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Five Feet High and Rising: 
The Big River of anticipation over the movie, Walk the Line 
By psychologist, Dr. Bruce L. Thiessen, aka The Rock Doc 

Phantom Tollbooth Visitors and Johnny Cash Fans in General: 
Before I share about the forthcoming movie, help yourself to a free mp3 movie preview soundtrack: 

I Can't Wait for Walk the Line 
Words and music by Dr. BLT (c) 2005 

Ballad of Johnny and June 
Words and music by Dr. BLT (c) 2005 

I Walk the Line/Folsom Prison Blues Medley (Jazzy Shrink-rapped Mix) 
Lyrics by Johnny Cash, 
new music by Dr. BLT (c) 2005 

I Want My Cash Back: 
Words and music by Dr. BLT (c) 2005 

Mansion (Next to Johnny Cash) 
Words and music by Dr. BLT (c) 2005 

Walk the Line is easily one of the most talked about movies of the year---and some of that talk is Oscar Buzz.   Chronicling the life of The Man in Black from his humble beginnings growing up on a cotton farm in Arkansas, to his rapid, tumultuous ride on the roller coaster of fame and fortune is not an easy task.  It helps if you happen to be a director by the name of James Mangold, who also directed Girl Interrupted (1999), and Identity (2003).  What was unique about Mangold's contribution to those flicks (besides the obvious luxury of having access to a stunningly brilliant cast and crew) was the distinctly psychological treatment (no pun intended) he offered.  Of course the scripts themselves were psychological in nature, but it takes a brilliant director to pull off the inherent psychology in a manner that is both believable and spellbinding.  

Mangold has no shortage of good help in Walk the Line either.  Why should he?  After all, June Carter hand-picked Reese Witherspoon to play her (and to play and sing like her) and Johnny Cash himself hand-picked Joaquin Phoenix to pull off the Herculean task of filling his black shirt and boots.   Joaquin and Witherspoon are paragons of courage, each actually doing all of their own singing and playing their own instruments.  Joaquin, until this impossible challenge presented itself, had never picked up or picked on a guitar in his life.  Reese Witherspoon hadn't done much singing beyond the shower either, and she had to learn to play June's instrument of choice-the autoharp.  Stuff like this hasn't happened since punk music arrived on the scene in the late '70s.  These are the quaint touches of authenticity that have helped to generate such a Big River of anticipation over the movie, due for release on November 20, 2005.  

This movie has been in the works for over eight years now, considering that it took four long years for 21st Century Fox to secure the rights to the story from James Kaech, and another four years to meticulously develop and produce the film.   

Of course it doesn't hurt that the larger-than-life legacy of Johnny Cash is the movie's main muse.  In an era of disposable American Idols, Johnny Cash is a true, timeless American icon and a folk hero for all times.  His image, his life, and his music are permanently etched in the collective unconscious of the United States of America, and within the collective unconscious of musicians worldwide.  He has influenced more musical genres than The Beatles.  You can hear the ghost of Johnny Cash in rock, rap, country, folk, alternative, R&B, and virtually every style of modern music.  Moreover, June Carter-Cash, and the rich familial heritage that was the Carter family, left a legacy that lives today in the music of virtually every folk and country artist.  

When I was a 4-year old boy, I carried my first guitar (a Bugs Bunny special with a little orange crank that made the music) like Cash carried his big, "grown-up" guitar.  I used to watch his TV show in the '60s and dream of being Johnny Cash.  Little did I know how impossible that dream would be---as impossible as my childhood prayer that Satan would find salvation.  On the other hand, little did I know that one day I would have the opportunity to smuggle in an "grown-up" guitar and to use it to play Johnny Cash songs in prison (No, sorry to disappoint you, but I didn't do time, unless of course you consider working as a prison shrink "doing time.)"  

JcTherapy: words and music by Dr. BLT (c) 2005 

The therapeutic power of these old Cash songs became very real to me as I looked into the eyes of prisoners as I performed/rendered music therapy to.  Of course, if you're not Johnny Cash, there's obviously going to be something missing.  That's why I wanted to (and did) sing The Stones classic, (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction, 
when I saw and heard on the trailer for Walk the Line.  There was no doubt that Joaquin Phoenix was delivering a passionate, authentic, even a mesmerizing performance, but there was just one problem.  He wasn't Johnny Cash.  I wanted him, not only to play stellar Cash, which he seems to have pulled off.  I wanted him to be Johnny Cash.  He never will.  Nobody ever will.  So if you plan to go to the movie with any expectations that somehow, magically, by the end of the movie, you will be convinced that Phoenix is Cash, you better just stay home and watch some of the old movies Johnny Cash actually starred in.  

The critics have made some pretty big promises about the movie, but when I see Walk the Line, I plan to leave all of my expectations at the door.  If I do, maybe, just maybe, I'll "walk the line" from the theatre to the crowded parking lot with a renewed sense of inspiration and a new perspective on the life and music of Johnny Cash, the Old Rugged Cross he embraced, and the musical love story and love of his life that held him together through Hell and High Water.      

Oh well, so much for tossing out all expectations!  


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