Sunday, November 25, 2007

I'm Not There [review]

Will the Real Dylan Please Stand Up?

Now, before I get into too much of a spoiler mode, let me take a shortcut to a recommendation. If you're really familiar with Bob Dylan's songs and lyrics, and you also enjoy surrealistic art in your movies (the second half of Apocalypse Now for example), I have a recommendation for you. Just go to the movie (quickly now, it's in limited release) with some friends, then go out to dinner or a coffee shop afterwards to discuss the movie. You can come back here later to read the rest!

Welcome Back
You've either gone out and seen the movie by now, or like me, you like to read spoilers! Spoilers? It's not like a whodunit, Dylan is still alive, and his story is not a secret, in fact it's deeply woven into our own culture and identity. This film's main shtick is that Dylan is played by 6 different actors, from an 11-year old black boy to Cate Blanchett. None of them is named Bob Dylan, and everything seems to be from some sort of parallel universe. We see scenes that happened in real life, sort of, but the names have been changed. We see the Newport Folk Festival of 1965, but it's not called Newport. Pete Seeger, who is not Pete Seeger grabs for the historic axe to try and cut the power cables to stop the awful noise Dylan/Jude/Cate is hurling at the audience. The scene in fact opens with the band opening fire with machine guns instead of guitars! (See? You shouldn't have read this far. It would've been a cool surprise if you could have seen it without warning!)
Chronologies are mangled, and you need to just let it happen. You may not like this movie if linear narrative is how you like things. I found it to be a reflection of our whole lives, not just Dylan's. The emotions of tragedy, of stress, triumph, loss, and heartache resonate deeply. Dylan was a one-man Beatles for a while in terms of how much pressure he was under as the 'spokesman for a generation,' a title he never wanted. I was fortunate to not know too much about the film before seeing it tonight, outside of the multiple-Dylan shtick, so it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. We then hung out with our friends Bill and Lucy afterwards, discussing it. Even though we all had different levels of Dylan knowledge, we all liked it, and would recommend it. Please leave some comments below if you get to see this.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

I came to talk about the draft

Do you feel a draft?
Today I was sitting around, watching football on TV, while I was listening to the traditional noontime playing of Alice's Restaurant, by Arlo Guthrie. For those of you who have never heard it, I'm not going to explain it, other than to say it has a circuitous connection to the draft. It originally came out in 1967, so it certainly needs to be understood in that context.

During the Vietnam War (never actually called a war) resistance to the draft was a major anti-war strategy, sort of a way to stop the machinery of the war. I really enjoyed listening to David Harris talk about the draft when I was in college, and I remember him talk honestly about the problems of not having a draft. He said once (I can't prove this, this is from my memory) that without a draft, people would care less about the policies of our government, since their own children were not at risk.

5 years ago
On September 11, 2001, thousands of innocent people were killed in terrorist attacks, which were planned by cancerous elements in Afghanistan, a country under the control of religious fundamentalists. Notice, I didn't say Muslim fundamentalists. When the causes of the 9/11 attacks were identified, I was totally in support of a military response to what I felt were the human/cultural equivalent of tumors, tumors that could spread. This is an interesting point in time. I've always thought of myself as pretty much a commie-pinko-leftist kind of guy, but here I found some of my anti-war friends opposing the US entry into Afghanistan on some sort of absolute pacifist grounds.

Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iraq (sung to the tune of "Barbara Ann")
But I'm not comfortable being in the position of agreeing with anything George W. Bush says. While I now feel comfortable with the idea of having a military, and that the service these men and women provide to our country should be honored, I think having insanity call the tune at the top of our government is no way to operate. When we entered the Iraq war so blithely, and without any plan for peace, it all fell apart.

Return of the draft
So, in the last few years, there have been calls from some minority congressmen for a return to the draft. Today's 'volunteer' Army consists of an inordinate proportion of low-income young people, who have few other options. At this point there is no real support for this idea, but it brings back that old idea of how a draft might affect our foreign policy. If we had a universal service system, with no deferments for the privileged, you can bet your booties that before we send Brett and Ashley Prepster off to war, we'll make sure it's worth doing.

Modern ending
Just like the ending of the Sopranos, I don't have a nice well-wrapped solution here. Do I want my children to be put in harm's way? Not particularly. What if it's something truly noble? Please, no hypotheticals! I guess I'd just like to know how you feel about the draft.