Monday, September 08, 2008

All hail the Coens: A video tribute

Like just about everyone else in the world, apparently, I didn't bother to turn out for Nicolas Cage's "Bangkok Dangerous," but believe it or not, it looks like there will be three potentially very good movies opening wide this week.

Robert De Niro and Al Pacino (heard of them?) team up for "Righteous Kill," a novelty that's probably enough to net my $6 for a matinee (though the Rolling Stones music in the commercial does raise rather serious fears that this will just be a tired Scorsese knockoff.) And secondly, Alfre Woodard, Kathy Bates and Taraji P. Henson (pictured simply because I like to look at her and I write this) join the Tyler Perry train in "The Family that Preys," which I'm betting will turn out to be a winner.

But, most importantly, it's also the return of the Coen Brothers with "Burn After Reading," which looks like it will be odd enough to fit just right in their body of work. I know they're not for everyone (though I certainly don't know why), but how many directors can you name who have made 10 movies that you either like or outright love? The Coens have accomplished this in my book (out of 13, including "Burn After Reading," which I of course haven't seen yet), so they've certainly earned at least the eyes of the few people who happen to stumble by here. So here, in order of just how much I like them, are my 10 favorite Coen brothers movies, with video enhancement where possible.

10. "Ladykillers"
Yes, "Ladykillers." I realize this remake is almost universally derided as the brothers coasting with nothing new to offer, but I find it to often be very funny. Sure, Tom Hanks is even more annoying as a "Southerner" here than he was in "Forrest Gump," but I submit that J.K. Simmons, Marlon Wayans and, most of all, Irma P. Hall are all fairly great in it, and I offer this clip from the Waffle Hut as proof.



9. "Miller's Crossing"
If anyone wants to quibble with this or any other flick not being higher on the list, remember that everyone on it is a winner to me. The best Coen flicks create a world to escape to for a little while, as it did here with this flick about Irish mobsters. Albert Finney just tore through this one, but believe it or not, that is director Sam Raimi in this brief shootout clip from the flick.



8. "Barton Fink"
If I'm not mistaken this was the first movie that had John Turturro as its principal star, and the first he made with the Coens. It's a portrait of a Hollywood writer suffering a rather severe case of writer's block (and wrestling movies and all kinds of other oddities.) Here's a clip of Turturro and the very funny Tony Shalhoub as a movie producer.



7. "Raising Arizona"
On paper this movie would just seem extremely stupid, and it occasionally is, but in all the best ways. The tale of H.I. and Ed and their quest to have a baby is just the silliest kind of fun, and having watched it last year on the big screen again I can attest that it well stands the test of time. Enjoy this clip of H.I. and Ed trying to oust the Snoats from their home so they can enjoy the company of some "decent folk."



6. "Blood Simple"
The ratings from here on out are kind of arbitrary since I love all of these. There have been very few more straightforwardly entertaining directing debuts than this "Simple" film noir, which introduced Frances McDormand to the world in 1984. Enjoy this opening bit of narration by M. Emmet Walsh, which ends with McDormand's opening line.



5. "Fargo"
The Coens really should have won their first Best Picture Oscar for this one, which in its mix of comedy, violence and intrigue really captures their spirit as well any other. It's also probably the best performances from both William H. Macy and Ms. McDormand. Here's what Siskel and Ebert had to say about it back in the day.



4. "No Country for Old Men"
Call it a "meditation on violence" or any other kind of high-falutin' terms that apply to Best Picture winners, but it's also just a chilling movie and a perfect example of the Coens taking the work of another, here Cormac McCarthy, and making it truly their own. Here's a clip of Woody Harrelson and Josh Brolin, who's been on a real roll since.



3. "The Big Lebowski"
Many people would rank this as the best of the Coen brothers' flicks, and I really can't argue with them. At it's best, when its not just fall-down funny, the dude's story works best as a wild dream, as this clip of Jeff Bridges just tripping balls to Bob Dylan's "The Man in Me" surely proves.



2. "Hudsucker Proxy"
Yes, "Hudsucker Proxy." Many would consider this oddity to be one of the lesser Coen flicks, but I just love it. There's just a sweetness to the tale of Norville Barnes that you don't find in too many Coens flicks, and Tim Robbins and Jennifer Jason Leigh play into it perfectly. Here's a clip of Norville's invention, the hula hoop, hitting the street.



1. "O Brother Where Art Thou"
This flick probably gets shown on Saturday afternoons on TBS more than just about any other in the world, and that just proves a key point about the Coens. Though they often poke fun at the people they paint, it's always in good fun, which is why Southerners (of which I claim to be one) love this movie just as much as I'd imagine Minnesotans do "Fargo." It's also just about the only flick I can think of where you can sit and listen to the great soundtrack and play back every scene from the movie in your mind. Here, to finish this off, is a clip of George Clooney and the boys performing "Man of Constant Sorrow."



So there you have it. For the record, the only two Coen flicks I left off of this list are "The Man Who Wasn't There" and "Intolerable Cruelty," neither of which I have much time for. I hope the clips served as a fun time-waster, and that "Burn After Reading" will be as oddly entertaining as all of these. Peace out.

13 comments:

jeremy said...

I'd be hard pressed to even name any more Coen Bros. films. I think No Country would probably be #1, but the one I watch most frequently would be Lebowski (people dress like the dude or opera-viking bowlers for the midnight show here). Personally, I find Barton Fink to be a little too dense, but like you, I find much enjoyment in the The Hudsucker Proxy.

Chalupa said...

Did you know Albert Finney was the backup in his role?

So would Intolerable Cruelty and The Man Who Wasn't There be at the bottom of your list?

J. Marquis said...

I pretty much love all their movies. Hell, I even think Intolerable Cruelty is hilarious.

Reel Fanatic said...

I should probably watch them again, Chalupa but I have to say that even if I wanted to make the list go to 12, I wouldn't have included "Man Who Wasn't There" or "Intolerable Cruelty" because they're the only Coen flicks I consider to be "bad" movies ... now, noted, that still makes them better than 80 percent of most other stuff out there, but just not my preference

Bob said...

As a Coen Brothers fanatic myself I really enjoyed this list. Personally the only film I don't like is "The Ladykillers" and I love "The Man Who Wasn't There." "Intolerable Cruelty" grew on me but it's definitely at the bottom of the good ones.
I'm glad to see some love for "Hudsucker." Easily their most underrated movie. Jennifer Jason Leigh is so perfect and the Coen line I quote the most is easily, "Ya know...for kids."
If I have to pick one favorite I guess I would say "Fargo" but really it just depends on the day.

Mercurie said...

Thans for that video tribute. I think you certainly hit the Coen's best films. Like you I love O Brother Where Art There. And for you Yanks reading this, yes, there really are folks like that....

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