The first thing to know is that we are not sophisticated viewers of movies. When we think of movies, we think of being home for the holidays and seeing one or two with the family. Think big, holiday-season, Hollywood blockbusters. So, with movies we're like a music fan who pretty much only listens to very mainstream major label releases. Now that we have properly raised our insufficiencies as a movie critic, here are some thoughts:
- We liked this movie. It was non-linear and the director was obviously playing with the form and these are things that we appreciate. Since our experience with movies are the very conventional types, a movie like this gets us excited because we get proud of ourself for stretching our movie-consuming boundaries. People who are sophisticated movie goers, we have no idea how they are reacting to this movie. But we thought it was cool in that abstract style of many Bob Dylan songs.
- Despite our constrained knowledge of good cinema, even we could recognize that Cate Blanchett put on an incredible performance -- it deserves the phrase "tour de force" an absurd title seemingly only used to describe movie performances -- as jittery-drug-era Dylan. I'll try to frame her performance with a music analogy. You know how some band will cover another band's song, and the cover verison casts the original in a new light, and shows us something new about the old song? Usually it shows you -- or reminds you -- just how brilliant the original song and band were, because the antecedent song was universal, could be taken and adapted to a different style and still be so strong. Think Yo La Tengo covering the Beach Boys' "Little Honda." Or Matthew Ward covering Daniel Johnston's "To Go Home." This was Blanchett's performance. You can go to youtube and watch these interviews of Dylan in that era. And when we watch we seem him seething with anger and mockery and disdain. But Blanchett adds this layer of feminine emotion and vulnerability that you don't think of watching the interviews, but now realize simply had to have been present in the original Dylan. Blanchett, at the least, will be nominated for major awards for this.
- We feel more comfortable discussing music rather than movies. Someday, perhaps, there will be a Rhapsody of movies. But until then. We thought the two stars of the soundtrack (aside from the Dylan originals that were used; those are the stars of any soundtrack they'd ever be in) were Stephen Malkmus and Mason Jennings. It seems more or less implausible that this is a coincidence since they both share characteristics with Dylan: Malkmus the absurdly talented wordsmith (also note that one of the versions of Dylan was from Stockton, CA home of Malkmus/Pavement); Jennings, the thoughtful Minnesota songwriter.