Monday, January 6, 2014



To those who HAVE seen it, well I'm glad you saw it. It's not my favorite Coen Bros movie, but I have had a keen interest in seeing it since I heard that it was coming out. I was ready to 'love' it but didn't. BUT, it's grown on me…like a Brooklyn-ite beard.

To my astonishment, the Coens, and by extension, T Bone Burnett, had gone almost a complete year and a half of spoon feeding the movie through the media and they were able to conceal Oscar Isaac's musicianship until the official release of the trailer and soundtrack. WOW! I said it last year, I'll say it again: Everyone will know who Oscar Isaac is very soon. 

Since my own project is closely related, the timing couldn't be much better. My trailer will be officially released in a matter of days and I hope my film will be highly considered along with the Coen's ode to the Village.

For the regular reader of my blog, you know that my "project" is a true life story about the Village scene. If you liked Inside Llewyn Davis, you'll love POSITIVELY PORCO. If you didn't like ''ILD,'' you'll still love POSITIVELY PORCO. 

My movie is about the real life events and people that shaped the Greenwich Village scene. My grandfather, Mike, hosted them all in his 'living room.' He shared beers with them and gave them work on his stage. He made phone calls for them to get them press and attention. He never asked for a cut of the take. The musicians kept coming back to Gerde's Folk City…and it wasn't for the food.

Inside Llewyn Davis takes place the week ''before Dylan." The period of my story is mainly 1960-1980. It includes the present day but it's mostly about the 20 years AFTER Bob Dylan made his way across the Hudson. 

Inside Llewyn Davis seems to be about the cat. To me it is. And it's in the script. When Llewyn reports over the phone to Mitch Gorfein's Columbia University teaching department that he "has the cat," it's misheard as "Llewyn is the cat.'' Am I reading too much into it? Of course I am.  

The receptionist is wrong in the context of the phone call but it's right in the script. He cares for the cat. Races to the fridge to get milk for it. He loses the cat, finds the cat and takes it to Chicago. Almost. 

Later, Llewyn shows that he's mainly worried about his own neck, certainly not a cat's. He'll run you over on the way to a warm bed if he has to. 

Meanwhile, back in New York, lo and behold, the cat's alive! He's found his way back to the Gorfein's for dinner!! Upon returning from the road trip, here they are...both the cat and the musician.

Even though Llewyn may have already ran him over on the Highway, Llewyn and the real "Ulysses" are reunited. The presence of the cat brings pleasure to Llewyn. The feeling is no longer mutual. The reality is that there's probably a frozen cat somewhere on the side of the road. 


Fuck all that!! It's about the music. Which it should be. The Coen's method and means may a brutal way to turn people on to the "scene" of the Village, but at least there is tribute to the music of Greenwich Village circa 1961. The music is held high. Oscar Isaac delivers. His music shines, even through the smoggy green hue of a damp, New York February. 


Everything that has almost sorta happened to musicians EVER on that street happens to him...that week. Less than a week. There's talk of not one but two possible abortions he instigated, a lack of an address, a lack of a career, a lack of an agent, a lack of love for himself and lack of trust in his own ability. 

He decides to run away from his problems by running away from dry land at one point. 

He never gets there. The viewer may think (secretly wish) that a Hollywood ending (suicide) is a potential end to this movie, but it never gets that bad. Llewyn doesn't have the balls. He'd rather suffer and make you squirm by having to watch his endless self sabotage. He's the best asshole in the history of assholes. It's an Oscar worthy Best Asshole performance. Yet Llewyn is a gifted did THAT happen? The applause given at the fictional Gaslight is for the performance, not the artist's character. 

The brilliance of the script is that it's merely a potential week for one sad, tough-luck GIFTED loser in a reality-based fictional world. And so many questions remain for the viewer. 

He gets beat up a day before his lead actress gets an abortion. That is established. You find that Llewyn's other venture into the underworld of abortion was as successful as his music career. 

When driving back from Chicago, he doesn't have the balls to pull off the road and search out his former lover and their child in Akron, OH. He doesn't have the balls to get his own apartment. He doesn't have the balls to speak up for a girl he loves. (as suspected, he tells her so much at one point). 

There's also a hint that his musical ex- from his duo act was a love interest. Llewyn gazes longingly at the open road when telling the story in his own words to the stranger in the back seat of 'what happened' to his former recording partner, Mike.

There's a question of who the Gorfeins are since they seem to have known Mike intimately, as well. Are they related to Mike or to Llewyn? Or are they Mike's parents? It's a bedroom, in any event…and a home-cooked dinner and breakfast to the lead character.  

Ethan Phillips as "Mitch Gorfein''

Even with the beautifully delivered music, the movie gets pretty fucking glum. Especially because of the asshole, Llewyn Davis. He shuns those who are trying to be original. He shuns those who try to help. And in my opinion, his character tries to hoard the traditional music for himself. And that's his biggest failure. 

The tremendous point the Coens make is that the music matters. They allow Oscar Isaac to perform, note-for-note, three wonderful songs and part of another. They are majestic songs. Captured nearly live on film. These songs can be found on the soundtrack, of course.

I had the great fortune to host a show with Oscar at the real Gaslight back when he was on location for the film. (John Goodman sang a song with Oscar; Johnnie Phillips was there; I made Garrett Hedlund pay at the door; we shared whiskey later) Oscar shocked my friend after the show when he learned that he was an actor and not a full time musician. He's THAT good. It's very convincing hearing him live. My friend, John, thought he had heard hints of sincerity of รก la Hank Williams. Seriously. 

So the storyline of Inside Llewyn Davis, to me, can survive a bleak trajectory of couch surfing and "assholery" because the honesty of the music outweighs the fact that Ulysses the cat has more balls than a grown man.  

Milk Carton Kid, Michael Mann

Michael Mann is a real life example of someone who ''potentially'' could have been a recording artist. He is a contemporary of the Village musicians coming through in the 1970s. He performed here and there and even gave a lesson or two on guitar and voice, but he was a phantom, of sorts. No one ever knew his real story and no one may EVER know. He's a drifter still drifting on the streets of NYC. With luck, I'll one day meet him. He was at the Gerde's Folk City 50th Anniversary that I hosted, but we never spoke.

Like Mr. Mann, Llewyn Davis is gifted artist who could have been a recording star with only the right gumption and resolve. It's not merely about skill. There have been plenty of technicians come through the Village. It's more about perseverance and paying due diligence. Never has it been about having ''chops.'' Never has it been about being able to remember all the chords and lyrics. It's about having the balls to bring that gift to the people day in and day out. It's about being willing and able to do it with scrutinizing fans sitting at one's feet listening and watching closely. It's about being capable of pollinating the MUSIC and bringing it to a wider audience. One needs to push ones self to "make it.'' Otherwise, one becomes an opening act forever.

Try to hoard Traditional music for yourself and you will soon become a forgotten recording star, chops and all.

Llewyn has none of the drive needed to take his own skill on the road. He thinks small and that is why he must escape the curse of being a gifted musician with no ambition. It's amazing that an asshole like Llewyn recorded at all. He shouts to his agent ''Mel'' in the film, ''You owe me!'' He's wrong, of course. No one owes him anything. He hasn't earned a thing.

In the end, the joke is on us, the Viewers. The Coen Brothers know that most people watching will surely figure out that it really wasn't like that. They will find out that it was a story based on one page in ''The Mayor of Macdougal Street.'' It was imagined that instead of Dave Van Ronk befriending and spending time with Mike Porco at Folk City, that he was beat up in the alley as punishment for his ''assholery.''

The reality was that the ''scene'' was much more positive, uplifting and community-based than the fictional tale of one set of circumstances for one asshole during one week of his asshole life. 

The music spawned in the Village changed the course of music history worldwide and ''legend during his own time,'' Dave Van Ronk, finally gets his due. It came years after his death, but he gets it none the less. A "mountain of a man," as Dylan called him. And Dylan....well the plot says it all without saying it. It's set the "week before" Bob Dylan sets the scene on fire and re-defines the Songwriter genre itself. He's not the star of the show, just the light shining at the end of a movie about an asshole.

In reality, the world of music turned out ok. The Coens, T Bone Burnett and Oscar Isaac have made an instant classic and will take home statues for doing so, regardless of how many people stumble out of the theaters muttering and wondering what they saw. The Coens could have made everybody an asshole. Instead, they made one big one.

It's a world full of assholes. In real life, their impact is never long lasting. The music overcomes all black clouds when played in tune with others. Llewyn was in tune, but only with himself.

Rocky road


  1. Why is your vocabulary so limited and your sentences so choppy?

  2. Great review! I agree with you although I didn't find it that glum and I didn't find him as much of an asshole :)
    The music however knocked me out, and that's what really matters :-)