Wednesday, January 29, 2020

"Inside Llewyn Davis" - King Midas's Idiot Brother

*SPOILERS ahead.

After watching over twelves hours of Bob Dylan related movies this month (Rolling Thunder Revue, Factory Girl, I’m Not There, No Direction Home), it seemed only logical that I finally take the plastic off (more on that later) of my copy of Inside Llewyn Davis, a movie that doesn’t glorify the folk scene of 1961 but rather casts a shadow (almost literally considering the color palette of the film) over the era. This is the folk scene right before Bob Dylan showed up (as he appears in the background in the film’s final moments), and for some people, Llewyn Davis specifically, a career in folk music is an eternal struggle. That’s what drew me to this film after all the Dylan stuff. After watching so much film about or inspired by this artist, it was nice to see a story from the same era but about someone who didn’t become an icon. Plus, it’s a Coen Brothers movie, and everything they make should be watched twice, at least.

“[T]he same shit’s going to keep happening to you, because you want it to.” 

Inside Llewyn Davis is a bit of a head-scratcher after the first viewing (at least it was for me). The film seems to end where it begins, so it appears that Llewyn is in some kind of loop, especially once you find out the cat’s name is Ulysses because it makes it seem like he’s on some seemingly endless journey a la Odysseus. But that’s not exactly the case. 

First of all, it’s not a time loop as there are quite a few differences. Llewyn sings another song and is followed by Bob Dylan at the end of the film. Plus, he keeps Ulysses from leaving the apartment with him this time. A lot of similar things happen to Llewyn, but the point of it isn’t that he’s in some purgatory or mythical allegory. He’s just in a rut as a person and an artist that he may or may not want out of.

The easy version of this movie is that Llewyn wants to find success as an artist and reaches some breakthrough at the end. You could argue that he has come to terms with the loss of his bandmate Mike by the end, but he’s still not thriving at the end. What makes it interesting is that it doesn’t seem like he really wants out of the loop. Llewyn Davis is very self-sabotaging, whether he does it consciously or not. For example, he takes a quick check instead of getting royalties for the “Please Mr. Kennedy” recording. He tells his sister to just throw out all of his things without even going through them, not realizing his merchant marine union papers are among them. Why is he like this? That’s where folk music comes into play.

Music, perhaps more than any other artistic expression, glorifies struggle. Success is considered selling out. Folk music in particular embodies this as the songs are typically about struggles among common people, and what’s more common than scraping by? On some level, Llewyn never wants to stop crashing on whatever couch he can find in the Village, because if he somehow makes enough money to get his own place, then he must have sold out to get there. 

This is not necessarily who Llewyn Davis is overall, but it’s certainly who he is throughout the film. He was part of a duo, and his attempt at a solo career is failing. He is trying, but he’s unwilling to admit that he needs someone. Mike’s suicide is still affecting him, and he doesn’t want to find someone new. But trying things on his own has created an endless rut. The end of the film may find him making slight progress (because of his ability to leave the cat in the apartment), but it seems like he may have simply made peace with the rut.

This is best exemplified by his conversations with Jean (Carey Mulligan). In may ways, everything she says to him sums up his character perfectly, even down to calling him “shit.” But it’s her discussion with him about being a “careerist” that is most telling. She talks about how she and Jim want something, and Llewyn is just on the couch, and it’s spot on. But he sees her goal of success as selling out or giving up. To him the struggle is the point, but this is only because he’s miserable. 

Llewyn’s misery isn’t exclusive to music. He has possibly impregnated Jean, who he clearly has feelings for (despite her being with Jim), and he goes on to find out that he has a child living in Akron (the woman he was with decided to keep the baby without telling him). He considers having a family as giving up, as he gives Jean shit for wanting to move out of the city and raise a child, and he is condescending to his sister when discussing her life of “just existing.” Yet when he drives past Akron on his way back from Chicago he stares at it longingly and moments later he hits a cat (most likely the wrong cat he brought with him from New York but abandoned). By passing Akron he is killing his chance at such a life, and perhaps he regrets this a bit. Regardless, he passes it up and head back to his struggle as a folk singer.

Llewyn alienating people around him and showing disdain for people who succeed shows that living as an artist, or at least an artist in Llewyn’s eyes, is a selfish and lonely endeavor. He uses anyone willing to give him a couch, and he doesn’t seem very interested in family ties (family, either his child or his sister and dad, represent a life wasted). Most people seem to hate him or dismiss him (a man seems to stare at him with hate in his eyes on the subway, Roland Turner dislikes him immediately, etc.). It’s a miserable existence, but it seems to be one he wants to live. It’s also a refreshingly realistic cinematic look at a musician, since Llewyn is never going to make it in the traditional sense, just like most people who follow their dreams. Most just keep grinding it out for as long as possible. For every Bob Dylan, there are a thousand Llewyn Davises out in the alley, getting their asses kicked.

The appearance of Bob Dylan at the end while Llewyn goes to the alley to take his beating sums up what his professional life will most likely be. One step away from stardom and success (which he doesn’t actually want, because hey, Dylan ended up betraying his folk beginning anyway when he went electric, right?). One step away from a beating each night. But this is what he wanted, so it’s not really a sad or depressing ending. Llewyn is going to continue to be the artist he wants to be, and the events of the film have helped him come to terms with that. 

King Midas’s idiot brother

The first time I watched Inside Llewyn Davis, I wasn’t blown away by it. But it’s not the type of movie to blow you away. It’s a movie to be absorbed after multiple viewings. I didn’t hate the film, and I knew I needed to give it time. The Coens have earned my patience over the years, so any time I watch a film of theirs and don’t seem to get it at first, I’ll give it a few months and watch it again. 

I have come to love it, but I feel the need to address why I didn’t like it at first. To begin with, Llewyn is a dick. I know the movie points this out plenty of times, but that doesn’t make him likable. I’ve come to enjoy him as a character, but he does a few things I consider unforgivable. The main issue I have with him is having sex with Jean while she’s with Jim, and then, the kicker, trying to get money from Jim for Jean’s abortion while knowing that the baby could also be Jim’s. I get the dark humor in such a request, but when you think about Jim, who seems to be the nicest character in the film, unwittingly paying for the abortion of his own child, it becomes fucking evil. But I’ve made my peace with it because it finally occurred to me that I don’t need to like him. 

Having an unlikable protagonist isn’t a new concept to me, but I wanted to like Llewyn, probably because I think Oscar Isaac is a great actor, and he’s especially good in this film. The fact that I have come to kind of like him despite his despicable behavior is a testament to his performance.

I also wasn’t crazy about the possible time look aspect of the film the first time. It made me wonder what I missed, realizing that the fucking cat was very important, especially with a name like Ulysses. The name thing really annoyed me because I thought this was meant to be about The Odyssey again, which I thought was a bit lazy. But looking back, this has very little to do with The Odyssey and is more of a reference to the Joyce novel, mainly because it’s a slightly plotless look at life in a specific world over the course of a short period of time. (I’ve never read Ulysses, though, so perhaps there’s more than that to it.)

I just didn’t feel like trying to figure this movie out the first time I saw it. But I chalk that up to awards season fatigue (I have to watch 60+ movies in the final month of the year for the year-end awards from the critics group I belong to and sometimes a movie gets less attention than it deserves). After giving it a few years (I opened my blu ray copy a few days ago even though I bought it years ago), I was able to give the film another chance. 

This time around, I found myself enjoying the world of the film. Even though I like digging deeper into the film and thinking about theories about the cat and whatnot, I also just enjoy the movie on the surface. It’s sneakily one of the Coen Brothers’ funniest films, and it features a great cast of characters. And I’ve embraced folk music recently, so that aspect, which was a bit lost on me the first go around, is now part that I enjoy very much.

Inside Llewyn Davis is not only a film I have come to love; it’s also an example of my favorite type of movie. It’s a film that can be as deep or shallow as you want it to be. That shouldn’t have surprised me because the Coens excel at that. I’m just glad I gave this movie the time it deserved, because now I consider it top-tier Coen Brothers.

Why Do I Own This?

I’m a Coen Brothers completionist (or I was since I have yet to buy Hail, Caesar! and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs), so I buy this out of instinct. But this one truly needs to be owned because it gets better with each viewing.

Poe Dameron and Kylo Ren as college students before their relationship soured.

Random Thoughts 

I bet Llewyn apologizes about last night every day. 

"Llewyn is the cat."

Troy Nelson announcing, "Well, that was very good," after eating cereal annoys me for some reason. 

"Everything you touch turns to shit! Like King Midas's idiot brother."

"I'm not a fucking cat!"

There's something odd about seeing Adam Driver sing about "!" now that he's Kylo Ren. Not to mention he's singing with Poe Dameron. 

I actually really like "Please Mr. Kennedy."

What happened to Garrett Hedlund? I mean, I know he still works with regularity, but I always thought he would be a bigger star.

John Goodman definitely has some of the best lines, or maybe I just enjoy watching him roast Llewyn. 

"Grown man with a cat. Is that part of your ACT?"

"I just didn't know what to do with it."
"Really? So, did you bring your dick along, too?"

Llewyn is such a fuck-up that he can't even give up and become a careerist properly. 


Thursday, January 23, 2020

"Pitch Black" - God, "Alien," and Vin Diesel

*SPOILERS ahead.

The Midwest Film Journal is doing an upcoming series about Vin Diesel movies called All We Do Is Vin in March, and I volunteered to write about Riddick, the third film in the franchise. Before I revisited that film, though, I wanted to watch the first two entries. And since I feel obligated to write about every movie in my collection when I watch it, I decided to publish an article about the first two films leading up to my entry for Riddick. (By the way, I’m saving most of my thoughts on Vin Diesel for the Riddick article; these entries will focus more on David Twohy and plot elements.) So let’s go back twenty years (are you fucking serious?!) to where it all began with Pitch Black.

The Riddick franchise is the Alien series David Twohy never got to make.

Pitch Black owes a lot to the first Alien. Carolyn, a female second-in-command (Radha Mitchell) takes over after her captain dies and becomes stronger over the course of the film as she takes on the leader role (they are also similar in that they are willing to attempt to make cold-blooded logical decisions with Ripley refusing to let the contaminated crew members back in and Carolyn trying to jettison everyone to save herself and the navigator at the beginning). The ship is commercial rather than military or exploratory (much like how the crew of Alien are commonly referred to as “Space Truckers”). And, obviously, they are all being terrorized by an alien species they have never encountered before.  

It’s not an exact remake or anything, but the tone and plenty of plot points make it clear that this film, and its writer/director, is influenced by the iconic film. What makes it even more obvious is the fact that David Twohy wrote a version of Alien³ that went unused. His version was actually the first to feature a prison planet setting, which would eventually factor more into the Pitch Black sequel (more on that when I write about The Chronicles of Riddick next month). 

The similarity to Alien is what I like about Pitch Black. Any time you take (mostly) ordinary workers and put them up against crazy violent aliens, I’m game. And I’m just a fan of stripped down sci-fi, in general. Pitch Black is not a very ambitious movie, and I mean that as a compliment. There’s very little mythology or world-building going on here (which is why the sequel is so surprising since it’s nothing but mythology and world-building) that can sometimes bog down science fiction. Instead, we have a stranded group of survivors who are simply trying to get off a dangerous planet. 

With such a standard horror film set up, it would be easy to dismiss the characters as simply bodies waiting to be killed in increasingly gruesome fashion. That is the case with a lot of the characters, but the core group is quite interesting. With Carolyn, there’s an interesting character arc as she grapples with her attempt to basically kill everyone on board at the beginning of the film. Her attempt to save the survivors by getting them off the planet is her redemption. The fact that she dies is actually a bit surprising, but it’s the best ending for her. She makes the ultimate sacrifice to make up for her sins.

Speaking of sins, the character of Imam (the always great Keith David) provides the moral center of the film, somehow retaining his faith in the face of terrible event after terrible event. I’ll explore his role and the role of religion in general a bit more in the next section, but I will point out that his presence is interesting in regards to Riddick. But it’s actually more interesting when you consider who he largely ignores: Johns.

Bounty hunters, especially in sci-fi, are rarely seen in a positive light (perhaps that’s changing, though, with The Mandalorian), but even by that standard, Johns (Cole Hauser) is a fucking piece of shit. Imam doesn’t seem to be very interested in Johns probably because he sees no redemption is possible for this man. It’s not that he’s mean to Riddick (he kind of should be, since Riddick is a, you know, murderer with a bounty on his head); it’s more about how he treats the rest of the survivors. He seems to kind of like Carolyn, but he still treats her like shit. And everyone else is a nuisance that he would gladly be rid of if it saved his ass. Which is how he eventually gets his much-needed comeuppance: wounded by Riddick and left to be killed by the aliens after he tried to conspire with Riddick to use a survivor as bait. 

Johns is the evil man that he claims Riddick is. Riddick may have the reputation and the weird eyes, but he has more morals than Johns. He might be short with everyone and make comments about how they will die and whatnot, but he still tries to save people. Even when it looks like he is trying to take off and leave the others behind, it seems like it was more of a test to see if Carolyn would leave the others to die to save herself. I don’t believe Riddick was ever going to leave without saving as many people as possible.

Riddick ending up being a basically good guy is almost a weakness of the film. I usually want a character who claims to not give a fuck about anyone but himself to actually not give a fuck about anyone but himself. But since Johns fills that void, I’m okay with Riddick being more of a smartass hero than a true anti-hero. Riddick is still my favorite character in Pitch Black (I just think he’s perfect for the role of a smartass bad guy who’s really a good guy), but this time around I was much more interested in Imam.

Religion in space

Religion is often portrayed in sci-fi, but it’s usually something completely new (like the Force in Star Wars) or a version of an existing religion that has changed dramatically over the years (like how Islam is the basis for the Fremen in Dune). Rarely is it simply the same as it is now. And sure, Imam (his actual name is Abu, but he is referred to mostly as Imam) is looking for “New Mecca” rather than a Mecca on Earth, but other than that, he appears to be a pretty traditional Muslim.

Having Imam be Muslim as opposed to some new made-up religion is in keeping with the general efficiency of the story. Why get bogged down creating a new religion for the film which would require a character to explain it in some boring exposition when you can simply make that character a member of a commonly known religion? It just makes sense. But why have a holy man at all? 

Imam is there to establish that this film is going to tackle the issue of morality. Most films are about morality in one way or another, but for survival films like Pitch Black it is important to focus on it because desperate situations bring out a person’t true nature. Imam is our guide to the rest of the survivors, which is why he focuses so much attention of Carolyn and Riddick and ignores Johns.

Carolyn and Johns are fairly simple. She seeks redemption, and Johns doesn’t care. But the attention to Riddick is interesting, because for a series about a character who is meant to care about no one, the Riddick franchise is surprisingly focused on good and evil. In fact, Riddick is a good person who wishes he wasn’t. He wants to avoid people because he knows he will try to save them (the good ones, at least). This is echoed further in Chronicles when he seems to just be pissed off at Imam bringing him out of hiding because it means he will be forced to try to save people.

What’s great about Imam is that he doesn’t try to push his beliefs on others, but rather observes that God is working through all people all the time. Riddick, unsurprisingly, doesn’t feel this way. When pressed about his belief in God, he tells Imam that he actually does believe, but only because so many terrible things have happened in his life. I find that fascinating. Typically, a person might look at their misfortune as evidence that a higher power doesn’t exist. Riddick sees it as proof. So he does believe in God, and he hates Him. 

Of course, such a statement can be written off as Riddick just wanting to sound like a badass, but I believe him. I think that Riddick believes in God and does hate Him, but not just because of the terrible things that have happened to him, but because of how Riddick is. He wants someone to blame for making him have to be a hero from time to time when he would rather be left alone. Who else can he blame? (At least until the Necromongers show up in the next movie and a bit of backstory about Riddick’s homeworld is revealed.)

Riddick is right to be angry about his nature, but it’s too late to live a normal life now. The circumstances of his existence mean someone will always be hunting him. He can blame it on God or the Necromongers or whoever, but it is what it is. While he comes across as this confident badass, he’s actually a tragic character. Riddick wants to avoid humanity because anyone he gets close to will eventually be in danger. 

The inclusion of religion in a story about a character such as Riddick is actually a bit anti-religious. Here’s a wanted, dangerous man who claims to hate God, yet he’s morally sound. He doesn’t need religion to be a good person. This doesn’t make the Riddick series an endorsement of atheism, but it does make the case that humans can be good despite religion, not because of it. And Pitch Black shows that this is still the case, even in the distant future on different worlds. 

Why Do I Own This?

I love this franchise because I can shut my brain down and enjoy it, or I can overanalyze it and get into religion and morality and shit. I like a franchise that gives me that option.

Random Thoughts 

Riddick looks like he belongs in a Nine Inch Nails video at the beginning of this movie.

I like how dark (no pun intended) this movie is. Not just because the "hero" is an escaped convict, but because of all the death. For example, the other survivor who shows up only to be immediately killed by Zeke (because he thought it was Riddick). And there's also the fact that Carolyn tries to jettison everyone at the beginning.

Forgot about the part when Riddick claims that you can mellow the copper taste of human blood by mixing it with peppermint schnapps. 

I like that Riddick's eyes were done for "20 menthol Kool's." It sucks that this got retconned in the sequel (it’s referenced by Kyra, but it’s revealed that he has these eyes because he’s a Furyan), but I get that they did it to expand the mythology of what was originally supposed to be a one-off character. 

Johns is such a fucking dick. First, yelling "Shut up!" at Carolyn instead of just saying, "Quiet!" And then when they're digging her out of the spire, he says, "Give me your goddamn hand!" Was that necessary?

“C’mown!” Riddick definitely should have busted out his Johns impression more than once.

I like the sound design of the creatures, but the CG budget was definitely lacking. Twohy did a good job of showing the monsters sparingly, though.

I guess Riddick's claim of being found as a baby in a liquor store trash bin is made up too. Or do they have liquor stores on Furya?

The moment when Riddick pops his head in the cave opening with a cheesy grin was a bit too corny for me. It's just not in character for him, but it doesn't ruin the movie or anything.


Thursday, January 16, 2020

"I'm Not There" and "Factory Girl" - The Not Really Bob Dylan Double Feature

*Um...SPOILERS for Bob Dylan's career, I guess.

Bob Dylan, the man or the myth, has interested me from time to time in my life, but I’ve been most interested by how he has been portrayed on film, specifically in I’m Not There and Factory Girl. I’ve always liked his music (though I’m hardly a superfan or anything), but the myth of Bob Dylan has fascinated me much more. Maybe “myth” isn’t the right word (especially since typing “the myth of Bob Dylan” is so pretentious that it makes me want to punch myself in the dick every time I type it). The “character” of Bob Dylan is more apt. I don’t think I really care about the “real” Robert Zimmerman. (I like the six-hour version of the seemingly factual No Direction Home, but I actually prefer seeing the dramatized version of most of those events in I’m Not There.) I’d rather see how Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Ben Whishaw, and even Hayden Christensen create him. Hell, even watching the actual Bob Dylan is misleading. Watching Scorsese and Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue inspired me to revisit these two films because it turns out that a lot of that documentary is fake. That movie is an example of why It’s always been kind of pointless trying to “figure out” Bob Dylan. For one thing, why should we? Instead, I’ve embraced the characters he has created over the years.

These Two Bob Dylan Movies Do Not Feature a Character Named Bob Dylan.

Rolling Thunder Revue stuck out to me because of the fictional nature of it, but it made me realize that I prefer completely fictional Bob Dylan to semi-fictional Dylan. This first led me to Factory Girl

Factory Girl is not a Bob Dylan film. For one thing, he threatened to sue the filmmakers to keep the film from being released (supposedly because he thought the film made it seem like he was the reason Edie Sedgwick’s life spiraled out of control leading to her eventual death), so any mention of his name is changed and the character Hayden Christensen portrays is only credited as “The Musician.” And there were some reports that Christensen had to ADR his lines later on to tone down how much of a Dylan impression he was doing. But it’s still very clear that he’s supposed to be Bob Dylan. 

Aside from all that behind-the-scenes stuff, Factory Girl is about Edie Sedgwick, Andy Warhol’s “It” girl who was rumored to have had a short, but passionate affair with Bob Dylan. The movie is definitely more focused on Sedgwick and Warhol, as it should be, but Bob Dylan definitely left an impression on Sedgwick, and may have been what started the eventual rift with Warhol. 

Factory Girl is generally considered to be a terrible movie, but I like it (the director’s cut, at least, I’ve never seen the theatrical version). Liking this film at all is a minority opinion, so claiming to enjoy Hayden Christensen’s performance probably sounds like insanity to most people. But he’s good in this, I swear. Maybe he did have to tone down the Dylan impression through ADR, but there’s still remnants of it there. He sounds just enough like Dylan at times to remind you who he’s supposed to be, but because it is toned down, it never comes across as parody. 

It’s what Christensen’s character represents that most appealed to me, though. The world of Andy Warhol, as shown in Factory Girl at least, is superficial. He seems to be using Edie for her money, and everyone at the Factory seems to be more interested in appearing unique and interesting rather than actually being either of those things. So when Christensen’s Musician shows up to call out their bullshit, it’s a voice of reason the movie desperately needed. 

Christensen has very little screen time in the film, but he still makes a lasting impression. My favorite moment is after his awkward visit to the Factory for one of Warhol’s “screen tests” (Dylan really did this). When he goes to leave he tells Edie “You should fucking hate him!” And he delivers the line with true passion. You believe that he is sickened by the whole situation. 

Whether you like Christensen’s performance or not doesn’t matter. His version of Dylan is what’s important. And this character of Dylan is one of my favorites. It’s Dylan at his coolest, showing up, not giving a fuck, and not buying into the bullshit of the Factory. Did it really happen this way? Probably not. But something happened with him and Sedgwick (there are theories that “Like a Rolling Stone” and other songs are about Edie, and listening to the lyrics after watching Factory Girl definitely makes that seem true [and Scorsese seems to agree since he shows footage of Warhol's screen test and pictures of Dylan at the Factory while the song plays in No Direction Home]). Like most things with Dylan, though, we’ll never know the truth, which is how he likes it.

Truth is something the other “not really” Bob Dylan movie is not concerned with at all. I’m Not There is the anti-biopic. It’s a film meant to show all the different characters of Dylan throughout his career. There are elements of Dylan’s actual history (going electric, giving vague interviews with the press), but it’s more about identifying the spirit of character, and it’s a better movie because of it.

Dylan says in the film that he’s just a storyteller or a singer, and I’m sure he’s said that in interviews, too. The man is clearly not interested in providing information to anyone. And I agree with him. It’s why I find him interesting to this day. These characters he has created over the years are the reason why people still find him so fascinating. There was a time when Dylan’s reluctance to give straight answers was annoying to me, but I’ve reached a point now that I find it all kind of funny. He was being meta and messing with the press and fans before it was even a thing.

I, and anyone else who’s ever written or created anything concerning Bob Dylan, am probably giving him too much credit. He is just a person. But it’s undeniable that he is also a character. I don’t think he has ever appeared in public without first putting on some kind of a mask. That doesn’t mean that he isn’t sincere with his music or interviews or whatever. It just means that it’s all a performance for him. And I find him to be a bit of a genius (and I hate using that word, especially regarding a celebrity) because he created this mystery around himself that led people to try and “figure” him out while he was saying there’s nothing to figure out. This is regarding the press more than anything (a segment of the film featuring Bruce Greenwood as a reporter is devoted to this, although with the added point that Dylan perhaps should have been more willing to be more than “just a storyteller” at certain points in his career). 

For the fans, the characters of Bob Dylan have always been enough. I don’t care what his childhood was like or anything like that. I’m a fan of a few versions of Dylan, which is why I have slightly conflicted feelings about I’m Not There. The segments with Marcus Carl Franklin and Richard Gere are my least favorite (by the time the film reaches most of the Gere stuff I’m kind of tired of it, which kind of describes my capacity as a Dylan fan, too, I suppose). But it has nothing to do with their performances. Franklin, in particular, is great in this movie. But I don’t care for the Dylan who sang other people’s songs. And I don’t like the Dylan that went into hiding. I like the Bob Dylan that was bold and original. 

I like seeing the angry Bob Dylan as portrayed by Christian Bale. The Dylan who was sick of everyone’s hit. I want to see Bob Dylan who got tired of celebrity and his first wife as portrayed by Heath Ledger. I want to see the aloof Bob Dylan who liked to fuck with the press as portrayed by Cate Blanchett. I want to see the cryptic Bob Dylan spouting random words of wisdom as portrayed by Ben Whishaw. 

I only like certain parts of Dylan’s career, so I only like certain parts of I’m Not There. I can’t fault the film, though, because it has to have these segments to cover every aspect of Dylan’s career. That doesn’t mean I have to enjoy them, though. 

Dylan’s career is interesting to me for nostalgic reasons, as well. But it’s that weird nostalgia I get from movies like Once Upon a Hollywood and Inherent Vice, that is, nostalgia for a time period I didn’t experience. As for Dylan, it’s not a particular era of his career I enjoy, it’s the fact that he was so important that something as simple as changing his sound to electric caused an uproar. We have famous musicians and whatnot today that sometimes make waves, but our culture is so varied now because of the internet that there are no seismic moments like this anymore (What’s the closest thing we have? When Kanye became a preacher?). I wish we still had a common ground that large as a culture instead of these fractured communities consuming countless forms of every form of entertainment. Yes, we have more great options than ever before, but the sense of a communal experience is largely gone save for small pockets here and there.  

I’m Not There captures these seismic cultural moments in Dylan’s career in the form of a collection of characters and moments instead of a narrative film. So, much like the varied career Bob Dylan has had, I drift in and out of finding it interesting while always respecting the overall work. And that’s the best way I can describe my feelings about Bob Dylan, the man or the myth.

Why Do I Own This?

I’m not going to lie, Factory Girl is a pretty damn random purchase for me. I just bought this because I wanted to see Christensen’s performance again, and I couldn’t find it on any streaming platform. As for I’m Not There, I just really enjoy the performances in the film. And I need both of these movies for when my interest in Dylan flares up so I can re-watch them.

Random Thoughts 

Factory Girl

Guy Pearce does a great job, almost stealing the movie from Miller.

Pearce's portrayal of Warhol is my favorite, but I really like Crispin Glover as him in The Doors, but that was more of a cameo. I think there was a real missed opportunity back then to make a Warhol movie starring Glover.

Man, I'm with Dylan as far as the Factory goes, or at least how it's portrayed here. Everyone just comes across as so fake. Edie's constant forced laughter during the early scenes is unbearable, which I think is the point. She's trying to convince herself that this life is important, but deep down she knows it isn't, and it definitely isn't going to last.

At times, Christensen's performance comes off as a bit of a parody, but a lot of his performance is more grounded, and better for it.

Of course the Musician is a "Have you read the book?" kind of guy.

Of course the Musician is a "I'll prove I don't give a fuck about possessions by driving my motorcycle into a lake" kind of guy. 

I’m Not There

I could watch a whole movie of Christian Bale as angry Bob Dylan. "You can boo, but booin's got nothing to do with it!"

I could watch a whole movie of Cate Blanchett fucking around with reporters at a press conference as aloof Bob Dylan. 

I could watch a whole movie of the movie within a movie of Heath Ledger as the movie version of the Christian Bale movie version of Bob Dylan. I don't think it can get much more meta than that.

I could watch a whole movie of Ben Whishaw quoting Bob Dylan while he stares hauntingly directly at the camera.

This movie reminds me of the grace scene in Talladega Nights (you know, the “I like to picture Jesus as a mischievous badger” scene), but I’m thinking of what Dylan I prefer instead of which Jesus I pray to. 
“I like to picture Bob Dylan as Christian Bale, and he’s really tired of everyone’s shit!” 
“I like to picture Bob Dylan as a little black child singing folk classics!” 
“I like to picture Bob Dylan as Richard Gere in the least interesting segment of the film!” You get it...