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.
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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Kristen Bell marked her low-key wedding with Dax Shepard last month (16Oct13) by filming a love scene with her best friend's husband. The Forgetting Sarah Marshall star secretly tied the knot with her beau of six years in a spontaneous ceremony at a Beverly Hills, California courthouse - a wedding so small it only cost $142 (£88) and Bell's best friend, Amy Russell, was the only person on hand to serve as a witness.
In an interview with U.S. talk show host Ellen DeGeneres on Tuesday (26Nov13), Bell recalled their big day ended with her shooting love scenes for her TV series House of Lies - with Russell's real life husband.
Bell explained, "The interesting thing about that is her husband is an actor, Ryan Hansen, and I was going to work later that day and had a fairly intimate scene with him. So when I left my wedding I said to my best friend, 'Thanks for witnessing my wedding, I'm going to make pretend love to your husband... and I did."
When asked if Shepard ever gets jealous of her intimate scenes with her on-screen paramours, she admits, "He's surprisingly not jealous. He's so open and honest and wants to talk about everything. He's like a girl. No, he's super trusting and trustworthy. He could care less (sic)."
Bell and Hansen also worked together on cult TV show Veronica Mars, and both will star in the fan-funded big screen adaptation of the series, which is due out next spring (14).
U.S. news anchor Amy Robach has discovered she is battling a double cancer issue while undergoing a bilateral mastectomy this week (end22Nov13). The ABC News presenter went public with her health crisis earlier this month (Nov13) after revealing a mammogram she took as part of a TV piece had detected breast cancer.
The former Today show host on NBS has now revealed medics discovered another previously undetected malignancy during surgery.
In a post to ABC News on Friday (22Nov13), she wrote, "No MRI, no mammogram, no sonogram had found it... I will have more treatments ahead of me, but none that will take me out of work.
"My prognosis is good. As of right now, I plan to head back into the building Monday, Dec. 2, and I couldn't be more excited to get back to work."
Julia Roberts has joined the list of honourees at the upcoming Palm Springs International Film Festival in California, where she'll be feted with the Spotlight Award for her work opposite Meryl Streep in August: Osage County. The Oscar winner joins Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock and Bruce Dern among the other big names who will be saluted at the event on 4 January (14).
Past recipients of the award include Jessica Chastain, Amy Adams and Helen Hunt.
Festival bosses have previously announced they will honour Steve McQueen with a Director of the Year Award, while McConaughey will receive the Desert Palm Award, Actor, and Gravity's Sandra Bullock will pick up the Desert Palm Award, Actress. Veteran Dern will be the 2014 recipient of the festival's Career Achievement Award.
To honor the spirit of Ron Swanson and his rules for conversation, let's keep this week's plot summary to 100 words. In "Flouride," Leslie channels her wild card side to get the people of Pawnee to embrace incorporating flouride into their water by using Tom's PR savvy. Meanwhile, in "The Cones of Dunshire," we see an increased role for Chris but no Ann as Leslie attempts to break ground on a new park in hopes of persuading her best friend to stay. Ben switches jobs no less than three times, Billy Eichner returns, and Ron owns four cabins. Plus, plenty of Donna!
Great. Now, let's get to the funny stuff:
-The Indianapolis Colts cold open is a bit of a wash, though Donna shutting down Robert Mathis because he's just a linebacker is a nice touch. "Skilled positions only" for Donna Meagle.
-Amy Poehler plays it dark this week, with Leslie turning from her usual sunny optomism to a shoot-from-the-hit maverick who isn't afraid to get on anyone's bad side, even her own mother's. The woman needs to know what flouride is. She's smarter than that!
-This episode asks the very important question: Why haven't April and Donna ever hung out? You know, ever? The answer: Because then we wouldn't have gotten April's quest to figure out what type of dog Donna is, only to realize she's a cat, and truly win her friendship. Aww!
-Ron considered for a moment that Moby Dick might be a metaphorical journey about a man raging against mortality, then thought better of it.
-Tom's Twitter nonsense is spot on. "The top 100 tweets using #TDazzle will be eligible to win a plain blue Tshirt!"
-Perd Hapley clearly knows what chemicals are.
-Nothing's crueler than sticking a woman in a lime green pantsuit. "It will be so unflattering. You're clearly an autumn."
"The Cones of Dunshire":
-This is quite a week for Councilman Jamm, who not only tries to stop the flouride plan, but also to stop Leslie from getting to use her collected funds to build her ideal park. And he doesn't make it easy for Leslie to court him in order to change his mind.
-After seeing his apartment, it makes much more sense why he's so proud of his car. "I got an Asian girl to sit in it once."
-He also has some insider advice about edamame. "You eat the shells and discard the seeds."
-And when enjoying karaoke, there's only once choice of song ("Summer Nights," from Grease) and one choice of part (Sandy for him, Danny for Leslie). The accompanying jackets are a nice touch.
-The titular makeshift tabletop game should have been the focus of the episode, as Ben's unemployment projects tend to be. And, as with his stop-motion animation, he instantly realizes "this is nothing."
-Here, Tom and Donna try to sell Ron's bachelor cabin off to some truly annoying and out of place hipster stereotypes, but the story manages to wrap up sweetly when Ron realized the only person would really take care of the place is April.
-Great fakeout with those accountants. At first, it seems like Ben might have to prove himself, but he does so instantly, and is beloved. Calzones for all! And was it wrong to wish that Ben would actually stick it out and get to stay big man on campus for once after playing second fiddle to Leslie in every aspect of his life for so long?
-I hope we don't see Councilman Jamm again anytime soon, not only because his constant repetative antagonism is making me hate Jon Glaser, but because the way he goes out in this episode is so perfect. "Leslie, you're my best friend too."
Stars including pop singer Pixie Lott and supermodel Jerry Hall turned out to support a fundraiser in honour of Amy Winehouse in London on Wednesday night (20Nov13). The late singer's parents, Mitch and Janis Winehouse, hosted the Amy Winehouse Foundation's third annual benefit, which raises funds for the charitable organisation set up in the star's memory following her death in July, 2011.
The Winehouse family was joined by celebrities including Lott, Hall, actress Barbara Windsor and JLS star Oritse Williams, who all had kind words to say about the tragic Back To Black hitmaker.
Williams said, "Amy was one of my biggest musical inspirations. I studied her albums when I was a kid so I had to be here."
Hall added, "She was so talented. What a loss," while Lott said, "I love anyone who's got a soulful, amazing voice and she definitely had that. My favourite song was Love is a Losing Game because of the amount of soul that's in it."
The Kennedy clan has welcomed a new addition after Patrick Kennedy's wife gave birth to a baby girl. Nora Kennedy, who is Edward Kennedy's granddaughter, was born on Tuesday (19Nov13).
Her mum Amy Petitgout gave birth to the tot at Atlanticare Regional Medical Center in New Jersey.
A statement from former Congressman Kennedy reads, "Amy and I are thrilled to welcome Nora to our family and are thrilled that both mom and baby are doing well today."
Kennedy wed the teacher in 2011 and the couple welcomed son Owen last year (Apr12). Petitgout has a five-year-old daughter, Harper, from a previous marriage.
Annual British charity gig series the Little Noise Sessions has been cancelled. The London concerts have been held since 2006 to raise money for the charity Mencap, which helps people with learning disabilities, and the shows have previously featured performances from acts including Amy Winehouse, Noel Gallagher, Adele and Coldplay.
However, organisers have now confirmed the 2013 concerts, which were due to take place next month (Dec13), will not go ahead.
A statement reads, "Due to unforeseen circumstances, this year's Little Noise Sessions has been cancelled and we're taking a year out. Thank you for all your love and support. Please bear with us and we'll be back soon."
Singer Lily Allen retired her outspoken pop star persona after the grief of a miscarriage forced her to change her views on life. The Smile hitmaker sparked controversy in the early years of her career by picking fights with stars including Sir Elton John, Katy Perry, Amy Winehouse and Kylie Minogue.
This month (Nov13), she is launching a musical comeback after taking a three-year hiatus to start a family with her husband Sam Cooper, and she has revealed her baby tragedy in 2010, when her son was stillborn at six months, made her reassess her attitude.
Allen tells The Observer Magazine, "Before... this, before what happened to Sam and I happened, I was quite vocal. I complained about a lot of things. I feel incredibly lucky that I was able to grieve with someone I loved. There are women who have to deal with this on their own, so even though it was tragic, I knew where I was in the world and the people who were important to me and what mattered, and what didn't. The thing I took away from this was that I couldn't believe I'd ever complained about anything ever before in my life."
However, Allen also warns her critics she is considering a repeat of her previous outspoken antics now she is back in the spotlight: "I'm finally ready to complain again now."
Allen now has two children, daughters Ethel, who turns two this month (Nov13), and 10-month-old Marnie.
Actor Andrew Shue's TV reporter wife, Amy Robach, is recovering in hospital after undergoing a double mastectomy. The ABC News anchor discovered she was battling breast cancer after agreeing to have a mammogram on camera for U.S. breakfast show Good Morning America during Breast Cancer Awareness Month last month (Oct13).
She announced her shocking diagnosis live on air on Monday (11Nov13) and went under the knife to have both of her breasts removed on Thursday (14Nov13) in an effort to cut out the potentially-deadly disease.
Former Melrose Place star Shue has since taken to Robach's Twitter.com blog to update fans on her progress and thank them for their support on his wife's behalf.
He writes, "on behalf of my brave girl. She came through surgery beautifully. And so appreciates the genuine love and support."