Saturday, November 19, 2005

Walk the Line

Despite growing up in the home of country music, I've had to learn to love it. Johnny Cash was another acquired taste for me, but like other acquired tastes (e.g., my favorite musician ever, Bob Dylan), Cash is a taste worth acquiring. I knew very little about Cash's life, save the fact that he was married to June Carter and the two of them died within months of each other.

This film will inevitably be compared to Ray, and yeah, it's another biopic of a music legend that will probably get some Academy recognition. But Walk the Line is quite a different movie, I think, and is more internal.

The movie starts with Johnny about to take the stage at Folsom Prison for his famous live recording. But we get sidetracked for about 90 minutes while we see what led to this moment.

J.R. Cash was a second son in more than just age, and one of his many personal demons is born when his older brother dies and he overhears his father wishing it had been him instead. Suddenly John is grown up and heading for the army. He soon becomes engaged to a girl he barely knows, and after a failed attempt to be a salesman auditions for a record label.

The main thrust of the story is Cash's relationship and stormy courtship of June Carter, and it is played wonderfully by Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon. The two of them really, really make the movie work. They have such a great chemistry, and you get so frustrated for them as they dance around their feelings for each other.

Perhaps the most emotional scene was seeing how June was initially inspired to write "Ring of Fire." I used to hate this song - it seemed cheesy and I loathed the trumpet thing. But I felt very differently once I heard the story about her writing it about her feelings for Cash. So I actually sat down and listened to it, and darned if it isn't one of the great songs ever.

Love is a burning thing
and it makes a firery ring
bound by wild desire
I fell in to a ring of fire...

I fell in to a burning ring of fire
I went down,down,down
and the flames went higher.
And it burns,burns,burns
the ring of fire
the ring of fire.

The taste of love is sweet
when hearts like our's meet
I fell for you like a child
oh, but the fire went wild.

In the film, June has left the tour because she gave in to her feelings for John one night. She goes home to her daughters and she stops the car halfway down the drive and starts crying, saying to herself "It burns, it burns..." Amazing.

Perhaps the greatest thing about the movie, though, is all the performance scenes. Phoenix and Witherspoon do their own singing, and it's incredible how much they sound like Cash and Carter. You can close your eyes and it's almost like listening to the real thing. And the energy is so real. Especially in the Folsom Prison scene. You can really see what made Cash a star and why people identified with him so much.

There have apparently been complaints about the portrayal of Cash's first wife, but I think the film handled this pretty well. I think the movie wants you to be a little conflicted about Cash falling for June. But you get the subtle hints about why things were not right between them - that basically Vivian didn't like the idea of sharing John with his music and his fans.

Wonderful, wonderful movie. It's getting all kinds of Oscar talk. I don't know about Best Picture, but I think Phoenix and Witherspoon are pretty solid bets for acting categories.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Cinema Pet Peeves

A friend of mine made a post on her blog about the decline of movie theaters. I've also seen several entertainment magazines, most notable Entertainment Weekly a few months ago, tackle this, and it's gotten me thinking about what's wrong with The Movies.

The problem is, in my opinion, most certainly not the movies themselves. It's the moviegoing experience in general. A lot of this has to do with accepted behavior in moviegoers, but some of it is the fault of the theater managers. So, while seeing a movie in a theater is an important and mostly enjoyable experience, here are some small things that take me out of a film.

Talking. Number one pet peeve ever. GAH! Don't talk. If you weren't so busy talking to your neighbor about what's going on, you wouldn't have missed that thing and you wouldn't have to lean over to said neighbor and ask what happened or what Character X just said. (Notable exception: Rocky Horror Picture Show)

Cell phones. If you're so busy and important that you can't withdraw yourself from contact with people for two hours, you're too busy to spend $10 to see a movie. Turn. the phone. off. And, for heaven's sake, do NOT pick it up to call someone. No one cares that you're sitting in the movie theater. It's not newsworthy. Really.

Kids. I have nothing against people bringing their children to see movies. However, if you haven't got them trained to not kick the seats and ask 87,000 questions during the movie, then please find a sitter. The exception to this, of course, is movies for kids, where you expect a certain energy and distraction level (and occasionally desire it). But please. Don't bring your kid to see The Passion of the Christ unless they are trained to behave like the adults around them.

Lateness. It's really not that hard to check showtimes and plan when to leave home in order to get to the movie on time. I personally feel that there should be a "late charge" at the cinema - if you come late, you have to pay 50 cents more. Or summat. If this were live theater or a symphony concert, you wouldn't be allowed in if you were late. Unless you were going to the Lord of the Rings Symphony. :P

Adverts. Oh. My. God. It didn't bother me so much at first. I actually quite liked the Coca-Cola commercials with "DeLuxe347" ("It's De-Luxe, son! DE-LUXE! Superstar Extraordinaire, get it right!") But for the most part, they're dead annoying. Would I like to buy the world a Coke? No thanks. Do I care about the insignificant comings and goings of the lives of Elementary Paper Bag Crafts? Nope. Do I Wanna Fanta? Not even if hell froze over. And TNT? I'm actually less likely to tune into your next movie-of-the-month if I see a behind-the-scenes featurette in front of my movie. What happened to the days of just playing some music softly over the speakers as people were sitting down?

Trailers. Okay, I understand that the studios want to pimp the other movies they're releasing. But could we please have trailers for movies that the audience of the film that's playing might be interested in? And, um, it's really annoying to see a cool trailer and then find out that the film doesn't come out for another year.

Bad movies on half a dozen screens. Yeah, this one probably won't ever change. But it galls me to look at the showtime page, see ZERO times for Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang and a bajillion showtimes for Doom.

Of course, all this won't stop me going to the movies. But I think it has stunted many people's interest in leaving their homes to go see them. People just don't have respect for the experience, which is a shame because movies take a lot of money and a lot of work to make, and even more money and hard work to actually get on screens across the country.

Movies To See List - November

(4th) Jarhead - From the British director who made the incredible films American Beauty AND Road to Perdition comes a look at American military life. I'm hoping this film will be every bit the work of art the other two were.

(4th) The Matador - This sounds a bit like Brosnan's other major departure from James Bond, The Tailor of Panama (where he played alongside a very young Daniel Radcliffe, for, errrr, those of you who care about that kind of thing). But I think that's a good thing.

(9th) The New World - Terrence Malick has been making films for almost 40 years, but this is only his fifth film to direct. Why? Because when he makes films he's really saying something and that takes time. His last film, The Thin Red Line, was a masterpiece, and I expect The New World to be the same.

(11th) Get Rich or Die Tryin' - So, okay, a biopic of 50 Cent wouldn't normally be on my to-see list. But if Jim Sheridan thinks it's a film-worthy story, it must be. I'm interested to see how this turns out.

(11th) Rent - "Live in my house...I'll be your shelter..." One of my three favorite stage musicals of all time, and they've got almost all of the original cast back. I never got to see the original cast live, but I've worn the CD out. I can't wait to see this thing.

(11th) Zathura - Pretty much Jumanji in space. But Jon Favreau is directing, so it should be good.

(18th) Breakfast on Pluto - Neil Jordan movies have to be seen on the big screen. As do movies featuring Liam Neeson and Cillian Murphy.

(18th) Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - Um, yeah. This is pretty much a "duh" choice.

(18th) Walk the Line - *sigh* This will have to be the second fiddle movie of the weekend. I'm seeing it, regardless. Joaquin Phoenix is an incredible actor, and it looks like he's nailed Cash - even down to doing his own singing. I'm SO there.

(23rd) Syriana - I remember reading an article not long after 9/11 where screenwriter Stephen Gaghan (who wrote and directed this) said he wanted to do a political movie that dealt with terrorism, and I guess this turned out to be it. And George Clooney pulled a "Raging Bull", putting on 35 pounds in a month to play the main character. I think that ever since Batman Forever Clooney has been pouring all of his energies into getting away from that bad decision. And I can't help but be thankful, because he's made a LOT of great stuff since. I'm anxious to see this.

(23rd) The White Countess - Ralph Fiennes, Natasha Richardson, her mother Vanessa Redgrave, Vanessa's sister Lynn Redgrave, John Wood, and Alan Corudner in the last Merchant-Ivory film that will ever be made. How could I stay away?