LYDIA and JAN'S MIDWINTER FILM FESTIVAL
JAN 20 THRU FEB 9, 2003
Hoyts Crossgates 18 Upper Level
Jan 25th: Saturday, 7:10PM
Albany temperature: High 15 Low -1
“SHANG-HAI-JINXS: Looking for Mr. Fisher”
"Come on Dad, we're going to be late!" complains Lydia.
"Can I help it if I can't find a place to park?" I tell her.
"Movies at Crossgates is not like going to the Spectrum,
where if the lots are full you can always find a spot
on the street nearby." We're on our seventh circuit of
mall parking lot number six, near the entrance for the cinemas.
" I still don't like being late," she says as someone
beeps open the door on their car, right next to us. I slam the
brakes, we're parked and running past Filene's to Hoyts
Cinema 18 where we plan to meet Edgardo, who has just returned
from the family's hotel in Argentina. Having worked twenty hour
days at the hotel and now studying ten or more hours daily,
Edgardo said he's ready to "see any movie you like."
I suggested trying to catch the sneak preview of the new Jackie
Chan film "Shanghai Knights" sequel to "Shanghai Noon" teaming
Chan with Owen Wilson, again. "Jackie Chan?," said Edgardo, "Todo
buen. Re-cool! [in Argentina when things are more than just
good, they add "re" to the beginning of the word to make it
We're re-interested in seeing this film because our friend
Steve Fisher, of Prague has a small part in it, as some of the
movie was filmed near Prague. To quote from Steve's notes:
5 Dubna [April] 2002:
I'm off for two days to the spa city of Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad)
to join Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson on the set of "Shanghai Knights"
for my "big" one line "performance" with them in that "film".
28 Dubna [April] 2002:
My bit part in "Shanghai Knights was a lot of fun, as I had a great
scene with Jackie Chan (a very nice fellow) and Owen Wilson
who is an extremely bright guy (nominated for an Oscar for his screenplay
with Ben Stiller - "The Amazing Tennenbaums") and a very funny actor. Half
the time he didn't even follow the script, just improvised his own lines,
which were funnier that what had been written for him. Exhausting work
as we filmed from 7PM to 7AM. Having not slept at all, I was pretty
dizzy by 4:30 in the morning, doing my scene again for the 30th time
(they shot it with one camera from five different angles, sixs takes
each.) They did manage to complete the scene in one night rather than
the two for which they hired me, so I got home a day early with two
days pay and three days per diem. Nice work, when you can get it.
Steve's other recent Hollywood film role was in "Hart's War" with Bruce
Willis, where Steve had one line: "Goon up!" which was a signal to the
men in the barracks he shared with Willis, that the Nazi guards were coming.
Much of that film was shot on a soundstage and sets near Prague. As we watched
"Hart's War", waiting for Steve, we managed to catch a fleeting glimpse of
his face and a longer shot of most of his head, sipping a cup of coffee in
the out-of-focus foreground. They did use his "Goon up!" twice, once in
a scene where he was not even present. As Steve said about that filming,
Willis was also given to constant ad-libbing, as he inserted the word "fuck"
into his lines with great regularity. For example, according to Steve:
Original script - "If you interfere with this mission in any way, I'll
kill you too."
Willis version - "If you fuck with this mission, I'll kill you too."
Original script - "What the hell do you know about duty?"
Willis - "Fuck you Hart!" What the fuck to you know about fucking duty
This time we we are not armed with a description of Steve's role or dialogue
in the film, but at least we know who to look for, after we find Edgardo...
When we hit the ticket booths for Cine18, the place is mobbed and
the tote-board is showing one after another of the films "SOLD OUT".
"Dad! I told you we'd be late!" says Lydia.
"Try to stay re-calm," I tell her, "I'm sure we can figure something out."
Just then I see Edgardo on another line, waving at us. We run over and
he says he's managed to get the last three seats for "Shanghai Knights",
which is great because I was thinking of switching to the only other
available film "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind", figuring we could at
least try to stay with the program and see something from our festival list.
"Re-espectaculo! Edgardo! Re-buen trabajo!"
We run for Theatre 16 at the top of the stairs and down a long hall.
"Sort of like the re-super cinema at Recoleta in Buenos Aires, where
we saw the spanish version of "Harry Potter", no?" I tell Lydia.
"Sure Dad," she says, "if you think the lobby of the Egg at the
Empire Plaza is like the lobby of the Grand Hyatt hotel in NYC."
She's right. There's no comparison, but, it's fun to pretend.
We find our seats, in the very front row and find ourselves looking
straight up at the screen, Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson towering over
us, distorted by extreme perspective. Their legs and feet are re-huge
and their heads are re-tiny. Our necks re-hurt already.
"I'm going to find a spot in the back," says Lydia, while Edgardo and
I decide to stick it out where we are. "This may be a bit re-difficult,"
I tell him.
To make a long movie short, Jackie Chan plays Charlie Chan, Hong Kong
detective teamed up with Owen Wilson, playing the american cowboy
Roy Rogers. Together they travel to London, played in part by Carlsbad in
the Czech Republic, where they KungFu fight evil chinamen from the
Boxer rebellion, in such touristy settings as the Tower of London and
Big Ben, Madame Toussaud's Wax Museum and the Covent Gardens market, all to
the strains of Roger Miller incongruously singing his own "England Swings",
Herman's Hermit's "Henery the Eighth", Dave Clark Five's "Glad All Over,
the Beau Brummels "Laugh Laugh", the Beatles "Paperback Writer" and finally
even including a moment of Miller's early big hit: "Dang Me"
Aughta take a rope and hang me.
Hang me from the highest tree,
Woman would you weep for me?
Other characters in the film include a nine year old boy playing
a young Buster Keaton, and a bean-pole of an actor named Tom
Fisher who plays a Scotland Yard inspector-would-be-writer-of-
detective-novels named Ian, who at the end of the film, after
the intrepid team has saved the Queen of England and her entire
family of successors, is dubbed Sir Ian Flemming who as we all know,
goes on to write the brilliant series of James Bond novels.
The rest as they say, is history.
Where was Steve? Given the my re-extreme perspective, I found
it impossible to attend to any characters other than the one
or two right in front of my face, so, I missed him.
As we walk out of the theatre while the credits are playing
and I try to get my head and neck back into normal alignment,
I ask Lydia if she saw Steve.
"Sure Dad, didn't you? He was the head waiter in that scene
in the restaurant where Jackie Chan flips the dinner table up
in the air, while spinning around karate-chopping the ninjas
who were trying to sneak up on him as he was drinking a cup
of tea. Steve's the guy who catches the three-layer cake as
it flies through the air, just before landing on the floor
face down. He's the one who then hands it to Owen Wilson,
as his Roy character says, with a crooked smile, "Nice
fucking catch, mate!""
I look back to see the credits rolling by:
Jan's rating: Jackie Chan - 25 degrees
Owen Wilson - 18 degrees
Steve's slapstick stunt - 33 degrees
Once again we’re late to the movie. However this time it’s Hoyts Cinema 18, smack dab in the middle of teen culture heaven, on a Saturday night. We’re at Crossgates mall. As I try to keep the required 6 feet from my father at all times while my eyes scan the halls for people I know, I also have the job of looking for Edgardo who we are supposed to meet for the movie. I think, I should have just gone to the wrestling match with Lisa, as I see a girl who I used to know look at me and look at my father and make the according calculations in her fake blonde head. Her boyfriend is cute. I’m mad.
When we finally get into the theater where I’m sure no one can possibly see me, it’s packed. The only place left where the three of us can sit together is the very front row directly under the screen. I can’t see without pulling some yoga neck breaking back bending move. I tell my dad and Edgardo I’m going to find a better place to sit. That place ends up being the aisle seat of a three seat spot next to two very cute boys. I’m am suddenly happy again. I ask, “Is anyone sitting here?” they say “no” I say “ok” and go ahead and take the seat. I feel their eyes on me as I remove my purse, my jacket, my shirt … Just kidding. They were interested in the movie. I turn my attention to the screen where I realize I have probably missed a good 30-min. of the movie.
“Thanks Dad,” I mutter to myself, as this is one of my pet peeves.
I try to follow along as best I can. Feeling stupid when I jump at the part where the tiger jumps at you and such, I start to realize that Jackie Chan (playing the Shanghai Kid a.k.a. John Wayne) and Owen Wilson (playing Roy O’Bannon) are on the run from the law for some reason. Then they end up in London to look for a lost chinese family seal of some sort, and John’s sister who turns out to be gorgeous. The lusty Roy immediately falls for this Chinese kung fu fighting beauty, but John isn’t into the idea. By the end of the movie you have learned: the importance of friendship; that love will conquer all; and that evil never wins. A confusing plot, but maybe that’s because I may have missed the most important part, the beginning. Also I spent a lot of time looking for my dad’s friend Steve who ultimately I spot in name only, in the credits:
Steve Fisher – Headwaiter.
“Maybe he was in the beginning of the movie,” I tell Dad, trying to hint to him the importance of being on time. I join Dad and Edgardo during the outtakes, a little disappointed because I didn’t get the boys’ names let alone their screen names.
I try to tell myself that they did look a little young.
Anyway, I pretty much liked the movie because it was funny, and I kinda know someone who’s in it. Overall, I give it 22 degrees.