Jim Jarmusch’s movies are not necessarily about plot. They are more about attitude, character, and mood. For instance, his most recent movie, Only Lovers Left Alive (2013), opens slowly with an evocative, spinning shot of stars that slows further and dissolves into an overhead shot of a spinning vinyl record, which plays a slow, industrial cover of Wanda Jackson’s “Funnel of Love,” a song about the feeling of falling in love. The movie then match cuts to an overhead shot of a still, reclined woman at the foot of a bed. She stares upward and blankly into the camera, which rotates and lowers down (as though draining through a funnel). With another match cut, we see a man, posed like the woman, on a couch and holding a lute.
They are Eve (Tilda Swinton) and Adam (Tom Hiddleston), a woman and man who have been “around and around” the Earth as it has spun and twirled “around and around” for centuries. But don’t be mistaken; they are not the Adam and Eve. No, they are vampires. They are also lovers who have been married at least three times, though their love remains fresh, much like the feeling sung by Wanda Jackson.
Inside Llewyn Davis (2014), the most recent masterpiece from the Coen Brothers, chronicles one man’s self-defeating struggle to control himself, much like The Odyssey, which the Coens previously adapted into O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2001).
Inside Llewyn Davis is a period piece, about the folk scene of Greenwich Village if the early 1960s, but it’s also a character study that delves deep inside Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac).
You know the scene in Pulp Fiction (1994) where Vincent (John Travolta) stabs a shot of adrenaline into Mia’s (Uma Thurman) heart? When watching that scene, I often wonder, “What does that feel like?”
Martin Scorsese now answers my question with The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), an injection of pure adrenaline straight into the heart, whose rush lasts not a few seconds, but three hours.
Cate Blanchett will undoubtedly win the Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role at the 86th Academy Awards, but her performance in Blue Jasmine (2013) will be remembered as more than just a great performance. It’ll be remembered as her great performance. We’ll recall it as the time she went insane onscreen and took our collective breath away; not many actresses have done that: Bette Davis; Gloria Swanson; Joan Crawford; Barbara Stanwyck; Vivien Leigh. They each did it, and now Blanchett joins their esteemed rank.
“Look like the innocent flower,
but be the serpent under ‘t.”
– Macbeth (1.5.65-66)
Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) is all about perception, but isn’t all of Washington D.C.? The clean, polished surface of the city little resembles its gritty inner reality. For that reason, D.C. is all the rage for popular television: Homeland (2011); Scandal (2012); Veep (2012); and, of course, House of Cards (2013).
D.C., after all, is our Rome, and Rome is burning.