A weekly feature from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at “Aladdin,” “Booksmart” and a doc about the life and times of a Canadian legend, “Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind.”
Richard sits in on the CTV NewsChannel with news anchor Marcia MacMillan have a look at the weekend’s big releases including the live action remake of “Aladdin,” the wild and wooly “Booksmart” and a doc about the life and times of a Canadian legend, “Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind.”
Richard has a look at the new movies coming to theatres, including Will Smith in the live action remake of “Aladdin,” the wild and wooly “Booksmart” and a doc about the life and times of a Canadian legend, “Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind” with CFRA Morning Rush host Bill Carroll.
Music documentaries often veer into hagiography, looking back with rose coloured glasses at their subject. There are heaps of high praise in “Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind,” a new career retrospective from co-directors Martha Kehoe and Joan Tosoni, but right from the outset it displays an honesty rare in authorized bios.
After a few bars of his chauvinistic ’60s hit “For Lovin’ Me” Lightfoot, watching vintage footage, demands it be shut off. “That’s a very offensive song for a guy to write who was married with a couple of kids,” he says before adding, “I guess I don’t like who I am.”
It’s a startling beginning to a movie that uses his music and a series of celebrity talking heads like Steve Earle, Sarah McLachlan, Geddy Lee, Anne Murray and Alec Baldwin, who helpfully adds, “This was a guy who sang poems,” to tell the story. Traditionally Lightfoot’s enigmatic approach to his biography has left many questions unanswered in the media. That doesn’t change much here, although he seems to have allowed open access to his home and is occasionally candid in the contemporary interviews. “I regret a lot of things,” he says near the end of the film. “I caused emotional trauma in people, particularly some women, the women I was closest to. I feel very, very badly about it.”
“If You Could Read My Mind” doesn’t skip over sensitive biographical points. His relationship with Cathy Evelyn Smith, a woman he loved who was later accused of killing John Belushi and the infidelities that marred his personal life are examined, although with a light touch that respects his privacy.
Supporting the storytelling are interestingly curated images. From rare clips of his early performances on the CBC and on the stages of Yonge Street taverns and Yorkville coffee houses and archival photos of the legendary, star-studded parties he threw at his Rosedale home, to old footage of his parents and behind-the-scenes images of his acting debut in Desperado—“You’ll never win an Oscar,” said co-star Bruce Dern, “but you’re fun to work with.”—the doc offers a comprehensive visual essay of Canadiana, Gordon Lightfoot style.
Ultimately the best documentary of Lightfoot’s storied life is his work, tunes like “Sundown” and “Rainy Day People” that suggest everything he has to say is in his songs. “Your personal experience and your emotional stress,” he says, “finds its way in by way of your unconscious mind over into the mind of reality and translates itself into your lyrics. And you don’t even know that is happening.”
Richard sits in on the CJAD Montreal morning show with host Andrew Carter to talk the new movies coming to theatres including the all-singing, all-dancing, all-powerful Genie in the live action remake of “Aladdin,” the wild and wooly “Booksmart” and a doc about the life and times of a Canadian legend, “Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind.”
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.”