Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

WHO: Joel and Ethan Coen wrote, directed, produced, and (under the pseudonym Roderick Jaynes) edited this.

WHAT: My favorite new Coen Brothers film since No Country For Old Men at least, and perhaps going as far back as their last folk-music-centric film O Brother, Where Art Thou? And though I've seen it only once, I rank it a tentative #10 on my top 10 list of films for the year (the first time a Coen film has made my annual list since I began compiling them, I think). See below for more on that, and for a link to a full-fledged review of the film.

WHERE/WHEN: Multiple showtimes daily for the foreseeable future at various Frisco Bay theatres including the Embarcadero, Kabuki & Empire in San Francisco, the Piedmont in Oakland, the California in Berkeley, the Camera 7 in Campbell, and the Sequoia in Mill Valley, among others.

WHY: I picked the above screen capture (from the trailer to Inside Llewyn Davis) not only because it was one of my favorite shots in the film, but because I knew I'd be using the occasion of this post to roll out my annual year-end-lists of new movies seen in 2013. And the sentiment seems apropos for a post that feels in some ways as thought-out, ill-judged, and pregnant with indeterminate permanence as a graffiti scrawl.

This post also completes my experiment of putting a post-a-day about a local Frisco Bay screening up on this blog every day in 2013- more on that endeavor in a future post, I promise, but for now I'll say that the process definitely altered my viewing patterns for the year.  I found myself watching even more repertory and experimental films to the exclusion of new films than I usually have, and more commercial US fare than foreign films. I also, for the first time since 2005, didn't venture out of Frisco Bay to any film festivals this year, which I suspect has had a hand in shaping the character of this list as a whole. Finally, I made less time to rewatch favorite new films, which makes this selection feel a bit more shaped by first impressions than usual. This means the ordering of the list beyond #1 is fairly arbitrary, and that the runners-up may have some claim on some of the lower-rung slots.

On the other hand, because I was filling content for my blog every day, I ended up writing at least a few words, and sometimes a few more than that, on each of these films placed on my top 10. I have linked the appropriate article, and, since these writings are basically informal musings of varying lengths, added a link to a particularly favored review by someone who has taken the time and thought to craft a serious critical piece on each in my top ten.

1. Leviathan (Véréna Paravel & Lucien Castaing-Taylor) Max Goldberg
2. Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach) - Vadim Rizov
3. Like Someone In Love (Abbas Kiarostami) - Kenji Fujishima
4. The Place Beyond The Pines (Derek Cianfrance) - Michael Sicinski
5. Drug War (Johnnie To) Hua Hsu
6. 12 Years A Slave (Steve McQueen) - ReBecca Theodore-Vachon
7. The Lone Ranger (Gore Verbinski) - Ryland Walker Knight
8. All Is Lost (J.C. Chandor) Dana Stevens
9. Upstream Color (Shane Carruth) - Cheryl Eddy
10. Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel Coen & Ethan Coen) - Adam Nayman

Runners-up, alphabetically by title: At Berkeley (Frederick Wiseman), Computer Chess (Andrew Bujalski) Metallica Through the Never (Nimród Antal)Our Nixon (Penny Lane), Passion (Brian De Palma), The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese)

Ten (as far as I know) undistributed favorites, alphabetically by title: Big Joy: the James Broughton (Stephen Silha, Eric Slade & Dawn Logsdon) Bright Mirror (Paul Clipson), Dusty Stacks of Mom (Jodie Mack), Lost Landscapes of San Francisco 8 (Rick Prelinger), My Way To Olympia (Niko von Glasow), The Realist (Scott Stark), The Strange Little Cat (Ramon Zürcher), Tokyo Family (Yoji Yamada), Verses (James Sansing), Walker (Tsai Ming-Liang)

HOW: Inside Llewyn Davis has digital showings only, which is a shame because it was shot on 35mm by cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel, and is rumored to be the last Coen Brothers film to be shot on film (Delbonnel has already stepped into the digital world with next year's shot-in-North Beach release Big Eyes). Or perhaps it's not such a shame after all, as the Coens note they edit digitally and in fact pioneered the use of digital intermediates with  O Brother, Where Art Thou?)


  1. Well, Merry Listmas to you too!! Man, am I glad this listgiving season is coming to a close; but, what a great way to wrap up: with your top ten, Michael Hawley's top ten, and David Hudson's top ten. So refreshing to see more than the same annointed five films; thanks for that! Looking forward to seeing you soon in a theater near you.

  2. Though I, sadly, hardly entered a cinema this year, I am happy to have an alternate someday-viewing guide in this list. (The cause of my lack of cinema-going, aka Hildy, would probably put CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2 in the number-one slot. Incidentally and incredibly, I quite liked it, too.)

  3. Brian: Happy New Year! Sorry you're giving up your daily stint but I realize the extra work involved, I caught, and liked, Drug War last night on DVD from Le Video, and may try Lone Ranger similarly tonight if you don't think it will lose too much that way, I missed chances to see it in 35mm at the Castro and Blue Light. Drug War by the way looked better on my TV than the few minutes of it I walked in on in a washed out video projection at the Four Star. That leaves the Coens the other item on your list I haven't seen and there I'm hoping there will be (as happened a few times in 2013) a later appearance on film somewhere. I will make my own list in a day or two but I definitely share your enthusiasm for The Place Beyond The Pines.

  4. Michael, I'm excited to see you soon! Noir City, I presume?

    Lucy, glad to be of service! I definitely craft my year-end-lists with an eye to longevity (which is one reason why films like Spring Breakers and Gravity don't make the cut- they feel very much of 2013 but I sense I'll see them as rather dated within a few years) so hopefully my selections work as a useful time capsule.

    Lawrence, I too hope for a 35mm Inside Llewyn Davis booking, but am not counting on it. Haven't heard of any film-on-film screenings in other cities on that particular title yet (unlike, for instance, the Great Beauty which I still hold out hope for coming in that format, perhaps if it wins a Golden Globe or Oscar). I guess I'm lucky I saw Drug War at the Metreon and not the 4-Star, though I'm very glad I saw 12 Years A Slave at the latter venue, on 35mm. I notice it's at least still screening at the Camera 3 on film. As for The Lone Ranger on DVD, I'm not sure how it will work on a small screen- do you have a home projector and nice speakers? That might help. I don't think it would have made it out of the "runner-up" category on the strength of my first two (digital) screenings. The 35mm photography, especially in the desert scenes, really came alive in the print the Castro screened- my third viewing.