Inside Llewyn Davis
"Inside Llewyn Davis" is the most satisfyingly diabolical cinematic structure that the Coens have ever contrived, and that's just one reason that I suspect it…
When I caught up with "Iron Man," a broken hip had delayed me and the movie had already been playing for three weeks. What I heard during that time was that a lot of people loved it, that they were surprised to love it so much, and that Robert Downey Jr.'s performance was special. Apart from that, all I knew was that the movie was about a big iron man. I didn't even know that a human occupied it, and halfway thought that the Downey character's brain had been transplanted into a robot, or a fate equally weird.
I got caught in the Indiana Jones whirlwind and allowed an important anniversary to pass unremarked: On May 16, Studs Terkel celebrated his 96th birthday. One of the great American lives continues to unfold. If I know Studs, the great day passed with calls and visits from friends, and the ceremonious imbibing of one (1) gin martini, very dry. I hope he has eliminated the daily cigar, but I'm not taking odds. If you don't know Studs, there are few people you can meet more easily in print. He is the greatest conversationalist I've met, the author of a shelf-full of books in which he engages people from all walks of life in thoughtful conversations about their own lives.
At noon Sunday, I attended a press screening of "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." I returned to my laptop, wrote my review and sent it off, convinced I would be in a minority. I loved it, but then I'm also the guy who loved "Beowulf," and look at the grief that got me. Now Indy's early reviews are in, and I'm amazed to find myself in an enthusiastic majority. The Tomatometer stands at 78, and the more populist IMDb user rating is 9.2 out of 10. All this before the movie's official opening on Thursday.
After the release of his "Standard Operating Procedures," the director Errol Morris writes me: This movie seems to have incited controversy, almost as if I broke some sort of rule or series of rules. The ultimate mystery is people. They are often mysteries not only to others but to themselves. Almost everyone wants to dismiss the bad apples rather than look at them, as if there is nothing inherently interesting in their stories. Oh well. The words "to themselves" hold the key.
David Mamet's recent "Redbelt" is an example of a kind of movie that needs a name. It's not precisely a thriller, or a suspense picture, or a police procedural, and although it occupies the territory of film noir, it's not a noir. I propose this kind of film be named a Twister, because it's made from plot twists, and in a way the twists are the real subject.
My previous blog item, "Hillary and Bill: The Movie," has inspired a lot of comments, and some of them utterly baffle me. They take it for granted that I am pro-Hillary, if not necessarily anti-Obama. I've read the item again and believe it is neutral, as it was intended to be. I'm a political creature, but I intend to keep partisan politics out of this journal, which will, and should, deal only with the movies in various ways. I think those comments do, however, reveal something about how we watch movies.
I woke up at about 3:30 a.m. and went online to see if Obama had pulled a victory out of Indiana. He had narrowed Clinton's head to two points by midnight and later added a few more votes, but the story was basically about the same: Clinton's winning margin was so small that it didn't much count, and Obama would be the likely Presidential nominee. Then I started wondering, in the vaporous midnight hours, about how you could make a movie of this primary campaign.
The Answer Man got a message the other day from a guy who wanted to know why the major critics all run with a herd mentality. He goes to Cream of the Crop at Rotten Tomatoes and on some films they all agree, with maybe a couple of holdouts. I've noticed this, too.
Fanzines were mimeographed magazines that were circulated by mail among science fiction fans in the days before the internet. They still are, for all I know, although now they're generated by computer printers.
I first learned about them in a 1950s issue of Amazing Stories and eagerly sent away 10 or 20 cents to Buck and Juanita Coulson in Indiana, whose Yandro was one of the best and longest-running of them all. Overnight, I was a fan, although not yet a BNF (big name fan). It was a thrill for me to have a LOC (letter of comment) published on such issues as the demise of BEMs (bug-eyed monsters), and soon I was publishing my own fanzine, named Stymie.
I said the other day my first professional newspaper job was as a sports writer. It was the autumn of 1958, and I was writing for the high school paper. Urbana High sports were being covered for The News-Gazette by a young writer named Dick Saunders, who was promoted and asked to "name his own successor." How grand that sounds! He liked my stuff and hired me at The News-Gazette for, as I said, 75 cents an hour. To see my byline in print in a real paper for the first time was an experience not unlike winning the Pulitzer Prize. Better, probably.