Today! Because I don’t see a lot of money here –
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
Directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen (x2)
Starring Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman (x3), Garrett Hedlund, F. Murray Abraham (x2), Justin Timberlake, Adam Driver, Ethan Phillips, Robin Bartlett, Max Casella, Stark Sands, Jeanine Serralles
I debated when starting this list whether to include a cut-off at all, but once I landed on needing space to fairly evaluate these movies against each other, I had to resolve where the line would get drawn. In retrospect, maybe four years was too little (figure, all this was compiled in the summer of 2018, so I placed the eligibility date at January 1st, 2014). Thus only four 2013 movies made this list, and we’ve already reached the last of them. And yeah, maybe 2013 wasn’t the world’s greatest year for films, but hell, 2012 has 13 movies and 2011 has 8.
But, knowing what I know about 2013, having been there and looked around quite a bit, I’m still fairly confident Inside Llewyn Davis would emerge as my favorite. I’m not saying ’13 was a bad year, it’s just not a lovable year – 12 Years a Slave, Her, Nebraska, Prisoners, The Great Gatsby, and American Hustle almost made the list – an admirable group of movies, but none fought their way on. Nope, it’s only #388 The Wolf of Wall Street, #390 Gravity, #265 Iron Man 3, and this. Thin going! Jeez, Iron Man 3 is my second favorite movie of 2013? That can’t be right.
While music factors largely into a lot of Coen Brothers movies, this is one of their rare all-out musicals – along with O Brother, Where Art Thou? – arranged by T Bone Burnett, with a mix of new and classic folk, from the gloomy – “Hang Me, Oh Hang Me” and “Shoals of Herring,” – to the goofy novelty song “Please Mr. Kennedy.” They also took the Nashville approach in having some actors write (or collaborate) on the songs they’d perform, including Isaac and Timberlake.
As Llewyn Davis, the future Poe Dameron/Nick Wasicsko (depending where your tastes lie) Oscar Isaac is terrific, appearing in basically every moment of the film, performing songs, and keeping what could be an unbearably grim tone relatively palatable. Based very basically on the music (and somewhat, the life) of folk singer Dave Van Ronk, the movie follows Davis through a very broke, low-end corner of the early ’60s scene, in Homeric fashion, again not unlike O Brother. The cat even ends up being named Ulysses!
I’m pretty sure we’re going to need to do a video to fully get into this, but Inside Llewyn Davis is another movie that the wife and I strongly do not see eye to eye on. Yes, the ending is a bit artsy, and requires you to heavily reconsider everything you’ve seen up to that point, but while I find it a lovely, twisting wrap-up, Sarah hates this movie. I think she’d even admit that up to this point she kind of enjoyed it, but the ending ruined the whole film for her. Surprising!
And while I’m tempted to give film MVP to the Gorfeins’ cat, I have to go with Adam Driver’s singer Al Cody, if nothing else for his contributions on the Golden Globe nominated “Please Mr. Kennedy,” which are limited to his chiming in with background noise and musical phrases like “Uh oh!” and “Outer – SPACE!” Still my favorite Oscar Isaac/Adam Driver collaboration! Take that, JJ Abrams!
Only receiving Oscar nominations for cinematography and sound, it did fare better at the Globes with Best Comedy/Musical and Best Actor nods, in addition to Best Song. In subsequent years, it has garnered major acclaim, including being named the 11th best movie of the century in a film critics poll by the BBC in 2016, and by the New York Times in 2017. Take that, Sarah! It was not acknowledged anywhere, so far as I know, for Best Gate of Horn Revisting, placing pivotal scenes at the famed Chicago folk club at Dearborn & Chicago Ave., a corner currently occupied by a parking lot.
This is the Coens’ second movie on the list, following #367 A Serious Man, and they’re escorting longtime favorite John Goodman into the Three-Timers acting club, after his work in #274 Argo and #385 Bee Movie. Joining the Two-Timers is Oscar winner F. Murray Abraham, after his legendary turn as Noah in #279 Muppets From Space.