Tag: Mongol

Friday night movie news dump…

And, for a change, it’s barely even night here on west coast as I begin.

*  We’re seeing some major league “New Moon” girl-power at the box office, already. $26.3 million, to be specific. That’s just for midnight shows.

* Just a few days back I noted the casting of Japanese star Tadanobu Asano as Hogun in Kenneth Branagh’s upcoming “Mighty Thor” flick. As a part of Norse (i.e., Viking) mythology, Asgard is, by definition, a pretty strictly Nordic place, so I thought this casting was interesting.  Visually, the Marvel comics Hogun was based on Charles Bronson, whose face had a definite Asiatic/Mongolian-by-way-of-Lithuania cast, so going with the star of “Mongol” was a stretch worth noting, but maybe not a definite sign of completely race blind nontraditional  casting.

However, Branagh has now cast the very fine African-English actor Idris Elba of “The Wire” and several great episodes of “The Office” in the part of Heimdall, guardian of Asgard. As a commentor at the Heat Vision blog that spread the news mentioned, Branagh did something very similar when he cast Denzel Washington as an Italian warrior-prince in his version of “Much Ado About Nothing.” I’ll quote myself from the Bullz-Eye piece I did on less well known Denzel Washington performances:

As a major production featuring truly race-blind “nontraditional” casting in a key role, “Much Ado About Nothing” is something of an onscreen first. In fact, audiences and critics had no more problem accepting Washington as an Italian prince than they did accepting the extremely British, pasty-faced Branagh as a Mediterranean nobleman.

Especially in films set far away from a realistic context and where the actor has as much authority as both Washington and Elba have, I think we’re sophisticated enough about the nature of movies that this will not be a problem, even for viewers who know a little about mythology. And here’s the best part: it will piss off some white supremacists. I’ve personally heard about young Neo-Nazis who dig the comic book “Mighty Thor” and apparently are too stupid and ignorant to realize that the series was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, a.k.a., Stanley Leiber and Jacob Kurtzberg, two rather brilliant New York Jews. As always, the joke is on the hate fetishists.

Like I said before, this is not your father’s Asgard, and I’m fine with that.

800px-Asgard

* It’s thirty days before the release of “Avatar,” the movie isn’t quite done yet, and some of us insist on going about our business as if life as we have always known it was not about to be forever altered. Quick, send out Sigourney Weaver and Giovanni Ribisi to say nice things about James Cameron!

* He’s brought us everything from “School of Rock” to “Chuck and Buck”, but very talented quirk/comedy writer/actor Mike White’s next film is about Santa war, but I doubt it’ll be very violent. On the other hand, he appeared in the comically mega-violent “Zombieland,” so perhaps his thinking has evolved some. I pretty violently disagreed with his op-ed, but he gets credit for even thinking about stuff like this.

* And, now for something completely different, from OC Weekly restaurant critic Edwin Goei comes his list of the five greatest food movies. I’d steal some of his YouTube clips, but I’m starving and I’m supposed to go to the gym later, dammit. Just go see for yourselves.

Hollywood, land of confusion

Today, much of the confusion appears to be ethnic.

* Patrick Goldstein presents the U.K. based “Case of the Vanishing and Less Famous African-Americans.

* Universal is “circling” a director of commercials named Carl Erik Rinsch for a shot at the big time for a new action flick, writes Michael Fleming. Rinsch, who I never heard of until now, turns out to have an pretty interesting visual approach (more about that in tonight next’s post), but these days every third movie is from some first-timer whose made his or her name doing commercials. Also, Keanu Reeves is the star. Nothing surprising or strange about that, I guess. No, what’s of interest here is that the movie is a new version of the story of the loyal 47 Ronin (leaderless samurai), an oft-filmed national legend — in Japan, that is.

47_ronin_1941_2

Okay, so Reeves is part-Asian, but his looks are sort of those of a vaguely ethnic white guy, which is usually neither here nor there, but this isn’t “Shogun” or “The Last Samurai” — it’s not a story about some random westerner who finds himself in 18th century Japan. Or maybe it is now. I don’t like pre-judging movies but this just gives me a bad feeling. The 47 Ronin is a dearly held national legend of Japan and they’re going to make a seemingly super-Americanized English language version, and starring this guy?

I know there’s such a thing as non-traditional casting, but this is just weird. Samurai are not merely part Japanese and really can’t be. Remember Boss Tanaka from “Kill Bill” and his reaction to taking orders from a woman who was Chinese-Japanese American? Quentin  Tarantino is one big-time Western filmmaker who knows something about Asian culture; I wonder if there are any others. If any movie were to give Japan’s growing nationalist far-right a boost, this could be it.

But it’s only a movie, right? So, let’s see some Japanese filmmakers get to do a version of the Alamo or the Shoot-Out at the O.K. Corral starring some vaguely Caucasian-looking Japanese actor as Wyatt Earp/Davey Crockett and film it in Japanese. I wonder how that would do in the States. I also wonder what our own ranting nativists would make of that.

Tadanobu Asano* But poetic semi-justice is swift, because also from the mighty pen of Michael Fleming comes the word of casting the “Warriors Three” by Kenneth Branagh of the upcoming “Mighty Thor” flick. Alongside the traditionally more or less Nordic looking Stuart Townsend and Ray Stevenson (who I guess will be wearing a fat suit of some sort as Valstagg or gaining a lot of weight, or will just be the trimmest Falstaff knock-off ever), Branagh has taken the interesting step of going full mongol on the character of Hogun, who was partially modeled on Charles Bronson, by casting the Japanese actor who actually starred in “Mongol” (and Takashi Miike’s probably-never-to-be-seen-by-me gangster gorefest, “Ichi the Killer”), Tadanobu Asano. Yes, this is not your father’s lily-white Asgard.

* Mel Gibson adds to the confusion/mystery around “Max Max 4.”

* And, finally, in non-ethnically based confusion, Nikki Finke reports Carl Icahn appears to be mucking about with the MGM sale, and the ever-opinionated Devin Faraci (well, he’s a pussycat next to Ms. Finke, but who isn’t?) has some interestingly contentious thoughts on the state of geek-oriented film journalism and Julia Styles/Spiderman/Black Cat rumors.

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