Thursday, November 29, 2007

I'm not there (anymore)

Back from a 6-day getaway out in Rhode Island, which is usually frigid and otherwise inhospitable this time of year. But, thank goodness for global warming, it was actually not that much cooler over there than it has been in the Bay area. And no snow! There was a touch of rain towards the end of my stay, but it was nothing to crow about.

The only really jarring thing about the trip was that, again, I felt like I was stepping into a new world. I swear, every time I fly there, new businesses open, new buildings go up, old businesses disappear... the amount of change that has happened there over the course of four years is pretty amazing. Don't know if it's good or bad, but something tells me that a huge high-rise luxury condo building in the middle of Providence that's failing to attract buyers can't be a good thing.

Also in the bad news department... I knew it was coming, but it was sad to hear nonetheless. Tom's Tracks, one of my favorite record stores, will be closing by year's end. Unfortunately, I couldn't even say goodbye to Tom because he's not well enough to tend to his store anymore, after having suffered several strokes. Oh, and he has MS too. Not fun. Tom was infamous for being cranky and grumpy with customers at times, but if he liked you and if you made a connection with him, you had every reason to keep going back. He was a fountain of knowledge, had great taste, and would hire similarly knowledgeable staff to help him out over the years. It was through some of those staff (one in particular I'm thinking of was also named Mike) that I got hooked on Black Cat Music, doves, the Hives, and others. As far as record stores go, Tom's was the last one standing on Thayer Street, after 23 years -- he outlasted them all. He even outlasted the Gap! With Tom closing up shop, I now have one less reason (and a HUGE one at that) to cruise by Thayer Street.

Ah, but the Avon is still there, my favorite single screen independent movie theatre! It was there that I saw Todd Haynes' new film, I'm Not There, not once but twice. And I have plans to see it again next week. Yes, it's that good, and it may unseat Bugsy as my all-time favorite movie. The music is, of course, fantastic. You can't really go wrong with Bob Dylan. A couple of the performances that sounded only so-so on the soundtrack double CD actually came off much better on-screen. In particular, I wasn't all that impressed with Richie Havens' take on "Tombstone Blues," which surprised me as he's generally a dynamic performer. But once that song was paired with the image of Havens himself strumming on a porch alongside the young Marcus Carl Franklin (as the "Woody" character), it became much better than just so-so. The other tune that benefited was Stephen Malkmus' version of "Ballad Of A Thin Man" -- this sequence was essentially turned into what amounted to a music video, with Cate Blanchett's "Jude Quinn" miming the song between images of the relentless BBC reporter who drew so much ire from him/her (there's a reason I used both pronouns, and not just because a woman is playing the role of a male here -- you'll have to see the movie to find out why).

Beyond the great soundtrack lies a real film, a real mind-bending non-linear narrative that weaves together the stories of six characters who were inspired by the real life (or lives, as it were) of Bob Dylan. All the actors who portray these characters -- Franklin, Blanchett, Christian Bale (who plays both "Jack Rollins" and "Pastor John"), Heath Ledger ("Robbie Clark"), Ben Whinshaw ("Arthur Rimbaud," as in the poet, not literally, of course), and Richard Gere ("Billy The Kid," "William," "Mr. B," or whatever you choose to call him) are excellent. But it's Blanchett who gets all the best parts and the lion's share of the zingers in the dialogue. Her resemblance to Dylan circa 1965-66 is uncanny, and being that this period was the height of his cultural impact, she had arguably the most challenging role to play. I wouldn't say she became Dylan the way Val Kilmer became Jim Morrison in The Doors or the way Jamie Foxx became Ray Charles in Ray, but she came awfully close, as close as anyone could. And that's sort of the point of the whole film -- as soon as you think you have Dylan figured out, he's on to something else. He might as well be somebody different every day. And here we have it on film -- six characters who are, but are not, Dylan. "I'm not there, I'm gone," Dylan sings in the old Basement Tapes song that lent the film its title. And yes, it's true. But it's not. It's a put-on. But it's not.

Go see it!

(...and learn for yourself just how far you can go in life when you master the arts of the con, thievery, and being an asshole... oops, did I just say that?)

Beyond that... I'm overdue for some Bullz-Eye updates. Look for those tomorrow.

Till then... take a cue from my parents' 15-pound cheetoh cat and go find something to toss around for fun:

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