14 items from 2014
Inspired by this year's nominated films, our staffers sought out books they were based on (we'll be so smart during Sunday's show!) Tell us what you think of our choices - and what you're reading. Kim Hubbard, Books EditorHer Pick: The Mayor of MacDougal Street by Dave Van Ronk and Elijah Wald I loved the bleak beauty of the Coen brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis (which was - criminally - nominated only for Sound Mixing and Cinematography). The Mayor of MacDougal Street is the story of the man who inspired it: '60s folk icon Dave Van Ronk. Best to listen »
The Coens' tale of a of a once feted folk singer on the slide has brilliant elements that don't quite make a satisfying whole
"How does it feel, to be on your own… Like a complete unknown… ?" Llewyn Davis knows exactly how that feels. Dragging his self-pitying butt around the freezing backstreets of early 1960s Greenwich Village, he is indeed "without a home", a formerly feted singer who made his name as one half of a popular duo until his partner threw himself to an early death, a result, perhaps, of spending too much time with Llewyn. He's an arsehole and everyone tells him so – from fellow folk singer Jean (Carey Mulligan), who is pregnant with his child and wants money for an abortion, to John Goodman's aggressive jazz fiend who callously mocks Davis's former partner's suicide ("You throw yourself of the Brooklyn bridge, traditionally. George Washington bridge? Who does that? »
- Mark Kermode
The Coen Brothers movie is immersed in the folk scene of the early 60s in Greenwich Village, where boho survivors still recall the glory days – and lament a few of the film's flaws
Fifty years ago, the tenements, bars and coffee houses of Greenwich Village were the centre of a hip, bohemian society of beatniks and folkniks. That society has long dispersed, most of its landmarks erased by the onslaught of chain stores and fast food outlets. But enough of the Village remains intact that, by squinting in the Arctic freeze last week, it was almost possible to picture a 21-year-old Bob Dylan with his girlfriend, Suze Rotolo, braced against the cold in February 1963 for the covershot of the great Freewheelin' Bob Dylan acoustic LP.
It's not unusual to see couples re-enacting that pose on the corner of West 4th and Jones Street, says Mark Sebastian, a neighbourhood activist, musician »
- Edward Helmore
Today Joel and Ethan Coen proudly stand as a prolific and influential presence upon the landscape of contemporary American cinema. For over two decades the Minnesota born siblings have crafted their own mischievously iconic brand of dark fairy tales; dripping in blood, devilish humour and gothic Americana.
Their films span environments both vibrant and unforgiving, their narratives dance through decades of joyous laughter and inherited pain, and from dudes to deadly assassins they have brought forth unforgettable characters of all different shapes, sizes, and degrees of madness. Yet the brooding, often violent, sometimes romantic, but always memorable body (or several unidentified, most likely dismembered bodies) of work they possess is undoubtedly indebted to a figurative road trip of influences.
Destination: No Country for Old Men
The Brothers have visited the haunted valleys and buckshot strewn motel rooms of literary giant Cormac McCarthy only once on paper, »
- Brody Rossiter
The Coen brothers' beguiling new film about a struggling folk singer is propelled by a rarely discussed dilemma – when do artists cut their losses and abandon their careers?
• Interview: The dark side of Carey Mulligan
• The Coen brothers on losers, likability and Llewyn Davis
The Coen brothers' exquisitely sad and funny new comedy is set in a world of music that somehow combines childlike innocence with an aged and exhausted acceptance of the world. It is a beguilingly studied period piece from America's early-60s Greenwich Village folk scene. Every frame looks like a classic album cover, or at the very least a great inner gatefold – these are screen images that look as if they should have lyrics and sleeve notes superimposed. This film was notably passed over for Oscar nominations. Perhaps there's something in its unfashionable melancholy that didn't hook the attention of Academy award voters. But it is »
- Peter Bradshaw
The Coen brothers excel at creating excellent soundtracks for their films. A good soundtrack can be the difference between a scene falling flat or becoming an unforgettable cinematic moment; where would the helicopter scene from Apocalypse Now be without Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries blaring out of the speakers?
Longtime Coen-collaborator Carter Burwell has composed music for almost every one of the brothers’ films and while his work is always good, the Coens really come into their element when they choose pre-existing music for their scores. So well is this music integrated that you forget the song wasn’t composed solely for that film, creating some truly iconic moments.
Few filmmakers are as skilled as the Coen brothers at building their movies around the music they use. Often their soundtracks feel natural, and so fitting that films like O Brother, Where Art Thou? and The Big Lebowski effortlessly seem »
- Matt Seton
Feature Ivan Radford 23 Jan 2014 - 06:21
Ivan's latest column explores what music can tell us about a character through two new UK soundtrack releases
Music is a powerful thing. It can be used to express authority or portray identity. The very act of playing music defines us, as both performers or listeners. That relationship we have with it makes for two extremely powerful soundtracks currently accompanying movies in UK cinemas: Inside Llewyn Davis and 12 Years a Slave.
"Play me something from Inside Llewyn Davis," manager Bud Grossman (F. Murray Abraham) challenges Oscar Isaac's lead in the middle of the Coen brothers' film. Llewyn responds with The Death of Queen Jane, an old ballad from the 1500s that recounts the tale of King Henry losing his wife, Jane Seymour, to gain a son. It's not a happy song.
It's also a clear statement from Llewyn: he's not afraid of sadness. »
Having been something of a journeyman in Hollywood, often taking on more supporting roles up until this point in his career – Oscar Isaac has been biding his time, waiting for that perfect role to come his way. Well, for the actor and musician to land the title role in the latest Coen brothers’ production, Inside Llewyn Davis – this is the part he’s been waiting for his whole life, as he tells us that the entire experience was a ‘dream come true’.
Isaac – who plays talented, yet vastly unrecognised folk musician Llewyn Davis, discusses how thrilled he was to work on this project, how he managed to control the various cats he was lumbered with, while he also draws comparisons between the character on screen, and himself as an actor - discussing how gaining self-promotion and the difficulties in making a name for yourself is something that resonates with him greatly. »
- Stefan Pape
Inside Llewyn Davis - a melancholy movie about the early 60s New York folk scene - is another tale of failure from two of the world's most feted auteurs. Why are the Coens so drawn to losers and sceptics?
For 30 years, Joel and Ethan Coen have been fond of failure. On trashing plans and turning hopes belly-up. On folks coming face to face with fate, then fate socking them round the chops and burying them alive in their own backyard.
Thirty years in which the Coens themselves have been endlessly, remorselessly successful: showered with respect and love and awards. The morning after the premiere of their new film, they seem close to untouchable. Cannes has always had a thing for woe-bros (see also the Dardennes) but right now the intensity of its crush makes you giddy.
Inside Llewyn Davis, though, is another sad epic of dud luck. A Jenga tower »
- Catherine Shoard
Poor Dave Van Ronk. He was in the right place – the Greenwich Village coffee-house scene – at the right time, doing all the right things, singing the right songs to the right people. But he just didn't have the magic. And he didn't have the luck, either.
Sometime in the 1950s, when he was a young man trying to become a folk singer, he had learned a traditional song called "House of the Rising Sun" from a pre-war field recording on which it was sung without accompaniment by a Kentucky miner's teenage daughter. Van Ronk changed it around a bit, keeping the tune and most of the words, but adding a distinctive chord sequence that made an already plaintive lament even more arresting. As his reputation grew, »
- Richard Williams
Take another look @ a restricted 'red-band' trailer, plus all the other clips of footage and featurettes released to date from the new movie "Inside Llewyn Davis", directed by Joel and Ethan Coen ("True Grit").
The new drama adapts "...the music, politics and spirit of a revolutionary period in American culture", based on the novel "The Mayor of MacDougal Street" by author Dave Van Ronk.
"...'Dave Van Ronk', one of the founding figures of the 1960's folk revival, was far more than that. A pioneer of modern acoustic blues, a songwriter, arranger and singer, he became one of the most influential guitarists of that era.
- Michael Stevens
Conor Oberst has revealed that he auditioned for the lead role in Inside Llewyn Davis. Although the Coen Brothers eventually cast actor Oscar Isaac as the film's titular folk singer, Oberst was apparently one of several professional musicians the directors considered for the part.
"I know I told you this when we met, but I tried out for your role in Inside Llewyn Davis," Oberst told Isaac as part of an article for Interview magazine. "Thank god for everyone that I didn't get it."
According to an earlier article with the Wall Street Journal, Joel and Ethan Coen initially hoped to cast "a musician who could act" as the singer Llewyn Davis. "They auditioned a lot of musicians and actors for this part," Oberst confirmed, "to the point where I heard the »
- Bright Eyes, Sean Michaels
My alienation from current pop is almost complete; the only 2013 Top 40 material I enjoyed enough to play repeatedly was Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, from an album released in 2012. So I am officially a cranky old fart. But there are more and more of us, and maybe fellow COFs will find this list useful. By the way, crossing that border of alienation made me think more than ever that saying my lists are of the "best" albums is nearly absurd, hence the new headline.
1. Wire: Change Becomes Us (Pink Flag)
This is my favorite Wire of this century thanks to more emphasis on Colin Newman's brooding. When allied to their chugging motorik beats, it's irresistible to me. There are still some uptempo burners that recall their beginnings in punk, and some more whimsical though still musically solid songs, but it's Newman's dark musings that made me play this repeatedly.
2. Kitchens of »
Film: "Inside Llewyn Davis"; Cast: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, F. Murray Abraham, Justin Timberlake, Max Casella, Jerry Grayson, Robin Bartlett, Ethan Phillips, Stark Sands, Adam Driver, Jeanine Serralles; Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen; Rating: *** - simply interesting!
Loosely based on the life of American folk singer Dave Van Ronk, directors Joel and Ethan Coen's "Inside Llewyn Davis" is a fictional piece that is a fitting tribute to a period and place, which is at the crossroads of cultural change.
The story is from the perspective of an obstinate man, Llewyn Davis who is. »
- Shiva Prakash
14 items from 2014
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