Infamous street artist Banksy’s documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop, premiered this week to lots of underground-ish hype (including L.A. Weekly cover story for which Banksy created original art). In the film (which Hot Sheet hasn’t seen yet), Banksy is the subject of the documentary, only to announce that he thinks the “actual” filmmaker – another artist named Thierry Guetta – is more interesting. So Banksy hijacks Guetta’s footage and makes the movie about him. Got all that? Doesn’t matter, say jaded and arts-savvy film reviewers, because the whole thing is hoax. New York Times critic Manohla Dargis comes to that conclusion. So does Fast Company design writer Alissa Walker. Banksy himself denies it. One of the funniest denial quotes ever printed in the New York Times reads: ‘ “I don’t know why so many people have been fooled into thinking this film is fake,” Banksy, or someone purporting to be he, wrote in an e-mail message from Los Angeles.’
So, if they’ve been fooled into thinking it’s fake, who fooled them? Banksy? If so, then it is a fake. Oh, never mind…
Timonthy Egan’s New York Times commentary, Slumburbia, is more than just a tour through a post-bubble housing development. Yes, the Lathrop, California project he visits has one in eight homes in foreclosure, with a spiking crime rate. And yes, the development appears to confirm Brookings Institution’s Christopher B. Leinberger’s 2008 prediction that the collapse of the new-home market could turn many of today’s McMansions into tenements. But Egan goes deeper than the bubble for the cause – and a possible cure – for foreclosure alley: “In California, the outlying cities themselves encouraged the boom, spurred by the state’s broken tax system. Hemmed in by property tax limitations, cities were compelled to increase revenue by the easiest route: expanding urban boundaries.”
Also, the most stable or recovering home markets – San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, San Diego – have the strictest development codes to curb sprawl, according to Egan. This is the reverse of what some suburban-development advocates (cough, cough, Joel Kotkin) warned about when they said coastal cities would price out the middle class and start to empty. Says Egan, “The developers’ favorite role models, the laissez faire free-for-alls – Las Vegas, the Phoenix metro area, South Florida, this valley – are the most troubled, the suburban slums.”
Strong land-use regulations, he seems to say, combined with a growing population and stabilization of prices, may help correct a “free market” in freefall.
The broken economy and the resulting mood of pubic bitterness are more and more evident in advertising. One of the industry’s truisms – positive messages are more motivating than negative – is losing ground to ad themes that are blunt, in your face, even caustic. New York Times advertising columnist Stuart Elliott looked at the trend as it appears in annual post-New-Year-resolution fitness ads, concluding, “The tone in many campaigns is less cheerful than in previous Januaries.” He cites the new Nicorette campaign that CNBC’s health-industry writer Mike Huckman has been blogging about. Its crude tagline – almost shocking hear in a broadcast commercial - is “Nicorette makes quitting suck less.” (Facing resistance to the crude language, Nicorette has euphemized the S-word in newer versions.) But if edginess sells these days, The New York Times’ Elliott quotes several executives advocating a more nuanced edginess. Wheaties’ very effective new tagline is “prepare to win.” It seems to say: expect to win, but also prepare well for the competition. But it says that without sounding rosy. As with much good advertising, it strikes a fine balance of messages.
The Age of Stupid, the fictionalized documentary, is debuting as the largest multi-screen premiere ever. In it, after much of today’s coastline has sunk under melted polar ice, actor Pete Postlethwait plays “the Archivist,” the condemning voice of the future (2055). New York Times reviewer Stephen Holden is down-the-middle verging on sympathetic. Conservative blogs, such as Human Events, attack it for being “dishonest,” because (among other gripes) “director Franny Armstrong has embarked on a global aviation orgy,” to promote the movie. These kind of gripes, when you consider the serious message of the film, are seriously beside the point. Meanwhile, on their website, the filmmakers are offering anyone a platform to review the film. Well almost anyone. Right at the top, they say: “Any comments from climate deniers/sceptics will be deleted. The debate about whether climate change is partly man-made is over. One of the key reasons we are now so desperately short of time in which to act to avert runaway climate change is that decades were lost to the deniers’ pointless, ill-informed, obfuscating arguments.”
Once upon a time, The Beatles surfed the zeitgeist. For their few years in the sun, they ushered or least feasted upon dozens of culturally defining music trends, from the English invasion to folk rock to psychedelia. They recaptured a bit of that on September 9, 2009, with the release of re-mastered albums: Everyone seems to be talking – or writing – about them. As Los Angeles Times Ann Powers recaps, “A team of top engineers, led by longtime Beatles associate Allan Rouse, labored for four years to return the feel that was lost in the flimsy-sounding 1987 compact disc reissues.” Powers has been leading up to this moment with several blog posts, but in this article notes how The Beatles have been re-interpreted over the years. To take just “I Want to Hold Your Hand” as an example, two inspiring renditions are to be had from soul singer Al Green and T.V. Carpio (from the Beatles-inspired musical Across the Universe… particularly moving).
Of course, it all just makes you remember how explosive “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was to begin with. Over at the New York Times, Dave Itzkof gathers many of the reviews of the re-mastered reissues. This includes Pitchfork, the alternative music site, which gives long, historically re-assessing raves to nearly all the re-releases.
In the light of mega bank bailouts, and the bad P.R. that has haunted AIG and other institutions when they have held corporate events, this was probably the next step: These banks are still sponsoring events and holding retreats… only now as quietly and ashamedly as possible. According to the New York Times’ Leslie Wayne, at last week’s U.S. Open golf tournament, “Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley all brought clients to watch the tournament and dine at a buffet and open bar.” Together, the banks paid $1/4 million for tables in the Heritage Club at the Bethpage Black private club. But they tried real hard not let anyone know they were there, for fear of public backlash. No logos, no big signs, no free coffee mugs. The biggest trend, says one event planner, “is Read More
If you use Google Docs or its new Chrome operating system, you’ve moved into the world of storing info and running code online rather than on your hard drive. The advantages are – for one thing – it’s free: No need pay Microsoft hundreds of dollars for programs. Another advantage is you never lose anything if your hard drive crashes. It’s all up there, “in the cloud,” free to be shared. But is the cloud too accessible? Law professor Jonathan Zittrain says so in this New York Times article. He’s concerned that the cloud is more open to hacking and to censorship by authorities.
But there’s a competing philosophy, advanced by people such as those at PirateBay.org. It says not only that movies, games, programs etc, should be free and accessible, but that copyrights should be extremely limited, with most intellectual property part of the public domain.
Microsoft’s new search engine, Bing, is a big production: Years in the making, a cast of thousands. Its recent debut has generated favorable comparisons to that king of search Engines: Google. David Pogue in his New York Times Personal Tech column says, “Bing is better.” And he encourages people to compare them side by side, via the useful new site bing-vs-google.com. For one thing, Bing gives you a summary of a search item without you having to click in and out of it. Bing also divides your searches – when appropriate – into categories: For example, if you search for a celebrity’s name, you get sub-searches in: News, Movies, Quotes, Biography and Images. Part of Google’s appeal has always been its uncluttered look. But Bing looks great with its additional design elements. Go to Bing and google yourself – I mean bing yourself – and see what you think.
The Times is thick with Twitter hype these days. The social networking site that limits messages to 140 characters gets a laundry list of present and future uses in a recent article by Claire Cain Miller. And marketing tops that list. Businesses large and small are using the diary-like entries to add customers, or at least take the pulse of their buying behavior. “Companies like Starbucks, Whole Foods and Dell can see what their customers are thinking as they use a product,” and adapt their marketing accordingly, while independent services such as masseuses twitter when they “have same-day openings in their schedules and offer discounts.”
Despite the excitable hype, it’s worth noting that Twitter has yet to make a profit. Also, Read More
At the end of another sobering New York Times housing story, Vikas Bajaj points to research saying Los Angeles housing market will hit bottom before other major U.S. cities – and therefore recover first. The Trading in contracts index tracks home commodities futures in 25 metropolitan areas, “suggesting that home prices will fall about 15 percent this year and hit bottom in 2010, according to Radar Logic, a firm that created the index on which the trading is based.” Its data show that Read More