Friday, March 31, 2006

Oscar Feast V – Walk The Line


A gifted singer is about to go waste. His red-neck farmer father has no notion of his talent. His wife wants him to take up that job her Dad has been offering. His sales calls are met with doors shut rudely in his face.

But he makes it. Only to lose it all.

There is the price that fame makes him pay, there is the fast life of the tour, there is the wife tucked away feeling left out, there are drugs to be done and a border to be crossed to get that easy bagful.
But as you and I know, there’s also a friend in this decadent jungle. She is strong and loving, she has a shoulder for his tired and abused head, she is ready to shun the glory, she is content to live in his “big fat shadow”, and she plucks him out of the degenerate mess.

Does it sound all too familiar?

It is, but Walk The Line is as open and fresh and honest as Reese Witherspoon’s face. Though it’s actually the story of Johnny Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) and his rise and fall and rise, the film devotes itself in part (and more) to June Carter (Witherspoon), Cash’s tourmate and friend. June is one of the daughters of the popular and musical Carter family.

More than director James Mangold’s intentions, my guess is that June becomes as important as Johnny in the film because of Witherspoon’s powerful portrayal of a young, kind and well-mannered stage-seasoned professional. And we like it that she shows reluctance in getting involved with a married man, and also because Cash' s wife has been endowed with enough negativity. I do tend to get carried away when I appreciate a film and its actors, but I’ve seen Capote too, and I absolutely fail to see why Phoenix didn’t get the Oscar. Witherspoon deserved hers. (When they announced her name, I thought of Legally Blonde and kept “Oh no-ing”; Jabberwock cautioned me; I stand corrected; though, on second thoughts, Legally and WTL together emphasise Witherspoon’s repertoire). Hats-off to Phoenix and Witherspoon for doing their own vocals in the film (yes, I know, it's hard to believe, though the film's credit clearly mentions the fact). Professional singers, work harder, these guys look good to grab a neat chunk of your pie.

The WTL action opens in 1968 when Cash is at Folsom prison, California, to make his famous live recording. The flashback starts in 1944, with his life as a kid at his Dad’s farm in Arkansas (the bond between the two brothers is touching).

If you are the rockabilly and country type, you’ll enjoy WTL as a musical almost. The deep bass (“Hello, I’m Johnny Cash”) reverberates throughout. The onstage chemistry between Phoenix and Witherspoon is remarkable. You might want to see the film again for the superb duets:

· "Time’s a Wastin"
· "It Ain’t Me Babe" (interesting playful variant from Bob Dylan’s)
· "Jackson"

…as well as the singles, including the pensive “I Walk The Line”.

There’s a shot or two of the King himself, and Roy Orbison (frankly, I know only "Pretty Woman"), and a wonderful depiction of Jerry Lee Lewis, right down to his so-called piano-pounding. There’s also Sam Phillips, the Sun Records man who in the 50s was responsible for exposing all the above-mentioned talents, namely the country-rock mixture that gave way to rockabilly (I’m no authority, so enlighten me if you can).

I would disagree vehemently with those who’ve termed WTL a musical.
· It doesn’t live only for its music
· I didn’t wait for the next song (though I loved it)
· It is too much the “drama” genre to be a musical (the tension between Johnny and his Dad is evidence enough)

Once more, here's to Phoenix and Witherspoon singing...

71 Comments:

At 4:45 PM, Blogger Walrus said...

just saw walk the line yesterday...for some reason was expecting more...but keep up with movies. My exams finish in three days and i am moving the Dvd player to my cornflake and not coming down till the next leap year.

Walrus(lamenting the lack of a better blogger name)

 
At 12:59 AM, Blogger A fool on the hill said...

That was bang on, Portnoy.

The rockabilly world of the sixties was so well portrayed in WTL. The opening itself readies one for that curious era in music when country and blues merged into rock: thunderous clapping by jailbirds giving way to rollicking guitar strains. And then we have Joaquin taking over.

 
At 9:47 AM, Blogger Jabberwock said...

I still haven't seen it. The film is jinxed for me - three plans to watch it have fallen through.

 
At 2:16 PM, Blogger Malinee said...

Hi PP ,

:o we missed you around...to boss biday hoyechen finally?

I havent seen this one so far...

Listen if you are ok with it, would u care to join the 4 membered bong gang on 03(Shaibalda, chumki singh , madnira and me )for the absolutely rocking addas on MSN whenever we get time?

 
At 2:31 PM, Blogger Sue said...

Joaquin, Port. You know something, I know a guy who looks uncannily like him.

Well, you've made me want to watch the movie (and I'm not really a huge Cash fan) but I haven't the faintest idea how to make the time!

 
At 3:04 PM, Anonymous maya said...

pls dont tempt me with movie reivewwwwwwwwww i ll cry!

 
At 4:33 PM, Blogger Patient Portnoy said...

WALRUS: All the Best, even if you are done with the exams :-)
And keep me updated on what's running on that DVD player

Fool: Thanks
When I saw you here, I was almost sure you had pointed out some silly rock music goof-up
Yes, wasn't that clapping and tapping at Folsem Prison really a heady start? When one of the band members looks tentaively at the door, you think he's looking for a way to dash in case the prisoners make for them. At the end, the same scene tells you that he is actually apprehensive if Johnny is in a "sensible" state before he comes onstage... And the rest, of course, is history. Loved "shit" and "hell" and "yellow water"...
What about you?

JABBERWOCK: Honoured
Try again (seeing it was you who made me consider that RW just might have deserved her Oscar)

MALINEE: Bideshini bidaye hoyechhen. Jodio prochur dinner khaiyechhen, aar amader mota korechhen. Uni nijey ek super-model size, onar aar ki chinta :-)
Would love to join you guys on chat, but do not have an MSN a/c. I am live on GoogleChat mostly. Tell me, if I open an MSN a/c, do I have to download the chat facility (like Yahoo Mess), or is it within the mailbox itself (like Google)?

SUE: In keeping with my tradition, I think I might have a crush on Joaquin :-) Tho he's not a good-looker in that sense, he has this awesome presence
You can always chk out DVDs, you know. The originals are really good, if you have a good surround sound. One of my recent posts had comments between Chumki and Rimi about movie rentals in Cal. You might want to chk it out


MAYA: OK, next post will be different, I promise. It'll be an answer to Sue's tag, and for all you know you might be tagged yourself :-)

 
At 4:58 PM, Blogger Patient Portnoy said...

SUE: Spotted something wrong with Joaquin, then realised what you were trying to say.
Tried correcting, but stupid stupid blogspot failing to update. aaaargh!!! Thanks, buddy

 
At 5:04 PM, Blogger Malinee said...

K,

Shoddho bangla te likhchi,download.com e giye msn download korte hobe..google chat amar kaaj korche na.its working with the rest though.yes id create korte hobe..hotmail account thakleo cholbe.once u get the id,praner anonde adda.malini_03@yahoo.co.in te mail ur id.


Plz plz taratari-- we are dying to add u in the adda.

Ektu dinner shinner kheye mota hole aar dosh ki..bideshinisr eta kortobyo...afterall we work so hard??:D

 
At 9:30 AM, Anonymous motu said...

Wow!!

Now, that's really made me want to watch the bloody movie man!!

I think I'll coax my friend to skip work today.. ;-)

Cheers!!!

 
At 11:02 AM, Blogger J. Alfred Prufrock said...

I repeat myself, but your matter-of-fact style is very refreshing. I really like your movie reviews.

I do NOT like Reese Witherspoon. Legally Blonde put me off watching any of her films. "Open, honest face"? She looks like a red-neck termagant with a piranha jaw! Must give her another chance with this one now. TIME magazine had a good article on Joaquin Phoenix some months back - with a hook on this film - which all but said he should get an Oscar. How DO you make the time to watch so many films?

If you go to download.com, get Limewire. A file sharing site where you can get an incredible variety of music. (MSN is superior to Google Chat because it allows conferencing, hence adda. Yahoo is good, perhaps Skype is best.)

And in my comment box, I shall ask you a question about your comment.

J.A.P.

 
At 3:49 PM, Blogger Kusum Rohra said...

You make me want to see this movie :0

Probably i will watch it this weekend and then will come back again here.

I like the way you have written about the movie, I watch so many movies, read so many books, sometimes I feel I should write some reveiws, but then I am not too sure if the blogosphere is ready for that kind of torture :)

 
At 7:34 AM, Blogger Anand said...

Hey Patient,
Once again fab review!
Ur reviews keep tempting me to make my "must watch" list longer!...
Keep the reviews coming in!

 
At 7:34 AM, Blogger Anand said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 8:27 AM, Blogger Patient Portnoy said...

MALINEE: My dear shashuri, next week korley hobe? :-) :-)
Access pelei janabo.
Flattered, really. Maybe after a couple of adda sessions, you'd wonder why you had the idea in the first place.

MOTU: Hi, and how was work?
Glad to have you here. How's Delhi doin? I left it less than a year ago, and the heat is still fresh

JAP: I repeat myself too, Thanks.
LOL for "red-neck termagant with a piranha jaw". I was the same, blv me, but do see WTL, you’ll love her.
Thanks for that "conference" tip.
Have answered your question in your comment box :-)

KUSUM: You've endured my torture. After reading your blog, I'm sure we'll be able to endure yours quite well :-)
If you do see WTL, tell me if you liked it

ANAND: Hi, long time... How's wifey doin? Still dreaming? :-)

 
At 8:29 AM, Blogger wildflower seed said...

Nicely written. If you want to indulge yourself with some more Reese, you should definitely check out Election (directed by Alex Payne, if you are into the whole pedigree thing). The woman has loads of talent.

 
At 8:43 AM, Blogger Ekta said...

Hey Patient!
Wife's outta dreams and now doing some reality check!
well am glad hubby has read this post too..now I dont have to pester him for this movie as well;-)
U make my life easier patient..thx!lol!

 
At 3:30 PM, Blogger chumkisingh said...

Hi,
Great to see u back in action.
WTL is probably my least favourite Oscar Movies this year. The story was very cliched, and I hate Witherspoon - and I really think she didnot deserve the Best Actress Oscar.
And if I have to compare movies on legendary singers, I think Ray and Doors were the best of the lot. The actors in these movies actually became the legends - Jamie Fox looked completely unlike him & every bit like Ray Charles! And Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison was just too perfect.Now waiting for the movie on janis joplin - though read somewhere the other day that Britney Spears is being considered to play the lead role. That really got me - I mean, whoever thought of that is a goat!!
Anyways, what's next on the line... now that you've walked the line.
:o)

 
At 3:33 PM, Blogger madnira69 said...

PP- again another smashing review. Girl, do not know what online content you write but i think you should specialise into film reviews only. visist this site called offoffoff.com. They invite reviews by people. Upload some stuff there. Who knows, you can be the next Bhatia selling Uncle Gates a movie review portal for a few cool hundred millions. Will send my consultancy bill for the idea right away.

MSN adda is a blast. but come in at your own risk. It's very very contagious and your employer will not like the idea much as it will translate into huge loss of his man hours. Ok, woman hours.

 
At 5:37 PM, Blogger Patient Portnoy said...

VBlues: Hi there :-)
Yes, went to IMDb, and "Election" does look interesting.

EKTA: Glad to be of use. For you and Anand, any day.
Also, hope you won't ask for money back after WTL. Keeping fingers crossed :-)

 
At 5:46 PM, Blogger Patient Portnoy said...

CHUMKI: Plenty of things to say, and hence MSN makes sense...

1. Yes, a cliched film (as I've said, "Does it sound all too familiar? It is...") Made moreso, because the wife's negativity is rather forced and June is so piously unwilling to be the other woman. But isn't life itself cliched most of the time? And are we always supposed to admire something that's different?

2. I think Phoenix did a great job BECAUSE he didn't outshine his character. He was just Cash, nothing more flamboyant. Val Kilmer coloured Jim Morrison with nuances and mannerisms and swaggers the man did not possess. I don't think ending up associating the singer with the actor who plays him necessarily makes the actor a legend.
(On a local reference, Amir Khan's performance in RDB is commendable because of his ability to stay on the side and shine on without distracting the viewer from the others, while at the same time cunningly centering the film on himself. That, I think, is one of the hallmarks of a great actor)

3. "Goat" was funny... Britney?
Shey beta chhagoli botey :-)

ARINDAM: When that happens, I'll thank you for the hedgehog. But you might have to wait till the next life. Oh, and I've decided to have lots of money there, so bring on the consultancy bill

Yes, going by the rounds and rounds of commenting, MSN seems a priority. Have a nice weekend :-)

 
At 12:34 AM, Blogger Ghetufool said...

i saw a programme in history channel on cash where we got to know that a director is doing a film on cash...the script being written by cash's wife and jonny would act on it.
is it the same one portnoy?
i am not a big fan of movie...more of a book-worm and theater going person. but after reading your reviews i am growing interest for movies also. seriously (and i am not flattering you).
i must say i enjoy reading your posts more than the reviews in paper. you score higher than nikhat kazmi (she was my favourite, in the absence of my ignorance of knowing good critics).

 
At 5:39 PM, Blogger eve's lungs said...

Your comment popped up just now -is that e mail id on your profile valid ?

 
At 5:41 PM, Blogger eve's lungs said...

About WTL - dont want to watch it- dont like Witherspoon's jaw - I hated the Legally Blonde films

 
At 5:41 PM, Blogger eve's lungs said...

About WTL - dont want to watch it- dont like Witherspoon's jaw - I hated the Legally Blonde films

 
At 8:36 PM, Blogger Patient Portnoy said...

GHETU: As far as I remember, Cash's wife did not have anything to do with the script of "WTL". Gill Dennis and Mangold himself (the director) did, and a lot was sourced from Cash's books "The Man in Black" and "Cash: An Autobiography"... John Carter Cash, son of Johnny and June, was one of the producers though.

I think you might be talking of a documentary made in 1970: "Johnny Cash: The Man, His World, His Music". Cash plays himself in that film, which also has wife June. If you get hold of it, give me a buzz. And check out more on this NYT:
http://movies2.nytimes.com/gst/movies/filmography.html?p_id=84394&inline=nyt-per

 
At 8:40 PM, Blogger Patient Portnoy said...

EVE: Yes, let me assure you that at least that ID is valid. It sounds shady, nah? :-)
Jokes apart, if you want, we can correspond using our existential names. So mail me quick, and tell me

As I said in the post, I too hated her. And vowed on Oscar morning that I'll skip the show henceforth... but she brings such a practical calmness to June's character, I couldn't help admiring her

 
At 9:42 AM, Blogger Sue said...

Port, post na. And DVDs are not a problem for me. Thing is, we usually watch movies at night, which is the only real time V and I get together, and I usually just about make it through the end of the movie before I nod off. Ruins a movie. And I can sleep through anything.

And JAP and gang: till you understand what ditzy women have to live with, you'll never get the point of Witherspoon's prowess in LB. I don't like her either, but in that movie she convinced me she could act. Not ditzy myself, but I am frequently given that "li'l women" thing by MCPs, and let me tell you, LB's scoring off is the stuff of such women's dreams. Sort of :-)

 
At 8:22 PM, Blogger Tridib said...

Great review. Looking forward to your views on Munich!

 
At 9:00 PM, Blogger A fool on the hill said...

Long time no post? Where are you?

 
At 9:10 PM, Blogger Patient Portnoy said...

Sue: Me too a night watcher. But have always been a late winker, so no problem

Tridib: Munich was ok, though I couldn't understand Spielberg's choice of Eric Bana

Fool: Here, in a few minutes. Though not a movie post

 
At 2:22 PM, Blogger indianpeppone said...

U r really good at this.... but disagree that joaquin should have got the oscar....

 
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At 9:43 PM, Blogger Patient Portnoy said...

IP: You think so?

You agree on PSH? We differ then, as friends do :-)

I didn't like "Capote" and I didn't like PSH in it. I thought it was a waste of a grand book and plot

 
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