Wednesday, April 08, 2009
Monday, February 09, 2009
NOW PUT YOUR HANDS UP
the parody that was actually an homage
Vibe's Terrance Dean writes a fascinating and informative story on the history of J-Setting which Beyonce took global in her "Single Ladies" video. A shorter version appears online, complete with youtube videos. What began in Southern Black colleges amongst drill teams then crossed into the gay club scene and from there, it caught the attention of Beyonce's choreographer (and a gazillion online parody-ers).
Here's one of the original Jackson State J-Settes (né Jaycettes), dancing to "P.Y.T.":
Labels: pop culture
Sunday, January 18, 2009
AMERICA THE MILQUETOAST?
If the Lincoln Memorial concert was supposed to be reflective of what the new America looks like...it looks a lot like Walmart's CD shelves.
As a cultural event (which it was as much as a civic one), it was just so banal. It's not like I expected Obama to ask Animal Collective and Lil Wayne to perform (together, natch) but pairing Betty Lavette with Jon Bon Jovi to sing "A Change Gonna Come" was deflating. As was going from inspirational footage of Marian Anderson singing "My Country Tis Of Thee" to...Josh Groban. Fail. Shakira and Usher? Garth Brooks singing "American f---ing Pie"? Really?
I didn't find the entire thing terrible (note: Pete Seeger >>> U2 tonight) but assuming the celebrity line-up wasn't picked randomly out of Entertainment Weekly's
Seriously, I'm genuinely surprised Hannah Montana and the Jonas Brothers weren't invited. Did they donate to McCain or something?
Saturday, January 17, 2009
their cultural reign...ended?
A few stories friends of mine have contributed in recent days:
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Sunday, April 27, 2008
HAROLD AND KUMAR: UP IN SMOKE AGAIN
When Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle debuted in 2004, it was a milestone of sorts - a mainstream, gross-out, stoner comedy with two Asian American men cast as leads. Sure, the humor was juvenile and unapologetically male, there was everything from naked breasts to literal bathroom humor, and a dream sequence featuring an anthropomorphalized bag of weed. Do The Right Thing this was not.
But it did represent an achivement of sorts, symbolically to be sure, but also commercially. The movie had enough of a cult following to warrant a sequel (not to mention revitalize Neal Patrick Harris' career, a remarkable feat on its own), thus suggesting that - hey, Asian American leads won't kill your film. I hope the producers of 21 are pondering this.
The film's sequel, Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay is an achievement of a kind too, proof that Asian Americans have made it far enough into the Hollywood machine that they can make perfectly mediocre mainstream fare as much as the next folks. Woo hoo, the promised land!
In all seriousness, it's not like anyone was expecting something approaching genius. I was hoping for "adequately funny," something on the level, at best, of a 40 Year Old Virgin or even Superbad (and yeah, there's a huge difference in the quality of funny between those two flicks).
The laugh-o-meter here was somewhere closer to, oh, Walk Hard, which is to say: not that funny. John Cho and Kal Penn are fun enough to watch at times but there's little new creative soil for either to plow. The funniest single scene was probably when Cho shows up in the library stacks, goth-ed out. It lasted all of a few seconds and he didn't even speak but just the sight of him in masscara was good enough. Penn had fewer moments here than in the previous film - the giant bag of weed returned (anatomically correct no less) but that joke really only works once. And while we're keeping score on this kind of thing: too much Rob Cordury, just a touch too much Neil Patrick Harris, and not enough Chris Meloni. And oh yeah, either too much or not enough pubic shots, depending on your taste.
So, in the end, it was "meh" but the thing is...I didn't feel like, "oh crap, we blew our chance!" And maybe that says something more than the film, on its own, can say...that the fact that an Asian American-lead comedy can be mediocre seems ordinary and harmless rather than a hand-wringing disaster. Of course, it helps that the film also is already in the black after the first weekend, earning a very respectable $14M (the original only made $18M total in theaters). Even if the flick has earned middling reviews, the monetary gains won't hurt Kal Penn or John Cho's future chances and may help open that golden door for other Asian American actors and filmmakers to walk through.
Let me end by throwing this question out: the sexual politics in this film are not particularly glowing - not to anyone's surprise of course - but I wonder how many of the men, so huffy puffy at Falling From Grace are going to raise any issues with this flick? (Yeah, I just went there).
Let me also add: why does it mean when a writing and directing team of all White men can make a more commercially successful franchise lead by Asian American men than most Asian American filmmakers? I'm not asking this rhetorically - I'm seriously curious how this happens.
Monday, April 21, 2008
MR. RAP SUPREME
This might be of interest to folks: I recently interviewed Jeff "Chairman" Mao of ego trip fame on the eve of the new Miss Rap Supreme show on VH1 (just two weeks in and already with more beef than a Costco butchery).
Surprisingly, despite his high profile as a journalist/writer and DJ/collector, I found relatively few other interviews out there on the interweb and so my conversation with Jeff covered a broad range of topics in terms of his own personal history as well as professional insights on everything from hip-hop to music criticism to what makes compelling reality television. It's a long interview but I think it makes for a good read (biased as I am).
If you're ever in New York, be sure to roll through APT on Saturday night to see Mao and his friends spin.
By the way, this interview launches what I hope will be a series of Q&As I'll be doing for UCLA's fantastic Asia Pacific Arts Magazine. They've become, to me, the premier resource on Asian American arts/culture over the last few and I'm proud to be able to work with them. Coming up soon: an interview with actor Ken Leung from Lost.
Saturday, March 15, 2008