Exit Through the Gift Shop (Banksy, 2010) is something like a documentary, and an occasionally funny one at that, yet its intentions are more dubious than even the most preposterously pedagogical of political docs (or a covered Corey Maggette jumper). The real story of Gift Shop, it seems, is not necessarily its polarization (of which there is quite a bit), but its ability to confuse (i.e. coax) the audience into multitude of interpretations, reactions, and conspiracies. Personally, I’ve yet to be convinced Banksy’s foray into cinema is anything more than a smug practical joke with generic anti-capitalist sentiments, but such is the nature of enigma. In other enigmatic news, Gilbert Arenas stated last week that he and fellow Magic shooting guard J.J. Redick were in fact, “the two best white shooters in the league.” Gil later explained these comments with a coy smile, but most importantly, these goofy remarks constitute something of a return to form for the player formerly known as Agent Zero, who’s swag was most definitely phenomenal until severe knee injuries and a practical joke involving pistols in the locker room threatened to destroy his entire existence. Having been shipped off to the contending Magic in exchange for an empty clip (Rashard Lewis) to make room for injury sensation John Wall, fans worried that Arenas’ sui-generis personality might not fit in down in the sunshine state. Fortunately, his recent comments, not to mention his willingness to participate in choreographed pre-game dances (and the naming of “The Bench Mobb”) indicates that there might be new life for Gilbert. But are there second acts in American lives? F. Scott Fitzgerald didn’t seem to think so, but then again it doesn’t really pertain here, since Arenas isn’t of this planet, let alone America. I’m just hoping that by season’s end he’ll be comfortable enough to provide an answer to the age old question David Bowie once so enthusiastically posed: is there life on Mars?
The Town (Ben Affleck, 2010) is a tightly crafted heist film about working class bank robbers, and despite its well documented misfortune in the forced/improbable relationship department, it excels in its action and novelistic detail, updating the heist genre for the new millennium while making its getaways even more probable on the unreasonably narrow streets of Boston. Taking stylistic cues from Michael Mann’s Heat as well as Kathryn Bigelow’s Point Break, writer/director/star Ben Affleck handles his duties deftly, and frankly, I wouldn’t mind if he made it his business to direct a crime film set in Boston every few years or so for the rest of his life. While it might be a bit obvious now to relate this back to the Celtics, we must remember that the last time Affleck made a film (2007’s grisly mystery Gone Baby Gone), the Celtics won a world championship. And as of right now, they are sitting near the top of the Eastern Conference at an impressive 28-9. Not bad for a bunch of old men and an alien, which also happens to be the name of a new sitcom I’m writing. But seriously, the Celtics would make a great heist team: Rondo heading it up as a master engineer and logistical prodigy, Kevin Garnett as the unhinged and violent counterpart inspired by Jeremy Renner doing a Garnett impression, and Pierce and Allen as the more than reliable role players/wingmen willing to step up on any occasion.
Everyone Else (Maren Ade, 2010) is an intimate relationship drama which, like certain Eric Rohmer films or major basketball decisions, takes place on vacation. This is because on vacation, people aren’t bound up by the distractions of work or everyday responsibilities, and are free to be themselves: bored, moody, restless, confused. Ade’s film is one of intricately shifting power dynamics between a couple fresh enough to begin to have their doubts — the vacation is over, so to speak, except they are actually on vacation. And that’s when things get interesting: a run in with a well-to-do former classmate and neighbor sparks feelings of embarrassment and career failure for the introverted and idealistic Chris (Lars Eidinger) which in turn causes problems with the more outgoing and aimless Gitti (Birgit Minichmayr). Both seem to love each other, if at different times, and the shifting fear of losing the other drives the characters, as does the unspoken but looming feeling that Chris and Gitti are having a hard time adjusting to the adult world they so suddenly find themselves in. This is not unlike everyone’s favorite NBA whipping boys, the Miami Heat. This summer/The Decision was the vacation period that consecrated the serious relationship between Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh, but it wouldn’t be until the season started that they discovered the tremendous difficulties relationships can bring to the table. LeBron was the cutest girl at the club, sure, but you never know when he might up and leave you, let alone the PR behemoth he’s carrying around in his back pocket. Wade seems like such a solid catch having inherited a basketball team to treat at his disposal with the help of Dad (Pat Riley), but people were worried about his sharing. And then there’s Bosh, who gets the nod here as the player most likely to jump out of a window to get the attention of a loved one. And yet somehow they’ve made it work, and then some. The vacation’s over but so are the initial trials and tribulations — the Heat are now coasting with the best record in the East (30-9), and as far as everyone else is concerned, well, who cares what they think anyway? There’s not much to worry about when you’re this good.
My Son My Son What Have Ye Done (Werner Herzog, 2009) is a film of madness, a retroactive jigsaw puzzle of deadly proportions given strange life by an amazing cast of cult performers and an above-the-line team that features not only the delusional direction of Herzog but David Lynch as producer (what else explains the perfect casting of Grace Zabriskie?). Embracing his inner schizo, the unsettling and overbearing Michael Shannon plays Brad, a damaged theater actor gone nuts with an antique saber, all while a police detective (Willem Dafoe) tries to piece it all together with the help of Brad’s past: a passionate theater director (Udo Kier) and unsuspecting girlfriend (Chloe Sevigny). A different filmmaker might have gone out of his or her way to search for cause in this true crime thriller, which is hinted at in Brad’s repression by way of his overbearing and creep-show mother (Grace Zabriskie), but Herzog is not interested in facts, only truth (as he sees fit, of course). Truth is hard to come by when dealing with the mentally insane, yet the film treats Brad’s psychosis with a loving if abstract understanding, illuminated by a non-sequitur dream sequence in which Shannon hikes around Machu Picchu and an impoverished Chinese market with a camera and wide-angle lens strapped to his chest, looking at peace for once in this fucked up world. Which is, incidentally, how another cult figure has been looking lately: DeMarcus Cousins, the mercurial rookie who’s been as devastating as a Peruvian rainstorm as of late. Starting his career in a repressive environment like Paul Westphal’s has done its damage on Cousins (if only monetarily), but given his recent performance (good) and behavior (good) I’m having a hard time busting out the Singapore cane to whack the organization’s handling skills. Yet one gets the feeling that with improper handling, the Kings rookie might be a possible suspect in any and all flamingo related hostage situations. Then again, he’s just a kid, and all this posturing over Cousins’ attitude and behavior is probably overblown. Seeing him play more and more minutes (and uninhibited ones at that) has been exciting. The future is very, very bright for DeMarcus, even with all those forced inside shots. Let’s just hope he stays focused and doesn’t go on any white water rafting trips any time soon.