Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Music City on the Silver Screen; a movie review

Saturday afternoon, 15 January, I did something I don't get to do as often as I wish. I took in a new movie, at the theater.

The movie is "Country strong".

I might not have paid it much more attention than any other flicks that have debuted so far this year. But when I watched Gwyneth Paltrow sing and play guitar, presenting the theme song, during last fall's CMA Awards show (right here in Bridgestone Arena, downtown) I got rather impressed. Plus, I came to remember that last year there was a call for Nashville residents to go to Municipal Auditorium to participate in crowd scenes for the movie.

Between the opening of "Country Strong" here and last Friday, I managed to read a few reviews of it. It generally got panned. I got to having second tho'ts about seeing it; wait 'til it would be available on DVD for check-out. However, I searched for the least expensive ticket in town and went.

I'm glad I did!

The movie was quite believable. In fact, I had to keep reminding myself that this was award-winning actress Paltrow PLAYING a PART, not a REAL country music star struggling with addictions and a troubled marriage. At one scene I got to feeling some animus against her character; she seemed too whiny (like Marsha Mason's role in "The Goodbye girl"). But then when she visited the schoolroom as part of "Make-A-Wish" I really warmed up to her. I began to root for her to overcome her dependencies and revive her marriage & her singing career. And then when she performed those songs on stage -- even tho' I knew this concert scene was shot in Nashville's Municipal Aud. and NOT in Dallas) -- I really was ready to stand up & cheer as tho' actually in the crowd at an actual Country Music concert! At this point also, Kelly Canter was making me think of Trish Yearwood and/or Faith Hill! (The latter, BTW, is Tim McGraw's real-life Pop-Country-star wife.)

As the reviews said, there were many clich├ęs which've been in more than one flick about a country music star. I myself noticed ones I'd seen in "Coal Miner's Daughter" and/or "Pure Country", but these didn't really bother me. What DID bother me: some scenes were set in Texas or "on the road again" somewhere/anywhere, but I recognized all urban scenes as shot in Nashville & the rural road scenes in rural Middle Tennessee. Not that such makes a BIG difference to yours truly, who long ago made his peace with knowledge that TV shows set in the Deep South -- "Andy Griffith Show" and "Dukes of Hazzard" -- got filmed in California.

But the other thing that bothered me was the conclusion, after the big concert scene. It mocked the movie's title; "weak" would've served as a more accurate adjective. True, in REAL life famous people struggling to rise back up from an addiction-induced slump DO sometimes crash-and-burn rather than overcome. But I so much WANTED Kelly to make it! And everything in the flick SEEMED to be leading to a spectacular triumphant finale. Or maybe I'm just not sufficiently perceptive; were there hints, omens I'd missed?

Actually, I did notice that after she left the stage and was walking backstage she had a very weary, almost troubled look. And when she locked the door I started to get nervous. So I wasn't totally unprepared, but with such LITTLE forewarning, coupled with my growing affection & hope for her, that suicide ending simply left me very dissatisfied. I walked back to my car feeling that I'd been robbed.

Finally I shall say that I applaud "Country Strong" (despite the mockery of the title by the main character's ultimately-fatal weakness) for its presentation of Nashville. It really captured Nashville as Music City, a place where the music industry strongly influences our economy and living. I liked how it displayed this one aspect of my current hometown's character -- never forgetting it's "Music City" as in MANY genres, NOT only Country Music. Nor forgetting that as State Capital it's a major location of governmental activity, as well as finance and insurance. Nor that this burg has TWO other important nicknames which reflect two other MAJOR elements: "The Athens of the South" (much cultural activity & numerous higher ed. campuses) and "Buckle of the Bible Belt" (denominational headquarters & publishing houses).

The movie may have had its weaknesses, but the city most definitely has MANY facets -- STRONG facets.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Happy New Year of Our Lord Twenty-Eleven!

Howdy & the Lord's blessing to you dear reader, from yours truly here in Music City, aka Nashville, Tennessee!

Yes, I notice that, one, I kind of faded out on this my blog as Two Thousand Ten drew to its ending. And two, HERE it's already the Sixteenth of January -- and I'm just now putting HNY greetings on it! ??!!?!!?

Oh, well, I resolve to do better! In fact, I already have a movie review planned for posting on Monday the 17th, of a flick I went to see Saturday (yesterday). Tune in tomorrow for that (hint: the flick I watched was filmed here in Nashville).

But for right now, I simply wish to give y'all my greetings & best wishes for this young year, A.D. 2011. My only other item for today's post is to mention that I'm listening, even as I type this to the on-line edition of the radio program "Front Porch Fellowship". It begins shortly after 4pm on Saturdays and is repeated at the same time on Sundays. You can dial it on your radio; go to "Solid Gospel Radio", 104.9 or 105.1 FM. The lower frequency is tied to a small town west of Nashville, the higher freq. to one to the east. So if you're west of IH 65, you'll pick up 104.9 better, and the other if you're east of that interstate.

Or you can do as I'm doing. Go on-line to www.southerngospel.com and click on the rectangular button below ON AIR in the upper left corner. If you enjoy Bluegrass Music or Gospel Music, "Front Porch Fellowship" is the show for your great listening pleasure!

I've began listening to Les Butler's hour-long musical trip to Heaven in the late 1990s, when the Salem network commenced the dual-freq. SGM station in Middle Tennessee. This event brought Gospel Music back to the greater Nashville area for the first time since WENO-AM780 ceased to send SGM over the airwaves in the early Nineties. Les introduced me to the joys of Bluegrass Gospel Music, and also to one of the genre's most talented and beautiful (audibly as well as visually) artists: Rhonda Vincent. Thanks to my frequent communications to Les about how much Rhonda impressed me, nowadays whenever he sends one of her Gospel songs out over FPF on the airwaves, he dedicates the song to yours truly.

Furthermore, since I returned to Tennessee from San Antonio -- wonderful place to live, except that it's short on Rhonda Vincent as well as Bluegrass Music in general -- Les has several times mentioned requests for "Front Porch Fellowship" sent to him by a Mike Johnson in Burley, Idaho. Every time I hear one of these I get happy and homesick at the same time; you see, Idaho's the state of my raising & still home to most of my family of origin (I know exactly where in southern Idaho the town is & have been there), and it warms my heart to know there's a lover of Bluegrass Gospel there amid those potato fields!

Well, whether you listen to Les Butler's show ornot, may our Lord bless you abundantly in this year!