ICYMI: I Wrote About Jackie Chan FOUR Times for the Brattle. That’s Awesome.

Police Story 2

There’s a scene in Sammo Hung’s MILLIONAIRES EXPRESS, a rollicking heist/western/kung fu movie from 1986 that is a go-to when I discuss the stunt-work being done in Hong Kong in the 1980s.

In it, Yuen Biao, one of the stars of the film, does a front flip off of a burning three-story building, landing on the ground below. It’s shot well back, so the whole building is in the frame throughout the shot. There’s nowhere to hide. There are no edits. No air mattresses or piles of cardboard boxes. It’s just Yuen jumping off of a burning building. It’s not the most dramatic or even the most dangerous stunt from the 1980s but it’s so honest it’s one of my favorites to talk about. It provides a clear illustration of the unique combination of skill, authenticity and institutional fearlessness that made 1980s Hong Kong stunt work unique in the history of cinema.

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City Hunter and the Dartboard Cinema of Wong Jing

At one point it was somewhat embarrassing to admit this, but I’ve long been a fan of Wong Jing, the director of CITY HUNTER. Both the embarrassment and the fandom deserve explanation.

The embarrassment is down to the fact that, at least at the time I was most heavily interested in Hong Kong Cinema, I was actively trying to get people to look beyond the more obvious aspects and get them to see what I was drawn to (transcendent genre cinema) and not just cheap thrills (even though there were plenty of those, too.) Wong Jing is defined by cheap thrills, so he didn’t really serve my purposes in that regard. These days Hong Kong style action is a standard and talent with Hong Kong roots are global superstars, so my worries on that front are all gone.

I’m free. FREE! Wong Jing’s movies are dumb fun!

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Legend of the Drunken Master

Now, the fights.

A lot of words have been written about the finale of this film. That’s deserved. This centerpiece fight between Jackie and his real-life bodyguard Ken Lo is a brilliant, visceral classic. I’ve watched it five times this week and have seen it dozens of times over the past twenty years and I still notice little things about it that surprise me.

The finale is a pure distillation of everything Jackie had been doing since he’d started to take direct control of the action in his moves in the 1980s. While there’s not much in the way of props or acrobatics and the only stunt is Jackie jumping into a fire pit, the core elements of Jackie’s choreography are all present. It’s two physically gifted screen fighters going toe to toe for half a reel–a half a reel that took three months to shoot.

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Drunken Master

It might not look like it from the trailer or even after seeing the film, but DRUNKEN MASTER is a movie that has a surprising depth. Without context (imagine stumbling into a Chinatown theater in 1978) DRUNKEN MASTER is 90 minutes of goofy hijinks and mind-blowing martial arts action. Add in some context, however, and it also emerges as an important waypoint in the development of Hong Kong cinema. Which might be a bit of a surprise. It’s true, though. It really is. I swear.

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Boston Marathon Report. I Ran!

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Full Boston Marathon report ahoy! This has some funny bits and some running bits. I hope you enjoy it no matter your bits preference.

I woke up (as one does!)

I felt pretty good, all things considered. I checked the weather. I went outside (warm! already!) I decided to go with no sleeves because damn it was already warm at 8:00. In hindsight, this was mostly the correct choice.

Breakfast! Coffee!

(Everything is more exciting on Marathon Monday)

We headed downtown. Copley was slight cooler than Roslindale.

(Foreshadowing!)

Bag check was a breeze. Leaving Boylston (temporarily) I walked over to catch the bus to Hopkinton.

The bus was ridden.

Hopkinton is a well oiled machine but somehow the line for the bathroom was still 15 minutes long. In between waiting in line and talking to people I drank a liter of water and a couple of cups of Gatorade. “With what I drank at home, that’s a good base,” I thought.

(Foreshadowing!)

Eventually, the race started. I went out hesitantly. If you look at my 5k, 10k and 1/2 marathon times I should be capable of running under 4 hours for the marathon. I went out hoping to do around 2:15 or 2:20 for the half and 4:30 for the whole race. I ended up doing 2:17 for the half. I felt pretty good, physically. My training paid off. I ran comfortably.

Except! It was damn hot. 460702_226293078_Medium

Early on I started to get nervous about the heat and my hydration. I took water at every stop, but by mile 7 or 8 I started to get a little bit of a headache. Not a great sign. I started doubling up at water stops, trying to play catch-up. Which was tough because I didn’t want to drink too much as that presents its own dangers, ranging from simply being uncomfortable to water intoxication, which can kill you. I didn’t want either, so I tried to thread the needle.

My splits for the first 30k

5k 0:31:53
10k 1:04:15
15k 1:36:29
20k 2:09:39
1/2 marathon 2:16:50
25k 2:46:30
30k 3:23:44

Which means I was comfortably in my range for the first 25k, running between 30 and 37 minute 5ks. Manageable. I had slowed down a bit after the half, but that’s when the course gets tough so that’s acceptable. I should have had something left for the finish which is relatively easy once you crest Heartbreak.

Except, I didn’t. I had nothing. I ran the next 5k in 47 minutes and the 5k after than in 45. Realistically I was hoping to do those sections in the 30 minute range. Obviously things didn’t go as planned.

My problems started around mile 15. I had been working at hydration for a while and around there I started to worry that I wasn’t going to recover. No matter how much I drank I never felt okay. My face was crusty with salt. The heat was an issue. The wind was as well. It was windy enough that I felt like any perspiration was immediately lost to evaporation, I don’t know if that’s going to actually dehydrate a person faster but psychologically it sure feels like it.

Then I turned east at the firehouse. I knew Boston was going to be cooler, but I didn’t really realize “Boston” mean Newton. My hands were already a bit numb from just being in the air for a few hours. As soon as I hit the firehouse I felt like I was carrying two Popsicles. There was a breeze off the water that hit me in the worst possible way. The combination of my slight dehydration and that blast of cool air make me feel like hell. My back and shoulders collectively said “nope” and seized up.

Yay!

I felt crummy, but sucked it up for the most part. Pounding my (just under) Clydesdale ass up the Newton hills and then going into operation shutdown on the descents. My pride wouldn’t allow me to do anything other than run the hills, so I had to take respite where I could. I was the weird guy walking on the downhills.

Eventually, I made it to Heartbreak. I saw my lovely wife, which was a great mental boost. I stopped (!) and chatted, because what the hell. I knew I was doomed for any sort of time and just wanted to enjoy myself from there on in.

After that I spent the next 3-4 miles trying to recover so I could make it to the finish under my own power. At that point I had a “stitch” that wrapped the whole way around my torso, my shoulders were up by my ears, my hands felt like icicles, I had developed a blister and my legs (!) were starting to cramp; so I had some issue to work through. I basically walked in between landmarks. Comm Ave after BC? I’m walking. Beacon Street after Cleveland Circle. I’m walking. Eventually, between about a million different little things I did over about an hour, I started to feel like a human being again.

And so I ran. I ended up running in the last 1.5 miles or so straight through. It sucked, but I had pulled it together enough to at least finish with some style. All of the photos posted here are from that section of the run. I don’t look half bad for a jogging cadaver.

And then I finished.

It was pretty incredible. If you’ve been a spectator, cheering people on at any of the bigger spots, you know what it’s like. Wall to wall people screaming encouragement all day. The thing that’s amazing is experiencing that for 26 miles. It’s a wall of support basically unbroken for the entire course. There are sections that are louder, of course, and there are a few sections where there’s truly no one for a half mile or so, but you are generally bathed in sound and encouragement for the whole race. It’s really nuts. The support is overwhelming. Even if I hadn’t recovered a bit through Brookline, the support I got through Kenmore would have propelled me through the finish. You can just catch a mob of folks, out there having a good time, and all of a sudden 50 people are chanting your name.

Bonkers.

So, as tough as it was, it was a truly memorable experience. All the training, preparation and fundraising for MassBike (which is still open until the 30th, BTW) was totally worth it. I don’t know that I’d do it again (it’s hard!) but having done it once is an experience I’m going to treasure forever.

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