Much like the somber melodies that float throughout its 105-minute runtime, Inside Llewyn Davis will remain lodged in your head weeks after you and the film first meet. With Oscar Isaac's "Fare thee we-e-ell..." ringing daintily in your ears, you'll shuffle out from the grasp of the Coen Brothers' wonderland of gray, but you won't soon be able to relieve yourself of what is arguable the pair's best film yet. Llewyn's is a story so outstandingly simple — he's a man who's s**t out of luck, and not especially deserving of any. He wakes up, loses his friend's cat, plays some music, and wishes things were better. And yet his is the Coens' most invigorating and deftly human tale yet.
Llewyn Davis makes the bold, but practical, choice of never insisting that we love its hero. He's effectively a jackass, justifying all the waste he has incurred with the rudeness he showers on the majority of those in his acquaintance. But Llewyn Davis isn't the villain here, either. The villain is the industry, and all the uphill battles inherent to its machinations. The villain isn't Llewyn's substantially more successful contacts — an old pal Jim (Justin Timberlake) and new fellow couch-surfer Troy (Stark Sands), but the listening public that prefers their saccharine pop to his dreary drips of misery. The villain isn't Llewyn's resentful old flame Jean (Carey Mulligan), no matter how many volatile admonitions she might shoot his way, but the act of God surrounding their unwitting adherence to one another. And it's not even the cantankerous and foul Roland Turner (a delightfully hammy John Goodman), but the endless, frigid open road of which each man is a prisoner (if the film has one flaw, it's that this segment carries on just a bit too long, but that might very well be the point). The villain is the cold.
Call it all a raw deal. But the real dynamism isn't in the challenges that happen outside Llewyn Davis, but in the determined toxicity brewing inside as he meets each and every one.
But this isn't the Coen Brothers' Murphy's Law comedy A Serious Man — we don't watch a chaotic pileup of every imaginable trick that the devil can manage to pull. Llewyn is steady throughout, not burying Llewyn deeper but keeping him on the ground, with the fruit-bearing branches forever out of his reach. In its narrative, Llewyn Davis is as close to natural life as any of the filmmakers' works to date. Perfectly exhibited in a late scene involving a trip to Akron, Llewyn isn't a cinematic construct, but the sort of person we know, so painfully, that we are very likely to be... on our bad days.
Still, working in such a terrific harmony with the grounded feel of Llewyn himself, we have that Coen whimsy in their delivery of 1960s New York City — rather, a magic kingdom painted in the stellar form of a 1960s New York City. And not the New York City we're given by the likes of Martin Scorsese or Woody Allen. Closer, maybe, to Spike Lee or Sydney Lumet, but still a terrain unique to moviegoers. A New York that's always recovering from a hostile rain, and always promising another 'round the bend. One that flickers like a dying bulb, with its million odd beleaguered moths buzzing around it against the pull of logic. There is something so incredibly alive about the Coens' crying city; this hazy dream world's partnership with half-dead, anchored-to-earth portrait like Llewyn is the product of such sophisticated imagination at play.
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And to cap this review of one of the best features 2013 has given us, it's only appropriate to return to the element in which its identity is really cemented: the music. Without the tunes bobbing through the story, we'd still likely find something terrific in Llewyn Davis. But the music, as beautiful as it is, is the reason for the story. As we watch Isaac's hopeless sad sack drag himself through Manhattan's winter, past the helping hands of friends and into the grimaces of strangers, as we struggle with our own handfuls of nihilistic skepticism that any of this yarn is worth the agony (or that our attention to its meandering nature is worth the price of a ticket), we are given the rare treat of an answer. Of course it's all for something. Of course it's all about something. It's about that beautiful, beautiful music.
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Any fan of Louis C.K.'s acclaimed FX series Louie knows that the writer/director/star has a good deal of fun with the canon of his in-universe family. Over the course of the past three seasons we've seen many relatives: one brother; three sisters — wait, no, was it four sisters? Whose daughter was Amy?; a niece (that's Amy); a brother-in-law; a mother who was, A) kind and compassionate, and B) demonic and caustic; a father who was, A) thickly accented and sexually explicit, and B) long estranged from his son and living in Boston; an Uncle Excelsior who doubled as a New Jersey stranger opting for an orgy with our hapless hero; and an ex-wife who has been shown to be dismissive, white (at least her arms), supportive, and black.
There's no hard reason why all of these things cannot coexist in one dense, fertile chronology, but some have pointed at C.K. as simply picking and choosing what specific reality he wants to represent week by week. But some consistency does appear to exist: Louie is bringing brother Robbie back for the first time since Season 1.
Robert Kelly played Louis' even more pitiful brother Robbie in three Season 1 episodes. He is introduced as a venerable sad sack and sorry excuse for a support system for the recently divorced Louis, and then revisited as a victim of his and Louis' mother's (version B) cruel withholding of affection. But Season 2 and 3 kept us Robbie-less, instead offering sisters in the form of a pregnant Rusty Schwimmer, a crying Lisa Emery, and a delightfully surprising Amy Poehler. But as Louis' only recurring sibling so far, it'll be fun to see what the newer, weirder, more inventive identity that the show has taken will do with the C.K. brotherhood.
Additionally, we might be seeing Dunkin' Donuts take some kind of a role in Louie, which is hardly a far-fetched notion...
Louie returns to FX in 2014... a long ways away, yes, but perhaps time duly set aside for giving those old episodes a second or fifth viewing on Netflix.
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There are a multitude of theories and faiths regarding life after death. Do we ascend to a heavenly kingdom of cloud-paved walkways and nonstop harp music? Do we reincarnate again and again as different kinds of people, animals, and insects? Do we land teaching jobs at a third-rate Colorado community college? That seems to be the case for a certain subset of the human population. As our calculations lead us to believe, when a major player dies on Breaking Bad, he or she is reborn in the universe of Community. It happened with Gus Fring, who took new form as Pierce Hawthorne's resentful half-brother Gilbert in a Season 3 episode of the NBC sitcom a year after his demise on Vince Gilligan's drama. And now, it will happen again: Jonathan Banks, the grimacing actor who played Mike Ehrmantraut on Breaking Bad up until meeting his ultimate fate at the hands of one Walter White (who else?), is signing on for a recurring role through Community's upcoming fifth season.
According to EW, Banks will be playing Pat Nichols, a criminology professor with a mysterious background (much like on the AMC series). But perhaps his background is even more mysterious than Community is leading us to believe. Perhaps he is Mike, materializing in the purgatory that is Greendale Community College after his sordid lifestyle back in the ABQ (and, before that, in Philly... I guess we'll never find out what really happened there). And although the rules of TV purgatory are such that you don't remember your old life in the meth dens of Earth, Mike might find himself in the company of some familiar faces. There's Gus, of course, and young Badger, who pops up on the Community campus from time to time to deliver pizza or play hacky sack.
Now, I know what you're thinking. "Badger's not dead!" Does this mean that Community takes place in the future, and our dear, raspy-voiced Brandon Mayhew will lose his life before the end of Breaking Bad's run? Or is he simply a divine being who can travel between the dimensions of "life" and "death"? An angel, who lives amongst the fallen but pays occasional visits to New Mexico to guide the chosen beings toward glory?
We really see no reason to believe otherwise. The only flaw in this logic: an offhand mention by Troy Barnes to the television series Breaking Bad at the beginning of Season 3. Simple explanation, though: Troy, too, is a divine being. Perhaps... the divine being. Airtight, people. Airtight.
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