Thursday, September 9, 2010

Focus on the Coen Brothers...

The Coen brothers, Joel and Ethan, have been making movies for over 25 years. They have a knack for writing great, quirky scripts that surprise, shock and make us laugh all at the same time. Their films cover themes of chance, free-will, predestination and nihilism in such a way that seriously gives people the creeps. Why? Who knew that such ordinary characters, the types that we run into every day, can be so twisted and fucked up inside?

I will go through three of my favorite Coen Brothers films, films that I highly recommend for the discerning movie fan.

1) Blood Simple
Release date: January 18, 1985
Running time: 1 hour 36 minutes (Director's Cut)

The film's title derives from the Dashiell Hammett novel Red Harvest, in which "Blood Simple" is a term used to describe the addled, fearful mindset people are in after a prolonged immersion in violent situations.

A sleazy bar owner in a small Texas town hires a private detective to murder his wife and her lover, who works as the manager of his establishment. But of course things don't go as planned. If they did there would be no use for a movie. The guy hired by the owner is down with the classic double-cross. He collects the fee for the hits without performing said services, kills the bar owner and then plants evidence to try to frame the man he was supposed to kill.

But of course he fucks that up big-time, and the film goes into detail on the various twists and turns that are inevitable in such a cluster-fuck of circumstances.

2) Miller's Crossing

Release date: September 21, 1990
Running time: 1 hour 55 minutes

One of the most underrated gangster flicks of all time. Set in an unknown city in Depression-era America, the Coen Brothers weave a tale of love, betrayal, retribution, vicious gangsterism and the very little that is left of the various characters' old lives after the smoke clears.

The best part about the film is the acting. Very rarely do you get a crew that simultaneously acted the hell out of their respected parts the way these cats did. Typical for a Coen Brothers film in that there are many plot twists that one has to pay close attention to-it took me a couple of viewings just to figure out what "The Dane" was up to, and if you don't pay attention you'll miss it. After watching this film you too will want to run out and give someone you don't like the "High Hat".

3) No Country for Old Men

Release date: November 9, 2007
Running time: 2 hours 2 minutes

And to think I thought this film was garbage the first time I saw it. What the fuck was I thinking...This film has a character in it, played by the brilliant Spanish actor Javier Bardem, who over the course of the story develops into one of the most compelling on-screen villains in the history of cinema. It blows away the overplayed and bombastic Hannibal Lecter by a country mile. How good was his performance? Bardem won the Academy Award for "Best Supporting Actor" for his role.

A guy out in West Texas stumbles upon a satchel of cash at a scene where apparently a drug deal had gone badly, leaving dead bodies splattered all over the place. He could have been home free except for the idiotic decision to go back later that evening to re-visit the scene of the crime, due to the fact that he had found one survivor who was bleeding to death in a pickup truck and begged him for water. He goes back out there with a jug of water and is tailed and attacked by whomever was looking to recover the stash of drugs and money.

Bardem plays Anton Chigurh, the hitman hired to get back the stolen money. Tommy Lee Jones plays the sheriff in whose jurisdiction the crime is committed. As more people begin to follow the guy's trail, we get to see plenty of scenes of sheer lunacy masquerading as typical West Texas life. This is what makes the film so creepy. They cats who are supposed to play the heroes are anything but, and the bad guys are badder than you would ever want to encounter in real life. This, my friends, is one hell of a film.

Checking out all three on a rainy Sunday afternoon. I could think of worse ways to spend time indoors. Just remember to put the DVD player on pause when the Chinese food delivery guy rings your bell-you don't want to miss one second of these great films.

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