218) Human Desire (1954) Dir: Fritz Lang Date Released: August 1954 Date Seen: July 4, 2010 Rating: 4/5
219) Pushover (1954) Dir: Richard Quine Date Released: August 1954 Date Seen: July 5, 2010 Rating: 3.75/5
220) The Brothers Rico (1957) Dir: Phil Karlson Date Released: September 1957 Date Seen: July 6, 2010 Rating: 3.25/5
223) City of Fear (1959) Dir: Irving Lerner Date Released: February 1959 Date Seen: July 8, 2010 Rating: 3/5
Little things stand out to me now about this box set: Human Desire really was rather good, Pushover too, City of Fear was freakishly interesting at the start and The Brothers Rico did very little for me. Read more of my scintillating thoughts at the NY Press.
215) The Agony and the Ecstasy of Phil Spector (2009) Dir Vikram Jayanti Date Released: June 2010 Date Seen: June 29, 2010 Rating: 1.75/5
Mostly forgettable but totally fawning and uncritical portrait of the reclusive artist as a nutball. See my review for the NY Press for more and dig that Time Magazine quote on the poster. Really, Time Magazine? Really?
210) Exit Through the Git Shop (2010) Dir: Banksy Date Released: April 2010 Date Seen: June 26, 2010 Rating: 3.5/5
Banksy's fauxcumentary goes down ok--the "street art" world it's depicting is pretty fascinating, mostly because the neurotic artists depicted and their work are--but I find it to be pretty pointless. Real, fake, either way you slice it the thing leads to a dead end of smart-ass discourse. It's a rhetorical argument that leads to two doors, behind which are two brick walls. Choose your own solipsism but whichever door you choose, the writing on either wall's going to be the same (I'm still not sure if this image sucks or is completely brilliant; I'll err on the side of pretension and keep it).
Door #1: The film is not a hoax and Banksy did not invent the personality of Thierry Guetta, who he wants us to see as a total rip-off artist. If we value this interpretation, then it's because we sympathize with Banksy's point of view, which is basically: Guetta's art is unoriginal and hence the nadir of street art because it's trying to scam people of money Guetta doesn't deserve.
This interpretation assumes that Guetta wasted the time of a bunch of street artists when he asked to follow them around, obsessively filming them. Banksy assumes that we'll side with him and agree that it's suspicious that Guetta didn't make a film until finally pressed to make what is, according to our unreliable narrator, an unwatchable film, and the fact that Brainwash made art so similar to Banksy's peers immediately means that Guetta stole from the people he filmed.
Sorry but I don't buy it.
That's mostly because, if this interpretation is valid and I now tend to think it is, Banksy's just jealous. I think Brainwash's art is superior to Banksy's, if anything. Brainwash is making fun of Banksy and his colleagues, to my mind. Ignore Guetta's enthusiasm, his onscreen persona, etc. and just look at the art: Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup can as a spray can and a connect-the-dots portrait of Andy himself poke fun of the fact that Banksy is the next step in the deification and commercialization of the pop art movement. Brainwash can produce infinite copies of his work and that's the joke: Banksy's revolution will be televised, merchandised and sold out. It's no longer a happening scene, it's just a nice way to sell yourself.
Door #2: It's not a hoax and it's a complex convoluted rhetorical argument that again, confuses the issue for the sake of protecting Banksy's ego. In making this scenario, Banksy can incriminate a straw man like Brainwash and ignore the hypocritical schism between the fact that he himself accepted millions of Pounds from celebrities for his art when it went to auction at Sotheby's and the fact that he's always making fun of the capitalist system of reproduction in his art.
If Banksy really had a problem with the concept of commercial art, as he suggests when he says that he objects to the fact that Brainwash/Guetta can reproduce derivative art /and/ (and this "and" is the important part) make lotso money from it, didn't the street art movement to become commercial, then he should criticize himself for taking the money of people that don't "get" his art. What makes the celebrities that took Banksy's art and, in exchange, made him rich so much more enlightened. Hell, what do the critics that praise Exit Through the Gift Shop for being a thoughtful treatise on the nature of art in the age of mechanical reproduction know that I don't? I don't see Banksy looking at himself critically or at all even in the film. He excuses himself by hiding his identity and trying his damnedest to look like an unreliable narrator wearing this black, fuzzed-out hoody in a poorly lit torture chamber basement (Eli Roth is probably renting the place out and filming Hostel 3 right behind him). Banksy's wagging finger does not come back to point at him directly and that's the film's biggest failing.
Pretension heaped on pretension. Pretty for a while but so what?
209) Yatterman (2009) Dir: Takashi Miike Not Yet Released Date Seen: June 25, 2010 Rating: 4/5
211) Eastern Condors (1987) Dir: Sammo Hung Kam-Bo Not Yet Released Date Seen: June 26, 2010 Rating: 3.75/5
Ah, a weekend at the NYAFF, watching good movies with good-sized crowds on big screens--at the Walter Reade, no less! Read my earlier interview with Miike for Twitch, in which I test my "What's your favorite hard drug?" question and my NYAFF 2010 opening weekend report for the NY Press.
200) Wah Do Dem (2009) Dir: Ben Chace and Sam Fleischner Date Released: June 2010 Date Seen June 20, 2010 Rating 2.75/5
I barely remember this film; that's how dull it is. And listless. Read my brief mention of it, designed to piss off Jon Lanthier to no end, in the NY Press for my concluding piece on the 2010 BAM CinemaFest.
198) Jonah Hex (2010) Dir: Jimmy Hayward Date Released: June 2010 Date Seen: June 19, 2010 Rating: 0.5/5
This isn't a finished film. Five editors have had at this thing and it shows. It's not consistent enough to be called a finished film: the closest thing to a defining ethos our eponymous scarred hero (Josh Brolin) has--he tells us at the beginning of the film that he's a proud badman and confederate veteran--is fundamentally undermined after a black buddy (Lance Reddick) reveals he (Hex) was never opposed to slaves having rights. All of the spectacularly cartoonish violence, all of the bizarre little flourishes that Neveldine/Taylor scripted (some of which were actually shot) is diced up well beyond recognition and nothing in the film A) makes sense B) is fun C) could stop the screaming. After a point, probably when I saw Megan Fox in a corset that revealed the black hole where her rib cage should be, I found myself praying for sweet oblivion. Then I got lunch. But holy freeholy: this is the worst movie of 2010.