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Release Of The Week
*** America Lost and Found: The BBS Story (Criterion) — Based on the success of their multimedia breakout sensation The Monkees, filmmakers Bob Rafelson, Bert Schneider, and Steve Blauner joined forces to attack the Hollywood system by working within it. Between 1968 and 1972, they produced a slew of bold films that challenged the norm and laid the groundwork for the New Hollywood of the 1970s. The lineup speaks for itself: Head; Easy Rider; Five Easy Pieces; Drive, He Said; The Last Picture Show; The King of Marvin Gardens; A Safe Place. If you’re a fan of this special era in cinema history, this collection is a must-have on DVD or Blu-ray.
I’m Still Here (Magnolia Pictures) — Casey Affleck and Joaquin Phoenix’s stunt “documentary” is one of those films that I found myself laughing at, but as the joke wore on, I had a strange reaction. It’s difficult to express, but Phoenix is such a powerful actor that I truly believe I’d have been more genuinely affected by the movie if they hadn’t toed the docu-reality line and had instead conceived a work of straight fiction. As it was, I could never fully transcend the filmmaking’s hyper-self-awareness (for those of you who watch this movie and still wonder if it’s real or fake… really?). Midway through I’m Still Here, Phoenix stumbles past a large poster of Arnaud Desplechin’s Esther Kahn (DVD), which one might casually dismiss as being there because that film stars Joaquin’s brother and Casey’s wife, Summer Phoenix. The more that I thought about it, however, the more I began to think that I’m Still Here was Affleck and Joaquin’s conscious attempt to refashion that story for the 21st century. Esther Kahn it ain’t, but then again, few are. I’m Still Here has issues, but it is also a risky, bold attempt to genuinely explore notions of celebrity in our celeb-obsessed world. Buy it on DVD or Blu-ray.
Mock Up On Mu (Other Cinema) — Craig Baldwin’s latest mind-f**k is a feature-length collage that defies rational genre classification. One thing I will say is that it has a sense of humor, which keeps it engaging even if you find yourself wondering if someone dropped a tab of acid in your pre-viewing coffee. Adventurous viewers, dive in! Buy it on DVD.
Have Not Seen But Really/Kinda/Sorta Wanna
BONUS OF THE WEEK
*** Exit Through The Gift Shop — While it still isn’t available in hard copy form, Banksy’s excellent graffiti documentary/art world satire is now available for rent or purchase through iTunes. It’s also available on Movies On Demand channels everywhere. I wrote this about the film when I saw it at Sundance: Is invisible street artist Banksy’s debut feature an outright joke? Is it an actual profile of the Mr. Magoo-like Thierry Gutta (aka Mr. Brainwash), a video camera toting hanger on who spent years filming street artists only to become a known street artist himself? Does it condemn Gutta for his accidental success? Does it mock art aficionados for falling for Gutta’s shtick? Is it a shtick? Who knows. I’d like to think Exit Through The Gift Shop is a carefully orchestrated satire of the modern art world—Andy Warhol, most directly—that brilliantly exposes the absurdity of attaching so much monetary value to work that most of us walk past on the street without even noticing. Oh yeah, and it’s entertaining as sh*t.
LAST BUT VERY NOT LEAST!
It looks like I jumped the gun last week by including this film, which was technically released on Monday, November 22, 2010. Just to be safe, here is another reminder:
*** NY Export: Opus Jazz (Factory 25) — The brainchild of New York City Ballet dancers Ellen Bar and Sean Suozzi, NY Export: Opus Jazz is a dazzling modern retelling of acclaimed choreographer Jerome Robbins’s 1958 ballet—moodily scored by Robert Prince—which stands as a more boldly abstract companion piece to Robbins’s more widely heralded, and narrative driven, West Side Story. In updating Robbins’s “ballet in sneakers” for modern dancers in modern times, Bar and Suozzi have transposed this spectacle to the streets of New York City. By doing this, not only have they made a convincing argument for their increasingly marginalized art form; more impressively, they have paid tribute to their source master by proving that, fifty years later, his work is as vital and robust as ever. Read the rest of my deservedly gushing review, then buy it on DVD.