Expats Unite: Having lived in New York and San Francisco, I concede that Shanghai is the perfect combination of those two cities! So it’s no surprise it was standing room only at the SF premiere of the film “Shanghai Calling” on Feb 6th in the Presidio sponsored by ChinaSF – established in 2008 with a mission to create jobs in San Francisco through inbound investment. “We were delighted to partner with Producer Janet Yang. We both have great weather, great people and are world class, coastal and financial center cities,” said Executive Director Darlene Chiu Bryant. Then Mayor Dianne Feinstein had the vision to create the San Francisco-Shanghai Sister City relationship over 30 years ago. In a flip to the usual Caucasian-guy-gets-Asian-girl, the film’s hunky 6’2” HAPA star Daniel Henney (father is American of Irish descent and mother is Korean American) plays the film’s ambitious New York attorney who is sent to Shanghai to close a billion dollar deal and falls under the Shanghai magic spell of a beautiful relocation specialist played by Eliza Coupe (“Scrubs” and “Happy Endings” who “memorized” Mandarin for this role). “Shanghai Calling” is filmmaker Daniel Hsia’s first feature film and Janet Yang, again shows her talent for picking winners! She was also the executive producer of “The Joy Luck Club” directed by Wayne Wang. And the beautiful Zhu Zhu gets high marks as Henney’s assistant. (http://www.asianweek.com/
Before Jeremy: “His 30’ left hand hook was his best shot!” claims Randy Lee who met basketball whiz Norman Owyang Jang when he was 15 years old and Norman was 19. “He was little but he could jump!” adds Warren Doo who still shoots around with the 5’7” Norman on Wednesday nights in San Francisco’s Japantown. Norman played ball for Washington High School and made All City; he was the 1st Chinese American to try out for the USA Basketball Team and was the first Chinese American to get a tryout with the NBA in 1964 and the last man cut by the Warriors that same year because “he was too short.” Fast forward 46 years later, Jeremy Lin was also denied by the Warriors (http://www.asianweek.com/
Quiet Victory: Norman Owyang Yang’s favorite team is still the Warriors and David Lee is who he cheers for these days. But the mighty Warriors couldn’t overcome the Rockets last night in a game that started tight, but was a Warriors’ loss, 107-116. The Warriors hosted Asian Heritage Night with a portion of event-night ticket sales benefiting AsianWeek Foundation’s efforts to increase awareness for Hepatitis B so there were lots of API faces in the house. Folks had split loyalties between our home town Warriors and our API Golden Boy “No. 7” Jeremy Lin. The post game Q&A was telling: Lin admired Michael Jordan; if he were an animal, he’d be a dolphin because they’re smooth and jump fast; picked Houston because it was the only offer he got; and his advice to fans: “Love God, pursue your dreams and don’t be afraid to fail.” Basketball Trivia: The first non-white NBA player was Japanese American Wataru “Wat” Misaka who played for the New York Knicks in 1947 and was cut because they had too many point guards (thanks to Philip Chin, Asian community historian -caforumonline.org and chineseamericanheroes.org
Sci-Fi to Music: As I listened to the Grammy’s in the other room, I wondered where all the API nominees are hiding and/or waiting to be discovered? So it was weird to see George Takei’s picture on billboards in Nashville a few weeks ago. Takei served as the narrator in the Symphony’s Arnold Schoenberg’s “A Survivor from Warsaw” about the Jews of Warsaw. As a 5 year old child, Takei and his family were sent from Los Angeles to the swamps of southeastern Kansas during WWII so he felt a connection to the piece which he first narrated with the Little Rock Symphony. Takei wrote about his experience in the camps in his 1994 autobiography which led to a more public re-telling in his 2011/12 Broadway musical Allegiance co-starring the talented Tony winning actress Lea Salonga about a family forced to leave Salinas, CA for an internment camp in Wyoming. Fans probably know Takei best as the original “Mr. Sulu” in the television Star Trek series however he’s evolved so much since then. SF award winning filmmaker Jennifer Kroot is working on a Takei documentary (due out early next year: www.takeidoc.com) which sequels his 1994 autobiography and highlights his unique pop culture activism for equality. This May, trekkies can look forward to another second major feature film, Star Trek into Darkness again staring John Cho as a younger “Mr. Sulu.” Cho was born in Seoul, South Korea and moved to Los Angeles as a child and attended UC Berkeley. Besides acting, Cho is the lead singer/song writer in the Indie/rock band Viva La Union so maybe there’s Grammy hope yet!
Ang-ling for Three: The number “3” in Chinese is pronounced “san”or “saam” which means “alive” and Ang Lee is alive and kicking and on a roll…his latest film Life of Pi, about a 16-year-old boy from India who finds himself on a lifeboat with an orangutan, a hyena, a wounded zebra and a Bengal Tiger, earned 11 Academy Award nominations including Best Director. This is Lee’s third Best Director nomination following “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” (2000) and “Brokeback Mountain” (2005) which he won and is the first ever Asian Director to win an Oscar Award for Best Director. Lee developed his interest in film in college while studying at the National Taiwan University of Arts. He later earned his Bachelor’s Degree in theater from the University of Illinois and his Master’s in Fine Arts from New York University. Lee struggled for years to get recognized until his break out hit “The Wedding Banquet” (1993) followed by the award winning British classic “Sense and Sensibility” (1995) which put him on the international map. A sequel to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” is in the works although Lee is not expected to direct this epic nor has it been confirmed whether the original stars Chow Yung Fat and/or Michelle Yeoh will appear but look for the classy/former “Bond Girl” who will be the top honoree at this year’s Asian Film Awards. Yeoh will be receiving the prestigious “Excellence in Asian Cinema Award” on March 18th in Hong Kong for her three decades of work, co-timed with the kick-off of the Hong Kong International Film Festival.