Two must see films

No Country for Old Men
Directed by Ethan and Joel Coen
Miramax, 2007
Rated R, 122 minutes

In case you’re wondering, don’t wonder anymore. The brothers Ethan and Joel Coen have done it again in “No Country for Old Men.”

And in case your wondering about how the movie compares to the book of the same title by Cormac McCarthy, the 74-year-old writer with a growing cult following, put that out of your mind, too. The synergism between the book and film is amazing.

Finally, in case you’re worried about too much violence, you must keep in mind some reality. There is violence and there is violence. This is the time of U.S. violence in Iraq. And not long ago, there was the violence of the Vietnam War, the Korean War and the legacy of the world wars.

Now, that is violence. Add to that the crises and violence being perpetrated in the Middle East and other regional wars, along with the massive poverty and exploitation going on worldwide. And what about the violence that the Bush administration continues to perpetrate in New Orleans?

True, there are too many films with clearly gratuitous violence highlighted by special effects and music. This is not the case with the Coen brothers’ films, which depict violence in a way that doesn’t glorify the events or overly dramatize them.

The lead character, Anton Chigurh (played by Spanish actor Javier Bardem), does have a resemblance to Hannibal Lecter in the movie “Silence of the Lambs.” But he is a unique killer, reaching a deep and yet shallow level of existence. He is a frightening guy you would not want to cross.

Bardem’s fellow actors Tommy Lee Jones (Sheriff Bell) and Josh Brolin (Llewelyn Moss) share the spotlight. This is Jones’ second great performance of 2007, following “In the Valley of Elah.” Brolin is also having a busy 2007. He plays a crooked cop in the film “American Gangster.”

McCarthy’s story about someone finding illegal money and of killers being chased by the law is not a new one. But the filmgoer, like the reader of the book, understands that the story goes beyond the characters and their dialogue.

The cinematography and film editing is also quintessentially Coen brothers. This is a must-see.

I’m Not There
Directed by Todd Haynes
The Weinstein Co., 2007
Rated R, 135 minutes

The only way Bob Dylan fans can tolerate the film “I’m Not There: A Personal Memoir of Bob Dylan” is by repeating to themselves time and time again the advice of the film’s co-lead writer and director, Todd Haynes, who said these are his personal feelings and observations of the Bob Dylan phenomena.

For those who lived the entire public life of Bob Dylan and who still do so (like me), that proviso must be kept at the forefront of your thoughts while watching the movie. By doing so, you can really enjoy the wonderful acting performances by an impressive array of creative artists.

For me, Cate Blanchett’s portrayal of Dylan as the highly successful folk singer (and soon-to-be rock performer) at his first English performances is nothing short of amazing. Her facial expressions and body rhythm is Dylan, Dylan, Dylan.

Haynes starts off the film with a great performance by a youthful African American actor, Marcus Carl Franklin, playing the early years of hobo Woody Guthrie. Casting Franklin in this role was pure genius.

Julianne Moore’s Joan Baez is perfectly casted and performed. Other Dylan period performances by Christian Bale and Heath Ledger are on the mark and true to the time period of Dylan’s world.

The actual names of Dylan, Baez, etc., are not used in the film. Only Guthrie’s name is used.

If you’re looking for a Bob Dylan film that explains more of his life and times, you would do better to see Martin Scorsese’s great film “No Direction Home.” In that film Dylan himself explains many parts of his life.

But if you’re looking for a film to hear some of Dylan’s best songs and see some great performances, don’t miss this one. Just don’t get too bent out of shape if the on-screen film doesn’t conform to what you would like to see.