Monday, December 27, 2004

.:Today's LSS:.



... Don't ask.

Can We Still Be Friends
by Mandy Moore

We can’t play this game anymore
But can we still be friends
Things just can’t go on like before
But can we still be friends
We had something to learn
Now it’s time for the wheel to turn
Grains of sand, one by one
Before you know it, all gone

Let’s admit we made a mistake
But can we still be friends
Heartbreak’s never easy to take
But can we still be friends
It’s a strange, sad affair
Sometimes seems like we just don’t care
Don’t waste time feeling hurt
We’ve been through hell together

Can we still get together sometime
You know life will still go on and on and on

We awoke from our dream
Things are not always what they seem
Memories linger on
It’s like a sweet, sad old song?


A friend asked me to play an hour's worth of "Cheating" songs for her. I couldn't find a full hour's worth, but I still played a few of them...

1. Dear Lie - TLC
2. I Don't Wanna Know - Mario Winans
3. Questions - Tamia
4. Confessions Part II - Usher
5. Who's Loving My Baby - Shola Ama

Ah, well.

.:On Escape:.

I still haven't figured out how to go about the Levinas thing, really. Currently, I feel the need to talk about the inputs we had in class, and how significant they have been to me, to say the least.


Each hour of my boardwork last Christmas eve followed a specific theme. First hour was heartbreak songs, second hour was always and forever love songs, and third hour were songs that had titles that were exactly three words long. Aside from that, nothing of significance happened during my boardwork, save for the fact that I was practically being an anchor back there because Jean and I did a good chunk of the show together. It was interesting, really...

.:Bah, Humbug:.

I'm such a Scrooge. Christmas really holds little appeal to me on my own, but is the perfect opportunity for me to make the people I care about happy. Christmas simply does nothing for me, but so many things for everyone I care about, and for that, I'm thankful enough. Nothing of interest happened to me this Christmas. Nothing.

.:The Reviews:.

... Will have to wait. Aside from the fact that I feel quite lazy today, I just bought Battle Royale II yesterday, which means I want to review both films as a singular entity. I've read other reviews of the film, and I can't help but agree that the film, despite its seemingly unbelievable plot, really strikes a chord with a lot of people and tells us all too well about the human condition. I love the film.

Battle Royale has inspired me to write a ten-shot series on my own rendition of Battle Royale, possibly using college students and setting it in ADMU (!). I'm trying to get an idea of how to pull it off, and how many students I can afford to write about. 42 seems like a rather daunting task to me. Nonetheless, I like a challenge.

.:Film Review: Battle Royale I:.

It's obvious, isn't it? SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

Battle Royale:
Proof that life is a game. A deadly one.

Battle Royale is a film that, at first, would merely seem like a senseless bloodbath. Initially, I got the film just because I wanted to see something potentially disturbing yet entertaining, all the same, but I ended up getting more than what I bargained for. It wasn't too difficult to suspend my disbelief for most of the film, to begin with.

Battle Royale is a film chock full of moral, consequential, and social issues. Given the seemingly impossible premise of licensed killing as enacted by the BR law, it's not actually so difficult to suspend your disbelief enough to really buy the premise of a government whose contempt for its youth has gotten to a point where having them slaughter one another is nothing more than a measure of “rectification”. Other reviewers took the extra time out to talk about the girl in the prologue, the Battle Royale winner who was holding a rag doll and smiling rather disturbingly. They were pointing out that this only proves how ineffective the law was in “shaping up” the youth, and even more interestingly, how stubborn the government is being in still keeping the law despite its apparent ineffectivity.

You see, I don't think the government sees the law being ineffective in this case, and that's the difference for me. I feel that in their drive to rectify the youth in the film, they took this extreme stance and didn't find the consequence of breeding murderers as alarming as having forty or so kids to deal with in the future. Moreover, their obstinacy in upholding this law is a trademark of any government that bungles a law or two yet still insists on holding onto it until it becomes so glaringly wrong.

The actual film starts with Nanahara Shuya, a student, who comes home to his dad, who hung himself. What makes the suicide twisted is that all over the room, written on paper, Shuya's father writes a message that reads, “Go Shuya! You can do it, Shuya!” Yes, this is definitely the worst timing to give affirmation, Mr. Nanahara.

In any case, crazy things happen at school, involving Shuya's best friend, Nobu, who runs into a rampage and stabs the leg of a teacher, Kitano (Played by the “late” Beat Takeshi, unless I'm mistaken.). In any case, little else is said about this event, and the next thing you know, the kids are in a bus, on the way to a supposed school trip.

Some potential plot holes here: when the students were gassed, why didn't they open the windows? Since I've seen Shaider more than enough times, it's not so hard to believe that they can be gassed in the bus whether they wanted to put up a fight or not. As for the second plot hole: why don't the students know about Battle Royale? It's a law, and there seems to be heavy publicity about the whole thing, considering how many press people were there in the prologue. I figure that this can be explained the way the people in the Crystal Maze don't know how to play the games that are in the show, despite the fact that these games are televised.

People can really be in the dark about this, and considering the drive against the youth, I figure they could simply block out the youth for the most part from exposure to the news somehow. It's seemingly infeasible, but I can let one slight hole slide considering how believable the rest of the film is.

When the class wakes up, they now discover to their horror that they will be taking part in a game of death. Kitano, their old teacher, is back to take over them. They are told what is going on, and then shown a pastiche parody video of a cute and bubbly girl telling them about how the game works. One student is killed off the bat for not listening to the video.

The rules are simple: kill or be killed. In three days, whoever is the sole survivor wins the game, or else all of them will die after three days. Necklaces are attached to them to trace their whereabouts, and detonates upon approach of random danger zones they are warned about, as well as any attempt to detach the necklaces. Nobu subsequently kicks the bucket because of his defiance.

The game starts, but there are two transferees: Awada, a former winner of Battle Royale, and the other guy who signed up just for fun.

As the killing progresses, you practically see all of the characters and develop a sort of affinity for each of them. I haven't memorized their names, but for instance, there was a guy who was friends with a girl whom he looks after, but he's in love with someone else. There's a group of students who wanted to fight the establishment and take down the stronghold instead of one another. There's Mitsuko, who went on a killing spree in her desire to survive. Each of their deaths are not just there to up the body count. For instance, most of those who committed suicide were because they didn't want to play the game.

I personally grew attached to the jogging girl, to her friend who was killed by the girl whom he had a secret hankering for, and to the activist guy. I likewise took to Noriko, Nanahara, Awada, and that cute girl who ended up poisoning one of her friends. She looks like one of my students.

Battle Royale is clearly not for the faint of heart. The level of violence in this film is hovering just a tad or two below Kill Bill vol. 1. The sheer amount of bloodshed in the film is not going to appeal to the squeamish, to say the least. That being said, what made me take notice of the film was how easy it is to get attached to most of the characters in the film. Unlike most films with high body counts (::cough::scream::cough), it's quite apparent that the kids in the story all have their own respective charms that make them more than just cannon fodder for entertainment.

The storyline is character-driven, more than anything else. What makes it impressive is how they have managed to develop the characters in such a way that you can really identify with practically all of them. For the most part, the moment one of them dies, you become even more disturbed than you normally would've over just another gory death. Simply put, I really love the way they've made almost forty different characters stand out individually.

I think this is a film worth watching for anyone who can stomach it. It really shows people the harsh reality about life. More than the conflict between the youth and the adults, the conflict is more about the tendency for people to act in ways they never believed possible when they are either under duress (As is the case of most of the students who tried to play the game.), or given license to do evil (As is the case with Mitsuko and the blond guy.). Even Kitano himself, the seemingly heartless teacher who plunged his students headlong into Battle Royale, proved to be a man with a heart whose jaded outlook has twisted into a vicious and disturbing worldview.

In Book II of Plato's “Republic”, Glaucon, while speaking to Socrates, showed him the repercussions of giving a just man the power to be invisible. It would seem that being just is merely a drudgery that we only do in order to gain benefits. He would have no reason to be just if he were invisible, because he knows he can get away with it. We don't want injustice to happen to us, but we would want to be unjust and take advantage of others if the opportunity presents itself to us, according to Glaucon.

Duress, on the other hand, can bring out the beast in us. In the quest for self-preservation or various other dire motivations, it ends up being the case that we would do things we normally think we are simply incapable of doing. In all honesty, it becomes quite obvious why these students felt obliged to kill: simply because they would be killed if they didn't.

Through adversity such as these, some people still manage to rise against baser instincts and desperation, instead choosing to take the higher road. Some people might question the acts of those who committed suicide in the film because they refused to play the game, but contrasting that against those who decided to subscribe to the motto of “kill or be killed”. Others had an even further ascent and managed to stay alive without having to resort to murdering others. Nanahara and more so Noriko proved that this was possible.

Only one glaring gripe that has nothing to do with plot holes, though. Given the direness of the situation, and while I can understand the need to profess love before the last possible moment (I particularly felt for the guy who was shot by the one he was in love with, because she was scared of him, and how he professed his love to her in his dying moments.) of life, but then, was Battle Royale the perfect place to talk about petty schoolboy/schoolgirl crushes, or to worry about getting laid (Last point is arguable...)? I found the rather skewed sense of priorities among the characters to be glaring.

In the end, only three people escaped the island: Shuya, Noriko, and Awada (Correct me if I'm wrong.). Awada, in his desire to avenge his girlfriend who passed away (Both of them were forced to a sudden death the moment their necklaces showed signs of detonation since they were the only two players left.), Reiko, joined Battle Royale again and came prepared with knowledge of how to deactivate the explosive necklaces and the objective of killing the perpetrator of this year's atrocity, Kitano. As these three people learned to trust one another with their lives, they learned the value of having true friends. Awada died, but he realized in the end why despite the fact that he killed Keiko, she still managed to smile at him and thank him in the end.

Morality is not merely a coin with two sides, or an arbitrary issue with only right or wrong and nothing in between. The gray area is vast, indeed, and while anything with the slightest smudge of wrongdoing is categorically wrong, we still cannot eschew from realizing the value of the gray area. Death, in this respect, is not merely glorified or sensationalized, but used to drive home a point: taking a life is no joke. Even in a situation sanctioned by the government, even in a situation that practically compels you to kill or be killed, there is still a better choice.

Battle Royale is a thought-provoking film that requires one to be a lot more resilient than the average viewer. The film may seem, at surface, to be more disturbing than entertaining (Which does take away from its being fun.)

Marcelle's “Fun” Rating: A
Marcelle's “Critical” Rating: A+

.:Film Review: Battle Royale II:.


Battle Royale II
Takeshi's Castle gone wrong.

One thing I realized about Battle Royale II was that it was remarkably different from the first film. Save for a couple of characters and the general rules from the first film, BR II on the whole was a whole new animal.

This time, instead of having a class of students attempt to kill one another off, this class is out to kill Shuya Nanahara, one of two survivors of the Battle Royale three years prior, as he is now the head of the Wild Seven terrorist organization, hellbent on making the adult populace in general pay for their atrocities given the Battle Royale fiasco. Most of the members of the Wild Seven were either survivors of previous Battle Royales (Which explains the girl with the rag doll...), and people who have lost family along the way.

The rules are simple: kill Shuya in three days, work in pairs, or be killed in three days. What compounded this was that given the fact that they work in pairs, the moment one of them died, the other would have his or her necklace promptly detonate.

Again, the same plot hole exists, regarding getting the students there, and the huge press coverage regarding the event. This time, the event is even more covered by the press, as instead of being just given covert instructions, they are practically given a press conference that shows the alarming base instincts of people at work.

Now, when I was watching this film, I was watching it not as a sequel to Battle Royale but rather as a whole new film. If I made comparisons, Battle Royale II was strictly inferior to the first film, insofar as one initially sees BRII as little more than a war film (The students weren't even in school uniform this time, but in military fatigues. This tends to take away from the urgency of realizing these were teenagers and not adults at war, fighting a war they never chose to fight.). At the same time, there were arguably very few characters in the film whom you could develop an affinity for. Another reviewer summed it up as the Takuma-Shiori show, but I did think that Onu, the guy with glasses, did show some character. I just felt that given how rapid the students were dying and in pairs, even, you never had enough time to identify with any of the characters except for the few ones who really stood out.

Takuma was a fiery-tempered guy who didn't know what he was fighting for yet wanted to push for survival. Reminiscent of Wolverine, Takuma's character was well fleshed out, as he slowly developed from an aimless youth to a man on a mission towards the end.

Shiori Kitano was the daughter of Kitano, the teacher whom Shuya killed in the first Battle Royale. What makes her stand out was how well she interacted with Shuya, as the moment a handful of the students were left in the Wild Seven stronghold, Shuya did not eradicate them and showed them mercy to the point that they realized that Shuya was fighting for a cause. As Shuya's mentor put it, “You can't change a thing by blowing somebody's head off in this country, but it's all I know, and all I can do.”

Takeichi Riki was the teacher this time, and he was a bit campy insofar as he was acting with a lot more gusto and far less restraint than Beat Takeshi carried out his Kitano character in the first film. Riki's death at the end of the film made little sense as well, as he didn't seem to have any measure of closure with Nanahara or his students, mainly because he just died and let everyone go.

I like this film, because it really underscores the other side of terrorism: the cause behind what they do. I realize that the end should not justify the means, but their cause was still worth hearing out. It was sheer genius how they presented the Wild Seven, albeit their whole hideout schtick felt rather cliché, especially since Japan could've easily dealt with them via a missile attack if they really wanted to deal with them once and for all.

The film even takes a snide stab at the United States, and its capability of strong-arming other nations to do what it wants, under the hidden threat of agression. Riki and Nanahara in respective speeches outline 22 different countries that had the U.S. bomb the Hades out of them, and underscored how despite the adult claim of maturity, the bullying practice of the United States was a show of utter childishness.

If the first film was philoso-polotical in nature, the second film was mostly socio-political in nature, all but completely eradicating the Philosophical aspects of the first film. The “kill or be killed” principle was still there, but it was now under the guise of war, which while still a moral issue, is certainly something people are more used to seeing. The fact that people have somewhat been desensitized to war, and the fact that few characters really were developed enough to matter, meant that the film turned out to be just a tad better than any other war film out there.

I love this film, but I cannot in good conscience evaluate this film with as much accolades as Battle Royale I. The first film was far more thought-provoking than the second, and the more political edge of the second film made me feel rather disappointed because they didn't quite show the other side as fairly as they did in the first film. Moreover, the political undertones were skewed and refused to be coherent with the characterizations, as towards the end, I still felt that only Shiori really knew what she was fighting for, to the point that she refused to kill Nanahara when she had the chance. Takuma, in my opinion, was on a mission whose repercussions he wasn't clearly aware of.

Other reviewers blasted this film for making almost 75% of the students as merely cannon fodder in the film, instead of fleshing out their characters well. While they are definitely guilty on this count, there is still a need to underscore that given how different this film is from the first part, this film, if taken as a separate entity, would not really be overtly blasted for such a shortcoming, as any given war film would pretty much have even less characters to identify with. This film is definitely worth watching, especially for the political-minded. I love the whole bit of lashing out at the U.S. It worked for me.

One last thing... this film is possibly even gorier than the first one. ;)

Marcelle's “Fun” Evaluation: A
Marcelle's “Critical” Evaluation: B+/A-

No comments: