|UserReviews 2Approval 100%Soundoffs 33Album Ratings 793Objectivity 95%Last Active 09-04-19 3:23 pmJoined 09-24-05Forum Posts 20Review Comments 1,081
|FILM: tectac's Coen Brothers, Ranked|
Two of the most creative (and cynical / nihilistic) mind currently working today, Joel and Ethan have carved out a niche but expansive filmography that ranges anywhere from gonzo comedy to meditative character study to idiosyncratic genre riffing. They don't always hit home runs, but I can honestly say I've never once been bored watching a film by the Coens.
>> HAIL, CAESAR! (2016)
Simply tries to do too much with too little. Not the first time the brothers have crafted a film that lacks a clear focus, but easily their weakest attempt at such aimless wafting. Too many strands jettison away from the gravitational pull of the film, lost in orbit, never to be seen or heard from again. You can argue that the centripetal force is Eddie Mannix and his tribulations as a Hollywood “fixer,” but the narrative makes too many digressions and veers off into innumerable tangents that either effervesce into nothing or crash headfirst into the ground without any satisfying closure. It basically feels like sketch comedy that’s very, *very* loosely tied together by one man. Occasionally funny in a Coen type-of-way (e.g. “Would that it were so simple”) but the comedic bits aren’t strong enough to sustain this glorified compilation of hodge-podge vignettes. Also why do the musical numbers last so goddamn long?
Houses of the Holy
>> THE LADYKILLERS (2004)
Joel and Ethan on speed; another film with plenty of outward tendrils and meandering paths that flutter by with such quickness and apathy that none of them are able to fully take hold. Plays out like a live-action Looney Tunes episode, each person an exaggerated caricature stretched well beyond the boundaries of realism. The cast is surprisingly good, considering what they’ve given to work with, especially Tom Hanks’s variant of dopey-Colonel Sanders (who, surprisingly out of all these bobbleheads, most closely resembles an actual human being). Weakest aspect is the script which leans too heavily on overemphasized stereotypes, inane conversations, and excessive repetition. Puts all of its eggs in separate baskets and sends them awry, leaving you with a recipe for cheesecake but no eggs with which to make it. Hanks and his unwitting Southern charm (and ten dollar vocab) will have you smitten; little else will.
|16||Captain, We're Sinking|
The Future Is Cancelled
>> O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? (2000)
Always a bit shocked when I see this one ranked so highly among the Coen brothers canon. I enjoy the Soggy Bottom Boys and George Clooney’s repetitious one-liners as much as anyone (“Damn, we’re in a tight spot!”), but I can’t help feeling like the mindful adherence to a more modernized version of Homer’s “The Odyssey” constantly pigeonholes the creative prowess of the Coens. Not that they haven’t adapted something into greatness before (see: NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN or TRUE GRIT), but things are too congested here, playing like a haphazard collection of literary snippets and intertwining cross-references reenacted by a 1930s chain gang. If it makes any difference, I was significantly warmer to this on my initial viewing, many years ago. If there’s a single film in the Coens’ filmography that suffers from revisits, it’s this one.
>> INTOLERABLE CRUELTY (2003)
Interesting conflict: The story is absolute rubbish, nothing but a sequential unfolding of hoary clichés and foreseeable events. Even the concept is uninspired (i.e., money hungry gold digger makes a living from deceiving rich men, marrying them, then splitting with half of their net worth until eventually she ends up falling in love with one ‘em). Sounds like an awful mid-90s Lifetime special. And it would play like one, too, if it weren't for the superb cast. Everyone from Clooney to Zeta-Jones to Thornton to Cedric the Entertainer is on top of the ball, here, able to contort lots of laughter from a repugnant narrative. Has a lot to do with the dialogue, too, which is also quite good considering the hackneyed source material. I’d hate to see what this adaptation might look like at the hands of a less competent director, or with a less enthusiastic cast. Stupid fun; it gets by on charisma alone.
>> THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS (2018)
Neat storybook structure, but like any collective scrapbook of small tales, it suffers from an inherent problem: “Not all vignettes are created equal,” and the lesser snippets are bound to wilt away in the shadows of the superior ones. Case in point: I finished this film and, while I thoroughly enjoyed it, kept wishing we’d have just gotten a full-length version of “The Gal Who Got Rattled,” which is far and away the best segment here. Like, near-masterpiece good, and I can only imagine what it could achieve with an additional hour. Sure, I love how breathtakingly picturesque “All Gold Canyon” is, or the rough gallows humor of “Near Algondones,” even the straight-laced crossbreed of nihilism and capitalism in “Meal Ticket.” But nothing is in the same stratosphere as “The Gal,” and while it could be said that death is a common theme among the various strands, I’m left underwhelmed at the Big Picture.
>> THE HUDSUCKER PROXY (1994)
If nothing else, it gave us Jennifer Jason-Leigh's career-best role as she channels her inner Hildy Johnson in one of the most quick-witted, fast-talking, female performances I can recall. She steals the show and almost completely equalizes Tim Robbins' far less invigorating rendition of the business executive equivalent of a cat perched atop a tree—no idea how it got there. Opening forty minutes are pure greatness: Top-tier Coen brothers dialogue and black humor flying forward in rapid progression. Second act comes to a bit of a halt, not long after the first iteration of the hula hoop surfaces; the satire weakens, the pacing sputters, and the success rate of the jokes drops significantly. It’s almost like the film yanks your chain for the better part of an hour then suddenly begs you to start taking it seriously. Final sequence (involving a clock operation) is kind of *gag*, too. Overall, still a worthy and often overlooked Coen brothers effort.
>> FARGO (1996)
Maybe the least satisfying Coen brothers film, partially because they care less about the ostensible story than they do the idiosyncratic and accentuated behavior and quirks of speech of Scandinavians and Minnesotans alike. At the same time, however, it feels silly to complain about Joel and Ethan’s lack of narrative density; cursory digression is practically a director trademark for them at this point, and anyhow, what they *have* achieved here is a wonderful recreation of a black-and-white world that exudes both realism fantasy while playing a tricky balancing act between its tone, blending chipper comedy with bloodletting gruesomeness. The blend isn’t always to my tastes, and it’s certainly never forgiving, but its boldness is admirable, and this might be one of my favorite Coen aesthetics ever. I just wish they’d have done a *little* more with it, don’t y’know?
Crack the Skye
>> A SERIOUS MAN (2009)
Massively underrated in my estimation, and infinitely more thought provoking than it appears on the surface. Works as a “Jewish black comedy,” or even as a contemporary riff on The Book of Job, but it also sketches out so many underhanded parallels and through-lines that I always remain impressed with how unwieldy everything sounds on paper and how cohesive it ended up on screen. It’s got everything from Schrodinger’s famous thought experiment (and, further, the ‘Uncertainty Principle’ as applied to life itself) to a deep prodding of the purpose of religion to the examination of various coping mechanisms. My favorite aspect might be the proclamation that fortunate randomness can (and often does) contribute to a falsely garnered faith. In short: The only ‘certain’ thing is uncertainly, and the way Joel and Ethan wrap that around a comedic, Jewish narrative feels remarkably personal.
On the Impossible Past
>> BURN AFTER READING (2008)
Another unfairly debased picture from the brothers. I love the purposely capsized and strongly tangential narrative as a means to structurally mirror the misconception of each character viz., a compilation of misunderstandings lending to an oblivious oversight of the bigger picture. Furthermore, the detail that the Top Dogs (i.e., the CIA in this case) don't even understand the "bigger picture" -- or perhaps understand it even less -- despite actually knowing all of the facts makes for a wonderfully promising fillip with which the Coen brothers' typical black/nihilist comedic digs can burgeon. My only real complaints are Francis McDormand, whose overwrought exuberance I remain staggeringly unenthused by, and...well, something that’s a giant spoiler. But Brad Pitt is fan-fucking-tastic here, so let’s just say I wish he were in the film a bit more. (Clooney and Malkovich are pretty great, too, but Pitt is quite literally phenomenal.)
|9||The Appleseed Cast|
Low Level Owl, Volume I
>> RAISING ARIZONA (1987)
Despite a tonality difference that spans oceans from their first/previous feature, the Coens’ gift for raucous dialogue and indefinitely interesting characters give them a common ground (while simultaneously displaying an impressively wide range with a simple one-two punch). This is as “screwball” as comedies get; Joel and Ethan stick to that wonky-yet-delightful caricature-notion for the entire runtime, hereby avoiding those potentially frustrating mood-clashes in movies that beg for both loose-lipped zaniness and rigid posture, never fully committing to one or the other and evidently coming up a little short in both camps (see: THE HUDSUCKER PROXY). Closely toes the line between “clever” and “SNL skit” on a few occasions (most notably via the throughput involving Goodman and Forsythe); the grotesquerie is far less funny than the more subtly unexpected bits. But this is a lovely, bombast comedy that ends on a heartwarming grace note.
|8||Godspeed You! Black Emperor|
F♯ A♯ ∞ [Vinyl]
>> BLOOD SIMPLE (1984)
Extremely impressive debut, and it’s rather exciting watching this *now*, to see the initial blossoms of composition, shooting, storytelling, and editing that would eventually become indicative of Joel and Ethan's style. (The finger pressing a tape recorder that cuts to another finger dabbing blood from the backseat of a car is one of cinema’s Greatest Edits.) Lots of wonderfully details that other, less confident filmmakers might not bother with in their virgin effort e.g. the recurring, nauseous spin of an old ceiling fan or the grating of a metal shovel being dragged slowly along concrete. The most masterful element, though, is how the screenplay lets us, the viewers, know at least one thing that each character is oblivious to, giving a perfect god’s-eye view of misunderstandings and misconceptions and how they spark actions that converge toward oblivion. Gritty and messy, but that only works to amplify the tone.
The Moon & Antarctica
>> THE BIG LEBOWSKI (1998)
In retrospect, it always seems like the Best Comedy Ever; more so, anyway, than when I’m actively watching it. I think that’s because I tend to only linger on the best bits and subconsciously suppress the less impressive stuff, like self-aware Sam Elliott bookends, or Moore’s unnecessary emulsion of the artsy-liberal archetype, or the obnoxious nihilist-punk caricatures, etc. Nitpicks, I guess, because the sheer greatness of “The Dude” and his embodiment as an immortal staple of pop culture comedy cannot be ignored or overlooked (or barely even combatted). He is indeed one of the greatest comedic characters of all time, and his meandering ambivalence in the neo-noir construction around him exemplifies, somewhat extremely, how most of us might react in a similarly out-of-depth situation. A fresh, contemporary take on a conventional and long-forgotten genre. The NORTH BY NORTHWEST pencil-shading spoof remains the biggest delight for me.
|6||Have a Nice Life|
>> TRUE GRIT (2010)
Typically a hard sell on remakes (especially when the original isn’t that bad to begin with), but the colorful dialogue here - wrought with mounds of Coenisms as sieved through a mesh of Old Western vocabulary (and a perfectly bumbling Jeff Bridges) and time-appropriate context - is simply too delicious to dismiss. The film could’ve been “about” anything and I doubt I’d have much cared. The casual, elegant wit is executed wonderfully; well-constructed, but effortless in how organic it reads. Steinfeld is fantastic, too: Not sure what age is the cutoff for a true “child performance,” but this is up there with the best, alongside maybe Natalie Portman in LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL. Great milieu; Deakins’s photography is stunning (as always) and, along with the lavish costume and set design, will have Western fans drooling incessantly. Not sure the few bids for pathos sting as poignantly as they’re meant to, but this is easily the superior version of TRUE GRIT.
>> BARTON FINK (1991)
Joel and Ethan at their most deliciously surreal. Like a new age reworking of ERASERHEAD; while thematically quite different (a portrayal of young parenthood vs. psychological writer’s block), they share a similarly nightmarish evocation of the uncanny meshing with the ordinary. I take great pleasure in pondering all of the mavericks and peculiarities: Why is there an underground door behind the hotel counter? Why are shoes outside every room’s door, yet no other people aside from our main protags are ever seen in the film? Why does the goddamn wallpaper keep oozing and seeping? This is precisely the kind of descent into abstract insanity that oils my gears, and Goodman’s fiery finale is easily one of my single favorite segments in the Coens’ oeuvre. Is he the devil? Is he an imaginary personification of Barton’s stressed headspace? And what’s this Audrey chick on about? Wonderfully provocative, wise to never reveal its hand.
Larks' Tongues in Aspic
>> THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE (2001)
Ah, yes. Deakins is truly a magnificent bastard: Has a modern-day (i.e., post-Hollywood Era) back-and-white film ever looked so fucking unctuous? Repeating what I said about TRUE GRIT, this could’ve been about literally anything and I’d have likely praised it regardless, if for no other reason than I’m suspended in hypnosis by its superficial beauty and elegance each time I revisit it. It certainly helps, though, that the story is equally exquisite, and possibly the most internally revealing and intimate piece the brothers have written, its heart-adorned sleeve slyly encased in the shadow of another riff on nostalgic conventions. I see Ed Craine as a stand-in for Joel and Ethan, a hard-boiled, seemingly devil-may-care embodiment that, after decades of accruing a reputation as cold-blooded and icily disaffect, ever-so-slowly begins to peel away its outer shell, unveiling a soft-buttered soul that merely wants the misunderstandings to stop.
>> NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (2007)
Once my favorite Coen picture, and while that’s no longer the case, it’s still the film I’d show someone who was unfamiliar with Joel and Ethan and wanted to see what they were capable of. A formal tour de force, truthfully, and the kind of movie that’s able to get by on shape alone - a clambake of nail-biting tension (that motel confrontation, my god), languorous humor (“Looking for a man who has recently drunk milk?”), and reserved quietude (the beautifully expansive opening sequence), plotted elegantly in the middle of a narrative cyclone. The thematicism simply doesn’t excite me like it used to, the motifs of nihilism and existential skepticism feeling maddeningly stolid when all’s said and done. But I’ve wrestled with the idea that this stoic lack of intimacy is not only intentional, but entirely ‘the point.’ The times they are a-changin’, even if only in our minds. Are *things* really that different, or is it merely us who’ve changed?
For Emma, Forever Ago
>> INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS (2013)
The Coens at their most lyrical and measured, and my god is it gorgeous. Takes the existential meandering of NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN and whittles it down to a more personal level, striking a vicious nerve of poetic tragedy. It romanticizes the idea of having big hopes, dreams, aspirations, then figuratively shoves our face in the snow by showing us that sometimes our vision of the future doesn’t align with what the universe has in store for us. Paints Llewyn as a moderately shitty human being, but also makes him capable of exhuming pity, positing his jagged edge as a side-effect of overwhelming world-weariness (I mean, really, it tore my heart out when he nearly detoured to meet his unknown daughter). “The Death of Queen Jane” would make my list of Greatest Scenes of the Decade, and succinctly epitomizes the overarching theme: Sometimes you can pour your whole heart into something and still be met with cosmic indifference. Au revoir indeed.
Soundtracks for the Blind
>> MILLER’S CROSSING (1990)
A thoroughbred masterpiece. A film that’s constructed like a Swiss watch - remove or misplace one scene and the entire thing seizes up - from the refurbished gears of familiar gangster-picture conventions and percepts (with an undeniably “modern,” Coen-esque spin). An ostensibly convoluted and mangled - yet surprisingly coherent, thanks to the crystalline structure - tale of deception and questionable loyalty dipped in kitschy nicknames, intravenous relationships, and luscious 20s lingo that simultaneously works as both a satirical jab at gangster flicks *and* as a legitimate gangster flick itself. But the beauty of the film is that despite the complexity, the plot doesn’t fucking matter. It’s nothing but an exercise in elaboration to demonstrate the excruciating lengths to which Tom will go to save Leo’s ass. That is to say: Sometimes when you go through hell for someone else, their failure to recognize or acknowledge it is often what hurts the most.
|Came down hard on a few of these, but in truth I love (most of) their filmography, and am constantly excited to watch whatever they'll put out next. Let's discuss, cinephiles: I'm sure there are a few head-scratching choices I've made here.|
|I’ll have to watch a few of these that I’ve never even heard of, but even with my gaps in their filmography, O Brother is still waayyyy too low. I certainly treasure it more than Fargo, Burn After Reading, True Grit and Barton Fink|
|1 is one of my least favorite of theirs, it feels really bloated and i remember finding pretty much all of the characters annoying. Not a fan of 6 either.|
3,5,7, 11 and 12 would be my top 5 prob although i haven't seen 2,9, 10 and their last 2 films.
|My favourites are currently Serious Man (Rabbi Marshak scene is gold) and No Country for Old Men, astonishing movies. Of course things like Big Lebowski and Fargo are untouchable classics, with Lebowski being probably my favourite comedy ever. I still have to catch up some of the others.|
|Lebowski was a cornerstone of my life at one point, would be my number 1 until u reminded me of Miller's Crossing. What an astounding film, an all time great.|
|I figured having O BROTHER that low would be one of the biggest question marks. Wasn't sure how people felt about MILLER'S CROSSING, though I don't know many who would put it first. I will say, though, that I was lukewarm after one viewing of it, too. It wasn't until the second viewing (years later) that it suddenly *clicked* for me, and has only grown since. I do recommend trying it one more time (if you've only seen it once, that is) before writing it off completely. |
Nice to see another BARTON FINK fan, though. I believe we are fewer and farther between than we think.
And definitely watch INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS when you have a chance.
|'Lebowski was a cornerstone of my life at one point, would be my number 1 until u reminded me of Miller's Crossing. What an astounding film, an all time great.'|
Yes! Glad to see another MILLER'S CROSSING fanatic. An amazing film that took me a few viewings to appreciate its greatness.
|I like funny clooney|
|I dug Miller's from the 1st watch, tho it does definitely get better with repeats. That's what kinda did for Fargo with me, despite its initial brilliance it fades over further viewings.|
3. Serious Man
5. Raising Arizona
6. Miller's Crossing
7. Llewyn Davis
|MILLER'S CROSSING and INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS last is a goddamn travesty but I do like seeing BARTON FINK so high. Seems more people think highly of A SERIOUS MAN than I realized, too (which is a good thing).|
|Inside Llewyn Davis and Barton Fink are my favorites - the former because of how beautifully melancholic it is, they really nailed that one tonally. And I'm still convinced that the latter is the most immediately memorable Coen film. It's so inspired and rich of pictures and situations that feel like straight out of a dream/nightmare. Brilliant stuff.|
I'm also a fan of True Grit. Its story is basically The Professional in the Wild West, to a degree, but the atmosphere, the photography ... there's so much about it that's just on point. I love the ending as well (as a kind of reflection of the Western genre's time being long past).
There's still three or four films I haven't seen yet, but as of yet, they're all different shades of amazing, except for Burn After Reading (which I find enjoyable) and Hail Caesar (which, I agree, is just short on everything). I'd put them up there among the most consistent film-makers ever.
|On my way to work and will comment on the actual rankings/substance later, but just wanted to say you’re a fantastic writer and your film criticism is on a professional level. Always look forward to these director filmography rankings of yours.|
|...that said, my top 3 are No Country, Fargo and Burn After Reading (agreed about Pitt, he is so fucking hysterical in this).|
Hail Caesar and Intolerable Cruelty are my least favorites.
|Thanks Larkin, that means a lot! Always nice to know someone takes pleasure in reading my rambling :o)|
Not a bad Top 3 -- Chad Feldheimer for life!
|Might as well join in on the praise, these lists have been the best thing about Sput in the last few weeks.|
(I should also add Ballad of Buster Scruggs to the "not amazing" films I've seen. The last two shorts are awesome, but I'm not a fan of any of the first four, least of all the title story which I kiiinda hated.)
Have you seen the Fargo series? I like the movie a lot, but I'd put season 1 and 3 over the film tbh.
|Always a big fan of No Country and The Man Who Wasn't There. Guess I need to check some more of their films.|
Also props to your writing style. It's rare on Sput that I read a whole list.
|I need to check out Man Who Wasn't There and Inside Llewyn Davis again, bc I remember not being huge fan of those. I do think Miller's Crossing is their masterpiece though. And that A Serious Man is overlooked.|
|Watched 3 randomly last week, I think it might be one of my favourite movies ever despite having a bit too abrupt of an ending|
|Also props to your writing style. It's rare on Sput that I read a whole list. (2)|
|I knew you'd put Miller's Crossing at 1, fantastic film.|
|"A Country for Old Man" is my absolute favorite followed by "The Big Lebowski". Not the most original ranking, I know.|
"A serious Man" should have been higher, imo.
|I really need to see the first two ranked films.|
|I definitely see why Inside Llewyn Davis wouldn't be for everyone. It's pretty depressing (in a Coen way) and just as deliberately aimless as its protagonist. Miller's Crossing, at the other hand ... I couldn't imagine someone who enjoys gangster movies not being at least impressed by it. I'd say it has a very broad appeal, although I could be wrong considering how overlooked it can be compared to other Coens.|
|"It's pretty depressing (in a Coen way)"|
So it must be sarcastically comedic in some sort of way. The Coens always manage to shove little comedic subtleties and satire no matter how depressing the film might be.
|Yes, a lot of it! Definitely has a lot in common with A Serious Man. No matter how miserable everyone inside the film is, the Coens always find a way to make all that suffering seem weirdly funny - like every character lives in a joke, but none of them get it. Very kafkaesque, if I dare drop that overused term.|
|it's been awhile since i last saw that word, lol|
but it summarizes The Koen's work very accurately
|It's one of the few cases it actually fits. Kafka has been a huge influence and it shows, and I think Barton Fink was partially inspired by The Castle (don't quote me on that one though).|
|Hi, just quick to pop in - It's been years since I watched it but I hated The Big Lebowski and have never watched a Coen brothers movie since. |
Good list as always though, tect.
|@Rik, Larkin, granny: Thanks again for the kind words, gents. It means a lot to know my rambling is worth even just a little something to somebody!|
@bloc: My exact thoughts when I first saw it in '07. Loved the film, hated the "ending." Though after several revisits, the ending was something I eventually came to appreciate for its non-conclusiveness, kind of hinting at the way the events that Ed Tom Bell is describing will continue into the future, ad infinitum, with no real end in sight.
@TB and sam: Glad you guys agree! It always shocked me how few people seem to have seen MILLER'S CROSSING.
@junkie: Yep, INSIDE LLEWYN is both tender & melancholic, and caustic & comedic. John Goodman's entire character arc is essentially a mordant digression of dark and exaggerated gallows humor. The first and final thirds of the film are so scathing and bittersweet but also include little quips and witticisms throughout; it's a somber affair overall, but it never becomes offensively macabre.
@Pheromone: I can understand having an unfavorable reaction to LEBOWSKI, but I must advise giving the Bros a shot at redemption. Take it from me: That film is far from the absolute best they have to offer!
|Haven't seen 1, 2, 4, 8, 11, 14. On what I know I'd go with: 1 - Barton, 2 - Fargo, 3 - Lebowski, 4 - Hudsucker, 5 - O Brother.|
|@ tectactoe I think Miller's Crossing is without a doubt one of the most well-written screenplays of all time.|
If everyone's doing it, my top 5 would be: Miller's, NCFOM, A Serious Man, Fargo, Big Lebowski, Barton Fink honorable mention. IMO they peaked at NCFOM -> A Serious Man. Those movies are unlike anything else.
|I actually found NCFOM was the movie that sort of put me off the Coen brothers. The only Cormac McCarthy adaption I've seen that I've enjoyed was The Road.|
|Didn't even know those two were by the same author ... Didn't like The Road much (Mortensen is always good though), and NCFOM is really great, but not even near one of their best imo|
|To me, NCFOM looks really good, but it's infinitely weaker than Fargo, which covers some of the same territory but is far more balanced and interesting. NCFOM felt like a hollow b-movie western horror fusion made with top notch production values, and with some McCarthy "everyone and everything is rubbish" worldview permeating the whole thing. |
|'everyone and everything is rubbish worldview'|
This could arguably be the Coens' worldview, too, excepting maybe RAISING ARIZONA and THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE.
|Somebody also mentioned Fargo series - really quality stuff, season 2 is my favourite. It's like a love letter to Coen brothers films. |
|Ah, yes, forgot to reply to that: Haven't seen it myself, but I've only heard good things. Honestly, after having a kid, I've had a lot of trouble committing myself to television series. I think the last one I watched in full was [gulp] 'Breaking Bad.'|
|First season is pretty close to the film in style and theme. The others are very different (from the first and from each other). The second was the one I didn't really care for. The third one is the most unique, but it seems to have been quite divisive. Has become my definite favorite though. For sure the most memorable imo.|
|"This could arguably be the Coens' worldview, too, excepting maybe RAISING ARIZONA and THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE."|
I don't think Fargo is entirely pessimistic, despite all the horror - it works because of the comparison between the mundanely normal, and the underbelly of that normality. The Coen Bros might have been drawn to the source material it because they do share a common appreciation for how bad and bizarre the world can be, but the unrelenting, almost macho bleakness is very McCarthy.
|I think the major thing that bothered me was Chigurh. Peter Stormare is chilling in Fargo, but there's some air of believability about his character and he "fits" the movie. I've seen plenty of implausible movies which still allow you to suspend disbelief, but the tone of NCFOM seems very gritty, and then you drop Michael Myers into the film. I get the unstoppable hyperbolic bad guy in a stylised gangster film (Snatch) but in this it just fell flat and made the whole thing a little hokey. Is Chigurh an allegorical character? Or is he just supposed to be "cool"? I didn't like it either way and I think if you don't buy it, then the whole thing falls apart. I kept comparing the movie to Shallow Grave, which effectively sets up the stylized atmosphere so things don't seem so incongruous. |
|I get you. I've always considered Chigurh a very 'real' personal within the context of the film itself, but also intended to kind of embody and represent the unstoppable growth of greed and evil that TLJ's character is constantly referring to. On the other hand, I totally understand someone finding that allegory mostly bullshit. But I personally find him frightening even on a superficial level. The way he quietly chokes that sheriff out in one of the very first scenes is like...damn. The lack of non-diegetic sound amplifies the effect, too, like during the gas station conversation, or the showdown with Llewellyn in the motel room.|
|I totally get what you're saying too, the movie has tons of craft applied which I cannot deny, and that scene at the start is really brutal. You're also right about the hotel room, it's a top notch thriller scene in another movie. But then the bolt gun and the coin flipping, I just tapped out (I think I also don't really rate Bardem, so maybe it's a bit of bias creeping in). In many ways this is a far superior movie in technical terms to something like, say the Wild Bunch, but I'd take that over this any day, and I think it explores the theme in a better way, rather than just trying to subvert expectations.|
|*extremely erudite voice* nahh |
|i need to know what you disagree with so i can tell you why you're wrong.|
|i think Hail, Caesar! is much underestimated - visually gorgeous and replete with Big Bankable NamesTM as it may be, it's not so much a love letter as a vitriolic hate letter to Hollywood (as is, in a way, Once Upon a Time..., which has no compunction about pointing the finger at Hollywoods original sin and the tabloidisation of violence and sexuality). The Coen's suggest what goes on beneath the surface. As sunny and sporadically screwball as things are, there's a real darkness that's hinted at occurring *outside* the vignettes. the parodies aren't loving but deeply artificial. i think that's intentional. idk. |
otherwise great list although i have a soft spot for Intolerable Cruelty. Barton Fink, Blood Simple and Miller's Crossing are top 3 (order generally interchangable)
|i also love how well The Coen's deal with ineffectual milquetoasts - Barton Fink is insufferable, ignoring the working men he purports to want to champion, while Larry is infuriating to watch in his acceptance of the Shit heaped upon him until you realise that nihilistic truth: there is no resolution, or meaning, or even autonomy. i've rarely seen the axiom that things happen to people portrayed in such a disquieting but poignant way; rewatches of that film transforms him into something of a tragic hero. brilliant films both. |
|Good points, and I especially agree with your sentiments re Joel & Ethan's treatment of their main characters. They've taken somewhat similar thematicism and applied it to such a wide range of various contexts that nothing ever feels retreaded or warmed over. |