Saturday, June 27, 2015

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Valley of the Dinosaurs: "S.O.S." (November 9, 1974)

In “S.O.S.,” the valley of the dinosaurs has suffered from a month-long drought and is drying up. Animals are dying, or leaving the area. And the drought means no food to eat for Gorak’s family, and the Butlers. 

Mr. Butler comes up with the idea of creating a damn, and driving water from an underground spring into the lagoon.  The idea is promptly accepted by Gorak, but Tana arrives during work on the project and reports that she has seen a strange flying bird in the sky.

This bird, the Butlers realize, is a plane…a modern airliner flying over the valley!  Although the dam needs to be complete before the next storm hits, the Butlers stop aiding Gorak’s family on this project and instead attempt to contact the plane, which passes overhead every day at approximately 2:00 pm.

Katie retrieves the Butlers’ electronic equipment from their raft during a dangerous dive to the bottom of Black Lagoon, and Mr. Butler goes about building a transmitter tower.  Greg and Katie also use giant white clam shells to spell out the letters S.O.S on the ground, in hopes that the message will be seen.

Meanwhile, Gorak and his family labor to finish the dam in time. But the work is too difficult for three adults.

The storm hits the Valley of the Dinosaurs, just as the plane is due.  John attempts to contact it, and the plane picks up a signal and investigates.  But working on the dam, Gorak is badly injured.  A tree falls on him, and he can’t free himself.

Now the Butlers must make a choice. Continue to defend the transmitter from the storm (and from a curious but destructive Pteranadon) or give up the dream of going home and save Gorak from certain death…

“S.O.S” is a compelling and fast-paced episode of the 1974 CBS Saturday morning cartoon, Valley of the Dinosaurs.  The story has one overall theme: United we stand; divided we fall. 

In particular, a crisis in the Valley occurs at the precise time the Butlers have a shot at returning home to twentieth century civilization.

Faced with the opportunity of a return home the Butlers promptly turn their backs on the problems of the valley, devoting all their energies and time towards contacting a passing plane.  The Gorak family doesn’t complain or object, but is left to finish the impossible work of constructing a dam before a hurricane hits.  At the end of the story, the Butlers abandon hopes of escape, and run to save Gorak. 

John notes that his family made a mistake, and should have stopped working on its own task to help Gorak’s family.  “We’re in this together,” he acknowledges.

In the words of the episode, “S.O.S.” is also about “the importance of friendship.” The Butlers are distracted by their understandable desire to return home, but when Gorak is hurt, they help him without question, without recrimination.  Gorak apologizes to them for preventing their rescue, but they note, accurately, that he was not responsible. 

All in all “S.O.S.” is a strong episode in the canon, and it concerns the necessity of pulling together in times of crisis, and devoting resources where they are needed to help everybody, not just a few.

The episode also commences with a good long look at a Triceratops named Old Three Horn and a stegosaurus having a battle with one another. These dinosaurs look more “authentic” to research of the time, than many of the fantastic looking prehistoric creations seen thus far on Valley of the Dinosaurs.

If I were to rank the episodes I’ve seen so far of this series, “S.O.S.” would be at the top of the list, because of the dynamic character interaction, and the surprise arrival of a 20th century air-liner in the skies of the Valley of the Dinosaurs. 

I had forgotten about this story, and didn’t realize there was a tale in the canon in which the Butlers had to choose between rescue and helping Gorak’s clan.

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: ElectraWoman and DynaGirl: "The Sorcerer's Golden Trick" (September 11, 1976)

In “The Sorcerer's Golden Trick” Lori (Deidre Hall) and Judy (Judy Srangis) are set to interview music sensation Colorado Johnson when they get news from a nearby maximum security prison that the evil villain called The Sorcerer (Michael Constantine) has escaped.

Now teamed with his assistant, Miss Dazzle (Susan Lanier), the Sorcerer breaks through Crime Scope’s frequency and informs the crime-fighting duo that he intends to steal all the gold from Fort Knox.  And he will tolerate no interference from the “voltage vixens.”

ElectraWoman and DynaGirl attempt to stop the Sorcerer, but he traps them in a cage, and forces them into a confrontation with a man-eating tiger.  The heroes survive both and use the Electroplane to stop the Sorcerer at Fort Knox…

The first episode of the 1976 Sid and Marty Krofft series ElectraWoman and DynaGirl reveals the superhero series’ huge creative debt to the Adam West/Burt Ward Batman, as well as, intriguingly, to James Bond, 007.

On the first front, we get cockeyed angles galore here, and a scenery-chewing “celebrity” villain in colorful costume…all mainstays of Batman (1966 – 1968).

On the second front, the Sorcerer in this episode decides to use the plot from Goldfinger (1964): a heist in Fort Knox.  The movie is a bit more in impressive in terms of production design than “The Sorcerer” is, for sure.  Here, a disco-ball is a major prop, for example. The Sorcerer uses it to hypnotize victims.  Also, we see a really bad miniature, at one point, of Fort Knox.

Another weak visualization in “The Sorcerer's Golden Trick” involves the tiger that poses a theat.  The Sorcerer calls it “ferocious,” but it mostly looks sleepy.

Still, there a few neat ideas here.  The Sorcerer never actually takes the gold in Fort Knox.  He just uses light and mirrors to make it appear as though the gold has disappeared.  We never learn how he plans to take it out of the Fort, but it’s a cool idea that his powers and plans are all based on utilizing illusion.

Secondly, there’s a cheap but effective visual here that is oft-repeated.  When heading down into the ElectroBase by elevator, the effects crew simply shines a light “box” at the top of the set, and follows it to ground level. When it reaches that level, the doors open, and our heroes arrive.  Yes, it’s cheap, but it visually conveys the sense that the elevator is carrying EW and DG to their base, traversing a long passageway.

Unfortunately, there’s very little logic to “The Sorcerer's Golden Trick”  The episode begins with The Sorcerer using only his powers (and no instrumentation) to break out of his maximum security prison cell. The episode ends with ElectraWoman and DynaGirl satisfied that he is back in that cell, where he belongs.

What prevents him from performing the same trick twice, and escaping another time?

The short answer: nothing. 

In a few weeks, The Sorcerer returns in an episode titled “Return of the Sorcerer.”

Next up in the canon (in two weeks): "Glitter Rock."

Friday, June 26, 2015

Found Footage Friday: Mr. Jones (2013)

Mr. Jones (2013) is a legitimate found-footage gem that -- despite being imaginative and well-made -- has earned negative reviews from critics and users alike. 

Most of the venom directed at the film involves the third act, which serves as the horror movie equivalent of the climactic “star gate” sequence in Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). To wit: it goes on for a very long time, and is avant garde in terms of visualization. 

For the impatient among us, I suppose, it may prove vexing.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, however, I found Mr. Jones highly intriguing, and at times, genuinely frightening.

It’s a horror film (and found footage film) that doesn’t rely on a body count to thrill or terrify, and, oppositely, creates a genuine and pervasive atmosphere of dread.  This is a movie in which -- by the half-way point -- you will feel that there is something wrong or off-kilter with reality itself; that the universe has been suffused with forces both dark and sinister.

Commendably, Mr. Jones also seems to be a commentary on creativity, and of the importance of finding your purpose in the world. That purpose may not be what you propose or desire, but that doesn’t mean you can avoid it, either. 

Art -- and the work of one artist in particular -- plays an important role in the film’s narrative, for instance.

I’ve watched so many found footage movies lately, and Mr. Jones, because of such unusual and cerebral touches, ascends to the top tier of the genre. 

The film suggests, to quote John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness (1987), that there is an order to the universe…but it is not at all what we had in mind.

“You have no idea what these things do to your mind.”

Scott (Jon Foster) and Penny (Sarah Jones) quit their jobs, sell their belongings and move out to a house in the wilderness, in the middle of nowhere.  

There, Scott hopes to fulfill his dream of making a nature documentary.  But there’s another reason for the move too. Scott and Penny’s relationship has been failing, and this re-boot could be their last chance.

Fifty one days later, Scott is depressed, unable to create his film, and Penny has grown impatient with him, especially because she has given up her career as a photographer to support his dream.

Then, one day, Scott discovers a house nearby, practically hidden from sight. Inside the dilapidated home is a vast basement workshop, and a bizarre art gallery of creepy scarecrows.  Upon seeing this, Penny realizes immediately that they have found the reclusive and world-famous artist, known only as Mr. Jones (Mark Steger).

Scott and Penny immediately hatch plans to make a documentary about their hermit neighbor, and Scott heads to New York to interview several experts in the art and anthropology worlds about Jones’ strange “totem”-like works of art. 

However, one man who received a scarecrow in the mail (Ethan Sawyer) delivers an unequivocal warning to Scott: “Don’t try to track down his work. Don’t look for him.  Don’t speak to him.  If he comes near you, run…”

Meanwhile, all alone in the cabin in the wild, Penny has her first close-up encounter with Mr. Jones…

“He’s doing something to us.  I wish we hadn’t gone down there.”

The leitmotif underlining Mr. Jones is that art (and indeed, the artist) must have a purpose, and must fulfill that purpose.  

Scott is an aimless, depressed would-be artist in the film. He dreams of making a nature documentary, but when he gets the chance, can’t rouse himself to do it.  Even though his best friend and the love of his life has put everything on the line to support him and his art.

The idea here is, naturally -- and truthfully -- that it is a lot easier to talk about being an artist than to actually create art. 

Creating art takes hard work, dedication, and sometimes grueling self-discipline too.  Scott wants to be famous, or successful, but he may not possess the temperament to be an artist, and as the film develops, we see that is indeed so.  His destiny, his very purpose, may involve art, but not in the way he anticipates or hopes.

By contrast, Mr. Jones is the real deal. 

This strange, reclusive man in a hood works not for money, celebrity or success, but for a deliberate purpose. As the movie explains, Mr. Jones’ art may possess a very practical, meaningful purpose in terms of reality itself.  His scarecrows or totems may be the very thing that keep the Other World, or the Dream World, from flooding into our own dimension.  

Where some people view Mr. Jones' art with terror, others see it as pro-social and necessary, protecting reality itself from invasion or subversion.   Certainly, like the very best art ever created, Mr. Jones’ totems impact those who see them.  They change lives, they change destinies.

The movie’s central question, of course, involves the nature of those changes.  Are they for good or evil? Do the scarecrows terrorize people, as the scared recipient quoted above so abundantly believes?  Or do they help awaken people to a new reality, existing side-by-side our own? 

As you may be able to detect from my description, there’s a Lovecraftian quality to the film’s narrative, but more than that, even, Mr. Jones is about finding your purpose and fulfilling it. The hard truth is that not everyone has the temperament to be an artist, let alone a successful one.  Scott learns this, and, by film’s end, steps into a different (though related…) set of shoes.

Mr. Jones’ forges its story through a series of talking-head interviews that are surprisingly well-acted and well-presented. The talking heads involved (the curators, the anthropologists, etc.) debate Mr. Jones and his identity.  

Is he a mental patient? Is he a death-row inmate” Is he a dentist? A house wife in Ohio?  The answer is never given, but the point is subtly made. You must look for answers about Mr. Jones and his identity not in matters of personal biography, but in the text -- in the very body and shape -- of his various art works.

The last third of the film showcases what occurs when Mr. Jones is no longer around to guard the portal between the Waking World and the Dreaming World, and for some, this is apparently the point where the film goes off the rails.  

Scott, much like the scared recipient, begins to see a version of himself (with a camera) constantly chasing him, filming him.  It is a nightmare he cannot awake from, but one that he must beat back, must set right. The whole world goes woozy in this segment of Mr. Jones,  portrayed as a twisted surreal nightmare, a night that lasts for days in defiance of the Laws of Physics. 

In this nightmare world, Scott must complete what seems a relatively easy mission (the return of a totem to an underground altar), but it takes him what seems like eternity to do it. You can either get frustrated with this fact, or accept the notion that the film carefully puts forward, that the Dream World moves according to its own rules.  

Have you ever had a dream that you can’t awake from, in which you are trying to accomplish something, but can never quite do it?  

The third act of Mr. Jones explores that concept. And it does so at length. In doing so, the film creates tension and frustration, but also feelings of helplessness and even paralysis.

I was willing to go with the flow, if you will, and let Mr. Jones work its dreamy, trance-like spell on me.  That’s the contract we make, really, with movies, especially those of the horror film variety.  We pay our money, and then the movie (a work of art) shares us its vision. It is incumbent, I think, for us to meet that vision half-way, or at least with an open heart.

The first half of Mr. Jones tells us a somewhat typical, but well-executed found footage style narrative (right down to some very successful jump scares), but the last half stretches for greatness, taking a camera of the real world into the terrain of the dream world. I credit the film’s writer/director, Karl Mueller with a terrific ambition, coupled with a muscular sense of visual imagination.  I loved, for instance, how he uses light and dark, and the spaces between. If Mueller made any  misstep at all, it was, perhaps, one of pacing; of letting the final act endure two or three minutes longer than was, finally, necessary for reader's to put together the pieces of the puzzle.

So many found-footage movies are content to repeat and recycle tiresome formula, and eschew ambition, whereas Mr. Jones attempts to expand the genre's playing field.  I would judge the experiment a success, especially in terms of overall mood or atmosphere.  The movie not only captured my attention, it legitimately unnerved me.

Mr. Jones, much as Penny describes the titular artist's works of art, really needs to be seen in the dark.  

"It's like the air is vibrating..."

Movie Trailer: Mr. Jones

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Tribute: Patrick Macnee (1922 - 2015)

I have been writing far too many posts like this lately.

The press is now reporting that the great and dignified Patrick Macnee has passed away at the age of 93.

For generations, Mr. Macnee has been a staple of science fiction and television.  He is most well-known for playing John Steed in The Avengers (1961 - 1969) and The New Avengers (1976-1977). 

Mr Macnee's performances in that role have made him an icon in the genre. He cut a dashing figure, and helped to launch the spy/secret agent craze of the sixties.

But, that one role doesn't tell the whole story of Macnee's career, either. 

Mr. Macnee had significant guest-starring roles on series such as The Twilight Zone ("Judgment Night,") One Step Beyond ("Night of April 14") and Rod Serling's Night Gallery ("Logoda's Heads").   

Sci-fans also love him for his vocal performances on Battlestar Galactica as the Cylon's Imperious Leader, and for his turn as the devilish Count Iblis in the two-parter "War of the Gods."

In the 1990s, Macnee appeared on the pilot of Glen A. Larson's  superhero series Nightman (1997 - 1999).

Macnee was always a welcome presence in horror films as well, appearing in such classics as Joe Dante's The Howling (1981) and 1988's pastiche, Waxworks.

In 1985, Macnee followed fellow Avengers stars Diana Rigg and Honor Blackman by appearing in a James Bond film.  He co-starred with Roger Moore in A View to a Kill (1985). And in This is Spinal Tap (1984), he was Sir Eton Hogg, head of Polymer Recrods.

The thought of losing Patrick Macnee the same one week duration, essentially, as Christopher Lee and James Horner is too much to bear. I have always admired Macnee's performances because he could play refined and urbane...or absolutely diabolical.

Now those performances -- the yin and yang of Patrick Macnee -- will exist for future generations to discover and admire, making the actor as immortal as John Steed is.

Cult-Movie Review: Battle Royale (2000)

The dystopian sub-genre in the science fiction cinema has long held a fascination -- even obsession -- with bloody games, or contests.

Remember The Tenth Victim (1965) about a game of murder and assassination for the jet-set?

Or the twin demolition derby dystopian movies of 1975: Rollerball and Death Race 2000?

In the eighties, we had fare such as The Running Game (1987), which mocked American TV and game shows, and this century has given us The Hunger Games (2012), a franchise that endures even as I write this review.

Battle Royale (2000), based on the novel by Koushun Takami, follows in this familiar tradition, but also stems from a specific, Japanese cultural and historical context. 

From 1996 to 1999, juvenile crime in Japan spiked. According to The New York Times, the “fastest growing criminal category” in Japan at that time involved minors. In one decade, the number of violent crimes committed by juveniles doubled.

The stories of these turn-of-the-century youth crimes were shocking to the nation, and remain so to this day. In 1997, in Kobe, for example, a 14-year old boy decapitated an eleven-year old boy, and clubbed a ten year old girl to death. In Yamaguchi during the same span, a minor strangled and killed a mother and baby.

The reasons behind this uptick in youth crime are numerous. 

Some scholars point to a weak national economy, which offered too few jobs to young people finishing school. We've all heard or read references to Japan's "lost decade."

Others cast a light on the social aspects of the culture, like the drop-out rate, and the push (via “juku” or “cram” school) to compete for academic/economic success. That intense competition -- which sometimes saw students attending school programs from early morning to nearly midnight -- kept children from being at home with their families. The same article I quoted above observes that, in particular, children were cut from spending time with their fathers.  The absence of present, engaged fathers, was -- and remains -- a catastrophe in many places around the world, including this country.

So, to put a fine point on it, economic success was prized more highly than family time in the Japanese culture during this period (the same period, incidentally, that gave rise to Ringu [1998]).  A whole generation, it seemed, as a result, lost faith in the future, and their place in it.

In response the youth crime wave, new, draconian laws were proposed to address it. For example, it was suggested that there would be an increased detention period for juvenile offenders, and that the age in which they could appear in criminal court would be lowered from 16 to 14.

All of this information and history is necessary back-story, in a sense, if one hopes to make sense of Kinji Fukasaku’s ultra-violent film, Battle Royale.  

The film depicts a few-days-in-the-future Japanese society in which children are out-of-control and violent, but where, ultimately, the adults are responsible for the worsening situation because of the laws they have imposed. 

In the fictional Japan of the film, specifically, a BR (Battle Royale) law (or Millennium Education Reform Act) has been enacted. It states that troublesome students can be removed from their school rooms and remanded to a remote island, where they will kill each other in a contest over a three day span.

Only the last survivor will return home. Explosive collars make certain that this is the case, as do rotating “danger zones.” 

The lord of this deadly game is a teacher Kitano (Takeshi Kitano) who was once stabbed by a wayward student, and now, out of spite and hatred, sentences students to untimely, monstrous deaths.

Battle Royale follows one classroom of kids as they are taken to the island and must compete to there, against one another, to survive.  

The action on that island is brutal, monstrous, and bracing.  

However, as in many films of this type (see: The Last House on the Left [1972]) there is a pro-social meaning underlining the violence. In this case, we are asked to reckon with the savagery and the barbarism of the students on the island...much as newspaper readers in 1997 would encounter the savagery of the crimes I tallied above. 

But then, the film goes a step further, and asks audiences to reckon with the idea that the cure -- a crueler, less sympathetic and more violent society -- is worse than the disease itself.

To put the matter another way, Battle Royale reminds us that youngsters may be violent if they lose hope, or are abandoned by society and family. 

But the real monster here is that society which made this world for them: one of no hope, no escape, and no love. It is a society whose primary lesson is be the best or you have fail. Kill or be killed. And take no prisoners in your quest to be number one.

“Nothing is against the rules.”

At the start of the new Millennium, Japan suffers an economic depression. There is 15 percent unemployment, ten million people out of work, and rising violence, especially among the country's youth. 800,000 students boycott the Millennium Education Reform Act, which has been crafted to address the uptick in crime.

Each year, under the new law, troublesome students in a random class are taken from their school and transported to an inhospitable island. There, they will fight to the death, until only one student remains.  

This year, class 3-B has been chosen, according to game-master Kitano.

Among those abducted for the fight are the gentle Noriko (Aki Maeda) and a young man, Shuya Nanahara (Tatsuya Fujiwara) whose father recently committed suicide, all but leaving him alone in the world. 

In the course of the games, Shuya seeks to protect Noriko, and and also team-up with a former game-winner, the mysterious Kawada (Taro Yamamoto), to survive the extreme violence.

But alliances are neither encouraged nor allowed here, which means that everyone is constant danger, even from those they trust most.  

And worse, some students take glee and pride in their pursuit of murder.

“How can you all kill each other so easily?”

Battle Royale (2000) succeeds on several thematic and literal fronts. In the first case, the film is a blistering action film, one totally lacking in political correctness or decorum. Here, school age kids commit murder and die bloodily.  Innocent youngsters, I should add, are hunted and killed without remorse.  Some beg for their lives, and are killed anyway.

Again, there’s a reason for this level of unadulterated violence: it rocks us back on our heels and shocks our sensibilities.  The violence must be edgy, must push the envelope, or the movie's point doesn't transmit.

In America, this approach likely would not fly. For instance, I can recall the late movie critic Gene Siskel giving James Cameron’s Aliens (1986) a thumbs-down review because it often put a child (Newt) in direct danger.  

Imagine what Mr. Siskel would have made of Battle Royale, in which children kill one another viciously and graphically on camera.

Again, however, there is a thematic point.  The violence -- and the blunt, indecorous nature of the violence -- shocks the system.  These are little more than children, as you can see from the photos accompanying this post.  

But they are drenched in blood, surrounded by death. Witnessing this violence here, as I noted above, is akin to reading about or countenancing some of the violent youth crimes conducted 1996 - 1999. The brutal, taboo-shattering nature of the violence makes us wonder, how is this possible? 

How has society gone so wrong that the youngest among us think that it is acceptable to act so violently, and without thought?

Putting aside the in-your-face aspect of the violence it often depicts, Battle Royale is brilliantly-staged and filmed, with the violence being timed and shot for the most dramatic and visceral impact.  

At times the violence is so over-the-top and intense that you may be tempted to let out a nervous giggle. It's discomforting.

And that nervous giggle, in a sense, is the key to the film’s satirical argument.  

Specifically, Battle Royale operates, at least on one level, as a metaphor for the pressure-cooker that students face in Japan, with juku and relentless study. They must metaphorically slay their classmates every day to achieve success academically and economically, and this means beating everyone, even their friends.  

No alliances will get them to first place in school, or to the best job academically.  They must show no mercy, no quarter in their rise to the top. Gazing at Battle Royale’s violence, it can be interpreted as a literal representation of Japan’s academic regime.  Here there is no prize for second place. Yet thousands of students are competing…for slot one. Felow students aren't friends.  They are enemies to be dispatched.

Even the explosive collar seems to be a comment on the rigorous academic competition of students in Japan's schools.  They may not slay others successfully, but there’s always a risk their heads will blow-off from all the pressure of cramming…

Much more intriguing to me, however, is the serious (rather than satirical) social commentary laced throughout the film’s text.  

In Battle Royale, we encounter a society that fears youth violence, so what does it do?

It rewards successful violence. It breeds violence. The problem, as noted above, is an outbreak of juvenile crime, but the Millennium Education Reform Act only ensures that students become more adept, more skilled in their use of violence.  

Consider this fact: any class can be picked, any year. So it becomes incumbent upon a student to prepare -- cram? -- to survive in the event his or her class is picked. After a few years, students will be cramming not in academic subjects, but in the art of dealing death.  The law only encourages one to become a cold-hearted killer.

The purpose of rehabilitation or reform in Japan is “shokuzaikan,” the insight to view your crimes in a new, empathetic light.  You must look at who you hurt, and why your hurt them, for example. What was the impact, on a human level? On a personal one?  On a societal level?

The Battle Royale in the film doesn’t achieve that end of self-awareness or reckoning...even in the slightest.  =Instead, it encourages blood-thirstiness, a kill-or-be-killed attitude that puts self-survival and success above all else. 

In this case, the film's “bad father” figure, Kitano embraces a system which creates additional student assassins, much like the one who stabbed him in the first place.

Indeed, the direct result of the battle/contest featured in the film is that he is assassinated by students who, before the games, would not have come after him. They would not have imagined hurting, let alone murdering him.

On a broad scale, then, what Battle Royale concerns is the idea that tougher laws -- heartless laws -- can never make better people, only meaner, more cut-throat ones. 

The idea with criminal reform is to make the criminal pay his or her debt to society, and then make him or her better able to return and function normally in society.  

At the end of Battle Royale, by contrast, two students become criminals. Outside the game experience they would never have been criminals.  We last see these protagonists in a major city, on the run, trusting no one but each other.  In this case, clearly, the draconian law has backfired.  It has made the law-abiding youth of Japan unable to trust, unable to join society.  They have cashed in their chips, and signed out of the culture. Permanently.

Indeed, a key line in the film states “I’ve never really trusted adults,” and that’s because, in the film;s fictitious world, the adults have responded to a problem not by making it better, not by examining its root causes, but by making it infinitely worse.  The laws to crack down on teen violence have only made teen violence necessary.

There is also, unusually, hope in the film. 

Shuya remains an open, hopeful character, despite all the tragedy that life has thrown at him.  He knows he will be punished for making allies with other students, and yet he seeks and honors those alliances because he knows it is the right thing to do. Inside of isolating himself from others, he responds by reaching out.  That is a real sign of strength.

I don’t feel -- as some do -- that The Hunger Games (2012) is a straight-up rip-off of Battle Royale. But I do believe that the popular American franchise appropriates the Japanese story’s ending, which is that the “stupid system” is defeated, specifically, by disobeying rules about the contestants working together, building alliance.  That is a constant in both films, but Battle Royale handles the concept better.

I applaud Battle Royale for gazing at this idea with such clarity.

Another line in the film also resonates: “If you hate someone, then you have to live with the consequences.” 

That is so true. The film's Millennium Education Reform Act came out of fear and hate, and then built a larger culture of fear and hate, one that would swallow the next generation of Japanese youngsters.

My closing thought about Battle Royale?  

To quote a survivor of the battle to the death, “it’s beautiful…even though it’s where everybody died.”

Movie Trailer: Battle Royale (2000)