Monday, March 17, 2008

5 Off The Top Of My Head - The Coens

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You may notice over in the right-hand column, I finally got around to watching No Country For Old Men a second time this weekend. You might recall that the film stupefied me the first time I saw it, and I refused to offer an official opinion until I saw it again... and then, as it is wont to do when one is easily distracted by shiny things, the sands of the hourglass twisted down down down and I lost track of it... only now, with its arrival on DVD, did I make good on my claim.

So... my opinion? It is indeed a great film. Would I have chosen it as Best Picture of 2007? No. If I were to rejigger my personal countdown, it'd probably make #5 (behind There Will Be Blood, Once, The Assassination of Jesse James... and Grindhouse). Why not higher, you ask? I have issues with it's ending, and not in the usual sense that I've seen - I like the ending very much, but I'm not totally sold that the Coens earned it. What I mean is... I think we needed more of Tommy Lee Jones through the rest of the film. This time around the film seemed like even more of a dance between Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem's characters, and these scenes were, as one expects from the Coens, technically thrilling, and both actors were wonderful to watch... but it was Jones' sad-eyed incapability of understanding this new world of horror that the film's supposed to be saturated with and I didn't think they got that point home well enough in the end. Very nearly, mind you, but I felt they came a little short of what they were going for. I don't think the ending would've struck some people as so abrupt if they'd had a more solid through-line that Jones' disaffection was their main theme.

Still, a great film. I'm also happy to report that the film seemed funnier to me this time around, which helped Beth Grant's schticky elderly woman act in the final third seem less jarring than it did the first time I watched it.

Fargo is still my favorite Coens film, though. It'll take something really special to knock that one down. And because why not, here are my five favorite Coen Bros. films (not necessarily in order):


Fargo (1996)
"Ah, hon, ya got Arby's all over me."

Raising Arizona (1987)
"Biology and the prejudices of others
conspired to keep us childless."


The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)

"You know what you are? An enthusiast."


No Country For Old Men (2007)
"That's a dead dog."

Barton Fink (1991)
"Sometimes it gets so hot
I want to crawl right out of my skin."
..

10 comments:

Jillybean said...

Being a tremendous Coen fan myself (Fargo is my Favorite Movie of All Time), I will agree with your top 2 and 5... but to leave off O Brother Where Art Thou and The Big Lebowski? For shame!

JA said...

I wasn't a big fan of Lebowski the first(and only) time I saw it when it came out. I've been meaning to revisit it though, since such a cult has grown around it, see if maybe I was being kooky that first time. I knew I'd get some shit for it's exclusion! ;-)

As for O Brother... meh.

The Man Who Wasn't There's spot was in contention with Blood Simple and Miller's Crossing, but it's been a few years since I've seen either of those, as well, so Wasn't is just fresher in my mind, and I do really like that film.

Stacie Ponder said...

I adore Fargo so much I want to marry it. It's just absolutely perfect.

I'm down with your five, although I might swap Blood Simple for The Man...

I, too, have only seen Lebowski once and I didn't fall in love with it.

Mike said...

Where do The Hudsucker Proxy (I'm constantly betting my non-existent Pulitzer on things thanks to this film) and Miller's Crossing (a film that has me hating John Turturro now every time I see him) fall on your list?

Barry said...

What did you think of Kelly Macdonald's performance?

JA said...

mike - Not a huge Hudsucker fan, but again, it's been quite some time since I saw it. I know, maybe I should've done something crazy like re-watched some of these films before making something so definitive a statement as a list, but that'd be more effort than my usual blissful state of off-the-cuff proselytizing makes room for, see. Miller's just missed top 5, and on another day could've gotten Wasn't's spot.

Barry - Love Kelly McDonald always in everything, and thought she was terrific here. I meant to make comment on her, but forgot. She just adds so much depth and likability to a semi-stock character just by being her, ya know? I could've used more of her, as well, because she underlined the tone that the Coens were going for in her every scene as well.

Kamikaze Camel said...

Ugh, I hate Miller's Crossing and I blame Gabriel Byrne. I think I've only liked one thing he's ever done (Jindabyne) and in everything else is hopeless mugging of boring "intense" sulkery.

Piper said...

I liked how No Country manipulated the audience with its story. You have to work a bit harder and think a bit more than usual but I liked that. It was a movie that because of its reviews forced it into a mass audience, only I don't think this movie should be that. Because everyone won't get it, or wont want to get it. But those that do, man oh man.

Fargo is up there.

Raising Arizona for sure.

Miller's Crossing is excellent.

Blood Simple of course.

And then there's just something about Hudsucker Proxy for me.

JA said...

Piper - You're right that we wouldn't want everything spelled out to the letter, of course; that'd turn the movie into something like Crash. I just thought the pieces didn't gel 100%. It skewed, just a little (I really liked the film, mind you), too far towards the whiz-bang-this-is-tense! showdown scenes, while it's main message, embodied by Tommy Lee Jones, got slightly trampled. In my opinion, of course. ;-)

Catherine said...

Fargo is my favourite, by far. My sister and I quote it to each other all the time (although the Big Lebowski provides its fair share of househould sayings, mainly those spoken by Maude). But Fargo makes me cry like a little girl every time I watch it. The first time I saw it, I was so worried something bad was going to happen to Marge. Wounded, miscarriage, divorce, killed. I was sitting there shaking, thinkng "If they harm this character, I will go off the Coens for life" and I was so relieved by the final scene. *sniff*