Emma Stone Plays A Part-Asian Character In ‘Aloha,’ And That’s Not Okay

29 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

8 things about “Aloha” that bugged Amy Pascal more than casting Emma Stone as an Asian character.

Plenty of people of a certain age — that is, Americans most likely to have worn out their VHS copy of “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and who have wished at some point in their past to have been or to have dated (or to have both been and dated) Lloyd Dobler — have a soft spot for Cameron Crowe. Trailers for “Aloha,” a new Cameron Crowe flick starring Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone, cast a seductive spell: a lineup of absurdly charismatic stars, an idyllic island backdrop, a bit of action and a romantic triangle.In this week’s new releases, Dwayne Johnson stars in the all too familiar disaster flick “San Andreas” and Cameron Crowe’s “Aloha” is “an inchoate mess, such a forced, insular, self-pleasing misfire,” writes one critic. ★★ “San Andreas” (PG-13) “The dialogue in ‘San Andreas’ is lame, its plot both predictable and implausible, and the character development beside the point.Cameron Crowe’s movies are love letters to love, powered by the pulsations of big beating hearts that just want one thing: Two people to complete each other. “Vanilla Sky” aside, all of Crowe’s movies follow a formula with a guy in search of redemption, a woman capable of giving it to him, some wacky supporting players, a few laughs and a happy resolution. But the film arrives in theaters today burdened by controversy, not least outcry from Hawaiian and Asian-American activists over the predominantly white cast.

Even Dwayne Johnson, that force of cinematic nature and rock-ribbed charisma, doesn’t have enough charm to dig this mess of a movie out of the rubble of cliche it’s buried in” – Michael O’Sullivan ★ “Aloha” (PG-13) “Somewhere on the incoherent pu pu platter that is Cameron Crowe’s ‘Aloha,’ a nifty romantic comedy congeals and shrivels, inexplicably untouched. The gifted writer-director of Say Anything . . ., Singles, Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous (his Oscar-winning script detailed his job as a teen reporter for this magazine) has been gobsmacked by leaked Sony e-mails that pointed to intense studio disgruntlement with the film. Stone’s casting as Allison Ng, a character described as a quarter Hawaiian, stands as a particularly clear snub to the Asian and Pacific Islander community. Crowe — who gave the world such deathless lines as ‘You had me at ‘Hello,’’ the man who put the boom box in Lloyd Dobler’s defiantly upstretched arms — spends so much time running away from his roots in “Aloha’ that he misses the point of his own movie.” – Ann Hornaday ★★★ “Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll” (Unrated) “In talking about the integral, deeply rooted role of the arts in Cambodian culture, one of the film’s talking heads remarks that the absence of music would be ‘a scandal.’ He isn’t wrong, but in context, his description seems an understatement.

Then the Media Action Network for Asian-Americans accused Aloha of presenting a “whitewashed” version of Hawaii that excluded “the very people who live there.” Hmm. Air Force general requests “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” at a Christmas party, and the Tears for Fears tune resonates with other power-hungry guests in “Aloha.” The writer-director also provides subtitles for a wordless exchange between two men who wonder if they’re romantic rivals and confirm some essential information with glances, shoulder clasps and a hug. Scott writes in his review of Crowe’s latest mess, it is entirely plausible to believe that if you are of the original Crowe fanbase, you might find some worth in seeing “Aloha,” even if only in “the way you can enjoy a catch-up beer with an old friend you don’t have much in common with anymore.” “Aloha” is a movie about redemption for a charming and adorable fuck-up who enjoys a semi-crackling romance with a spunky special lady who doesn’t buy any of his bullshit, or something like that, while he embarks on a somewhat confusing professional-slash-existential mission set to wacky speeches from his quasi-spiritual adviser buddies and, like, songs by Fleetwood Mac — just guessing here, honestly, because this is a fairly generic Cameron Crowe film synopsis, just fill in setting (Hawaii) and film star du jour (Bradley Cooper) and promising ingénue (Emma Stone) blanks. “Aloha” has been a hot burning couch fire of a mess-in-production for a while now, according to the leaked Sony internal emails, prompting many concerns over time from then-Sony Pictures chair Amy Pascal over the film’s plot, script, edits and performances, down to even the basic emotional stakes of the movie. It’s an odd, funny moment in a comedy that wasn’t at all what I expected, given its underpinnings about the privatization of the space program, questions about controlling the starry, satellite-studded skies and even some Hawaiian myths, which bolster the local flavor.

Woody Allen has been making the same three movies for his entire career and Michael Haneke’s films are just an excuse to throw viewers into a deep depression. Crowe came into Aloha with a cast that could melt Silver Linings Playbook’s off the planet; a dreamy setting that people wouldn’t mind spending eternity staring at; a script that writes itself (people will throw money at you to see Bradley Cooper kiss Emma Stone and Rachel McAdams); and the actual, real-life experience of living in Hawaii. Crowe’s best, nor is it his worst, but it does boast a handsome, appealing cast, scenery off the beaten path and an original story about second chances.

The movie follows disgraced former Air Force pilot Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper), who returns to his old stomping ground in Hawaii and reconnects with his married ex-girlfriend (Rachel McAdams). We’d like them to reflect reality. ” Popular director Crowe’s latest film has been haunted by rumors of poor quality and a lack of studio support since the Sony email leak in December 2014 exposed internal tensions over the film’s execution. Giger’s World’ introduces us to its subject, the Swiss artist best known for designing the memorably creepy alien in the movie ‘Alien’ (which won him an Academy Award), he seems on death’s door — in more ways than one. Bemoaning poor audience reactions in test screenings, then co-chairperson of Sony Pictures Entertainment Amy Pascal wrote, “I’m never starting a movie again when the script is ridiculous.” Strict limits on advance press viewings and review embargoes only stirred up more speculation that the long-awaited film is a dud; early reviews have indeed been brutal.

Then there’s Allison Ng (Emma Stone), Brian’s Air Force handler, who irritates him with her series of “warmest alohas” until he sees her true self, a staunch defender of Hawaiians against the encroachments of Brian’s employer, Carson Welch (Murray), a fat cat eager to militarize Hawaiian air space by launching a weapons satellite. The casting of a white actress as a part-Asian, Hawaiian character rings alarm bells for activists on the lookout for the erasure of Asians and Pacific Islanders from film and television.

At least there’s a tiny twist here: The person on the run is a woman.” – Stephanie Merry ★★★ “Sunshine Superman” (PG) “‘Sunshine Superman’ might seem like a niche story, with its focus on stunts that most people wouldn’t dream of actually doing, but the documentary feels universal. But e-mails leaked after the Sony hack gave us some inkling of what to expect from the long-delayed project, and the strict embargo on critic reviews only added to the sense of foreboding. Asian-Americans are shockingly underrepresented onscreen. “This casting reflects an overall pattern in Hollywood to seek out and prioritize white talent over actors of color,” Marissa Lee, cofounder of Racebending.com, told HuffPost.

Even though has been clearly marketed as a romantic comedy, it’s also (somehow) a film about the militarization of space, the war in Afghanistan, and embezzling. On Wednesday, Sony released a statement addressing widespread concern over the perceived whitewashing of Hawaii in “Aloha,” saying, “While some have been quick to judge a movie they haven’t seen and a script they haven’t read, the film Aloha respectfully showcases the spirit and culture of the Hawaiian people.”

I honestly am still a little bit murky about what exactly Cooper’s character, Brian Gilcrest, was doing in Afghanistan, but he is constantly reminding everyone that something bad happened and he was left for dead. What I did find were many other concerns that make this movie sound about as well-thought-out as a first novel draft that the writer couldn’t quite get enough distance from to ever make work. Crowe is tracing a blueprint set by his mentor Billy Wilder, whose 1948 romance A Foreign Affair took a derisive look at the black market in postwar Berlin. She announces, more than once, that she’s one-quarter Hawaiian, slipping in the fact that her mother was Swedish, which would account for her fair hair and skin and green eyes. Brian must negotiate a deal with the spiritual and political leader of the indigenous Hawaiian movement, a role played in real life and on screen by Dennis “Bumpy” Kanahele.

Stone’s character tags along as they politely wrangle over ownership of nearby mountains, free cellular service for the locals and keeping the skies above the islands safe from weapons. There were several points when the film probably should have paused for a PowerPoint presentation to explain what exactly happened, since Crowe is purposely vague about Gilcrest’s past. He was so in-the-know that 1992’s “Singles” featured Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder in bit roles just before the Soundgarden and Pearl Jam singers became defining ’90s rock frontmen.

On the personal front, Tracy reminds Brian why they broke up and adds, “Hey, I really loved you and, uh, you wrecked everything.” Her husband, an Air Force C-17 pilot (John Krasinski), is a quiet man who doesn’t talk much — at all, most of the time. But it all reads like some kind of strange American Sniper fever dream where the main enemies include China, Chinese hackers, and snipers in outer space. That’s a shame. 2015 may not bring everything that Back to the Future II promised it would: flying cars, self-lacing shoes, we don’t see ’em happening over the next 12 months. (Then again, don’t bet against Nike.) But this year will definitely pack plenty of punch when it comes to cultural happenings. It’s one of those movies that ends and then tacks on another scene and one more for good measure, to tie up loose ends. “Aloha” came under fire earlier in the week from Native Hawaiians who disapproved of the title, according to an Associated Press report.

After months of escalating protests and grassroots organizing in response to the police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, police reformers have issued many demands. In terms of the story, Hawaiian myths are touched upon but not explored in depth, and the same can be said of Brian’s black-hearted misadventures before returning to the islands. Before was released, a major criticism was that it was a story of white people taking place in Hawaii where 60 percent of the population is Asian/Pacific Islander. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought or processed, you know, as a career. The moderates in this debate typically qualify their rhetoric with “We all know we need police, but…” It’s a familiar refrain to those of us who’ve spent years in the streets and the barrios organizing around police violence, only to be confronted by officers who snarl, “But who’ll help you if you get robbed?” We can put a man on the moon, but we’re still lacking creativity down here on Earth.

In that regard, “Aloha” is like a slice of cherry pie in which the filling — the romcom material — is fresh and sweetly tart, and the crust or almost everything else is too chewy and difficult to swallow. I guess Captain Ng “counts” as an Asian-ish/Pacific Island-ish character, but she’s also played by Emma Stone, so it’s hard to count this as a victory for diversity. While law enforcers have existed in one form or another for centuries, the modern police have their roots in the relatively recent rise of modern property relations 200 years ago, and the “disorderly conduct” of the urban poor.

Crowe’s “Elizabethtown” defined as a “disaster of a mythic proportion,” just more of a well-meaning failure likely to be pummeled at the box office by a movie that happily embraces its roots in disaster. Like every structure we’ve known all our lives, it seems that the policing paradigm is inescapable and everlasting, and the only thing keeping us from the precipice of a dystopic Wild West scenario. If anyone can deliver a fast-talking retort, it’s Emma Stone, but even she can’t make sense of dialogue that’s sprinkled with non sequiturs about war injuries, decorative stickers and Hawaiian leprechauns.

But the effort to include people of color, especially people who look like Bumpy, the people in his village, or descendants of Native Hawaiians, stops and starts with Bumpy. Rather than be scared of our impending Road Warrior future, check out just a few of the practicable, real-world alternatives to the modern system known as policing: Unarmed but trained people, often formerly violent offenders themselves, patrolling their neighborhoods to curb violence right where it starts.

Instead, it’s through characters like blonde Captain Ng, blue-eyed Gilcrest, and white children that we learn about Hawaiian mythology and traditions like hula. Stop believing that police are heroes because they are the only ones willing to get in the way of knives or guns – so are the members of groups like Cure Violence, who were the subject of the 2012 documentary The Interrupters.

Everyone does, because little Jonathan Lipnicki told us back in 1996 playing a wise-beyond-his-years ankle-biter in “Jerry Maguire.” Jaeden Lieberher is that kid in “Aloha,” and he’s a typically adorable oddball with an encyclopedic knowledge of Hawaiian mythology. There are also feminist models that specifically organize patrols of local women, who reduce everything from cat-calling and partner violence to gang murders in places like Brooklyn. There’s also a fair bit of fetishizing of Hawaiian culture that isn’t unlike the way films in the past have tried to represent Native American culture. That information comes in handy when he’s supplying the audience with background for a surreal subplot that suddenly evaporates mid-way through the movie. While police forces have benefited from military-grade weapons and equipment, some of the most violent neighborhoods have found success through peace rather than war.

But he’s also useful in other, more effective ways, as when he sneaks into a top secret Air Force hangar after hours, shoots video footage and shows his undercover surveillance to a key character. It’s sort of fitting that Ng is a MPDG, since it was Cameron Crowe’s Elizabethtown, specifically the character Claire Colburn (Kirsten Dunst) that prompted critic Nathan Rabin’s creation of the term. “The Manic Pixie Dream Girl exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures,” Rabin wrote in 2007.

Violent offenses count for a fraction of the 11 to 14 million arrests every year, and yet there is no real conversation about what constitutes a crime and what permits society to put a person in chains and a cage. The role even spawned the now retired term “manic pixie dream girl.” In truth, Dunst’s character could have been played by a yellow helium balloon with a giant smiley face on it. Decriminalization doesn’t work on its own: The cannabis trade that used to employ poor Blacks, Latinos, indigenous and poor whites in its distribution is now starting to be monopolized by already-rich landowners.

And sometimes she does this just by being an attractive woman. “Boy am I a goner,” Gilcrest tells himself while staring at Captain Ng and signaling to the audience that he’s about to get wrapped up in life’s infinite adventures. One second, she’s all business — “sir” this and “sir” that — and the next, she’s dissolving into giggles, shielding her face with her hands like a flirtatious high schooler, or blatantly hitting on Brian. To quote investigative journalist Christian Parenti’s remarks on criminal justice reform in his book Lockdown America, what we really need most of all is “less.” Also known as reparative or transformative justice, these models represent an alternative to courts and jails.

This movie is filled with the most likable (white) actors and actresses in Hollywood — John Krasinski, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, Bill Murray, Bradley Cooper. From hippie communes to the IRA and anti-Apartheid South African guerrillas to even some U.S. cities like Philadelphia’s experiment with community courts, spaces are created where accountability is understood as a community issue and the entire community, along with the so-called perpetrator and the victim of a given offense, try to restore and even transform everyone in the process. Communities that have tools to engage with each other about problems and disputes don’t have to consider what to do after anti-social behaviors are exhibited in the first place. If we could somehow transport this cast into a film from another director (even Nancy Meyers), I believe we could have the greatest romantic comedy of our generation.

Filmmaker Cameron Crowe spent years researching this project and many months on location in Hawaii, cultivating relationships with leading local voices. He earned the trust of many Hawaiian community leaders, including Dennis ‘Bumpy’ Kanahele, who plays a key role in the film.” Kicking off a movie with voiceover is a Crowe mainstay, even if it doesn’t add a lot to the story. “Jerry Maguire” begins with Tom Cruise babbling about the world’s population while Orlando Bloom’s character meditates on salmon swimming upstream using purple prose at the start of “Elizabethtown.” Both of those are essential dialogue compared to the way “Aloha” begins, as Cooper’s Brian tries to sum up his entire life — 40 years or so — in about a minute. If you think too hard, a near plane crash that leaves all of the characters spilling their guts in “Almost Famous” might be an irritatingly convenient way to push the plot forward, but it’s also pretty amusing. Obviously these could become police themselves and then be subject to the same abuses, but as a temporary solution they have been making a real impact.

In New York, Rikers Island jails as many people with mental illnesses “as all 24 psychiatric hospitals in New York State combined,” which is reportedly 40% of the people jailed at Rikers. We have created a tremendous amount of mental illness, and in the real debt and austerity dystopia we’re living in, we have refused to treat each other for our physical and mental wounds. Mental health has often been a trapdoor for other forms of institutionalized social control as bad as any prison, but shifting toward preventative, supportive and independent living care can help keep those most impacted from ending up in handcuffs or dead on the street.

Here you can write a commentary on the recording "Emma Stone Plays A Part-Asian Character In ‘Aloha,’ And That’s Not Okay".

* Required fields
All the reviews are moderated.
Our partners
Follow us
Contact us
Our contacts

About this site