Oscars 2014: If We Picked The Nominees (Best Picture)
10. Inside Llewyn Davis
Out of all the spots to choose, picking the final film on this list may have been the hardest. There were a number of good films that almost made the cut. Blue Jasmine, The Great Gatsby, To the Wonder, This Is the End, Upstream Color, and American Hustle were all considered for this list, but in the end it was the Coen Brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis that took the tenth spot. Inside Llewyn Davis is an interesting film in that its strengths don't necessarily immediately call attention to themselves. In fact, the majority of the aforementioned films that just missed this list probably felt like better movies as you left the theater parking lot than the Coens' morose tale of a 1960's folk singer struggling to make a life out of his art. This elusiveness, which have led many to understandingly label the film as "slight", is undoubtedly why the Palme d'Or runner-up missed out on the Best Picture lineup (as well as most everything else) despite being considered a likely nominee by most Oscar pundits until very late in the game. It's a shame the film didn't get more time to marinate in the minds of voters, because in a few years the film's absence (and the presence of a couple of the actual nominees) will stick out as a blunder. Foregoing the Coens' usual hyperactive sense of irony-laced comedy, Inside Llewyn Davis is easily the brothers' most melancholy and sincere film of their oeuvre. That's not to say the fraternal filmmakers have ever been insincere in any of their previous endeavors, but the Coens' commonly operate in a sphere of tongue firmly placed in cheek, and while elements of that still exist in the film (the Please Mr. Kennedy sequence being the most obvious), Inside Llewyn Davis is tainted with too much sorrowful resignation for the film to hit the typical "Coen beats" that they have built their brand on. It's this lingering mournfulness though that makes the film hard to shake. The titular Llewyn Davis, played to great effect by rising star Oscar Isaac, is a character who is seemingly at odds with the world, but in reality is in conflict with himself. Through his slightly innocuous misadventures, the Coens' explore a theme that has been prominent throughout the body of their work (particularly A Serious Man): the issue of cosmic justice, or in less grandiose terms, the tendency of human beings who feel they are in the wrong to be punished accordingly. If The Wolf of Wall Street probes how far a despicable individual can go when he leaves his conscious behind, Inside Llewyn Davis illustrates the roadblocks that a basically good person can construct for themselves when their guilt gets the better of them. The film may not rank with their best work (somewhere in the middle around The Man Who Wasn't There seems like the right placement), but the Coens' Inside Llewyn Davis is certainly a grower, and its latent charms and insight merit a rank in the ten best films of 2013.
A film fanatic at a very young age, starting with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movies and gradually moving up to more sophisticated fare, at around the age of ten he became inexplicably obsessed with all things Oscar. With the incredibly trivial power of being able to chronologically name every Best Picture winner from memory, his lifelong goal is to see every Oscar nominated film, in every major category, in the history of the Academy Awards.