02 June 2013

+JMJ+

I Have No Idea What to Call This Smackdown!!!

June is not just giveaway month; it's also smackdown month! At least that's what it currently looks like. While I'd love to host tournament brackets more regularly, I can't always think of good themes. This month almost went by without one, but the cheesy part of my brain refused to give up without a fight. Hence this post and those which will inevitably follow. It rarely gets much cheesier than Hollywood orientalism where this former "unincorporated territory" of the United States is concerned.

You remember how this works, right? First, you'll help me pick which movie from each pair will move on to the next round. From there, I will decide which lucky films will make the Final Four, and then review them for your further entertainment. (I swear it will be entertaining!) The power to decide the ultimate winner will revert back to you. There may or may not be wildcards. (I really haven't decided yet. This is a tricky theme.)

* For those who have entered the June Giveaway, remember that voting in each round of the smackdown will help you earn extra entries! =)

** For those who haven't seen some of the movies, vote anyway! Honestly, I haven't seen most of the movies! But having done my research, I think these sixteen picks represent the "Philippine-shot Hollywood movie" fairly well. And I look forward to watching or re-watching those which will make the Final Four. =) 


Round 1
The Apocalypse Now Sixteen


vs.
Apocalypse Now vs. Platoon

Let's start with two contenders which were classy enough for the Academy Awards. It used to be that every other movie filmed in the Philippines expected the country to do some acting of its own--and with the right directors, she should have won her own Oscars for her performances as the war-torn Vietnam. (Then again, perhaps Thailand did Vietnam better . . .) Would you say that the local landscapes were more convincing as the backdrop to Martin Sheen's descent into darkness or the backdrop to Charlie Sheen's disillusionment with war?


vs.
Back to Bataan vs. The Real Glory

If you know your history, you'd understand that the twentieth century should have seen the Vietnam War debacle coming for decades. The US government's imperialist expansion began as early as 1898, when it acquired the Philippines from Spain and began a long tradition of sending its armies wherever it pleased. Here we have episodes from one of the latest and one of the earliest chapters of its Philippine adventure: a WWII movie about American soldiers and Filipino guerillas forced to team up against the Japanese invaders, and what I can only call a Pacific-set Western in which US officers train one tribe of locals to fight against another.


vs.
Back Door to Hell vs. The Walls of Hell

We get it already: war is hell. There must be thousands of true stories which could have inspired a WWII film, but you'll mostly find screenplays made up from scratch. The logic is that any movie in which Filipinos and Americans team up against Japanese soldiers captures the conflict in a nutshell . . . and I currently find it difficult to disagree with that. Which functionally fictional flick will get to move on to the next round: the one with a US commando team that sneaks into the country to take down a Japanese communication post or the one with a mission to rescue hostages from Intramuros before it is finally, mercilessly bombed?


vs.
American Ninja vs. Enter the Ninja

There's totally a martial theme going on, but let's be clear about one thing. Ninjas have nothing to do with the Philippines. We have our own martial art forms, but they are as distant from ninjitsu as the local stray cat population is disdainful of Hello Kitty. But straining at such gnats would discount an entire sub-genre that may or may not include mutant turtles, so let's play nice. Are these B-movies better represented by the Adventure trope of the Boy Next Door traveling to foreign shores and fighting in epic battles or by the archetypal setup of two old rivals settling the score in a final showdown?


vs.
American Kickboxer 2 vs. Bloodfist

By the early 1990s, the ninjas had been trounced by the kickboxers. After I recovered from the shock of learning that Jean Claude Van Damme never shot a single movie in the Philippines (the exotic locations of choice having become Hong Kong and Thailand), I found two other contenders to represent this cliche. One is supposedly set in Southern California, but was filmed here because it was cheaper--a decision producers made quite often at the time. The other makes the most out of its Manila setting, because the best way to sell the premise of an international kickboxing tournament where everyone fights to the death is to have it in a country which the target audience would be hard pressed to find on a map.  


vs.
Blood Thirst vs. The Last Cannibal World

The Philippines has proven to be poor inspiration for Horror screenwriters. When some cousins of mine who had been born and raised abroad came over for a visit, I understood why. The eldest spent the entire afternoon at one of the capital's biggest flea markets worried that a stranger would jump out from behind the merchandise, drag her back with him, and sell her to a kidnapping ring . . . and when the younger one got a bit lost on the way to a remote beach, he started babbling about "natives with pitchforks" lying in wait to attack the car. Give or take a few details, those are totally the plots of these movies! Take your pick between an oddly classy "Tropical Noir" film about dead girls found drained of blood and a typical Cannibal Exploitation flick by an Italian filmmaker . . . neither of which have anything to do with actual Filipino Horror traditions.


vs.
Brokedown Palace vs. The Year of Living Dangerously

Vietnam isn't the only Southeast Asian country the Philippines has stood in for, but you'll have to ask the locals in Thailand and Indonesia whether she was convincing in these two movies. Their controversial content kept them from being filmed in the countries where they were actually set, so the producers picked places where they believed they'd run into less trouble. But what you resist persists . . . The star of one movie became persona non grata in Manila after she described it in an interview as "weird," "ghastly," and "[smelling] of cockroaches" (ROFL!), while the cast and crew of the other had to move to Australia after local Muslim groups made threats against what they perceived as an anti-Islam movie.


vs.
The Bourne Legacy vs. I Come with the Rain

Apparently, only really violent stuff ever happens in the Philippines! Decades after the soldiers, the ninjas and the kickboxers all moved on to different shores, the country remains typecast as a backdrop for both badassery and bad dreams. At least that's what these relatively modern offerings seem to say. The first is a very modern Thriller with chase scenes in an urban jungle of concrete and corrugated tin; the second is one of those fancy "art house" films with a mystery that begins in the real jungles of the south . . . before, of course, they take it to Hong Kong. Predictably. =P

* * * * * 

After you leave a comment with your picks from all eight pairs, you can start collecting entries on the Rafflecopter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Image Sources: a) Apocalypse Now poster, b) Platoon poster, c) Back to Bataan poster, d) The Real Glory poster, e) Back Door to Hell poster, f) The Walls of Hell poster, g) American Ninja poster, h) Enter the Ninja poster, i) American Kickboxer poster, j) Bloodfist DVD, k) Blood Thirst DVD, l) The Last Cannibal World poster, m) Brokedown Palace poster, n) The Year of Living Dangerously poster, o) The Bourne Legacy poster, p) I Come with the Rain poster

21 comments:

Sullivan McPig said...

So.... I don't know any if these movies except for Apocalypse Now and Platoon...

I will of course vote for Apocalypse Now! Truly epic! *hums The End by the Doors*

Otherwise I will vote for....
3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 16

Paul Stilwell said...

Apocalypse Now

The Real Glory

Back Door to Hell

American Ninja

American Kickboxer 2

Er, uh...Blood Thirst I guess.

The Year of Living Dangerously

The Bourne Legacy

cyurkanin said...

At risk of offending those who smell of cockroaches, I've seen more of these movies than I'd care to admit :) With confidence, my votes:

Apocalypse Now
The Real Glory
Back Door to Hell
Enter the Ninja
Bloodfist
Blood Thirst
The Year of Living Dangerously
I Come with the Rain

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Sully -- Thanks! =) It's still early, but I don't think anyone will be surprised if Apocalypse Now turns out to be a finalist. ;-)

Stilwell -- Thank you for your ballot! =) By the way, if you want to enter the giveaway again, you're welcome to. I decided to lift the "ban" on previous winners.

Christopher -- And those would be flying cockroaches! Why do I have the funny feeling that you could have put this bracket together more competently than I have? LOL! Thank you for your votes as well. =)

mrsdarwin said...

So, working mainly off posters and descriptions (I've only seen Apocalypse Now):

Apocalypse Now
The Real Glory
The Walls of Hell
Enter the Ninja
Bloodfist
The Last Cannibal World
Brokedown Palace
The Bourne Legacy

Darwin said...

So, working mainly off posters and descriptions (I've only seen Apocalypse Now):

Apocalypse Now
The Real Glory
The Walls of Hell
Enter the Ninja
Bloodfist
The Last Cannibal World
Brokedown Palace
The Bourne Legacy

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Hello, Darwins! It's nice to see both of you again, but do you really have identical ballots? ;-) Just checking!

NoelCT said...

First set: Hard to pick. They're both exceptionally well made films. I'd almost say Apocalypse Now because it's a bolder work of art... but Platoon is a stronger character piece. Hmmm... ultimately going with Apocalypse now.

Second set: Gah, haven't seen either, know nothing about either. I'll just pick The Real Glory because Cooper was the better actor.

Third set: Haven't seen either, but I'd vote Back Door to Hell because Monte Hellman was a superb director.

Fourth set: Absolutely Enter the Ninja, because it's one of the craziest films I've ever seen, as exemplified by that glorious poster.

Fifth set: Haven't seen either, but I'm picking Bloodfist because it was made by one of the lead directors of the first few seasons of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers.

Sixth set: Blood Thirst. Because never ever watch a film shot in the Philippines which has the word "Cannibal(s)" in the title. More importantly, never ever watch a film by Italians which was shot in the Philippines and has the word "Cannibal(s)" in the title.

Seventh set: Haven't seen either, but Year of Living Dangerous sounds like the better film.

Eighth set: I Come with the Rain, because I've never heard of it before and it looks interesting.

Angie Tusa said...

I have to admit I have only seen three of the films on this list, but I'll give it a shot anyway. :)I tried to pick movies I would be interested in watching in the future.

Apocalypse Now
Back to Bataan
The Walls of Hell
Enter the Ninja
Bloodfist
Blood Thirst
Brokedown Palace
The Bourne Legacy

Darwin said...

I would never suggest that MrsDarwin voted twice on purpose...

Actually, I think I'd have to vote pretty much as suggested. The only ones I've actually seen are Apocalypse Now and Bourne Legacy, but I'll support The Duke over Gary Cooper on principle and the rest are toss ups.

Incidentally, if you like Apocalypse Now (which I'm odd enough to do) or even if you're kind of ambivalent towards it like MrsD, it's worth watching the documentary Hearts of Darkness about it's filming.

mrsdarwin said...

I would never vote twice on purpose, but this computer might vote twice under two different names because it HATES ME.

mrsdarwin said...

I would never vote twice on purpose, but this computer might vote twice under two different names because it HATES ME.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

NoelCT -- Thanks for voting! =D Incidentally, I almost went with a Tom Selleck movie called Daughters of Satan instead of The Last Cannibal World, but ended up choosing the latter because, as your comment hints, "a film by Italians which was shot in the Philippines and has the word 'Cannibal(s)' in the title" isn't a weird coincidence, but a thing. =P

Angie -- Giving it a shot is totally in the spirit of this smackdown! Thank you!

Darwin -- In that case, I guess I can count Mrs. Darwin's votes twice except the second vote for The Real Glory. =)

Mrs. Darwin -- Actually, I think the computer loves you! This is its way of putting a frog down your shirt. LOL!

Now I'm just curious about why you picked The Last Cannibal World over Blood Thirst. Any special reason?

Bob Wallace said...

I have seen none of them except Platoon and Apocalypse Now. I preferred Platoon. AN is a ripoff of Conrad's Heart of Darkness.

EegahInc said...

Apocalypse Now - because people actually went insane making it.

Back to Bataan - because I'm from the US and it stars John Wayne.

Back Door to Hell - because it's smarter to sneak in the back door than climb over the walls.

Enter the Ninja - because this movie is legendary!

Bloodfist - because without people like Don "The Dragon" Wilson, I wouldn't have anything to blog about.

Blood Thirst - because I think I actually own two copies.

The Year of Living Dangerously - because Peter Weir.

The Bourne Legacy - because I haven't seen either one of these so I'm just going to choose the one with Hawkeye in it.

mrsdarwin said...

The Last Cannibal World over Blood Thirst solely on the salacious (de)merits of the poster.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Bob -- I don't know much about the production of Apocalypse Now, but my impression was always that they were open about adapting Heart of Darkness in a Vietnam setting.

Eegahlnc -- Comments like yours are the reason I get up in the morning to blog. My cup runneth over. Thanks for making my day! =D

Mrs. Darwin -- It's a really unfortunate piece of "art," isn't it? =( Unfortunately, Blood Thirst didn't get a poster when it was originally released, so that collage of a DVD cover was all that was available.

Darwin said...

Apocalypse Now was indeed written as an explicit adaptation of Heart of Darkness.

In one of those utterly strange might-have-beens: the script was originally written by John Milius back in 1969, with Coppola providing funding and direction. At the time, young George Lucas and Steven Spielberg were also working for Coppola, and the original plan they came up with was to get a shoe string budget, go over to Vietnam, and shoot the film against the backdrop of the real war in order to save money. Milius wanted George Lucas to direct it.

However, Lucas did American Graffiti instead, the project got shelved for a while, and more mature heads correctly suggested that trying to use a real war as a film set was a bad idea.

In the end, Coppola made the movie some years later, filming it in the Philippines, and the rest is history.

cyurkanin said...

Lord have mercy on me. Not only have I seen most of these fine films, I coincidentally have seen Daughters of Satan... TWICE.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Darwin -- Thanks for the extra information!

Christopher -- Why was I even surprised to read that? =P Do you think I should have gone with my first hunch and left it in the Horror pairing instead of The Last Cannibal World?

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Many thanks to everyone who voted in Round 1! Voting is now closed. Expect Round 2 to be up very soon!