Thursday, May 21, 2009

Announcing the Hulu Award for "Best Dramatic Movie"

And the Hulie goes to....

The Karate Kid!

The movie has expired from Hulu's active roster, but the spirit of Mr. Miyagi and Daniel-san lives on. The fact that it's become an exhaustive movie franchise (watch next year for the latest incarnation, which will star Will Smith's son) can make us forget the fact that the seminal movie was genuinely fun, very touching, and one of the most eminently quotable movies of the eighties.

25 years later, the relationships in the movie still have some resonance. The exasperation between Ralph Macchio's Daniel and his mother, the sweet romance between Daniel and a young Elisabeth Shue, and, of course, the student/instructor relationship between Daniel and Mr. Miyagi are all masterfully handled. It's rare for a movie to explore warrior training as social healing, and even rarer for a movie to do so successfully. The friendship that forms between Daniel and Mr. Miyagi demonstrates that karate truly is a code of conduct rather than a means of destruction. School bully Johnny's relationship with his own harsh "sensei" provide a stark contrast between good and evil. Sure, it's all schmaltz, but who can resist the impulse to cheer when Pat Morita jumps over that fence to do a little ass-kicking?

Here are six things you might not know about this movie (with thanks to

1) DC comics gave special permission for use of the name "Karate Kid," because they had copyrighted the name for a member of their "Legion of Superheroes."
2) The yellow classic automobile that Daniel polishes in the famous "wax-on/wax-off" training scene, then later offered by Mr. Miyagi as Daniel's birthday gift, was actually given to Ralph Macchio by the producer, and he still owns it.
3) According to Joe Esposito, "You're the Best" was originally written for Rocky III (1982) which explains the lyric "History repeats itself". The song had been rejected in favor of Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger".
4) During filming in late 1983, Ralph Macchio was actually a hoary old 22 years old. Some of the cast did not believe him when he was asked about his age.
5) The studio wanted to drop the "drunk Miyagi" scene, feeling it slowed the pace down. Director Avildsen argued for it and has felt it was the scene that got Morita nominated for an Oscar.
6) The scenes in this film where Mr. Miyagi is using chopsticks to catch flies in midair is an obscure reference to the film Miyamoto Musashi kanketsuhen: kett├┤ Ganry├╗jima (1956) where a very similar scene is used.

After 20,000 audience votes, the audience favorite was "Lost in Translation," which squeaked out the recognition with 28% of the vote.

The other nominees were "Of Mice and Men," Sense and Sensibility," and "Sleepless in Seattle."

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