Posts Tagged ‘coen bros’

Inside Llewyn Davis

Llewyn Davis, (Oscar Issac) a struggling folk singer, travels from New York to Chicago in the 1960’s to try to establish a solo singing career, amid many obstacles.

This is a very complex movie.  It is a funny movie, at first I thought it was a straight out comedy, but then it tackles serious issues, love, but not in the way a typical movie deals with it, loss in a more traditional sense and even symbolism.  I was actually ruminating on the symbolism of a cat.  This movie handles comedy and drama so adeptly, that it feels like real life.  Life is sometimes funny, sometimes tragic and this movie echoes both extremes really well.  The scenes are punctuated by hauntingly beautiful music, that adds to the overall mood of the film.  The ending is appropriate to the overall film, and that’s all that needs to be said.  I did not go into detail on the plot, because any details would ruin your enjoyment of the film.

The acting is superb.  The cast is led by Oscar Isaac, who plays the darkly comic, sometimes morose Llewyn Davis with an innate sense of self.  He knows this character inside and out.  Carey Mulligan is also outstanding as the vituperative, venomous Jean, although her American accent slips every once in a while.   Mulligan also has a great singing voice, as does Isaac.  Justin Timberlake has a terrific singing voice, but he’s still a wooden actor, and yet he gets these plum roles, inexplicable.

The Coen Brothers are especially visual in this film, underscoring the claustrophobic feeling of living in New York City, filming down stairways, and between narrow hallways. The pacing is perfect, and the music is interspersed beautifully within the film.  The brothers get beautiful, heart wrenching performances from a largely unknown cast.  It reminded me somewhat of another Coen brothers film, O Brother Where Art Thou, with its comedic touches and music, but  Inside LLewyn Davis is a much darker film.

This is a must-see.

Inside LLewyn Davis:  Skip to my Llew!

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raising arizona

HI McDunnough (Nicholas Cage) is a small time crook with a high recidivism rate.  He robs convenience stores and gets locked up for 8-14 months only to start the cycle again.  One day, HI notices that the police officer who takes his mug shots, Edwina (Holly Hunter) sad beyond consolation.   Her fiancé has run away with another woman.  HI decides that he will marry Edwina and they will have a child together.  The problem is, Edwina can’t bear children of her own, and when the adoption agencies see HI’s lengthy criminal record, no one will let him adopt a child.

Just when all hope appears lost, HI hears that local discount furniture king Nathan Arizona (Trey Wilson) and his wife, Florence (Lynn Kittei) just had quintuplets.  The Arizonas have more kids than they need.  HI and Edwina hatch a plan to take one of the quints, and raise him as their own in their trailer.  No sooner do they take Nathan Jr. (TJ Kuhn) than things start spiraling out of control.  HI’s jailhouse buddies, Gale (John Goodman) and Evelle (William Forsythe) break out of jail, and come visit HI, with no intention of leaving. Edwina wants the two jailbirds gone.  She wants to entertain a higher level of friend on the social strata, so she invites HI’s boss Glen (Sam McDonald) and his wife Dot (Francis McDormand to their trailer.  Glen oddly begins talking about his open marriage and his swinging lifestyle, HI doesn’t want Glen anywhere near his wife, and tells him so, and starts chasing Glen.  Glen runs into a pole and breaks his nose.  Realizing his job is as good as gone, HI reverts to form and knocks over a convenience store again. After barely escaping with his life after that caper, Gale and Evelle want him to help out with a bank robbery, does he do it?

This is a delightful movie.  It hearkens back to the screwball comedies of the 1930’s like It Happened One Night, and Bringing Up Baby.  It’s a simple premise, childless couple wants a baby, but when they plan to kidnap one, everything seems to go horrendously wrong.  As the viewer, you want their plan to succeed, but everytime it seems close to happening, some new obstacle gets in the way.  Everything is done to heighten the comedic effect.  Nicholas Cage and his Nick Nolte mugshot hair, Frances McDormand’s  bad wig perched on her head like an awful bird’s nest and Nicholas Cage running for his life several times, while trying to steal Huggies for his kidnapped son.  It is also quite a touching film, there’s a moment in the film where HI lists all his disappointments as a husband and father to Edwina, in letter form, and the viewer realizes that he wants to be a good person, but the way his life is now, he might not get that chance.  One thing I kept thinking was that poor boy playing Nathan Jr, was put in the middle of some really outlandish situations, and always had a big smile on his face.  I felt bad for that kid.

The acting is superb, Nicholas Cage gave the best performance of his career, sweet and naïve, trying his hardest to provide for his new family, the only way he knows how. So now the inevitable question, where did this this funny, engaging actor go, and how do we movie fans get him back? Holly Hunter is a firecracker in this movie, just explosive from minute one, she’s in full Mama Grizzly mode, protective of both HI and her son.  She is also the moral compass of the movie, wanting all bad influences out of HI’s life. So what if her moral compass is a little bent by suggesting  kidnapping a child, it’s all done out of love  John Goodman is funny just being John Goodman, and every one of the cast has something funny to add.  It’s a true ensemble effort.

The writing is quick and snappy, if you missed a joke, don’t worry there will be another one coming soon.    The direction is similarly brisk, the action, the slapstick comes fast and furious. Coen Brothers, you won me over, again.

Raising Arizona.  A phoenix tries to rise.

Movie Review: Blood Simple (1985)

Posted: November 18, 2012 in Drama
Tags: ,

Julian Marty (Dan Hedaya) is a dour bar owner who suspects his wife Abby (Frances McDormand) is having an affair with one of his employees, Ray (John Gertz) Marty hires a private eye (M Emmet Walsh) and offers him 10,000 dollars to kill Ray and Abby and burn their bodies in the incinerator, behind his bar.  Because the detective is unscrupulous, he doctors some pictures that show Abby and Ray dead, and shoots Marty, who doesn’t quite die.  Ray sneaks into the bar, takes the gun that the private eye left behind, and buries Marty alive.  Is Marty dead?  Now that Ray has the private eye’s gun, what happens next?

If you’re expecting a Coen Brothers comedy like the Big Lebowski, or Fargo, or Burn After Reading, this movie is not it. This movie is dark, and dead serious.  Just look into Dan Hedeya’s eyes.  He is a guy not to be messed with.  He is one scary dude. Yet is the laughing, joking private eye who may be the stone cold killer, and that’s the really scary part.  Hedaya is spot on as the betrayed husband, he is seething, the viewer can see his anger seeping out of every pore, but how does he vent that anger.  The private detective is Marty’s vessel.  M Emmet Walsh is also excellent as the wily private detective, who is initially motivated by money, but then he’s motivated purely by self-preservation.  Frances McDormand is very convincing as the wife petrified of her husband and convinced that he’s still alive, and tracks her down.  She also does a great Texas accent.  Only John Gertz disappoints, he’s trying too hard to be the sensitive sex symbol, shirt off, trying to be the protector, but tormented by what he’s done to Marty, This is a very deep, dark, chilling movie.

Blood Simple.  Simply great.