TV

Lost: The Final Countdown: Blog 1

The first of many blogs about Lost. In this one I consider its place among the all-time great series.

So, there’s a show on ABC… I’m sure you’ve never heard of it… but it will be airing its final five episodes during the next month, and I figured that at least someone on the web should be writing about it.

In all seriousness, the prospect of writing about Lost is a daunting one, as so many people out there on other websites clearly devote more of their time and energy to this show than I ever possibly would be willing to. I love reading the Lost threads, though, because they are filled with that mixture of devotion, passion, and at times full-on craziness that exemplifies what I love about sci-fi and its fans. However you personally feel about Lost as a series – and, for what it’s worth, I think it is one of the most fascinating, enjoyable, compelling texts ever to grace my TV screen – you must admire its audacity. Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse have woven this impossibly dense mythos that they are now unwinding before our eyes… and it doesn’t suck.

That is where Lost has upped the ante on the majority of past sci-fi successes. Perhaps its closest comparison is with The X-Files, in terms of the creation of a series-long mythology that really, for the most part, drives the narrative. First, it should be noted that Lost stands above X-Files in that every episode is devoted to pushing this narrative, every episode brings us more clues, questions, and opportunities for confusion.

Unlike The X-Files, which gave usually five-eight episodes per season to the ongoing narrative and virtually ignored it in the others, Lost is full-on narrative, all the time. Of course, that “it doesn’t suck” part is also where these final seasons of Lost have risen above the final seasons of The X-Files. Even in the last full seasons with David Duchovny, the mythology episodes were wheezing pretty badly.

Lost has avoided all of that. And while we might complain that at times it missteps – that pair of models that suddenly turned up on the island a few years back, that “looks like somebody got her voice back” line in the most recent episode that made me audibly groan (and ruined one of the things in these final episodes that I was most looking forward to) – the fact that it still clearly holds most of its loyal viewers in its thrall is really impressive. When it is all said and done, no one will write off the entire final season as a disappointment, as many have done with other all-time greats like The Sopranos, Buffy, and even The Wire.

There is approximately a month left until the Lost finale, and during the next month I plan to blog frequently about the series. Soon I will post on the most recent episode, “The Last Recruit", which, while I am reading a lot of “eh” reviews on other sites, I absolutely loved; I also hope to try to look at Lost in this larger context, trying to determine its overall place in the pantheon of great TV shows… or at least trying to decide if, once it is all over, I will buy that sure-to-be-awesome Dharma Box containing all six seasons on Blu-ray.

And, if you got here because you have tagged Europe’s "The Final Countdown", here you go…

From drunken masters to rumbles in the Bronx, Jackie Chan's career is chock full of goofs and kicks. These ten films capture what makes Chan so magnetic.

Jackie Chan got his first film role way back in 1976, when a rival producer hired him for his obvious action prowess. Now, nearly 40 years later, he is more than a household name. He's a brand, a signature star with an equally recognizable onscreen persona. For many, he was their introduction into the world of Hong Kong cinema. For others, he's the goofy guy speaking broken English to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films.

From his grasp of physical comedy to his fearlessness in the face of certain death (until recently, Chan performed all of his own stunts) he's a one of a kind talent whose taken his abilities in directions both reasonable (charity work, political reform) and ridiculous (have your heard about his singing career?).

Now, Chan is back, bringing the latest installment in the long running Police Story franchise to Western shores (subtitled Lockdown, it's been around since 2013), and with it, a reminder of his multifaceted abilities. He's not just an actor. He's also a stunt coordinator and choreographer, a writer, a director, and most importantly, a ceaseless supporter of his country's cinema. With nearly four decades under his (black) belt, it's time to consider Chan's creative cannon. Below you will find our choices for the ten best pictures Jackie Chan's career, everything from the crazy to the classic. While he stuck to formula most of the time, no one made redundancy seem like original spectacle better than he.

Let's start with an oldie but goodie:

10. Operation Condor (Armour of God 2)

Two years after the final pre-Crystal Skull installment of the Indiana Jones films arrived in theaters, Chan was jumping on the adventurer/explorer bandwagon with this wonderful piece of movie mimicry. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Hong Kong movies ever made ($115 million, which translates to about $15 million American). Taking the character of Asian Hawk and turning him into more of a comedic figure would be the way in which Chan expanded his global reach, realizing that humor could help bring people to his otherwise over the top and carefully choreographed fight films -- and it's obviously worked.

9. Wheels on Meals

They are like the Three Stooges of Hong Kong action comedies, a combination so successful that it's amazing they never caught on around the world. Chan, along with director/writer/fight coordinator/actor Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, all met at the Peking Opera, where they studied martial arts and acrobatics. They then began making movies, including this hilarious romp involving a food truck, a mysterious woman, and lots of physical shtick. While some prefer their other collaborations (Project A, Lucky Stars), this is their most unabashedly silly and fun. Hung remains one of the most underrated directors in all of the genre.

8. Mr. Nice Guy
Sammo Hung is behind the lens again, this time dealing with Chan's genial chef and a missing mob tape. Basically, an investigative journalist films something she shouldn't, the footage gets mixed up with some of our heroes, and a collection of clever cat and mouse chases ensue. Perhaps one of the best sequences in all of Chan's career occurs in a mall, when a bunch of bad guys come calling to interrupt a cooking demonstration. Most fans have never seen the original film. When New Line picked it up for distribution, it made several editorial and creative cuts. A Japanese release contains the only unaltered version of the effort.

7. Who Am I?

Amnesia. An easy comedic concept, right? Well, leave it to our lead and collaborator Benny Chan (no relation) to take this idea and go crazy with it. The title refers to Chan's post-trauma illness, as well as the name given to him by natives who come across his confused persona. Soon, everyone is referring to our hero by the oddball moniker while major league action set pieces fly by. While Chan is clearly capable of dealing with the demands of physical comedy and slapstick, this is one of the rare occasions when the laughs come from character, not just chaos.

6. Rumble in the Bronx

For many, this was the movie that broke Chan into the US mainstream. Sure, before then, he was a favorite of film fans with access to a video store stocking his foreign titles, but this is the effort that got the attention of Joe and Jane Six Pack. Naturally, as they did with almost all his films, New Line reconfigured it for a domestic audience, and found itself with a huge hit on its hands. Chan purists prefer the original cut, including the cast voices sans dubbing. It was thanks to Rumble that Chan would go on to have a lengthy run in Tinseltown, including those annoying Rush Hour films.

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