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NIGHT OF EXCELLENCE

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Outstanding Film: Letters from Iwo Jima

Nominated for 4 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Clint Eastwood’s Letters from Iwo Jima tells the untold story of the Japanese soldiers who defended their homeland against invading American forces during World War II. With little defense other than sheer will and the volcanic rock of Iwo Jima itself, the unprecedented tactics of General Tadamichi Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe, The Last Samurai) and his men transform what was predicted to be a swift defeat into nearly 40 days of heroic and resourceful combat. Their sacrifices, struggles, courage and compassion live on in the taut, gripping film Rolling Stone calls “unique and unforgettable.” It is the powerful companion to Flags of our Fathers.

Outstanding Actor, Film: Kal Penn, The Namesake

Kal was born and raised in New Jersey which allowed him to train extensively in theatre all over the metropolitan New York area. This year is proving to be one of Kal’s most extraordinary ones yet. He is receiving rave reviews for his portrayal of Gogol Ganguli in the highly anticipated film The Namesake, based on the novel by Pulitzer Prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri and directed by Mira Nair. Kal, most notable for his role in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, is currently filming the sequel to this hilarious comedy. He also co-produced and played the title role in Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj.

Outstanding Actress, Film: Rinko Kikuchi, Babel

Before her groudberaking role as a troubled deaf mute in the 2006’s Babel, Kikuchi was fairly recognizable in her native Japan for commercials and small parts in movies. Babel director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu originally wanted a real deaf actress to play the character of Chieko, but Kikuchi’s professional ability at sign language was a huge plus.

Outstanding Actor, TV: Masi Oka, Heroes

Masi Oka stars in NBC’s new ensemble drama series Heroes as Hiro Nakamura, a Tokyo nonconformist computer/anime enthusiast who develops a way to pierce the space-time continuum and move back in time through sheer will power. No stranger to television, Masi has had recurring roles on Scrubs and Luis. He also guest-starred on Without a Trace, Joey, Will and Grace and Gilmore Girls. His feature-film credits include memorable roles in Along Came Polly and Austin Powers in Goldmember.

Outstanding Actress, TV: Parminder Nagra, ER

Parminder, who scored with audiences and critics alike as a soccer-playing English teenagers in the surprise hit film Bend It Like Beckham, joined the cast of ER as a third-year medical student. Nagra was born and raised in Leicester, England but her family is originally from the state of Punjab in India. Bend It Like Beckham was Parminder’s feature-film debut and breakthrough roel as a teenage English girl whose unexpected talents on the soccer field – inspired by her idol, international soccer star David Beckham – do not endear her with her traditional Indian family.

Outstanding Supporting Actress, Film: Maggie Q, Mission Impossible III

Maggie Denise Quigley was born to a Polish-Irish American father and a Vietnamese mother. Her father met her mother during the Vietnam War. Maggie dreamed of becoming a veterinarian, but modeled and found herself bursting onto the Hong Kong movie scene – eventually becoming a full-fledged superstar in Asia. She changed her name to the easily pronounceable “Maggie Q”. She had a cameo in the Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker smash hit Rush Hour 2 and is part of the supporting cast in Mission: Impossible III, starring Tom Cruise.

Outstanding Supporting Actor, Film: Dustin Nguyen, Little Fish

After escaping from Vietnam with his family on the day Saigon fell in 1975, Dustin went on to establish himself as one of Hollywood’s premiere Asian American actors, having starred on such shows as 21 Jump Street, Seaquest DSV, and feature films. Of noteworthy is Dustin landing the much-coveted starring role in the critically acclaimed Little Fish opposite Academy Award-winner Cate Blanchette. Most recently, Dustin starred in Justin Lin’s latest film Finishing the Game.

Outstanding Supporting Actress, TV: Mindy Kaling, The Office

Mindy was born Vera Chokalingham in 1979. She graduated from Buckingham, Browne & Nichols, a private school in Cambridge, Massachusetts and graduated in 2003. she started writing plays and scripts in her college years. She had a small role in The 40 Year Old Virgin which was her first on screen role. Playing the annoying, gossipy and overly emotional Kelly on The Office, Mindy established herself as a strong comic actress, even though she was originally hired as a writer on the show.

Outstanding Supporting Actor, TV: Rex Lee, Entourage

Rex made a living out of appeasing difficult bosses, long before typifying the stereotypically abused personal assistant. With his addition to the second season of HBO’s breakout hit, Entourage, he became an instant fan favorite, infusing his role of Lloyd, the gay Asian assistant often ridiculed by his venom-spewing boss, super-agent Ari Gold. Rex’s acting resume would become peppered with a variety of stage, commercial, television and film work. Some of Rex’s notable TV credits were Son of a Beach, Lucky, Twins and What About Brian.

Outstanding Comedy Performance: Margaret Cho

Margaret was born and raised in San Francisco. She started performing stand-up at age 16 in a comedy club called The Rose & Thistle above a bookstore her parents rant. Soon after, she won a comedy contest where first prize was opening for Jerry Seinfield. In 1994, she starred in a short-lived ABC sitcom called All-American Girl. Margaret was recently the recipient of the First Amendment Award from the ACLU of Southern California, and the Intrepid Award from the National Organization for Women.

Favorite Reality Star: Yul Kwon, Survivor: Cook Islands

On his way to winning Survivor: Cook Islands, Yul solved puzzles, earned the nickname "The Godfather" for his skillful maneuvering, and helped smash stereotypes about Asian American men in the media.  In the end, Kwon led a multicultural alliance consisting of people from each of the four ethnically-divided tribes to defeat a much larger adversary.  Prior to going on Survivor, Yul attended Stanford University and the Yale Law School, practiced law at several firms, served as a judicial clerk to a federal circuit judge, worked as a legislative aide to Senator Joseph Lieberman, became a management consultant at McKinsey, and joined Google's business
strategy group.  In 2006, Yul was profiled in People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive issue, and was also named one of EXTRA's Most Eligible Bachelors.

Outstanding Independent Film: Journey From the Fall

April 30, 1975 marked the end of Vietnam’s two-decade-old civil war and the start of the exodus of hundred of thousands of refugees. Despite his allegiance to the toppled South Vietnamese government, Long Nguyen decides to remain in Vietnam. Imprisoned in a Communist re-education camp, he urges his family to make the escape by boat without him. Long suffers years of solitary confinement and hard labor, and finally despairs that his family has perished. But news of their successful resettlement in America inspires him to make one last desperate attempt to join them.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Chow Yun-Fat

One of the most instantly recognizable faces in Asia, Chow Yun-Fat is an actor of phenomenal renown and popularity. An icon of the action genre thanks to his numerous collaborations with Hong Kong directors John Woo and Ringo Lam, Chow gained fame playing the killer with a soul in such films as Woo’s classic A Better Tomorrow, and in doing so, inspired new trends in action filmmaking. However, although he is best known on the international level for his work in action films, Cho has also acted in films of almost every conceivable genre, proving himself equally adept in melodramas, romances and comedies alike.

Pioneer Award: Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa, restauranteur

Sashimi Salad with Matsuhisa soy sauce dressing, Yellow Tail Sashimi with Jalapenos, Squid Pasta with light garlic sauce, and Black Cod in MIso are some of the imaginative dishes that led Food & Wine Magazine to name Nobu one of America’s “10 Best New Chefs” for 1989. In 1998, Los Angeles Times Magazine included him among Southern California’s rising stars, while in 1993, New York Times chose him as one of the Top 10 restaurant desinations of the world. In 1994, New York City saw the opening of “Nobu” in partnership with actor Robert DeNiro. Since opening in NYC, he continued to open in various other locations including Beverly Hills, Aspen and Las Vegas.

Visionary Award: Vivienne Tam, fashion designer

Vivienne’s designs can be described as simple but unique. They combine east and west, traditional with modern. Her line of clothing is favored by such luminaries as Julia Roberts, Goldie Hawn, Madonna and Britney Spears. She was born in China, but left the mainland for Hong Kong at age 2. She studied at Hong Kong’s Polytechnic Fashion School. Shortly after graduating, she left for New York and established her first collection, East Wind Code, in 1982. She launched her eponymous label in 1994 and has boutiques in New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Kobe, Japan. In 2000, she published China Chic, an illustrated book that chronicles Chinese art, clothing and culture.


Red Carpet Gallery Award Nominees APAHM - Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
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