Saturday, 22 September 2007

The ugly word.

Racism. Hollywood hates it. They like to think of themselves as liberal, and they are when compared to a right wing Christian, but not in the big scheme of the world.
Of course when put in a corner where they have to choose between being racist and being homophobic they will choose the latter (It is ok to portray a gay woman/man, just don’t be one).
But they are still a racist bunch.

Black actors have been making great strides lately, but it is always easier for the men (women have a hard enough time getting good roles whatever colour they are. But that is sexism and that will be a whole different blog post in the future).
What I want to know is…When will Asian actors get their due?

The Film Experience has a great article about the death of Miyoshi Umeki (pictured), who was the first Asian performer to win an Oscar. This was in 1957 for “Sayonara”, and she won in the supporting category. (Hattie McDaniel did the same for black women in the 1930’s).

Since this landmark victory only one other Asian actor has won an Oscar, and that was Best Supporting Actor Haing S. Ngor for “The Killing Field” (pictured and please read his Wiki page).

There has been very little embracing of the Asian film community by Hollywood, unless they are sword fighting or doing high kicks on top of trees. Some of the most heart breaking and complex performances come out of Asian films.
Perhaps it is all to ‘alien’ for Hollywood. Physically they look a little different, their language is very difficult for westerners to comprehend and their culture is completely strange in comparison. How could Hollywood possibly relate?

Since the dawn of Oscar time there have only been the following Asian actors nominated for an Oscar
2006 – Rinko Kikuchi for “Babel”
2003 – Ken Watanabe for “The Last Samurai”
1984 – Haing S. Ngor for “The Killing Fields” (Won)
1984 – Noriyuki “Pat” Morita for “The Karate Kid”
1966 – Makoto Iwamatsu for “The Sand Pebbles”
1957 - Sessue Hayakawa for “The Bridge on the River Kwai”
1957 – Miyoshi Umeki for “Sayonara” (Won)

That’s right folks
Only seven.
Of course I could have counted the half Chinese Tilly sisters, but that is not really fair, and it is a stretch. Same with the half Indian Ben Kingsley. In fact no Indian actor has ever been nominated.
These are very upsetting results, especially when you think of the talent that has been passed over, or just plain ignored.
Ziyi Zhang – “Crouching Tiger. Hidden Dragon”, “House of Flying Daggers”, “2046” and “Memoirs of a Geisha”
Tony Leung Chui Wai(pictured) - “In the Mood For Love”, “Infernal Affairs”
Madhur Jaffrey – “Shakespeare-Wallah”
Michelle Yeoh – “Crouching Tiger. Hidden Dragon”
Yun-Fat Chow – “Crouching Tiger. Hidden Dragon”
Ge You – “To Live”
Yuya Yagir – “Nobody Knows”
Kang Soo Yeon – “Contract Mother”
Naseeruddin Shah – “Monsoon Wedding”
Shefali Shetty – “Monsoon Wedding”
Li Gong – “Memoirs of a Geisha”, “Farewell my Concubine”, “Raise the Red Lantern” and “Qiu Ju Goes to Court”
Maggie Cheung – “Clean”, “The Actress”, “In the Mood For Love”

And that is just the tip of the iceberg. There are probably hundreds more that I have not see, or have not even had the chance to be largely seen outside their own countries.

But then again I am still thinking of the Oscars as some sort of international award ceremony. The various categories are called ‘Best’, like ‘Best Actress’. This simply is not true and very very misleading.
Perhaps they should change it to “Best American, or sometimes English Actress, or Actress from a country we are not threatened by, or is too unfamiliar to us”. Lets face it, that is what the awards are.

This is what most awards are, awarding the familiar. Only critics groups and Cannes ever branch out, but even this is still a rare thing.

Why is this?

Why did “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” get no acting nominations. Did Michelle Yeoh, with her yearning eyes and repressed heart, not move you to tears?
Did you not find Tony Leung’s quiet intense passion simply amazing in “In the Mood for Love”?
You nominated the whole cast of “Sideways” expect the hilarious and deserving Sandra Oh, and she is American. Was she not as good as the rest? (I thought she was)
Lordy, thinking about Sandra I realize even the American actors of Asian descent have a hard time even getting the roles in movies that could lead them to Award season glory. They have to look to TV.

I guess we are more comfortable with them in our living room, than our movie screen…..oh wait…I forgot about “All American Girl”.


J.D. said...

It is incredibly sad. Especially that my Ziyi is still nominationless! But truthfully more outrageous is Gong Li's absence. What the hell? Look at that filmography!

(And Sandra Oh is Korean-Canadian. And Giamatti wasn't nominated... right?)

J.D. said...

Oh, and the HFPA do it too, don't they? At least more than the Academy, right?

Michael Parsons said...

True true about Paul Giamatti, but Sandra was the only cast memeber not nominated for any of the precursers. It ain't just the Academy....Hollywood is at fault.

But that scene where Michelle Yeoh is watching Chow Yun-Fat practice and you see the years of love and longing in her eyes....heartbreak without uttering one word.
Robbed she was!!