Comments on watching and making films.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Exit Through The Gift Shop

Street art is a movement that has been brewing for some time, and probably came into consciousness, primarily, because of the mainstreaming of artist Shepard Fairey, with his Obey series, and his infamous Barack Obama "Hope" poster. Street art is generally put up hastily, because of its illegal nature, and is not meant to last in any way. It is guerilla art at its core. It is made for the purest reasons - to make art and share ideas with others. There is, generally, little if any money involved in it, as most of it is spray painted, glued, or otherwise illegally attached to various surfaces. These are secretive people, and most only want the joy of getting away with it, and having their art seen by the general public. Banksy, one of the most prominent members of this movement, and its most private, befriended a man named Thierry Guetta, who was going around and documenting these street artists and had been doing so for years. The two became acquaintances, friendly enough that Banksy agreed to let Thierry tape him, as long as his identity remained secret. It was all fun and games until it wasn't anymore, and that was when Banksy decided to turn the camera on Thierry.

Exit Through The Gift Shop is one of the most fascinating documentaries I have seen in a long time. It explores the very nature of art, whether it is inspired or simply manufactured, and who has the right to call themselves an artist. It could also start an incredible discussion on how people who think they are art aficionados, are, many times, just sheep following a herd. A very small herd, but a herd none the less. This film makes you realize that, even with the best intentions, anyone can turn into a monster while looking for their little piece of the pie. I highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend this film to anyone who is interested in art in general, and the discussion of what makes something art. I'm not a huge fan of any of the people featured in this, but I think the questions behind why they do what they do, and how they do it, is part of what makes all of this so interesting.

Iron Man 2

Comic book films. For so long they were done so poorly, people began to shut them out completely. Remember David Hasselhoff as Nick Fury? How about the Joel Schumacher directed Batman's? Or even, and I know I'll catch flak for this, the Tim Burton directed Batman's? Recently, ever since Christopher Nolan's exceptional reboot of the Batman series, and even Bryan Singer's X-Men movies (Singer, not Rattner), comic book movies have started to get better. They are more interesting, more realistic, and feel more relevant than ever before. Iron Man was a successor to the groundwork that Nolan laid down in Batman Begins, and director Jon Favreau took all of those cues to build the film into something enjoyable on almost every level. Iron Man 2, however, is a different story.

We are back with Tony Stark and company for the follow up, and this time Tony has, effectively, shut down war, seemingly, single handedly. In fact, he goes so far as to boast this during a senate trial that comprises much of the opening part of the film. We are also introduced, in the opening, to a character, Ivan Vanko (played by Mickey Rourke), who is obviously after Stark and is building his own version of the miniature reactor core that Stark is using to power the Iron Man suit, and to keep himself alive. Vanko succeeds in this, and meets Stark in Monaco, where he uses the core's energy to try and kill Stark. Unsuccessful at doing so, Vanko is captured and imprisoned, but not without catching the notice of Stark's direct competitor, Justin Hammer (played by Sam Rockwell). Hammer breaks Vanko out of prison, and throws endless amounts of money at him to build a knockoff of the Iron Man suit that Hammer can sell to the US government (since Stark is refusing to hand over his suit), but Vanko has his own plans.

Iron Man 2 is not a complete failure. It manages, at times, to entertain, but one has to wonder if Favreau really intended for the film to be as dull as it was, or if the studios tied one arm behind his back in order to try and make the film that they thought audiences wanted to see. Pretty much everyone in this film, even Robert Downey Jr., is criminally underused. Favreau seems to bring Stark back as the unapologetic, full of himself millionaire playboy, with only a tinge of the maturity we saw developing in the first film. Paltrow, as Pepper Potts, Cheadle as Rhodes, Rourke as Vanko, ALL of these people had parts that had potential for something greater than was up there on the screen. Scarlett Johansson's character, especially, felt tacked on, as if she was almost an after thought for Favreau and company.

The film failed because, unlike the first one, it was more about action and explosions than it was about character development. I'm honestly surprised they didn't throw in some boobs, just to round out all of the cliche's, but, they were gunning for the PG-13. Iron Man 2, while not the WORST it could be, is still, in my mind, one of the biggest let down's in the category of sequels to great first films. Favreau, I hope that we can blame the studio's on this one, and not you. And, if that's the case, I hope we see a director's cut that is everything many of us wanted out of this film in the first place.

Donald Miller talks Toy Story 3 and living a great story

Donald Miller, one of my favorite writers, did a three part blog series on the lessons he pulled out of Toy Story 3 on a subject he often focuses on in his own writing - Living a great story. It's the primary theme of his latest book A Million Miles In A Thousand Years. The blogs are short but informative, and I encourage anybody to read them -

Toy Story 3: What We Can Learn From A Great Story -