51 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on February 17, 2004
Two things will really add to the appreciation of thid film. 1. An extremely open mind and 2. a working knowledge of Bob Dyaln; his history, his philosophy, his music. This is not a high budget film. Think more surrealist art house film. It does have many stars that most people will recognize, but that isn't the focus, nor point of the movie. This is the highly metaphorical tale of a musician and how he can't control his place in a chaotic society, but can remain true to his own self amid the chaos.
The very loosely woven plot becomes secondary to the individual events which make up the film, each scene revealing a nugget of Dylan's perspevtive. Dylan often delivers comments that make the entire scene seem irrelevant. In this way this is, at times, a very funny film. Dylan seems relaxed, especially compared to the other films he has made. The feeling is much more "Don't Look Back", much less "Hearts of Fire". He does retain his wooden movement and he delivers his short lines as commentary more often than conversation.
The soundtrack is exceptional. The performances are a real treat. All Dylan songs, but unique versions which fit seemlessly into the texture of the movie. The little girl singing "The Times They are A-Changin" will at least choke you up a bit, and possibly help us to remeber exactly how much that song meant 41 years ago, and how much it still means today.
I certainly recommend this to Dylan fans, especially those who respect or admire his perspective on the world. Anyone who enjoys non formulatic surreal films may also find much enjoyment in this movie. There is too much to pick everything up in your first screening when looking for interesting comments or details. I would recommend trying to watch and a get a feel for the film initially. Don't drive yourself crazy trying to make sense of every detail. In that way it is like most of Dylan's music, to be experienced repeatedly.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 2004
Many critics panned this movie simply because they have never really listened to Bob Dylan's words. This was a biography if i've ever seen one. "You can't change the world by singing" was one of John Goodman's lines in the film. "His whole life can be put on trial" was one of Jessica Lange's lines. This is Dylan's commentaries on the media, what they've done to him, and what he would like to do to them. It is also a commentary on the way our country is heading and the world as a whole. The movie had such memorable lines as "we are giving people new identities, and rewriting history books, and we will create a nation of lawbreakers and cash in on the guilt". This movie was took a genius to write, and if you don't get it, read the lyrics to 'My back pages' or Not Dark Yet', and you'll get an idea of what Dylan thinks of his career and the things he has regretably stood for.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on March 12, 2004
It's definitely not for everyone, but "Masked and Anonymous" is one of the most original films I've ever seen, and terrific on a number of levels. Admittedly, Bob Dylan is no actor, but his acting "method" (such as it is) is perfect for this role, that of a legendary, mysterious musical artist with a mysterious past, who has been released from prison (why he's there, we do not know) to perform a "benefit" concert. Dylan is a wraith, a cypher, the proverbial walking, talking mystery wrapped in a riddle wrapped in an enigma.
The picture is an eerie, uncanny look at an America turned into a banana republic, a dictatorship embroiled in civil unrest and civil war, seemingly with no "good guys." (No doubt, this is the America we have to look forward to if we allow the Bush regime to hang on to power much longer, but that's another story for another time.)
The movie is chock full of memorable dialog and images, and outstanding performances by John Goodman, Jessica Lange and a host of others (Val Kilmer has an amazing, out of character cameo appearance). Bonus points for Dylan fans include little inside jokes and references (Dylan's character's name is Jack Fate, and the Jack Fate tribute band he hooks up with is called "Simple Twist of Fate," a song from his classic "Blood on the Tracks" album).
Then there's the music - I hope that this band tours with Dylan someday (they may well already have, I haven't seen him in concert in a number of years). Great, unexpected performances ("Dixie," which doesn't seem like it would be appropriate at all, is very haunting).
I repeat - this movie is not for everyone. For one thing, if you haven't seen or heard Dylan in years, you may be in for a shock. (Though, given that he's now over 60 years old, he doesn't look or sound too bad really.)
More importantly, this film is equal parts Fellini and Scorsese, with a healthy dose of David Lynch thrown in for good measure. It's easy to see why this movie was oftentimes panned by mainstream critics, and generally ignored by mainstream audiences. But Larry Charles has crafted an amazing, unique and criminally overlooked vision with "Masked and Anonymous."
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on December 2, 2004
I am of the opinion that the images and words that come from film should be, in essence, like a song - wholly unique in cadence, tone, and rhythm. Or at least I am after watching Masked and Anonymous. From Shakespeare to Tennessee Williams to Wes Anderson, artists writing for visual adaptation must all posses their own sense of "song writing." Bob Dylan is a masterful musician who speaks with such soul, depth, and rhythm that he has become a legend. Surrounded with mystery, the man has an almost religious following (don't believe me? Just take a look at all the big name actors that lined up just to work with him in this one). Masked and Anonymous captures the soul of Dylan with its cryptic poeticism, and distinct political messages. Add to the mix the real Dylan and six original songs debuted in the film, and you have created a cinematic world like none you have seen before.
Most critics bashed the movie, calling it brainless and empty - a sort of masturbation act for Dylan and the actors who blindly signed up to work in a "Dylan Movie." I don't care. Masked and Anonymous had me from its opening frames. The movie created a surreal and unique world that I desperately wanted to explore (in addition to being the only "the nation is run by gangsters" type gritty movie that didn't annoy me to death).
Movies that implore me to keep my eyes peeled so as to more fully understand the world I am inhabiting for a couple of hours, that cause me to breathe the air that it is breathing, those are the films that contain the magic of a cinema that is alive. This movie understands that magic through and through (the two other films this year that really created this alternate reality for me as a viewer were Finding Nemo and Down With Love). Masked and Anonymous offers one of those truly unique experiences - a telephone line into the heart of a poet - while still remaining as cryptic and mysterious as ever. But hey, that's what great song writing is all about, right?
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on April 8, 2006
I purchased this DVD with my eyes wide open, because I had been forwarned by reviewers I respect, and I still place Dylan's 1977 "Renaldo and Clara" near the top of my most pretentiuos doo doo list. But wait, that was almost 30 years ago and this movie stars Jeff Bridges AND John Goodman (the Dude abides), also Jessica Lange, Giovanni Ribisi, Val Kilmer, Bruce Dern, Mickey Rourke and was co-written and directed by Larry Charles of Seinfeld and Friends fame, so how bad could it be?
Well I planned on watching it one night but after about 30 minutes became fatiqued and fell asleep. This went on for about 3 more nights until I finally finished the movie. The week before I had watched the uncut "Heaven's Gate" (nearly 4 hours), a deliberate slowly paced film, in one sitting, and yet "M and A" seemed so much longer. I also skipped watching the few deleted scenes (something I can't remember ever doing), and went straight for the "Making Of" and watched and listened to those involved talking about the great script and a movie I can't remember seeing.
I realize now that deleted scenes would be overkill since the entire movie seems like it's just a bunch of strung together deleted scenes. This is not to say the movie is unwatchable, I had kept coming back to it night after night, in fact there are some very entertaining and surreal moments in the film, I just wish there had been more of them. For starters I would have liked to have seen more of Ribisi, for he was the most focused in his part (though it also seemed like he was in another movie), they could have beefed up the Christian Slater-Chris Penn bits or even made them the main characters and created a sort of Abbott and Costello Meet Jack Fate. Val Kilmer was great, but he disappeared too soon, and some of the songs Dylan did with his band were pretty good, but they could have given the young girl (Tinashe Kachingwe), who stole the show singing "The Times They Are A-Changin'", more of Dylan's songs to sing.
The best part of the film for me was Jeff Bridges as a Dudesque reporter asking Dylan's Jack Fate lots of bizarre questions, in fact a short that just edited together all these bits would be enjoyable.
I guess that's most of the good stuff, but on the other hand, I wish they had removed the entire subplot concerning his dying father (Richard Sarafian) Angela Bassett, and Mickey Rourke, and despite old man makeup, his father still looks younger than Bob (things must have been pretty bad in prison).
Less of Lange and Goodman would have made it less irratating, and Luke Wilson and particularly Penelope Cruz should have ended up on the cuttingroom floor. I'm not sure what to make of Ed Harris in black-face except that I felt like he was a refugee from some old Fellini film.
Bob Dylan acts like he sings which isn't so bad in a film where many of the other actors are so over-the-top, and watching him is like looking at an abstract painting, it doesn't ever change but you keep looking at it to try and find some inner meaning.
This is Larry Charles first film and judging by his TV work you would have expected it to be at least funny, but where "Seinfeld" was supposed to be a TV show about nothing but was actually about alot, this movie really is about nothing.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on August 26, 2004
It would be almost cliche' at this point to liken "Masked and Anonymous" to one of Dylan's epic songs, since every other reviewer who has seen it has done so. But they're right, and if you're a Dylan fan, you'll appreciate the film so much more for just that reason.
"Masked and Anonymous" encompasses just about every theme we've heard Dylan deal with in his music for the past forty years - religion, corruption, oppression, injustice, love and, finally, redemption. Dylan, through the character of Jack Fate, portrays an image of himself that is familiar from his songs - at times in the film, he's the Jokerman, other times the Jack of Hearts. These are, of course, my own interpretations - you'll certainly have your own once you've seen this film as it's wide open to a million different interpretations.
The performances in this picture should not be overlooked either. The lead performances as well as cameos from a dozen or so A-list Hollywood actors are top-notch. Among these, Jeff Bridges as Tom Friendly, the cynical journalist, stands out as exceptional - oscar-worthy in my humble opinion - but since when does the academy give awards to the films and actors that really deserve to win??
But I digress ... Dylan is obviously the weakest actor in the film, but more than makes up for it with his powerful presence. In certain instances, as he recites lines like, "I don't pay any attention to my dreams" or "You've got to be born on my side, Sweetheart," he even upstages his very talented co-stars.
And, of course, the music. The film is packed with interpretations of Dylan's own songs, including foreign language translations of "Like a Rolling Stone" and "If You See Her, Say Hello". I was personally thrilled to hear "Blind Willie McTell" in the soundtrack, though it didn't particularly seem to fit the scene. And the instrumental version of "Angelina" over the film's final scene gave me a chill.
The bottom line is if you're a Dylan fan, as I am, you'll love this picture as a huge addition to Dylan's already legendary body of work.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on August 13, 2004
I watched this film probably six times before I arrived at a decision. I knew the first time, that I liked the movie, but I didn't know what the heck happened.
If you're a Bob Dylan fan, and you KNOW his lyrics, you're going to love the film. Bob isn't an actor; he's a poet and a great singer. Get over that. Nobody liked his voice the first time they heard it, but they came around when they realized they agreed with the things he said. Well, give him another chance and stick around to agree with the things that are said here.
The plot is mildly confusing the first couple of times. There's some unexplained war going on and not until you realize that the fact you don't know why there's a war, is a powerful statement, will you be able to overcome that step of the plot. It's an anonymous war, people are fighting and dying and nobody knows why. There's a line in the film, early on, where a character says "The last person that knew what they were fighting for died long ago."
This is like a two hour version of one of bob's better songs.
How many times do you listen to a song before you realize you've gone and fallen in love? If you watch this movie once and toss it aside, you need to suck it up and watch it like a poetic piece of art not like a Saturday night movie at home.
And the cinematography, breathtakingly beautiful. Stunning, dramatic and powerful stuff here with camera angles and lighting and just... everything.
And talk about an all star cast, not since Basquiat have I been so pleasantly surprised by familiar faces and wonderful performances.
Ed Harris, Giovanni Ribisi, John Goodman, Luke Wilson, Jeff Bridges, Christian Slater, Angela Bassett, Jessica Lange, Penelope Cruz, Mickey Rourke, just to name a few!!
To top it all off there are about five or six full length Bob Dylan songs to be heard.
Watch this movie. If you don't want to buy it, come over and watch it with me any night of the week.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
The movie is sometimes hard to understand and that is why there has been so much negative views on it, but really the film plays out like a piece of literature. The story is of Jack Fate and his journey through playing in a benefit concert to help out the victims of the revolution. The revolution is fictitous one that is happening in a fictitous country, but the message is real. The story is addressing the powers of imperialism, the pities of human nature. Throughout the film the audience hears thunder in the background, and in the end a storm erupts. Physically and symbolically. Bob Dylan's performance is somewhat dry at points, but he is merely playing himself. You can not judge him as an actor because he is a singer, a songwriter. The music in the movie was done entirely by him, even the songs not sung by him were written by him and they all have a connecting theme, imperialism. There are many cameos in the film and to the average moviegoer they will seem pointless, but in fact each of these cameos are symbolic representations of human characteristics. If you notice in the credits each person is labled as either "the soldier", "the drunk", etc. That soldier and that drunk can represent every soldier and drunk in the world. The movie is so powerful and the audience will only see it if they look at it critically, not literally. To quote Penèlope Cruz in the movie "You have to look through the windshield, not at it".
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on November 25, 2004
Bob Dylan has successfully done what Mariah Carey and Emimen
failed to do present a movie based on their own characters
and lead us into their world. Bob Dylan of course is not
just a Music Icon, he is American icon folks. Always speaking
the trouth from his heart, this is the one man, a true
celebrities that uses his skills as a musician to speak out
on everything from Vietnam, the corporation, America's dwindling
image and so forth.
Dylan plays a folk singer, touring with his band, and through
his journey he meets several whacky characters played by
guys like Jeff Bridges, Christian Slater, Val Kilmer and so forth.
In between Dylan acting the role, we are treated to great
musical performance by him as he tells us his story.
This is an amazing story, truly a labor of love.
Everything should be proud of what they did in this film
27 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 2004
There shouldn't be a doubt in anyone's mind that Bob Dylan is an artist and, in my opinion, a great artist. He's been producing work for over 40 years, and much of it has imbedded itself in American, if not world culture. First and foremost, he's a brilliant lyricist and master of artistic revelation, he's also a composer of sorts, but his music has never been all that complex. When he received a songwriting award he mentioned that he didn't read music, and didn't plan to learn. He's certainly accomplished in folk, blues, gospel, and in the way those forms melt into rock and roll; and he's even got some cool jazz licks in his repertoire, but no one will ever mistake him for a "serious composer" though his heart, hand, ear, and mind are connected and he has the tools and collaborators he needs to get his musical vision out to the public. He's also written prose, though not that well; poetry, but outside his gift for song lyrics his poetry isn't very good; and screenplays, but no awards will be heading his way in that category; which brings us to, "Masked & Anonymous."
I think Dylan has written a script that's a lot more coherent than some reviewers believe but it's not tight enough to be compelling, and it's not directed with the rhythm or consistency needed to lift it beyond a series of scenes, or to make it as interesting as any of Dylan's more surreal lyrics. I actually think the failure of "Masked & Anonymous," has more to do with direction than writing, and though I don't know how much of a hand Dylan had in that all indications are he and Larry Charles were close collaborators. For a Bob Dylan work that's probably as it should be, but for a script written by Dylan and directed by Charles the director should have had a firmer hand. Someone has written that the performances were as cartoonish as they needed to be, but they weren't cartoonish, they were just bad. Bad as in "undirected." The movie seems to have been directed in the same way a Dylan album is produced, only less skillfully as Dylan is not an accomplished cinema artist in the way he's an accomplished musician.
"Masked & Anonymous," is going to live as a cultural artifact with a wider distribution than "Reynaldo and Clara," but it's not any better a movie. In fact, I think "Reynaldo and Clara," will end up being the better piece of film making because its visual and thematic pretensions were held more closely in check, and because its milieu was a chaotic reality rather than a fantasy. But even with that being said, "Reynaldo and Clara," isn't so much a good movie as a noble failure.
Like other reviewers, I recommend "Masked & Anonymous," for those of us who can't seem to get enough of Dylan, and for students of Dylan's art, but certainly not for anyone looking for a developed work of art, or even a good movie.