As I’ve already caught Hail Caesar, watching INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIES (2013) wraps up my Coen Brothers perusing for the time being, and unfortunately not on a high note. Like the Coens’ A Serious Man and Barton Fink, this takes what one of my film books describes as a basic noir concept — the universe suddenly decides to wreck your life for no reason at all — and applies it to a non-crime film. Oscar Isaac plays the eponymous surly folk singer in the early 1960s dealing with professional rejection, a lack of cash, a runaway cat and hitching a ride with a guy who gets hauled in by the cops. As I said of A Serious Man, this is just a string of random bad-luck events with no real plot, and Davies is too unlikable to care (though I agree with several critics his actions are mostly those of a decent guy). Justin Timberlake plays half of a folk-singing duo, F. Murray Abraham runs a record label and John Goodman is an ill-fated jazz man. Might double-bill well with Next Stop, Greenwich Village with its more upbeat portrayal of struggling Big Apple creative types. “I’m not hearing any money in that.”
Just as Woody Allen’s Scoop harkened back to 1930s comedies, so Woody Allen’s MATCH POINT (2006) seems to reflect 1960s social dramas such as Room at the Top with its story of a tennis pro marrying into a wealthy family via smitten Emily Mortimer, then risking his success on an affair with in-law Scarlett Johannson. This is as plodding and dull as Crimes and Misdemeanors. “Did anyone ever tell you you have very sensual lips?”
RUMOR HAS IT (2005) is the best film of the week, a slight but pleasant comedy in which Jennifer Aniston learns her family’s sordid past was the inspiration for The Graduate, hunts down the Benjamin Braddock character (Kevin Costner) in the belief he’s her father, and upon learning he isn’t winds up becoming the third generation of women to fall for him. Mark Ruffalo plays Aniston’s bland fiancee, Shirley Maclaine plays Mrs. Robinson and Mena Suvari is Aniston’s bubbly sister. “Life should be a little nuts—otherwise it’s just a bunch of Thursdays.”
After watching the pilot of FANTASTIC JOURNEY (1977) for Now and Then We Time Travel I kept watching the story of a handful of travelers from different eras struggling through the Bermuda Triangle to find a path back to the present (or for Jared Martin’s Varian, the 23rd century). Rewatching this I can see why I liked it in my teens—the writers do a good job with pulp staples involving mad conquerors, utopian civilizations, sorcerers, etc.—but also why it lasted less than a dozen episodes. The acting is bland (except for Roddy McDowell as cynical scientist Willoway) and the characters except Varian have little besides looks to distinguish them. No great loss to American TV that it didn’t last.
PERSON OF INTEREST on the other hand, I’ll miss greatly, as it wrapped up the final season this year. The cast members continued operating in the shadow of the all-powerful AI Samaritan which we learn was attempting to steer human history in the direction it believed we needed to go. Solid drama, though I can see why a number of fans were angry that Root (Amy Acker) joined the list of dead lesbians who populated TV this year (when I thought most of the heroes would wind up dead it didn’t seem significant, but as the body count turned out to be low …). I still enjoyed the season though.