Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Lessons from the movies

We can learn a lot from film sometimes:

"The name is Horace."
The Monster Squad
TriStar Pictures, 1987

1. Wolfman's got nards.

2. There's only one way to kill a werewolf.

"No such thing as bad student, only bad teacher. Teacher say, student do."
The Karate Kid
Columbia Pictures, 1984

1. What do we study here? The way of the fist, that's what. We all know the mantra of the Cobra Kai: Strike first. Strike hard. No mercy. Seem too rough? Just because the Cobra Kai's say it doesn't necessarily make it evil. If only the Western nations would have adopted this dictum, we could have prevented WWII and the Cold War. But no, we let Germany re-arm and we didn't listen to Patton's admonition to never split Europe with the Russians. We can all hear Sensei Kreese's immortal words echoing "We do not train to be merciful here! Mercy is for the weak! Here, in the streets, in competition - a man confronts you, he is the enemy! An enemy deserves no mercy- what is the problem Mr. Lawrence?"

2. You shouldn't provoke the school bullies, especially if they know more karate than you. Ol' Daniel-with-an-L deserved at least some of those butt-whoopins.

3. Good comebacks and insults can be hard to come by sometimes. Tommy's "Must be take-a-worm-for-a-walk week!" is nowhere near being a good zinger. Dutch, however, had a better one with "Well, well, well, if it isn't little Danielle LaRusso - what's the matter, mommy not here to dress you?"

4. Is there an old Asian man nearby? Be nice to him. He can probably seriously karate-cize your face. He also just might teach you karate and if you play your cards right, give you a neat old car.

5. Billy Zabka is an alright guy after all, as we see at the end when Johnny Lawrence hands Daniel the All-Valley Champion Trophy, "You're alright, LaRusso!" Unfortunately this act of redemption did not prevent his typecasting in the years following, e.g. Just One of the Guys and Back to School. Interestingly enough, Zabka did eventually merit an Oscar nomination for his 2003 short film Most.

"We do not honor bet of coward."
The Karate Kid, Part II
Columbia Pictures, 1986

Since American Movie Classics has been playing the first two KK's back to back over the last week, the Briefcase will share what we've learned from this screen gem as well. As it turns out, there is probably more to learn from the sequel. (First let us disclaim that we were very dismayed that AMC opted not to run The Karate Kid, Part III and The Next Karate Kid - both very integral parts of the KK saga.)

1. Okanawans primarily speak in broken English to each other, regardless of the presence of gaijins. Rarely will they use the Japanese or Okinawan languages to communicate. Those tongues are reserved for ultra-special occasions, such as one's last words uttered from a deathbed. Furthermore, the English-only norm applies to everyone except the village idiot. That person primarily speaks in Okinawan jibberish.

2. Pre-marital tea ceremonies are bad. Oh, those crazy kids and their hormones. They should've listened to their Anmas (that's Okinawan for mothers), who told them that the only things that come from this act before marraige are typhoons and tropical cyclones. But did young Kumiko listen? Nope. And look what happened. It's almost like the horror movie maxim about fornicating - one's chances for survival increase dramatically if they keep it in their pants. But in karate movies, you put the whole village, nay, the whole country at risk by turning a tea cup. Fortunately, LaRusso dodged a serious bullet here, as he tipped the balance of karate-movie-karma back in his favor when he rescued the squalling bell-ringing girl. Still, let's remember to keep it in the cupboard until we tie the knot.

3. Yuji Okomato is bad. And by bad we mean good. And by good we mean stinkin' awesome. Up until KK2, we only saw this dude as a supporting nerd in Real Genius and as the Howard Cosell-speaking street racer in Better Off Dead. The role of Chozen allowed him to show the world that he was a certified badyou-know-what. "You keep for your corlection. I know you like."

4. Don't accompany your sensei to his homeland until he has taught you how to fight with a spear. This skill will almost certainly come in handy.

5. You can't trust Elisabeth Shue. You're from Reseda, she's from the Hills. That little voice inside your head? The one that's nagging you? The one that told you in the first installment that you have to be some sort of a "yo-yo" to be talking to her? It is also saying "She's too hot for you, sooner or later she's going to realize it and the novelty of the tournament-winning-Jersey-goomba is going to wear off..." It also asks "What are the chances of Ali running off with a UCLA football player?" Listen carefully to that voice and guard your heart.