Saturday, June 5, 2010

TV Review: HBO Premieres New Series, "The Neistat Brothers" (2010)

Devotees of the well-organized creative minutia of Wes Anderson, the humor of Spike Jonze, the mixed media daring of Michel Gondry and the experimental free-for-all of Neistat Brothers inspirations Jean-Luc Godard and Hunter S. Thompson are sure to delight in television’s debut “handmade home movie TV show.”

Although on the surface, HBO’s newest Friday night series The Neistat Brothers looks like it could play as an installation exhibit at your local museum of contemporary art, you’re quick to discover that it’s filled with the same sense of wonder that caused most of us to pick up video cameras at a young age and start rolling… um, tape.

As the two introduce us to the mad method behind their mini-movies, filming and adventuring for four weeks and diligently editing for two in their downtown Manhattan studio, 368 Broadway, their enthusiasm for the craft of filmmaking becomes infectious. Soon they take journeys ranging in scale from the dollar store with one’s son and another trip to Amsterdam in order to share their ideas with us over the course of an eight episode season.

Quick to discern that -- although it’s about the lives of the brothers -- it’s never about whom they really are and therefore not a (yawn) reality series, The Neistat Brothers is a cheery blend of creative mischief and innovative mayhem that must be experienced in order to describe.

Veterans of short filmmaking since they used their tax returns to buy iMac DV computers before maxing out their credit cards to fill their hands with cameras, the two who are perhaps most famous for a short work they did about the batteries in an iPod, compare their interest in their work to the story of Jack and the Beanstalk in which a trade was made for the chance or opportunity to achieve something great.

With roughly seven short films and interstitial movies complete with a corresponding theme “baked together in iMovie” to comprise each episode, the brothers Van and Casey admirably give YouTube a run for its overexposed money by primarily using cameras (both still and moving) that most of us use to shoot our family and friends with on a regular basis before going off on their filmed escapades that encompass everything from model boat racing to showing us “A Cool Thing About a Garbage Truck.”

And throughout, they interweave the story of how one brother met their spouse and then tracked down their biological dad at the age of thirty-two to making a movie with their budding filmmaker son, racing their Olympic skier assistant to Amsterdam on a maple syrup expedition or reenacting a scene from The Shining.

And after just two episodes, I'm confident that the series that took a full year to make, promises to be as filled with smiles as it is a celebration of artistic exploration, which proves once again why HBO is as usual several steps ahead of the curve when it comes to intellectual programming we didn’t even know we were missing.

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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.
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