“I'm like a fine wine. I get better with age. The best is yet to come.”
― Richelle Mead, Blood Promise
“I'm like a fine wine..."
Having seen the laugh-riot action comedy Awesome Asian Bad Guys written by Milton Liu, starring and co-directed by Stephen Dypiangco and Patrick Epino (National Film Society) and executive produced by Phil Yu (Angry Asian Man) at the 30th Annual Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival in 2014, watching the film again with all of my friends and colleagues was an experience!
"I get better with age."
The National Film Society and Angry Asian Man along with Visual Communications presented a Special Screening of Awesome Asian Bad Guys, a Kickstarter-funded, web based series turned feature length film starring Tamlyn Tomita, Randall Park, George Cheung, Dante Basco, Yuji Okumoto and Al Leong at East West Players' David Henry Hwang Theater in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles last night to celebrate the film's DVD & VOD release that same day. And there were a few things I got out of it.
(1) When was the last time you saw a mainstream American film where the filmmakers and high profile leads are Filipino Americans?
(2) At the afterparty at Far Bar in Little Tokyo, I was hanging out with not just the co-directors of Awesome Asian Bad Guys but also with filmmakers Gene Cajayon (2000's The Debut) and Patricio Ginelsa, Jr. (2003's Lumpia). While Gene and Patricio were directing films about varying Filipino American experiences, I was producing films about other people's experiences such as my first produced film, 2002's Soap Girl). So I felt a kindred spirit among them. However, until I acted in Edward J. Mallillin's 2008 Filipino American film, Brown Soup Thing that I decided that if I do another project, Asian Americans, but specifically Filipino Americans, will be prominent. And, that began with my web series, 2014's No Regrets where the leads were Filipino Americans with a universal appeal. I will do other Filipino American themed projects later this year. With Filipino Americans as the second largest Asian American group in Los Angeles, I don't see why not. In a way, Gene, Patricio and other FilAm filmmakers who made an impact a decade ago have paved the way for Stephen, Patrick and others of this millennial generation of filmmakers to carry on and reach higher than ever before (thanks now to the tools we have that are accessible as well as social media to reach a hungry audience looking for new voices...and, in turn, become the "Voice of the Voiceless" themselves). Asian American representation in film and television has gotten better since the 1990s (i.e. Fresh Off The Boat) but it has also hit below the belt (i.e. Aloha).
(3) There was this running joke in Awesome Asian Bad Guys where Stephen and Patrick would repeat names of movies and TV shows in the 1980s and 1990s of where both saw George Cheung and Al Leong in. And, the joke would end with Stephen exclaiming the CBS TV show, Simon & Simon starring Gerald McRaney and Jameson Parker with the maddening look of an Overly Attached Girlfriend...
I'm a bit older than them when I say that I have seen George Cheung on prime-time television shows since the mid-1970s or when my Dad thought I was old enough to watch Mannix. In fact, my Dad loved action movies especially the Rambo and Die Hard films. He was with me in spirit last night meeting these two iconic actors.
And, the only time we saw these two legendary actors were only once every prime-time television show and / or blockbuster movie. This was hilariously addressed during the Q&A when my friend asked "has all Asian American actors appeared in Simon & Simon? One of the leads in Awesome Asian Bad Guys, Dante Basco jokingly mentioned that every year, all Asian American actors are called in to various TV casting offices to audition for that TV show's one Asian-themed episode. This is true. One audition I was called in for was a costar role for the Matthew Perry show, Go On -- and there I saw Dante Basco...and James Kyson...and so on.
Here is a fun fact. The first film I ever worked on was in 1992's Rapid Fire starring Brandon Lee, Nick Mancuso, Dustin Nguyen, Powers Boothe, Kate Hodge, Al Leong, Raymond J. Barry, Tony Longo and Tzi Ma (in the summer of 1991). I just finished my third year at California State University, Northridge and wanted to start making money to pay back my student loans so I did background work only that summer before beginning my final year at CSUN. Thanks to my best friend who was studying at UCLA at the time who saw the ad. Al Leong is the second actor I met from Rapid Fire and I remember seeing him on-location at the UCLA campus. Nick Mancuso was the first actor I met from that same film when I co-executive produced 2011's Violent Blue (in 2010).
Indeed the gathering last night was a different experience for me compared when I first saw it last year at the LA Asian Pacific Film Festival...and I could right now type a much lengthier critique as to why it is -- the lack of Asian American representation in Hollywood to this day despite making still small stepping stone strives. But, during the Q&A session after the screening, Dante Basco put me at ease when he said...
" [Awesome Asian Bad Guys] is a cool way for us...celebrating our history as Asians in Hollywood...not complaining about stereotypical things that happened in the past but, a funny way for us and our community to comment about the past and celebrate about the past without complaining about it..."
The best is yet to come.”
To which, I'd like to add, let's keep this momentum going by creating original content, producing projects and create & accept roles that best represent who we are as Asian Americans.
In the meantime, get your hands on the Awesome Asian Bad Guys movie right here:
A possible sequel - Awesome Asian Bad Girls -- could come next!