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Exit Through the Gift Shop

Director: Banksy
Cast: Thierry Guetta, Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Roger Gastman, Rhys Ifans (narrator)
Review [16.Apr.2010]

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Exit Through the Gift Shop


Who controls the artist’s voice? Is it the artist, maker of the product? Or does the product speak? When the art becomes a commodity, does the final word go to the highest bidder? These questions, and a flood of others, are the stuff of Exit Through the Gift Shop, a hilarious documentary directed by a mysterious prankster and celebrated street artist known worldwide only as “Banksy”. A spiritual successor to Orson Welles’ F for Fake, Exit Through the Gift Shop purportedly aims to be an authentic street art documentary that shifts into a character study of Thierry Guetta, the gadfly/videographer responsible for most of the footage in the film. Banksy’s mid-film flip from being Guetta’s subject to his controlling voice is a clue to the film’s overall point, which is to regain control of an experiment gone awry. Street art, like Guetta’s footage and eventual artistic ambitions, has outgrown its creators, and its absurd preservation and commodification (cannily documented in the film)spells the probable death of the transitory form. The line between fact and fiction seems fluid in Exit Through the Gift Shop, but the thesis of the film rings true regardless of (or perhaps because of) the trickery on display. Namely, who better than the artist to kill his own creation when it turns on him? Thomas Britt


 

 



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127 Hours

Director: Danny Boyle
Cast:   James Franco, Amber Tamblyn, Kate Mara, Clémence Poésy,  Lizzy Caplan

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127 Hours


One would be hard-pressed to come up with a film idea less cinematic than an one-man show about a character that cannot move. There are thrills to be found in the real-life survival story of Aron Ralston (played here by James Franco), a young man incapacitated on a hiking adventure in a Utah canyon. However, the stakes of Ralston’s dilemma stem mostly from a single decision: How should he free himself from being trapped by a boulder against a canyon wall? Director Danny Boyle and ingenious cinematographers Anthony Dod Mantle and Enrique Chediak present this solitary situation, beset by tests of the body and mind, with an approach that drops the viewer into Ralston’s head. We cannot aid Ralston, but the cinematographic proximity and captivating performance by Franco give us a privileged position in his predicament. We together remember his idealized past and conceive a magically realistic future that depends on his survival. The grim details of his self-amputation are well-known and boldly executed in the film, though the movie’s most powerful and exceptional asset is its invitation to contemplate our own choices and capacity for self-determination. Thomas Britt


 

 



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Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Director: Edgar Wright
Cast: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jason Schwartzman, Kieran Culkin, Ellen Wong, Alison Pill,, Mark Webber, Johnny Simmons, Anna Kendrick

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Scott Pilgrim vs. The World


Lovesick 20-something Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) fancies himself a nice guy, like many of Cera’s roles, but is enough of a callous jackass to make the part something you haven’t seen from Cera before.  When Scott falls for Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), he finds himself at odds with her seven evil exes, all of whom he must defeat in mortal combat. Sadly, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is a prime example that no matter how much advance hype there is on the internet (there was an absurd amount), and no matter how good the reviews are (they were overwhelmingly positive), film geeks alone can’t open a movie. Which is too bad because Edgar Wright’s homage to pixilated videogames and comic books is nuts, visually inventive, and entertaining as all hell. This one comes readymade for cult classic status. Brent McKnight


 

 



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Inside Job

Director: Charles Ferguson
Cast: Andri Magnason, Andrew Sheng, Paul Volcker, Elliot Spitzer, Barney Frank, Glenn Hubbard, Christine Lagarde, Matt Damon (narrator)

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Inside Job


“Nothing comes without consequence,” observes Andri Magnason. The filmmaker and author is reflecting on the fate of his native Iceland, where the banks collapsed at the end of 2008, whereupon the unemployment rate tripled. These dire consequences seem clear enough, and so provide a vivid opening sequence for Inside Job. Shots of spectacular mountains and fluffy clouds give way to frames full of stats and graphs, Alcoa smelting plants and gray urban streets. But such obvious consequences are only the point of departure for Charles Ferguson’s new documentary. This start leads to remarkably coherent, bracing, and frequently galling analysis of the recent world financial crisis, one that focuses on the (current) lack of consequences for those who caused it. Inside Job brings to this complicated, often confounding saga the same sort of intellectual and moral rigor that Ferguson’s No End in Sight brought to the Bush administration’s management of the Iraq War. Much like the previous film, this one makes talking heads—traditionally the dullest of documentary formats—compelling and revelatory. Each interview is delivered in direct relation to another, whether complementary or contradictory, the orchestration at once engaging and horrifying. Cynthia Fuchs


 

 



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Mother

Director: Bong Joon-ho
Cast: Kim Hye-ja, Won Bin, Jin Goo, Yoon Je-moon

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Mother


In the latest by Korean director Bong Joon-Ho, a mother sets out to clear her mentally challenged son’s name of a murder. Even though we as an audience were afforded the privileged position of seeing what happens very early on in the film, suspense in the narrative is crafted well enough that it’s still possible to have some doubt about the truth. Starting its run at 2009 film festivals but only seeing its limited USA release in 2010, this is the kind of film I put off watching for a while because I expected it to be “difficult” in some way, but ended up regretting the wait when I took in the truly exciting cinematographic and narrative choices as well as the deeply empathetic portrayal of the mother-in-crisis by Kim Hye-ja.  Jenn Misko


 
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