Saturday, February 6, 2010

Stephen Bruton's Estate

The New York Times had an article this week which covered the "will contest" between the ex-wife of the late guitarist and songwriter, Stephen Bruton, and Bruton's brother, the major beneficiary under the a new will drawn up in the wake of Bruton's work on the film Crazy Heart which is up for a number of Academy of Awards.  This story is remarkable because of the nature of Bruton's involvement in the film, the dedication by the filmakers of their work to the memory of Bruton, and the producers' alleged enmeshment in the Bruton divorce and new will according to the Times article.  

A couple of the filmakers are heroes of mine, especially T Bone Burnett who's 1992 album Criminal Under My Own Hat  was an inspiration for this Blawg.  You may also recognize Burnett's name from his production and score for the box office hit, O' Brother Where Art Thou which is a retelling of the Odyssey.  The other Crazy Heart film maker (and a co-star of the film) is the great actor Robert Duvall.

This afternoon, my pal Chris and I caught a showing of Crazy Heart.   The mvie (which is an update of Tender Mercies which won Duvall the Best Actor Oscar in 1983) deals with a bottom alcoholic country and western entertainer working the small club/bowling alley venues.  Jeff Bridges has received all kinds of accolades and deservedly so for his performance as "Bad Blake."  I actually met Johnny Paycheck in one of these real lowbrow venues (a converted bowling alley) shortly before Paycheck's mini career resurgence and shortly before his death--and, Bridges's performance embodies this classic Country Outlaw archetype. 

Of course the music and musical values were fantastic;  you would expect nothing less from a T Bone Burnett production.

The treatment of "Bad Blake's" alcoholism was graphic and disturbing for me.  It hit way too close to home, particularly making me relive the last days of the lives of now dead friends, paticularly my dear lost friend Carter who I've talked about on the blawg.  Carter put together long periods of sobriety, followed by his premature death to a heroin overdose.  There is a powerful scene in the movie after the character goes to treatment in which he furiously cleans his pig sty house--this was a scene right out of my time with Carter.  He lived above a bank in one of the bohemian neighborhoods.  His apartment was pure filth, deep disgusting filth.  Empty vodka bottles in ever crevice.  Dried mystery-organic material everywhere, when we cleaned his place I felt like I needed a hazmat uniform and a decontaamination shower. 

Knowing the final outcome for Carter, Crazy Heart might not have been the best choice for me in my present state of mind.  The film was so effective that I spent the better part of the movie in a borderline anxiety attack.  While Bad Blake's inner life is not explored except indirectly, I supplied the interior dialogue from my own psyche and the effect was chilling.  Great movie, don't miss it.

Oh, and the Bruton will contest--sounds like the classic no good deed goes unpunished scenario as it pertains to the filmakers.  Some of the bankers and insurance companies need to get together and push these feuding family members into mediation, like Monday morning. 

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