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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The study's still chugging along: this week's topic of choice? Documenting the physical response of orgasm. Some Virginia-induced scratch marks on Bill's back (yeah...he wasn't strutting at all after that) bring them to the topic of involuntary responses. They decide that the next step in their research is to document the various involuntary muscle spasms. They convince good ol' Jane to be filmed, but she drops out at the last minute – it's just too personal. But that's where Virginia steps in – she agrees, on the terms that Masters is the one to film it (walk, don't run, please) as opposed to their delightfully awkward "cinematographer."
Meanwhile, poor Ethan's still along for the ride with Vivian "Crazy Eyes" Scully. A quick conversation with a bewildered Vivian regarding an uncircumsized penis ("It looked like an anteater!") reveals that Ethan, is in fact, Jewish. Long story short, she's Catholic (and more than a little anti-Semitic), so Ethan agrees to convert. But as his resentment grows throughout the episode, it's clear that he's rethinking things. A philosophical chat with a hospital patient gives him the push he needs to admit to himself (and a bereft Vivian) that their impending marriage is not going to work out. This little chat also reminds him of the one thing he truly went after in his life: guess who? He comforts her as she sobs in her car...can we expect them to strike something up again? Next week's preview suggests so.
Now, why was Virginia crying in her car? Let's back up. Bill's mother, Essie is back, and wreaking some serious havoc. Well, that's not quite fair; she's more the catalyst that sets the ball in motion. She susses out a lot of information that everyone else has been ignorant to (willfully or otherwise) – she's alone with Libby for less than a minute before figuring out she's pregnant. Libby goes on to tell her a heartwrenching story of how her father abandoned her and her sisters quickly preceding her mother's death; thus setting in motion her deep-seated life-or-death need to have a family – or as she puts it a "happily ever after." Our hearts – and Essie's – break a little for her.
Just as she discovered Libby's pregnancy nearly immediately, it takes Essie about an instant in a room with Bill and Virginia to realize that they're in it up to their necks already; no matter how they may deny it to themselves. She subsequently ambushes her son – first, she makes what is clearly a long-awaited apology for her silence back when Bill's father was around, for not stopping him. But that silence is exactly why she feels the need to speak up now: she warns him that he'll ruin his family like his father before him if he's not careful, and Bill takes the message hard. That, combined with a fight and concession with Libby after learning of her pregnancy, causes him to "do what's right."
It's not right; it's anything but right – in fact it's cringe-worthy to watch: he pays Virginia for her time in the study; for each time they've had sex, plus extra for the little film she's just made (which is heartbreakingly complete with a beatific smile just for Bill at the end). But his action has the desired effect: the trust, the rapport – most importantly, the feelings that they have been building together – all are shattered, just like that.
Whew. What a powerhouse episode.
Natalie Portman's embattled western Jane Got A Gun has finally locked down a summer, 2014 release date after a series of delays and casting changes. The film has been plagued by problems - director Lynne Ramsay quit a day before shooting was due to begin in March (13) and Michael Fassbender had to be replaced by Jude Law, who subsequently dropped out as Bradley Cooper stepped in. The Hangover star exited the project in May (13), and production finally got underway this summer (13) with Ewan McGregor onboard as the villain.
Now the movie, helmed by Gavin O'Connor, has officially secured a release date and will hit U.S. theatres at the end of August (14).
However, Jane Got a Gun's troubles are far from over - producers filed suit against Ramsay earlier this month (Nov13), accusing her of breach of contract and fraud for receiving a payment of $750,000 ($500,000) for a job she did not complete. They are seeking the return of her salary, in addition to punitive damages.
Legendary novelist C.s. Lewis has been honoured with a memorial stone in Poets' Corner at London's Westminster Abbey. The writer, best-known for creating The Chronicles of Narnia, was remembered in a ceremony at the cathedral on Friday (22Nov13), exactly 50 years after his death at the age of 64.
A memorial honouring Lewis was placed in a section of the building known as Poets' Corner, where literary figures such as Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell and Ted Hughes have floor stones.
Several hundred people, including family, friends and former students of Lewis, turned out for the event.
Lewis' death on 22 November, 1963 received minimal media attention because it happened on the same day U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.
Steven Spielberg and Jane Fonda have recalled their memories of John F. Kennedy's assassination 50 years ago (22Nov63) for a U.S. TV news special which will be aired to mark the sad anniversary. Veteran newsman Tom Brokaw, who wrote the book Where Were You? America Remembers the JFK Assassination, sat down with celebrities, politicians and dignitaries to discuss the day President Kennedy died - and their memories of it.
Fonda said, "It just seemed impossible that this great president... was dead. It's like everything became unsafe... It shook my world view."
The news special will air on Friday night (22Nov13) in America.
The mystery surrounding Kennedy's death remains but it is believed he was killed when gunman Lee Harvey Oswald opened fire on the presidential motorcade as it weaved through Dallas, Texas.
A moment of silence following the tolling of bells in Dallas as part of ceremonies to honour President Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of his assassination was staged on Friday morning at 11.30am local time.
Mary Poppins star Karen Dotrice has finally watched the film nearly 50 years after she shot to fame as young Jane Banks. The British actress became well known for playing the magical nanny's young charge in the 1964 Walt Disney musical film opposite Dame Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke.
However, Dotrice, now 58, admits she had never watched the movie all the way through until last week (ends17Nov13) when she was invited to a screening to mark the upcoming 50th anniversary of the film's release.
She says, "The amazing thing is I've never actually seen Mary Poppins all the way through until last week at this 50th anniversary premiere. And it's absolutely a corker... I took my kids. They've never seen the film either... They were proud and I think they were a little bit shocked, actually, because that was their mum. I think it was a bit discombobulating, but they loved the film."
Dotrice insists the reason she never saw the whole film was because she was forced to leave the 1964 premiere early as she had to go to school the next day.
She adds, "I was a little girl and I had to go to school the next morning. My parents were very good at keeping (my) feet on the ground. I think I got away with not doing homework that night, but I had to go back to school so I only stayed for about a half an hour... I was sitting in between Princess Margaret and Queen Elizabeth. I just couldn't believe I was looking at real jewellery and real royalty. I wasn't watching the film at all."
Administrators of Rick James' estate have launched legal action to block a reunion by two members of the Mary Jane Girls, the 1980s girl group put together by the funk legend. The band was formed by James and went on to have hits with In My House, All Night Long and Candy Man.
Two of the group's stars, Kimberly 'Maxi' Wuletich and Cheri 'Candy' Wells-Chez, recently reformed for a small tour, but executors of James' estate insist the singers did not ask permission.
In a lawsuit, the estate administrators have asked a judge to ban the pair from performing under the name Mary Jane Girls, which they claim was owned by the late singer.
They are also asking for all profits from the tour.
James died in 2004 at the age of 56.
Gabrielle Union's basketballing beau Dwayne Wade is venturing on to the small screen with a semi-autobiographical sitcom based on his life as an athlete and single father. The Miami Heat superstar is following in the footsteps of his actress girlfriend and making his mark on television with his own show.
Wade has sold a half-hour comedy based on his New York Times bestselling book, A Father First: How My Life Became Bigger Than Basketball to U.S. network bosses at Fox.
The sitcom, titled Three the Hard Way, will chronicle a basketball star's struggled to balance his busy career with life as a single father to two young sons.
Union is also enjoying a little TV good luck in the U.S. - her drama Being Mary Jane was picked up for a second season before the first one even began airing earlier this year (13).
Lady Gaga / InterscopeDespite all the pretentious talk of 'putting art culture into pop music,' the majority of Lady Gaga's third studio album, ARTPOP, sticks to the same kind of EDM-lite blueprint that has defined the charts during her two-year absence. However, there are at least a handful of occasions where the 27-year-old offers something more in keeping with her self-hyped creative vision. Here's a look at five of the most leftfield moments from the 'reverse Warholian expedition.'"Aura"Recently used in the trailer for her big-screen debut Machete Kills, album opener "Aura" begins with an intriguing Spaghetti Western-style intro and an even more intriguing murder confession before disappointingly veering off into generic dubstep territory."Jewels N' Drugs"Gaga has flirted with rap before on hook-ups with Kid Cudi and Wall-E, but she's never approached it with as much gusto as on "Jewels N' Drugs," a trap-hop collaboration with Too Short, T.I. and a warp speed-breaking Twista which will no doubt utterly bewilder most of her Little Monsters."My ARTPOP could mean anything"After clubbing everyone over the head with her artistic intentions, Gaga now claims that the real message behind ARTPOP is entirely open to interpretation on the album's slightly contradictory title track."Mary Jane Holland"Gaga certainly hasn't been afraid to admit to her experiences with illicit substances in the past but she takes it to new levels on a rave-pop pro-weed anthem which almost makes Snoop Dogg appear anti-drug."Dope"Despite vowing to give up her vices in order to save her relationship, Gaga sounds suspiciously inebriated as she bizarrely slurs her way through the album's obligatory Broadway-style ballad.
Bryan Cranston has recruited his former Malcolm In The Middle co-star Jane Kaczmarek to film an alternative spoof finale for his hit TV show Breaking Bad. The actor reunites with his other TV wife Kaczmarek in the comedy clip, which was reportedly filmed for inclusion on a Breaking Bad boxset, in a sequence which suggests the whole five seasons of the hit drama was simply a bad dream suffered by Cranston's Malcolm in the Middle character, Hal.
Lying in bed as Hal, beside Kaczmarek as his wife, Lois, he says of his drug-dealing character Walter White, "I had the scariest dream... I was this meth dealer. I was this world-class chemist", while Lois retorts that she can't believe her husband would be capable of "cooking anything".
He goes on to cry as he recalls dreaming about how he "made bombs" and "killed people", prompting Kaczmarek to respond, "If you think this nightmare is going to keep you from driving the kids to school, you have another thing coming."
After the onscreen couple turns off the lights, the camera pans to a shot of the iconic black hat worn by Walter White, which is placed on a bedside chair.