Wednesday, June 3, 2009


I'm desensitized.

I really am. Which is kind of ironic in a way, as I was pretty sheltered as a kid, and sort of still am to a point. I'm not sure why, but very few things disturb me. While most other people are forced to look away or even block out what is assaulting their senses, just so they don't have to deal with it, I am able to look at the offending source material dead straight in the eyes and analyze what is going on with a level head.

Last night I went through my DVD collection and whipped out Another Day in Paradise: a movie starring Vincent Kartheiser and co-starring James Woods about four people who pretend to be a family of traveling tourists, while in reality, are professional crooks. Hands down, it is a fantastic film, and I recommend it to any one who is into the Indy film scene, or just loves a good criminal romper stomper.

And James Woods.

We like him.

We also like Vincent Kartheiser.


A lot.

A great movie.

The movie was directed by one Larry Clark -- a filmmaker I've never heard of before, although on the cover, it stated he directed another movie that I did hear of a long time ago (but knew nothing about), called KIDS. Curious about this, as well as other Larry Clark films, I wandered over to Wikipedia -- which to my dismay (and a good friend confirming it), told me that Clark's other films are pretty messed up. Like, trying-to-push-the-envelope-to-make-us-think-but-instead-making-us-cringe-and-feel-very-uncomfortable messed up.

KIDS is one of these films.

A not so great movie.

In a simple, back-of-the-DVD-case sort of summary, KIDS is a movie about New York teenagers in 1995, and how their already pretty screwed up lives can get worse, and how things can change so easily, and at the same time, stay exactly the same, in a span of twenty-four hours.

Here's the graphic summary.

KIDS is about an irresponsible little toolbox named Telly, who thinks he can escape the rampant fear of AIDS and STDs in general by strictly having sex with virgins. Meanwhile, two equally irresponsible girls head over to the nearest clinic to get the results of their HIV/AIDS test. One girl (played by Rosario Dawson, of Rent and Clerks 2 fame), who's had unprotected sex several times with several different men comes back negative -- while the other girl named Jennie (played by Chloe Sevigny), who's only had sex with one guy -- Telly -- comes back positive.

So basically the entire movie is centered around Telly and his friend Casper getting high with their friends, talking graphically about sex, and wanting to unceremoniously deflower a thirteen year old girl named Darcy, while Jennie wanders around New York trying to find the dumb kid to tell him what he's done to her and stop him before he uncaringly destroys the lives of anyone else in more ways than one.

12/f/ny asl?

Honestly, very few things disturb me.

But I read the plot summary on Wikipedia. And I was disgusted. I didn't want to think about it. Like any decent person, I didn't want anything to do with this movie, let alone Clark's other work outside of Paradise.

I sat through The Passion of the Christ without looking away once. Not because I myself am a devout Catholic, but because I was too busy laughing at Mel Gibson trying to pathetically scare people into their faith and accept Christ as their savior with the use of shock value and emotional abuse/guilt (which actually worked -- well -- until The DaVinci Code came out, anyway) ... Not to mention I thought The Exorcist should have been labeled as "Comedy" instead of "Horror", and whole-heartedly believe Cannibal Holocaust (The most shocking and graphic horror movie to date) is a brilliant and important film.

...But anything that has to do with destroying youth and innocence ... Not to mention that I believe sexuality is sacred between two people (and only two people) and should never be exploited ... That stuff gets under my skin. Especially when the opening scene of a movie is a fifteen year old boy seducing a twelve year old girl for his own benefit, all because he's too lazy/stupid/wigger to go buy condoms and get together with someone his age.

But ... For some reason I caved. After lurking around on Youtube searching for clips and trailers, I came to the conclusion that the film may not as be as bad as people had led on. I put on my Big-Boy pants and got a copy of the movie.

I watched it through its entirety. And yeah, there were a couple parts that bothered me. But I think the film would have had a worse blow to me if the kids portrayed in it didn't walk around like they deserved having a cinder block randomly fall on their heads. And I realize that's an awful thing to say, but ... I really did have a hard time trying to feel sorry for most of these characters. I felt more for the victims (albeit irresponsible victims) of Telly and Casper's chronic retardation than I did for them and their equally moronic druggie friends.

And the scrawny white kids going around in baggy clothes acting and talking like they're black and tough didn't help either (That and the actor who played Telly totally looked out of his element).

Hey guys, does not having HIV mean I get an Oscar?

Not to mention the ending is really depressing/upsetting. Like. You want to smother yourself with a pillow when the credits roll. But then again, it is a pretty accurate depiction of unsupervised, uneducated, bored-out-of-their-minds teenagers.

The explicit sexuality isn't the only big smack to the face, though. Throughout the movie there are several scenes of prolific drug use by kids of all ages (there's a party scene near the end where a group of black kids who look to be around eight or ten sit around sharing a joint while talking about their history of drug use).

I understand what Larry Clark and the screenwriter were trying to do. They were trying to give idiot parents (and I say that lightly) an inside look into the lives of teenagers who were never introduced to the Easy Bake Oven and Super Nintendo, and were instead left with the TV as their baby-sitter. And yeah, while KIDS does its job to educate (and scare), it also slips up and makes the average viewer feel like they need a cold shower and some hard liquor after. And while that may be a good thing, especially since the movie is filmed sort of like a half documentary, I honestly think it could have been done better, and much more effectively.

No, I'm not saying the movie should be sterilized -- I just think it should have gone through a couple more drafts, and I think Clark just could have done a better job directing, among other things that I just can't put my finger on. If the movie was trimmed to seem less raw, it would lose its message of a harsh and truthful and reality. I think KIDS should be shown to every teenager before they decide they want to go out to a party that a "friend of a friend" is having, or decide to have sex of any kind before being exposed to proper education (and moral instillation).

At the same time, I think KIDS should be shown to every parent before they decide maybe it's best if their kids "learn on their own" and completely remove themselves from their lives. Maybe that would keep each coming generation from getting more and more stupid and self-centred.

Regardless of the taboo nature and controversy, the movie does what it's supposed to. And I kind of have to commend Clark for making a movie like this, because you're running the risk of two completely polar reactions: disturbing the audience because they're genuinely affected by the message only to immediately subscribe to eighteen years' worth of Good Parenting Magazine, and disturbing the audience because they're disgusted by the subject matter and think you're a sick psycho for making borderline child pornography.

And in all honesty, KIDS is an important film. It's just not a good film. I realize I haven't gone into too much detail as to why the movie is a train wreck, but as I briefly mentioned, I can't explain why. The only real response I have to that is to rent KIDS and see it for yourself.

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