The story of the late great Johnny Cash depicted in Walk the Line is not quite all encompassing. The film dramatizes just one moment in Cash's life: his tumultuous 20s and rise to fame. The young Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) married and straight out of the army struggles with his music finally finding his patented blend of country blues and rock music. Haunted by a troubled childhood Cash sings songs about death love treachery and sin--and shoots straight to the top of the charts. On tour he also meets and falls for his future wife June Carter (Reese Witherspoon) whose refusal to meddle with a married man only further fuels the fire and contributes to his eventual drug addiction. Their cat-and-mouse love story provides the film’s core but unfortunately can’t quite overcome Walk the Line’s formulaic nature. Biopics are generally good to actors. Phoenix and Witherspoon could easily each walk away with Oscar statuettes for turning in two of the most jaw-dropping spellbinding performances since well Jamie Foxx in Ray. Neither actor had any musical background whatsoever but they both underwent painstaking transformations for the sake of authenticity doing all of their own singing as well as guitar-playing for Phoenix. The actor's performance is purely raw and visceral; his vulnerability is aptly palpable at first but then he becomes the Cash with the unflinching swagger. Witherspoon's Carter is Cash's temptress and she'll be yours too by movie's end. She eerily reincarnates Carter as if she was born to play the part. If Walk the Line is the ultimate actor's canvas then Phoenix and Witherspoon make priceless art-and music-together. While good for the actors biopics can prove to be difficult for the director. It’s hard to highlight a person’s life without it coming off like a TV movie of the week. Unfortunately director James Mangold (Copland) plays it safe with Walk the Line. The duets between Johnny and June on stage are about the only electrifying moments of the film. The rest is pretty stereotypical. And it isn’t because the film only focuses on certain years of Cash's life. It's simply not possible to fit a lifetime into the short duration of a film. The problem instead is that Mangold's presentation of Cash's life would lead one to believe that Cash actually exorcised his demons. But in reality his lifelong demons are what endeared him to the layperson. There was nothing cut and dry about the Cash story--and adding a little grit would have given Walk the Line the edge it needed.
December 02, 2001 10:33am EST
In the months before his death, former Beatle George Harrison was finishing a last album in secrecy. According to Britain's Sunday Times, Harrison played the album for his friends and family in a private room at a Los Angeles hospital on Sunday, four days before he died of cancer at the age of 58.
Harrison was completing 25 previously unreleased tracks in a studio at his Friar Park mansion in Oxfordshire, England. His wife Olivia and son Dhani said they would release the album as a tribute to Harrison's courage.
Portrait of a Leg End, the album's working title, contains new songs as well as some that date to the 1980s. Unlike his last song, "Horse to Water," recorded with Dhani, the tracks do not allude to his illness but are instead an effort by the former Beatle to put his musical legacy in order.
Jim Keltner, a California-based musician who played the drums on some of the tracks, told reporters the album is very close to completion.
"There is a certain soulfulness about George's music that doesn't need a lot once he has put that voice on. There will be people who argue that it is underproduced and maybe there should be more on it. Knowing George, I have a feeling he would rather it be as simple and as direct as possible," he said.
Portrait of a Leg End could repeat the success of John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Double Fantasy album, which sold millions of copies after Lennon's murder in New York in 1980.
It has also been reported that British politicians are calling for Harrison to be granted posthumous knighthood, which would require a change in Britain's honor system under which only military personnel can be given the "Sir" title after their death.
Harrison was cremated in Los Angeles on Thursday. His ashes are expected to be spread on the Ganges or another holy river in India.