Friday, September 02, 2005

Camera Obscura

September will see a massive 3 and a half hour documentary by Martin Scorsese on Bob Dylan which goes on sale Sept. 20th and will air on the American Masters series on PBS later in the month. A new bootleg compilation CD goes along with the movie and it sounds most impressive. A concert review last month noted how much more relaxed Bob is on stage these days. The documentary tracks that volatile time in the early 60s when Bob moved from acoustic folk to electrified rock and roll, a change that still generates arguments and debates. I could not name a time when I did not like Dylan's music (well, maybe that gospel period).

Another lost gem from Bob is the movie "Masked And Anonymous," from 2003, which got lousy reviews but holds some fantastic musical numbers. Most critics and fans were befuddled by this one, with Bob as Jack Fate, who is released from a nameless prison in a nameless country engaged in a nameless (and seeminlgy endless) war. A concert-benefit (benefitting who?) is the reason Jack gets out, but he is a stranger in an even stranger land. Pop culture, old hippie culture, celebrity culture all get zapped here. The real meat is served up when Tom Friend (Jeff Bridges), the Eternal Rock and Roll Journalist, gets mean and nasty with Jack about -- well, about Bob Dylan's career. The way Jack/Bob handles Friend is a very telling, autobiographical event. Most viewers will not enjoy it, but for those who know -- it is a fine satire. And a great chance to show off tunes like "Cold Irons Bound."

Strange events are also on hand as Pulitzer-prize winner Sam Shepard continues to make bizarre film appearances (such as this summer's god-awful "Stealth"). Latest news says Sam is co-starring in a new Jesse James pic with Brad Pitt, "The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford", and the so-far untitled thriller with Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy rules!!), and "Bandidas" with Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek. In October, "Don't Come Knocking", a film Shepard wrote, directed by Wim Wenders, is set for release.

Looking at Shepard in a cowboy hat reminds me of some reading I've been doing this week, as I have finally started the massive "Dark Tower" series by Stephen King, with the first volume, "The Gunslinger." In the newest edition of the paperback, King intros the story with references to a movie that I'd rank among the best ever made - "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly." King talks about his first viewing and I remember mine - the enormous landscape of a drive-in theatre welcomed this Sergio Leone movie like a favorite lover. A shoestring-budget, an unforgettable music score, those close-ups on the filthy faces, the epic-scope of a simple treasure-hunt story -- Leone blends all these elements into cinema history. You can taste the sand and smell the tang of gunpowder in the air all thru this bona-fide opera about Greed. Lee Van Cleef is a casual, brutal killer in a way that still shocks audiences. Eli Wallach gives one of his best performances - "When you have to shoot, shoot. Don't talk." (And if you didn't know, Eastwood's character does have a name - Joe.)

Reading King's introduction also reminded me of one of his best works and one of the best books about movies ever published, "Danse Macabre." It's a history of movies and American culture covering about 30 years, from the 50s to the 80s. King takes the reader thru a thrill-ride of horror movies in this excellent volume which should be on every movie lover's shelf.

If you have a movie you'd like to see discussed here, or maybe recommend one for me to review, add it to the comments section. A weekly movie contest on Fridays will begin very soon.


  1. dammit, if you want to advertise crap in this blog, you better pay ME first.

  2. Tim Smasken11:44 AM

    You are SO gonna love the Dark Tower. I've read the first 4 twice and the last 3 as they were released. I wish I had time to do them all again soon. Even the fringe books like "Black House" and "Desperation." I envy you!

  3. Rodeo Monkey12:03 PM

    Now Joe, did you actually SEE Stealth? (Not that it didn't suck, but you know what happens when you "assume".)

  4. This is true, yet i do not have to step into a cowpie to know what it is.
    I'm jes' sayin.

  5. rodeo monkey confessed the other nite he had seen "stealth," and that it was really bad -- so bad that even the jet-tech-loving Mr Frank didn't like it.
    so i may never bother to actually watch it.
    that said, rodeo monkey was right to say i should at least view a movie before i trash it, or i could lose my Film Critic status.