Friday, June 14, 2013

Time with The Not So Drunken Master-Some Thoughts on Jackie Chan's New York Appearances

Author Ric Meyers at Lincoln Center waits for Jackie Chan

Monday and Tuesday was Jackie Chan overload as Jackie returned to New York for a series of public appearances. I'm told this was first in perhaps a decade, maybe more.

Monday he was at Lincoln Center where he was given the Star Asia Life Time Achievement Award by the guys who run the New York Asian Film Festival. After getting the Award he sat down with Grady Hendrix (in a kick ass pink suit) to talk before screening a new version of his Chinese Zodiac.
Grady Hendrix introduces Jackie

Tuesday there was a press conference at the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in the morning and  in the evening Jackie was at the Asia Society where he spoke briefly before a screening of his Drunken Master 2. (I was told that he then was rushed off to a big gala that was being held in his honor).

It was a whirlwind of fans, films and Jackie Chan.
Grady interviews Jackie

In trying to write up this piece I tried to figure out what to do. I could talk about the films, how Chinese Zodiac in it’s new form is better than the previously released Asian version thanks to with sped up action and some cut scenes which gave it more cohesion but a bit less sense; or I could talk about how the Drunken Master 2 is so much better big and in its unaltered form (see my piece on the changes here).

I think not.

I could relate exactly what happened at each event, about what was said, about the man who took the stage to ask Jackie to try and help stop violence in wake of the bombing in Boston, and I could relate again the stories he told, of the new projects mentioned -A Jackie Chan stage musical is coming and a music project with people in LA.  But the videos of his appearances are out there if you look (The Asia Society talk is at their website and I've seen The Lincoln Center Q&A on You Tube)

I could do any number of things but I won’t.

Instead I’d like to talk about Jackie the man and what he means to so many people and how that revealed itself over the two days in New York.

I don’t really know that much about Jackie Chan the man. I haven't made a deep study of his biography. Mostly I just watch his films. That maybe sacrilege to some but it still doesn't make him any less cool

I do know that watching him interact with his fans and the people presenting him over the last few days, I felt I was getting a sense of the man behind the myths and the stories.
Jackie takes in the assembled press corps

I mean I watched as he would stand behind the curtain and be quiet until introduced and then bound on to stage very much a man in the on position. I know he’s a man who has told some stories so many times that they come out of his mouth with an easy that suggests he’s said them a few more times than the three I heard them. I’ve seen that he’s a man who wants to connect with his audience but is being pushed and pulled by his handlers past them (He made an effort to try and sign Dr Stan Glick’s book despite being told he had to go). He is also a man very much capable of taking care of himself in a hairy situation, as was revealed when a man stepped out of the audience and on to the stage of the Walter Reade Theater to talk to him. Jackie deflected the people who wanted to keep the man from Jackie  in order to listen to what the man had to say. It was a scary moment, but watching it again on video it has become one of the most powerful memories I’ll have of Jackie. It was amazing since with a wave, a gesture and a straightening up of his posture it became clear that no matter what happened or what was happening Jackie Chan was very much in control-more so than it may seem when he’s being prodded by the handlers. It was a clear human, person to person statement that Jackie Chan is very much the man we see what we see on screen.

And it’s the man that we see on screen that we all are attracted to.

There is something about Jackie Chan that turns us all into bouncing six year olds. Watching a Jackie Chan movie, even after you’ve seen it a dozen times or more, there is still a sense of genuine of wonder. You watch his movies and you have no idea how the hell he’s done what he’s done. It's Jackie and that’s all. There is nothing but the man. The movie magic is Jackie Chan, it’s not computers or camera tricks it’s one man doing the craziest things you’ve ever seen (clearly his mother never told him to be careful)

I love the man and his movies…

…and so do lots of other people especially the guys from Subway Cinema who brought Jackie here. Watching the Subway Cinema guys, Samuel, Goran, Grady, Rufus, Ted and everyone else over the last few days was like watching a bunch of kids who were just dropped at Disneyland and told to go crazy. Never have I seen such wide smiles on so many adults in my life. There was this sense in watching them that they were still in disbelief that they really had gotten Jackie Chan to New York. They all wanted to seem to turn to each other and say “We got Jackie Chan to New York! How Cool is that!?!"

It was way cool, and they did great by film fans in New York.

I kind of know what they were going through since I was staggering around Manhattan for two days in an orbit around Jackie Chan myself. I was there as a fan, and occasionally as a reporter.
Jackie in motion

The fan part of me just wanted to scream Hey that's JACKIE FREAKING CHAN!!!. It was a glorious thing to see a man you’ve admired for almost 40 years walking in front of you. It was even more special when I could drag my brother, after two tries, to see his favorite film star ever.

Yea, my brother Joe is the mad Jackie Chan fan. Joe, who from when he was 9 or 10, was going out and tracking down Jackie Chan stuff. He had me getting copies of Chan films mail order from Video Search of Miami and elsewhere. He had friends getting films from Chinatown for him. From him I went from being a fan to being more than a fan.

Ultimately its just super cool to take your brother to see some one's always loved.

While I’ve been to more than a few press conferences, and I’ve gone to my share of press screenings watching the press corps go gaga around Jackie was a great deal of fun. While I pride myself on being able to connect to the six year old in me (sometimes to the point that people think I'm nuts), many of the press are often too cool for school and try to remain above it. However watching many of them try to get close to Jackie was amusing. Trust me on this this wasn’t that these people were trying to get the shot this was people trying to get as close to their idol as humanly possible because he's Jackie Freakin Chan. And I’m serious in this feeling since I spoke with several other members of the press and I heard several conversations and it was clear everyone was there because it was Jackie and no one else.

One of the best things was just being in the audience at Lincoln Center and the Asia Society  with other fans. I bought my tickets and was there as fan. I was there like everyone else because we wanted to see Jackie. I wanted the right to lose my cool and bounce and not have to be worry about covering things up because it wasn't professional. If I never wrote a word or took a picture it didn’t matter I was there to see Jackie.  Seeing Jackie was all that mattered
Jackie points

Sitting in rooms of like-minded people was great. Sure I was there with Mondo, Mr C, Chocko, Shigeko, Hubert and Earl, but I was also there with a couple of hundred others as well. Talking to everyone and listening to everyone’s Jackie stories was a great deal of fun. The game of When did you discover Jackie Chan went impromptu around every room, the Walter Reade, the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office offices and the Asia Society. It was so prevalent that La Frances Hui. from the Asia Society made a reference to it in her opening remarks stating that asking her about Jackie is like asking her to remember her first playground experience. It couldn’t be done, he was always there.

Always there?

Always somewhere, Always on the screen be it large or small but not always in New York. Jackie is only rarely in New York which is why is appearance on Monday and Tuesday was so special to so many..
Jackie signs

And because he comes so rarely the two days and three appearances of Jackie Chan in New York will always have a special place in my heart. What started out as just going to see a favorite actor and some of his movies turned into something else. It became something more since we got to see that this man we admire is, in some ways, all that we thought and hoped- a really cool guy.

I want to thank the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office helping to arrange the trip, The Film Society and the Asia Society for hosting the screening and mostly I want to thank the mad brains behind Subway Cinema- Goran, Samuel, Grady, Rufus, Ted and everyone else for being crazy enough to have started and continued the New York Asian Film Festival so they could share grand moments like these with the rest of the the world.
Jackie speaks while some of  the Subway Cinema crew look on

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