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PBS's American Masters: Hollywood Chinese


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#1 of 10 Cameron Yee

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Posted May 25 2009 - 05:14 AM

My local affiliate actually aired this last week, but the "official" airing looks to be May 27th.

From the website:

The 90-minute film illuminates a century of Chinese American cinematic history, from rare silent classics such as Marion Wong’s The Curse of Quon Gwon (1916) to the contemporary critical and commercial success of Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain (2005). Timed for broadcast during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, American Masters: Hollywood Chinese premieres nationally Wednesday, May 27, 2009 at 9 p.m. (ET) on PBS (check local listings). The film features a treasure trove of clips, punctuated with personal accounts from the movie industry’s most accomplished Chinese and Chinese American talent.

Hollywood Chinese - Introduction | American Masters | PBS
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#2 of 10 Lew Crippen

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Posted May 25 2009 - 10:49 AM

Thanks Cameron--I just set my DVR.
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#3 of 10 Aaron Silverman

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Posted May 26 2009 - 08:38 AM

Thanks for the tip!
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#4 of 10 Cameron Yee

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Posted May 26 2009 - 08:39 AM

Yeah, definitely come back and discuss! I'm especially curious about something that's mentioned toward the end.
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#5 of 10 Nelson Au

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Posted May 27 2009 - 06:39 PM

Because I am Chinese American, I think it will be hard to discuss this objectively!

I totally identified to some of what Justin Lin said. I grew up in the 1960's and 70's. I never saw The World of Suzie Wong or The Flower Drum Song. It could be because my parents didn't want to expose me to that, I never sought to see those films. I knew of them.

There was a couple of good points brought up in the piece that I take personally. Cameron, if you refer to the question of how Asian Americans are percieved, I can totally see that as a problem still to be overcome in the mainstream American Hollywood film. And I can still feel it in real life.

Asian men still will have difficulty to be protrayed in a Hollywood film as a leading man and in a positive light in a Hollywood film.

I do think that Asian American portrayals in Hollywood films has improved and gotten to be more color blind, I still think that there is an amount of stereotypes still lingering even in the younger generations that are in control of the studios.

I know my Asian American friends will cringe at certain film portrayals and will not see certain films. Poor Jet Li and Joan Chen, I can see why they and other prominant actors from Asia would want to move out of Hollywood and persue projects where being Asian wasn't an issue where you're not given roles that are either the bad guy or the geek or other stereotype.

It was a really good piece. It did open my eyes to certain areas I don't think about day to day. That of the stuggles of the Asian actors of the 30's through to today.

#6 of 10 Rob Willey

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Posted May 27 2009 - 10:27 PM

Shocking to think that MGM didn't believe Anna May Wong was right for The Good Earth even after a screen test.

I would like to see The Toll of the Sea (1922) sometime. That and the movie shot in Oakland and Niles Canyon (near where I live) in 1916 by the two sisters.

I enjoyed this documentary but I am surprised it took two years to get it on the air (it was made in '07).
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#7 of 10 Lew Crippen

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Posted May 28 2009 - 04:07 AM

I’m still thinking about some of the issues, but as a first comment, I was surprised at what I did not know. Even though I have some knowledge of movies, including the silent era, I had no idea that those early Chinese-American, silent movies existed at all. I hope that some still exist (other than clips), so they can be seen as a whole.
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#8 of 10 Aaron Silverman

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Posted May 28 2009 - 05:01 AM

Cam, what was the specific comment you were thinking of?

I found Joan Chen's comments interesting. I seem to remember back in the '80s that she *was* poised to break out as a star, then sorta dropped out of sight until Twin Peaks. I wondered about that at the time. I didn't see that trashy-looking SF flick with Rutger Hauer that she did.

Also interesting was the fact that Asian stars like Jackie Chan and Chow Yun-Fat get leading man roles in Hollywood while Asian-American actors don't seem to get the same opportunities. (Actresses may have it a little different -- are there male equivalents to Ming-Na Wen and Lucy Liu? As an aside, why did Ming-Na drop the "Wen?") My Asian-American friends are definitely more sensitive about stereotypical movie portrayals than my wife, who came to the US from China in her twenties. I have ABC friends who are still bitter about Long Duk Dong from Sixteen Candles, but I suspect that she would probably find him hilarious. She was surprised at the uproar over that photo of the Spanish basketball team from the Beijing Olympics (where they pulled the corners of their eyes to look Chinese).

The footage of the argument at the Sundance screening of Better Luck Tomorrow was great. I keep meaning to see that movie -- I guess now would be a good time! Posted Image
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#9 of 10 Cameron Yee

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Posted May 28 2009 - 08:45 AM

I was intrigued by the idea that "imports" like Jackie Chan, Chow Yun Fat et al, who never had to contend with a minority experience, have a degree of success (or lack of professional struggle) that Chinese Americans haven't had. It's interesting to ponder how much of the minority experience plays into that (e.g. effects on one's confidence and ambition), though I am leery of making it an excuse.

That Joan Chen and Rutger Hauer movie is available on Netflix. It's got some decent reviews despite what it may look like.

A few years ago I saw a similar documentary called "The Slanted Screen", which looked more at Asian American males in film and television. I don't know if that is readily available - I saw it at a film festival.
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#10 of 10 Nelson Au

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Posted May 28 2009 - 09:02 AM

Cameron-

The Slanted Screen documentary aired right after The American Experience documentary on my PBS station here in the SF Bay Area.

I found the aspects of Jackie Chan and Chow Yun Fat and even Jet Li having been established stars in China an interesting aspect compared to those born and raised in America. I also try to not let that aspect affect me. Though as I said, I felt it all my life. Though less so these days. I am seen by my qualifications and merits, but sometimes when someone else is given an opportunity whose less qualified, I wonder.

I think it was The Slanted Screen where they said that a studio still won't let someone like Chow Yun Fat be the hero and kill the bad white guys. The bad guys still had to be Asian.