terraces.  Some of their traditional garb influenced his design.  In addition, the table runner from Francisco’s Aunt’s house became part of General Okoye’s uniform.  Other Asian influences include Samurai style boots.

You can see these and other influences on costume design in the Buzzfeed article

For a better look at Francisco’s work (which includes Baby Groot), check out his Instagram.

Review: The Garden of Words


The Garden of Words (2013)

Voices of Kana Hanazawa and Miyu Irino. Directed by Makoto Shinkai.

Available on DVD at Amazon

garden of words 1The Garden of Words (言の葉の庭, or Kotonoha no Niwa) is a Japanese animated movie that, to its great credit, continues one Japanese cinematic tradition and, to its great discredit, follows another.  The animation is almost mind-blowingly beautiful, at times startling in its realism and at others so pretty and perfect that it has to be the work of an imaginative, artistic hand.  Even for Japanese animation, it’s visually outstanding, and a worthy continuation of Japan’s animation traditions.

Takao Akizuki is a fifteen-year-old high school student, living with an adult brother and a single mother who disappears for days at a time and leaves her sons to fend for themselves.  During his mother’s absences, and (one assumes) even when she’s around, Takao assumes many of the household responsibilities, including preparing dinner for the family.  Yet he is a far less conscientious student, choosing to take the long way to school on rainy mornings so he can enjoy the beauty of a large public garden (The Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, according to Wikipedia) and work on sketches of shoes he plans to make someday.

garden of words 2Takao dreams of being a shoemaker, a fantasy that distracts him from classroom lessons and the drudgery of his home life.  When he encounters Yukari Yukino, a pretty twenty-something woman, in a gazebo in the garden on one rainy morning, Takao at first barely acknowledges her presence, focusing on his sketches while she, in this early morning hour, makes a meal of beer and chocolate.  As they share the shelter of the gazebo on subsequent rainy mornings, they get to know each other, in a way, as Takao shares his dreams and Yukari shares an encouraging word, a sympathetic ear, and very little of her own life.

garden of words 3The first forty minutes of the film is dedicated to the exploration of this friendship, and it is beautiful and poetic and possibly inappropriate, and colored with so much sadness and bittersweetness that, like so much great Japanese art, it made me want to weep for my own loneliness and impermanence.  There is a predominant Japanese aesthetic that finds beauty in the fleetingness of every moment: a black bird on a high-rise is bathed in red light for a moment, is seen as its natural self the next moment as the light blinks out, then takes flight, circles the building, and is not seen again.  A raindrop clings to a green leaf, then trickles slowly down its length until it clings to the leaf-tip, growing in size until its weight pulls the leaf slightly toward the muddy earth before letting go and splashing into the puddle below, releasing the leaf that springs back to its former position to await the next drop.  Director Makoto Shinkai takes the time to share these moments and a hundred others, leaving it to the viewer to interact with them however they will, and it’s a beautiful experience.

garden of words 4At forty-six minutes in duration, it is about as long as a one-hour television episode, minus commercials, and is structured very much like one, except that it is a self-contained story, and those first forty minutes are the stuff of halls of fame, so wonderfully are they sequenced and framed.  But those last six minutes are a baffling continuation of another Japanese dramatic tradition: my people (I’m half Japanese) have an embarrassing flair for melodrama, at least in television and cinema.  Japan’s is such a reserved society that perhaps it needs exaggerated, comical catharsis in its popular media just to keep itself functioning normally, the way teenaged boys need to joke about sex in order to have any conversation at all about it.

Whatever the reason (and of course I’m willing to be told I’m completely wrong about this), the resolution of this film is just kind of awful, and it is followed by a closing-credits song whose lyrics tell you how to feel, just in case the melodrama doesn’t explain it blatantly enough.  Endure the terrible song, though, if you want to feel better about everything: the director gives us a post-credits sequence that’s much more like the raindrop and the leaf.

The unsatisfactory resolution is enough for me to drop it from a 9 to a 7 out of 10. But it’s definitely worth a look.

8Questions: Justin Chon on his New Movie ’21 and Over’

8A-2013-03-04-21_1ShtRelativity Media’s new comedy 21 and Over hit the theaters over the weekend. The newest project by the writers of The Hangover Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, 21 and Over is an outrageous journey as Jeff Chang (played by Justin Chon) celebrates his 21st birthday with his best friends (played by Skylar Astin, and Miles Teller the night before his medical school interview.

Here are 8Questions with Justin Chon about his new film and more from a phone interview done last week before the film came out:

Continue reading “8Questions: Justin Chon on his New Movie ’21 and Over’”

8Asians Chats With…The Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival

The Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival celebrates its Sweet 16th birthday Nov 6-11 in Toronto and Nov 16-17 in Richmond Hill.

I sat with Aram Siu-Wai Collier, the Director of Programming for this year’s festival to go over some of the highlights and what we can expect, including musical performances, Rum’n’Roti and the festival’s first 3D film screening.

This is part 1 of a 2 part post on the 16th Annual Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival.

Bay Area Giveaway: Advanced Screening Tickets for Takeshi Kitano’s ‘Outrage’

A few weeks ago, some lucky 8Asians readers in Los Angeles were able to see Outrage, the new film from Japan’s legendary Takeshi Kitano (ZATOICHI: THE BLIND SWORDSMAN, BROTHER, VIOLENT COP). Now it’s time for our readers in the Bay Area to see the film! Opening in Los Angeles and New York on December 2, 2011, it stars Beat Takeshi, Kippei Shiina, Ryo Kase, and Tomokazu Miura.

In a ruthless battle for power, several yakuza clans vie for the favor of their head family in the Japanese underworld. The rival bosses seek to rise through the ranks by scheming and making allegiances sworn over saké.

Long-time yakuza Ôtomo (writer/director Kitano, using his screen name “Beat Takeshi”) has seen his kind go from elaborate body tattoos and severed fingertips to becoming important players on the stock market. Theirs is a never-ending struggle to end up on top, or at least survive, in a corrupt world where there are no heroes but constant betrayal and vengeance…

Running Time: 109 minutes
Language: Japanese (with English subtitles)
Rating: R for violence, language, and brief sexuality

Ok, ok, so you just want to know how you can win some free tickets? Read on!
Continue reading “Bay Area Giveaway: Advanced Screening Tickets for Takeshi Kitano’s ‘Outrage’”

Thor Trailer: Differences Between US and Asian Versions

The Thor trailer has been released for Asian countries, and seeing that I just saw the movie here in the States, I figured that it was worth checking out the differences. SPOILER ALERT: Just in case I might be talking about some things that you want to be surprised about, don’t read after this.

Continue reading “Thor Trailer: Differences Between US and Asian Versions”

“Colonel” Gackt Ventures Into Hollywood

One of my favorite J-Rock artists is Gackt Camui, who has one amazing voice and pretty much reminds me of the old 80’s ballads, but better. He originally came out of the visual kei bands but has since led a brilliant career of singing and acting. However, I’m not really sure what he was thinking with naming his latest album Are You “Fried Chickenz”?? which puts together some of his latest hits from different albums. Apparently there was even a tour in August called Yellow Fried Chickenz. The last thing I want to do is think of him as Colonel Sanders, so I’m curious as far as why this album is even named as such. Drunken stupor perhaps?

In any case, it seems that Gackt is also making his move towards Hollywood. He stars along side Josh Hartnett in Bunraku, which was featured at this year’s Fantastic Fest in Austin and San Diego Comic-Con. But that’s not all! There are several other A list names on the cast, including Demi Moore, Woody Harrelson, and Ron Perlman.

And as long as Gackt doesn’t don one of these costumes, I’ll probably go check the movie out. Oh gawd. What were you thinking with that album name?

‘The People I’ve Slept With’ Opens in L.A. this Friday Night; Q&A with Filmmakers & Cast Hosted by jozjozjoz & 8Asians

We’ve been unabashed fans of the sex-comedy The People I’ve Slept With even before Koji joined our ranks, so it’s with great pleasure that we share the news that the film will be opening in Los Angeles this weekend (starting Friday, August 27th) at the Laemmle Sunset 5. (And if you’re not in L.A., Bay Area folks, it’s coming to you next!)

Yours truly, on behalf of, will be hosting a special Q&A with the filmmakers and cast, following the 10pm show on Friday, August 27. The People I’ve Slept With is fun, funny, and features many, many crushworthy folks. If you missed the sold-out screening at the 2010 L.A. Asian Pacific Film Festival, then this is your chance to see it in the theatre and to meet some of the cast & filmmakers.

People Pictures is proud to announce the Los Angeles theatrical release of The People I’ve Slept With, directed by Quentin Lee (Ethan Mao, Shopping with Fangs) and written by Koji Steven Sakai. The film is self-distributed by People Pictures and will open exclusively August 27, 2010 at Laemmle Sunset 5 Theatres in Los Angeles.

“I am thrilled to be opening The People I’ve Slept With in Los Angeles at the Laemmle Sunset 5 Cinemas. It’s an indie filmmaker’s dream come true,” says director Quentin Lee. “With the film playing at both LA’s Fusion and the LA Asian Pacific Film Festivals this year, I feel Angelenos will enjoy and support the adventures of the film’s heroine.”

The People I’ve Slept With is a sexy, romantic story about Angela (Karin Anna Cheung of Better Luck Tomorrow), a young woman with a zealously active sex life, who after every sexual conquest, makes keepsake “baseball cards” of each of her male conquests. One day, Angela finds out she is pregnant and begins a quest to find the identity of her baby’s daddy. Together with her gay, best friend and co-worker Gabriel (Wilson Cruz of He’s Just Not That Into You, My So-Called Life), the two go on a comical and raunchy hunt through her past hook-ups and dates. But as Angela peels back the layers of her frisky past, she begins to realize that the answers she is looking for, reveal themselves in surprising ways.

Featuring a sparkling and daring performance by Karin Anna Cheung, The People I’ve Slept With co-stars Archie Kao (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation), Lynn Chen (Lakeview Terrace, Saving Face) and screen legend James Shigeta (Flower Drum Song, The Crimson Kimono). The film has found strong support with sold out festival screenings including San Francisco Int’l Asian American Film Festival and the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, along with being selected as the official Closing Night Presentation of the 2010 New York Asian American Film Festival. The film is set to open theatrically in Los Angeles at Laemmle Sunset 5, August 27, San Francisco at the VIZ CINEMAS, September 3, and in New York at Clearview Cinemas on August 13, 2010

You can buy your tickets online: Laemmle Sunset 5 (8000 Sunset Blvd. West Hollywood, 90046. 323-848-3500). See you there and come say hi!

Or if you can’t make it until Saturday night, then check out their 7:30pm screening with the Q&A hosted by Angry Asian Man’s, Phil Yu. After that, you can party with Angry Asian Man and Audrey Magazine at Libertine on Sunset, where Audrey will be hosting an intimate afterparty with the cast & crew.

Daily Candy DC Mixes Up Chinese & Japanese: Makes No “Sensei”

If you live in a big city, you may have subscribed to Daily Candy for their dispatches regarding things to do, places to shop, and where to eat.

In the latest “Weekend Guide” from Washington, D.C., Daily Candy recommends the Terra Cotta Warriors Film Festival this weekend at the National Geographic Society. They say that you can watch “Kung fu classics like Lao Tou Ho introduced by martial arts guru Craig D. Reid.” Cool!

But why is this worth attending? According to Daily Candy, it’s because “It makes total sensei.” LAME! Do I need to tell you that “sensei” is a Japanese word and kung fu is not Japanese? Should I mention that all the films in the festival are Chinese?!

WTF, Daily Candy? Who do you think you are?! Karate Kid 2010?! Bah!

(Don’t let Daily Candy’s idiocy prevent you from checking out the Terra Cotta Warriors Film Fest, if you are in DC, though. I love the NGS and the film festival features one of my favorite Chinese films– despite Zhang Ziyi’s inclusion in it– Hero (2002).)

h/t: Ming & Stephanie

Jeff & Erin’s Epic Wedding “Save the Date” Video

If you’ve been to as many weddings as I have, then you’ve also received your fair share of “Save the Date” notices. Though I’ve seen some really creative ones cross my desk, I’ve never seen a “Save the Date” as EPIC as Jeff & Erin’s!

Jeff Wong & Erin Martin met while they were in college in Southern California in 2000, but their love has landed them down-under– Sydney, Australia. Ten years after they first met, they are tying the knot in the Los Angeles area, and they’ve created a wedding website, a “teaser poster” and a “wedding trailer” to lead up to the wedding date. Since Jeff did some video production in college, they “started with a simple idea that was going to be a weekend project.” But then, in their own words, they “just got a little carried away.”

With all the attenion that they are getting on this trailer– they’ve been written up in HuffPo & Boing Boing— I am guessing there are going to be high expectations for their wedding. (No pressure, guys!)

I’m also guessing that they’re going to have to lockdown parts of their website which was originally started just for their friends and family. The site is already being innundated by visits from strangers who are congratulating them — and wanting to know where this wedding is going to be so they can crash it– are you with me Moye & Jee?!?!?

Anyway, congrats to Jeff and Erin and best wishes on their big day!

h/t: John

Definitive New 35mm Restoration of RASHOMON at LA’s Nuart

RashomonI try not to take for granted the vast number of cool events that happen in Los Angeles. I know that a screening of an almost 60 year-old Japanese movie doesn’t sound like the sort of thing that you can only find in L.A., but it is! The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences is presenting a stunning new restoration of Akira Kurosawa’s classic Rashomon, taken from a 35mm print created in 1962 from the original camera negative.

The truth of the matter is that because the heart of the film industry is here in Los Angeles, so is the heart of film restoration efforts. Film restoration is extremely tedious and costly, and many of our film treasures are being lost at a rapid rate. Because are we lucky enough to be in a city where much of the restoration is done, occasionally beautifully restored films are publicly screened here!

In this case, we’ll get to see the groundbreaking Kurosawa masterpiece Rashomon, starring Toshiro Mifune in the role that catapulted him to stardom. The film depicts the rape of a woman and the apparent murder of her husband through the widely differing accounts of four witnesses, including the rapist and the dead man (through a medium). The stories are mutually contradictory, leaving the viewer to determine which, if any, is the truth. Rashomon has become synonymous with the unknowability of truth, and spawned the term the “Rashomon Effect.” regarding the subjectivity of perception on recollection.

Regarding this particular restoration:

While the [35mm print from 1962] print itself was in good physical condition, the source material from which it was made was extremely battered. Due to the extensive printing and handling it had received over its lifetime, many shots were already starting to shrink and warp, and there were numerous scratches, dust, and dirt in the damaged negative. Scanned at 4k resolution, that 47-year-old print has been meticulously cleaned both digitally and by hand, complete with a new, seamless soundtrack. This essential restoration has been made possible by the Academy Film Archive, the National Film Center of the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo and Kadokawa Pictures, Inc., with funding provided by Kadokawa Cultural Promotion Foundation and Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation.

Rashomon opens Friday, October 2, 2009 at Landmark’s Nuart Theatre, showing through Thursday, October 8 for an exclusive one-week engagement. Showtimes: Fri-Sun at 12:00, 2:30, 5:00, 7:30 & 10:00; Mon-Thu at 5:00, 7:30 & 10:00. Landmark’s Nuart Theatre is at 11272 Santa Monica Boulevard, just west of the 405 Freeway, in West Los Angeles. Program information: 310-281-8223;

“24 City,” movie from China’s most noted contemporary filmmaker: Win tickets to opening night in SF!

UPDATE: Our winner has been selected! Congrats to Peter Lo who will be seeing 24 City this weekend. Thanks to everyone for playing and to Landmark Theatres for providing free tickets!

Moye and I recently watched “Paper Heart,” which was a charming blend of documentary and fiction in film making. China’s most noted contemporary filmmaker, Jia Zhang-ke uses a similar technique in “24 City” (二十四城記 / Er shi si cheng ji), by fusing documentary and fiction to tell a tale of the transformation of the China of the past 50 years into the new, hypercapitalist China.

Shot in disorientingly vivid high-def video, “24 City” chronicles the dramatic closing of a State‐owned munitions factory and its conversion into luxury high‐rise apartments. Given the name Factory 420 as an internal military security code, the Chengdu Engine Group was founded in 1958 to produce aviation engines, and saw years of prosperous activity. Now abandoned, the factory was sold for millions to real‐estate developers, it is being transformed into an emblem of market economy: an apartment complex called 24 City.

As the buildings are demolished around them and their past is wiped away, former workers (some played by themselves, others by actors, including Joan Chen as Gu Minhua “Xiao Hua” / 小花) reminisce about the vanished world where they lived and worked. Meanwhile, a materialistic younger generation jettisons their parents’ traditions to pursue wealth and consumer happiness.

From the director, Jia Zhang-Ke (賈樟柯)

This film is made up of interviews with five workers, who share their real-life experiences with us, and of fictional monologues by three women. I decided to integrate documentary and fiction in this parallel flow because this seemed to me the best way of representing the last half-century of Chinese history. As far as I’m concerned, History is always a blend of facts and imagination.

The stories of these characters, both real and fictional, center on a state-owned factory which supplies the Air Force and other sectors of the military. The factory was founded 60 years ago, and was moved to Chengdu City 50 years ago. It has weathered all of the successive political movements under communist government. I’m not interested in chronicling this history as such, but rather in seeing how a century of experiments with Socialism has impacted on the fate of Chinese people. To understand the complexity of the social changes, we need to listen to the direct and in-depth testimonies of the people who have lived through them.

24CityPresented by Cinema Guild, “24 City” opens on Friday, July 31, at Landmark’s Lumiere Theatre in San Francisco, and Landmark’s Shattuck Cinema in Berkeley. Also opens August 21at Camera Cinemas in San Jose. (Updated Screening Schedule)

Bay Area folks, lucky you… 8Asians is doing another ticket giveaway!

Courtesy of Landmark Theatres, 8Asians is giving away a free pair of tickets for Opening Night 7/31 in SF (Landmark’s Lumiere Theatre) or Berkeley (Landmark’s Shattuck Theatre)!

All you have to do is to leave a comment with your preferred location and one lucky winner will be selected to go!

(Contest will be closed at 11:59pm Pacific Time on Thursday night, 7/30)