Film

Norm!

Jodie Janella Horn

While not necessarily looking for a place where everybody -- including the busboy -- knows your name, Horn would like to locate a new drinking establishment that offers a sitcom-style sense of community.

In the year and a half that I've lived in Los Angeles I've struggled to find a bar to call my own. My exploits have taken on the tone of a bedtime story: "This bar is too hip. (Isn't that Adam Brody over there?) This bar is too scary. (I'm certain that man over there is considering how my head would look mounted on his wall.)" I have eliminated a few watering holes because they are too bright and too dark, too crowded and too sparse. All I really want is a place that's "just right". I want a Moe's to call my own.

The closest I have come to a new favorite watering hole is a neighborhood joint with atrociously loud music and bartenders that can barely stand due to the weight of their implanted bosoms. Each and every time I visit my adopted joint, AM or PM, any day of the week, the same man is there. Let's call him "Tiny Busboy". He's employed by my new local hipster diner, and every time I see him, he hits on me. I explain to him that I am married, and then point to my husband sitting next to me. Hubby just smiles and waves obligingly.

It's become a strange ritual that Tiny Busboy and I indulge. He has repeatedly informed me that he's been promoted from busboy status and is now some sort of electrician, which in turn somehow involves contact with the show biz elite. Still every time I visit, he's right there bringing out those dandy origami boats full of fries. By virtue of not knowing my name, he shouldn't be making me reminiscent for the Cheers-like regular bar I've never had, but he does.

I'm not a huge fan of How I Met Your Mother, a first-year sitcom starring Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Willow (Alyson Hannigan) and Doogie Howsie, M.D. (Neil Patrick Harris), and yet, I watch it every week. The premise to the program is that, via flashbacks, Daddy Ted (Josh Radnor) unravels for his children the story of how he met their mother (thus the title). Willow plays Ted's incipient sister-in-law and Doogie his "wacky" friend. Despite the voiceover from the future, most of the exposition and plot development occurs via witty banter between the five main characters at their favorite local drinking establishment.

They seemingly meet there every week, right after work, just to tell the trite story of Ted's most recent date — complete with comedic punch-ups from Willow (playing a beer and sex soaked school teacher) and Doogie, as a crude mash-up of Joey Tribbiani, the Fonz, and Vinnie Delpino. The show has its moments, but its pull for me is not the jokes, characters, or story. It's the fact that these big-city people have found a way to replicate rural familiarity with their friends and neighbors in a bar.

Grey's Anatomy, another freshman show, tells the soapy travails of a crew of first-year surgical interns at a Seattle Hospital. Though the characters all work together, and many of them share a house, they still have the Emerald City Bar to host their most personal dramas. Much of the show's action revolves around a pair of romances between female interns and male supervising surgeons. Because the power balance is shifted towards the men while the characters are at the hospital, another location was needed so the star-crossed lovers could interact as equals and the interns could communicate amongst themselves without the competitive air of the hospital. The writers of Grey's Anatomy have even written in a recurring role of Joe the bartender, played by none other than Fox's struggling actor cum reality star, the Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancé. When Joe fell ill, the doctors banded together to save him and help him cover the cost of his hospital stay. They all knew that they needed that bartender to keep a workplace drama personal. Thanks to Joe, the characters are not just people who have to work together, they're people who chose to hang out together and form a vital little community in the process.

Community, loosely defined as a group of people who look out for one another, is the backbone of all sitcoms. It can be a family or the gang over at the workplace, even a self-selected clan of friends. The latter set-up does require however a common environment for the characters to interact within since there isn't just one jobsite or home for all of them to convene in. Sitcom budgets usually preclude building a home set for each recurring character. That's why The Drew Carey Show had the Warsaw Tavern, Friends had the Central Perk, and Cheers had, well, Cheers. This third variety of set creates neutral territory where no character has the advantage, which levels the playing field

Now every family sitcom has one of those nutty non-family member characters: Skippy on Family Ties, Kimmy Gibbler on Full House, Vinnie Delpino on Doogie Howser, M.D., Steve Urkle on Family Matters, and Six on Blossom to name just a few. These showboating sidekicks are generally obnoxious and unappreciated by their own kind (family, friends), so they trek next door to find acceptance. Sure, they are still belittled, but perhaps it's a little less abusively. Sitcoms revolving around friends functioning as family are essentially a congregation of all the repellant little next-door brats, spicing up situations while trying to find a new adoptive family to host their degradation. And what better place to hold a good ol' fashioned ribbing than a food and/or beverage establishment?

I live in a huge city. My friends and I have all come from somewhere else to join Los Angeles and its overwhelming rank of wannabes. We've left the familiarity of our hometowns and we come together, first to enjoy one another's company, and secondly to replicate the glaring love of our families via shared insults and humiliations. Some people will always belong (say, by way of religion) but my clan of godless aspiring musicians, actors, and writers has only each other and our bar to tie us together. It is somehow reassuring to know that even if the sky is crashing down upon us, my Tiny Busboy will still suggestively offer me a drink, forgetting again that I'm already married. And then, my husband will mock me relentlessly for being the kind of girl that the Tiny Busboy always hits on repeatedly. Cue laugh track. Fade to commercial.

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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