The Three Movies I’ve Seen Most Recently

4 Jun

– Exit Through The Gift Shop
– My Cousin Vinny
– Prince of Persia

Exit Through The Gift Shop This is the movie by the street artist Banksy about the street artist Banksy. Sort of. It’s actually the movie by the street artist Banksy about the artist (who might not exist) Mr. Brainwash (who might not, if he does exist, be an artist). It’s a documentary about street artists and graffiti and how quickly art can go from vandalism to being worth a fortune (if it’s ever art at all). Sort of. It actually only seems like it was a documentary. I suspect it was actually mostly a movie, in that I think it was at least partly (and maybe completely??) made-up. In any case, it was very different from any other movie I’ve seen, and on that level it was wholly enjoyable and engaging. It was also funny, dramatic, well-edited, and confusingly titled. Movie theaters have gift shops?

My Cousin Vinny is what it is. It’s a classic for a reason. Well acted. Well written (mostly). Fabulously dated with the utter lack of cell phones, decades old fashions, and cars, etc. It’d been many years since I’d seen it, and I was very aware this time of how such a movie gets made. I could hear the screenwriters making the pitch to the producers (“it’s a fish out of water story. They turn themselves in because they think they’re getting caught for shoplifting, but it’s really murder! He’s a New Yorker in the deep south and he has to try his first case as a lawyer in their court! Hilarity ensues.) I can hear the writers figuring out how exactly to make absolutely everything important to the character be tied to the result of the case in plausible ways. I can imagine the producers shopping out the script to actors, selling them on the roles that could (and did) win them Academy Awards. Fortunately I can also see the humor in it, and can enjoy the performances and story and not get too caught up in what might have occurred behind the scenes.

Prince of Persia is based on a video game. It’s a hero’s adventure story. As such I am very familiar with all but the surface details. There is a Han Solo sidekick (played by an ostrich-kissing Alfred Molina), a Princess, a Hero learning how to be a hero and fulfill his destiny, and lots of special effects. I expected all of that. As such, I wasn’t disappointed. It is what it is. It’s even a pretty good version of what it is. It suffers a bit from the plague infecting Hollywood movies with poor third acts, but only a bit. I really liked the scene when the King talks to the Prince about the behavior of a good man as opposed to that of a great man. It was nice to see a non reluctant hero for a change. My biggest complaint with it is that I wasn’t a huge fan of the way the action scenes were directed. Most of them were just lots of quick cuts of close up action edited together. The flow of what’s going on is fairly cohesive, but I still felt like I wasn’t really seeing it happen. This really becomes a problem in the third act where the climactic battle is happening and I couldn’t really tell how it went the way it did. I’m still not sure exactly what happened.

The storytelling of Prince of Persia isn’t all that sophisticated. It’s informed. It’s well practiced. It’s known and safe. It makes a very interesting contrast to Exit Through The Gift Shop which might be so sophisticated in its storytelling that I’m unsure what story it’s telling. I like movies that don’t expect the audience to know the story before they buy the ticket, but I do like to be able to figure out what I saw.

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