What do celebrities really know about movies? Samuel L. Jackson, for one, demonstrates a good knowledge of recent Asian cinema with his selection of "favorite 10 New Classic Asian Films" from the past 25 years for Entertainment Weekly. The best part? He picks the type of popcorn action flicks that got me interested in Asian films in the first place.
A couple of his selections are easy to understand: John Woo's Hard Boiled and Ringo Lam's City on Fire are definite guns 'n' gangsters classics of late 80s / early 90s Hong Kong cinema. (Quentin Tarantino blatantly
stole borrowed from the latter for Reservoir Dogs.) Jackson also includes the great Infernal Affairs trilogy, directed by Andrew Lau and Alan Mak, a high water mark from 2002 / 2003 and later remade into the Academy Award-winning The Departed.
His Korean picks are Park Chan-Wook's diabolical, masterful Oldboy and the visually splendid, yet somewhat shallow Duelist, from 2005. Cut from the same cloth, he also endorsed Japanese swordplay dazzler Azumi by director Ryuhei Kitamura (The Midnight Meat Train), and demonstrated his fondness for strong directors by selecting two films by Takashi Miike, the well-known, chilling horror flick Audition and the much less known Yakuza pic Family, which I confess I haven't seen.
Rounding off his top 10, Jackson includes Zhang Yimou's martial arts buffet Hero (from China) and fighting / stunting / flying spectacular Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior (from Thailand and starring the recently-beleagured Tony Jaa). You could mock a couple of his choices, I suppose, but overall this is a very decent list. While it doesn't stray too far from a narrow view of Asian cinema, it looks like the man knows what he likes, and I have to respect that.