Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

I was so glad to see this movie. I’ve been a fan of Ai Wei Wei, following all of his trials and tribulations. But I never knew much about his background, or weaved all of the separate stories I’ve known of him into a cohesive whole. This film did that excellently. Funny, poignant and just an excellent portrait of this man. Living and working in China, his artistic protests, coming from the heart, towards a better Chinese future, play out on the world’s stage.

Because of his fame, I was worried about pretentiousness or disingenuousness on his part and that his art was more about generating the fame, but quite the opposite was true. It felt like there were no pretenses in this film, just honesty. Ai Weiwei’s mom even makes an appearance.

Of course this is a political artist, and China is in the cross-hairs on the worlds stage, so filmmakers have a vested interest in making his plight look as real and genuine as possible. I’m not saying anything fishy is going on, but just as his art, this film is also political in nature. As such it may not be as critical or thoroughly in depth as it could be? just a thought.

I also hadn’t known this movie was a kickstarter project. I love kickstarter. About 10% of movies at sundance are kickstarter funded. so cool.

Queen of Versailles

As a portrait of one family’s struggles with money, family and relationships I think this is an excellent documentary. However I keep reading a lot about the schadenfreude people experience while watching the downfall of a super wealthy family, and on that point I almost feel like the film is a bit exploitative. A little too much glee in the subtext of the sudden turn of events. After all it started out as an honest documentation of very wealthy family, who happens to be building the largest personal residence in North America, and which happens to take its visual cues from the Palace of Versailles. A bit gaudy? yes. Perhaps they are bit too wealthy for their own good? perhaps. I’m sure the filmmakers could not contain their glee at their good fortune, when it all falls apart as a result of the 2008 financial crisis. What follows is often a very uncomfortable look at a family who for all intents and purposes, was premised upon wealth – husband with trophy wife, spoiled kids, ginormous house, tiny doggies pooping on everything, etc. What is uncomfortable to watch is the humanity that emerges, the real love and tenderness on display, all of it combined with a light touch of ditsy blonde/model/boobalicious ignorance.

Holy Motors – Leos Carax

Wow. You may think you have some ideas about what the movie is about based on the above image.  But you have no idea.  Starting with the fact that the above scene is only a minute or two of the whole thing, is towards the end of it all, and is followed by all of the limo’s you see above, talking to each other and discussing their days and their drivers.

I thought I was fan of Leos Carax, but this film may have stretched me to the limits.  Not subject matter wise, not even lack of narrative wise, but really the super slow pacing made it very hard for me to follow.  I think my wife was right in saying this is the kind of movie David Lynch put’s on to relax. When he wants to watch something weird, this is it. Lynch films are straightforward compared to this.

Still I can’t fault a film that has one of my favorite characters of all time, the reprise of Tokyo!‘s M. Merde.  Though I feel this incarnation, by adding to the backstory, and offering perhaps a slightly different take on the Merde’s history, takes away a bit from the shear irreverence of that character as a whole.

In any case, Senior Merde is only one of the ten or so characters Denis Levant takes on.  I am also a fan of his, and continue to be. He does a tremendous job portraying all of the characters in this film and he really dives into each role (on both levels, you’ll see what I mean).

In the end I really appreciate this film.  There just isn’t enough weirdness in this world. Not enough risk taking. Not enough just exploring and following your imagination into some weird sh!t. On that front, this film delivers, and I appreciate that.  Oh and did I mention Kylie Minogue and Eva Mendes also star? go figure.

 

more info at
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/filmreviews/9571362/Holy-Motors-review.html

 

Urbanized

Really enjoyed this little nugget.  A great short documentary about all the smart ways that cities are dealing with the reality of exponential city growth. 75% of the world’s population will live in urban centers by 2050. As the world’s population grows cities grow even faster. As many clips in the film show, it’s not very wise to not plan for that, since you can’t really stop the growth.  That’s where Urban design comes to the rescue!

And that is what this film is really about. It’s the third in a trilogy of films Gary Hustwit has made that focus on design, alongside the just as great Helvetica and Objectified films.

In this one, he covers many of the great solutions some of the worlds biggest urban centers have come up with or are planning to implement or are just plain struggling with.  He also covers some urban design mis-steps, and how urban designers and planners have learned a lot from them.  Overall, a lot of great interviews, views, and ideas in a great little package. Highly recommend.

Read some more about the film at
fastcodesign.com

Indie Game: The Movie

Wow. So so so good. I left the theater inspired. As documentaries go, this one is quite good. Quite a lot more drama, and life journey/development than one might expect from a film following a bunch of developers around. You’d think there would be a bunch of shots of a stack of coke cans, while a dirty bearded hunched-over guy stares at a screen. There is some of that, but really it’s much more about the personal journeys these guys go through while trying to follow their passion in the face of quite a few obstacles. Many of them quite a bit more dramatic than you would expect from some guys just making a game.

I guess you just forget or are ignorant of just how much blood, sweat and tears goes into something like this. And just how many people or circumstances out there are against you. But what is amazing is that in spite of all that they succeed! It is a documentary so not all is well and good, but overall their journeys are inspiring.

The film is 94 minutes long, and that may seem like a lot for a documentary for some people, but I really wished it was longer, not because the arc of the story felt unfinished, it did, but because I wished they had time to follow more people. Each of the teams they follow has such a unique story to tell, that I just wanted more. Fortunately the website has more footage, they did film more people they just didn’t make the theatrical release. And they will soon be selling a DVD, and a special edition DVD with even more content. So I might just get my wish.

Get more info, including when and where the film will be playing on their website – www.indiegamethemovie.com

Oh, and another thing. The whole thing is a kickstarter project. Which just makes the whole thing that much more awesome. I wish I had known about it when they were collecting $$, I would have contributed.

I Am Love

Another one of my faves. Fits in with the style that I like most. A minimal, slow, elegant, tragic, film. Perhaps too dramatic? Some have used words like melodrama or even soap-opera, for me the story (and maybe some of the acting) fits the arc (and style) of many a classic be it shakespeare or maybe even the greeks, but the filmography (combined with a fantastic score) is what does it for me. Gorgeous, Powerful, Italian.

Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child

I’m a fan of Basquiat, I like his name but more importantly I really, truly like his work. It’s a great mix of childhood innocence, social commentary and a treatment of type, language and words in a visual manner. I’m also a fan of seeing artists up close and personal, or getting behind the scenes info on their lives and how their creativity works. There’s been more than a few movies and films on Basquiat, and I think I’ve seen all of them, but it’s been a while. So I was excited to go see Tamra Davis’ version, complete with never before seen footage of the man himself.

That part was probably the least interesting, and the film overall was an ok documentary. I did get a good sense of Basquiats life out of it, and what his art was about, and how it came to be. Although these were things I mostly knew already. So if you are new to Basquiat lots of good stuff, if you are already familiar then it is a good refresher at least. Also there are lot’s of great shots of New york from the 70’s and 80’s, which I always love, relish even. So I was pretty satisfied.

(image from lookintomyowl.com)

Art & Copy

Recommended to me by a friend I was eager to check this one out. Somehow I missed it despite my healthy obsession with watching as many documentaries as possible.

Interview after interview with many people whom I can feel should register as important yet I do not recognize any of them, this is a world I don’t know anything about. The title alludes to the concept, introduced early in the film, that successful advertising campaigns combine art AND copy – the copywriter and the art director need to be in the same room for the kind of synergy that produces great advertising, some of which is important enough to even be “world changing.” I got introduced to a lot of ad campaigns, that I either hadn’t seen before or wasn’t aware of their status as icons in the ad world. I enjoyed this aspect of the film.

The title also references the kinship between the advertising world and the art world. Over and over I was told how a really great ad campaign is like a piece of great art – able to inspire and even effect world change – yeah and sell things. Despite the passionate argument and the obvious dedication and hard work of these genuinely creative people, I couldn’t get over the fact that in the end you’re trying to sell something and the creative output wouldn’t exist at all but for the deep pockets of the company financing you. Sure the most successful campaigns are usually the ones that scare these benefactors the most, and are usually the most out there and out of the box, but I still found this a hard pill to swallow.

As an artist/creative person just about the only kinship/connection I felt with the ad creators was the notion that you really have no idea where your next great inspiration will come from and it’s really hard to muster great creativity on demand, but you can nurture it as long as you have the right environment.

(image from three imaginary girls with a more positive take on this film)

Exit Through The Gift Shop – Banksy


(Image: Exit Through The Gift Shop, a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No-Derivative-Works (2.0) image from russelldarling’s photostream)

Finally got to check out this Banksy film. Except it wasn’t about him. Wasn’t even that much about street art in general. It’s mostly about this guy named Thierry Guetta a.k.a. Mr. Brainwash. Mr. Brainwash you see, is more famous than Banksy and his work sells for more than even Banksy’s does. He even had a huge street art show in LA called Life is Beautiful. Banksy used to be friends with Thierry, but not anymore. that was before Mr. Brainwash decided to become a famous artist! It’s so easy! Anyone can do it! Just take an iconic image and be ironic with it. Make sure it’s a little rough around the edges, uses lots of spray paint, is in yo’ face, and just has that “street art” style to it.

Now, doesn’t that sound ridiculous? Maybe… …Banksy is just tired of all these real life street-art wannabee’s, it’s so easy to pick up a spray can and mindlessly deface property, and is showing us, through an intricate and elaborate set up, just how ridiculous the celebrity art world can be. Sure, maybe it’s easy to criticize, as he is cashing in, and plenty of people consider him a sell-out, but that doesn’t negate the fact that a lot of his work is actually quite good and a cut above much of what is out there. I definitely enjoy the often site-specific, always thought-provoking and with a distinct unmistakable style Banksy offerings.

As far as a review goes maybe Film just isn’t Banksy’s medium? Too much emphasis on the message and not enough un-fabricated not-mr.brainwash content. I really would have enjoyed more of “Thierry’s” raw footage, and maybe an intellectual delving into the forces driving street art and the artists behind it.

moon

Duncan Jones’ Moon featuring Sam Rockwell, is quite the visual and intellectual treat delivered in a sci-fi and quite suspenseful package. Plus it has an amazing poster and it has the perfect soundtrack for the lonely, something is not quite right, remote landscape.

Netflix pegs my preferences as “Visually-striking” and “Mind-bending” and this film exemplifies both. Others have mentioned 2001 as having a lot of similarities and I would agree, if you didn’t like Kubrick’s Space Odyssey than you probably won’t appreciate moon either. There is even a seemingly menacing robot companion though this one is less homicidal.