Monday, April 26, 2010

Eat My Shorts: Sparks (2009)

Sparks (2009)
Directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Starring: Carla Gugino, Eric Stoltz & Xander Berkeley
Running Time: 24 Minutes
Country: USA

Based on a short story by Elmore Leonard and marking a directorial debut from Joesph Gordon-Levitt, Sparks is a brilliantly polished and well produced short.

Robin (Carla Gugino) is a singer who is under investigation for burning down her Mediterranean condo. Investigating her case is Frank (Eric Stoltz), who has been called in by the insurance company which suspects that it may well have been arson and not a bush fire that burnt Robin's house to the ground.

The beauty in this film is the acting, both Gugino and Stoltz are perfectly cast in their roles and as with most Elmore Leonard adapted works the dialouge is witty and intelligent!

The film was shown at Sundance, but it is currently unavailable to view in its entirety online, but here is a trailer to wet your appetite.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Kick Ass (2010)

Well....I saw it, I enjoyed it, I am amazed at the controversy surrounding it.

Roger Ebert has reviewed the film citing that it exists in a world that "I am so very not interested in". This may be true in the form of comic books (and of course games), but his reviewing past with comic book movies suggests otherwise. He also asks: "Will I seem hopelessly square if I find “Kick-Ass” morally reprehensible and will I appear to have missed the point?". Well, I think his review proves that he missed the point.

Harry Knowles over at Ain't It Cool News added his 2 cents by replying directly to Ebert's review. I am not sure Harry has quite the right idea to defend the film though, as I am not sure that parents should necessarily be encouraging their 6 -11 year old daughters to dress as Hit Girl this Halloween, I am not sure that the film maker was truly trying to make Hit Girl a role model, but he does raise an interesting point about her training. "A smart parent would sign their girl up in a Kung Fu class or a Gymnastics class."

Harry seems to suggests that the film might entice Parents to send their daughters to self defense courses or get them active. (of course whether this is a positive outcome relies solely on the motives and actions of those involved.)

I also don't think that using the argument about desensitized kids playing violent video games finding the film funny is valid. This film is not intended for "kids" to see it.

The main issue people seem to have is with Hit Girl. So lets take a look at her:

Hit Girl is played by (then 11 year old) Chloe Moretz. She is a gifted up and coming actress who seems mostly to have appeared in horror films by way of a few dramas. I have read and seen a number of interviews with her and nothing suggests that she has come out of the experience any worse off than she started, In fact, in some ways she has come out better. The film required her to do martial arts, weapons and body training, things that will (if she keeps them up) enable her to defend herself in future (which she should hopefully never have to do)

Ebert makes the following statement when referring to the premise of the characters trying to be superheroes: "The flaw in this premise is that the little girl does become a superhero"

Well this is not technically true, and whilst some "over-the-top artistic flair" may have been involved in some of the scenes involving Hit Girl, the film does not allow her character to exist without reason. Hit Girl is brainwashed. The film does not hide this fact. Her Father (Nicholas Cage) has been using comic books to control and manipulate his daughter to do what he thinks is right, and in this instance, right is killing bad guys. It does not endorse his actions. ("You owe your kid a childhood!") You could argue that by placing her character in comedic if not satirical positions, the film is downplaying this aspect, but you could also argue, that whilst she may no longer be an innocent 11 year old girl, she is hardly beyond redemption and in the end may turn out to be the most mature and realistic of all the characters in the film.

The real problem for everyone seems to be that she is 11 years old. I don't think there would be anywhere near the controversy if the character was instead the Nicholas Cage characters (Big Daddy) wife as opposed to daughter. Of course, upping the age of that character would not hold anywhere near the same impact as she currently does and for good reason. Lets be clear. Hit Girl is being exploited by her Father, plain and simple. He is using her and her age as a tool to take revenge against those who have wronged him. Hit Girl herself uses her age as a weapon to gain access to the "bad guys" building, so we know she has been trained for exactly that purpose.

The film is supposed to be a comedy, but that doesn't stop it from having serious points to make. Yes children are being forced to give up their childhood a lot sooner these days, some of them, with far less reason to as Hit Girl.

In fact, the film has strikingly similar scenes to Luc Bessons' Leon (a film Ebert gave 2 and a half stars to), where a 12 year old girl is taken in and trained by a hit man.

I found the following quote regarding the film from the Australia Family Association quite interesting: "The language is offensive and the values inappropriate - without the saving grace of the bloodless victory of traditional superheroes."

Fine the language is offensive, but you are honestly kidding yourself if you don't think most children aren't at least aware, if not already using all of the language in this film. Some of the values are inappropriate, but just how inappropriate is going to vary from individual to individual based in innumerable factors.

As for trying to place the film in the super heroes category, well, there are no superheroes in this film, only people who wish they could be. If nothing else, the message is clear that you don't have to be a superhero to make a difference. You can and should help people if they are in trouble, how is that message inappropriate? I would also like to see a list of these so called bloodless "traditional" superheroes because to my mind I can't think of one.

So...that was quite the rant.... but as I said, I enjoyed the film, I just found the controversy to be quite the farce and the content far from controversial....

I welcome any others thoughts on the subject.