I'm definitely late to the game on this one, but as you all probably already know, Jackie Chan won an honorary Oscar back in November and I could not be happier for the guy. Not only was Jackie Chan a staple of Hong Kong cinema during its golden ages, he was also one of the strongest forces when it came to representing Asian cinema on an international level. The art house crowd notwithstanding, most people probably got their first exposure to Asian cinema through the kung fu genre. Jackie Chan defined this genre in a very specific way, and more importantly, made it accessible to a broad Western audience. I won't go into the impact that this had on Hollywood cinema as a whole, as the fact that the Academy handed him this award already says it all.
Reflecting back on his career, I still think that the Rush Hour franchise is his crowning achievement in Hollywood. The third one was definitely more tired than it should've been, but you have Jackie Chan combining the two things he does best: comedy and action. It's probably closest to the kind of kinetic and fun energy you get from his (earlier) Hong Kong films, and all 3 are unapologetically entertaining. I also don't care what anyone says, the combination of Chan + Tucker will never lose its charm.
When it comes to his work in Asia, I'll quickly reflect on two films: Police Story and Shinjuku Incident. Ask me what my favourite Jackie Chan film is, and I'll quickly answer Police Story. The concept of Chan doing his own stunts, being a king of slapstick comedy and surprisingly dramatic as an actor - Police Story paints all this out in its finest form. You even get a sampling of Chan's vocal sensibilities, which (unfortunately?) is also a staple of his artistic career. With Shinjuku Incident, you have the first non-action Jackie Chan movie (cameos not included) and although I have my qualms about this film, this is the closest you'll get to seeing him as an 'actor', and not just an action movie star.
On the subject of his more recent efforts, I unfortunately have to set a slightly different tone here. When is Jackie Chan gonna start making good films again? Having already established that I am a huge fan, I'll continue to watch his films, but it's become increasing difficult to champion his recent work. Go through his filmography since 2010 and you'll agree with me that things are not that pretty. I won't go into a listing rant, but it's been a long while since I've walked out of a Jackie Chan movie with a true sense of adoration. I mean, even the latest Police Story movie couldn't do it. In fact, that's probably a bad example because it was such a terrible movie. But I'm really just being critical here, and this paragraph has no bearing on what I think about Jackie Chan or whether I'll continue to watch his movies. The answer is yes.
Now going back to the Oscar, there's no doubt that he deserves the recognition and accolade. You can complain about how most of his Hollywood roles played to stereotypes, and I'm not trying to defend stereotyping in cinema, but Jackie Chan was never trying to be an 'Asian American actor'. He knew he was brought to Hollywood purely as an 'Asian actor', who was meant to serve a broad purpose in his films. And to that end, he was extremely successful. All this is to say that Jackie Chan's accomplishments as an artist and all-in-all ambassador of Asian cinema should never be understated. Fans of Asian cinema don't need to be told this, and with the Academy presenting him this award, everyone else now knows too.