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Pop culture junkie, native of Las Vegas, not really a writer.
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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

I'm Not There

Ever since I saw Todd Haynes' new film I'm Not There over the weekend I've been trying to figure out how I really feel about it. It was a disjointed experience for me: a little bit slow in parts, a little bit brilliant, a little bit too precious, a little bit surprisingly funny, a little bit confusing, a little bit nostalgic, a little bit biting. I'm not sure that I ultimately "get" what Haynes was trying to say about Dylan. But then I'm also not sure that matters. Here are some simple bullet points from me about the film:

Cate Blanchett. - She was brilliant as always. I don't know how she does it. She has this way of acting with just a twinkle of her eye that is other worldly. It was also brilliant on Haynes' part in casting her. There was something about a woman playing Dylan that got to the meat of his character. She revealed the fire in his mind in a way that did not come through in the male performances. At the same time, even knowing it was her, a woman playing this part, I was not distracted by it. I watched the film and saw a man, Jude Quinn (this particular character's name).

The performances in general. - All the performances were good actually. I particularly liked Michelle Williams and Ben Whishaw in their smaller parts. Everyone seemed to capture their characters with perfect clarity without falling into caricature.

The use of Dylan's music in the film. - Sometimes there were entire scenes with no dialogue, just the Dylan songs playing which made it almost like watching extensive music videos. It reminded me of Haynes' Velvet Goldmine a lot. I enjoyed those scenes. Listening to the rambling storytelling songs of Dylan while watching a rambling filmed story of his "life" was interesting, it was apropos.

The Beatles scene - Funniest moment in the entire film. I don't want to give anything more about it away.

Sometimes the film made me sleepy. - There were times during this film where I could barely keep my eyes open. I understood Haynes' desire to let the movie unfold slowly and in that rambling way I've mentioned before, but I guess I needed more action!

Billy the Kid, really? - I guess I don't know enough about Dylan to have understood the Billy the Kid character played by Richard Gere. Maybe it's all part of Haynes' treatise on celebrity? I don't know. Those were some of the scenes that bored me the most.

What was Haynes getting at anyway? - Again, I wasn't really sure what to take away from the film. What was the filmmaker's intention? I felt that maybe he was speaking to the cult of celebrity. Dylan has transformed himself so many times in so many different ways while always remaining this cult figure to his fans. Or maybe it's simply about the music, showing how each of Dylan's personae infused the music each made.

All in all, the film seemed to be made out of love which is enough. I'll tell you that it inspired me to re-watch Pennebaker's Don't Look Back and download my Dylan CDs to my iPod.

I wonder what Dylan himself thinks of it?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Musings on Christmas Trees

I like to put up my Christmas tree the weekend after Thanksgiving because it's a nice long weekend and it's usually the last weekend before Christmas that is not jam packed with various social gatherings. Talking to my father on the phone the other night, he was appalled to discover that I had already put it up. My parent's divorced when I was very young, so I don't really remember what the Christmas season was like with my dad around. My older sister however does remember and when I told her how sickened our dad was about my premature Christmas tree trimming, she laughed, and said that as a kid she would get really upset with dad because he wouldn't go get their tree until about a week before Christmas and by then she would be dying for one! That just isn't my style. I like to have my tree up the entire month of December because, as I told my dad in explanation, it's pretty and it makes me happy. I want to enjoy the tree for as long as I can, not put it up one week before Christmas and then just have to take it right down again. Granted when my dad did that, it was back in the day when people still bought real trees. As a matter of fact my dad still gets a real tree for his house. I, alas, have a fake tree. But it's kind of small and charming and once it has all its lights and jingle bell garland and my eclectic lifetime collection of ornaments on it, you can't tell.

In the evening there is nothing better than relaxing on the couch watching movies or listening to music with only the cheery glow of the Christmas tree to light the room. I am finicky with my decorating of it too. I am never finished. I'll see a hole and move this ornament there, or see too many red colored ornaments in one spot and have to switch them out with other colors, or decide that this ornament is too pretty to be hiding here and move it to a more prominent position. And don't get me started on the trials I've been through in finding the right tree topper this year! Last year I had an old fashioned glass one, but this year I really wanted a star, preferably one that lights up. Well, after going to about a dozen different stores, and after two failed attempts and returns, I finally found the perfect tree topper at Walgreen's for $7.99! Can you beat that? It's a star that looks almost like a snowflake with 11 white lights and it's perfect.

There is this one Disney cartoon short that really captures for me the magic of a Christmas tree. It's called Pluto's Christmas Tree and in it Mickey and Pluto inadvertently cut down the tree Chip & Dale live in for their Christmas tree. Then there is this wonderful sequence of Chip & Dale wandering around inside the brightly lit, decorated tree. I always wished I could be tiny like that and walk around inside a lighted tree among round glass ornaments and candy canes.

So my dad and anyone else who wants to judge me for putting up my tree so early can go right ahead. It makes me happy and that's what counts. Now picture me sticking my tongue out.