Short Term 12

           

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           Short Term 12 is a movie about a group home for troubled teenagers. Albeit fiction, the writer and director worked in a group home for at-risk kids himself and was inspired to share his experiences. The style, music, and writing of the film is masterful, and I’d like to liken it to another great independent film called Like Crazy. Its screenplay compliments its plot and message, which in turn complements its phenomenal effect on the viewer.

            What makes Short Term 12 so amazing is its ability at realism. The viewer can’t help but see himself right there in the movie, walking alongside Grace (the supervisor) the entire time. The personalities of every character are genuine and their stories are worldly, not too outlandish, and not all that uncommon. The troubled teenagers and even Grace come from backgrounds of violence and abuse that shake the viewer’s pristine vision of the world.

            I personally find the very humanness of the story helpful. What on earth is one to say when a grown man talks about his abusive mother and bursts out crying? How does one look at a man’s eyes and give a few words of comfort, or advice, or disbelief, or whatever seems necessary at that moment with the right emotions transmitted, poise intact, and tensions eased? Or what does one do when a girl spits in one’s face, screams obscenity at the top of her lungs, and throws a tempered fit of garbled emotional discharge? The movie has those wild scenes and the reactions of the various supervisors at the camp, each with their different personalities and backgrounds.

            The film ends abruptly but with a deliberate impact on the viewer. One is left not just pitying the lowdown “underprivileged” children of the movie, but actively thinking about the extraordinary passions of the human experience that have to be dealt with every day. Working with people and their emotions seems to be at the heart of this fantastic film, all the while wrapped in the plight of social work and the angst at-risk teenagers.

Special

Our human psyche is so difficult to understand and comprehend. This movie is about a particularly “special” human, who, after signing up for these trial drug tests for a headache problem goes crazy: he thinks he’s a superhero. To be frank, the protagonist is an absolute loner: two lame friends, no close family, no wealth, and hardly chance of progeny. He spends his time wishing he had a decent life and reading comics. Then he starts saving the world… or does he?

The protagonist, after taking these drugs, imagines himself having superpowers: he “discovers” that he can run through walls, levitate, use telekinesis, and go invisible. He then makes his own costume, gets a police radio, and goes out to save the world. He stops burglars, murderers, and muggers alike… or does he?

The beautiful thing about this movie is that you have no idea what’s real and what isn’t. The protagonist imagines he has superpowers, and sometimes we see him running through walls, while other times he’s running straight into them. Sometimes we see him tackling a person with a gun at a convenience store, and then find out there was no gun at all. Other times, we see him tackling a mugger, and he really did save a crime. Later he gets into some trouble, and ends up killing two people that tried to kill him… or does he?

The movie pretty much answers what actually happened and what didn’t by the end, although I wish it didn’t. Nevertheless, it causes us to question what we perceive versus what actually happens. After all, we can only prove our own self awareness. We also convince ourselves of things we know are untrue, or choose to forget them. Cognitive dissonance, willful blindness, self-deception, doublethink, the list goes on and on. Everyone thinks the protagonist is crazy, but he thinks everyone else is crazy. Sometimes I think that way, and everyone’s had the experience. Perhaps we aren’t the crazy ones…perhaps the protagonist had super powers all along and everyone, absolutely everyone, was being irrational instead. What’s an objective fact, anyway? They are all delivered by flawed humans with flawed eyes and ears. What we perceive and what others perceive can be so vastly different, and we need to be aware and cautious of that. Because we hardly ever do… or do we?

Like Crazy

This movie was one of the first independent films I have ever seen – and it is much better than Hollywood. It’s basically a love story between an American and a British student in some university in LA. The British chick, after school, violated her visa and after returning to England she couldn’t come back. The romance in this film was surprisingly realistic, and had none of the stupid Hollywood banter (you hang up….no you hang up!). Their relationship was ever changing, and sometimes even boring, because since when were people interesting 24/7? They are in Hollywood apparently. Somehow Jennifer Lawrence found herself playing a minor role in a low budget film like this, but the film for whatever reason hardly ever had the camera on her in the light (she was always filmed in a dark room or outside at night or in a club with little light), something I couldn’t help but notice. The reasoning behind that baffles me. Another thing that I couldn’t help but notice was the lack of religion in the movie. We find utter secularism in about 99% of films these days, but this one seemed appropriate to bring religion into it. The British chick’s parents were quite “sophisticated” (except, for once, in a good portrayal), and I would think a bit of religion would come hand in hand with that. The amount of pin and suffering by the lovers, I would think, would also demand some sort of anger or seeking out of faith, but there was none of that.  Anyway, the film was incredible for being an atypical love story by the movie industry’s standards, and I wish we had more of that.