Inside Llewyn Davis: what’s all the fuss about?

1961 in Greenwich Village, the Great Folk Music Scare has begun, and Llewyn Davis is making the scene. He’s serious about his folksongs and he’s a bit of a crank, and he’s broke and homeless, sleeping on sofas of whatever friends will take him in. Davis has played the Gaslight many times, but he hasn’t been “discovered” and it’s not looking good.

This is a Coen Brothers film. I should like it, right? It’s about a folk singer. Maybe I should like that too. I’m pretty familiar with that bit of American cultural history. I mean, I know all the old Bob Dylan material and Phil Ochs and Eric Anderson and Ramblin’ Jack and Dave van Ronk and Paul Clayton and The Clancy Brothers and so on. Inside Llewyn Davis is the story of a guy who makes the scene, has some talent, but doesn’t have whatever kind of spark it took at that place and time to emerge successful from that scene. The problem is that the story just isn’t that interesting.

The film captures what I imagine could be what the historic Greenwich Village atmosphere was like. Justin Timberlake and John Goodman have smallish supporting roles and they do OK. Carey Mulligan does a nice job of Jean, part of a duo with Jim (Justin Timberlake). They remind me somewhat of Ian and Sylvia, or at least Jean reminds me of Sylvia.

There are two cats in the film, and they are as compelling as any of the characters. It seems to me there’s something wrong with that picture.

Inside Llewyn Davis is just OK, worth seeing, but nothing to write home about.

Life of Pi

We ventured out to see Life of Pi tonight. Boy was I surprised when we were handed 3-D glasses. I suggested to Tuffy P that we see this one, but had I known it was in 3-D, I would have chosen a different film. I don’t like wearing 3-D glasses, at least in part because I have to wear them over my normal glasses. As well, I find the 3-D effects to be strange and artificial, at least some of the time.

In the case of Life of Pi, felt it would have been a better film if the filmmaker had made the commitment to make it without 3-D. It would have been a shorter film, and would not have taken the time to languish in filmic effects, and I would have been fine with that. On the whole, my biggest criticism of the film is that it was too long in any case. I think a full half hour could have been edited out and the film would have been stronger.

Still, it is a beautiful work and a fantastic story and it’s well worth seeing.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

I remember the paperback on my father’s nightstand, binding bent back, pages frayed. He loved to read, and especially he loved to read these spy novels.

We ventured out to see the film adaptation this afternoon. The first thing I noticed was the colour and the atmosphere. It’s drab and ugly and nothing in the background is clear. All of this, I suppose, is much like the film. Very little is clear.

It’s a really good film, better than I expected. We’re not used to this kind of spy film. These days, spies look like Matt Damon or Tom Cruise and they do a lot of stunts and shoot a lot of guns and get involved in a lot of chases. Tinker Tailor is populated by unattractive middle aged guys who don’t do a lot of anything. It’s all about information and loyalties. Everything is tied together. Nothing is clear.

Although there is little action, there is plenty of suspense, a slow building kind of suspense, punctuated by occasional acts of violence. This is the cold war, and it seems a million miles away. Still, the writer of the original book, John le Carré, worked for British intelligence. He knew what he was talking about, knew what this world was all about.

If you’re looking for a mindless actioner, this isn’t the film for you. For that, we’re thinking of going to see the latest Mission Impossible tomorrow. If you want a complex film rich in atmosphere, check out Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. It’s a good one.

Unstoppable

Unstoppable is a film I can describe to you in a single sentence and be assured you understand everything you need to know about it. Here goes: There’s a runaway train and Denzel Washington has to stop it. Still, I really enjoyed this one.

Why?

  • I like trains.
  • The industrial landscape shots were excellent.
  • I don’t know much about actors, but Denzel Washington is one I recognize and I’ve seen him in some enjoyable films.
  • The suspense was nail-biting, even though we all know that Stanton didn’t ever explode.

On the anchovy 5-fish rating scale, I give this one 3 tasty salties.