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“Exit Through The Gift Shop”: It’s a madhouse, this modern life.

“Exit Through The Gift Shop”: It’s a madhouse, this modern life. (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.

At the end of “Exit Through The Gift Shop,” a few of us Googled the name of its subject to make sure he actually exists. I’m sure we weren’t alone — “the world’s first street art disaster movie” is also the first movie from pseudonymed British art star Banksy, who’s never had a problem being playful with the truth before. A web search makes it clear that Thierry Guetta (aka “Mr. Brainwash”), a Frenchman living in L.A. who finds his way into the street art scene, is a real person who ended up having a real 2008 show that earned him a real L.A. Weekly cover story. And even then, some people wondered if he was a phony, a fake or an invention of Banksy himself.

But as a wise colleague pointed out, the truth isn’t actually that important to this delightful film, which chronicles how Guetta, an effusive guy with gigantic mutton chop sideburns who obsessively self-documented his life with a video camera, became the official chronicler of the rise of street art. It starts with him following around his cousin, the anonymous Space Invader, who puts up illicit mosaic tiles inspired by vintage video games in cities around the world. Through him, he meets Monsieur André, and then the likes of Swoon, and Sweet Toof, and Borf, and Ron English, and many others, including Shepherd Fairey and, finally, Banksy.

01272010_giftshop1.jpgGuetta chronicles all of these artists at work — Banksy hooded, or from behind, or in shadow, voice altered in the film’s interviews — following them at night as they spraypaint tags or stencil buildings or put up stickers or wheatpastes, and getting some amazing, exclusive footage that he… never intended to use. Guetta claimed he was making a doc on street art, but he just tossed the tapes, sometimes unmarked, into boxes. It was being there, capturing it all, and having a place in the scene, that he loved.

And that’s where “Exit Through The Gift Shop” gets really interesting. Guetta doesn’t seem to have any deep connection to art — he bewilders some of his subjects with blithely clueless questions. But he likes, again, the scene, and he invents a persona, Mr. Brainwash, and starts putting up his own wheatpastes (one directly on top of one of Fairey’s “Obey”) all over town. Seeing Guetta’s not going to get it together to make the street art chronicle he thinks needs to happen, Banksy convinces him (this part’s a bit fuzzy) to leave the footage in London and work instead on putting together a showcase of his art in L.A., portrayed as something of a Faustian bargain. Guetta takes his blessing and runs with it (literally making Banksy’s statement about him into a billboard-sized ad), sinking enormous amounts of money into a giant self-funded gallery show filled with paints and sculptures he and his army of assistants (mainly the latter) have created.

01272010_giftshop2.jpgStreet art, before it started funneling into the gallery world, had a necessary purity to it — it was impossible to make money from directly; it was accessible to, even unavoidable for, the public; and the very act of making it risked prosecution. With the rise of the form, with the acceptance of its value as serious art, with the recognition and the collectors suddenly willing to shell out thousands of dollars for pieces, it became subject to the same bullshit as the mainstream art world, where hype and groupthink determine what’s valuable, what’s good, because no one can tell otherwise.

“Exit Through The Gift Shop” becomes a duel of narratives, with Fairey and the dryly funny Banksy offering their take versus that of the expansive and impossible to dislike Guetta, whose art may be derivative and terrible but whose grasp of the other trappings of street art stardom is dead on. In the end, Banksy finds himself trapped by his own game-the-system ethos, ruefully pointing out that Guetta didn’t play by the rules, but that there aren’t any rules, so he can’t really complain. “I used to encourage everyone to make art,” he says. Beat. “I don’t really do that anymore.”

“Exit Through The Gift Shop,” which is narrated by Rhys Ifans, does contain some remarkable street art footage, including a killer opening montage set to Richard Hawley’s “Tonight The Streets Are Ours.” You also see Banksy’s 2006 trip to Disneyland, during which he placed a blow-up doll dressed like a Guantanamo inmate by Thunder Mountain. And then went on the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride.

“Exit Through The Gift Shop” does not yet have U.S. distribution.


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.