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The Week That Was

'12 Years a Slave,' Banksy, Chris Brown and Lou Reed by the numbers

November 02, 2013|By Chris Lee

"Torture numbers and they will confess to anything," author-essayist Gregg Easterbrook famously observed in a 1999 magazine article on climate change.

But over the course of a seven-day span that found the Boston Red Sox World Series champions, Justin Bieber a newly minted graffiti artist and German chancellor Angela Merkel the victim of NSA cellphone trolling, raw numerical data provided a handy entry to entertainmentdom's tectonic shifts and sad passings.

This past week by the numbers:

615,000: The dollar amount for which "The Banality of the Banality of Evil," a landscape painting doctored by the notorious guerrilla artist Banksy, recently sold at auction. Proceeds from the sale of the artwork, dropped off anonymously at a Housing Works Thrift Shop, benefit a charity fighting to end AIDS and homelessness while making an arch, meta-narrative joke out of artwork, charity and Banksy's own infamy.

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"Banality" was the Brit-art rapscallion's most remunerative effort in a month-long "artist's residency on the streets of New York" entitled "Better Out Than In," which concluded Thursday with an "inflatable throw up on the Long Island Expressway."

The graffiti stunt-social experiment-prank managed to make no small number of big points. While punking the public, and inspiring flash mobs and untold Instagram posts over a sustained 31-day period, the artist generally made New Yorkers (or at least, Banksy-obsessed denizens of the Big Apple) seem like so many self-absorbed fanboy looky-loos.

400: The number of theaters into which the searing historical drama "12 Years a Slave" expanded Friday, after robust box-office returns in its limited-release theatrical run. Since debuting theatrically Oct. 18, the acclaimed film -- directed by art world innovator-turned feature filmmaker Steve McQueen -- has become the Cinderella story of awards season 2013, averaging a robust $50,000 per screening in its opening roll-out and coming to rank as an early Oscar favorite among many a guru of gold.

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Never mind "12YAS's" generous showcasing of arterial splatter and abject human suffering -- the most realistic, raw depiction of slavery ever committed to film. Given the $22-million production's Euro-friendly pedigree -- both its director and star Chiwetel Ejiofor are British-born -- some Hollywood watchers have already begun to speculate about the film's ability to become one of the rare African American-themed features to resonate with a global audience.

36: Hours for which Chris Brown was locked in a Washington, D.C., holding cell, according to his lawyer Mark Geragos, after allegedly punching a man and breaking his nose in front of a Washington hotel Sunday night. Two days later, the controversial multiplatinum-selling R&B phenom checked himself into rehab for an "anger management issue" with the sign-off tweet, "In order to go where u have never gone u have to be willing to go where u never been!!!!"

Although the "Fine China" singer is still on probation for his felony assault on Rihanna in 2009, Brown's voluntary stint was hardly “an admission” of guilt, his lawyer said. It is indisputably an act of good faith, however. Brown faces up to four years behind bars if a judge decides to revoke his probation.

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607: Percentage by which Lou Reed album sales increased immediately following the transgressive rock pioneer's death at age 71 on Sunday. Call it the postmodern pop equivalent to benediction -- in addition to the Velvet Underground frontman's musical sales spike, his many admirers took to their computers to draft emotional encomiums.

With celebrities such as LL Cool J, Ricky Gervais, Mia Farrow and Miley Cyrus weighing in on Twitter, Reed's widow, the performance artist Laurie Anderson, weighed in most poignantly, calling Reed a "prince and a fighter" in a moving letter to the East Hampton Star.

"He died on Sunday morning looking at the trees and doing the famous 21 form of Tai Chi with just his musician hands moving through the air," Anderson wrote.

A lucky number for sure.

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chris.lee@latimes.com

Twitter: @__chrislee

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