actors, Are You Not Entertained?, directors, Film Spotlight, Lucky 13 Film Club, movies

L13FC: Regionalism in Coen Brothers Movies

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.

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: 

  1. They remind me of Mark Twain. Folk tales–their films express America by the region including the vernacular and its superstitions and beliefs.
  2. They appreciate the genre of film noir. Miller’s Crossing is one of my favorites. Gabriel Bryne locks it for me.
  3. They love Hollywood and hate it, too.
  4. The songs and scores are a key part of the tale. Kudos to Carter Burwell.
  5. The themes are universal: heroism, friendship, greed, loss, betrayal, strange love, sacrifice
  6. The setting plays a huge role in their films. The violence of nature infiltrates and determines the violence in man.
  7. 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. 

actors, directors, movies, oscars

The Best Decade in Film: 1990s

It’s obvious to me that the 1990s were the best years in film. Drama defined the decade because of the contributions of Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, Robert DeNiro, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, and the Coen Brothers.

Tom Hanks. He owned the decade. Sure, there were mediocre choices like That Thing You Do! in 1996 or in 1992, as Jimmy Dugan in A League of Their Own. He managed to put his personal stamp on the film with the memorable phrase, “There’s no crying in baseball!”
But consider this blockbuster list:
1990, Bonfire of the Vanities
1993, Philadelphia (Best Acting Oscar)
1993, Sleepless in Seattle
1994, Forrest Gump (Best Acting Oscar)
1995, Toy Story
1995, Apollo 13
1998, Saving Private Ryan
1999, The Green Mile
1999, Toy Story 2
Many would say Saving Private Ryan is the best war film. His ability to represent the common man with simplistic charm is reminiscent of the great Jimmy Stewart. However, Jimmy only won one Oscar in 1940 with The Philadelphia Story. Of course, Tom Hanks greeted the new century with strong performances but it was the 1990s where he became the legend we know today.

Steven-Spielberg_directing

Steven Spielberg
His relationship with Tom Hanks in films has served them both well. Not only is Saving Private Ryan arguably the best war film, which is a Spielberg masterpiece, Spielberg gets the credit for the best film ever made with Schindler’s List. That’s a subjective claim, but does anyone disagree that Schindler’s List is one of the finest films in the history of film making?

It happened in the 1990s.

What else did Steven Spielberg put out that decade? Two personal favorites are Jurassic Park, 1993, and Amistad in 1998.

Speaking of directors and actors teaming up, how about Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro in the 1990s? Here are the best gangster films combined with strong acting in DeNiro’s career:

Martin Scorsese                          
1990, Goodfellas  
1991, Cape Fear
1993, The Age of Innocence   
1995, Casino

Robert DeNiro

1990, Goodfellas

1991, Cape Fear

1993, This Boy’s Life

1995, Casino

1997, Wag the Dog

If you disagree that Schindler’s List wasn’t the best film of the decade, then you probably agree with a million other critics that Pulp Fiction was the best film of the decade. QT shocked with Reservoir Dogs and impressed us with Jackie Brown. If you are a Coen Brothers fan, then you probably are a cult follower of the Dude and drink White Russians as a token of homage. That was when I was snookered by Jeff Bridges as an exceptional actor in The Big Lebowski. Fargo, Miller’s Crossing, and Barton Fink solidified the Coen’s career and into the twenty-first they flew with one instant classic after another. Finally, if the above reasons don’t convince you, here are more random films from the 1990s that I favor:

L.A. Confidential, Mission Impossible, Being John Malkovich, Rushmore, Contact, Sense and Sensibility, Elizabeth, Dogma, Last of the Mohicans, Dances with Wolves, Sling Blade, The Piano, Star Trek: First Contact, and Run Lola Run.

Are you convinced now that the 1990s was the best decade in film-making history?