By the time you read this, the whole world will have watched the Oscars. And
while there’s a great chance of someone on the red carpet “wearing an Asian
American,” I am sure of this: There’s absolutely no chance an Asian American
will win in any of the major categories. Not Best Picture, Best Director, Best
Actor, Best Supporting Actor. Best Actor in Support Hose. Nothing.
Again. That’s always the way it is. No dearth of talent among us Asian
Americans. Just a dearth of Oscar support. (Not one nomination for Harold and
Kumar ever? What is the academy NOT smoking?)
That’s why it is necessary in my one-man academy (100 percent people of color)
to make up a category that Asian Americans are sure to qualify for.
I call it the Emil for best minimal presence by an Asian American in a major
motion picture nominated for best picture.
This is a very specific category. And it is loaded with suspects, I mean,
nominees this year.
Remember, the actors all had to be recognizable for at least a second in movies
nominated for best picture. My nominees are:
From “Birdman,” Keenan Shimizu, who played Han. Now here’s a guy with the
prototypical Asian American acting career. He was Big Father in the 2001 Louis
C.K. classic, “Pootie Tang.” And on the small screen, he acts so well that on
“Law and Order,” he’s played Det. Kwan, Asian Tech Guy Hsu, and a Deli Owner.
That’s the Asian character trifecta!
From “Birdman,” Akira Ito, who plays a translator so well, I don’t even
remember him being in the movie. True invisibility–in any language!
From “Boyhood,” Andrea Chen, who played “Sam’s Roommate,” the great enabler.
Chen enters her dorm room and finds Mason, the boy in “Boyhood,” with his
girlfriend studying “biology,” if you catch my drift. Chen says she’ll be back,
in a way that pays homage to Schwarzenegger. Scene stealer! And she didn’t need
12 years to nail the role.
From “The Imitation Game,” are you kidding?
From the “Theory of Anything,” all that high minded science stuff, and I
didn’t see one Asian American.
From “Whiplash,” Stephen Hsu, guitar, and Tian Wang, piano, were boys in the
band. And how’s this for true sub-minimal treatment: They are uncredited. That
really sets the standard high for minimal presence—they were in the negative,
absolutely unrecognizable. Their sub-presence is so low it edges out Kavita
Patil, a lovely and accomplished actress, who usually plays Indian doctors,
nurses and health care workers on TV and in the movies. In “Whiplash,” Patil
plays….Sophie, the assistant! And she got a credit. Sorry Kavita–that’s way too
much recognition already.
I know you’re saying what about Zero from “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” the lovely
Indian …nope. Tony Revolori is from Guatamala, and not technically Asian.
Besides, he should have been nominated for Best Supporting Actor, just for his
hat. The Lobby Boy made that movie! But alas, zero for Zero. Robbed.
And as for that “American Sniper” actor Mido Hamada, who played the Butcher, he
was born in Cairo. Technically, Middle Eastern people are considered Asian in a
broad sense. But in this movie, the transgressions are on a totally different
level so as to disqualify them for the “minimal presence” award.
And that leaves us with our winner: (Drumroll, please…)
The winner for Best Minimal Presence by an Asian American in a major motion
picture nominated for Best Picture goes to Selma,” for the minimal Asian
American presence of Steven Kiyoshi Kuromiya.
And just when you thought there were no Asian Americans at Selma. (It’s sort of
like the Oscars; we’re there somewhere.)
If you don’t know about Kuromiya, he was a creative activist, an SDSer, who
became an aide to Dr. King and then later a loud and proud AIDS activist for ACT
UP. He actually was beaten up in the earlier Selma marches.
wasn’t technically in the film. But my “AA-dar” went off when the film cut to
documentary footage included on the last big Selma march to Montgomery. It was
an Asian guy. And it had to be Kuromiya. I swear on any bible Rudy Giuliani
Kuromiya was an Asian American who made a difference.
So that’s it. No red carpet. No big show with Neil Patrick Harris hosting.
It’s just a single _Emil. _One award. No plural needed for the best minimal
presence of an Asian American in a major motion picture nominated for Best
One is enough. And it goes posthumously to Kuromiya, so he can’t show up anyway.
But if there were a living winner, while the _Emil _doesn’t really exist
physically, it is totally acceptable to mime stroking it admirably–in private.
Speaking of awards, there are Oscars and there is the Emil. And then there are
the 2015 Justice in Action Awards presented by AALDEF.
Unlike the minimal presence at the Oscars, the winners this year are all highly
visible and making a difference for Asian Americans every day in their
respective fields: Jessica Hagedorn, novelist, poet, and playwright; Neal
Katyal, partner at Hogan Lovells, Paul Saunders Professor at Georgetown
University, and former Acting Solicitor General of the United States; and John
W. Kuo, Senior Vice President, General Counsel, and Corporate Secretary of
Varian Medical Systems.
Get your tickets
Hollywood is still a fantasy game played by actors. The fight for justice is no
game. And no fantasy. It requires those who take action. That’s the example set
by the AALDEF Justice in Action Award’s deserving winners each and every year.