Like your old man taking you to the bar when you're of legal age, or paying the local villiage prostitute to welcome you into manhood, everyone should have a Rite of Passage that they wish to bestow upon the younger generation. When you're older, you've reached a certain maturity level, and you have exemplified a tolerance for things outside of the box, then you are ready to explore the world around and grow furthur.
I have been in a fortunate position for the past 15 years mentoring teens through many student ministry groups. Apart from walking with them and their decisions about faith this also puts me in a priviliaged position where I can also influence them and their film watching habits. I've had 15 years full of young impressionable minds ready and begging to be broken free from the mold of the Hollow-wood demographic, or so I just assume they are begging. I tell them they are begging to be free and they pretty much just say yes. I wait for the opportunities. I wait for someone to show me a thirst for something more than the norm. I wait for someone to show me a maturity to handle sensitive themes, issues or content. And when the time is right I will break out these beauties in hopes that they will open up a whole new world of cinematic wonder for these kids. I hope to show them that there is life beyond the Hollow-wood deadlands and that film can shock, amaze, entertain but can also provoke thought and discussion.
As it stands these five films are my Rites of Passage. Should you be deemed worthy of them new worlds of cinema will open up to you. You will be challenged and entertained. And you will also become a man [I'm sure you would become a woman too but since a major faux pas of student ministry is having girls in your house when you are a male leader these Rites of Passage can only be bestowed upon the young men of our group].
Thus and therefore I present to you, my Rites of Passage.
Army of Darkness - I have to thank Todd and Canfield for introducing me to this cult classic. The first time I saw this film was in a classroom tucked in behind the library at a Bible college of all places. The classroom was packed and we whooped and hollered as Ash strut about in his chauvinistic manner. This was one of the first films that proved to me that you could mash genres together. And it did so brilliantly, blending humor and horror, something that I don't feel had been done as well until Shaun of the Dead came around. And so back then, in that small classroom, I began my love affair with Sam Raimi. This period of film watching also marked my eventual departure away from the Hollywood machine and I started to delve into more unfamiliar fare. Of all the Evil Dead films it is the easiest to show to an unknowing audience. It's not as 'evil' as its predecessors but will help prepare its viewers to the first two Evil Dead films. This film has had the benefit of large group viewings and selective viewings and is probably the most watched of all my Rites of Passage.
HARD BOILED - One of the greatest John Woo movies ever made. This was another film that I saw for the first time in Bible college [after watching Broken Arrow I went on a tear looking for whatever VHS copy of whatever HK Woo film I could find]. The body count is simply outstanding and the action sequences were signature Woo until everyone and anyone started copying him when he was finally exposed on our shores with Hard Target. Hard Boiled is an easy one to gauge a tolerance for. It's also pretty easy to intake since you're only going to play this for someone with a sense of humor - to overcome the melodrama - and a sensational appetite for gun violence. Listen, any film that plays out its entire third act with gunplay in a hospital, including the maternity ward, is worthy of your attention. Honorable mention goes to The Killer, only if it is the full Taiwanese cut of film since it fleshes out the characters more, and standing at a distant third place is A Better Tomorrow II. But due to the sheer scale of violence in all three films I am still selective about whom I show this to.
FIST OF LEGEND - If you're going to introduce someone to the martial arts genre you cannot do wrong with this incredible collaboration between Yuen Wo-Ping and Jet Li. Untouchable since its release 12 years ago, Fist of Legend is one of the greatest martial arts offerings from the HK industry to the world. Jet Li destroys everything in his path using merely himself. The lack of weapons until the final act is still refreshing. No cowardace hiding behind a gun, just balls. Fist of Legend has had multiple viewings in the Mack household. Honorable mentions for pure martial arts films should go to Drunken Master II and Iron Monkey. Of course none of this would have been possible were it not for the work of Bruce Lee, who's Chinese Connection proved to be influential in this film as well as worthy of homage in such films as Kiss of the Dragon and Tom yum goong.
BATTLE ROYALE - This has to be the most selective of any film on this list. I take the most caution with this film based solely on its content and context. The basic rule is you really have to have proven to me that you like film [not movies. film], that you're not going to have a problem with it being from another country [if you bitch about subtitles in my house God help you] and you have the maturity to deal with the subject matter of it. To date I can only recall 4 guys who I have shown this film to. This is a shame I know. Battle Royale is probably my most coveted Rite of Passage that I have. Until, one of those 4 guys, whom I showed this too many years ago, made a dumbass move and flashed his copy of the double disc edition that came out last year in front of our student ministry kids. It's hard to back track after you wave it in the air raving to everyone that you have a copy. And teenagers being who and what they are won't take 'you're not ready yet' for an answer. The local Chinese malls were raided and the mystique of Battle Royale has now been lost to nothing more than a ‘cool’ film to watch because 'lots of kids die and kill each other'. It is the most painful of losses of all my Rites of Passage.
Funky Forest: The First Contact - The newest addition to my Rite of Passage canon is proving to be the most difficult to bestow. The addition is fuelled solely based on the experience we shared at the After Dark festival. You leave a viewing of Funky Forest and you mentally have prepared a list of friends who you want to show this movie to and a list of the rest who you will not be bothered to tell them anything about it. Funky Forest is something that must be shared. But it is something that must be shared together. It isn't a DVD that you lend out. The full joy of Funky Forest is only attained when it is a shared experience. But there also has to be a willingness to participate in that experience. What I don't want to do it pigeon-hole this movie into a exclusive group experience. We don't discourage the solitary viewing. But we also know how much fuller the group experience can be. A lot of the success of a screening of this film also depends on the willingness of the viewer to open up to cultural humor methods. Though a lot of the humor of this film is universal there is still a prevalent chord of Japanese humor in it. While it shouldn't make or break the success of the screening a less familiar viewer may get hung up on the nuances. I'm still waiting for the appropriate time to screen this film.