Inside Llewyn Davis

Sauna Family in Frozen

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Oscar Isaac in INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Inside Llewyn Davis It’s NYC in the early ’60s, and Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is trying to make his mark on the folk music scene. His efforts seem to be continually in vain though as pretty much nothing works out they way he wants. Is it fate? Or is it simply because he’s a bastard who fouls every relationship he has with his attitude. It’s probably too early to say, but screw it, it’s my column… Joel and Ethan Coen‘s latest is quite possibly their best and most mature work. From Isaac’s brilliantly nuanced performance to those of the supporting cast (including John Goodman, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, F. Murray Abraham, and others), from the fantastic score to the gorgeous cinematography, this is a tremendously affecting look at one man’s struggles against the world and himself. The Coens’ script is a work of art from which more beauty is born, and I really can’t recommend the film highly enough. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of]

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Oscar Predictions 2014: Cinematography

Take the entire Best Picture field. They’d be nothing without the powerful visuals crafted by the towering talent of the nominees in this field, as well as the others who (for whatever reasons) didn’t make the cut. Ahem, Sean Bobbitt. The truth is we’re awash in outstanding cinematographers. If there’s a category that could be boosted to ten nominees, it’s this one. This year, the Oscar hopefuls delivered eye candy that took us from the dry wit of Big Red country to the far reaches of the horizon, from beautiful brawling grounds to the cold snap of reality. Here’s a look at the nominees with my predicted winner in red…

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Andy

Movies and TV shows are fun to think about and discuss. Clearly. But as much as this is the case, there’s still a point past which we’re not talking about the movie or show in any meaningful way. One thing that becomes clear after doing any kind of serious critical work for any significant period of time is that, just because something’s there doesn’t necessarily give it meaning. True Detective is a great example: the best part about all those great McConaughey four-bong-hit college philosophy student monologues about nihilism is that they don’t mean anything with regards to the big picture. (Even with two episodes remaining, consider that an ironclad guarantee.) And sometimes people apply the same four-bong-hit college philosophy student mindsets to the movies and TV shows themselves. They lead Andy’s Mom to have a deeper identity, or for entire stories to shuffle off their context, so it’s always nice to have a reminder of what these theories really are. Here are some of the most beside-the-point “mind-blowing” theories about films and TV.

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Ashley-Benson-Rachel-Korine-Selena-Gomez-And-Vanessa-Hudgens2

Every year that goes by without a Special Achievement Academy Award given out at the Oscars is another year where it feels like cinema isn’t moving forward. Of course, cinema is moving forward. The last such award was received way back in 1996 by John Lasseter for making the first feature-length computer-animated film (Toy Story), yet things have changed and progressed in those 18 years in a multitude of ways, just maybe nothing so noticeably groundbreaking as that. Animation has instead improved gradually. So have computer-generated visual effects, and the truly important advances of the latter do tend to get recognized with the Scientific & Technical Academy Awards. Plus, unlike the early years of the Special Achievement Award, there’s actually a permanent visual effects category again. In fact, most of the areas that the award has honored in the past now have their own category. But the special Oscar doesn’t have to be just for visual effects, sound effects and sound editing, as it mostly has been. The purpose of the award is, according to the Academy, “for an outstanding contribution to a particular movie when there is no annual award category that applies to the contribution.” That can be any number of elements that go into moviemaking, from stunts to casting to catering. And the “outstanding contribution” doesn’t need to be anything game-changing. The three “unsung heroes” spotlighted this week by Variety — Lone Survivor stunt coordinator Kevin Scott, Inside Llewyn Davis animal trainer Dawn Barkan and Her video […]

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goodman

The past few years have been kind to John Goodman: Monsters University was a worthy followup to Monsters Inc.; Inside Llewyn Davis was the best film of 2013; he stole the show in Flight; he was a part of a best picture winner with Argo; and he was in two kids films that will never be forgotten: Speed Racer and ParaNorman. The fact that that list of films doesn’t begin to  cover all of Goodman’s good fortune goes to show how blessed he’s been. Really, how hard he’s worked. Settling into his fifth decade of acting, Goodman is hitting his stride. Yet it’s the actor who accredits this success to pure chance. “It’s just the luck of the draw,” Goodman explained, while discussing The Monuments Men. “It’s total luck. Boy, I’m grateful everyday for it. The last few years have been a great ride. I look forward to going to work everyday. I wouldn’t trade it.” And why would he? He’s appeared in many critical and commercial darlings, and he’s even back on a series with Amazon’s Alpha House, which, from the sound of it, he had a blast making. The same goes for his time spent on The Monuments Men.

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2013review_critics

Before Midnight! Gravity! The Wolf of Wall Street! Fruitvale Station! The Great Beauty! Philomena! Frances Ha! Blue Jasmine! Spring Breakers! Nebraska! Dallas Buyers Club! The Wind Rises! Saving Mr. Banks! None of the thirteen critically acclaimed films above are on my list of the thirteen best films of 2013 below. Make of that what you will, but of the whopping 241 new releases I watched this year these are the thirteen that have stuck with me the strongest. That said, I did make a conscious effort to focus on U.S. releases for the list since I have a separate Top 13 for Best Foreign Language films. It’s been a fantastic year in cinema all around, and I could just as easily offered a list twice as long. Keep reading to see what I feel are the thirteen best movies of 2013.

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2013review_music

This year brought moviegoers an array of music that ranged from uplifting (About Time “How Long Will I Love You”) to depressing (The Great Gatsby‘s “Young and Beautiful”) to catchy (Inside Llewyn Davis‘ “Please Mr. Kennedy”) to nostalgic (Saving Mr. Banks‘ “Let’s Go Fly a Kite”) to just plain out there (Spring Breakers‘ “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites”). Whether it was a film about throwing (or attending) the best party of your life or one about intense family drama, the music pushed stories to new heights, whether it was an Alien rapping on the beach or two mothers pushing their children to the breaking point. Film music is no longer just orchestration and catchy pop songs – it is dubstep and bands you would normally hear on the radio taking to the conductor’s stand. Simply put – it is an exciting time for music in film because there are no rules. Now it’s time to relive some of the best music moments from this past year with scores from composers new to the scene and those continuing to churn out groundbreaking music, as well as soundtracks that featured songs from bands and artists who discovered new talents while collaborating.

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2013.moviedoppelgangers

Every year, there seem to be unintended themes emerging from movie releases. It’s almost as if the studios called each other to coordinate projects like friends in high school planning to wear matching outfits on a Friday. Sometimes this effect is unintentional, like when an emerging movie star manages to have multiple films comes out the same year (see Melissa McCarthy below); other times, it’s a result of executives switching studios and developing similar projects (like the infamous Disney and DreamWorks 1998 double-header grudge match of A Bug’s Life vs. Antz and Armageddon vs. Deep Impact). This year is no different, producing a slew of movie doppelgangers. For the sake of creativity, I left the painfully obvious off. Still, who can forget offerings like Olympus Has Fallen up against White House Down as well as This Is the End paired with The World’s End? And, if you really hate yourself, you can watch a terrible trippleganger of A Haunted House, Scary Movie 5 and 30 Nights of Paranormal Activity with the Devil Inside the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Whether it’s similar themes, the same actor in noticeably similar roles, or parallel stand-out moments in two films, this list of 13 movie pairings can provide a nice selection of companion pieces for your viewing pleasure.

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Another Day Another Time

In a Q&A after a recent screening of Another Day/Another Time: Celebrating the Music of Inside Llewyn Davis, T Bone Burnett was asked why he wanted to create a four hour concert celebrating the music of Joel and Ethan Coen‘s latest film, and Burnett simply replied that he wanted to “keep the movie alive.” To which he quickly added, “Even though that seemed lame.” But Another Day/Another Time is anything but lame — it’s a true celebration of the music featured in, and inspired by, the Coen brothers’ folk odyssey. Burnett, along with Marcus Mumford (who served as an associate music producer on Inside Llewyn Davis and who also appears on the soundtrack), brought together a variety of musicians to put on a concert at New York  City’s Town Hall, which director Christopher Wilcha then turned into a documentary by filming the days leading up to the concert along with the concert itself. Just as Inside Llewyn Davis focuses on the performances and lets the film’s singers play without interruption, Wilcha created a stripped down music documentary that features the performances rather than the stories behind them. Another Day/Another Time gives audiences a front row seat and makes you feel like you are actually in Town Hall, only realizing you’re not when Wilcha slyly cuts from performance footage to shots of rehearsal.

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inside-llewyn

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Edgar Wright

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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inside-llewyn-davis

If it seems as if we’ve been covering the soundtrack from the Joel and Ethan Coen’s newly released Inside Llewyn Davis quite a bit around these parts as of late, that’s a totally fair observation, simply because it’s true. The sixties-set film about the eponymous New York City folk singer that never hit the big time is appropriately steeped in music, and all of it just so happens to be damn good. Inside Llewyn Davis is one of the best films of the year, but its soundtrack is easily the best soundtrack of the year. But if something like “Please Mr. Kennedy” is an unabashedly joyful jam (and it is) that proves that not all folk music needs to be morose and depressing (it does not), where does that leave the sadder songs of the soundtrack? Turns out, in pretty good standing, because while the Inside Llewyn Davis soundtrack may feature some upbeat compositions, it’s still packed to the gills with the kind of stuff that might make you consider ending it all (and that’s not hyperbolic – as we soon discover in the film that Llewyn’s former singing partner did just that before the action of the film unfolds). So what’s the saddest song on the Inside Llewyn Davis soundtrack? Behold – an investigation.

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goodfellastable

This week’s list of movies to watch is not inspired by a single new release, because there isn’t anything big enough out this weekend to warrant such a focus. Instead, I’ve got a year-end feature for you inspired by the entirety of 2013 in film. I can’t sum up every title released this year with only ten recommendations, but the movies I’ve selected are, I believe, the best representatives of the more notable titles and trends seen in the past dozen months. Most of the selections are familiar. Chances are you’ve seen more than a few. But obviously this edition has to involve more popular fare because they have to be influential movies to have informed so much of this year’s crop, even if unintentionally. Just take it as a call to watch them again, along with whatever you haven’t seen before, as a special sort of year in review of the most important movies of 2013 released before 2013.

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inside llewyn davis 01

Editor’s note: Our review of Inside Llewyn Davis originally ran during this year’s Cannes Film Festival, but we’re re-running it now as the film opens today in limited theatrical release. The eighth In Competition banner for the Coen Brothers at the Cannes Film Festival is their first in six years, since their eventual Best Picture Oscar winner No Country for Old Men. Though there isn’t a chance for the intrepid filmmaking duo to repeat the same success here, the feeling coming out of Inside Llewyn Davis is that the brothers would not have it any other way. Indeed, while terming their latest work the worst thing they’ve put out since The Ladykillers might send alarm bells ringing, when you consider their body of work since — No Country, Burn After Reading, A Serious Man and True Grit – it begins to seem not quite so bitter a pill to swallow. Tackling the New York folk music scene of the 1960s, the Coens’ latest sees the titular character (Oscar Isaac) stumbling through the city by the seat of his pants, trying to make it as a musician in an ostensibly difficult niche. Hopping from sofa to sofa, LLewyn drifts through life, propelled almost singularly by a desire to meet music maestro Bud Grossman (F. Murray Abraham) while his personal life, namely a surprise pregnancy by way of occasional partner Jean (Carey Mulligan), crumbles around him.

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The Wolf of Wall Street

After years of anticipation, the wait is nearly over. Worry no longer: 47 Ronin is finally coming to theaters. The Keanu Reeves vs. CG monsters movie somehow wound up with a Christmas release, and it’s one of the most bizarre Christmas releases in recent history. Universal either has immense confidence in the film or is blatantly dumping the mega-expensive picture into a snow-covered grave. Thankfully, 47 Ronin isn’t the only movie you can see this wonderful Holiday season. If it turns out to be a dud, you can watch 47 Ronin director Carl Rinsch‘s collection of fantastic commercials and short films online for free instead, and if that still doesn’t do it for you, then there are nine other films for your must-see list this month.

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inside-llewyn

It’s fitting that awards season comes during winter – after all, the more dramatic-skewing fare we tend to get come November and December all but blots out the sunny memories of yet another blockbuster-filled summer season – but that doesn’t mean that every big gun hitting screens near you has to be (or even is) an emotional downer. While Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave may have scared off a few viewers because of repeated cries that the film was brutal and wrenching and highly upsetting, the film is also very rewarding and, we daresay, well worth the emotional upheavals that happen within it (and, conversely, the emotional upheavals that happen to its audience while watching). The Coen Brothers’ latest, Inside Llewyn Davis, may fall victim to that same “it’s hard!” talk, and its muted color palate, wintry setting, and focus on a struggling folk singer (Oscar Isaac) who never makes it at his chosen craft might not appeal to those with drama fatigue – but it should. Especially because, in true Coen fashion, Inside Llewyn Davis is very, very funny. Sure, most of the film’s biggest chuckles come care of the crushing inevitability of life, terrible chance encounters, and drug abuse (this film really is funny, we swear), but that’s what makes it relatable. It’s what makes it ring true (and sing true). Yet, there’s nothing as funny, catchy, and plucky in the film than a little ditty called “Please Mr. Kennedy.”

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her trailer

With Saturday night’s closing night premiere of Spike Jonze‘s very stirring Her, this year’s New York Film Festival (in its fifty-first outing) came to a rousing, romantic close. The end of the weeks-long festival also signaled the steady conclusion of the year’s big guns festivals in general (and thank goodness for that, we’re still not quite recovered from the joys of Toronto), finally allowing us time to consider and appreciate some of the truly wonderful stuff we’ve been treated to over the past few months. Of course, that also means we’re also able to consider the films that made up NYFF, including the program’s finest performances and special attributes. After attending screenings for nearly a month, there was plenty to review, but most of our best of honors came quickly – there were plenty of winners at NYFF, but there were also plenty of very clear winners. After the break, relive the glories of this year’s NYFF, complete with evaluations of best films, performances, food, cats, and hair, because we’re nothing if not totally professional.

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It’s been far too long since Joel and Ethan Coen put out a new film. But judging by the latest trailer for Inside Llewyn Davis, the wait was well-deserved. It’s a trailer so chock-full of glowing critical blurbs that there’s barely any room for actual footage, but what’s contained within is still worth a watch. And for a film that’s been described as the Coens’ most somber and laugh-free film to date (by a multitude of critics, including our own Shaun Munro), there’s a surprising amount of that signature Coen deadpan packed into these three minutes. Out of place cats, questionable suicide choices, the meaning of life contemplated in bathroom graffiti; all can be found in this latest trailer. The melancholy side is there as well, but seems to be relegated to the music and the cinematography. The former is a rendition of “Dink’s Song” that carries throughout the entire trailer (much like the film, which uses its songs in whole, unbroken performances), the latter is far more drab and washed-out than we’ve come to expect from the Coens. Don’t expect too many comical rabbis or stick-up artists with lingerie on their heads. Watch the trailer for Inside Llewyn Davis after the break.

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llewyndavisgoodman

You wouldn’t think that a movie about sad folk musicians living in poverty in the 1960s would have all that much commercial appeal, but the Coen brothers’ new film, Inside Llewyn Davis, is getting a lot of promotional support from the studio while selling that concept anyway. Already we’ve covered the first trailer, which was masterful at establishing setting and mood, the red band trailer, which added some delightful potty-mouth to the mix, and a third trailer, which told us a bit more about the dramatic conflict of the film. That’s kind of a lot of trailers already, and seeing as Llewyn Davis is obviously one of the movies many of us are looking forward to most this year, we might be getting close to hitting the limit of footage we want to see from it before it gets released. Before we go sticking our heads in the sand for fear of spoiling things, it’s probably okay that we watch at least one more ad though. This is a Coen brothers joint after all, so it’s bound to be dense with good stuff we haven’t seen yet. Plus, this new trailer is mostly just a remix of moments that we’ve already seen, with two new big laughs involving suicide and Tang thrown in.

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published: 12.18.2014
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