I know I’m late to the game on these. I’m way behind on my movies (still haven’t even seen Toy Story 3, that’s how bad it is), although maybe I’ll go see True Grit tonight.
Exit Through the Gift Shop
What I found most impressive about this film is its universal intrigue. I was in a room with my family, with various levels of interest ranging from “opposed and begrudgingly watching” to “been waiting a while to see this and heard great reviews” (that’s me), and as much as some people couldn’t contain outbursts such as “What’s the point of graffiti?” and the like, no one could stop watching (which is a rarity in my ADD household). And at the end, we had to have a discussion on art, and the film, and the characters it portrayed. Even the least enthusiastic viewer jumped on to Wikipedia, searching for some critical point he missed to make sense of it all.
Being kind of an insider on both cinema and modern art, I was able to make sense of the intentions of the film. The documentary declares its subject to be Thierry Guetta, a semi-fictional character with a psychological compulsion to record everything he does and everywhere he goes (this reviewer can relate). It tells a story of a filmmaker who wants to capture the story of street art, but ends up becoming a far more interesting story himself, as his compulsion leads to exceptional events.
Essentially this film can be divided in to two halves. In the first half of the film, the amateur footage taken by Banksy and Friends performing exceptional feats of vandalism is recontextualized as Thierry’s amateur footage, in a humble-yet-glorifying counter-cultural manner, something much less self-serving than the footage’s original intent. This utility is very well disguised, as most viewers bought into the documentary’s authenticity. It took keen eyes to find flaws in continuity, but they were present.
But it just wouldn’t be a Banksy production without creating a statement on the state of the world today. He takes his character Thierry and decides to make him a phenomenon. Why? Because he can. The second half of the film shows this clueless, out-of-control, disgrace to the term “artist,” and how through clever advertising and endorsements, the ‘sheeple’ (I don’t remember if Banksy used this term, but if he didn’t, he should have) buy into the art because of its edgy, counter-cultural stigma, not for its quality. By the end, “MBW” (Mr. Brainwash, Thierry’s new modern art persona) skyrockets into fame, wealth, and success through a massive art show in Los Angeles called “Life is Beautiful” (this part is true), yet all the renowned, authentic street artists (Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Space Invader) disown him. They’ve proved they can commercialize their art, and they hate it.
This is a film that successfully communicates beyond its clique, as these concepts are captured in one way or another by even the most illiterate film viewer. In basic creativity classes, you are always taught “don’t tell me, show me,” and this film does that very effectively, despite being deceitful in the process. It has to maintain the veneer of documentary, yet clearly dabbles in the realm of fiction. I don’t believe I’ve seen a film that resides not within, but between “mockumentary” and “documentary,” yet Exit Through the Gift Shop does, and it wouldn’t work any other way. (There needs to be a name for that. “Flexi-fictional docu-drama.” On second thought, maybe not.) A-
Whew, that was way more than I planned on writing on that one. Next two will be shorter.
As many of you know, I despise superhero movies. As you can imagine, I was very skeptical of a comicbook-centric film starring McLovin and Nicholas “Haven’t Been in a Box Office Success Since National Treasure” Cage. Instead, I was delighted to find that Kick-Ass would far surpass my incredibly low expectations.
The film opens with Dave, a comic-book loving nerd, delivering an extensive monologue about his throughly normal world, where geeks can only suffer tragically stereotypical fates by their surroundings. They long and dream to live in a world like their beloved comic books, where a spider bite or nuclear spill can result in miraculous crime-fighting powers. Alas, disappointment looms, as Dave still gets robbed, bullied, and most importantly, can’t talk to girls.
But that would make a boring story, so instead Dave decides to become a superhero anyway, despite having no superpowers. After getting stabbed and hit by a car in his first attempt at serving justice, he ends up in the hospital. When he gets out, he miraculously makes a full recovery (imagine that! Good as new in only a day or two!) minus desensitized nerve endings, which gives him the superpower of being able to take a serious ass-kicking and not pass out from pain.
The result is a delightfully gory tale of a few normal people bridging the gap between mild-mannered vigilantism and full-blown herodom through silly outfits and ridiculous arsenals of weapons. It felt like the comic-book version of Be Kind, Rewind, where the protagonist decides to become the creator of its obsession, playing with genre conventions and tropes along the way. A great reimagination, satisfying a wide spectrum, from action film to comic-book aesthetic, and the raving was justified, Chloe Grace Moretz as HitGirl stole the show. B
I set down my hatred for Bostonphilia to watch The Town, expecting a lot of things. The director and star, Ben Affleck, also directed Gone Baby Gone, which was critically cheered. I saw it and enjoyed it, so maybe I was expecting that. Maybe I was expecting some Inside Man bank-heist-with-a-twist charm. Maybe I was expecting a high level of acting (for some reason). This film was none of those things.
What it was, was a disaster. The story of Doug, a bank robber, tragically falling in love with a hostage, falls flat. The story of a one-dimensional FBI agent, who’s a stereotypical bloodthirsty asshat hot on the trail of this bank robbing ring, only to fail to get the last laugh on Doug, falls flat. The contrived story of the protagonist failing to break out of an institutionalized life of crime, falls flat.
The only convincing part of this whole movie is the love affair between Affleck and the wretched city of Boston. The whole film just felt like an excuse to do bad-ass car chases in its narrow streets, and an epic SWAT siege on some crooks fortified in Fenway Park. In fact, if you pretend Affleck and his buddies sat down at a bar one day and say, “Hey, wouldn’t it be really fun to have a car chase through the alleys of Cambridge? And an epic showdown in Fenway? How can we get permission to do these things? Make a movie? PERFECT!” it actually makes the movie much more tolerable.
There isn’t much good to say about this one, my friends. The directing and editing were sub-par, the acting was noticeably poor, and the low production budget shows. The action is fun, but sparse. And the parts in between are atrocious. Intolerable, even. This is a pass. D