On Hart Avenue in the heart of the hot Hong Kong shopping district of Tsim Sha Tsui, there’s a tiny noodle dive called Traditional Chinese Noodle that I ducked into one day for a quick lunch and to escape for a bit from the madness of the city's international film festival. I found quite possibly some of the best Chinese noodles to be had, complete with veggies, crab and a spicy broth, all for 28 Hong Kong dollars, about $3.50 US.
What I also found was Victor, my effusive 28-year-old waiter and a lover of all things American, particularly Hollywood films and flashy cars from Detroit. He knows the names of all 50 states, and I can attest that this was not just an idle boast. The car he covets is a gold Olds Cutlass.... Do they even come in gold? Regardless, that’s Victor’s dream.
As to movies, that is what he loves about America best and he assures me he loves all of them, or at least some parts of all that he has seen. But there are three he had to have for his personal collection.
First and most treasured is 1997’s “Good Will Hunting,” which Victor says made him a fan of Matt Damon, whose films he now tries to see as soon as they come to Hong Kong. Street-level, and totally unscientific, proof that there is box-office power in a name.
Second up is 2006's “The Lake House,” with one of his favorite stars, Keanu Reeves. Reeves was actually in Hong Kong a little more than a week ago conducting a master class on his documentary “Side by Side,” which has Reeves talking to filmmakers about the craft and digital versus traditional film. It was part of the wind-up for the Hong Kong festival, now in its 36th year. Confronted with the news that his idol had been in town and that he had missed him, Victor responded with a sigh and a shrug. He's a pragmatist. But I also suspect he's a romantic too, since "Lake House," which co-starred Sandra Bullock, is a mystery of star-crossed lovers and a very mystical mail delivery system at the house in question. It is mushy stuff.
And then there is No. 3, “Sugar & Spice,” a film I had to admit to Victor that I’m not familiar with — though the name certainly conjures up a few possibilities… No, no, no, he assured me, it’s about high school and cheerleaders and is “awesome.” A check of IMDB when I got back at my hotel proves that he’s at least right about the high school and cheerleaders.
"Sugar & Spice" landed in 2001, starred Marla Sokoloff, whom I remember from the David E. Kelley legal series “The Practice”; Marley Shelton, whom you may remember as Tobey Maguire’s teen heartthrob in “Pleasantville”; and Melissa George, one of Gabriel Byrne’s most seductive patients in the HBO series “In Treatment.” Now whether or not “Sugar & Spice” was “awesome,” I’m reserving judgment.
— Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times Film Critic, reporting from Hong Kong
Photo: Outside the Traditional Chinese Noodle shop. Victor is on delivery duty, though they assure me if I can make it back, he'll be happy to pose. Credit: Betsy Sharkey.