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Archive for April, 2012

The fallen angel's smile

In the story, Japan experiences serious economic downturn, which is evident by “the 15% unemployment” and “800,000 students boycotted school and juvenile crime rates soared”. Japan’s government is forced to pass the Battle Royale Act, whereby a set of students are dropped in an island with one goal: to kill each other until only one is alive.

Character and emotional depth

One reason why watch Asian films, particularly in Japan, Korea and India, is that it digs an abyssal emotional depth that their western counterpart can’t match. Like most Asian films, “Battle Royale” still have purity and innocence, even though it ironically celebrates violence.

But if there is a slight modification for improvement it would be to build more relationships of the characters at the start of the film. Show the lovers. Show the best friends. That way when you see a friend killed, or a friend running after you, waving pistol in air, it would be more gripping and heart-breaking. Besides, it wouldn’t be hard to set up that drill since the chosen participants are a high school class and not some random street kids plucked from the pavement.

Will this film make you cry? No, but it’s really sad. A boy arrives in an abandon warehouse, where a girl hides. The boy calls out her name but the girl panics and she shoots him. The boy is dying only to find out that he comes to confess his long silent love. It’s sweet. But sad. There’s even a group of girls getting killed for a misguided argument. You can really see how insanity corrupts even the most kind and cute person.

“Battle Royale” is based on a 1999 Japanese novel penned by Koushun Takami. Apart from film, it also has a manga version. On the film release of “Battle Royale”, it has been controversial on its idea of killing and has been banned on several countries. Nonetheless, it’s still considered as one of the  best film made in the decade. More information about their wiki page.

Nanahara retrieving a photo after seeing his best friend killed

Did it achieve its goal?

The Battle Royale Act was approved to warn and discipline the youngsters of their misdeeds. Unfortunately, this is the part where the film fails to show. At the start of the film, we see the winner of the recent batch of Battle Royale. The winner looks horrid and twisted. But if cut to the outside world, we don’t really see much violence in what the film is trying to show, only a teacher getting stabbed for fun and a father on a suicide but all of you will agree that isn’t enough. “A Clockword Orange” scenes would have been good sample for a teenage outrage.

You would think that this ridiculous violent act of forcing teenagers to kill other teenagers to at least make some impact to the outside world, but you never really see so. The film lacks visual elements to support its narrative ones. This makes me think that the whole Battle Royale is just put up to provide a cunning entertainment with no grounds. Although that is not what the film is trying to achieve, but it has certainly implied so.

Kitano, the proctor of the program, perceived as the ultimate villain

Battle Royale and its influence

After seeing films like “Inglorious Basterds” and “Kick Ass”, both films who are indebted to “Battle Royale”, it’s sad to admit that the former is more visually superior than the later, and has better narrative. After watching Battle Royale, although it’s already gory, I thought it was still conservative in showing flesh and blood, comparing it to the other films. Just as “Hunger Games” will be more popular than “Battle Royale”. To reiterate the old adage: “It’s sad but true”.

Addendum: Battle Royale and The Hunger Games

The hit movie blockbuster “The Hunger Games” (blog review) has been gravely compared to Battle Royale. Most Battle Royale fans say that “the Hunger Games” is no good, not new and just a ripped off of the former because of the following recurrent subjects: evil and corrupt government, and teenage killing. I won’t deny the similarities but I won’t also say that Hunger Games ripped off Battle Royale.

Suzanne Collins, author of the Hunger Games Trilogy, haven’t heard of “Battle Royale” until finishing her first book, and suffice to say she has a different sources of her inspiration. Besides, the idea of kids/teenagers killing each other for survival is not an eye opener.   We first heard it from a 1954 novel written by William Golding, “Lord of the Flies”, (blog review) at least as far as history can record. But that also can’t guarantee that it is the first story to tackle about cute little kids running around with spears. Who knows what stories have been told by our ancestors?  Not to mention “Battle Royale” has been rumored to pluck inspiration from “Lord of the Flies”. So originality is out of the context.

Original or copied, as long as the film looks fresh and/or entertaining, we couldn’t care less. Don’t you think?

IMdB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0266308/

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0p1t-dC7Ko&feature=related

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Jim McAllister sees one of his student after several years

Jim Macalister is a dedicated and renowned high school teacher, and couldn’t “imagine doing anything else”. Teaching is his life.  He is voted Teacher of the Year 3 times, as he humbly boasts as a “school record.” Due to several travesty leading to another and another, he will not be getting his fourth. On the bright side, the reason is also a school record.

Qualities
What’s different about this film is it compliments several main characters in the film. We get a first point of view narration from each of them, and these add up to the humor: “Dear God, thank you for all your blessings. You’ve given me so many things, like good health, nice parents, nice truck and what I’m told is a large penis.”  There’s also some ironical comedy, for instance, on one scene, a student says, “. . . do you think Tracy would be okay”? The teacher replies, “Don’t worry about Tracy. She’ll be fine.” Then we cut into Tracy crying in her room.

The film does produce good comedies, and even includes some obscenity, but it doesn’t undermine the message it’s trying give. And I must say, I liked how they revealed it. It’s not spoon-fed like the typical comedic drama flicks.

Tracy Flick

Paul Metzler

Tammy Metzler

The Election

Of course, the one that ruins Mr. Macalister is the school election. As days moved to the election, his life is getting out of hand, both his school and personal life. It all starts when Mr. Macalister encouraged Paul to run for Presidency against Tracy, the supposed to be “default” President since she is running unopposed beforehand. Then there is a conflict of interest when suddenly Paul’s sister, Tammy, runs for Presidency, with a platform of dismantling the student government, an idea that students praised so they wouldn’t be able to sit on “stupid assemblies” again.

Instead of one, there are three candidates: Tracy, the overachiever and the ambitious, Paul, the popular sports guy, and Tammy, the “real” high school student, a student that doesn’t really cares. Contrary to what you would expect, the candidates are not the one to ruin Mr. Macalister. It’s himself.

Ferris and Marlena (Spam paragraph)

Matthew Broderick plays Mr. Macalister and Reese Witherspoon plays Tracy. Looking back now, Broderick has grown older, though I can’t think of him as man without thinking of that carefree teenager on “Ferris Bueler’s Day Off”, a film that continuously breaks the fourth wall. Witherspoon then in this film looks so young, and it’s hard to believe that I watched her play Marlena on “Water for Elephants.”  Without a doubt, they have played their greatest performances in this film.

I just had to mention to their names. That’s what happens when you are emotionally attached.

Tracy driving really fast after doing something mischievous

Message

The message of the film are – I’m about to spoil it – multiple. What do you expect? We have multiple characters. The characters in the film are flawed, and at the end of the film, they remain flawed. These should make the moral easier to spot, but this is a different case. The multiple points of views have contrasting closure, giving you a hard time getting a universal moral. In the end, I ended up more having more than I expected.

Basically the film tells us that peace comes from forgiveness, success is not a measure of happiness, and high school love is too early for eternity, among others. But wait until you see how the film presents it.

 

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