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Barton Fink

4 Comments | This entry was posted on Feb 05 2011

Barton thinks highly of himself and claims to write about the common man and for the common man, when in truth he knows very little about the “common man” (he never listens – and he thinks Charlie is a nice guy when he’s actually a serial killer). And at any rate, the sad fact is that the common man doesn’t care about his “poetry of the streets” anyway. They’d most likely prefer a good wrestling picture.

The box is a metaphor for the ego – the mind. (After all, there may very well be a head inside.) The words “mind” and “head” are constantly said throughout the film. Barton has a big ego at the start of the film but by the end he realizes how naive he is. His favorite writer is even a fraud. When the woman on the beach asks what’s in the box, his reply is “I don’t know” and “I’m not sure.” He’s finally been humbled. The photograph of this woman on the beach represents the inspiration – “the muse” – that he needs to write. (He also seeks a real muse, Judy Davis, to help him.) Once he’s been through hell (some say literally) and been truly humbled – lived a little – he can finally sit down and write something real (the irony is that Hollywood doesn’t want it). Now that he’s enlightened, he sees things as they really are, both himself and the photograph are no longer fake.

Ultimately, I think it’s the Coens smartest and funniest script. The characters are hilarious (the producer and studio head kill me) and the sound, music and cinematography are all pitch perfect. A masterpiece.

Set in 1941, the story focuses on a New York playwright who moves to a seedy L.A. hotel and suffers from writers” block after being recruited to (more…)
88% liked it

R, 1 hr. 56 min.

Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Released: Aug 21, 1991

DVD: May 20, 2003

Miller’s Crossing

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Feb 05 2011

Coens most mature and intelligent script. Sophisticated, poetic and humorous all at the same time. The story is as layered as a house of cards. The performances are a joy to watch. What is it about Gabriel Byrne in this role? It fits him like a glove. You gotta love the unifying filmic device of the Fedora. All in all, this film is sheer perfection.

Set in 1929, a political boss and his adviser have a parting of ways when they both fall for the same woman, which eventually leads to citywide gang (more…)
90% liked it

R, 2 hr.

Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Released: Sep 22, 1990

DVD: May 20, 2003

Fargo

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Feb 05 2011

Pitch perfect black comedy. Coen brothers knock another one out of the park. The sparse location is matched by the vacant lead characters. Brilliant stuff. Unsettling, yet surprisingly profound and humane. It’s a dual protagonist story where both Jerry and Marge are in denial and they’re world views are shattered. Jerry by the consequences of his actions and Marge by the realization that Mikey lied to her in the restaurant (leading to her doubting Jerry.) Even the brilliant score sums up the sweet banality of the small town with an extreme impending violence that explodes under the surface (much like Taxi Driver.) The repressed societies are often the most violent. Clearly, the non-communicative Swede is the most frightening character in the film. Fargo is the kind of film that is unsettling, yet gets better with each viewing. Every scene is brilliantly hilarious.

Filmmaking siblings Joel Coen and Ethan Coen both embraced and poked satirical fun at their rural Minnesota roots with this comedy-drama-thriller that (more…)
91% liked it

R, 1 hr. 37 min.

Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Released: Mar 8, 1996

DVD: Jun 24, 1997

True Grit

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Feb 05 2011

The Coens deliver a perfect homage to an age-old genre. When Bridges gallops towards the four men on horseback, and the music kicks in, I wept with affection towards forty years of classic Hollywood myth. The strength of a fourteen year old girl is also inspiring. As she makes her way across the river, I was euphoric. It’s both a feminist western and a straight-forward tribute to the classic western. There isn’t a false moment. The language is pitch-perfect, cinematography stunning and performances perfectly nuanced and authentic. The film is totally believable and the story is riveting. The final rattle-snake moment is almost archetypal and mythic in its implications. The symbolism throughout shines with glorious confidence and maturity. The film is both simple yet undeniably assured. Yes, the characters may have true grit but the true test is, are they decent? Again and again, characters are questioned about their morality. After all, isn’t this what Westerns embedded in the kids who grew up with them? Iconic, brutally unflinching at times and ethically strong. The Coens have done the genre proud. (But the dentist with the bear coat is definitively quirky Coens humor.)

A tough U.S. Marshal helps a stubborn young woman track down her father’s murderer.
88% liked it

PG-13, 1 hr. 50 min.

Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Box Office: $4.8M

Released: Dec 22, 2010

No Country for Old Men

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Feb 05 2011

The Coens return to form with this relentlessly suspenseful thriller that has one of the all-time scariest serial killers in film history. Without any use of score, they create chilling sequences out of silence. The writing, cinematography and sound are so precisely realized. Truly expert filmmaking. The third act is undeniably uncompromising (almost unsatisfactory). Yet utterly compelling and unforgettable.

Violence and mayhem ensue after a hunter stumbles upon some dead bodies, a stash of heroin and more than $2 million in cash near the Rio Grande.
84% liked it

R, 2 hr. 2 min.

Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Box Office: $4.1M

Released: Nov 21, 2007

DVD: Apr 7, 2009

The Man Who Wasn’t There

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Feb 05 2011

One of the Coens most underrated films. A perfect homage to the Film Noir. From the visuals, to the score, to the impeccable cast, this film is perfect. Completely understated and utterly hilarious. Billy Bob Thornton is frighteningly watchable. Seeing this film again, makes me realize that there isn’t a wasted moment in the entire movie. In fact, that’s one of the greatest trademarks of the Coens’ greatest films: EVERY scene is dynamite. Just when one great little sequence ends, yet another gem appears. How do they do it? Pure genius.

A laconic, chain-smoking barber blackmails his wife’s boss and lover for money to invest in dry cleaning, but his plan goes terribly wrong.
81% liked it

R, 1 hr. 56 min.

Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Released: Oct 31, 2001

DVD: Apr 16, 2002

A Serious Man

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Feb 05 2011

The Coens knock another one out of the park. Ten times funnier than Burn after Reading, Serious Man is unsettling and ambiguous. The ending left me speechless (as did the prologue). This is the kind of film that leaves you with plenty of intriguing memories that make you just want to watch the film again. So in the end, what’s it all about? Larry’s constant attempts at being a “serious” man is his cross to bear. We all try and keep the wolf at the door. However, the sin that he commits in the end brings about Armageddon. It’s all rather brilliant. In typical Coens fashion, we’re never sure whether they are sincere in their profound allegory, or perhaps they’re just messing with us. Also, like Fargo, the most instantly memorable supporting character is a borderline stereotypical Asian man. Strange, yet genius.

A black comedy set in 1967 and centered on Larry Gopnik, a Midwestern professor who watches his life unravel when his wife prepares to leave him (more…)
64% liked it

R, 1 hr. 45 min.

Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Released: Oct 2, 2009

DVD: Feb 9, 2010

The Hudsucker Project

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Feb 05 2011

One of the Coens most underrated films. A huge budget and whimsical homage to the screwball comedy helps make this film a one-of-a-kind experience. Bold, outrageous and downright absurd – a truly dynamite cast with Jason-Leigh doing a perfect Rosalind Russell, makes this one of my favs. Plus, it has Paul Newman! Seriously though, Death vs Father Time is such an original idea. Where do they come up with this stuff?

Set in New York circa 1958, a man quickly climbs his way up the corporate ladder at a conglomerate after starting in the mail room. He reaches the (more…)
80% liked it

PG, 1 hr. 51 min.

Director: Joel Coen

Released: Jan 1, 1994

DVD: May 18, 1999

The Big Lebowski

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Feb 05 2011

Is there another film like The Big Lebowski? The Coens continue their “war on cliche’s” with this zaniest of screwball comedies. Think Preston Sturges on acid. Did you know that Schrader voted it one of the top 40 films of all time? In typical Coens fashion, there’s a layer of subtext relating to The Dude as a Christ-like figure. No joke! His unconditional love of even the most idiotic friends, is admirable. Even the narrator says he’s somewhat of a savior. After all, this film has inspired a pseudo-religion in real life. In the end, what makes Big Lebowski so appealing, is how it continues to get better with each viewing. Like a dear good friend, the more you get to know them, the fonder you become.

The Coen brothers and their agreeable cast make more fun than sense with this scattered farce about a pothead bowler who is mistaken for a deadbeat (more…)
93% liked it

R, 1 hr. 57 min.

Director: Joel Coen

Released: Mar 6, 1998

DVD: Oct 27, 1998

Blood Simple

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Feb 05 2011

An inspiring debut for film students. A smart thriller with sharp dialogue and effective lighting. Less is definitely more. It’s astonishing just how accomplished and confident the Coens were right off the bat. The individual scenes are free from cliche and the brilliant cinematography demonstrates their knack at visual storytelling. It’s also their most suspenseful film with a eloquent and simple score. Their trademark final shot began here: ambiguous, profound and absurd all at the same time. You’ll also notice scenes that show up again in Fargo and No Country (not to mention the precise sound design too.) Even the confused and uninformed characters are brought up again in Burn After Reading. It never ceases to amaze me just how smart, smart, smart they are.

A Texas bar owner hires a private detective to kill his wife and her lover, but things don’t go as planned when double-crossing and betrayal abound.
86% liked it

R, 1 hr. 37 min.

Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Released: Sep 1, 1984

DVD: Sep 18, 2001