“there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I’m not going
to let anybody see
– Charles Bukowski
The Coen Bros. latest flick “Inside Llewyn Davis” literally hit close to home for me. For starters, a few scenes were shot in my neighborhood – and with that I’ve followed the shooting progress chronicled on the numerous local daily blogs adding to my already growing anticipation since 2011. But I’d rather not get into or bore you with my own private Idaho, because its real allure is that I too have a fondness and romanticism for the bygone era of those bohemian Greenwich Village days of the late Fifties and early Sixties when it rivaled the art scene of 1920s Paris. To think that on any given night back then you could catch the likes of Miles, Woody, Mingus, Lenny, Coltrane, Ginsberg, Dolphy, Cosby, or that hack hipster Kerouac just to name a few. It seriously must of been like living in Jazz Heaven whereas now it’s just turned into an extension of the NYU campus.
Anyway, as you know for every one of these prominent cats there are countless others who have fallen by the wayside and it’s this framework the Coen Bros. have concocted the character Llewyn, the struggling folk musician who has recently lost his singing partner after he committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge. Now left out in the cold we follow and piece together a few day odyssey in the winter of 1961 stumbling along couches, ex-girlfriends, coffee houses, recording sessions, road trips, shabby record label offices, estranged family members, auditions, dark alleys, a couple of cats, folkies, merchant marines, professors, junkies, music managers, beatniks, and of course the arrival of Bob fucking Dylan.
As usual with the Coens, the production design, clothing, characters, and music are all spot on. And even without sky fallen Roger Deakins – replacement Bruno Delbonnel’s talents are finally recognized because, let’s face it, Harry Potter and Dark Shadows are the usual Hollywood crap.
It’s good to see John Goodman back after over a decade long absence from the Coens. I only hope that Carey Mulligan never returns, because she’s already in one scene too many playing her usual cocksucking self. As for Oscar Davis, even though Llewyn Davis’ character is seemingly narcissistic and frustrated, he emboldens his character with an underlying integrity to his music of interpretation of folk tunes, which in a way is an art form in itself and apparent when he performs. The irony is that the times are a-changin’ and the advent of the singer songwriter artist is just around the corner leading to fame, success, and vision.
I initially thought about using the oft Dylan quote to begin this with “there is no success like failure and that failure is no success at all,” but considering the Coen’s have alluded to Llewyn Davis to be loosely based on Dave Van Ronk I’d like to think that unlike many of the critics that have the impression that Llewyn is a selfish arrogant folk purist (one who’s not even political?!) that he eventually, like Van Ronk finds his niche. Mainstream success never comes but he will at least find his direction home just like that cat Ulysses does in the end.
“Holding up my purring cat to the moon I sighed.” – Jack Kerouac
“Space is the place, in your face” – Sun Ra
Let’s face facts – it’s been a very dismal summer for movies, which partially explains my absence from blogging. I’d like to say that I was going through my Binx Bolling phase or that I was in a state of dissociative fugue. Truth is, I was seriously considering giving up the ghost. But Gravity has brought me back down to cyber space and happy to report that the only thing I can hold against this amazing movie is that initially Alfonso Cuaron had wanted to cast bumptious Angelina Jolie and Robert Downey Jr.
Though at first I was up in the air about Sandra Bullock, considering her most dramatic oscar driven role was The Blind Side (which I will never fucking see), but I haven’t been so intensely engaged in the plight of a woman astronaut since Lisa Nowak drove 900 miles like a bat out of hell in diapers. Of course there was never a doubt George Clooney wouldn’t be cool.
The reason why I can’t rate this 100% is because 2001: A Space Odyssey is still the ultimate space sci-fi. Especially when dealing with the whole rebirth theme, where at times in Gravity was more suffocating than Sandra’s lack of oxygen – as Kubrick dealt more abstractly and cosmically. I do admit Sandra looked fit in her undies all curled up in a fetal position and when she was crawling out of the water to dry land like bipedal fish.
But nothing compares to the heavy handed CGI frog, except maybe Malick’s dinos, I suppose both representing the symmetry of human struggle for life. Tree of Life not so coincidently Emmanuel Lubezki also shot, but this time around, along with visual effects supervisor Tim Webber, they were able to deliver something so innovative it actually convinced me 3D IMAX is not a total sham after all. Even that cunt, Rex Reed, had something nice to say for a change.
So I’m super pissed that I wasn’t able to see Star Trek Into Darkness in IMAX 3D because some wankers at the AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 Theater are fucking idiots about the presale for tickets, and for some fucking reason were only allowing pre-purchase for opening night a week before but not the following days. Or so I was told. But like Obi Wan says, “Who’s more foolish? The fool, or the fool who follows it?” And that’s why he was Jedi Master and I’m just a Trekkie.
First thing’s last, after they wheel in the parade of planet title cards accompanied by the original tv series theme song, the filmmakers soberly want to remind us that “This film is dedicated to our post-9/11 veterans” – which is like…the ultimate buzzkill. Now don’t me wrong, I support our troops (and what U.S. citizen in their right mind wouldn’t say that considering Obama’s NDAA law?), but are we to assume that the covert militarization of Starfleet in Star Trek Into Darkness is an overt analogy to our current military-industrial complex that permeates the underbelly from within the darkest corridors of the Pentagon, all the way down to the attendant in the White House bathroom? I guess that small dose of gooey substance capable of forming a black hole when ignited known as “Red Matter” in Star Trek isn’t as chilling as the 72 WMDs with cryogenically frozen comrades in photon-torpedo capsules. I mean, I of course immediately drew comparison with all the other liberals, lefty’s, and conspiracy theorists to those $12 million pricetag for a single drone which the U.S. currently uses in preemptive strikes against terrorist countries. Only the big difference in Trek, is that the drones aren’t unmanned and instead contain super humans that when defrosted kick fucking ass and make Major T.J. Kong look like a fucking light weight! As for the Red Matter, that’s another matter. That being said, director J.J. Abrams and writers solidify why they are the the nerd kings of soap opera tv shows.
And with that, every character cried, even Khan. I sure hope Spock breaks up with Uhura in the next one so that I won’t have to cry anymore over their touching devotion to each other. Thank God for Benedict Cumberbatch’s nefarious portrayal of Khan and Simon Pegg’s comedic timing – from being startled by fish, to running like fatboy to save his mates. But the biggest laugh for me was when Spock screams, “KHAN!” Which is also a slap in the face to Shatner who’s again left out of the party. Why can’t anyone just come clean and tell him that he looks nothing like Chris Pine? Alternate universe or not that just won’t fly.
Speaking of alternate universes, as much as I loved J.J.’s take on Star Trek I can’t help but have ominous feelings towards his undertaking of reviving the Star Wars franchise because that’s in another galaxy far, far, away…
“That is what you are. That’s what you all are…all of you young people who served in the war. You are a lost generation” – Gertrude Stein
I’ve seen nerds dressed up like Hobbits, Harry Potter and Star Wars characters, and of course those Rocky Horror’s – but never, to my surprise, have I come across flappers and tailcoats like I did at last night’s opening of The Great Gatsby. But here in New York City I guess it’s to be expected, because New Yorkers will use any ridiculous excuse to dress up like it’s homecoming spirit week; like SantaCon, No Pants Day, and that day once a year where people walk around with grease smudged on their fucking foreheads. Now there’s a lost generation.
Anyway, there are timeless novels and there are timeless movies. And then there are timeless novels rebooted into seemingly timely movies – and director Baz Luhrmann is just the name to pizazz us. Punching us with a 3D CGI presentation of that roaring 20’s bygone era with of all people, Jay-Z and a posse to hip hopify it – because my generation is so lame and unhip to Louis’ Potato Head Blues or Duke’s East St. Louis Toodle-O. Though I do get it with our modern excesses and appreciate Baz’s revisionist fairytale approach, he could at least tone it down a bit and not be so fucking splashy with colors and confetti and corny snow falling letters.
Many consider the novel to be an example of some of the finest economy of words that are not only poetic and subtle, but are also steeped in metaphors and symbolism – one can only marvel on Fitz’s prescient notions at such a formidable age of 25 and his capturing of an entire era and the quintessential American dream. Whereas Aussie Baz has the protagonist Tobey Maguire (Nick Carraway) butchering F. Scott’s cadence with his narration, sounding like a fucking dimwit reading an eye chart.
Other than the revisionist attempt, the real redemption of The Great Gatsby is the Great DiCaprio. I mean who else of this generation could play him? Maybe Ben Affleck, but then it would really be fucking retarded. Carey Mulligan seems to be desperately trying to make the Daisy Buchanan character deeper than she is, but that is hard to do when you look like this:
The recently departed Ray Harryhausen basically said CGI is just another tool, and the audience doesn’t give a damn what technique is used. But I suspect he was talking about creatures and monsters, not Gatsby’s gold coast mansion. Also there’s Ebert. It finally hit me last night that he’s departed as well, because when doing these silly blogs I actually do read almost every review on Meta and Rotten – Roger’s always first. Even though he was a bit of a tool sometimes (he did give Avatar his highest rating of four stars) my go to guy now is Rex Reed, who’s got a tool stuck up his arse. Anyway, I suppose Baz is trying to make some kind of correlation of the 1920’s decadence to now – But I’m curious as to what Lena Dunham thinks of the movie, because besides the fact she couldn’t even finish reading the novel, she has been deemed the voice of this new lost generation living in New York City.
The only thing left for me to ponder in Terence Malick’s latest meditation on preponderance, To The Wonder (a contemporary love story of an Okie and a Eurotrashy ditz with happy feet from Paris), is where exactly in France is that fairytale castle surrounded by mushy sandy waters? And why the fuck would they settle down in the badlands of Oklahoma instead?
Well, turns out that castle is Mont Saint-Michel, in the lower region of Normandy that dates back to the 10th century. But as far as to why they (or anyone for that matter) would want to live in a newly built two story house in Oklahoma without a fucking washer and dryer? Golly, I still couldn’t tell you. And that’s probably the most enduring mystery of the film. If I had to guess, it had something to do with Ben Affleck’s job there – walking around with a picnic cooler surveying the land for god knows what when he’s not busy chasing his wife (Olga Kurylenko) through wheat fields and smelling buffalo chips. Which is probably why everyone is so loopy and dizzy and suffers from lymes disease. That being said – as if we didn’t already know Olga is not the greatest actress, we now know she sure shit can’t fucking dance either. And while Ben may not be the greatest dancer he sure shit can’t fucking act without his beard – besides the scene where he wears a lampshade on his head. To be fair, Malick finds more poetry in the visual silence of sheer curtains blowing in the wind and adults jumping up and down on beds then good old fashion dialogue.
After watching those boring ass lovebirds, Rachel McAdams is definitely a breath of fresh air as she radiates like she were in a Carhartt/Sundance catalogue, unconvincingly playing a ranch handler with not a speck of dirt or grime on her. Still, not a bad rebound for Ben.
As for priest Javier Bardem – he is either mumbling to himself or to Jesus. I’m not really sure. But the scene when Olga goes to him for confession is truly a revelation, in that it’s so private that there’s no way I could tell you what was revealed and neither could Malick. You just have to go see the movie yourself to come up with your own conclusions but I’m telling y’all right now your time will be better spent at the local laundromat instead of watching them do theirs.
Considering Roger Ebert gave this a thumbs up you have to wonder if he knew this was likely his last review and therefore took comfort in the Javier’s sermon of “God to the left, God to the right…” – whereas I’d have to give it a thumbs down because all I see are clowns to the left of me and jokers to the right and here I am stuck in the middle. But till then Roger, please save me an aisle seat…
The only reason I’m rating Oblivion a high 20% is for those snazzy velcro hightop sneakers Tom Cruise (Jack Harper) sports throughout – minus the scene he tosses them to go skinny dipping with his “effective” partner Victoria (Andrea Louise Riseborough) in their futuristic glass pool high atop the clouds safe from the toxic air below. Because as far as I can gather from Tom’s opening monotone narration – many moons ago there was some kind of war of the worlds shit in which space invaders not only decimated the Earth but even went so far as to destroy our moon! Now folks, that’s just plain rude. Who would do such a thing and why? Well that’s exactly what we have to figure out as Jack Harper grapples with his inner demons, allegiance, and ultimately his identity. (Sort of like how in real life Tom has to grapple with his homosexuality by suppressing it with his devotion to Scientology.)
Anyway, I don’t want to bore you with all the loopholes within this sci-fi movie but there are a few things which I just can’t dismiss lightly – Like how come when Tom is flying that high tech contraption he’s not wearing a fucking helmet? Forget about knocking your head about, but how about the radioactive air he has to breathe? And why would Victoria not wash her fucking hands after being completely wigged out over touching a toxic flower before preparing dinner? And when Jack Harper plays Led Zeppelin’s Ramble On you can clearly see him drop the needle on the vinyl to the first song on the side when that song is actually the third on side 2!! And lastly, I guess the bit about the moon.
And you know what else is gay? Creating something so trite, obvious, and especially unoriginal. As if we haven’t seen glass houses, underwater sex sessions, human pods, clones, underground bands of survivors or those Portal 2 drones before – we have to be subjected to more lame lovestruck Sleepless in Seattle and Love Affair goobers atop the Empire State Building.
“How could this happen? I was so careful. I picked the wrong play, the wrong director, the wrong cast. Where did I go right?” – Max Bialystock
Ben Gazzara – Mr. Treehorn draws a lot of water in this town. Produced Logjammin.
Levon Helm – Up on Cripple Creek
Tony Scott – “You’re a cantaloupe!”
Sherman Hemsley – Movin’ on up!
Andy Griffith – Lonesome Rhodes
Bill Hinzman – Night of the Dead [Living] Dead
Frank Pierson – “Sal? Ready to go?”
Charles Durning – Every dog has his day…
Phyllis Diller – Like a Lampshade in a Whorehouse
Ray Bradbury – ebooks can’t burn him.
Tonino Guerra – Antonioni films weren’t exactly chock full of dialogue anyway.
Jack Klugman – Odd man out.
Larry Hagman – Kristin Shepard shot him.
Davey Jones – No more monkeying around.
Dick Clark – Seacrest out!
Happy New Year 2013!
Writer/Director/Actor Quentin Tarantino is so full of himself and his eclectic influences that it obviously translates itself into his movies – and Django Unchained is no different. Now I didn’t know much going into Django, other than that Jamie Foxx is a slave and kills white folks down south, so I expected no less then the previous juvenile and offensive Inglourious Basterds – which was at least more than my Mom, who thought it was about Django Reinhardt.
I’ve hoped this revisionist/mashup kick that QT has been on for more than a decade is just a passing phase, since the only thing keeping his shallow movies fresh is the ever expanding pool of actors who continue to give great performances and know exactly how to deliver his idiosyncratic script dialogue (better so than himself) – the only original facet left in his productions.
Also, I get that Quentin is being Leonesque with his epic movie lengths but this one drags even more so, perhaps since it’s his first film without editor Sally Menke. With the overkill Peckinpah slow mo, not to mention almost all of Leo DiCaprio’s performance – which is drawn out over an hour tour of Candy Land – we still don’t even make it to the Peppermint Forest or Ice Cream Sea.
I guess I hold Quentin to a higher standard after his first two movies in some ways defined a new generation of the writer/director, but it seems P.T. Anderson and The Coen Brothers are the only mainstream ones that are at least evolving and striving for some semblance of profundity and not just silly entertainment. Then again maybe it’s just a sign of the times, I mean next year we got Grown Ups 2.