The New American (& English & French) Graffiti

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Not surprisingly, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2 scored the biggest weekend opening of any movie, anywhere, ever. $168 million clams. And the word of mouth is excellent; I can’t vouch for it because I didn’t go near a theater this past weekend for two reasons: 1) I knew it would be insanely sold out, and 2) one of Los Angeles’ major highways was closed. I know, who cares. But I’m told that most of the country was made aware of what they call “Carmageddon” wherein a ten-mile stretch of the 405 freeway was closed which meant that nobody in California could access this key route. Evidently it was big news all over the US. Anyway, I will wait on Harry Potter or do a stealth viewing on a weekday alongside young moms and sleeping infants at a 10 A.M. show. Those are great and rarely sold out.

I did watch a bizarre but ultimately very good documentary, which I would completely recommend. It got nominated for an Academy Award last year so I knew there would probably be something gripping/groundbreaking/intense, or at least unusual about it and it turns out, there was. The film is called Exit Through The Gift Shop and if you’ve heard anything about it, you’ve probably heard it’s rumored to be a hoax. See, the whole thing was made by a famous, notorious, and very secretive English graffiti artist named Banksy. Banksy has been around forever (his most talked-about move was an exhibit in LA where he painted an elephant and had it stand on the middle of the room – get it? I didn’t, and I don’t think animal rights people did, either). Anyway I had heard about him because of the elephant thing, and because he was this mysterious art world darling whom nobody had actually ever seen. But that’s all I knew.

Anyway, Banksy made Exit Though The Gift Shop and it’s the story of a strange Frenchman who decides to videotape all these street artists, right about the time they were just taking off. And by “taking off” I mean right when fancy art dealers decided that work by Banksy and his buddies could fetch millions of dollars at auction – even though they’re often spray-painted stencils on the side of a building. The other guy who features prominently in the film is Shepard Fairey, whom I knew about because he designed the logo of the radio station where I also work – but then he became a much bigger deal when he designed the now famous Obama “Hope” poster.  By the way, if it’s not abundantly clear by now, I know almost nothing about art, so the whole movie was eye-opening for me.

The whole world of nighttime graffiti artists is pretty obscure and rarified – only it isn’t, because if you’ve ever strolled down a city street you’ve probably seen the work of these guys and not even realized it. In the documentary we meet Thierry the Frenchman who, after videotaping other street artists, decides to create an art show of his own – and whaddaya know – it becomes this crazy phenomenon even though he’s not really an artist himself. It’s even suspenseful because all the time you’re wondering whether he’ll pull this off and become the art world’s next big thing. You’re also curious whether Banksy – who directed and is interviewed throughout  – is ever going to show his face. Then you start to think about what in the art world is real and what’s made up (and whether that matters in the first place), and that’s what makes this intriguing little movie well worth renting. Or streaming. Or however you get your hands on something fun to watch. Which this definitely is.

So there’s a slightly weird recommendation for a very weird but ultimately engrossing film. You’ll also get plenty of cocktail party points for having seen it, and it’s totally safe to wonder whether it’s a hoax or not because nobody really knows.And that’s why Exit Through The Gift Shop is cool: you’re witnessing the alluring power and beauty of a movie all about the Emperor’s New Clothes – that might actually BE the Emperor’s New Clothes.

Today’s poll:

Harry Potter had the biggest opening weekend opening of all time. Voice your choice in today’s featured poll and tell us of the four other biggest movie openings – which is your favorite?

a)    Dark Knight ($158m)

b)    Spider Man 3 ($151m)

c)     Twilight; New Moon ($142m)

d)    Pirates: Dead Man’s Chest ($135m) 


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