Exit Through the Gift Shop

(Banksy, 2010)

alone, on DVD at 1681 3rd Ave., 1/27/11


Weirdly entrancing, cheeky, unpredictable, and thought-provoking, Exit Through the Gift Shop is the first documentary I’ve ever really loved.  Although Banksy swears up and down that the events of the film are genuine, many remain unconvinced — in essence, because it’s simply too good not to be fiction.  Certainly, the twists and turns of the story are suspiciously riveting — but then again, life can be like that.  Banksy, our master of ceremonies, comes off as clever, grounded, and self-aware; despite his shadowed face and distorted voice, he’s a deeply appealing presence.  And to his credit, he’s not afraid to make himself look stodgy, or to make the whole art world look ridiculous — which is exactly what the film’s denouement does.  There’s a perverse pleasure in watching anti-establishment figures like Banksy and Shepard Fairey turn snotty and defensive when confronted with the success of someone who doesn’t fit their notion of an artist.  Banksy, at least, acknowledges the irony: “I don’t think Thierry played by the rules, in some ways.  But then, there aren’t supposed to be any rules.”  He goes farther, coming dangerously close to an uncomfortable truth: “Maybe it means art is a bit of a joke.”  An even more apt summation is provided by Banksy’s art dealer, Steve Lazarides: “I think … I think the joke is on … I don’t know who the joke’s on, really.  I don’t even know if there is a joke.”  The audience isn’t sure, either.  That’s half the fun.

Published in: on January 30, 2011 at 9:48 am  Leave a Comment  

Uncle Kent

(Joe Swanberg, 2011)

with Robb Stey and Mike Lavoie, Broadway Cinemas (SLC), 1/23/11


Looks like crap, not much plot, and the characters are all kind of pathetic — yet somehow, this movie works.  It’s witty enough, and painfully real enough, that nothing else seems to matter all that much.  I’m not sure I’m on board with this whole “mumblecore” thing, but I grudgingly confess, it can be effective.

Published in: on January 29, 2011 at 7:04 pm  Leave a Comment  


(Athina Rachel Tsangari, 2011)

with Robb Stey and Mike Lavoie, Broadway Cinemas (SLC), 1/23/11


Slow-moving and idiosyncratic, characterized by a poker-faced existential humor, Attenberg is an inscrutable, yet oddly alluring, film about friendship, sex, death, and disappointment.  The music-less dance breaks that punctuate the story are strange indeed, but somehow they feel right.  The whole movie is like that — mysterious, but undeniably pleasing.

Published in: on January 29, 2011 at 6:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

Corman’s World

(Alex Stapleton, 2011)

with Robb Stey and Mike Lavoie, Egyptian Theater, 1/21/11


Amiable documentary about that mild-mannered master of the B-movie, Roger Corman.  Before watching Corman’s World, I had no idea how deeply connected Corman was to a whole generation of American filmmakers — Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Peter Bogdanovich, Peter Fonda, Jack Nicholson, and so on.  The interview with Nicholson is the film’s highlight, vacillating between spirited ribbing and sentimental affection.  One thing the movie never quite makes clear: is Roger Corman any good as a director, or not?

Published in: on January 28, 2011 at 1:32 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Future

(Miranda July, 2011)

with Mike Lavoie, Eccles Theatre, 1/21/11


Whimsy is a delicate business, but Miranda July is a virtuoso of the delicate.  Suffused with grave humor and gentle fantasy, empathetic and imaginative, and with real heartbreak at its core, The Future is the work of a unique voice in American cinema.  But the cat narration is really annoying.

Published in: on January 28, 2011 at 1:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

Bobby Fischer Against the World

(Liz Garbus, 2011)

with Mike Lavoie, Library Center Theater, 1/21/11


The saddest thing about Bobby Fischer’s descent into bitterness and delusion, as chronicled in this film, is how bright and charming he was to begin with.  Interview footage of a young Fischer shows a man who is, yes, a singled-minded perfectionist, but with a sense of humor about himself and his peculiarities, his powerful ambition tempered by a bashful demeanor and a ready smile.  Gradually, this likable and brilliant young man disappears into a swamp of hateful paranoia.  What happened to Bobby Fischer?  Ultimately, Bobby Fischer Against the World can’t answer that question, but the film asks it in a lucid and heartbreaking way.

Published in: on January 27, 2011 at 3:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

Project Nim

(James Marsh, 2011)

with Mike Lavoie, Egyptian Theater, 1/20/11


A bit long, a bit plodding, and a bit facile, but still a fascinating tale stylishly told.  Given how many humans and other animals suffer and die every day around the world, all the hand-wringing about one chimpanzee seems a little overblown –  but then again, that’s what human beings are like; we always inflate the importance of anecdotes.  I guess that’s why cinema exists in the first place.

Published in: on January 22, 2011 at 7:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Guard

(John Michael McDonagh, 2011)

with Mike Lavoie, Egyptian Theater, 1/20/11


After In Bruges, this is the second-best Irish black comedy starring Brendan Gleeson and directed by a member of the McDonagh family ever to open the Sundance Film Festival.  It’s not bad, but it feels cobbled together from bits of other movies, and the central character is similarly a patchwork of characteristics, never attaining a convincing existence despite typically wonderful work by Brendan Gleeson.

Published in: on January 22, 2011 at 11:41 am  Leave a Comment  

Toy Story 3

(Lee Unkrich, 2010)

alone, on DVD at 1681 3rd Ave., 1/17/11


The Toy Story movies have never thrilled me the way they do so many others, but they’re solid entertainments, not unworthy of the venerable Pixar brand.  One consistent problem is that the humans in all three films are awkwardly poised between cartoonishness and realism; they seem just about as toy-like as the toys. But Toy Story 3 has some deeply moving moments towards the end, including a surprising adult sequence about coming to terms with death, and if I said I didn’t weep, I would be a liar.

Published in: on January 22, 2011 at 11:38 am  Leave a Comment  

Some Like It Hot

(Billy Wilder, 1959)

with Ellen Mezzera, on DVD at 118 W. 109th, 1/13/11


Not wildly funny, but a pleasantly kooky comedy all the same.  Jack Lemmon is semi-insufferable in his mincing, giggling “Daphne” persona, but Tony Curtis is both funny and charming, and Marilyn Monroe is … Marilyn Monroe.  There’s no mystery to her legend; her naughty-innocent manner and seemingly guileless sexuality demand ravenous attention, and at one point she wears a dress that ought to be illegal.  Some Like It Hot takes quite a while to get into gear, but once we arrive in Florida, things start to get rolling, and the movie becomes a hoot.

Published in: on January 20, 2011 at 11:31 am  Leave a Comment