Ken Park

By Adam Lippe

18363427Ken Park tries so hard to shock that it ceases to be anything but strained and obvious. This isn’t a surprise coming from director/photographer/borderline pedophile Larry Clark, considering he made the quite similar Bully, which also featured hateful, inarticulate,  stupid teenagers engaging in self-destructive behavior, all of it leading to acts of horrifying violence. But Bully walks Clark’s curious line that he navigates in Kids (but not in Teenage Caveman), where he’s either showing us idiots and how empty their lives and brains are, or he’s making rather unpleasant exploitation movies and he has no knowledge or interest in the characters. It can be simultaneously riveting and off-putting and repetitive.

But in Ken Park, Clark fails to establish a balance. The characters are moronic, and portrayed without insight or feeling. One character in particular curses at his grandmother and his grandfather for cheating at Scrabble. Then he kills them. These incidents are supposed to be daring, but come off as just dumb. The kid is an awful actor and we never learn anything about him, except that he enjoys auto-erotic asphyxiation. We watch him masturbate with his grandmother’s robe sash around his neck. We watch him ejaculate (and this is clearly not faked). Then there is a close-up on his penis, with obviously fake cum coming off of it. End of scene. No point to any of it.

Characters have explicit threesomes with each other, and yet they have shared no other scenes together. We have to infer that they have done this before, but the dialogue (written by Clark’s Kids collaborator Harmony Korine) gives us no clues.

There is another scene where we see one character pee. We see his naked penis. Then the camera goes up so we can see that it is in fact him peeing. And then back down to see him peeing. This scene goes on for about a minute, and changes the movie into a documentary about urination, like Koyaanisqatsi but instead of the Philip Glass music or the stunning visuals, we get peeing.

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Roadracers

By Adam Lippe

Whenever there’s a genre parody or ode to a specific era of films, such as Black Dynamite’s mocking of Blaxploitation films or Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof, the second half of Grindhouse, the danger is that the film might fall into the trap of either being condescending without any particular insight, or so faithful that it becomes the very flawed thing it is emulating.

Black Dynamite has nothing new to say about Blaxploitation films, it just does a decent job of copying what an inept [...]


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Featured Quote (written by me)

On Cold Fish:

Though the 16 year old me described the 1994 weepie Angie, starring Geena Davis as a Brooklyn mother raising her new baby alone, as “maudlin and melodramatic,” Roger Ebert, during his TV review, referring to the multitude of soap-operaish problems piling up on the titular character, suggested that it was only in Hollywood where Angie would get a happy ending. “If they made this movie in France, Angie would have shot herself.”

Well Cold Fish was made in Japan, where Angie would have shot herself and that would have been the happy ending.