In my review for the recent remake of Oldboy I wrote, “There is no more manly-man actor in the mold of Lee Marvin or Lee Van Cleef working today.”
I guess that shouldn’t be a surprise given that he was named after the rough-and-tumble character Josh Randall played by Steve McQueen in TV’s Wanted: Dead or Alive.
In Oldboy he’s so tough he’s a practically indestructible force of nature; able to withstand physical punishment that would make Grigori Rasputin look like a wimp.
The tough guy angle is one Brolin plays in a number of films, including his latest Labor Day. He plays an escaped convict who hides out in the home of a depressed, widowed agoraphobic, played by Kate Winslet. Over the course of one long holiday weekend she learns of his dangerous past and before you can say the words Stockholm Syndrome has fallen for the ruggedly handsome stranger.
It’s the kind of role that Brolin has mastered; the multi-layered tough guy but according to him, he doesn’t seek out those roles.
He says he wracks his “brain like crazy trying to figure out which films I wanted to be in.”
Some of those films include No Country for Old Men and Jonah Hex.
In the Oscar nominated No Country he plays down-on-his-luck Llewelyn Moss, who stumbles across the site of a drug deal gone wrong. Bullet-ridden dead men litter the landscape along with several kilos of heroin and a suitcase stuffed with two million dollars in cash. When he makes off with the money his life and the lives of those around him are changed forever.
Jonah Hex didn’t earn any Oscar nods, but did get some Razzie attention in the form of nominations for Worst Screen Couple for Brolin and co-star Megan Fox. The story of a supernatural bounty hunter set on revenge against the man who killed his family is as disfigured as its main character’s face but Brolin brings his real-life swagger to the role and has fun with some of the tongue-in-what’s-left-of-his-cheek lines.
One tough guy role got away from him however. On-line speculation had it that he would be cast as the Caped Crusader in the upcoming Batman vs. Superman. Although he would have been perfect for the part he lost out to Ben Affleck. Contrary to his bruiser persona he was gracious in defeat. “I’m happy for Ben,” he said.
“January 12, 1965. Very snowy that day. 7.2 inches of snow that day.” – Rain Man
1. Snow Business Hollywood, a leader in providing fake snow for movies, says they have 168 products they can use to create screen snow. What’s the advantage to filmmakers of using artificial snow on a film set? “You can control it,” says owner Roland Hathaway. “Also, you’re never dealing with the cold weather.”
2. To create the sound of swirling snow heard on Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back
Foley Artists recorded surf sounds and tinkered with the sound by raising and lowering the volume. The Empire Strikes Back was shot at Elstree Studios, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, England, the same film studio where The Shining was made. As a result much of the fake snow used for Kubrick’s film was also used for the Hoth scenes.
3. Asbestos was often used as fake snow in Hollywood films in the 1930s and 40s. The White Christmas sequence in Holiday Inn—showing Bing Crosby singing the classic tune amid the falling snow—exposed the cast and crew to asbestos fiber.
4. The “snowy” maze near the conclusion of The Shining consisted of 900 tons of salt and crushed Styrofoam.
5. Fake snow was also used during the uncharacteristically snowless Denver shoot for Die Hard 2.
6. Sam Raimi learned some techniques about shooting in heavy snow or A Simple Plan from the Coen brothers, friends of his who had been responsible for Fargo.
7. It’s a Wonderful Life was shot in the sweltering heat of a Los Angeles summer in 1946, necessitating the need for fake snow. Instead of using cornflakes painted white—which was loud when stepped on—director Frank Capra and RKO studio’s head of special effects Russel Sherman invented a quiet—and sprayable—version by mixing foamite with sugar, water and soap flakes to create the winter wonderland of Bedford Falls.
8. The usually snowy Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport was chosen as the location for the field and terminal scenes in Airport but the film’s producers had to use bleached sawdust as a supplement, to make up for the lack of falling snow, until a snowstorm hit the Twin Cities area during the production of the film.
9. A “beginner” model movie snow machine will set you back about £1000 ($1584.02 in Canadian dollars.)
10. To create blowing snow for a scene, throw laundry soap flakes or instant potato flake in front of a powerful fan. Be warned! Soap flakes can make the set slippery. To make laying snow mix 1⅓ cups of liquid starch, 4 cups of laundry soap flakes and several drops of blue food colouring. To add a sparkling effect, add glitter.
More a character study than a traditional narrative, “Inside Llewyn Davis” lives up to its name by painting a vivid portrait of its main character. Once you get inside Llewyn’s head you probably won’t want to hang out with the guy in real life, but you won’t regret spending two hours with him onscreen.
Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is an ambitious folksinger trying to make his voice heard in the center of the folk universe, 1961 Greenwich Village. Essentially homeless, he sofa surfs, imposing himself on an ever dwindling list of friends as he tries to deal with a cold New York winter, a shady record company, a wayward cat, a soured relationship and his career frustrations. Add to that the haunting memory of a former musical partner and you have an abstract parable about artistic temperament and the quest for success.
“Inside Llewyn Davis” opens with a song, the folk standard “Hang Me, Oh Hang Me.” Performed in its entirety, it telegraphs that the music won’t be relegated to the background; that it will be telling part of the story.
Onstage we see Llewyn at his best. He’s an angel-voiced troubadour whose passionate performances contain the intensity with which he lives his off stage life. Oscar Isaac, in his first leading role after smaller parts in “Sucker Punch,” “Drive” and “W.E.,” has a built-in broodiness that services the character well. He’s a sullen guy, always borrowing money or asking a favor without offering much in return except his talent. It’s a carefully crafted but subtle portrait of the rocky terrain between brilliance and the rest of society.
The loose nature of the story allows for many cameos. People drift through Llewyn’s life like Jean (Carey Mulligan), a foul-mouthed folk singer with a sweet voice and her naïve partner Jim (Justin Timberlake). Mulligan is fiery; an embittered woman angry with Llewyn for very personal reason. Timberlake redeems himself for “Runner Runner” with a nice extended cameo as a wide-eyed folksinger who isn’t as talented as Llewyn but is destined to be more successful.
Garrett Hedlund appears as a monosyllabic beat poet to good effect, but it is John Goodman who wins the cameo showdown. As a jaded jazz player Roland Turner—who sneeringly pronounces ukulele as “ookelele”—he’s as vile a character as has ever appeared in a Coen Bros movie, (which is really saying something). Goodman seems to relish wallowing in the toad-like character’s most unsavory aspects and I suspect audiences will too.
“Inside Llewyn Davis” is a fictional look at the vibrant Greenwich Village folk scene. Imagine the cover of “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” come to life. Sharp-eyed folkies will note not-so-coincidental similarities between the people Llewyn meets and real-life types like Tom Paxton, Alert Grossman and Mary Travers, but this isn’t a history, it’s a feel. It gives us an under-the-covers look at struggles and naked ambition it takes to get noticed.
In the new Coen Brothers film Inside Llewyn Davis Golden Globe nominee Oscar Isaac works opposite an all-star cast. From Justin Timberlake to Carey Mulligan and John Goodman there’s no shortage of star power on the marquee.
There was one co-star, however, he wasn’t looking forward to working with. In fact, he described working with a red Mackerel cat named Ulysses as “daunting.”
“I’m not afraid of cats,” he says, “but a cat put me in the hospital once. It bit me. Ninety percent of cat bites are highly infectious. The next morning I woke up with a red line going up my arm. It had gotten into my lymphatic system. I had to go to the hospital and I was there for two days. That was six years ago.
“Then you cut to the Coens and they’re like, ‘We’ve got five cats and we’re going to attach them to you and you’re going to run as fast as you can.’ It was daunting.”
In his first leading role the thirty-three year old actor, who previously had smaller parts in Sucker Punch, Drive and W.E., plays a broody folk singer in 1961 Greenwich Village. To pull off the role he had to perform many songs live on film, an experience he describes as “so incredibly joyful I have no way of communicating it.”
“I knew I could play Llewyn. I knew what was required, which was playing these amazing, beautiful old folk songs that have been passed down. So the songs are great. I’m working with [executive music producer] T-Bone [Burnett} and he’s going to tell me if I am sounding false and is building my confidence throughout and Joel and Ethan [Coen] are filming it so in a way you’d have to try really hard to f**k that up.”
Inside Llewyn Davis is garnering attention for the young actor. Recently he was on the Today show when his name was announced as a Best Actor Golden Globe nominee.
“After the segment was over I went downstairs,” he says. “Then my name came out and I was immediately escorted up the steps to get back on, in front of the cameras to get reaction before I even had a moment to possibly formulate what I would say about it. It’s such a huge thing. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that I was even cast in this movie.”
I’m not sure the soundtrack for “Inside Llewyn Davis” is going to do for folk music what “O Brother, Where Art Thou” did for bluegrass, but the tunes are fantastic and the “novelty hit” “Please Mr. Kennedy” (performed by Justin Timberlake, Adam Driver and Oscar Isaac) is a showstopper that’s place Dr. Demento and all other music louvers on your list.
Synopsis: The last couple of weeks have offered up the odd little treat at the movies, like an amuse-bouche to get our taste buds primed for the tastier stuff to follow in December. Not only does the 12th month give us Christmas, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa and New Year’s Eve, we also get a delicious buffet of great movies. This week the Reel Guys look ahead to the 31 days that sate our appetite for great movies while feeding the voraciously hungry Oscars.
Richard: Mark, people complain that trailers give away too much of the story, but one upcoming movie has been releasing trailer after trailer — usually not a good sign — and has yet to reveal itself. Apparently The Wolf of Wall Street, directed by Scorsese (do I have to write his first name? I don’t think so) and starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Matthew McConaughey, is going to clock in at three hours, so no trailer, no matter how long or how many, can give away all the good stuff. All they have done is make me eager to see this stockbroker meltdown story. What’s grabbed you? Mark: I’m looking forward to The Wolf of Wall Street too. But I’ve already decided that Inside Llewyn Davis, the new Coen Bros movie about the Greenwich Village folk scene in 1961, will be my favourite movie of the year. Perhaps I should actually SEE the film before making my decision, but I know, Richard, I just know! I’ve been waiting for someone to make a movie like this for a long time, and who better than the Coen Bros? The trailer looks terrific and Justin Timberlake looks perfect in his orange alpaca cardigan, not that it would influence my decision in the least.
RC: Timberlake is such a conundrum for me. He’s a wildly talented guy whose movies frequently don’t work. My fingers are crossed that for him, Llewyn is more Social Network than Runner Runner. Saving Mr. Banks is another one I’m looking forward to. I’m a sucker for old Hollywood so the story of Walt Disney (played by Tom Hanks) wooing P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) for the rights to Mary Poppins is up my alley. That, and I’d watch Thompson do anything — bake a chicken, read the phonebook or play an uptight spinster.
MB: Here’s a guilty pleasure: Grudge Match, the story of two aging boxers facing off for the first time in 50 years. Since the boxers are played by De Niro and Stallone, it’s like a dream mash-up: Raging Bull vs Rocky! I’m hoping Will Smith gets a dream sequence cameo as Ali. And let’s not forget American Hustle, David O. Russell’s new film about greed, lust, politics, and the Mafia. Sounds like a perfect title. RC: Three things make me want to see American Hustle: the trailers (which are awesome), Christian Bale’s beer gut and Jennifer Lawrence’s extravagant hairdos.
MB: Wait! Make that De Niro’s beer gut and Stallone’s hairdo and it’s a Grudge Match!