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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Justin Bieber continued his quest to grow up in the eye of the public when he followed in the footsteps of teen idols Justin Timberlake, Taylor Swift, and Britney Spears before him as both host and musical guest on Saturday Night Live. He's been amusing in the past in guest spots, but could he carry a whole show by himself?
The verdict: Though surely the Biebs would love to duplicate some of the success as frequent SNL guest Timberlake, he just doesn't have the charisma and natural comedic timing as J.T. — or even last week's mediocre musician-turned-host, Adam Levine. After a week full of jokes about how attractive women find Levine, it just seemed icky that every skit focused on how irresistible Bieber is to teen girls.
It's refreshing to see a non-political cold open, so this skit about the desperate vamping CBS' sports analysts had to do to fill the 35 powerless minutes during last week's Super Bowl. An amusing concept, though much like that actual filler, it wore thin very quickly.
RELATED: 'SNL' Recap: Was Adam Levine Marooned?
Justin Bieber's Monologue
The opening monologue and a later skit full of Bieber lookalikes in matching hoodies, leather jackets, and red sneakers both capitalized on Biebs' hearrthrob status. In the monologue, Bieber got an assist from Kenan Thompson as he romantically serenaded young ladies in the audience not about Valentine's Day, but about Black History Month. Because they both fall in the same month, get it? The punchline came when Biebs pulled up Whoopi Goldberg to the stage and serenaded the comedian, whose mere presence was amusing enough to get a few chuckles.
This skit becomes increasingly less amusing each time, but Bieber did pull off the show's oddball surfer accent quite well. Although "The Californians" started off pretty funny, by now it's as tedious as any of the show's other relied-upon recurring skits. Let's hope they retire this one alongside "What's Up With That" and only trot it out on special occasions.
SNL's pre-taped skits are usually pretty amusing, and this spoof on Bravo's continued employment of spinoffs as a programming strategy was no exception. Coming soon on the Andy Cohen network: shows about houseplants, gay chauffeurs, Francis Ford Coppola's granddaughters' best friends and Justin Bieber as an Austrian lothario.
NEXT: Weekend Update saves the episode...
Seth Myers is reliably funny as Weekend Update anchor, and this week was no different. His special guests included Vanessa Bayer and Fred Armisen as the gossiping best friends of Richard III, whose body was recently discovered under a British parking lot, and Thompson as Corey, the one black guy in every commercial who likes to high five — or he'll die.
RELATED: 'SNL' Recap: Did Jennifer Lawrence Hit a Bullseye?
Did you know that girls love Beiber? In case you didn't, this Grease parody reminded you that Biebs, dressed as dim-witted '50s greaser Billy recounting his strange date with Cecily Strong's Angie. It's funny because at the end he reminded her that he wasn't dumb, he was 11, and she was totally cool with it because he's hot.
The Miley Cyrus Show
It's Miley! Bayer's beloved skit returned a little edgier (minor key theme song) and with an all-new haircut (bleach blonde Flock of Seagulls-inspired), much like Miley herself. Biebs played essentially his "Californians" character as the head of Miley's fan club, where he winkingly addressed the pictures of him smoking pot. Bayer's Cyrus is always a delight, and this was no different.
Meeting the parents — supremely awkward, and a frequent SNL skit topic. Biebs played the new boyfriend Nasim Pedrad brought home to meet her parents — and her bully older brother, played by Taran Killam, who harped on young Bieber nervously stumbling over his words during their introduction. Continuing in the Timberlakian tradition, Biebs couldn't keep a straight face as Killam berated him for saying the word "glice," but in all fairness, we probably couldn't either.
A Valentine's Message from Justin Bieber
Bieber recorded a sexy message for the ladies, but it wasn't that sexy because it's Bieber and also because Bobby Moynihan was there as some sort of adult baby in a heart-adorned onesie.
Performances: "As Long As You Love Me" and "Nothing Like Us"
Bieber can sing quite nicely, but both songs from his just-released "Believe: Acoustic" reeked of his desperate "I am a grown up" schtick. If you like Bieber, you probably really liked the songs. If you don't, you probably didn't.
Principal Frye: Valentine's Day
No show about a teen heartthrob would be complete without an extended abstinence joke — though this one was actually pretty funny. Why was it relegated to the end of the show? That's where the weirdo, experimental skits live, not recurring ones like this, which was amusing but not hilarious, much like Bieber's entire episode.
What did you think of Bieber's hosting ability? Did he reach Timberlake status, or at least compare to this season's other musician/host, Bruno Mars?
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Opening this week, the mixed martial arts movie Warrior follows all the rules of a boxing movie. Mixed martial arts is basically the boxing of our day, and for it to be good, it has to be good in the way boxing movies are good. And what does that mean?
In criticizing David O. Russell’s eminently classical boxing movie The Fighter, a friend of mine said, “All boxing movies are the same—it always comes down to one last fight, and you always now the hero’s going to win.” That is, of course, true. But like a perfectly executed offensive move in football, classically structure stories work even if you know what’s coming. Boy and girl end up together, the good guy beats the aliens, and the through their trials and tribulations the odd couple find common ground. That’s how it works. And when it’s done well you’re gonna cry. Major chords make you happy. Minor chords make you sad. Aesthetic determinism. Yeah, I said it. I’ll say it again: aesthetic determinism.
It may be that because the central image of a boxing movie is so simple that some people think that the movies themselves are simplistic. All of the work on character and theme and historical whatever end up being represented by two guys in a ring beating each other bloody, and the meaning of the whole thing boils down to who wins the fight. In other words the impact of a fight movie has to do with the moviemaker’s skill in packing that last fight with as much meaning as possible.
Rocky’s pretty simple, but perfectly effective. The Fighter similarly so, with a powerful new level of meaning added when we see that only by incorporating the lessons of his brother Dickey can Mickey win his fight. In Raging Bull, Martin Scorsese creates a kind of anti-boxing movie, ending with Robert DeNiro’s Jake LaMotta shadowboxing backstage at a comedy club.
My favorite ending to a boxing movie is in Martin Ritt’s 1970 film version of Howard Sackler’s masterful play The Great White Hope. The movie tells the story of Jack Jefferson, a thinly veiled version of legendary African-American boxer Jack Johnson. James Earl Jones plays Jefferson with a studied power, giving a performance that earned him a Tony and Academy nod.
Sackler and Ritt spend their efforts on solid character-based storytelling rather than historicizing and moralizing – and their choices lead to a taught, harrowing, and perfectly told story of freedom and love. That said, Ken Burns called his documentary on Jack Johnson Unforgivable Blackness, and that’s a lot of what goes on in The Great White Hope.
But it’s a boxing movie, so all of the narrative thrust of the film is contained in the last fight. I won’t give too much away by saying that for Jack Jefferson that last fight is a no-win situation. No matter what he does, he loses. Like Jefferson’s life, like Johnson’s life, like many people’s life, the meaning of the man comes not in whether he wins or loses but in how he fights. It’s a masterful reversal of the notion that winning or losing is what makes the end of a fight movie worthwhile.
Because it’s true that every boxing movie ends the same way. They all end with a fight. But like every other genre form, it’s all about how you use the conventions to tell your own story. Win, lose, whatever, the fight movie when done well can still move you to tears. Even if you know who’s going to win that last fight.
Romeo and Juliet: the most timeless love story in literary history. The story kicks off when the hormonal Montague boy spots the demure Capulet girl at a masquerade party. From the moment he catches glimpse of her, his heart is stolen, and he forgets all about the last gal he was with. What was her name again? The one we never actually met? Rosaline. Did anyone ever wonder what happened to her? Yes. One person, to be exact: Rebecca Serles. She actually wrote a book about it. And now that book, entitled When You Were Mine, will be adapted into a film: Rosaline, starring either Keira Knightley or Lily Collins.
The film will take a look at the Romeo and Juliet story from the perspective of the Romeo's unseen ex, and, to further accentuate the "re-imagination" of it all, will be enacted entirely in contemporary dialogue (none of that “eth” nonsense). Responsible for the script are Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (the (500) Days of Summer team), and Michael Sucsy (Grey Gardens) will direct.
This is the sort of premise that warrants a film—the sort only comes around once every seven or eight years. To those out there some might find the contusion of Shakespeare unholy (we can sense you sneering), you would be wise recall a previous experiment of the same nature: the creation of an alternate story from the point of view of a minor character (or, in this case, two) from one of the bard’s most acclaimed works. It went a little something like this: in other words, awesome.
The 38-year-old star reportedly collapsed at his home in Oakwood in the early hours of Wednesday morning (10Mar10) and his distraught mother called emergency services. He was taken to St Joseph's hospital in Burbank, where he was pronounced dead.
Sergeant Frank Albarren, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles Police Department, tells MSNBC.com, "It was an apparent overdose. Unknown what type of medication."
Haim had reportedly been sick in the days before his death, suffering flu-like symptoms, according to TMZ.com.
The actor had a history of drug problems and had spoken candidly of his longrunning battle with substance abuse.
Born in Ontario, Canada, Haim broke into acting in the 1980s on Canadian TV show The Edison Twins, before making his film debut opposite Sarah Jessica Parker and Robert Downey Jr. in 1984's Firstborn.
He appeared opposite Point Break actor Gary Busey as a paraplegic boy in the big screen version of Stephen King's Silver Bullet, before shooting to international stardom as the lead in 1986's Lucas - alongside Charlie Sheen and Winona Ryder.
Haim went on to film eight hit movies with his child star namesake Corey Feldman, including The Lost Boys, License to Drive, Watchers and Dream A Little Dream, leading the actors to be dubbed 'The Two Coreys'.
Haim was awarded two Young Artist Awards during the 1980s - Exceptional Young Actor in TV show A Time to Live in 1985, and Best Young Actor in 1989, which he shared with Feldman for their parts in License to Drive.
But as rumours of a serious drug problem began to surface in the 1990s, his career took a dip with a string of straight-to-video movies including Blown Away and National Lampoon's Last Resort.
In 1993, he was charged for pulling out a fake handgun during a bust-up with his business manager. The charges were later reduced from felony to misdemeanour.
In 1996 he was sued for $375,000 (£250,000) after pulling out of film Paradise Bar because of his drug problem, which he had reportedly failed to mention on his insurance form. With his financial problems spiralling out of control, Haim filed for bankruptcy in 1997.
The actor reportedly checked himself into rehab 15 times in a bid to battle his drug demons, and in 2001 was rushed to the UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, California after reportedly suffering a drug-induced stroke.
But in 2004 he moved back to his native Toronto and appeared to have overcome his problems.
In recent years, Haim attempted to resurrect his career, filming reality show The Two Coreys with Feldman in 2007, and in 2008 he shot minor scenes for Lost Boys: The Tribe, reprising his 1987 role.
The two actors' screen reunion was short-lived - Feldman, who has also struggled with drug problems, reportedly refused to continue working and communicating with Haim until he beat his addiction.
At the time of his death, Haim had signed up to appear in a number of productions, which were slated for release later this year (10), including The Science of Cool opposite Mischa Barton, The Throwaways alongside pop star-turned-actor Luke Goss, and action thriller The Dead Sea.
Haim was briefly engaged to Nicole Eggert, Holly Fields, and Cindi Guyer, and has previously dated Victoria Beckham and Alyssa Milano, but it is unknown if he was in a relationship at the time of his death.