The Dinglehopper

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How to Do Action Comedy Like Jackie Chan

Each semester I go through my Film class rosters by asking each student to tell me the best movie they’ve seen this year. Invariably, the hot choice will be the latest superhero action or action comedy flick. It’s not surprising–they’re 16-years-old, after all–and these are the films that entertain them. Still, I often smile outwardly at their picks and shake my head inwardly, trying to figure out how I might elevate their taste and expectations for “great” films.

I have, more than once, turned to the illuminating videos done by Tony Zhou for just this purpose. I especially love his video on Edgar Wright’s visual comedy. Now he’s done a video on how to do action comedy, and I can’t wait to show my students when Winter Break ends.

I first encountered Jackie Chan in Rumble in the Bronx in 1995. His martial artistry and kinetic choreography just blew me away. I hadn’t really dipped my toes yet into the martial arts movie waters, but I knew I wanted to see more of Jackie Chan. I went on to Drunken Master and Drunken Master 2, both of which are action comedy gold. But I still didn’t really know what I was looking at. Nearly 20 years later, Tony Zhou has put his finger on what makes Chan’s movies, especially the Hong Kong-produced ones, superior to the action comedies of Hollywood.

What interested me especially is Zhou’s discussion of editing in fight scenes and that in Chan’s martial arts films, he breaks continuity editing rules, doubling back on the action just a little bit so that each punch can be seen in full to be viscerally effective.

To see the films’ titles as Zhou talks about them, turn on the CC feature.




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On David Fincher and What He Doesn’t Do

Gone-Girl-PosterWe have desires to see David Fincher’s new film Gone Girl, though we have not yet wrangled the time or babysitter to do so. Fincher has directed some of our favorite films, including Fight Club and The Social Network, and I hold him up as one of the greatest working directors. I shall quote him again with this filmmaking gem:

There’s potentially a hundred different ways to shoot something but at the end of the day there’s really only two, and one of them is wrong.

But sometimes it’s difficult to pinpoint what a director does to create the style and effects of their shots and overall film. That’s where a veteran film critic and analyst like Tony Zhou is so helpful.

I’m a fan of his Every Frame a Painting series, and this week he focused on Fincher’s ever more restrained directing hand. It is illuminating, as always.