Last night I was in the presence of Film and Martial Arts greatness. Jackie Chan was at the Lincoln Film Center presenting his new movie Chinese Zodiac. In my teens and throughout my 20’s Jackie Chan was one of my heroes. His talents in Martial Arts and Comedy combined together to make one of the greatest entertainers to appear in our life time. His charm and comedic timing showed up on stage last night to create an awesome evening for all in attendance.
The night started out with Jackie Chan being presented with a lifetime achievement award from the NY Asian Film Festival. He made a speech in both English and Mandarin while accepting, joking all the while. Some of this can be seen in the video below. After he was presented with the award, Grady Hendrix of the NYAFF sat down with Jackie and interviewed him for 30 minutes. Unfortunately there weren’t any questions taken from the audience.
In that 30 minute time span they discussed several topics, including why Jackie Chan started directing instead of just acting. Jackie’s response was that he wanted to be himself. Any time a director ever had him act, there was a lot of fighting, but he never really showed off his personality. Once he started directing he was able to turn his movie into action comedies, and he could play himself.
Another question Grady asked, was about what Jackie wants to do in the future. Jackie is hoping to make different types of movies that don’t involve fighting. He’d like to take on more dramatic roles and to try something different. In response to a separate question he also said that he really wants to make movies that have some meaning to them, and bring awareness to issues that people around the globe may not be aware of. One such issue he would like to tackle is landmines in Cambodia, and the people being hurt by them.
Grady asked Jackie if it was hard to watch his own movies, and Jackie told us he had trouble watching all movies. He’s too critical of them, and will nitpick camera angles and other issues. The only movie he was able to watch and enjoy for what it was, was James Cameron’s Avatar because it was just too amazing. Jackie recounted a story of being invited by James Cameron to the set of Avatar. While standing in an empty room with him, Cameron showed off the special camera he used to make the movie. Jackie was really impressed, and intimidated by what he saw, then felt like he had to get the hell out of there.
One of the last things Jackie talked about involved the differences between Hong Kong and American film making. Back in the day, Hong Kong actors weren’t given movie scripts because the scripts would leak and someone else would make the movie with a different title before they could release their film. So instead the director would tell actors what to do and say on the spot without any knowledge on what’s supposed to be happening in the film. Thankfully that was the old days of HK films, and they don’t have to worry about this anymore.
After the interview was over, we were treated to Jackie Chan’s latest film, Chinese Zodiac. In this movie Jackie plays an artifact thief hunting down bronze heads of the Chinese Zodiac that were lost in the 1800’s. The movie itself was very campy and reminded me of a Jackie Chan film from the 90’s like Operation Condor. One of my main problems was the bad dubbing. I think it would have been better served if it was entirely in its original language where possible. The movie itself wasn’t bad though. The action and the comedy were decent, but a bit over the top.
Another thing Chinese Zodiac suffers from is the old school kitchen sink approach it took to the plot. In HK cinema back in the day there would be sub plot after sub plot after sub plot that had nothing to do with the main story. Then, in the last few minutes of the film they introduced you to a host of characters that were only causally mentioned in odd moments.
As mentioned before Jackie wants to make movies that bring awareness to issues around the globe, and Chinese Zodiac fits that bill. There is a major problem with people making ancient counterfeits in China to sell for a profit. This movie exposed me to something I had no knowledge of before, and I’m thankful it did. While Chinese Zodiac isn’t the best movie in the world, it’s at least worth a watch.
Later this month the NYAFF and Lincoln Film Center are teaming up again to host the Jackie Chan Experience, where they screen many of Jackie Chan’s classic films for 4 straight days. Then right after that is over the NY Asian Film Festival commences. The schedule for the NYAFF is already up, and it looks pretty good. There will be several Asian actors and Directors in attendance throughout the 3 week festival.