By Michael Aushenker
When it comes to the movies of Joel and Ethan Coen, John Goodman is their reliable secret weapon.
A star of “Raising Arizona” (1987), “Barton Fink” (1991) and “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” (2000), Goodman has played in as many Coen Brothers movies as Frances McDormand (that would be five) — and McDormand is married to Joel Coen. Only Steve Buscemi has appeared in more (six).
As delusional loose-cannon Vietnam vet Walter Sobchak in the Coens’ 1998 cult classic “The Big Lebowski,” Goodman pretty much pulled the Oriental rug (which, by the way, really tied the room together…) right out from under the feet of Jeff Bridges’ The Dude, you might say. Then again, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.
The latest Coen Brothers film, due out Dec. 6, skewers the early-1960s Greenwich Village new folk scene, positing its fictional characters in the same milieu that saw Peter, Paul & Mary, the New Lost City Ramblers, Tom Paxton, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Van Ronk, Fred Neil and one former Robert Zimmerman following in the footsteps of Woody Guthrie and Hank Williams. Along with Goodman, “Inside Llewyn Davis” stars Oscar Isaac in the title role as well as Carey Mulligan, Ethan Phillips and pop star-by-day Justin Timberlake. As with “Big Lebowski” and “O Brother,” the “Llewyn Davis” soundtrack benefits from the supervision of T-Bone Burnett.
Santa Monica has seen a lot of “Llewyn Davis” action of late. Earlier this month at the Buffalo Club, the Coen Bros. and “Llewyn” producer Scott Rudin threw a private concert, hosted by Burnett, celebrating the genre of music permeating their film. Along with Goodman and other cast members, Barbra Streisand and James Brolin, Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen, Norman Lear, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Thora Birch, director Jody Hill (“Eastbound and Down,” “Observe and Report”) and Moby were among the A-list crowd catching the mix of bluegrass and folk by performers that included actor and musician Steve Martin.
Whether “Inside Llewyn Davis” succeeds in joining the pantheon of revered Coen Bros. films (“Fargo,” “The Big Lebowski,” “No Country for Old Men”) or falls into their B pile (“Intolerable Cruelty,” “The Ladykillers” remake), a Coen Brothers movie is always, at the very least, humorous, clever and twisting, with plot points ever-shifting and deepening.
At the screening, expect Goodman to display the charm and wit that made him a stand-out in his cameo in last year’s “Argo.” He’s come a long way since his roles as the football coach in “Revenge of the Nerds” and Roseanne Barr’s TV husband.
“Inside Llewyn Davis” screens for American Cinematheque members at 7:30 p.m. today, Nov. 21, at the Aero Theatre, 1328 Montana Ave., Santa Monica. aerotheatre.com