An Asian American Guide to the 2014 Oscars

"Cutie and the Boxer." (Photo: Zach Heinzerling)

This year’s Academy Awards feature eleven nominations for films by or about Asian and Asian Americans. While Ang Lee has been the heavyweight in this category for many years, with two Best Director Oscars amongst his many other wins and nominations, a number of new faces have emerged this year. Let’s see who wins on Sunday, and poll who we expect to see back in the coming years.

Cutie and the Boxer,” Director Zach Heinzerling, USA
The 40-year marriage of painter Ushio Shinohara, known for his boxing paintings, and his wife, Noriko, who gave up her own career as an artist to focus on her husband, has become the subject of a series of comic strips drawn by Noriko. As the 80-year-old Ushio finds his own artistic reputation fading, Noriko’s fame continues to grow.

The Act of Killing,” Director Josh Oppenheimer, Denmark/Indonesia
In the wake of the deaths of nearly a million opponents of Indonesia’s political regime, the heads of the country’s death squads are celebrated as heroes. Challenged to examine their actions by creating films about the killings, the men produce elaborately staged movies that reenact the mass slayings.

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The Wind Rises,” Director Hayao Miyazake
As a boy, Jiro Horikoshi dreams of someday building the planes that his poor eyesight will never allow him to fly. After training as an engineer, Jiro puts his talents to work for Mitsubishi and becomes a leading innovator in aviation design, while Japan moves through the turbulent events of the 1920s and ’30s that will carry it closer to the Second World War.

The Missing Picture,” Director Rithy Panh, Cambodia
Few images exist of the brutality unleashed on Cambodia by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge following the Kampuchean Revolution in 1975. Using clay figures to stand in for himself, his family and the many Cambodians whose lives were destroyed during the years that followed, Rithy Panh recreates a dark and bloody period in his country’s history.

“Omar,” Director Hany Abu-Assad, Belgium/Palestine
When a trio of young Palestinians decides to kill an Israeli soldier, one of them, a baker named Omar, is arrested and beaten by Israeli intelligence agents. Told that he will be given his freedom if he assists in capturing the man they believe to be the shooter, Omar rejoins his friends and begins to suspect that there is an informant among them.

The Grandmaster,” Director Wong Kar Wai, Cinematographer, Philippe Le Sourd, Hong Kong
The life of legendary martial arts master Ip Man unfolds against the turbulent decades of China’s mid-20th century history. As the practitioners of various styles of fighting face off against each other in spirited competitions, Ip Man accepts a challenge from the northern China master, Gong Baosen, who has come to the south with his proud daughter, Gong Er.

“The Grandmaster,” Director Wong Kar Wai, Costume Designer William Chang, Hong Kong

“The Moon Song” from “Her,” Music by Karen O
In a future when most of society’s problems have been resolved, the search for companionship continues. For Theodore, a recently divorced writer of other people’s love letters, the possibility of love arises from an unexpected quarter: an artificial intelligence computer operating system known as Samantha.

“Posessions,” Director Shuhei Morita, Japan
A man seeking shelter from a storm in a dilapidated shrine encounters a series of household objects inhabited by goblin spirits.

“The Voorman Problem,” Mark Gill and Baldwin Li, USA
A psychiatrist is called to a prison to examine an inmate named Voorman, who is convinced he is a god.

Lone Survivor,” Director Peter Berg, Sound Mixers: Andy Koyama, Beau Borders and David Brownlow
In 2005, a group of Navy SEALs in Afghanistan’s Kunar province launches a mission known as Operation Red Wings, targeting the dangerous Taliban leader Ahmad Shah. Four members of the group are sent on a reconnaissance mission, which goes disastrously wrong when they are discovered by three local goatherds.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.


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