May 27, 2016. Playing catch up once again! In the past few months I’ve done a Q and A with director David O. Russell (“American Hustle,” “Silver Linings Playbook”), here; a profile of actor Matt Damon, which ran in the New York Times Oscars issue, here; a piece on the new Black Panther comic, written by National Book Award-winning author Ta-nehisi Coates, here; a profile of actor Don Cheadle, tied to his starring role in the Miles Davis (not a) biopic “Miles Ahead,” here; and a profile of director Malcolm Lee, tied to his film “Barbershop 3,” here. More on all these stories later!
February 9, 2016. This month, California Sunday Magazine published a profile I wrote about Daniel Clowes, the award-winning cartoonist. I spoke at length with about 15 (16?) people for the piece, then ended up using, at best, one or two lines from most of them. That said, all of their input was much appreciated, and not just because I’ve been a crazed fan of many of them for years. In addition to the people who were actually quoted in the piece, I spoke with Ken Parille, critic extraordinaire and author/editor of “The Daniel Clowes Reader,” who, more than anyone, taught me how to actually read Clowes (his book is must reading for any current and future Clowes scholars); Susan Miller, who curated Mr. Clowes’s first major retrospective exhibition, “Modern Cartoonist: The Art of Daniel Clowes,” at the Oakland Museum; and Jaime Hernandez, co-creator of “Love and Rockets,” and Seth, the author of “It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken,” whose books, like Clowes’s, will change your life (in almost all cases, for the better).
Obviously, a lot of material (not to mention people) didn’t make it into the piece, too much to go into here. The biggest bulk of unused material were the unsolicited raves, from all the sources, about Dan’s writing and artistic skills. People gushed. Another element that I just couldn’t find a place for, but that kept popping up in conversations, was what a good and loyal friend he was, and is. I’d be asking about something completely unrelated, and that would inevitably come up.
Here’s the piece. Even if you don’t read the actual story, check out the amazing work that designer Leo Jung did on the illustrations, which were created by some of the most creative indie artists in the business. When Leo told me who he was getting to illustrate the piece, lo, all those months ago, I nearly wept. And if you are very, very lucky, someday, someone will take a photo of you as awesome as the one that Ian Allen took of Clowes.
January 29, 2016. A couple of weeks ago I did a piece for the New York Times about several documentaries coming out about the punk rock scenes in assorted cities and countries. I focused on three of them, two of which were really good, the third, which is still in production, looks to be quite good as well. “Los Punks: We Are All We Have” looks at the punk scene in South and East LA backyard shows, and director Angela Boatwright does a fantastic job capturing the energy and chaos of the shows, as well as the humanity of the band members and their fans. As a longtime fan and reader of the comic series “Love and Rockets,” which, in its early days, showcased the Southern CA-based punk scene not unlike that captured by Ms. Boatwright, it was cool to see “live” what artist Jaime Hernandez captured so vividly in his comics. The characters she found, or, in some cases, who found her, are amazing. The film recently screened at Slamdance, and will hopefully be screening in a city near you soon.
Another film in the piece is “Mad Tiger,” which tells the story about the Japanese punk band Peelander-Z. Director Jonathan Yi is the guy behind that really smart HBO series about the Asian American experience, “East of Main Street,” and he does a fantastic job in drawing out a band that clearly wanted to keep its stories under wraps. If it comes to your town, go see it! Yi initially wanted to do a story about what it means to leave a band, but it became a really moving look at what it means to have a really good guy friend who finally decides that what he wants out of life is a lot different from what you do. You’ll be very moved by this movie, unless you’re dead inside.
The final film was “As I Walk Through the Valley,” about the history of the music scene in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas. The directors initially wanted to do a film about the history of the punk scene in their home region, but soon discovered that the music they loved so much (and figured had sprung fully formed from the South Texas soil) actually had roots going back for decades. The film kind of got shorted in the piece because there wasn’t much room and the film is still in production, but if the film’s anywhere near what the directors envision it to be, it’ll be something to see. You can read the piece, here.
January 11, 2016. One of my 2016 resolutions is to be more conscientious about updating this website, which means catching up on what I did in 2015. To that end, here’s a few pieces—without commentary, or at least, not much—that I wrote during the last couple of months of last year, all for the New York Times: a Q and A with director David O. Russell, which coincided with the release of his latest film, “Joy” (click here); a piece about the AMC series “Into the Badlands,” which stars Hong Kong film star Daniel Wu (click here); and a profile of actor Matt Damon, for the Times’s Oscar issue (click here).
September 27, 2015. Earlier this month I wrote a piece about Kenya Barris, the creator of the ABC series “Black-ish,” for The California Sunday Magazine. If you haven’t seen the show yet, now’s a good time to start watching, with the new season up and running. It’s a really smart, funny show, with a fantastic cast and fine writing. For the article, I got to sit in on one of their writers meetings, which was a crazy treat. For the first several minutes, I was sort of wondering when the meeting was going to get started, because all they were doing was ripping on people (and each other) and laughing about things like ‘90s hairstyles, and about getting phone calls from friends and family in prison. Come to find, hey, that was the meeting! Or at least the start of it. The freeform stuff inevitably begets story ideas, which eventually evolve into stories, or so I was told.
As usual, I had to leave out a lot of really interesting stuff: like, the really long and sweet friendship/courtship between Kenya and Bow, which dated back to their high school days; and a lot of really funny stuff about their kids and family life (one time, when Bow took their then-two year old daughter to go see daddy at work, the daughter looked around a bit and said, “I thought you said he was working.”) Another thing I didn’t really get into in the piece was the incredible sitcom pedigrees of the folks in his writers room (I was able to squeeze in a bit about Yvette Lee Bowser, who’s the person to thank if, like me, you watched a LOT of A Different World, Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper, and Living Single back in the day). As for Kenya, we bonded on a lot of things, including our love for Sizzler (unlike his kids, though, Easy still loves the place, esp. the cheese toast), Spike Lee, and Redd Foxx’s “blue” albums. You can read the piece, here.
August 31, 2015. I wrote a piece about Patrick Stewart for The New York Times Arts & Leisure section two Sundays back. He was very witty and charming (as was Jonathan Ames, the creator of “Blunt Talk,” which Mr. Stewart is currently starring in) and had all sorts of funny and interesting things to say. One thing he spoke about quite a lot was his deep love for newspapers, the Times in particular, and how he reads the Sunday edition from cover to cover (he even went into great detail about the order in which he read the sections). None of this made it into the piece, for obvious reasons, but if you’re Patrick Stewart and you tell someone who’s interviewing you that you had thought all your life that you had been circumcised and only recently learned that you hadn’t been, well, that’s just the sort of thing that goes on the top of the Times’s “Quotable” section. The piece is here.
August 4, 2015. Last Sunday I wrote a piece for The New York Times about Rick Springfield, who is in the upcoming movie “Ricki and the Flash.” Meryl Streep is the star of the film, but she was only able to do an email interview (rather than a phone interview) in the limited window of time I had to write the piece, since she was in London and quite busy. Email interviews are pretty much the worst, since it’s tough for most people to write as if they are speaking, and even more so when you’re answering the sort of awkward questions that come up in a written interview. And of course, email interviews are one-way affairs, so there’s no give and take, no follow-up questions. But since this is Meryl Streep we’re talking about here, and there is seemingly nothing she cannot do, she did a masterful interview, by email, better than many interviews I’ve done in person. She had moving anecdotes and funny asides. She was self-deprecating and silly. If they gave awards for “best email interviewee,” she would have yet another trophy for her case.
Mr. Springfield was also a great interview, although, as usual, there was a bunch of stuff that never made it into the piece: how hard Ms. Streep worked to learn guitar; how he likes to tour a lot more now than he did back in the day; how secretive HBO and “True Detective” are about letting people (even the actors!) know about upcoming shows or storylines; and how he’d love to play a really good blues harmonica. Jonathan Demme had a bunch of very complimentary things to say about a LOT of people in the cast and crew, none of which made it into the piece, since it’s a profile of Mr. Springfield, but I thought it was interesting how closely he seemed to observe (and appreciate) every aspect of what people were doing on and off the set. I had a lot of fannish fun talking to one of those people, legendary rock drummer Joe Vitale. Of course, I had to bore him about how Joe Walsh’s “In the City” (he was the drummer on that) and “The Warriors” (that’s the song that plays over the film’s closing credits, after the Warriors have made it back to Coney Island and the Riffs have commenced beating Luther’s ass) changed my life. After enduring that, Mr. Vitale had all sorts of interesting things to say (one sentence of which actually made it into the piece): how common it is for rockers to ditch their families and family obligations for the road, as Ricki does in the movie (he doesn’t recommend it, but he understands it); how weird it was to be rocking out with Meryl Streep, and then realize you’re ROCKING OUT WITH MERYL STREEP; and how the band (sans Meryl) would play tunes for the crew during the breaks, and Rick would know every song that Joe and the others (all veteran session musicians) would call out. The Kinks, Led Zeppelin, Joe Walsh. Of course, like a dope, I didn’t think to ask if they did “Jessie’s Girl.” The piece is here.
August 3, 2015. A few months ago I wrote a piece about “GTFO,” a really smart and thought-provoking documentary about women in the gaming industry. If you missed seeing it at SXSW and you live in the New York City area, you should definitely check out a FREE screening of the film on Thursday, August 27, at the LGBT Center in NYC. The director, Shannon Sun-Higginson, will be there for a Q and A, too! Details about the film and the screening are here (and you can read my piece about the film here).
June 6, 2015. A couple weeks back I wrote a piece for the New York Times about yokai, mythical beasts and ghosts from Japanese folklore, which you can read here. There are several really good books that have come out, or are coming out, this year, so the piece was largely about them. Since the article was placed in the “Art” category of the “Arts & Leisure” section (hard to resist, given all the cool images in the books), the texts themselves were sort of given short shrift, but all the books are well worth the read, too.
Of course, as so often happens, once you write about a certain topic, you start hearing about all these other cool things coming out that could round out another, future article. Like “Japandemonium Illustrated: The Yokai Encyclopedias of Toriyama Sekien,” a collection of every drawing from Toriyama's Hyakki Yagyo series, which is due out in March of next year, and looks fantastic (you can see the cover and a bit about it here). And then there’s also a new play called “Ghost Light” that’s premiering this October in Manhattan, which combines elements of Macbeth and the ghost story of Oiwa (a kabuki mainstay, she of the dripping face) into a story about a Japanese American actress “who returns to wreak vengeance on the ambitious husband who betrayed her.” I’m guessing this will be good.
March 10, 2015. I wrote a piece for last Sunday’s New York Times about “GTFO,” a documentary about the treatment of women in the video game industry. The film included a bunch of examples of the really crass and awful things that a small minority of male gamers say or text to female gamers and game developers, most of which can’t be repeated in the pages of the Times, which has a strict no-profanity policy. So: if you want to hear or read some of the things that I could only hint at in the piece, which you can read here, go see the film, which is smart and wonderful and (unavoidably) horrifying, and is having its world premiere at SXSW this weekend.
One thing that struck me (and which didn’t make it into the piece) was how the interviewees I spoke with were really not all that interested in dwelling on the psychology or motives of these anonymous guys, despite all the horrible and threatening things these guys had said or texted to them. Their primary focus was on what they and other likeminded individuals could do to make the gaming world, which they love, more welcoming and inclusive for everyone. I also wish I could have mentioned more of the moments in the film that weren’t specifically about harassment, like the segments about the free coding classes for women, and the really insightful segment about how the computer gaming world became overloaded with guys, even more so than many other similar tech fields.
I also wish I could have written more about the excellent film “GameLoading,” which had a great segment about Zoe Quinn, Christine Love, and Code Liberation, but was primarily about the world of independent game creators. As cool and creative as many of the games were (not to mention their creators!), much of the drama in the film came from seeing which of the games would ascend to the heights of gaming glory (or at least relatively modest sales), and which would slink away, unheard of and unplayed.
February 13, 2015. I wrote a piece earlier this month for The New York Times about “American Sniper,” and how the filmmakers adapted the movie from Chris Kyle’s best-selling book. Screenwriter Jason Hall spoke at length about how the story changed from draft to draft to draft, and one of the things he spoke about that didn’t make it into the piece was the ongoing question about how to end the film. Do you show Kyle’s murder? How much of it? Or do you just fade to black as Kyle’s walking out his front door for the last time? It was something that was a big question mark for Steven Spielberg, the film’s original director, as well as for Mr. Eastwood, evidently. Ultimately, the filmmakers decided not to show the murder, out of respect for Mr. Kyle’s widow, Taya, and their children.
One other thing that Taya, Jason, and Bradley Cooper all mentioned was just how much Mr. Kyle did not want to write that book in the first place. According to all three, other people were planning on writing a book about Kyle so he figured he better beat them to it, just to get the story straight. That came up pretty quick in all of the interviews, this distancing of the film from the book, which I found interesting. In any case, the book is very different from the film, much more targeted toward lovers of military-themed stories than the film was (for instance, there are several pages in the book devoted to detailed descriptions of Mr. Kyle’s rifles). You can read the piece here.
December 17, 2014. Catching up on old stories again! Last month I did a couple more pieces for The New York Times. One was about how movie studios have taken to splitting the finales of their big fantasy franchises (Harry Potter, The Hobbit, Hunger Games, Twilight) in two, and why they do it, beyond the obvious reason of trying to double their money. For the piece, I interviewed the director of the Mockingjay films, Francis Lawrence, weeks before the release of “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 1.” He was great, and forthcoming about the film, or as forthcoming as one could be without revealing a single detail about the movie itself. It was a fun dance that we did. You can read the piece here.
The other piece was a profile of director Ana Lily Amirpour, whose feature film debut,“A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night,” was one of the breakout hits of Sundance this year. The first hour or so of the two hour interview was spent talking about just about everything but the movie: Bruce Lee films, skateboarding, the joys of growing up in Bakersfield, Charles Burns comics, and why she doesn’t generally like black and white films, even though “Girl” is one, and a fine one at that. As usual, I didn’t get to use a bunch of great stuff, including her take on why skateboarding is like directing (besides the “put up or shut up” aspects of both, and the improvisational creativity, you have to commit fully to both, directing and skating, or you’ll fall, spectacularly, often in front of your pals). Elijah Wood also gave a great description (which was way too long for the piece, alas) about how Ms. Amirpour turned her place into a “brain center” for the movie, with photo references and plot notes EVERYWHERE. It was probably a lot like “Hoarders,” but Mr. Wood made it sound grand. And Sheila Vand, who plays the film’s vampire lead, had a really great anecdote about how one of the film’s most visually arresting moments almost didn’t happen. It’s the scene where she’s dancing like a snake (you can see a bit of it in the trailer, here). She actually cut off a foot of her hair in part to make the snake dance all the more snakey, but they ran out of time to shoot it. Basically, Ms. Vand said, nahh, I’m doing the scene, and told the sound guy to put the song on, and she just started dancing. Ms. Amirpour screamed, shoot it, shoot it, and the rest is indie film history. You can read the piece here.
October 15, 2014. I wrote a piece last month for the New York Times about Ger Duany, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. He’s appearing in a film called “The Good Lie,” which tells the story of a trio of refugees who leave Sudan to start a new life in Kansas City. Mr. Duany is an amazing individual for a whole bunch of reasons, not the least of which is his incredibly positive outlook on life, particularly given all he’s been through. As usual, there was a lot of material I had to leave out of the piece for space reasons (even more so on this particular article, it seems, because the back story on the film itself took quite a bit of telling, too). Among the parts left out: all the work Mr. Duany is trying to do for the new country of South Sudan (that information came from several people, including the film’s screenwriter, who laments about Mr. Duany not eating enough), and how much he loves to cook South Sudanese food (he says he makes a pretty mean lentil soup, and says he can tell the mood he’s in when he’s cooking by the taste of the food afterwards). Reese Witherspoon, who plays a supporting role in the film, also talked about how much Mr. Duany loves babies, and how he would love to carry her baby around when they were on set; for his part, Mr. Duany said that he found Ms. Witherspoon to be very down to earth, and that she became a sister to him and the others on the set (“I guess I forgot that I was acting with a powerhouse lady,” he said). You can read the piece here.
October 11, 2014. GQ ran a tribute (of sorts) to Nicolas Cage in their October issue. The package included an essay from Tom Carson, shout-outs from assorted directors and actors, a survey of cool stuff he’s purchased over the years, a list of his films rated “best to worst,” and so on. In a section about Mr. Cage’s approach to acting, they included a quote he gave me a few months back in an interview he did for the Times: “I grew up watching those Marlboro Man commercials on TV, and I’d always wonder, ‘What is it you’re doing with your face? Is that what cool is? Because it looks like you’re in pain right now, but you’re smiling.’” The quote specifically refers to a scene in the movie “Joe” where Mr. Cage is teaching a young boy about what it means to be a man, and it was interesting because, looking back at that interview, there was actually a lot of stuff about how Mr. Cage sort of developed his ideas about what it means to be an actor and a man by watching pretty hypermasculine guys, other than the aforementioned Marlboro Man: Bruce Lee, Charles Bronson, James Dean, Marlon Brando, Clint Eastwood, et al (Jerry Lewis being the sole exception in the list he gave me). Of the new guys, he also liked Joaquin Phoenix and Michael Fassbender (we also talked a lot about how that whole thing about drinking out of other people’s skulls got so popular).
August 16, 2014. Two years ago, I wrote a piece for the New York Times about stop motion animators. One of the artists I interviewed for the article was Greg Jardin, who did an amazing music video for singer Kina Grannis that featured 288,000 jelly beans, which Mr. Jardin used to create wintry landscapes, fireworks, outer space sequences, you name it. Watching the video, here, is almost as amazing as finding out how he and Ms. Grannis and the crew actually made it, here. I recently attended the premiere of Mr. Jardin’s latest short, which was equally magical, if perhaps not quite as time-consuming to create (the Grannis video took about two years). It’s called “Floating,” and is something of a love story, set in Los Angeles, and starring a man composed entirely of balloons. Watch it! Here.
July 30, 2014. I’ve long had a mad dream of someday writing something, anything, for The New Yorker, so imagine my feelings of surprise and glee when an article that I wrote for the New York Times was mentioned in the latest issue of that magazine. It was mentioned as, um, their “Correction of the Week,” but still!
Here is the Times correction, as reprinted in the July 28 issue of “The New Yorker”: “An earlier version of this article incorrectly described imagery from “The Shining.” The gentleman seen with the weird guy in the bear suit is wearing a tuxedo, but not a top hat.”
I hate having to run corrections as much as the next guy, but if you’ve gotta run one, let it be about a tuxedo-wearing gentleman hanging out with a weird guy in a bear suit. In “The Shining.” The added bonus is that the original article is about a fantastic documentary called “Room 237,” a must-see for all true Kubrick fans. One other interesting note about the New Yorker mention: despite its name, the magazine’s “Correction of the Week” doesn’t run every week, not even close, making my inclusion all the more precious and exciting. Also, I think I always just figured that those corrections were relatively recent, maybe not that week necessarily, but close to it, but the piece in question, as well as the subsequent correction, actually ran two and a half years ago. But hey, I’ll take it, late as it is! You can read the original piece, here.
July 11, 2014. I wrote a piece recently about the work of some amazing origami artists, which will come out in this Sunday’s print edition of The New York Times. For the article, I got to meet Robert Lang, who is currently the focus of a solo exhibition in Pasadena, and Meher McArthur, the curator of the exhibition. Both were incredibly patient and generous, particularly since I was bugging them at such a busy time (as one can imagine, transporting and displaying such fragile works of art is no mean feat). Accompanying the piece is a slide show featuring some really wonderful images by LA-based photographer Laure Joliet. About the only thing better than viewing Joliet’s photos is seeing Lang’s incredible creations live, which you can still do, up until August 20. The show is at the Alyce de Roulet Williamson Gallery at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. I also got to speak with the Swiss artist Sipho Mabona, whose recent pieces like “White Elephant” are pushing the boundaries of what is possible in origami, and Munich-based origami tutor Sara Adams (when people ask Mr. Lang for help in doing his crazily complex pieces, he directs them to Ms. Adams’s online tutorials). You can read the piece, here.
April 21, 2014. Last month I wrote a piece about the legendary Italian film composer Ennio Morricone for the Times. In addition to getting to speak with the maestro (over the phone, with a translator) from his estate in Rome, I also got to watch, and in many cases, re-watch, a bunch of the classic films he wrote the scores for. I hadn’t seen a couple of his so-called “spaghetti westerns” since I was a kid watching them on daytime TV, and it was fun getting freaked out, once again, by Sergio Leone’s crazy, violent take on the genre. Man, all those hangings! And of course, all that awesome music. You can read the piece, here.
April 13, 2014. I wrote a piece about Arthur Dong’s new book, “Forbidden City, USA: Chinese American Nightclubs, 1936-1970,” for today’s edition of The New York Times. If you haven’t seen Dong’s 1989 documentary, “Forbidden City, USA,” definitely check it out. It’s one of those “how could I not have heard about this” films, with great interviews with several of the big performers from what they used to call the Chop Suey Circuit. The book expands on those stories, and also includes a crazy amount of memorabilia amassed by Dong in the intervening years since he made the film. For the NYT piece, I got to visit Dong and check out some of his vast collection of pieces, as well as talk to a few of the performers, who, for the most part, had very fond memories of those times. As for the title of the piece, “East Meets West, Over Cocktails,” while I’m not nuts about the whole “East Meets West” thing for a bunch of reasons, I think, in this case, it actually works. By the way, I still have no idea who writes the headlines for these Times stories (it’s not me, and I don’t think it’s the editors), but I just picture this super-witty, urbane person holed up somewhere, just churning these suckers out. You can read the piece, here.
April 11, 2014. A few years ago, I wrote a piece for Salon called “When a Dying Kid’s Wish is to Kill.” The article was about the documentary “The Harvest,” which focused on an organization called Hunt of a Lifetime, a Make-A-Wish style group that arranges hunting excursions for terminally ill children. The film is just about as moving and unsettling as one might expect, given the subject matter, and the filmmaker, Gabriel DeLoach, did a great job of raising questions about the ethics of the hunts themselves while being respectful of his subjects, most of whom were young kids and their moms and dads. The film recently came out on DVD, with 30 minutes of extra scenes, and is available at the “Folk Hero Films” website. You can read my original piece, here.
April 5, 2014. I wrote a profile of Nicolas Cage for The New York Times which comes out in the print edition tomorrow. We talked a lot about actors who inspired him early on (Bruce Lee, Marlon Brando, James Dean, Jack Nicholson, Anthony Hopkins, even, um, Jerry Lewis), none of which made it in the piece. One of the things that struck me about him is that he’s very aware of his public persona and all of the things people say about him and write about him. He’s seen those Youtube videos like “Nicolas Cage Losing His Shit.” Re those “compilations,” he saw the good side of them, in that they do get people to go back and maybe seek out these scenes. The danger, he said, is that they give people the impression that that’s all he can do as an actor. The thing is, one could edit together select moments from just about anyone’s life and make them look like either a saint or an ogre, so I see his point. You can read the piece, here.
April 3, 2014. Last month I did a profile on Aaron Paul, aka Jesse Pinkman on AMC’s “Breaking Bad.” The actor starred in “Need for Speed” recently, and we talked about the film over drinks and barbeque wings. One of the stories I couldn’t fit into the piece was about the preparation that was done for the film’s “grasshopper jump,” a stunt in which a driver (not Paul!) launches a car over several freeway lanes. As one can imagine, this is a very dangerous thing to try to do. The stunt driver’s dad was there, as well as his brother, and the whole crew kind of huddled up before the scene was shot and told the guy, “we’ll see you on the other side.” After the scene was shot, with the cameras getting it all on film and the guy thankfully not dying in a fiery crash, they greeted him with “It’s good to see you again.” Not much to say, other than, jeez, well done. You can read the piece here.
March 30, 2014. A couple months back, I did a piece for The New York Times about “The Legend of Sarila,” Canada’s first 3D animated feature film. The movie is actually quite charming, but the distributors decided to rename it “Frozen Land” for the US release, swiping the logo of Disney’s hit film “Frozen” in the process. Disney sued, of course, and prevailed. The story was supposed to be about two things: how the director and producers of the film felt when they saw what had been done to their film, and two, how such a thing had happened, and why no one thought that it might not be such a good idea. Sadly, the director and producers weren’t talking, at least not to me, nor were the distributors, who were, to my surprise, still handling the film after the lawsuit. So the story became much more about the ill-conceived move and the subsequent legal action than about what I was really interested in, which was how it all had come down in the first place. That said, it was fun talking to the creative minds over at the animation studio that created the film, who, as one might expect, felt pretty bad about the whole thing, but also had no idea how or why any of it had occurred. You can read the piece, here.
January 17, 2014. In 2005, I did a piece for Los Angeles magazine about the first Fantastic Four feature film, which was produced by Roger Corman back in 1992. You can find the piece, here. The film’s back story is nuts, and I got vastly different versions of what exactly happened with and to the film from Stan Lee, the legendary face of Marvel Comics, and the late German producer Bernd Eichinger, who had the rights to the FF franchise at the time. Why was the film made but never released? Was the film ever meant to be released at all? This week, filmmaker Marty Langford released the trailer for his documentary about the star-crossed film, “Doomed! The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s The Fantastic Four,” which looks like it’ll be a lot of fun, even if, like me, the creators never ever get to the bottom of just who jerked over whom. I also discovered that Langford included a couple of quotes from my piece (credited, even!) in their crowdfunding campaign video, which was flattering. You can check out the trailer and plea for money at their website, here.
January 9, 2014. Last month I wrote a profile of Amy Adams for The New York Times, but with the holidays and all, I'm just getting around to putting the piece up on the site, here. It was my first cover for the Sunday Arts & Leisure section, which meant it came with a large, beautiful shot of Ms. Adams, courtesy of LA-based photographer Michael Lewis, whom I met while working on a piece about Isaiah Washington a few months back. As is so often the case, there was a lot of stuff that didn't make it into the final version, like things about Ms. Adams being raised Mormon, and how she loves Mexican food and stinks at math, and how David O. Russell used a more "interactive" style of directing on "American Hustle," which involved him screaming instructions and shouting out lines to the actors while the cameras were rolling, all of which had to be removed later. There was also a long conversation about the pain that comes when people (or, as in her latest movie, "Her," people and computer operating systems) outgrow each other, and assorted details about her daughter, who sounds charming and whom Ms. Adams is clearly gaga over.
January 6, 2014. Yesterday I met Robert Ito, the real Robert Ito, the actor, at a Pinkberry in Little Tokyo. Although we both have been breathing the same LA air for the past several years, I have aged horrifically, while he has not aged a bit. He looks amazing. I remember seeing Ito in Quincy and Men of the Dragon, then Star Trek (TNG and Voyager) and a bunch of other shows, and knew he had done voice work on some of my favorite cartoons, including Batman: The Animated Series and Teen Titans. But then I IMDB'd him today, and yikes, his credits read like a history of American television over the past half-century, from I Spy (1965) to Mater's Tall Tales (2010). Check it out yourself. Before we parted, Ito jokingly asked if I had gotten any of his residuals checks by accident. Man, I wish.
November 17, 2013. My piece about the 1919 film “Different From the Others” was printed in The New York Times today, here. The film is considered to be the first pro-gay feature film in history, a German silent created during an all-too brief period of artistic freedom in the early days of the Weimar Republic. As with most stories, a lot of interesting (at least to me) details had to be left out of the story for space reasons: the subtle (to modern viewers) class dynamics between the film’s upper-crust hero and its working class villain; how the Russians raided Berlin’s film archives after World War II and have been charging other countries dearly for film copies ever since; that sort of thing. I also got to watch a bunch of very cool films at UCLA from the Outfest: UCLA Legacy Project, including “Mona’s Candlelight,” “Silent Protest,” and “Queens at Heart.” The depth and breadth of the collection at the UCLA Film & Television Archive is truly mind-boggling; if you’re ever in town, you should definitely drop by and take a look.
November 15, 2013: Somehow I had never heard about The New York Times Replica Edition, an online feature that lets you download PDF versions of the print publication (well, the last month of it, anyway). You have to subscribe to get access, but for those Luddites like myself who, for years, made copies of newspaper articles the old-fashioned way, on a copier, this is a nice alternative.
Here’s a piece I did about Isaiah Washington a couple months back, on the NYT website; and here’s a PDF of the article, courtesy of the Replica Edition. See the difference? After reading so much stuff online, one tends to forget how nice those layouts look on the printed page. Do you see how the editors created those parallel images with the two articles in the print edition: profile subjects sitting, in cool black jackets, and then the two movie stills, both with two-wheelers? You won’t get that in the online version.
November 12, 2013: Back around 1993 or so, when I was in the English doctoral program at UCLA, I conducted a couple of interviews for the book “Words Matter: Conversations with Asian American Writers.” The wonderful editor of that wonderful collection, King-Kok Cheung, recently sent me PDFs of those interviews—one with playwright Philip Kan Gotanda, here, the other with poet and writer Russell Leong, here.
The experience of doing those interviews inspired me to try my hand at journalism. For the first time I discovered that you could hang out with people whose work you respected and admired and ask them a bunch of nosey questions about themselves and it was all OK, as long as you wrote a piece about it afterward. Back then, I didn’t know how much interview time was appropriate for a piece of this sort, so I sort of went on and on, asking question after question; both men were too polite, or perhaps too embarrassed for me, to tell me to wrap things up.
October 18, 2013: Welcome to my website! In the coming months I'll be posting links to new stories, either here in the "News" section or over in the files to the left. I'll also be adding older stories to my article archive, as they are slowly excavated.