Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Happy 70th Birthday to Bob Dylan

He will always be a legend of the counterculture, for more than just a singer-songwriter, Bob Dylan is an emblem of the chaos and ramblings of 1960s America.  With songs that seemed woven from just about everywhere-- rock, classical, rockabilly, jazz-- and a great many that still hold up achingly and vibrantly well today, the raw political and social unrest in his rambling, mumbling lyrics have always and will always be some of the greatest American storytelling.  And from hero to martyr to born-again Christian, whatever phase Dylan is in, it's always been engrossing.

Since this is site is about movies, and Dylan is a sometime cinematic fixture, it apropos.  In 2000 he won the Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Original Song for "Things Have Changed," for the film Wonder Boys.
Dylan also wrote and starred in the 2003 failure Masked & Anonymous, a performance piece about a musician comeback that featured John Goodman, Jessica Lange and Penelope Cruz, and was directed by Larry Charles (Borat.)
The more interesting cinematic expressions of Bob Dylan, and the ones the truly devout should probably be watching at home tonight are two of the finer musical pieces (or meditations on music) the cinema has brought in the last decade.  One is the exemplary No Direction Home: Bob Dylan (2005), the documentary that's lovingly made by Martin Scorsese that dissects the Dylan legacy in the key early 1960s years that made him the "voice of a generation."
The other is a bit more frustrating, but nonetheless fascinating...Todd Haynes' decade-spanning, multiple interpretation, free-associative experiment film I'm Not There (2007), where six actors portray the musician in different stages of his life.  Cate Blanchett gets the juiciest period, and her grandstanding mimicry, and spot-on line delivery netted her a much earned Oscar nomination.  The film is a bit jumbled and chaotic (here is my take back then-- I've downgraded it a bit since; the ebb and flow of movies always changes...sigh!), and perhaps only truly appreciated by the Dylan cult, but even the flaws and messiness make it interesting, and perhaps, it truly is the perfect way to film the legend; a mere, three-act, standard issue biopic would never work.  Happy Birthday Dude.

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