I purposely tried not to learn anything about Inside Llewyn Davis before seeing it, but the whole tone is right there in the title, in the hero's difficult name. The movie never pushes the joke too hard, but it's understood that Llewyn has spent his life telling people how to correctly pronounce his name (it's Welsh). I wanted to come into Inside Llewyn Davis completely cold and get enveloped in its wintry early ’60s New York milieu. There is nothing like listening to a record for the first time before you've read any of the reviews. From the little bit of information I did know, I expected a patchwork quilt movie about the Greenwich Village folk music of the early ’60s, an Almost Famous for the Joan Baez set, A Mighty Wind played straight. But the Coens don't play straight, they play sideways. What I got instead is a series of circular vignettes, a small epic narrative about inner loneliness. Inside Llewyn Davis concerns the trials of its titular hero, played by Oscar Isaac with a winsome sensitivity that allows his character to get away with a lot of selfish acts.
Inside Llewyn Davis often feels like the male counterpart to Noah Baumbach's contemporary-set Frances Ha, with their corresponding stories of New York slackers nearing the end of their salad days with no money saved up for their steak years. When friends remind them that the future is looming, they bristle defensively and double down on flightiness. They know that they'll still have to make big choices in the coming years one way or another, whether by choosing on purpose or choosing by omission, Hamlet-style. Banking on art to pay the rent is risky even when there is no other option, and frustrating when you are surrounded by people who make it look easy, either because of inherited wealth, dumb luck, or because they are Bob Dylan. It's so hard to pull off that for most of both movies, neither one actually has an apartment. Instead they drift from couch to couch, sometimes conjuring goodwill out of nowhere and other times accidentally burning it up. They spend vacations in the homes of rich acquaintances under a cloud of understanding that a lifestyle of ease might be permanently out of their own grasp.
The American Music Awards have gone down for four decades now. Four decades! That's a remarkable run for an event that, let's be honest, we all totally forget exists unless we're within 36 hours on either side of its broadcast. Which is to say this: The AMAs were on last night. Were they any good? Were they any good? They were the American Music Awards!
Taylor Swift won Artist of the Year (here's your full list of winners), but the night was actually carried by Timberlake. He got to run up for a bunch of awards early on, and each time was game enough to offer us his best Studio 8H shtick: correctly complimenting the cuteness of Rihanna's mother (more on that later); making consciously dumb "I can't believe I won this award, whatever this award is!" faces; in general carrying the correct amount of playful, respectable disdain for every single thing happening. (Let's give him points for bantering with Sarah Silverman, too, even though the sentence "This is the first time I have ever been racially profiled by a white lady" actually makes no sense. Bro bro, white people are usually the ones doing the racial profiling.) But JT's greatest accomplishment popped up early: It came during Pitbull's opening monologue's Olympic-level inanity, and it was making this face for a good 43 seconds.
When you think about Justin Timberlake, you don't immediately envision him covered in feces. Having said that, Gentlemen's Quarterly has just announced its Man of the Year issue, and one of those men is Justin Timberlake. Congrats to Justin Timberlake.
Accompanying the accolade was an intimate feature on Timberlake, with the author spending time with him in the Memphis Grizzlies arena, asking him questions about life. The first sentence of the piece is a sort of PSA from Justin Timberlake.
Harrison Ford is 71 now, and he's just so over trying to be cordial when he doesn't want to be. For example, take erstwhile Grantlander and current GQ-er Zach Baron's attempt to highlight Ford's apparent interest in the sci-fi genre, on the eve of Ender's Game. "If you say so," Ford said/likely growled. Quizzed on our national interest in Hunger Games–style narratives, Ford offers the flat, "Beats the shit out of me." Old Harrison Ford just cracked the top three for Harrison Ford roles.
Award shows still happen. And they still give out awards at these award shows. And unfortunately, they continue to dictate how the populace interprets and categorizes music. One of those shows is the American Music Awards, and its list of nominees were announced this morning.
With some thrillers, you can tell everybody's lying. It's not because the writing says everybody's lying! It's because that's what the acting is saying. In Runner Runner, it looks like everybody's lying, and that's only because the acting is pretty bad.
The world of online gambling is meant to be the source of the movie's thrill. Ben Affleck is Ivan Block, the goony jawline behind a fraudulent poker operation called Midnight Black. One of its victims, a Princeton brat named Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake), wants his money back. (Get in line, Richie!) The goon backs the brat into working for him in Costa Rica. The brat needs the money. He also needs the goon not to hurt his father. But the FBI — represented by Anthony Mackie, in the hat he wore in The Adjustment Bureau — is closing in, and so are the local cops. Will Richie help catch Ivan? Will Ivan stop feeding Costa Ricans to crocodiles long enough to notice he's being played? Is the government shutdown ever going to end?
Sorry, but I actually had that thought while this movie bored me stiff.
Justin Timberlake Cheating on Jessica Biel? Has JT "grown out of his womanizing ways" since marrying Jessica Biel? Timberlake was in Rio de Janeiro for the Rock in Rio festival, and "reports surfaced that the 'Mirrors' singer, 32, cheated on wife Jessica Biel after he was spotted kissing married Brazilian actress Thaila Ayala." Hey at least they're both married! (To other people.) "The gorgeous brunette, who wed actor Paulo Vilhena in 2011, added further speculation to the rumors after she posted an Instagram video of Justin performing at the festival with the caption, 'A childhood dream — meet Justin and have him singing a song in front of you.'" Justin "laughed off the claims" but wife "Jessica, 31, wasn't so easygoing. She flipped out. She's afraid that Justin is incapable of controlling his impulses." While Biel and Timberlake were dating, but not married, Timberlake was also rumored to have "had a three-day fling with actress Olivia Munn," plus hookups with Mila Kunis and possibly ex Cameron Diaz. Timberlake is headed out on a world tour, which means Biel is on high alert. "Jess is really worried. She wants to believe that he'll be faithful, but it's hard to tune out all the chatter suggesting otherwise."
You’d have to be foolish to argue that 2013 hasn’t been an incredibly successful year for Justin Timberlake. His first new album since 2006, The 20/20 Experience, is the year’s best-selling LP. That album’s most popular single, “Mirrors,” ranks among the most ubiquitous tracks on pop radio. Timberlake recently completed a summer tour of stadiums with Jay Z, and he’ll be back on the road this fall and winter for what should be another highly lucrative swing through North American arenas. In spite of a long hiatus (seven years) and his advanced age for a pop star (32), Timberlake has unquestionably reestablished himself as perhaps the strongest commercial brand in contemporary music.
And yet … is it possible to be wildly popular without being particularly loved? Let me put it another way: If I had told you a year ago that airwaves in the summer of ’13 would be dominated by two ’70s-style throwback dance jams featuring Pharrell Williams, surely you would’ve assumed that at least one of those songs would be by Timberlake. And, shockingly, you’d be wrong. JT is inarguably a huge star, but his music hasn’t really permeated the culture this year. The record industry expectations for The 20/20 Experience were so monumental that the album’s huge sales seem like the product of centrifugal force — it is the one record from 2013 that was simply too big to fail. Seven months on, it’s basically the album version of Iron Man 3.
Which means it’s only natural that this lumbering blockbuster has already spawned a sequel — though, if you want to be technical about it, The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2 was always supposed to be joined with its predecessor as a 150-minute, 21-song (plus a hidden bonus track) opus. Both albums do share a fair amount of thematic territory: the ridiculous “show business as a metaphor for sex” song “Cabaret” recalls the first album’s “Tunnel Vision”; the extended Thriller-inspired workout “True Blood” is reminiscent of the jammy “Let the Groove Get In”; the velvet-voiced balladry of “You Got It On” is cut from the same cloth as “Strawberry Bubblegum.”
You might have read about the iHeartRadio Music Festival about a billion times over the weekend, prompting you to ask, "What the hell is the iHeartRadio Music Festival, or for that matter iHeartRadio, and why should I care?" The answers are: (a) an annual gigantic multi-day concert that takes place in Las Vegas and features headlining pop acts; (b) a Clear Channel Internet radio station/app that aggregates streaming radio from thousands of stations worldwide; and (c) there is really no reason that you should, but in its three years of existence it has become basically unavoidable because Clear Channel Inc. is a huge monster that owns everything in the universe.
The name iHeartRadio (a spin-off of iHeartMusic) is actually pretty horrible, because Clear Channel is the exemplary evil behemoth that ruined radio as a free-form art medium and turned it into the crappy payola-based system it is today. Since Clear Channel destroyed radio's character, individualism, and quality, we instead get giant corporate music festivals like this one, hosted by the giant corporation named Ryan Seacrest. Last year's festival became notorious after Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong broke down onstage in a drunken rant after mistakenly believing his time had been cut short. Armstrong peppered his stage banter with bons mots like "I'm not fucking Justin Bieber, you motherfuckers!," his bandmates smashed their instruments, and Armstrong checked into rehab immediately. That was by far the most interesting and spontaneous thing to happen all night, raising hopes that this year's festival might be more than the usual parade of super-well-paid headlining acts paying homage to the gods of Clear Channel.
No such luck. Anyway, this year at the iHeartMoney iMeanMusic Festival, the headliners were Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake, and Miley Cyrus. Henceforth, the relative highlights.
James Franco — a person who long ago traded sleeping for producing his varied brands of art, art, and more art — apparently has a new hobby: He's self-papping. In a series of photos posted on his Instagram feed, Franco dedicated the staged images to sites like Just Jared, Gawker, and Perez Hilton and graffitied them with MS Paint messages: There he is making out with a blonde woman in a car ("Look closely Mr. Roadhead!"), and then he's over there, kissing a dude ("Just a Franco afternoon," #gay). I guess when you're feeling violated, it makes sense that you'd want to take matters into your own hands.
This one's for Emily, whose Newsroom recaps are almost enough to make me dive back in — but not quite. Funny or Die has spoofed the opening scene of Sorkin's most divisive show in "A Message to Aaron Sorkin," allowing Luke Barnett (as Will McAvoy) to illustrate exactly why the show is un-sit-throughable to so many viewers who wish that it could only be good. We're supposed to be content with snappy patter? "Sherlock has dialogue, Gilmore Girls has dialogue, House, Veronica Mars, even Buffy the Vampire Slayer has a zinger every now and again" [wait, "even"? GIVE BUFFY HER DUE]. The video also compares The Newsroom's Golden Globe nominations to "winning a most-improved award in your eighth grade math class." Ouch.
It is currently 83 degrees in New York, 450 degrees in Los Angeles, and 800 in many parts of the Midwest. It's either too hot to breathe or about to thunderstorm until Tuesday. I can't think of a better place to be this weekend than in a cold movie theater with a bunch of strangers, alongside of whom you can revel in hate-watching one of the worst-reviewed movies in recent memory, Getaway. Yesterday The Wrap reported that the Ethan Hawke–Selena Gomez flick might be a rare dud, one that hangs onto its perfect 0 percent Rotten Tomatoes score, but then some kindhearted soul praised Ethan Hawke's performance (in contrast to Gomez's alternating "petulance and indifference") and Getaway can now boast a 2 percent rating with 87 reviews. Here's Peter Travers dropping the mic: "Selena Gomez, looking like a Munchkin in a hoodie [Editor's note: like a GIRL in a Hoodie? I thought so. Join us, Selena], tries to steal the car at gunpoint. Why? Because the dumbass script told her to. Why does she keep calling Brent and everyone else in the movie an asshole? Because she's right. For 89 minutes that feel like 89 hours, cars speed out of control and crash doing only PG-13 damage. The damage to your brain while watching it is incalculable."
Scrutiny over the Man of Steel sequel, and Batman's return alongside Superman, would have been fierce no matter who was cast. But in going with their boy Ben Affleck, and nailing a perfect swirl of aptness and WTF-ness, Warner Bros. has launched fevered anticipation over its big tentpole into the stratosphere. And again: This thing doesn't even shoot until next year. (In Detroit!) Anyway: In the coming months, with actual news hard to come by, expect a lot of side-chatter, like Justin Timberlake — who stars alongside Affleck in the upcoming Runner Runner — being asked if he'd play Robin.