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Banksy's Oscar chances looking strong for 'Exit Through the Gift Shop'

January 3, 2011 |  1:25 pm

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Banksy -- elusive street artist, graffiti demi-god, controversial cultural rebel ... Oscar nominee? Thanks to his reflexive meta-documentary "Exit Through the Gift Shop," the British artist known as Banksy has a good chance of seeing his name mentioned when the nominations for the Academy Awards are announced Jan. 25.

In recent weeks, "Exit Through the Gift Shop" has been generating some significant awards buzz . The movie has received best-documentary nominations from the Independent Spirit Awards and the British Independent Film Awards. In December, the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. named the movie its runner-up for best documentary, behind the Chinese film "Last Train Home." On Monday, the Online Film Critics Society chose the Banksy film as its pick for best documentary of the year. And the movie also earned the top documentary spot in the annual Indiewire poll of film critics. 

"Exit Through the Gift Shop," which Banksy directed though he is not formally credited on screen as such, is about the attempts of a Frenchman to make a movie about the famously anonymous artist. But Banksy turns the premise into something stranger, a meta-study of irrational obsession and public image-making. Banksy himself appears in the movie, but his face is obscured by dark hoods and pixelation, and his voice is digitally altered.

Times film critic Kenneth Turan praised the movie for its brain-teasing unpredictability. "Even when you think you've figured this film out, you can't shake the notion that maybe you haven't," he wrote in his review.

But a nomination for Banksy is not exactly a sure thing. While not as notorious as the Oscar's foreign-language film category, the documentary section has been the subject of mild controversy for its tendency in past years to overlook popular and critically acclaimed releases such as "Hoop Dreams," "The Thin Blue Line," "Roger & Me," "The September Issue," "We Live in Public" and "Anvil! The Story of Anvil."

Should "Exit Through the Gift Shop" receive a nomination, the question remains as to whether Banksy would attend the Oscar ceremony on Feb. 27. (Given his track record, we're guessing he'd be a no-show.) As reported in a story in The Envelope, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is already considering such a possibility.

"If it were to get nominated and there was an indication that Banksy would attend the ceremonies, we might have to ask some questions," said Bruce Davis, executive director of the Academy, in the interview.

-- David Ng

Photo: a scene from "Exit Through the Gift Shop." Credit: Paranoid Pictures

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