When I was a kid, every Friday night we used to go to the local pizza spot (Frank and Nick’s), get a pie, and rent a movie from the video shop that was next door.
The store was arranged by genre, and I had a bias towards the “Action” section. Since this was the late 80s / early 90s we are talking, that meant things like the Missing in Action franchise from Chuck Norris, stuff from Steven Seagal like Under Siege, Sly Stallone movies like Tango and Cash (which I mentioned in the writeups for Fargo and Foxy Brown ), the Die Hard franchise from Bruce Willis, etc.
Upon further reflection, I had a specific bias toward what maybe I would have called “Serious Action,” which meant it was not as campy as a series like Lethal Weapon with Danny Glover and Mel Brooks.
So naturally, I tended to go for “serious” kung fu flicks like Jet Li’s Fist of Legend or Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, over campier stuff, like Jackie Chan. (The Bruce canon is tough to place now – while it was serious and I always had a deep respect for Bruce Lee, both in terms of his physical skill and his philosophy – his Liberate Yourself from Classical Karate remains today one of my favorite essays – I think I found something about the dubbing of his films particularly tough to enjoy.)
These days I find myself returning again and again to Jackie Chan’s films (as opposed to the “serious” films I enjoyed as a kid – “I was so much older than, I’m younger than that now..”).
Partly, maybe, this is my sort of frustration with the “monomyth” – Joseph Campell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces is always on the same journey – and that narrative just doesn’t see to map to a lot of the hard problems of modernity, as Rob and I explored to death in our Civilization Noir film.
Partly, too, though, I think this is just a much deeper sense of respect for Jackie Chan’s art, his sense of humor, his choreography. (Btw, if you have not seen it, you should definitely check out the Every Frame a Painting on Jackie Chan).
What I like about Jackie Chan’s humor – other than the fact that it is generally brilliant and hilarious – is that it’s not mean. I talked about the idea of dad jokes in the Paddleton write-up, and I think my reaction here is similar.
I think other people must have had the same discovery, because Tik Tok is awesome in the same way – physical humor is kind of universal, and it’s safer – I think people have (in many cases rightly) learned to be a little more thoughtful about the jokes they make, but it seems also people are afraid to tell jokes and laugh, and physical humor is a great way to do this.
Here’s one of my favorite examples I’ve come across recently: