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Capone and Anton Sirius have dueling opinions on WALK THE LINE!!!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with two AICN regulars, Capone and Anton Sirius. Capone you know from his weekly thoughts on the new releases and Anton Sirius you'll remember for being our man on the scene every year for Toronto. They've both seen WALK THE LINE and want to tell you about it. Capone loved it and Anton had some serious issues, so read on for the point/counter-point. Enjoy!

Hey everyone. Çapone in Chicago here. It’s almost impossible to fathom that just a little over a year after arguably the finest biopic made about a musician, RAY, was released that another film comes along about an equally influential player that might actually be better. Also covering the death of a brother to the kicking of a life- and career-endangering substance addiction, WALK THE LINE chronicles the early years of country and rock legend Johnny Cash, played and sung with eerie accuracy by Joaquin Phoenix, who may have just surpassed Philip Seymour Hoffman’s portrayal as Truman Capote as the front-runner for an acting Oscar.

Unlike Jamie Foxx’s dead-on impersonation of Ray Charles in RAY, Phoenix isn’t going for a performance based solely on how closely he resembles the Man in Black. Instead he concentrates on attitude, mannerisms, and above all, stage presence, including an uncanny vocal turn as Phoenix (unlike Foxx) does all his own singing here. As much as this sounds like a gimmick, the effect of hearing Phoenix’s vocals sends this film into the stratosphere of greatness. The impact, especially on fans of Cash’s music, is undeniable and overwhelming.

Cash’s life is faithfully reconstructed, from his childhood picking cotton on the family farm in Arkansas to his loving mother (Shelby Lynne) and critical father (especially when the favored older brother dies). Robert Patrick’s turn as the nasty Ray Cash is established as the driving force in Johnny’s life. In his quest to win his father’s approval, he never gave up his dream of being a singer, even after getting married to Vivian (Ginnifer Goodwin), having two daughters, and moving to Memphis to be closer to the heart of music in America. Cash managed to get an audition with Sun Records founder Sam Phillips (Dallas Roberts), and in one of the film’s best scenes, Phillips encourages Cash to drop the gospels music he and his amateur band are playing and try something different. When Cash tentatively pulls out an original tune called “Folsom Prison Blues,” nothing in music will ever be the same.

WALK THE LINE is like a trip through history as Cash gets signed to Sun Records and hits the road with the likes of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, and even one-time child singing sensation and member of the legendary Carter Family singers, June Carter (Reese Witherspoon, also providing her own singing). I’m a bit baffled by criticism I’ve read about Witherspoon’s singing in this film. First off, it sounds fine. Second, June Carter said on more than one occasion (including a couple times in this movie) that she wasn’t much of a singer, and that her real talents were having a sassy personality on the radio, being a crowd favorite and impressive foil for Cash, and later, songwriting. Witherspoon captures all of these here, and gives the best performance of her career. The flirting between the two is fearless, even though both are married nearly the entire time they played together.

As if to get our support and validation for Johnny and June’s eventual affair, filmmaker James Mangold (GIRL, INTERRUPTED, COP LAND, HEAVY, IDENTITY) portrays Cash’s first wife Vivian as a shrew who doesn’t support his music even after he begins making a living with it. Whether it’s accurate or not, it feels unfair and may be the film’s only flaw. Of course, no one is portrayed with more faults than Cash himself as he begins a nasty pill and booze habit that lasts him many years and nearly cost him his career and his future with June. Phoenix plays Cash as if he invented the term “son of a bitch,” and really shows us his acting chops like we’ve never seen him do before. Witherspoon doesn’t play June as an entirely supportive woman in these early years. Instead, she is a protective mother of two of her own daughters, who doesn’t want Cash’s drugged-out ways anywhere near her family.

WALK THE LINE's emotional epicenter is Cash’s legendary performance (and live recording) at Folsom Prison, and the recreation of that event here is astonishingly energetic, as Cash ignores the advise of the prison warden to still to gospel musical and unleashes a series of songs about death and killing and prison life that was unprecedented. WALK THE LINE maintains the dark and gritty feel of Cash’s music, while hinting at a future filled with sensitivity and class. The film also does something far more important: it reminds us the Johnny Cash used to rock as a performer and a songwriter. There is life and fire in WALK THE LINE, and my guess is that you’ll leave the theatre humming any one of a half-dozen Cash tunes because you just can’t help yourself. This is one of the great films of the year.


Here's Anton's reaction!

Walk the Line (2005, directed by James Mangold)

I saw this one back in September, but it took me a while to sort through it in my head, so instead of an early peek you get a thorough one instead.

Make a list of the quintessential American males of the 20th century, and Johnny Cash is going to be right near the top, jockeying for position with Muhammed Ali and Ted Williams and Henry Ford and Martin Luther King. To call him iconic is probably an understatement; archetypal might be more accurate, given the way mass media has burned his voice and image into our brains. A film about his life, coming so soon after his death, faces a massive challenge – not just to do justice to the oh-so flesh and blood person, but also to the legend of the Man in Black we all carry inside our heads.

Walk the Line tries. It really does. But like a handful of pills on a warm summer night, with your friends telling you it’s a great way to keep the buzz going, one wrong decision can undo so much that is right.

The film opens in the right place – the yard of Folsom Prison, with the camera creeping towards the distant thunder of feet stomping as a literally captive audience waits for a man to come sing their pain. Cash waits in the machine shop, staring at a table saw

(and already, here, something is bothering me about Joaquin Phoenix’s performance...)

saw, lost in reverie, and we’re off – flashing back through his life, from childhood and desperate search for direction as a young man to Sam Phillips and his first wife Vivian, from his first staggering career peaks to his terrible personal lows, from damnation to June Carter, his salvation. Walk the Line hits all the beats it needs to of the early part of Cash’s life, and hits them in a distinctly Mangoldian way. In his best films (not so much, maybe, in Kate & Leopold) James Mangold shows an understanding of how to use silence to portray internal turmoil, and it’s a skill that serves him very well here. For a film, and a life, as loud as this one when the stage lights are on, Mangold doesn’t overlook the quiet moments, when Cash had nowhere to hide from his pain but inside a prescription bottle.

The performances here are mostly excellent, although more in the “serving the needs of the film” way than in the “give me a little gold bald guy” way. Phoenix is intense; Reese Witherspoon is very good, although she doesn’t have a whole lot to do – the film is based on two of Cash’s autobiographies, and in Johnny Cash’s eyes June Carter was an angel, a perfect woman, and portraying a perfect woman doesn’t exactly give Witherspoon much to work with. Shooter Jennings even gets a chance to play his dad, which is a nice touch.

It’s not until Robert Patrick re-appears as Cash’s father though, at an awkwardly momentous Thanksgiving dinner, that it sinks in for me what is wrong with Phoenix’s performance. In five minutes of screen time at the book ends of the film Patrick portrays both the drunken father who menaced Cash as a child, and the older, wiser man who understands that the adult Cash has nothing until he earns back his self-respect, and his own role in taking that self-respect away from his son in the first place. It’s really an incredible piece of work by an actor whose career is probably always going to be overshadowed by the emotionless liquid metal killing machine that brought him into the public eye.

But it killed the film for me. Because in sketching out the entire arc of Ray Cash’s life in just five minutes, it illustrated how impossible Phoenix’s task actually was, and how far from the mark he’d actually fallen. Robert Patrick had the luxury of playing both ends of Ray Cash’s story, and thus could show how the seeds of the man at the end were there all along in the man at the beginning.

Phoenix can’t do that. The film, essentially, covers the pre-television portion of Johnny Cash’s life. Phoenix is portraying the man at the beginning, but Johnny himself gets to play the man at the end, the man whose image we all carry inside our heads. He had find some way to dovetail his Johnny Cash into the real one, and he simply falls short. There’s really nothing inherent in his performance that says “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.” He does a fair job of nailing the singing voice, although he wisely doesn’t really try to get Johnny’s speaking voice, but beyond those kinds of surface details there was simply no indication to me that he was playing anything other than Generic Tortured Musician. And this is not the fault of the director, or the script. There are more than a few moments and allusions than could have been used as springboards to hint at the Johnny Cash-to-be who we know is going to emerge from this crucible, but Phoenix seemed to deliberately pass them up.

It’s not that he’s acting badly. His craft is fine. But when the real Johnny Cash in my head answered the question, “You look like you’re going to a funeral” with “Maybe I am”, implicit in that answer was that the funeral might be his own. When Joaquin Phoenix’s Johnny Cash answers it, he’s making a joke. The real Johnny Cash in my head covered Kris Kristofferson and Nine Inch Nails and Nick Cave because he understood that pain doesn’t have a genre, that something which speaks to one group of people can speak to everyone if given a chance. Joaquin Phoenix’s Johnny Cash barely knows who Bob Dylan is.

Let me put it to you this way. If this were an unauthorized biopic – if the names and events had been changed enough to avoid any lawsuits – you would have had to tell me it was really about Johnny Cash. Because there is nothing in Phoenix’s performance that echoes the man I listened to and admired.

If Cash had lived in an earlier time, Phoenix probably could have gotten away with it. That kind of performance in a film about, say, Hank Williams Sr. (hell, what Joaquin did on screen would have fit a film about him just as well – I’m sure Hank trashed a dressing room or two) would have been fine, because there’s no direct point of comparison. Hank Sr. is nothing more than an idea now; Johnny is still an image, and an indelible one at that. But rather than trying to appropriate that image and make it his own, Phoenix simply walks away from it and ignores it. And that was a mistake.

I’m sure the film will do well. The music is of course fantastic; even if Phoenix (and Witherspoon, bless her heart) aren’t quite up to the task of matching Johnny and June’s vocals, what having them perform the songs does is throw the songs themselves into sharper relief, and few artists have a stronger catalogue than Johnny Cash. There may even be multiple awards coming for the movie.

But it felt like a failure to me. An impressive, well-intentioned failure.

Rodney Crowell, Roseanne Cash’s ex-husband, has an anecdote about one of his first meetings with Johnny. He’d just started to get serious with Roseanne, and Johnny and June had summoned him to the family home. Being summoned to appear before Johnny Cash is not something you take lightly, especially when you’re a young up-and-coming country singer yourself. He and Roseanne boarded a plane and, nervous as hell, Rodney began downing drinks like, well, like he was heading to a funeral. Once there, some fuss was made about sleeping arrangements or the like. Rodney was feeling his oats, and so he reared up and started in on how he and Roseanne were adults and in love and what they did was their own business, and likely a lot else besides that he probably shouldn’t have been saying to a prospective father-in-law, much less this particular prospective father-in-law.

After he’d wound down, Johnny just looked at him and said, “Son, I don’t know you well enough to miss you if you were gone.”

That’s about how I feel about Walk the Line.

Readers Talkback
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  • Nov. 18, 2005, 2:23 a.m. CST

    First, YAY!!!

    by WalrusIAm

    I"m really looking forward to this movie. I think its gonna turn out really well.

  • Nov. 18, 2005, 2:42 a.m. CST

    Ebert and Roepers review

    by uberman

    Was on last Sunday here on the West Coast. In it, Ebert praises the movie and how much the actor-Pheonix-channeled Cash. He then asked the TV audience to close their eyes while he played a clip of Pheonix signing. He then remarks on how the two sound EXACTLY the same!!! Excuse me, but to anyone who actually has an ear its obvious that Pheonix does a nice and nice only approximation of Cash. Shit, I can do a better Cash than Pheonix. That was ass but most will jump on the '"He Channels Johnny Cash!!!" bandwagon. It does not look any too appealing-Ill wait to rent it...maybeye. But then, I didnt even watch 'Ray' when it was sitting on my DVD player for 2 weeks. Just not that desperate for entertainment.

  • Nov. 18, 2005, 3:33 a.m. CST

    But it's gonna sweep the oscars!

    by ChickenGeorgeVII

    It's gonna win them all!!! The studio's PR department told me so! Just like THE HOURS and FINDING NEVERLAND and THE GODFATHER PART 3 and CHAPLIN and JACKIE BROWN and EVITA and GANGS OF NEW YORK and MOULIN ROUGE and THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY.....all those movies swept all the awards too!! Well, they would have if they didn't have some silly voting snafu...but the Golden Globes are just as good!!!...And thus, Golden Globes rock! - - - George, The 7th Chicken!!!!

  • Nov. 18, 2005, 3:33 a.m. CST

    I'm there

    by OrsonSwells

    I like James Mangold,Phoenix and Witherspoon too. Count me in.

  • Nov. 18, 2005, 4:33 a.m. CST

    I smell Oscars

    by movieman742

    I think Walk the Line will get nominated as much as any other big movie this year. At least for the four or five main catagories. I'm really excited to see it. I'm a big fan of Phoenix and I'm glad that he has finally a film to shine in.

  • Nov. 18, 2005, 5:35 a.m. CST

    Roger Ebert Was DRUNK...

    by buster00

    if he thinks Wah-Keen sounds like Cash. Maybe a LITTLE, but nothing I haven't heard better at some karaoke dive. Prob'ly wait for the dollar cinema with this one. And yes, they'll prob'ly throw trophies at it just to be trendy.

  • Nov. 18, 2005, 7:29 a.m. CST

    walking the line

    by jrbarker

    It looks good, but I don't know if I'll have time for it with everything else out there this season that I need to see.

  • Nov. 18, 2005, 7:33 a.m. CST

    Can Anyone Explain To Me Why The Commerical Doesn't Feature

    by ZombieSolutions

    its like some bland goofy ass techno shit... what are they trying to trick braindead teenagers into seeing it? PLAY THE MANS MUSIC!!! Johnny Cash is about ten million times cooler than anyone working in music today, whatever the genre. HE is the man... everyone else is just pretending... peace.

  • Nov. 18, 2005, 7:48 a.m. CST

    Some of Phoenix's best work is on the Gladiator deleted scen

    by stlfilmwire

    ... and, of course, as Max in the movie SpaceCamp.

  • Nov. 18, 2005, 8:58 a.m. CST

    Oh, I'm seeing it.

    by rev_skarekroe

    And speaking of Mr. Cash, does anyone else think the character he sings as in "Hey Porter" is really annoying? Leave the porter alone Johnny, he's just trying to do his job!

  • Nov. 18, 2005, 9:16 a.m. CST


    by drjohnnyfever

    Of course the ads, with their weird-add techno music, are aimed at younger kids who don't know who Johnny Cash was. Those of us who know and love the music don't care if it's used in the ads, we're probably going to see the film anyway (unless you're turned off by the idea of this film for whatever reason - then it doesn't matter WHAT music they use in the ads). We don't need ads to get us into the theater. But, hell, the more people they get into the theater, the better.

  • Nov. 18, 2005, 9:27 a.m. CST

    "The impact, especially on fans of Cash

    by elab49

    Sorry - but I grew up on Cash, have listened to him for decades now. Phoenix has a decent enough voice but really doesn't have the depth for Cash. It sounds wrong, it sounds off and IMO it was a mistake. No more than a karaoke turn, and I don't think it deserves that. To say it would overwhelm? I'm sorry, but you don't get the power of Cash's very personal vocal. Listen to American IV again and maybe you'll get it. Listen to 'The First Time Ever I Saw YOur Face' - it sounds as if you are intruding on a private and personal moment. Karaoke can't match that.

  • Nov. 18, 2005, 9:28 a.m. CST

    Ray, the finest biopic about a musician? I don't think so, C

    by GriffinMill

    Surely you haven't forgotten the miracle that was (and still is) Clint Eastwood's Charlie Parker flick 'Bird'? But then again, that's probably why u used the word 'arguably'...

  • Nov. 18, 2005, 9:29 a.m. CST

    See the movie, then read Anton's review, then make circular

    by Razorback

    Anton must have been watching the other Cash movie. The one where somehow the main actor doesn't pull it off. Because, in this version, he is solid. Also, to the ninny who said Ebert was wrong, he DOES sound like Cash, not the exact intonation, but the manner of his style.

  • Nov. 18, 2005, 9:30 a.m. CST

    Well, only having seen one TV spot for this...

    by Childe Roland

    ...I can't be sure whose music they were playing, but it almost sounded like someone emulating a slow-burning Morphine-esque slap bass. In a way, it felt kind of appropriate. I don't want to hear that in the movie, but as a connective tie for the young kids today, why the hell not? As for the movie itself, its gotten enough good word from enough folks whose judgment I trust that I'll be making the trip and taking it in. Least I can do.

  • Nov. 18, 2005, 9:31 a.m. CST

    leaf phoenix's most interesting performances are in clay pig

    by the_man_from_Rio

    he should make more movies with animals in the title...just a thought...

  • Nov. 18, 2005, 9:59 a.m. CST

    So, who plays Billy Graham?

    by BannedOnTheRun


  • Nov. 18, 2005, 10:01 a.m. CST

    Johnny Cash = God

    by Itchy

    If anyone has anything bad to say about the man in black, I will come to your house and fight you. I absolutely hate country music, but this guy is a legend. And for anyone wondering what the best "version" of a Cash song is, it's hands down Social Distortions version of Ring of Fire. Finally, in other news, who else finds Reese Witherspoon unbelievably hot ? I just can't explain it. Oh wait - yes I can. It's the combination of the screen caps from Twilight, and that scene on the Ferris Wheel with that Wahlberg in that stupid movie with Alyssa Milano. Mmmm.

  • Nov. 18, 2005, 10:02 a.m. CST

    Can't wait to see the man come around

    by Lone Fox

    Cash was and still is the man, clips I've seen look good, definitely looking forward to seeing this. Hey, it's not Tina Turner

  • Nov. 18, 2005, 10:55 a.m. CST

    The song they play in the ads is...

    by theoneofblood

    "The Only Moment We're Alone" By Explosions in the Sky, a non-vocal post rock group. They did a bit of the music for "Friday Night Lights".

  • Nov. 18, 2005, 10:56 a.m. CST

    Johnny Cash fuckin ruled! That's all I have to say about th

    by R.C. the "Wise"

    Can't wait!

  • Nov. 18, 2005, 11:05 a.m. CST

    God, are there people out there who really like country western

    by Trazadone

    Like movie musicals, country western music makes my ears bleed. To me, watching this film would be like watching a movie about the guy who invented the coat hanger.

  • Nov. 18, 2005, 11:22 a.m. CST

    Ray and Trazadone

    by PantherMatt

    First: "Ray" is an awful awful movie that only did well because of Jamie Foxx's glorified SNL impersonation, AND the fact that the guy had just dies. But it's a terrible movie. Watch it again. It's terrible. Second: Trazadone, I'd agree with you on most new "country" music. In fact, maybe Tower Records should rename the Country section "Pandering" or "Patronizing". But Cash? Take a listen, man, 'cause that's rock'n'roll. I mean it. Not this modern goateed overly tattooed moped whine metal crap that passes for Rock, but the real thing. Give it a shot. Please let "Walk the Line" be good!!

  • Nov. 18, 2005, 11:32 a.m. CST

    PantherMatt, you have a point

    by Trazadone

    The guy actually does look pretty cool.

  • Nov. 18, 2005, 1:39 p.m. CST


    by Tsubame Gunkan

    I don't see Phoenix winning an oscar for this like Foxx won last year. I think Foxx won the oscar because he had two strong performances last year with both Ray and Collateral. Also, I think that Foxx should not have won an oscar for Ray and that Phoenix should not win one for Walk the Line because Val Kilmer did not win one for his portrayal of Jim Morrison in The Doors. And correct me if I am wrong, Kilmer did all of his own singing as well.

  • Nov. 18, 2005, 3:15 p.m. CST

    "Walk The Line" is a very generic biopic.

    by BigTuna

    It has the same story structure as "Ray" and many other popular biographies.I actually did think Witherspooon's singing and acting were better then Phoenix's. Ebert though is on crack for claiming to be a huge Cash fan yet saying he couldn't tell the different in Cash and Phoenix's voices.

  • Nov. 18, 2005, 6:38 p.m. CST

    I'm pretty sure that Jamie Foxx did do his own singing

    by 007-11

    Just got back from seeing the movie. Fantastic. Phoenix's best work was at that first audition. The whole thing just builds.

  • Nov. 18, 2005, 6:50 p.m. CST

    And I'm pretty sure you're wrong, 007-11.

    by IAmJack'sUserID

    He didn't.

  • Nov. 18, 2005, 8:42 p.m. CST

    Joaquin Phoenix is this years Jamie Foxx, he's so gonna win

    by Orionsangels

  • Nov. 18, 2005, 9:23 p.m. CST

    Anyone who calls him "Leaf" is ignorant

    by Razorback

    His birth name is Joaquin. Leaf was just a name he used until his brother died.

  • Nov. 18, 2005, 9:24 p.m. CST

    I agree they were both nice reviews

    by twitaman

    My review is somewhere in the middle. I think Joaquin was good, but I'm old enough to remember seeing Johnny perform all the time on television and unlike Fox's performance I never truly bought Joaquin as Johnny (I wish to God the filmmakers had used Johnny own voice, I felt it was disrespect to have Joaquin do his own singing). But that said, I enjoyed the film for the most part. It had its moments. But no biofilm will equal Coal Miner's Daughter.

  • Nov. 18, 2005, 11:31 p.m. CST

    Phoenix doesn't sound EXACTLY like Cash?

    by kintar0

    Are you're surprised? This IS a movie, isn't it? Hey look, Superman's fuckin' cape is blowin' in the wind IN SPACE! Fuck this movie! If Phoenix lip-synched to Cash's vocals you'd have been all over that, too. And anyone who suggests that you listen to American IV as a definitive or even median example of Cash's voice doesn't know what the fuck he's talking about.

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 12:54 a.m. CST


    by ripper t. jones

    First of all, I worship Cash, but Walk The Line was a very good made for TV Bio Pic. Not quite up there with The Buddy Holly Story, Ray and Coal Miners Daughter much less my favorite American Hot Wax.

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 4:03 a.m. CST

    Just got back from seeing the film....

    by DonnaDarko

    Anton - are you one of these East Village hipsters with their Ebay deal Folsom Prison framed poster hanging above their bed so you can look 'Cool'??? Maybe Phoenix will not win this year's Oscar - the competition from Bana (Munich) is going to be fierce - but can you think of ANY other actor who could have done as good of a job?? Phoenix GOT the darkness, he GOT the desire. There's so much SHIT in the theatres this past year that we finally get a really good film and you feel the need to nitpick?? Fuck you. Walk the Line is a really good film. Joaquin deserves a nomination - as does Reese Witherspoon (and Maria Bellows for Violence but that's for another thread). CASH himself approved of Joaquin. Chill out.

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 6:56 a.m. CST


    by Drunken Rage

    An interesting juxtaposition, the insertion of the "Maria Bello" post. At any rate, I don't have much of a desire to see the movie. I liked Johnny Cash in the episode of "Columbo" where he killed his wife in a plane crash or something, but Columbo figured JC did it because he didn't let his prized guitar on the plane, too, and I liked "I Walk the Line" with Gregory Peck and Tuesday Weld because it's so relentlessly sleazy (Ralph Meeker as a moonshinin' hellbilly who's pimping out his jailbait daughter to the repressed sheriff). But I realllllly like Shelby Lynne, so maybe I'll see it after all. But probably not.

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 10:11 a.m. CST

    Like I said before, Oscar loves twitching retarded gimps and bio

    by Citizen Arcane

    Walk the Line will clean up unless there's a twitching retarded gimp movie coming down the pike soon.

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 10:20 a.m. CST

    Where the hell is Harry's DVDs for November?

    by sith-vol

    Sorry but its a little late don't you think? Shit or get off the pot.

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 10:39 a.m. CST

    I'll know more after the weekend.

    by sundancekeed

    I'm seeing this film tomorrow, but I'm not expecting to be bowled over. Johnny Cash was the MAN. The first punk rocker, truth be told. Yeah, he did country music but he also did rock and more importantly, he did what he wanted when he wanted and he did it in his own inimitable style. The REAL Johnny Cash was much more fascinating and real than any celluloid depiction could ever be. I hope that the movie's good. I'm rooting for it. Cash deserves no less than a glowing, realistic portrait. But as I said, I'm not holding out a lot of optomism for it. I don't want to see a great man and a great artist trivialized by Hollywood. And it does happen. Look at Your Cheating Heart. Hank Williams was way more complex than that silly ass caricature that George Hamilton did. And Jamie Foxx didn't play Ray Charles, he mimicked him. Big difference. I want to see Johnny Cash come alive on screen. I hope it happens.

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 11:15 a.m. CST


    by twitaman

    It's funny how people can watch the same thing and come away with two totally different opinions of things. Roger Ebert says he closes his eyes and cannot distinguish Joaquin's voice from Johnny's, while I knew instantly Joaquin was just mimicking Cash's baritone. I've heard some people say Jamie Foxx channeled Ray Charles, while others felt he "mimicked" him -- I came away thinking it was as soulful a performance as Foxx had did in "Collateral" and one of the best acting performances based on a major well-known figure since Sissy Spacek in "Coal Miner's Daughter", another truly soulful performance -- and my favorite biographical film. I felt because of their similar backgrounds and experiences to the people they portrayed both actors truly "felt" their roles. In my opinion if you want to see a perfect example of mimicry in a movie then look at Will Smith's performance as Muhammad Ali. To me, I thought he never really understood what made the man tick -- hence, he just tried to copy his "ticks." That said, to me, Joaquin did a fine job. About as fine as anybody could have and it is Oscar caliber -- though I don't think he should win. And I don't think it is equal to Spacek, Foxx, or Philip Seymour Hoffman's role as Truman Capote (the man who probably should win...but won't because nobody saw the film besides me...this year). I heard Ebert's co-host say that he thought Joaquin's performance as Cash was more impressive than Foxx's because he did his own singing. Well, I would have preferred hearing Cash's voice to Joaquin's because it was so iconic. And anyone who thinks that Jamie Foxx wasn't capable of re-recording Ray's vocals adequately didn't play close attention to the one scene where he actually does do his own singing while sitting at the piano practicing. Even though I think Foxx would have done fine doing his own singing in the movie, I'm glad the director went with Ray's own voice because like Cash the sound is just too legendary. Anyone, "Walk the Line" is a very good Hollywood biopic and worth your time. Go check it out. Then go see, "Capote" and read "In Cold Blood"!

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 11:51 a.m. CST

    What is a biopic other than mimicry?

    by Terry_1978

    If they don't sound and act like the person they're playing, you'd bitch about that.

  • By the way, I'd rank COAL MINER'S DAUGHTER and especially AMADEUS way above RAY.

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 12:22 p.m. CST

    Now I'll Never Get The Johnny Cash Picture I Want.

    by ripper t. jones

    Yes, I know WALK is the love story between Johnny and June, but the scenes between Cash and Elvis, Lewis, Jennings, Kristoferson and Phillips were more way more intresting to me than anything else in the film.

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 12:49 p.m. CST

    Update the site, dammit!

    by Dennis Miller

  • i'm sure my secretary will wanna hear that.

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 2:03 p.m. CST


    by Anton_Sirius

    First off, I said 'quintessential', not 'greatest'. Second, Ted Williams and Muhammed Ali were both far more than just athletes. And third, what actor?

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 2:11 p.m. CST

    bio oh me oh mio

    by twitaman

    Well, what makes all the good biopic performances memorable is that they are part mimicry but most importantly they delve deeper. The actors connect emotionally and soulfully to the people they are portraying. Mimicry is really just about surface -- looking like and sounding like the person doesn't necessarily equate to "being" them. Two cases immediately come to mind: legendary impressionist Rich Little playing Johnny Carson in the HBO film "Late Shift" and Muhammad Ali playing himself in "The Greatest" (if you thought Will Smith's performance was "nothing special" as Ali wait untill you see the man play himself -- awful). First, even though Rich Little sounded like Johnny Carson, his performance was stiff, flat, and distracting. It made me wish they had found an unknown character actor to do the job. Secondly, Ali playing himself was about as bad an acting performance as I've ever seen. And hey, he "looked the part and sounded like him" which are supposedly the only criteria for good acting in a biopic but somehow the man couldn't convince you of any of the emotion or fill his own shows depicting events in which he had lived!

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 2:20 p.m. CST

    What's with the hairy pussy hate. I like Maria Bello's h

    by Forestal

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 4:28 p.m. CST

    Maria Bello

    by Itchy

    Not exactly sure how she ended up a topic here, but she's hot in an accessibly sexy kind of way. And hairy pussies are cool. And I heard she's totally into golden showers, which is fun.

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 4:46 p.m. CST

    hello ladies...

    by Darth Pestilence


  • Nov. 19, 2005, 10:27 p.m. CST

    If you ain't down with hairy pussy...

    by Nate Champion

    ... then you got no business being straight. Maria Bello's twat is moderately hairy at best... in fact, anybody who would complain about her bush is obviously a pimple-faced teenager yet to meet a real woman, and thus must resort to spanking it to the pages of some porn-star rag where all the girls have it shaved clean. To stray on topic for a moment, I'd have to say that Walk the Line is definitely NOT hairy pussy. It's not shaved pussy. It's not even pussy! Damn...

  • Nov. 20, 2005, 3:34 p.m. CST

    citizen arcane, there is a retarded gimp movie out

    by ashhole

    it's called "capote". i guess joaquin will lose out after all. no offense to PSH or his performance which i will not see, i just despise truman capote. i too watched roger ebert try to tell me joaquin sounded just like cash and thought he had suffered head trauma. phoenix mimics johnny's cadence, but can not even approximate the resonance or tone. johnny cash had the most soul of any white man ever, you can't expect some actor to have what it takes to do him justice. but then again, who could? maybe mike ness from social d, but watching him act would probably be painful.

  • Nov. 20, 2005, 3:51 p.m. CST

    Dallas Roberts...

    by Zoviet Squid

    ...used to babysit me as a kid when he lived in Florida. I'll have to catch this just to see what my old baby sitter is doing. Sounds like a great movie, even if I didn't quite like Ray.

  • Nov. 21, 2005, 12:10 a.m. CST

    it's the cool thing to do

    by greyspecter

    bash today's music while lauding the original stuff. however, like any good artist, the truth and pure gut feeling in Cash's lyrics is what made him so appealing to murderers and rapists, as well as "christians" like the recording studio execs say in the film. and the problem with most current "gangsta" music is that they really haven't been through the wars, not like Cash was. Heck, maybe Tupac did, but i hear his stuff is worlds-better than the tripe nowadays. and so, another old coger fades away... oh yeah, I liked it, for what it was worth, a semi-fictionalized account of a real individual. art imitates life, it doesn't capture or reproduce it.

  • Nov. 21, 2005, 1:28 a.m. CST

    Kilmer was the bomb as Jim Morrison.

    by mansuper

    He owned that role. Jim Carrey was great in the Kaufman biopic too.

  • you're not getting it if you think manner and style is what it takes to duplicate Cash!

  • Nov. 21, 2005, 2:03 p.m. CST

    Itchy - I enjoy the Frank Zappa version of "Ring of Fire" myself


    But then again I don't see the appeal of the man in black (pajamas) to begin with.

  • Nov. 24, 2005, 5:42 p.m. CST

    i agree with mansuper

    by twitaman

    Jim and Val gave two of the best biopic performances I ever saw. They both deserved nominations. I think there was a bias against Carrey because of his "impressionist/comic" background. People knee-jerkingly accused him of mimicry too. But you could tell that he felt that role and that he and Kaufman were kindred spirits in a lot of ways.