Welcome back to another rendition of the Lucky 13 Film Club featuring the Coen Brothers. Your friendly opinion is welcome here–don’t be shy–let’s talk to one another. I pulled from Wikipedia their eighteen films and each has a link that provides a synopsis in case you need a refresher.
- Blood Simple (1984)
- Raising Arizona (1987)
- Miller’s Crossing (1990)
- Barton Fink (1991)
- The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)
- Fargo (1996)
- The Big Lebowski (1998)
- O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
- The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001)
- Intolerable Cruelty (2003)
- The Ladykillers (2004)
- No Country for Old Men (2007)
- Burn After Reading (2008)
- A Serious Man (2009)
- True Grit (2010)
- Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
- Hail, Caesar! (2016)
- The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
- The Tragedy of Macbeth (TBA)
After thirty years of filmmaking, we all have a favorite Coen film. When I was younger, my eyes and ears appreciated their strange storylines, quirky supporting characters, and their dark humor. As I aged, my interest in their work varied upon the project. Sometimes I felt their balance was off, that is, the story was too ludicrous for me to back emotionally–but always, throughout the decades, an element in the whole, a nugget in the creek, makes watching the film worth it. A performance. A character. A scene. A song. An idea that harkens back to the Greeks, and I like that about them; there is an endearing, universal quality about their stories. As screenwriters, they are the gods taking mythical pokes at the foolishness of man. They employ dramatic irony and we laugh. Well, I do.
I like Mojo.com. Have fifteen minutes? Watch this to help you remember the laughs and the technique of the Coen Brothers.
When I think of the Coen Brothers, here’s what comes to mind:
- They remind me of Mark Twain. Folk tales–their films express America by the region including the vernacular and its superstitions and beliefs.
- They appreciate the genre of film noir. Miller’s Crossing is one of my favorites. Gabriel Bryne locks it for me.
- They love Hollywood and hate it, too.
- The songs and scores are a key part of the tale. Kudos to Carter Burwell.
- The themes are universal: heroism, friendship, greed, loss, betrayal, strange love, sacrifice
- The setting plays a huge role in their films. The violence of nature infiltrates and determines the violence in man.
- Romanticism. Naturalism. Modernism. Post-Modernism. It’s all there in the visual form. Like watching instead of reading the assigned anthology of the second half of a U.S. Lit course. While I still prefer to read the anthology, I enjoy seeing the stories on the screen.
Which region do they personify best? Also, what performance or character resonates? Which repeat actor starring in a Coen film grate on your nerves? For me, that’d be Frances McDormand. I like Jeff Bridges and Steve Buscemi.