Mickey is a hip-hop artist based in the Bay Area. He finds his greatest joy in exploring the depths of human creativity and finding innovative ways of expressing the soul. That goes hand in hand with his love for Jesus as he also pastors at Living Hope Christian Center in Emeryville, CA, overseeing worship, media, and missions. I decided to sit down with Mickey and discuss his music, faith, films and more. Read below for the full Q&A…
How did you get involved in music?
I fell in love with Hip-Hop during my teenage years. I would listen to artists like Eminem and Jay-Z, memorize their lyrics and practice reciting them. I loved the feeling of the words coming off of my tongue with different rhythms and cadences. I loved the thought behind the arrangement of words, syllables and sounds. I fell in love with Hip-Hop and knew I wanted to do it. Imitation gave way to ideation and I began writing my own lyrics and producing my own songs. As I began sharing my music, people started to take notice of this chubby little Asian kid that could actually spit bars. The rest is history!
Tell us a bit about the Fearless tour, how the line up got assembled, and what it means to you to be apart of it?
I met most of the Fearless tour roster in the last few years. In particular, I formed a really good relationship with the guys from AMP and we’ve kept in touch since we first met. They approached me about joining the tour a few months back and when they told me who they had on board for the lineup, I was sold. The caliber of talent and skill they recruited is what caught my attention. I knew this was something I didn’t want to miss out on. I think it’s very significant to be a part of this tour because it’s the first time anyone’s getting a bunch of Asian American Hip-Hop artists together to do something like this. When I first started rapping, there weren’t many of us out there. Now, there’s a handful of talented Asian American Hip-Hop artists that are actually good at what they do and are finally being recognized for it.
Could you tell us a bit about your faith, and how it equates to your music. I know you recently went to Indonesia — what was that like?
My faith in Jesus Christ is a big part of my life and my life is a big part of my music. It all bleeds into what I create as an artist. I’m not big on labeling myself a Christian artist. I’m an artist who is madly in love with Jesus and as a result, my music largely reflects that. However, I wouldn’t say I intentionally set out to make “Christian” music. It’s just the natural overflow of what captivates my heart. I regularly travel to Indonesia to visit our church’s orphanage and spend time pouring into the local churches in that nation. My recent trip was amazing. We held a mass crusade and gathered thousands of people who heard the Gospel and responded by giving their lives to Jesus. We also witnessed tons of miracles. I remember thinking, “Who gets to live a life like this…?”
How do you decide which covers to record and shoot? Is it a lengthy process and is there any nerves living up too the originals (or even surpassing them)?
I do covers purely for personal enjoyment. I try to be as carefree making these covers as possible. When I hear something I feel like would be fun to rap over, I just start writing. I particularly love rapping over unconventional musical compositions which is why I rapped over songs by artists like Adele and Beyonce. The videos we create happen so spontaneously as well. One day, a group of friends and I were hanging out and we randomly thought it would be fun to shoot a video on a horse. We used my cover of Drake’s “Too Much” and went over to my friend’s ranch to shoot it. These covers allow me to stretch my creativity and enjoy doing what I love. I feel absolutely no pressure to outshine the original artist because in my mind, there’s no comparison. I’m simply building off what they already executed so well.
Up until this point, What has your journey taught you and what’s left to teach you?
I think my journey in music has taught me a lot about courage. It takes courage to share with the world something you create from the depths of your soul. People criticize artists all the time for what they put out, but it takes an immense amount of courage to put anything out in the first place. It takes courage to do anything significant in life. I’ve learned not to be afraid of failing because it’s part of the process towards excellence and innovation. In fact, I’ve learned to embrace failing a lot, failing boldly because it only makes you stronger and better. I have lots of left to learn on my journey. I don’t imagine I’ll ever stop learning. And I’m excited to be a student my whole life.
Observing Jin’s misstep with Ruff Ryders early in his career and Asian rappers kind of being put on display, what steps in your own career are you taking to ensure you have full creative control on how you want your music to be?
First of all, I just want to say I love MC Jin. He’s such an amazing role model and he really spearheaded the way for a bunch of us Asian-American Hip-Hop artists. I feel like he went through the struggles he did so that the generations of artists after him wouldn’t have to. I think one way I safeguard myself from deviating from who I am is surrounding myself with honest, creative people; they are people who I trust to tell me when I’ve missed the mark or made something that is less than who I truly am. Artists need community. I find that my community is the biggest factor that keeps my head from blowing up and keep me uniquely me.
What are some of your favorite Asian films or Anime?
I grew up watching Dragon Ball Z. Amazing stuff. One of my favorite Asian films is The Raid. I love the underdog. Goku is always the underdog. The dude from The Raid is the underdog. I love watching the underdog find a way to win and overcome the odds.
Some people seem to frown upon so-called Christian rappers that don’t utilize gospel themes in their music. You seem to have done a good job escaping being labelled. What is the creative process for constructing an album for you. What audience do you want to reach?
I think honesty makes the best art. The most impactful songs in history weren’t made with the intention of changing the world. They were simply honest reflections of the soul that bled into the music. I try to make that a value in my creative process. All of my albums were birthed from an overflow of what I felt, thought, and experienced during that particular time period. I just happen to be radically in love with Jesus and so my music reflects that. I don’t set out to make inspiring Christian music. I set out to make honest music. I desire to reach anyone who’s willing to listen to this chubby Asian rapper share about his life. If my songs just so happen to inspire someone along the way, it’s the fruit of what I created and not the goal.
When releasing new music do you still have that ‘fear’ that caused delays with your first album or have you learned to push through it?
I always battle fear whenever I create or release something. If I don’t meet fear along the way, I conclude that what I’m doing is beneath what I should be doing. Fear is a good indicator that you’re on the right path towards excellence. I’ve learned to push through it by accepting the fact that I most certainly will fail along the way. I will encounter people who don’t like what I do. But no one will ever be able to tell me that I didn’t give my everything. I’m far more afraid of living a life full of regrets than failing my way to success. There’s no deeper regret than not doing something you really wanted to do because you were afraid of failing.
Lastly, any advice for any budding act trying to make it?
Enjoy life! I don’t create music because I hope it’ll make me tons of money someday. I don’t create music because I hope to be known. I do it because I love doing it. Never lose love for your craft. It’s what’s going to create things worth hearing, things worth experiencing. Don’t get caught up in being recognized or “making it.” You’ve “made it” the moment you started creating.
Want to stay up to date on all of Mickey’s music? Be sure to catch him on the Fearless tour and follow his cookie crumb trail below:
Arguably the most dramatic epic in Chinese ancient history is the titanic struggle between LIU Bang and XIANG Yu which many consider to have started at the Feast at Hong Gate which, arguably again, is the most famous single dramatic event in Chinese ancient history. This story has seen almost countless screen presentations in the Chinese language cinema. Quite predictably, all these attempts wound up in lush entertaining packages, from unabashedly melodramatic to somewhat more tasteful work. Yet, nobody has done what Lu did.
Anchored in LIU at his deathbed, having enjoyed his hard-won kingdom but not without a few regrets (albeit he probably still did it his way), the story unfolds in snapshots of short flashback scenes juxtaposing in an almost chaotic way between characters and events. For instance, the famous Feast at Hong Gate keeps coming back, from time to time, but each time with added perspective. The expected treacheries, betrayals, ruthless cruelties are all there in this, to borrow a critic so aptly borrowed himself, “game of thrones”. However, LU adds another dimension all of his own, close to the end. Allegorical in no uncertain terms, he spares no pain in telling the story of how people in power falsify history. It is almost a miracle that this segment survives uncensored.
The cast is uniformly brilliant. The three top-billed are superstars from the three most prominent Chinese ethnic communities. LIU Ye (Mainland China) portrays the founder of the Han Dynasty (who might have even been an ancient ancestor of his from a score of centuries ago). Cast somewhat against type is Daniel Wu (Hong Kong) who portrays a most macho hero in history you can name, XIANG Yu. The third of this tripod is Taiwan’s CHANG Chen who plays the brilliant general and strategist HAN Xin, whose fate is tragically interwoven with the other two’s. QIN Lan is as chilling a dark queen as you can get, making Lady Macbeth look like Cinderella. ZHANG Liang, historically just as important (and some would say more so) as HAN is given a cool observer’s role in this film, ably portrayed by QI Dao. SHA Yi has his moment toward the end as XIAO He, another of the emperor’s key advisors who finds himself plunging into a bottomless pit of lies.
I think what the critics(western) don’t understand is the enigmatic character of Xiang Yu, whose role and part they feel is a foolish and trivial one. I believe the movie actually tries to show him as a noble, wise and a tempered king. Normally display of humility and kindness, is viewed as weakness in the west, and this may be the reason why critics cannot find a place for Xiang Yu in the plot. So yes, this is not your regular sword clashing, slashing movie. The Last Supper will likely disappoint some who are looking for conventional entertainment. Those with the appetite for an exceptional piece of filmmaking will be vastly entertained, albeit not in the conventional way.
The album Biophilia was release a couple of years ago, met with rave reviews. In her acclaimed concert tour, with a mini narration by David Attenborough, Biophilia not only conquered in portraying the artists latest album, but ranged into a back catalogue of tunes. Adorned in an exquisite outfit that mirrored both extra terrestrial and interstellar life, yet honed in on the earthly elements, Bjork performed with enough passion that enthused out of the Icelandic singer’s vocals. Awash with a sea of an affectionate and excitable audience, all cheering along to the set list, this was a concert movie unlike any other.
Nature, music and technology are melded together is the sound of Biophilia. For the concert filmed at Alexander Palace Björk is joined on stage by a percussionist, a tech guy, a menagerie of specially designed instruments and an Icelandic choir. These instruments were especially designed by the singer for the recording and performance of the album. These are wonderful inventions – Gravity Pendulum Harp, Sharpsicord, MIDI controlled pipe organ, Gameleste and musical Tesla coil. I’m a bit of a geek about musical instruments so I could have just watched these for the entire film.
The fabulous live show not only looks amazing but sounds it too. There are very few artists like Björk who can capture and captivate such a large live audience through her charisma and stage presence alone. The images, going out on huge screens above the stage during the concert, are periodically merged in with the performance. The weakest point is when they take centre stage. The images themselves are not strong enough as a whole to command the attention, and you feel like you’re missing out on the live action. Indeed, the most powerful and beautiful moment is when Bjork is on stage to perform Solstice just supported by the Gravity Pendulum Harp.
The concert footage is superbly filmed, using great angles and perspectives to augment inclusiveness of the venue. Resplendent in cobalt blue make-up and a colorful afro wig, Björk is a truly enchanting performer. I’ve seen very few concert films which can hold a torch to Biophilia Live.
Laura Mam has been on my radar for quite some time. Not only is she a talented singer and musician but her music has real purpose. Laura’s dreams for music are centered on rebuilding a sense of confidence in the arts among Cambodians and hopes that she can use music as a vehicle for empowerment. Laura is a Cambodian-American songwriter/singer/guitarist who dreams for music centered on rebuilding a sense of confidence in the arts among Cambodians and hopes that she can use music as a vehicle for empowerment. She already has two successful Kickstarter campaigns under her belt, and it is with her last campaign, where her project ‘IN SEARCH OF HEROES’ is the topic of discussion. Read below for the full Q&A…
Even though many of your songs deal in different languages, your crossover success is quite obvious with your recent KickStarter success. How do you achieve this ability to affect an audience across multiple cultures with your music?
I think I am in a very unique position because I come from a generation of genocide survivors that left so many of our people scattered among Western nations because of the refugee situation. However, although all of us are living in different places, our experiences of displacement and our desire to recover our identities are common struggles, and this is has lead to a beautiful discovery of one another. I am very lucky that I’ve been able to share my music with Cambodians living at home, abroad, and with non-Cambodians who are generally interested in my journey and the narrative that I come from. It is a beautiful thing to know that as one of the smallest minorities of the world, people are still paying attention to our narrative. And at the very base of this story, I am multi-lingual and studied Khmer and French when I was an anthropology major at UC Berkeley because I was focused on Cambodia. Although I am no longer pursuing an anthropological career, the language skills I gained along the way have helped me to communicate with French speaking and Khmer speaking audiences as English, French and Khmer are the primary languages of most Khmer communities around the world. And the anthropological skills have definitely helped as well.
Is there a particular challenge combining ancient Khmer narratives with modern-day concerns?
Certainly there are challenges. For the most part, it is a very sensitive path when trying to interpret Khmer narratives in the modern world because so much of it is tied to “politically incorrect land mines” that are just waiting to be stepped on. Our culture is one that was nearly destroyed thanks to the Khmer rouge. So in our efforts to save it we have become very sensitive about how it is represented, with good reason because there was certainly a great sense of prestige associated with all of our cultural riches before the Khmer Rouge regime came around. Maintaining our sense of prestige and honor in our culture has been a deep concern for all Cambodians. But on the other hand, many Cambodians that have been cut off from the homeland have limited access to the realities and nuances of our culture, so there is a bit of a cultural void. Furthermore, the modern world dictates many contradictions to our culture as far of showing modes of respect, how to think of one another as equals, changing our thinking about the meaning of class, even changing our thinking in regards to nepotism. We are still very much a Kingdom and have a Kingdom mindset and when you slap democracy on top of that and expect them to mesh perfectly, you will certainly be in for an upset. But things are evolving slowly, and I find pleasure in finding and spreading the middle road and calm approach to accepting the slow nature of our evolution.
So, congratulations on your recent Kickstarter. This year, you had a much bigger dream then the last campaign. What can you tell us about this project and what the backers can expect from this particular project?
This year’s project is a spiritual exclamation on my part and probably one of the most beloved albums I will ever make in my life. It is a collection of 27 years of conclusions I have discovered in the long search for my identity, and the heroism in my own identity. It is an album that speaks to the dream of the final pivot of the new Cambodian generation from victim survivor’s mindset to the empowered youth generation that took control of their own narrative and worked together to build our nation up again in the greatest comeback you have ever seen a nation return from. In this album, I have found the hero in myself and have come to Cambodia on a crusade to find the other heroes of my generation. I wish to highlight them, to show my fellow compatriots that we have so much power when we work together, when we all see this grand vision of a beautiful and harmonious future for Cambodia, when we all understand that it will take patient evolution to reach the heights that we all dream of.
So, you can expect some darn good boogie unity music, some interesting youtube webisodes with Cambodians heroes I will be interviewing along the way, a brand new Cambodian live act that incorporates traditional and modern pieces seamlessly while taking Cambodian youths to new heights by celebrating the potential of our generation. This album is meant to capture a shift, a shift of a generation, a shift into a time of new heroes for Cambodia.
You explained that this album covers the evolution of the last three years, the mind set of the people and how it has grown. What led up to these events (Cambodia’s complex developing issues?) and what exactly was it that inspired your new music directly?
In my experience during the last five years of traveling and touring to various Cambodian communities in America, Canada and Cambodia, I found that many Cambodians share this wild desire to see our country rise from the ashes it came from, the desire to find heroes that we can identify with who make us feel represented in an honorable and dignified way, and the desire to find heroic traits within ourselves. In regards to our youth, we are a generation of lost ones, deaf to our past with so little education about it, blind to the future as a developing nation in a modern world with resources slowly being swallowed by larger countries and soft cultural power of other countries constantly exerted upon us by reminding us that we don’t have what they have, and mute in our present with few industries to support creative expression. Although, I would say that expression has blossomed in the last two years and the strength of our voice as a people is more powerful than its ever been. One thing has been consistent in my travels, all of us wanted a hero to come and save us. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received the same message from Cambodians telling me they have been waiting for representation, someone to be proud of, even I felt that way for so long.
After watching the incredible protests in Cambodia’s elections of last year and the participation of the youth, my thoughts were confirmed that if we ever want to see social change, it’s going to require more than one leader, it’s going to require all of us to see the larger picture, to move and act as a society that commonly understands that we can only grow together through patient evolution. One of my songs, “Yosop Yulsong” which means “Dreams” has the following lyrics:
“get away from illusion
and we might have a movement
if you’re mind’s polluted
you won’t find solutions
seek truth, then choose it,
not cruelty, inhuman
this ain’t revolution, this is evolution”
These lines were directly inspired by the young people of Cambodia in their marches. Cambodia sufferes from many development issues including corruption, illegal logging, land evictions, lack of rule of law, the list goes on and on. And the people were on the streets last because they wished for change. What I saw in them is the desire for change and their desire was bright and lively. But I also saw that it was also riddled with upset and frustration because things did not change immediately. All I want for our young people is to find the middle path, to be patient, and to patiently pursue this course of change, because change is possible, if we pursue it with perseverance and intelligence. If we are able to channel our powerful youthful energy into building blocks of positive change for Cambodia as a developing nation, we may be able to lay the foundation that secures its future and an independent and self-sustainable nation. We have so much potential and I see such similarities between the 60s generation of America and the current generation of Cambodia. And a wonderful quote from a brilliant man stands still to motivate our current generation of Cambodians:
“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” – John F. Kennedy
What are some of your favorite Asian films?
Favorite Asian Films! I’m actually pretty crazy about Kung Fu flicks because I think that each movie has enough philosophy to fill a library with information. I love the philosophic approach that most great Kung fu movies take. All Bruce Lee films make me giddy. I loved the recent Ip Man movies and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. I loved an oldie called Wing Chun with Michelle Yeow, it was hilarious and it has awesome philosophic approach as well. But aside from Kung Fu, I love internationals films ranging with different cultural backgrounds like Better Luck Tomorrow, Saving Face, The Joy Luck Club, Jodhaa Akbar, Battle Royale, The Overture, and of course…The Ring (Ringu), although I didn’t really enjoy the last one as it made me afraid to be alone for a couple of months but admit that it was well done.
Do you feel a sense of relevancy or urgency regarding the subject matter of your music in terms of contemporary society? Does your work address the human condition or is it primarily relevant to Khmer history and people?
I admit that I am primarily focused on the Khmer narrative. But of course there are 100 lessons of gratitude to consider when you listen to music set in the narrative of Khmer history. I feel that the world has many artists to help represent and teach one another, however Cambodia has very few. I think I can leave it to the great artists of the world to help us understand ourselves as global citizens, but for me, I feel it is important to help Cambodians like myself just understand ourselves as general Cambodians because of how much we have gone through and how little resources we have today.
However, there are some things that I see in the world today that mirror what was happening to my country only 40 years ago. I have a song on the album called “In the Hands of Men and Monsters” that compares commonalities between leaders like Richard Nixon and Pol Pot in their disregard for human life, and came to the conclusion that we cannot wait for heroes in the political arena to come and “save us” as those are not necessarily the decisions they tend to make since their priorities require them to base decisions on the struggle for power. So much of that period of the Vietnam war mirrors the conflict in the Middle East today. During the Vietnam war, we saw the deaths of “VCs” (Viet Congs) not men, women and children. Today we see the deaths of “terrorists” and “insurgents” not men, women and children. We saw agent orange dropped on Vietnamese forests and villages and we saw bombs dropped on Cambodia, a neutral country, which made what America did technically illegal. Today we see drones dropping bombs on the middle east and have children afraid of the sky in Pakistan while we don’t even know what the rules are for terms of engagement when it comes to drone warfare. We saw the rise of the Khmer Rouge who cared nothing for human life and decided that anyone who has been introduced slightly to Western culture was tainted and deserved to die and that we could create a magical pure society by killing everyone off. Today, we see the rise of ISIS who believe they can create a holy caliphate as long as they kill anyone who isn’t like them or with them because they are infidels. History repeats itself, bombs don’t solve problems, they cause extremism. Extremism doesn’t do anything but kill large amounts of people and leave scars that last for decades. And yet, another day passes by where we the people watch others die and someone somewhere makes millions by selling weapons of war. And finally, we have a whole new generation of refugees who will probably spend the next 50 years of their lives trying to understand and reconcile what is happening to them now. If there is anything to learn from my music, it is that the scars of war last beyond the generation that experienced them, the need for knowledge on healing and empathy is more important than ever and will continuously be so for decades.
Buddhism was introduced to Cambodia over 1000 years ago. The way the old generation used to respect and relate to the Buddha and his teachings is very different to the way the new generation relates to it today. Do you feel the current ‘youth generation’ is regaining its focus or moving away from these teachings?
Unfortunately I feel that many youth are moving away from Buddhism because modern society dictates that we all conform to a capitalist mindset, which is based on channeling ambition into creating material wealth so that the entire society can benefit from the capital transactions taking place. However, I think that Buddhism as a philosophy is infinitely useful no matter how far up the chain we go, or how low on the chain we stay. Personally, Buddhism affects every decision I make and every thought that I choose to have. And I like to believe that at some point in our lives, we all go into the this world doe-eyed and excited by the glitz and glamour, and then we all get beat down and soon learn to desire peace over gain. And Buddhism is like that buddy that will never leave you, it’s ready for you when you are ready. I think it’s important for the youth to understand the cycle of a capitalist mindset, and when they are ready to understand peace, Buddhism can float like a feather down from heaven to guide them in their path. This is what I love about Buddhism, there are no rules. It’s just a guideline for you to follow if you are tired of your thirst for illusions and would like to find real bliss.
Younger artists and musicians haven’t witnessed the horrors committed by the Khmer Rouge with their own eyes. Why have you stepped up to tackle these issues and spread awareness with your music? Do you feel you have an obligation?
Absolutely. One cannot understand where one is going if one does not understand where one has come from. It is important for the next generation to understand the war because they are reason that we have become so disadvantaged as a people. I have seen many comments from Cambodians that get angry at the disadvantages that we have as a people and blame it on our population being “stupid.” These comments have horrified me. It is so important to understand that what we went through changed our narrative forever, and we cannot understand the beauty of rising again unless we see the hell that we have left. The Cambodian narrative is a lot like a Lotus’s lifespan, the lotus must rise from the mud, stretch upward in the pond, and blossom in the sun. We as a people cannot blossom in the sun unless we realize that our roots are in the mud.
With that said, nearly a third of the rural population lives below the poverty line. Does that mean you have to try harder for your music to reach the masses? How do you plan to do that?
I have a few concerts planned in the countryside and will have national coverage on major Cambodian TV channels CTN and MyTV this year. I’ve never been able to tour the countryside so this will be my first time. I am very excited. I hope that they respond to music this year, my music will certainly be very different from what’s out there. Youtube is also an amazing tool because it is accessible by even the cheapest smartphone. The digital age has benefited the Cambodian narrative tremendously, only great things await us because sharing has become extremely easy in the last five years!
What advice do you have for an insecure musician who might have trouble turning their dreams into goals?
Follow your heart and follow the signs. They are there. You can fool yourself into thinking that they are just coincidence, but if your heart truly desires a dream, it starts with manifesting it. Say your dream out loud. Tell people about it. Make it real. Make your dream your girlfriend. Tell your dream how much you love her, adore her, want to bring her to a bigger and better life, marry her, make love to her, fight with her, disagree with her, make up with her, and finally tell her that you have reached a point where your love for her in unconditional. And if your dream is a one night stand, you will know it right away and find another one. There are plenty of fish in the sea. Dreaming is an act of love. Enjoy it, don’t fear it.
Want to stay up to date on all things Laura? Follow her cookie crumb trail below:
Recommend reading about Yi Sun Shin before watching this movie. It’s relatively difficult to follow the first half of this movie if you don’t know something about him. Do yourself a favor and wiki Yi sun shin. It will give a quick glimpse into the man and back drops of this conflict. All historical accounts indicate that one ship went against superior numbers and he won. There are a lot of dramatic interpretations, but you will experience general gist of how he exploited fear in his own men and Japanese navy which suffered heavy casualties by Yi over 6 years of war. One other note: Korean uses a flat bottom ship. Japanese uses more traditional design. Korean navy has zero turtle iron clad ship in this engagement. That should be enough to enjoy one of the best ancient naval battle captured by this movie.
The acting in the movie was solid, even if I didn’t understand the language. The naval battle scenes and how Admiral Yi used naval tactics to fight his enemy were realistic and breathtaking at the same time. I’d compare this with the 300: Rise of an Empire movie, with far less CGI, fantasy elements, better acting, and more realistic portrayal of naval battle. It’s pretty amazing what they could do with ships back in those days.
The history/characters in the movie is a little hard to follow if you don’t know about it beforehand or don’t speak Korean/Japanese, but I still enjoyed it quite a bit and learned a little bit of Korean history in the process. At times the story did get too sappy. For the most part, the filmmakers went for art over realism to make the emotional scenes very dramatic, but those battleship fights were worth the built up of the tactical aspects of war that began the film, which was mostly really great speeches from the admiral to rally the troops. If your looking for something epic to watch and you don’t mind subtitle’s then this one is for you plus all gaming buffs take not this is how to make a battle movie.
If there’s one thing I can commend this movie for, it has to be the participation of actors from different countries. We see actors here from Japan, Thailand, USA, and Taiwan. can see where a non-Japanese audience is going to have problems with the film. How do you shoot a film with an international cast which live in a world where Japanese is the lingua franca? You dub it. Also, they shot the film in HDR (high dynamic range) which really animated the facial expressions and heighten the the boundary between real and imagined scenery — a huge plus in this kind of film, and especially beautiful to watch on the big screen. Oguri Shun’s performance was top notch. He nailed the role. The other characters hit their character’s tone, too. And when you see the situation the characters will find themselves in, you’ll see they are not played as one dimensionally as the typical anime/cartoon to live action film. Their situations are complex and multifaceted.
The film focuses on how the series’ main characters met for the first time and will reportedly update the franchise to a contemporary setting. Kitamura is a talented director, and one hopes he hasn’t fallen too far into the system to drag himself out and do films that don’t feel like they’re made by committee. And as for future Lupin III live action films, the disgruntled viewer I overheard coming out the theater ahead of me said it best: “I guess anime should just be anime.”
It doesn’t concern itself with slavishly following the original manga and isn’t afraid to make radical changes or new additions to serve the strengths of the film medium. So, you don’t have to read the manga or watched the anime to understand what’s going in this movie. The manga styles and movie styles fit the genre perfectly without downplaying either medium, mostly for two principal reasons: a great visual and a great cast.
There is this one scene which somehow put me into questioning. There’s this scene where Lupin, as cunning as he is, employed some trick for the bad guys. He made use of this recorded tape/flashdrive and it was his animated look shown on the screen. They altered Lupin’s face to match Shun Oguri’s! Were they authorized to alter Lupin’s animated face just to match to the actor who played him in live-action? I mean, they’re basically altering a face already known for what, 30 years, just to accommodate a live-action adaptation? Which brings me, Shun Oguri doesn’t really have this Lupin aura. Lupin was oval-faced, Shun Oguri is square-faced. There were these scenes where Shun Oguri makes the trademark smirk of Lupin. I’m a very forgiving watcher so I’ll just go with that. Tadanobu Asano was fabulous as Inspector Zenigata! All in all, the movie is okay. There was a little drama, the action scenes were par, and the special effects were passable.
Chef Edward Lee is a Korean-American who trained in NYC kitchens, and has spent the better part of a decade honing his vision at 610 Magnolia restaurant in Louisville, KY. This dining experience offers a combo of southern hospitality and urban sophistication. His approach is steeped in the farm-to-table agriculture movement, featuring ever changing menus based on the availability of organic ingredients available in the Kentucky/ Indiana region. Lee’s innovative cuisine has twice earned him a finalist nomination for the James Beard Foundation Awards Best Chef: Southeast in 2011, 2012 and 2013. He has been featured in Esquire, Bon Appétit, GQ, Gourmet among many other publications. WIth a new book in hand, and season 3 of PBS’s ‘Mind of a Chef’ now airing, we decided to sit down with the renowned chef to talk shop. Read below for the full Q&A…
So how exactly does a Korean-American who trained in New York kitchens, wind up migrating to Southern-cuisine, particularly the Louisville dining scene?
It was a lot of serendipity really, it was right after 9/11 and I was looking to get out of NYC for awhile, a friend knew a restaurant in KY that needed help during Derby and I’d always wanted to see it so I went down there for a weekend and fell in love with the landscape and the agriculture. I thought, this is a place I could spend some time in.
You hear more and more about young cooks moving out of New York to start restaurants because of the economics. Did that play into your decision?
Not really. At the time I was thinking less about economics and more about finding a new place to breathe in some fresh air and develop as a chef without all the noise and media hype of a big city like NY. I wanted to be left alone to cook and in Louisville, I found a place that was off the grid but still a relevant place to be.
I suppose that is what made you the perfect chef to spotlight in ‘Mind of a Chef’. For instance your 22 ingredient BBQ sauce, let’s talk about that. How do you decide whether you are over complicating or effectively developing layers of taste and flavors? Where is the balance?
Well, it started as a 33 ingredient BBQ sauce. It was edited quite a bit to only have the essential ingredients in it. I always start a dish with too many ingredients in it, then I taste it again and again and each time, try to remove ingredients or garnishes until I get to something that is the right essence of what I am trying to achieve.
Since you have been on television many times, I can only conclude that overall it is a positive experience for you. Similar to tattoo shows in recent years, when you started cooking over 20 years ago, the thought of this resurgence of cooking and reality shows was never in your mind. Do you think the new generation of chefs should embrace and take advantage of this avenue of extra exposure?
It’s been a great experience generally for me. I can’t speak to any other generation than mine. I imagine it must be overwhelming to have so many options before you as a young chef. When I was in my early 20’s, there was no food media to speak of so my generation of chefs worried only about one thing – cooking successfully every night of service. I almost feel lucky, that in my youth, I didn’t have too many things to distract me from my cooking. Lord knows I can get easily distracted.
What are some of your favorite Asian films?
I love Tampopo, also a groundbreaking Korean movie called Shibaji (The Surrogate Woman), Eat Drink Man Woman, but my favorite is Rashomon by Kurosawa – it changes the way you look at everything.
Was MilkWood the benchmark set in order to have the confidence to begin expanding even more? I know starting from scratch can be scary no matter what level of chef you are, so how did you approach this particular endeavor?
We do have plans for further expansion, I can’t say that it is that calculated. I travel a lot and when an opportunity arises, I chase it to its logical end, sometimes it works out, most times it doesn’t.
What can you tell us about the concept behind your first restaurant outside of Louisville? How are you handling this restaurant differently compared to your locally owned restaurants?
Well, it’s a work in progress so I’ll let you know a year from now. I tend to let things happen organically and then make adjustments. A great restaurant is not one that is excellent during year one, it’s one that can sustain excellence throughout year 4, 5, 6 and beyond.
How is the culinary apprentice program coming along and do you see this program expanding after the first initial 9 month round?
It’s coming along nicely. Yes, we plan to open a brick and mortar restaurant and expand the program to include more students. I will take this project as far as it will go. This is so important to me. I want to see it succeed in ways that would be unimaginable for my other restaurants.
I heard that you start planning ingredients for some food a year in advance to properly cultivate and grow fresh. With the rise of scientific cooking and biodynamic food, do you see this replacing the old traditional methods?
Nothing replaces anything in the food world. We still pickle and ferment in a traditional way that is the same method for hundreds of years. New technologies enhance and add a layer of complexity but it should never replace the old ways. We are built on the old ways, without it, we are nothing. Having said that, our new greenhouse that we just installed is going to allow us to do some experimental gardening and push the boundaries of agriculture.
Lastly, can you talk a bit about your book, Smoke & Pickles? For example, in Korea it’s common to take several ingredients and roll them up into little lettuce wraps. Here, you wrap lettuce around southern cornmeal fried oysters and country ham, and dabs it with a little caviar mayo!
I took along time to write my first cookbook because I didn’t want it to feel like a gimmick. I think anyone can say, hey lets combine this cuisine and that cuisine and make a fusion and wow that’s neat. I didn’t want that. I have been a student of Southern foodways for the past decade, traveling and researching the remotest corners of the South to understand a tradition that continues to fascinate me everyday. Korean food is something that is in my blood, my DNA and my emotional memories. Finding a meaningful way to combine the two, is for me, the result of a lot of introspection and hard work to find my voice. The book is the evidence of this.
Want to stay up to date on all of Chef Lee’s culinary adventures? Follow his cookie crumb trail below:
A band of smugglers reluctantly gets back together to do what they do best (and what makes them the most money)…i.e. extract and sell human organs on the Asian black market. They accomplish this task via their preferred method of arranging for an unsuspecting organ “donor” to take a cruise ship from Korea to China. During the journey, the gang harvests what they need from the unlucky target, disposes of the evidence, sell the goods in China, then return home for the payday. Things don’t always go as planned though, and this trip will clearly not be without serious repercussions for many of those on board.
The movie begins with a short flashback scene that somewhat explains why these smugglers got out of this nasty business in the first place. Then, the rest of the movie takes place in the present where the main characters are slowly introduced & expounded upon through the first part of the film. The story does its best to make you identify with these people and those around them as best it can, and, it does this fairly well actually (although, at the end of the day, it is awfully hard to root for people who are killing other people in order to slice & dice them up for profit). For better or worse though, the ship has soon set sail, and we’re underway towards the business end of this flick.
I guess you could say this film is somewhat graphic, but you’ll see/probably have seen far worse. There are no explicit scenes of organs being ripped out, but the blood does occasionally flow…and, there are a couple of boobs + perversion shots here and there. This is not a horror/gore film though, as it squarely has its sights on belonging to the suspense genre of films. It also contains a number of twists and turns as it goes along (some of which are predictable and some unexpected) until, and long after, it reaches is climax. In typical Korean movie making fashion for a film of this nature, things probably aren’t going to end very well for most of the characters involved with this story when all is said and done.
This whole endeavor is helped considerably by the main cast members; there’s a good deal of recognizable talent in front of the camera, and they all put in the solid work you would expect. The story is not half bad either, and, this movie is indeed entertaining and does quite a number of things well. Somewhere in all of this is a really, really good flick to be had. Alas, there’s ultimately just too much emphasis placed on playing up every conceivable story angle possible to make this a streamlined MUST SEE film…cut that stuff down by 50% or so though, and this thing would have been near awesome. Nevertheless, I often love me some suspenseful melodramatic brutality and this movie certainly delivers on that front.
Yes, the inspiration for this anime movie was a video game that was basically a “Street Fighter” clone that for me was not the most entertaining fighting game ever made. Here you have character from that game in a fight with a madman that is after the armor of mars, which of course makes its wearer very strong. During the course of the adventure you get to see the fighters display their various moves and even have an appearance by a character in a castle whose part in the movie makes him nearly pointless. You get to see two of the characters fall in love and you get a somewhat bittersweet ending. They do a bunch of moves to where they yell out their special attack which is sort of like a Dragonball Z show which also helped me enjoy this one more even though I was not particularly fond of the game. The character are rather interesting too, as they add much needed depth to the characters as opposed to just a bunch of dudes fighting in tournaments. So all in all a nice anime based on a not so nice video game.
The plot is about Terry Bogard falling in love with a girl named Sulia who’s brother is wrecking havoc all over the world searching for a suit of armor that will make him a God. Sounds like something from an Indiana Jones movie but it works well and there’s enough humor and pathos mixed in with all the mighty kicking-of-ass to keep others interested who do not like martial arts. Of course the story could be stronger with more developments but at 95 minutes you’ll be darned if you can find another animated movie or even live action that crams in so much adventure, color and light-hearted thrills into its running time. The fighting and animation are the draw and they work well. The action is fast and dazzling with a flow not seen in American films. The animation is detailed, not as much as Akira or Ghost in the Shell but very well done. I believe some of the graphics are made using the same technique as in Golgo 13, the Professional but I could be wrong.
The love scenes are hilariously overblown– the scene in which Sulia “heals” Terry is obviously intended to be a tender moment, but it’s virtually impossible to not be thrown into spirals of giddy laughter by the sheer ludicrousness of it. And of course, Fatal Fury is not without the obligatory cartoon T&A– this is supplied gratuitously by the huge-breasted Mai Shiranui. And since Fatal Fury IS based off the video game series of the same name (oh boy), we’re treated to numerous pointless cameo appearances by popular characters with little or no relevance to the plot whatsoever (they go through all the trouble of introducing Kim early on, only for him to disappear from the movie totally after that point). This mess of a movie reaches its climax with the unintentionally farcical final battle, in which all the main characters engage the all-powerful main villain in one-on-one combat in turn. That’s some thing that’s always amused me… even when battles in animes AREN’T taking place in a tournament, they always happen as if they were, regardless of the fact that it makes no sense whatsoever!
Otakus always rave about how anime movies should be treated as MOVIES as opposed to merely cartoons, and a disturbing portion of those same people love Fatal Fury. So would Fatal Fury have been good if it wasn’t an anime? The answer is an emphatic “no”– all of this movie’s charm, what little of it there is, resides in the actual drawings. Had Fatal Fury not been an anime, it would have been worthy of an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, if the show was still on the air. That’s the key– this is nothing more than a laughably bad B-movie in the guise of an anime epic.