Posts from 29th December 2004

29
Dec 04

FT TOP 100 FILMS 1: SPY KIDS

Do You See1 comment • 2,749 views

Finally, and apologies for lateness which was caused by a fire at my workplace. (I did not start the fire. It was always burning since the world was turning.)


FT TOP 100 FILMS
1: SPY KIDS

Martin Skidmore says:

This list was put together in the last pub of a pub crawl exactly one year ago, between Christmas and New Year. We started at #100, someone nominating a film they wanted in the list. It required a second, and was in unless vetoed by a majority of the eight or ten participants. By the time we got to the top, people were vetoing nearly anything. Traditionally canonical films got particularly negative reactions (my favourite film, Seven Samurai, is a rare art film anywhere near the top). The #1 slot intensified all these reactions, and we were all struggling to find something that might make it.

I’d had a rotten Christmas. I had a week and a half off, but had been ill with a particularly virulent flu starting before then. This was my first day out, the first time I’d seen anyone I knew, in I think eleven days. I’d also had Sky installed, complete with the movie package (there are 13 channels), a couple of weeks before. I spent a lot of time sitting miserably in front of the TV. I watched loads of films for the first time. I wasn’t sure whether I cared to watch Spy Kids, but the director, whose earliest work I’d loved, made it seem worth a shot. It was the best film I saw in that holiday period.

It’s not my favourite film ever, but with the prevailing critical tendency to favour things that wear their art on their sleeves, and the inclination to only accept popular entertainments as art well after their widespread cultural moment has passed, as well as the difficulty in convincing many people that things produced for children can be as great art as those produced for adults (it took books as astonishingly, undeniably great as Pullman’s to make the breakthrough in the literary world), I am pleased that we ended up with a modern film aimed at a young audience with no overt artistic aspirations as our number one (also I admit that it felt like some sort of trivial game-win to have my nomination at the top). Entertainment this good, this kinetic and jolly and funny and exciting, is very hard to make, and is horribly underappreciated.

I think I’ll leave it to someone else to address the film more directly and specifically – the Greatest Film Ever As Proven By Science* deserves more than one voice extolling it.

*science here = a bunch of drunks, obv

Pete Baran says:

Perhaps you might expect Spy Kids to top this list if it was being done with a bunch of twelve year olds. (Thirteen year olds really start liking films rated 15 by the BBFC). But no-one under twenty was sitting around that table in the Head Of Steam on the 30th December last year. It is a pub after all. So why was Spy Kids chosen as the best film of all time.

Oddly most of its challengers which were being flung thick and fast at the crowd got vetoed because people had not seen them. Spy Kids managed to survive this trial of fire, which when you consider the age of the film and the age of the participants is probably significant. Spy Kids is, for all the valorisation, a kids film. Yet a kids film which most of us had seen, and enjoyed. Certainly when I saw it I wished I was a kid again. We cannot regain our lost youth, but we can imagine how a younger version of ourselves would enjoy something. And we can enjoy it that way ourselves.

Robert Rodriguez, in crafting a kids film he (and his kids) would want to see hit the jackpot. Don’t talk down, but equally do not try and make the kids too adult. Consider that the end of the world is as serious to a ten year old as being bullied at school. In getting the family dynamic right to start off with, we then feel for the kids when they first fight to survive, and then get to rescue their parents. Think upon this years biggest hit: The Incredibles. Seen that plot before? For retired superheroes read retired super-spies: Spy Kids did this storyline four years ago. In gloriously day-glo live action and with the kids firmly up from and centre.

And about that day-glo. It is odd that in this list of misfit films and populist favourites that the number one film stands out as being by the director who has best claim to being a auteur these days. I doubt he would claim it of course (a good sign that) but if we are looking at someone with control, Robert Rodriguez has that in spades. Pretty much everything you see or hear in Spy Kids has come out of Rodriguez’s head. He directs, produces, writes, does the special effects, writes the music, probably makes the sandwiches. And it shows. There is no focus group blandness here. The family are Hispanic (get that from a major studio?), Juni suffers from serious night-time incontinence: all little touches that would not play in a Disney film. That he turned out three of these films in three years (Spy Kids 2 is as good: only 3 is weak) is both testament to his work ethic and creativity. And you know he is only going to get better.

The triumph of Spy Kids on this poll can be seen as a triumph for the little guy, albeit a little guy with big ideas. But most importantly this film is not here because it is by an independent auteur. Biskind’s Low Down And Dirty Pictures barely mentions Spy Kids, yet the films are probably the most profitable bankrolled by Miramax. You have to take kids films seriously, especially when they are this good. But kids films do not mean Disney, do not necessarily mean anodyne and can be great films in their own right. Spy Kids is.