HOW THE WEST WAS WON (MORE OR LESS). It was going to be the Coen brothers’ first collaboration with Netflix, a project that started out as a TV series. In the end, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs turned into a feature, their first digitally shot Western. I had no idea what to expect. It had … Continue reading Ballad of Buster Scruggs: The Wild, Wild West
A COMEDY BEYOND BELIEF. After getting hitched, a former career criminal and a police officer (Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter) learn they can’t have kids… and decide to kidnap one of a furniture magnate’s five babies, the ”Arizona Quints”. The director, writers, cinematographer and composer behind Blood Simple. (1984) returned for a comedy that borrows from … Continue reading Raising Arizona
LIGHTS. CAMERA. ABDUCTION. In 1951, Hollywood fixer Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) juggles a busy life, including trying to find out where the studio’s biggest star (George Clooney) has disappeared… The Coen brothers on familiar turf, with yet another kidnapping and a comedy set half a century ago. The biggest appeal here is how lovingly the … Continue reading Hail, Caesar!
THEY FIGURED HE WAS A LAZY TIME WASTING SLACKER. THEY WERE RIGHT. L.A. slacker Jeffrey Lebowski (Jeff Bridges) goes to see a millionaire who has the same name as him to get compensation after an unfortunate encounter with two thugs, but is drawn into a kidnapping case… The Coen Brothers’ attempt to have a little … Continue reading The Big Lebowski
New York City, 1961; folk singer Llewyn Davis’s (Oscar Isaac) solo album isn’t selling and every night he’s trying to find new gigs and a place to sleep. That’s the situation we find him in, and that’s the situation we’ll leave him in, in this pre-Dylan portrayal of the early ’60s folk scene. The Coen … Continue reading Inside Llewyn Davis
A HOMESPUN MURDER STORY. It’s been said that William H. Macy fought hard for this film. Ethan and Joel Coen were not sure that he was the right guy to play Jerry Lundegaard, a loser who plans to have his wife kidnapped. But Macy knew better. As soon as he had read the script … Continue reading Fargo: A Game Changer for the Coens
PUNISHMENT COMES ONE WAY OR ANOTHER. The original True Grit (1969) is a very good Western, well directed by Henry Hathaway, featuring a script by Marguerite Roberts and a part for John Wayne that finally rendered him an Oscar. Still, the Charles Portis novel that inspired the film is also highly regarded and when the Coen brothers … Continue reading True Grit: A Spielberg Moment
INTELLIGENCE IS RELATIVE. When a CIA analyst (John Malkovich) is fired, he decides to write a book… but the consequences are deadly for some of Washington’s dumbest citizens. This is the Coen brothers having a little fun after winning Oscars for No Country for Old Men (2007). Their story about dirty deals and paranoia in the nation’s capital is well … Continue reading Burn After Reading
In 1967, Minnesota physics professor Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) learns that his wife is cheating on him and wants divorce, and that he plays no vital role in his children’s lives. The Coen brothers certainly know and love the period and Jewish culture portrayed in this comedy; its style and dark sense of humor will … Continue reading A Serious Man
THERE ARE NO CLEAN GETAWAYS. When I started reading Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road”, it took a while before I was hooked but then I was taken aback by the writer’s way of describing the desolate, bleak future. In this film, which is based on one of McCarthy’s books, cinematographer Roger Deakins captures the stark beauty … Continue reading No Country for Old Men: Blood in the Sand
THE LAST THING ON HIS MIND IS MURDER. California, 1949; discreet barber Ed Crane (Billy Bob Thornton) decides to take a chance and invest money in this new invention called dry cleaning, but the only way he can raise the cash is to blackmail his wife’s boss (James Gandolfini). A noir thriller inspired by James … Continue reading The Man Who Wasn’t There
ENGAGE THE ENEMY. The best divorce lawyer (George Clooney) in Los Angeles is hired by a philandering husband, and his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) aims to destroy them both. The Coen brothers reunited with Clooney after O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) for a comedy, and the star pretty much plays this new character the same … Continue reading Intolerable Cruelty
BREAKING UP IS HARD. Marty (Dan Hedaya) hires a private eye to kill his wife (Frances McDormand) and her lover (John Getz), but everything goes wrong in the dark Texas night. The Coen brothers’ debut piece is a low-budget film noir reminiscent of The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), but lacking the absurd comedy that would become … Continue reading Blood Simple.