by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
Well I’m happy you asked. I saw it last weekend at Film Streams. This one won’t drive a resurgence of interest in folk music the way the Coen Brother’s O Brother, Where Art Thou? drove a resurgence in traditional blue grass, because the music heard in the film isn’t much different than modern-day indie folk. I never felt like I was listening to “old fashioned” music. And while Oscar Isaac does a fine job in the lead role (I can’t imagine Conor Oberst playing this part, and in the end, neither could Conor), nothing about his musical performance stood out. But maybe it wasn’t supposed to, as this is a story about a folk musician struggling to make it during the Greenwich Village folk scene circa 1961, and ultimately failing while others around him (except for the character played by Girls star Adam Driver) were catching fire.
Not so strangely I found a lot of similarities between the ’60s folk world depicted in the movie and the current-day local indie music scene. Both showed musicians struggling to get attention, get gigs, get people to pay attention to their albums. When Llewyn saves a case of his unsold records from a trash bin I couldn’t help but think of all the local acts who have basements full of unsold vinyl and CDs. Throughout the film, Llewyn struggles just to get by, not unlike a lot of musicians I’ve known over the years living on the fringes.
Favorite song in the film is Justin Timberlake and Carey Mulligan doing a cover of “500 Miles.” Best cameo is John Goodman as burned out (and probably dying) jazz man Roland Turner who Llewyn finds himself trapped with on a cross-country trip from NYC to Chicago. Turner has no love for folk music, and his non-stop insults are funny and disturbing. Another favorite scene is Llewyn, Timberlake and Adam Driver recording a novelty pop tune.
Beyond those scenes, there’s a lot of walking around New York and driving from place to place. This is one of those Coen films where nothing much happens. It’s a character study of both a time period and a musician trapped within it, struggling to make a mark while pondering if it’s even worth the effort. It’s a story that’s all too familiar, and definitely worth seeing.
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A footnote to the above: I suffered through what can only be described as the most annoying film-going experience in my life during this screening. Some guy sat right behind me and spent the first half of the film eating something wrapped in a crinkly-crunkly package the noise of which was only drowned out by the sound of his saliva-ocean chomping. Add to that his severe case of halitosis and you’ve got a rather grisly two hours on your hands. Halfway through the film he finished his packaged treat, only to go to the concessions and buy a jumbo tub of popcorn, which he gorged on the remainder of this rather quiet film. Rather than bitch, I moved to the front of the theater.
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Footnote Two: I also saw Her this past weekend and rather liked it. It’s kind of like The Shop Around the Corner or You Got Mail except the main characters never meet each other. I couldn’t get over how much Joaquin Phoenix in this film resembles Omaha artist Justin Beller. We call it “the Justin Beller movie.”
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Footnote Three: Her was directed by Spike Jonze, who had the best three minutes of acting in The Wolf of Wall Street, a film rife with cartoony over-acting. Not exactly Scorsese’s finest moment.
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And now back to our regularly scheduled programming
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One national show tonight for heavy metal fans: Pantera’s Phil Anselmo brings his solo project (with his band The Illegals) to The Waiting Room tonight. Opening is Author & Punisher & Hymns (no idea who this is). $20, 8 p.m.
I like these 8 p.m. start times.
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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.
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