Friday, May 14, 2010

Let's All Go to the Lobby!

Exit Through the Gift Shop
Graffiti art collides with consumer kitsch in the new 'documentary' c0mmandeered by street art icon Banksy. What starts out as an interesting inspection of the rise of street art from the transition of graffiti turns into a rambling, semi-focused biography that's left me puzzled yet intrigued.

The film begins with Thierry Guetta and his compulsion to film everything that happens in his life. This leads him to shadowing his cousin, Invader, who is a street artist. Through Invader, Guetta meets several other prominent street artists and begins compiling footage that he claims he'll turn into a street art documentary.

What Guetta turns out is an indecipherable mess, so Banksy turns the camera on Guetta as he transforms himself into Mr. Brainwash and prepares to stage his own show in L. A. What transpires over the last 1/3 of the film is either an elaborate ruse or an authentic, ego-fueled hack on display. Guetta goes from documentarian to overnight pop-art sensation and scorns many in his wake. The film creates a great dialogue about graffiti as art, art aristocracy, and consumerism. It's challenging and engaging, interesting and mischievous. See it.

Robin Hood
The latest film from Ridley Scott has already met with much criticism (another Robin Hood, seriously?). After watching this weak rendition and basic "Gladiator" redux, I can only hope that Sherwood Forest remains untouched for another couple decades.

With a running time drawing dangerously close to two-and-a-half hours, there is very little that happens in what is marketed to be the true story of Robin Hood. There are a few action sequences at the beginning of the film (King Richard's return from the Crusades) and the climatic fight scene at the end of the film (the English fending off an invading French fleet). Aside from that, it's two hours of lush meadows and antiquated farming.

Scott helms the picture with an epic scope but bland execution. Generally, I enjoy Russell Crowe, but his performance as Robin Hood was stale and empty. Robin Hood is a mythical character with a moral that transcends time; his story has been adapted into several fun pictures (Disney's take, Prince of Thieves, Men in Tights), but the 2010 version did nothing to either expound or radicalize the mythos. Skip it.

The Square
A adulterous affair spins a web of deceit in Nash Edgerton's thriller. A bag of cash acquired under mysterious circumstances leads to increasingly worse decisions for Ray and Carla, the immoral pair. Ray is a foreman and is setting up kick-backs with a co-worker; kick-backs Ray hopes will serve as the start up money for his and Carla's getaway. Confrontations and accusations quickly make their plan spiral out of control and several lives are shattered in the process.

The pacing of this Australian production is tight and quick. The tension is palpable and the performances all resonate with depth and realism. There are fragments of the plot that don't fully connect and the plot seems rudimentary at times, but the execution makes up for any shortcomings. The end sequence alone, however, creates a somber mood for exiting the theater. See it.

As a great prologue to "The Square," Edgerton's short "The Spider" played in front of the press screening I attended. Hopefully it plays during its theatrical run in St. Louis as well. I've included it below, for your viewing pleasure:

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