Archive for June, 2010

‘Crazy Heart’: It’s in the music–A divine call?

Friday, June 25th, 2010

It’s not in the acting; although, Jeff Bridges does an outstanding job portraying a country singer waging a losing battle with fading fame and booze.

It’s not in the romance; although, Maggie Gyllenhaal is captivating as the younger lover of the troubled star.

It’s not in the script; although, the story moves intelligently from bowling alley to big stage with lots of foreshadowing in dialogue and drama.

It’s not in the booze; although, for a change, there’s some deep reality to the hope provided through 12-step programs, and in the end, sobriety trumps a doomed sexual liaison.

It’s none of these that make “Crazy Heart” one of the outstanding movies of 2009; it’s in the music!

For one thing, Bridges is as admirable a singer as he is an actor, and his renditions of “A Hold on You,” “Fallin’ and Flyin,’” “Brand New Angel,” and snippets of the Academy Award winning song, “The Weary Kind,” mesmerize.

It helps to be a fan of country music to enjoy “Crazy Heart,” but the people who put this film together are connoisseurs of the genre.

Consider the songs that fill the background and carry Bridges’ staggering performance along its travels from drunkenness to degeneracy to dalliance to dangerous neglect to deliverance: Buck Owens singing “Hello, Trouble”; the Louvin Brothers singing “My Baby’s Gone”; Kitty Wells singing “Searching”; Waylon Jennings singing “Are You Sure Hank Did It This Way”; Lucinda Williams singing “Joy”; George Jones singing “The Color of the Blues”; the Delmore Brothers singing “I Let a Freight Train Carry Me On”; and in a happy transition scene (a balloon ride symbolic of transcendence), Townes Van Zandt singing “If I Needed You.” The music of “Crazy Heart” is more than window-dressing; it’s the dynamic driving the script.

Bridges’ cry for help: “I want to be sober,” and the portrayal of his session at a treatment facility should hearten the evangelists of 12-Step programs.

In that regard, I believe I detected a lyric change that might credit the emphasis 12-Step programs place on divine intervention.

Recovering from drunkenness, Bridges’ character, Bad (Otis) Blake, entertains in his friend’s bar with the song, “Brand New Angel.”

I’ve trooped through Web sites seeking the lyrics of this Greg Brown song. The chorus of which goes:
“Open the gates, welcome him in;
“there’s a brand new angel, a brand new angel . . .

The final line in the versions I searched is given as:
“With an old idea”; or
“With an old violin.

However, if you listen carefully to Jeff Bridges’ film rendition (not the soundtrack cut), the final line appears to be:
“Who doesn’t know me.”

Can this be God’s call to open the gates?

****************************

UPDATE: December 2016

Listen to Bridges on the clip below. His lyric on this soundtrack clip is none of the suggestions I’ve made above. Clearly, he sings “a brand new angel with an old Amen!” However, I’m planning to watch the film again to check once more.

Serendipitous laughter: Two experiences

Friday, June 25th, 2010

By Allan Roy Andrews

Experience No. 1:

Radio-television personality and humorist Art Linkletter died last week at 97. Until about two years ago, when he suffered a mild stroke, Linkletter was still active on the philanthropic circuit.
A few years before that, I heard Linkletter entertain at a small school fundraiser. Linkletter, whose adoptive father was a Canadian preacher, told someone at that gathering that he “liked to help out small Christian schools.”
In his comments that night, Linkletter told a joke that I have commandeered as a staple of fun found in growing older. Here’s the joke:
“You know you’re getting old when you bend over to pick something off the floor and you say to yourself, ‘What else can I do while I’m down here?’”
I have learned experientially what Linkletter spoke of, so I’ve used the joke a number of times, and it never fails to elicit hearty laughs.
Two of Linkletter’s books also keep me smiling: Kids Say the Darndest Things, and Old Age is Not For Sissies.

Experience No. 2:

For the group’s edification, I recently read to my Bible discussion gathering a favorite poem by Billy Collins called “Flock.”
Here’s the brief poem:

It has been calculated that each copy of the
Gutenberg Bible . . . required the skins of 300 sheep.
–from an article on printing.

I can see them squeezed into the holding pen
behind the stone building
where the printing press is housed,

all of them squirming around
to find a little room
and looking so much alike

it would be nearly impossible
to count them,
and there is no telling

which one will carry the news
that the Lord is a shepherd,
one of the few things they already know.

–from The Trouble with Poetry, by Billy Collins. (Random House, 2005.)

After a moment of silent reflection, one member of our group put me—and several others—in stitches when he said, “I’m having a Gary Larson moment,” referring to the prize-winning cartoonist of The Other Side who was noted for his surprising and often warped sense of humor.
“I can see a room full of monks, having just sheared a flock of sheep, taking up their calligraphy pens and writing verses of sacred scripture on the flanks of the shorn animals,” my friend continued. “They probably had a difficult time keeping the pages in order!”
It was a wonderful moment, and if Billy Collins ever reads about our experience, I have a feeling he’ll be smiling broadly too. And if Larson ever reads this report of my friend’s experience, he’ll probably be saying, “I wish I’d thought of that!”