“As Awards Season Takes Shape, Diversity out of the Running”

“Hollywood’s awards season is taking shape, but if early indications are anything to go on, the Academy Awards won’t be fielding a much more diverse batch of nominees a year after the academy was ridiculed for an Oscars featuring only white actors.

It’s still early and the season is very much in flux, with some of the top contenders including the journalism drama “Spotlight,” the sci-fi adventure “The Martian” and the lesbian romance “Carol.” On Wednesday, the Screen Actors Guild Awards —— an important Oscars predictor —— will present their nominees, with the Golden Globe nominations from the Hollywood Foreign Press on Thursday.

But the whiteness of the season has already drawn attention.

Surveying the 11 white nominees for best actor and best actress at the Gotham Independent Awards last week, co-host and “Broad City” star Ilana Glazer commented: “You guys could open up a Williams Sonoma.”

Oscar prognosticators are by no means a sure bet, but they offer a realistic gauge of what films and what performers are likely in the Oscar mix. Though several awards contenders have not yet opened in theaters, every film but “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” has been screened for press; for those following closely, much of the field is already established, long before Oscar nominations are announced Jan. 14.

The latest predictions gathered from Oscar watchers in a regular poll by the movie blog Movie City News —— the “Gurus o’ Gold” — forecast only one non-white nominee in all four acting categories: Idris Elba in “Beasts of Nation.” Outside chances include Will Smith (“Concussion”), Benicio del Toro (“Sicario”) and Samuel L. Jackson (“The Hateful Eight”).

When the Hollywood Reporter convened likely actress nominees like Cate Blanchett (“Carol”), Jennifer Lawrence (“Joy”) and Brie Larson (“Room”) for its magazine cover round table — a regular glossy feature of awards season — it acknowledged a lack of diversity in its choices. Round table host Stephen Galloway faced the issue in a column, writing: “The awful truth is that there are no minority actresses in genuine contention for an Oscar this year.”

The only best picture candidate with a non-white protagonist comes in 10th from the Gurus, on the cusp of making it into the category: “Creed,” the acclaimed Rocky sequel starring Michael B. Jordan.

Best director, too, seems likely to include only males, with most expecting nods for some combination of Tom McCarthy (“Spotlight”), Ridley Scott (“The Martian”), Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (“The Revenant”), Todd Haynes (“Carol”), Steven Spielberg (“Bridge of Spies”) and George Miller (“Mad Max: Fury Road”).

In a way, an Oscars that looks a lot like the previous Academy Awards wouldn’t be surprising. Hollywood’s deep equality issues, in front and behind the camera, don’t get magically solved when Oscar ballots get mailed. The academy can only nominate the films that get made, and criticism might be best directed toward executives with the power to greenlight…”



“The Movie About Muslims in America That Donald Trump Needs to See”

This week, the front-runner in the race to become the Republican presidential nominee called for a ban on roughly 1 billion people from entering or remaining in the United States. His unconstitutional policy proposal calls for blocking all Muslims from the country, ostensibly including Muslim soldiers and airmen who are currently fighting abroad forDonald Trump’s freedom to say that they shouldn’t get to come home. It’s a move straight out of the Fascist Dictator Adult Coloring Book, and, even more concerning, his support has only gone up because of it.

It’s a great time for easy hatred and fearful bluster, which makes it a perfect time to revisit Tom McCarthy’s 2007 film, The Visitor, about a New Yorker who befriends three illegal immigrants a week before one is set for deportation. With McCarthy’s Spotlight now in theaters and shining a glowing light on the fast-disappearing newspaper business,The Visitor offers a glimpse of a cross-cultural understanding we can hope won’t vanish as quickly.

The story kicks off in earnest when dispassionate professor Walter (Richard Jenkins) returns to his New York City apartment after time away only to find a young African woman taking a bath in his tub. There’s a confrontation, and Tarek (Haaz Sleiman) holds Walter against the wall as Zainab (Danai Gurira) wraps herself in a towel and shouts in French. The image of a strong, young Muslim man threatening a fragile, old white guy is potent, but the rest of The Visitor turns that potentially inflammatory image on its head.

When Walter shows them his keys, the accidental squatters realize they’ve been tricked by a guy named Ivan who rented them a place that wasn’t his. Tarek and Zainab thought they were being attacked by an intruder. It’s a misunderstanding, and, recognizing that Tarek and Zainab are also victims of the situation with nowhere else to go, Walter offers them the same bed they’ve been sleeping in for months. McCarthy takes the sequence to move from fearful stereotype to compassion, crafting a condensed lesson against fight-or-flight instinct.

The odd trio get to know each other; Tarek’s warmth and musicality coax Walter out of his funk, while Zainab’s stern realism anchors the alien nature of what they’re all doing. Tarek, from Syria, plays the djembe. Zainab, from Senegal, makes and sells her own jewelry. They flirt and fight and look like any young couple stuck in the salad days, and in their company, Walter catches a glimpse of life he hasn’t seen since his wife died. He’s been guilty of going through the motions, and it takes strangers from the other side of the planet to help him find meaning again…”


“Fargo’s Zahn McClarnon on Hanzee’s Backstory and the Types of Roles Native Americans Get Onscreen”

You grew up on a reservation, correct? Or you spent part of your childhood on a reservation?
I grew up in Glacier National Park in Yellowstone. My grandparents lived on the Blackfeet Reservation, which is about 20 miles from where I lived in Montana. So on and off I was on the reservation with my family, on weekends or for chunks of time. My mom grew up on a reservation in South Dakota, and then moved up to Blackfeet in the ’50s.

Hanzee’s Native American heritage has become a large part of who he is and what he stands for, whereas earlier in the season, his background was more of a mystery. Did you create your own story for this shift in his character?
I did. Like you said, there wasn’t a lot written on the page about him, other than he was adopted at nine years old by the Gerhardt family, which was actually going on a lot in the ’60s and ’70s — a lot of kids being adopted out of their families into other families and relocated into other environments. So I know he went through that. And then being in the war, you know, that would have a big impression on anybody. He was this tunnel rat in Vietnam, sending the Indian down into the tunnels. I also drew from my own experience growing up in the ’70s as a Native American, being on the reservation and also living on the border of a reservation, and experiences I had with racism, on both sides. Being a mixed Native American, because my father was an Irishman, I saw both sides of it.

So that racism is vivid in your own memory?
It’s very vivid. Not being served in restaurants in the early ’70s. I remember it vividly. They didn’t come up and say, “We’re not going to serve you,” they just left us sitting at the table and then didn’t ask for our order for 45 minutes. And it’s still going on. You’d be surprised how racist these border towns are. Not just white people being racist against Natives, but Natives being racist against white people as well.

Native American actors have gotten some attention this year — there was the controversy with Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidton Netflix and the walkoffs on the Adam Sandler movie, The Ridiculous Six. Are these things that people have been talking about a lot in your own community?
Yeah, they are. I had friends who worked on that Adam Sandler film. I wasn’t there, so I don’t know exactly what took place and who exactly walked off the set. I think it was mainly background actors who did. I have had conversations with a few of the actors who were principals on the show. I have an open mind about seeing [the movie] because of the content of the film, you know, it’s ridiculous. It’s called Ridiculous Six so they probably make fun of everybody. I do know that for me, personally, I wouldn’t have been part of that film. That’s just me, personally.

You often play very specifically Native-American characters. Does that ever frustrate you?
I have played characters where race isn’t a centerpiece of the project, certainly. A waiter, a bookie, those kinds of things. There are casting directors who see past it, though we definitely have a long way to go. I did a movie recently where I’m playing a drug runner, and he’s not — there’s really no race as a part of the character, he doesn’t discuss his ethnicity at all. So things are happening, we’d like to see more obviously, but they are happening, and it’s taken a positive turn. There does need to be more, though! [Laughs.] There should be more Natives on TV.

In your dream role you’d create for yourself, what would you play?
The reality is, I look ethnic. So, I’ve played Latino roles, and I’ve played Native roles. I’m dark-skinned. I’d love a role where I’m playing a father, a loving husband, a relationship-based movie. A child and father, father-son kind of thing. I do a lot of that stuff in my classes I take, and I have a lot of fun doing it. Just being a human being and relating to another human being….”


“Steven Yeun, ‘Fresh Off the Boat’s’ Constance Wu & Randall Park Toast to More Asians on TV”

“Saturday’s 14th annual Unforgettable Awards, presented by Audrey Magazine and KoreAm Journal, recognized Asian talent in the media at the Beverly Hilton, spotlighting “Fresh Off the Boat” actors Randall Park and Constance Wu, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” star Chloe Bennet, “The Walking Dead” vet Steven Yeun, CNN’s Lisa Ling and web sensation Eugene Lee Yang.

The general consensus on the red carpet was that the television landscape is finally moving in the right direction with two network shows with primarily Asian-American casts — ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat” and “Dr. Ken.” “Fresh” introduced an Asian Santa Claus in its holiday episode, which Park believes was a hilarious and meaningful conversation.

“When our show first was coming out there was a lot of trepidation from the community,” recalled Park. “I think that the community was so used to being mistreated — especially by comedy — but the show has been really embraced.”

The actor also noted that recent strides aren’t enough during a time where there are more than 400 television shows and only a handful of them feature Asian-Americans. Many also pointed that the lack of Asian entertainment execs, lead actors and romantic interests in Hollywood.

“As a community, that’s why events like these are important because we get to come together and push each other more and lift each other up,” said Yeun, who received major kudos throughout the evening for playing a multi-dimensional character on AMC’s hit post-apocalyptic drama. Yeun’s beloved character, Glenn, spent much of the first half of this season feared dead, which led to an outpouring of fan uproar.

“When I first got out here, I was told that I wasn’t white enough to be the lead and not Asian enough to be the best friend,” stated Bennet. “Six years later, I’m three seasons deep in a major network show and that in itself is progress….”


“Ryan Coogler, ‘Black Panther’ and Defining Black Equality in Hollywood”

“I loved “Creed,” director Ryan Coogler’s resurrection of the “Rocky” franchise, which paired Coogler’s muse, the tremendous young actor Michael B. Jordan, with Sylvester Stallone, to simultaneously brutal and tender effect as Rocky Balboa (Stallone) trains Adonis Johnson (Jordan), the son of his longtime rival and friend. And I adoredCoogler’s debut feature, “Fruitvale Station,” which starred Jordan as Oscar Grant going through his day on Dec. 31, 2008, leading up to the moment when he would be shot to death on a BART platform in the early hours of New Year’s Day 2009.

But while there are few things in mass culture right now that excite me more than the prospect of a new Ryan Coogler movie, I found my heart falling a little bit on Friday with the news that Coogler may be directing yet another franchise picture, Marvel’s forthcoming “Black Panther” movie.

The prospect of Coogler making a “Black Panther” movie raises the same issues that the prospect of casting a black actor as James Bond does. Both choices are rooted in the same direction. Do we want the best actors of color, and the most visionary filmmakers of color, to spend valuable years of their careers improving or improvising on mainstream franchises that have historically been dominated and defined by white artists? Or would pop culture be better off with Coogler, or actors like Idris Elba and David Oyelowo (who have been floated as potential Bonds), making original movies like “Fruitvale Station,” “Beasts of No Nation” and “Selma”?

None of this should be taken to mean that I don’t care who directs “Black Panther.” I would hate for the first Marvel movie centered on a superhero of color to be a bust, just as I was anxious for “Jessica Jones,” the Netflix series about a troubled female superhero, to be a success in both feminist and superhero terms…”


“In Search of the Next Bruce Lee”

“The search is on for the next Bruce Lee, and Victor Cui won’t stop until he’s found him — or her.

Lee brought kung fu to the Western mainstream in the 1970s, becoming a global movie star before his untimely death at the age of 32. The popularity of his groundbreaking fusion of fighting styles pre-dated the current boom in mixed martial arts (MMA) contests by four decades, and helped the likes of Chuck Norris become Hollywood action stars.

Cui hopes his One Championship franchise — Asia’s answer to Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), broadcast to over one billion homes across 75 countries — can unearth the next fight king or queen.

“Everyone watching from across the world wants to know the answer to the question — who is the next Bruce Lee?” Cui tells CNN. “It has been 40 years since he passed and everybody still knows his name. We’ve got people from all across the world watching One Championship looking for the next big star.

“Asia hasn’t had a lot of homegrown sporting heroes apart from Manny Pacquiao or Yao Ming — but we can have more,” added Cui, referring to the Filipino boxer and the Chinese basketball star.

According to Cui, every great martial artist in the world has come from Asia. Along with Lee, he lists Jackie Chan and Jet Li, who also transcended their Asian fame to star in Hollywood films.

“People in Asia get MMA — it’s in their DNA,” Cui says. “You’re not having to start from scratch, people understand it. It’s part of their lives — every country in Asia has their own martial art, whether it be karate, muay thai, kung fu, silat, or jiu-jitsu.”

One of the fastest growing stars in the One Championship stable is Angela Lee, who is making waves in the world of MMA. Like Bruce Lee, she has a mix of American and Asian background.  Born in Hawaii but of Singaporean descent, the 19-year-old has won all three of her professional bouts — her next is in the Philippines on December 11.

Her father Ken, who acts as her full-time coach, and mother Jewelz are both MMA champions in their own right, while her brother Christian will make his professional debut in Manila on the same card as Angela after enjoying success in junior events.

Her other two younger siblings are both in training but their experience will be vastly different to hers.  Growing up, Lee was often the only girl in the class — not that it bothered her at all…”


“New Star Wars spots give us our first glimpse of Lupita Nyong’o’s character”

“Another day, another tiny serving of new footage from Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

It’s hard to imagine that two weeks from now we’ll be living in a world where we aren’t obsessively scouring every trailer, teaser, and TV spot for previously unseen footage from the new Star Wars film. (Or trying desperately to avoid it.) But until that day comes, we have to live with the slow drip of cinematic morphine being squeezed off by Disney’s marketing department.

Today, that comes in the form of a few different videos that have been kindly rounded up by Polygon. The first — an international TV spot, seen above — offers the most new footage, including a clip of a Sullustan X-Wing pilot (played by the same actor who played Nien Nunb, Sullustan co-pilot to Lando Calrissian in Return of the Jedi), and a longer look at Finn (John Boyega) in the gunner’s seat aboard the Millennium Falcon during the dogfight on Jakku…”