movies, music and everything else

This blog is about pretty much what the title implies... movies, music and everything else.

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

I like movies, music and everything esle... ; ) oh... and i can't spell, so, please, no comments

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

TORONTO - day 6 (part one)

With WALK THE LINE, director James Mangold tells the story of Johnny Cash… a story about the music that made him, the woman that saved him, and the thin line between legend and destruction that he walked. This movie is one of the early favorites for the Oscars this year and I can see why. It is very similar to “Ray”, which garnered multiple nominations last year. The movie is good, the performances are great, the music is fantastic… what is there not to like?

Mangold tells a very solid story here. It is very straightforward and safe. That was my biggest problem with it. Was it well told? Yes, but I have seen many movies about famous people and most of them are the same. The structure is very plain… it starts at a concert and flashes back to a traumatic event that shaped Cash, and then told his life story until it caught back up to where the movie began. There is nothing wrong with that; it is just what I have seen many times before. The pace of the movie is a little slow in the middle and could be trimmed from its 2 hour and 15 minute running time. Also like “Ray”, the movie also looked beautiful. The costumes are great, the art direction good and the photography is beautiful. Now on to what most people will talk about when this movie comes up in conversation… the performances.

When I went into the movie, I was skeptical at best when it came to both Joaquin Phoenix (Gladiator, To Die For) as Cash and Reese Witherspoon (Election, Sweet Home Alabama) as June Carter. I will start by saying that I was WRONG… Both actors give great performances and will most definitely receive tons of attention for their work here. One of the main things that impressed with is that both actors do ALL of their own singing. Bad idea? Actually, no. While Phoenix doesn’t sound exactly like Cash, he sounds really close and really good, as does Witherspoon. But there is more to acting than the singing… Phoenix is really strong here. It is a shame that this movie comes out a year after Jamie Foxx became Ray Charles. Phoenix PLAYS Johnny Cash, Foxx BECAME Ray Charles. This is the greatest performance that Phoenix has ever given and it will not be received as well as it should be for that reason. Johnny Cash was a very deep and emotionally complicated man and Phoenix captures that extremely well in the film.

In my opinion, Reece has only been better once before this (Election). June Carter was Cash’s salvation in life, the reason why he stopped ruining his life through substance abuse. She is a strong and independent woman that was ahead of her time. I am not as familiar with June Carter, so I was able to forget that it was Reece for most of the film. Without both of these actors really pulling off these parts, the movie would have been a failure. Luckily, they both do a great job.

MANDERLAY is Lar von Trier’s sequel to “Dogville” as a comment on America. This movie stars Bryce Dallas Howard (The Village), Danny Glover (Silverado, Lethal Weapon) and Willem Dafoe (Last Temptation of Christ, Platoon). The story goes as such… Howard plays Grace who, while traveling with her father (Defoe) happens upon a plantation that still uses slavery (70 years after the end of slavery). This appalls her, and events lead her to having the power to switch the position of the whites and blacks at the plantation… The whites become the slave and so on and so forth. What follows is a comment on how badly white people in America have treated African-Americans throughout the years and continue to do so.

By von Trier’s estimation, The United States is filled with people that looks at African-American’s as lesser beings, hate them and will never look at them any differently. This stance infuriated me. It would be as if I, as an American director, made a film about present day Germany and presented the Germans as a people that hate Jews, and always will. It is like calling all Germans Nazis. It is this kind of single-minded bullshit that makes this movie much more harmful than it ever could be helpful. These kinds of broad generalizations are what racism is all based on in the first place. This is a movie is written and directed by a man from Denmark who has never stepped for in the United States. His view of the country is totally formed by what he has read and been told by the media. It is irresponsible filmmaking to impose such a harsh judgment upon anyone without having perspective. The ironic thing is that his making this movie parallels the story in the movie itself… he is a foreigner making judgments on a place he has never been to and a culture that he doesn’t understand, clearly thinking that his way is the best and that Americans are all naive and wrong with how they act.

This is what Grace does with the slaves. She comes in and immediately passes judgment on everyone. The different is that Grace’s actions have negative consequences and she is forced to realize that she does not know everything that is right for everyone. While her intentions are good, she ends up making things far worse then they were in the first place. I don’t think that von Treir haws come to that conclusion. It feels like he still thinks that he knows what we do wrong and what is best for us. You know what? He doesn’t.


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