Movies That Should Have Starred Asians: Taxi Driver

Regular readers of this blog already know how huge an influence the work of director Martin Scorsese has had on me. Which isn’t really news considering his movies have probably directly or indirectly influenced everyone who has pursued a career in film since the mid-1970s. But reading the new book Conversations With Scorsese reminded me that the work of many Asian and Asian American filmmakers, everyone from John Woo to my fellow Offender Justin, owe a big debt to Scorsese as well, particularly his “gangster” films like Mean Streets and Goodfellas. And while I get that appeal since no one did that genre better than Scorsese, it struck me that his most “Asian American” film isn’t one of his gangster flicks, but rather his classic 1976 exploration of urban alienation…Taxi Driver.

In the film, Robert DeNiro is Travis Bickle, a mentally unbalanced Vietnam vet living in New York City. Suffering from insomnia, he takes a job driving taxis at night and finds himself both repelled and fascinated by the less than desirable neighborhoods his nocturnal journeys take him through. He meets two women—a “madonna” in the form of Cybill Shepherd’s Betsy who is a campaign worker for a Senatorial candidate and a “whore” in the form of Jodie Foster’s 12-year-old prostitute Iris. Travis decides he must “save” the two women but when both reject him, he goes on a violent rampage.

Scarface School Play

This cannot be real. I’m being punk’d, right? This is apparently an elementary school stage production of Brian DePalma’s Scarface. [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uovMpapeCJQ[/youtube] After further trolling around, I found this CNN.com report that it’s definitely a hoax.. sort of. This is from producer Marc Klasfeld, who has a penchant for these viral videos. You may have seen his previous work of people approaching a store front in MC Hammer gold lame parachute pants and start randomly dancing. His reasoning behind this video:

“What’s interesting to me and my wife is that the video is shocking, yet everyday, we have to guard what our children view from television commercials or video game violence. So, it’s interesting to me on a lot of levels and it’s creating that debate.”

1,001 Reasons I Love Movies: (#8) Cheesy ‘80s Comfort Food Flicks

My fellow Offender Alfredo recently wrote about how Jaws is one of his favorite “comfort food” flicks—those movies you can watch over and over and never get tired of. Many of my comfort food flicks come from the 1980s—the decade when I was an impressionable, young kid discovering movies for the first time. I think many of my choices—the Indiana Jones trilogy, John Hughes high school films and Ghostbusters—still hold up. So instead I’m going to write about some of my true comfort food flicks—these are the films that if I saw for the first time today, I’d probably think were god-awful (with one exception below) but because I discovered them at just the right time in my life, I’ll always love them. In no particular order:

HOWARD THE DUCK (1986)

Along with Ishtar and Heaven’s Gate, this George Lucas-produced big-screen adaptation of the classic Marvel Comics character became synonymous with the word “bomb” in the ‘80s. I’ll admit the film has its share of problems including a main character who looks exactly like what he was—a short dude in a duck costume—but there’s one reason I saw this movie at least half a dozen times when it came out…Lea Thompson:

1,001 Reasons I Love Movies: (#6) Planes, Trains And Automobiles

yomyomf_weekPlanes-Trains-Candy-Martin_l

Of the holy trinity of American holidays—Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas—Thanksgiving has tended to get the short end of the stick when it comes to films. I dug Jodie Foster’s Home For Holidays and look forward to Eli Roth’s upcoming full-length feature version of Thanksgiving, but my favorite Thanksgiving movie to date has to be the late John Hughes’ 1987 comedy classic Planes, Trains And Automobiles.

Starring two of Hollywood’s finest comedic actors at the height of their powers—Steve Martin and the late, great John Candy—the film is a mismatched buddy comedy about an uptight advertising executive played by Martin who only wants to get home to Chicago in time for Thanksgiving but is foiled at every turn by circumstances beyond his control. To make matters worse, fate has forced him to travel with Candy’s annoying shower ring salesman.

Rediscovering “The Amazing Chan And The Chan Clan”

chanclanI’ve heard some Asian American activists point out that the character of Charlie Chan has always been played by white actors in yellow face. While it’s true that most cinematic portrayals of the Chinese detective have featured Caucasians in the lead–most notably actors like Warner Oland who played Chan in 15 films and Sidney Toler who made 22 films–Asian actors have indeed played Chan on at least two occasions.

In the 1927 silent film The Chinese Parrot, legendary Japanese actor Sojin played Chan. No copies of this movie are thought to exist; although we know the plot revolves around a cursed pearl necklace, a bi-lingual parrot that can translate Chinese into English and a brief appearance by Chinese American movie star Anna May Wong as a dancer who gets murdered.