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HALFTIME REPORT: Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

SportsAlcohol.com cofounder Nathaniel moved to Brooklyn, as you do. His hobbies include cutting up rhubarb and laying down. His favorite things are the band Moon Hooch and custard from Shake Shack. Old ladies love his hair.

With Halftime Report, your good friends at SportsAlcohol.com revisit some of their favorite films from the first half of this decade.

Hang me, oh, hang me. I’ll be dead and gone.
Hang me, oh, hang me. I’ll be dead and gone.
Wouldn’t mind the hanging, but the laying in the grave so long
Poor boy, I’ve been all around this world.

In 2013, Inside Llewyn Davis was met by film fans with an enthusiastic array of reactions that has become fairly familiar for a new Coen Brothers film (particularly the films they’ve released since 2007’s No Country For Old Men). There’s the poring over their meticulous technique, the debates about where the latest film ranks among the brothers’  oeuvre, speculation about how much the film can be read as personal expression by the famously puckish filmmakers, the debates about how despairing or cynical the film’s worldview truly is AND the attendant speculation about how much of that is sincere and how much is a joke on audiences. This last one is something of an evolution of the charge levied against them from the beginning of their career that they hold their characters (and possibly their audience) in contempt. Like A Serious Man, with its story about midwestern Jews in the 1960s that gave critics the purchase to finally analyze a Coen picture with an eye to their biography, Inside Llewyn Davis‘s story of a man adrift after losing a close friend and artistic partner offered a critical approach that allowed people to sidestep whatever lingering questions they still have about the Coens’ sincerity. Here was a movie working through the guys’ feelings about an imagined scenario where one of them died, leaving the other to muddle on alone. It’s a pretty satisfying reading of the film, and it suggests that we can perhaps also map the movie’s take on art, commerce, and the life of an artist as a similarly personal exploration by a couple of filmmakers who have a strange and interesting outsider relationship with Hollywood. But watching it now, after those initial conversations have subsided, I was struck by the way that it employs a classic Coen Brothers shaggy dog comedy of errors structure to tell their most emotional story, crystallized in perhaps the most devastating moment in any of their films. Continue reading HALFTIME REPORT: Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

Listening to Llewyn, Riggan, and Philip: Three Portraits of the Artist as an Asshole

Sara is big into reading and writing fiction like it's her job, because it is. That doesn't mean she isn't real as it gets. She loves real stuff like polka dots, indie rock, and underground fight clubs. I may have made some of that up. I don't know her that well. You can tell she didn't just write this in the third person because if she had written it there would have been less suspect sentence construction.

Unlikeable protagonists have been having something of a Renaissance as of late (so much so that some of us at Sports Alcohol have gone so far as to wonder if we aren’t unlikeable protagonists ourselves). They can be found anywhere, of course, but many films tend to show them thriving (or at least getting by) in the art world. This makes sense, as it’s a place uniquely suited to the working out of personal demons in a public arena – and film is a format uniquely suited to displaying that struggle in immediate and imaginative ways. Three recent films, Inside Llewyn Davis, Birdman, and Listen Up Philip, have done just that, grappling with the great divide that often opens between creators and their creations, particularly once said creations are out in the world for others to consume. Though their chosen mediums vary, from music to theatre to fiction, one thing unites the three artists portrayed in these films: they are total bastards.
Continue reading Listening to Llewyn, Riggan, and Philip: Three Portraits of the Artist as an Asshole