Home > Uncategorized > Netflix Review: “I’m Not There” / Run DMC Want You to Read, Suckas

Netflix Review: “I’m Not There” / Run DMC Want You to Read, Suckas

I finished watching I’m Not There last evening.

To be honest, I didn’t go into the viewing of this film with anything resembling high expectations. My only familiarity with the director, Todd Haynes, was his garbled mess of a film “Velvet Goldmine.” In fairness, I’ve always felt that film suffered far more from its writing than its direction and execution, but let’s just say that I wasn’t terribly excited at the prospects of an arthouse biopic of Dylan from the same director.

The marketing hurt it for me as well. To be honest, I kind of hate baby boomers. I find them to be far too self-involved and obnoxious about their own upbringing. I get especially annoyed when a baby boomer grossly overemphasizes his involvement in “the movement” or “the counter-culture,” particularly when the vast majority of people who speak in such a manner really only had a passing relevance to the change that occurred between the years of 1965 and 1969. Every time I hear something along the lines of a wistful “we were a part of something bigger” I want to respond with “oh yeah, dropping acid and shitting your pants in the cemetery that one time really almost changed the world.”

The ads and trailers for this film were aimed squarely at that crowd, with phrases such as “He was all of us” flashing across the screen; equating viewing of this film with acknowledgment that, yes, Dylan was part of us and we were just as important as he was. The ads also focused on the stunt casting of Cate Blanchett in the role that is supposed to most closely resemble Dylan in terms of his mannerisms, voice inflection, and behavior during the drug-addled electric tour of 1965.

Then I actually watched this film.

The film’s concept is the story of Dylan as told through six distinct characters who re-enact the events in Dylan’s life both directly and metaphorically. Combined, the stories act as an homage to not just Dylan but the avant garde arthouse films of the 1960s. On the surface, it’s a terribly clumsy and pretentious idea. But Haynes somehow manages to make it work and then some.

While his execution is brilliant, the film’s also helped by his resignation of what it really is – a series of homages to Dylan songs, moments in the life of a pop star, and straight-up duplications of famous moments in 60s cinema. That isn’t to say that’s all the film is, however, nor is his only accomplishment in the form of effective mimicry. Haynes tells six very distinct stories and is able to tie them together with themes, but doesn’t force the issue. Rather, more attention and focus is given to keeping the human aspect and emotional weight of each story intact, even when it takes surrealist and absurd turns as it does in the portions of the film featuring Richard Gere as an aging Billy the Kid trying to rescue a town of outcasts from a carnival.

Of course, we have to also talk about the performances. Heath Ledger’s turn as the movie star with a failing marriage and growing distance between himself and his basic obligations as a human being deserved far more recognition than it received when this film came out. His performance is as poignant as it is eerie. It’s a shame that his turn as The Joker in “The Dark Knight” will be the one he’s remembered for and thought of as his epitaph. This is the role that deserves to be remembered and should summarize not just what his career as an actor was, but also what could could have been.

Other performances also deserve recognition of achievement. Marcus Carl Franklin, the kid who plays “Woody” (the character that reflects the fictional backstory and outright lies Dylan told about his own upbringing upon his arrival in the Greenwich Village scene), is going to be something special so long as he avoids the pitfalls of other child actors. Ben Whishaw is Dylan as the interrogated, spouting direct quotes from Dylan press conferences and interviews with so much conviction and sincerity that you’d swear you were hearing them for the first time.

The only weak link is, perhaps not surprisingly, Christian Bale as Jack and Reverend John; the early political troubador who goes into seclusion and re-emerges as a born-again Christian. What is actually one of the more fascinating aspects of Dylan’s life and psyche – you know, the parts where he takes himself way too seriously until he goes completely off the deep end – is portrayed by Bale as pedestrian and dull. It’s a good thing the man has a cape and cowl for the Christopher Nolan franchise of Batman films, because whenever he’s relied on to portray something resembling emotional resonance, he instead carries all the luster and shine of a wet copper penny.

However, that’s quickly forgotten each and every time Cate Blanchett makes an appearance on-screen. I don’t know what to say other than the performance isn’t as good as people are saying. It’s infinitely better.

Is this film required viewing for fans of Bob Dylan? Perhaps. But it’s definitely required viewing for fans of film.

Rating: *****

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I suppose I should post a video from YouTube, becuase that’s what kids do with blogs! Here’s Run DMC dorkin’ it out hardcore on “Reading Rainbow.”

I call shenanigans on the first rap they perform…it has nothing to do with reading at all! There’s a vague allusion when there’s talk of going to school every day, but no subjects are specified. Eventually they come back with a really half-hearted short rap about books, which lasts all of half a minute. They might as well have just had Jam Master Jay go “yo word, BOOKS, uh” and left it at that.

Also, watch Levar Burton totally fucking blow up their spot. Even after all those whack rhymes, Run DMC were still going to be laid by groupies. But no…Geordi popped up and was like “THAT was GREAT. They write all their own rhymes. Who wants some milk and cookies?”

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  1. September 23, 2008 at 3:03 am

    David Cross as Ginsburg has me wanting the Ginsburg movie.

    • September 24, 2008 at 3:22 am

      How fucking cool is David Cross? Seriously.

  2. September 23, 2008 at 6:07 am

    Whiter: Josh Groban or Levar Burton?

    • September 24, 2008 at 3:21 am

      Groban. He’s so white, racism just happens when he’s around.

  3. September 23, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    the really sad thing is that Levar Burton is ALMOST as white as Josh Groban. but i guess that’s just what a black man had to do to get on TV back in those days…

    • September 24, 2008 at 3:21 am

      It’s almost like the twenty years following his work in “Roots” was like his penance for daring to display some blackness in the epic miniseries. I bet his manager was like “listen Levar, you got this whole black slave epic mini-series thing. The ONLY WAY you’re going to stay in this business is to go so white you give people around you diabetes. So I got two offers – one hosting a kids’ show on PBS and a science fiction show. It don’t get any white than this!”

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