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September 03, 2008


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I know one of the negative reviews for this complained that they couldn't figure out what kind of movie it was. And this was from a veteran critic. How many Coen Brothers movies does a person have to see before they realize THAT'S the kind of movies they make?

Sure, "Burn After Reading" may not be any good (I doubt it, but it's possible). But I'm baffled by the bafflement still expressed by critics regarding what it is the Coen Brothers do.


Do they mean it will be funny while "No Country for Old Men" -- small comic moments excluded -- was not? It looks damn funny -- I mean, get a gander of Brad Pitt's hair. I'm slavering to see it...

Mary Kay

The Coen Brothers make movies like no one else. And, really, thank God for that. Anyone should know that you can't get the full flavor of one of their movies by just watching it once. Usually, anyway, and especially with their funny films.

I had loved every single one of their movies from the start, and when my husband and I saw "The Big Lebowski" in the theater, we both came out saying "Huh. Not sure about this one". And here we are oh so many years later spitting quotes out on almost a daily basis. Why just last week in a tirade against my son, who's nine, I completely ruined my tough mom persona by yelling at him "You have no frame of reference!" and then cracking up adding "Donny" in my head.

It's not fair to judge a Coen Brothers movie against any other movie made, and that includes their own movies. They are all such unique creations and commentary on modern American life -- just different parts of it. And as you said, Glenn, isn't it interesting that the critical reviews always compare the most recent Coen movie unfavorably to their earlier movies, which they hated (except "Fargo" and "No Country For Old Men") when those movies first came out.

I can hardly wait for "Burn After Reading" -- I'll stop seeing Coen Brothers movies when they stop having fun making them.


I've always been surprised by the lukewarm-to-negative reception of Intolerable Cruelty. I thought this movie was hilarious and clever.

The Hudsucker Proxy was arguably slight but still solidly entertaining Capra stuff.

On the other hand, The Ladykillers

Owain Wilson

I have to say that watching Intolerable Cruelty in the cinema was a truly horrendous experience.

I've only seen it once so my memory of it is a little hazy, but I do remember thinking that the shape, feel and flow of the movie was just ugly. It's the only way I can describe it. I hated it! It was just an awful film. In my opinion.

I didn't enjoy The Ladykillers much, either, but I would like to stand up for Tom Hanks. I thought he was excellent. Despite all his success and despite all his awards, he's still a very underrated actor.

Claire K.

It's been years since I've seen it, but my impression at the time was that The Hudsucker Proxy would've been infinitely better if they'd put anyone but Jennifer Jason Leigh in the female lead. Seriously. A cardboard cutout of Rosalind Russell. Anything.

On the other hand, I'm firmly in your camp on the Tom Hanks question, Owain. People love to hate on him, and I don't get it. Too nice??? Lingering Meg Ryan association???


Even though I kinda like "The Ladykillers" (unnecessary though it is), I've always wished that, instead of going ahead with the remake, the Coens had for some reason gotten it into their heads to make a movie about Hanks's character, and his obsession with Poe. I'm telling you, there's something there.

Mary Kay

I always kind of felt that "Intolerable Cruelty" wasn't really a Coen film because Joel and Ethan weren't the writers of the story. At least they don't have top script billing. It just seemed to be missing their brand of weird humor.

I love "Hudsucker Proxy" because it is such a great homage/satire of all those Frank Capra movies back in the day (and I love those movies, too). I thought Jennifer Jason Leigh did a great job at creating a character that managed to be Rosalind Russell and Jean Arthur. And Paul Newman's "Sure. Sure." response was priceless.

As for "Ladykillers" I still laugh at that movie and particularly enjoying throwing out the line "I can't believe you brought your bitch to the Waffle Hut"! Tom Hanks was great as was JK Simmons and Irma P. Hall.

The worst Coen Brothers movie for me is about 50 times better than most of the movies that come out. And I'll take their off-center weird humor over the super popular gross out humor.


I think "Intolerable" didn't work because it was something the Coens usually aren't: nasty.

I'm looking forward to this, to be honest, and I'm a little surprised that it's facing some bad reviews. How is this inconsistent from their previous stuff? Because it's about a different topic? Still has all the marks of their usual work. And I have to say "I thought you might be worried about the security of your shit" is a BRILLIANT line.

Aaron Aradillas

I'm usually down with the Coens, but I do feel there is room for criticism for their sometimes smug approach to their material.

Blood Simple, Fargo, and No Country for Old Men are really the only movies of theirs that you can say have true human passion. The others (even the really good-to-great ones) have been exercises in genre technique.

While I like Raising Arizona, I think it (like The Princess Bride) is vastly overrated. It is indeed the starting point for all these "quirky" character comedies we've gotten over the last 20 years. People who love RA I think really don't have much of a leg to stand on when trashing Juno. While Ebert's review was a tad harsh, he did pinpoint some the movie's problems. I much preferred David Byrne's True Stories for a Quirky Southern-fried Comedy.

Like Chinatown (but nowhere in the same league), Miller's Crossing is a gangster movie for people who've never seen a gangster movie. It's a useful tool for how to apreciate the gangster genre, particularly the Warners brand from the 30s.

Barton Fink is really just a very elaborate Shaggy Dog joke of a movie. Love that hallway, though.

Hidsucker really owes more to Preston Sturges than Capra. I'm in the por-Leigh camp, but with my usual reservations regarding Leigh's acting style. (Last Exit to Brooklyn and Georgia remain her best. I'm actaually in the minority of liking Ms. Parker and the Vicious Circle.)

Fargo is masterpiece.

The Big Lebowski is great, and I said as much when I forst saw it back in during the Titanic craze. I also knew it was too hostile and grotesque for most people. Now, it seems somewhat quaint. Remember, '98 was the Year of Extreme, with movies like There's Something About Mary, Very Bad Things (underrated), and Thursday were released.

O Brother, Where Art Thou? got a lot of its mileage from the soundtrack. It's a deep-fried Southern Roadshow of the Grotesque. I like it, but it is what it is.

The Man Who Wasn't There was, I think, a deliberate attempt to baffle the "fans" of O, Brother. The Coens were really get off on sometimes making hard-to-like movies right after they've had a major success. (I guess they have Attachment Issues.) TMWWT is a movie you appreciate more than like/love. Billy Bob Thornton's performance holds your attention even when the movie goes off the rails at the end.

Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers are actaully quite underrated. For once, the Cones seem to truly respect the genre and keep their smart-ass flourishes to a minimum. Also, I don't hold the original Ladykillers as a movie that SHOULDN'T BE REMADE.

I predict Burn After Reading will do quite well, but I get the feeling a lot of people will be baffled/disapointed.

The devoted will hail it as the Best Coen Brothers Movie Since The Last One.


Aaron, "The Big Lebowski" is a shaggy dog story. Explain to me how "Barton Fink" fits that definition.

And "Miller's Crossing" as a gangster movie for people who've never seen a gangster movie...I don't know what to say to that. I don't know what it means, for one thing, but I also know that "Miller's Crossing" is quite unlike any other gangster movie I've seen (and I've seen plenty). If you want to distill it -- which I don't, but I will to play along -- it's a brief on the work of Dashiell Hammett. But how you can watch it and not actually FEEL anything for the people is beyond me.

Aaron Aradillas

Basically, a lot of Barton's problems could've been avoided if he hadn't complained about the noise Goodman was making in the next room. Goodman pretty much says this. I saw that coming a mile away, and it all my energy to not let it get on my nerves.

I admit to not knowing a lot of Hammett's work. (I'm more of a Chandler guy.)I will admit that byrne's back-hearted Tom reveals himself to be a romantic, but the Coens do go over the top when they should've known better.

The begging-in-the-woods scene is a perfect example. I agree it's a great scene, but it doesn't know when to quit. As a movie fan I admit the scene is "cool," but it violates the tone of the movie.

On the other hand, the shoot-out with Finney and the hit squad sent after him, is, hands-down, one of the best scenes the Coens have ever created.


"Basically, a lot of Barton's problems could've been avoided if he hadn't complained about the noise Goodman was making in the next room."

A lot of things wouldn't happen in a lot of stories if a given character didn't do a certain thing. That doesn't make it a shaggy dog story.

As for "Miller's Crossing"...well, I've heard those complaints made about the "look in your heart" scene since the movie came out, and I've never agreed with them. Tom's not a killer, though he wants Bernie dead. Bernie's desperate to live, and he begs for his life. How long should that scene have been in order to make it convincing that Tom wouldn't shoot him? And I don't think it's a "cool" scene either. The "Danny Boy" scene is cool (and fantastic), but I don't see what in the world is "cool" about the "look in your heart" scene.

Mary Kay

Aaron, I find it disconcerting that you believe the Coen's have a smug approach to film making. One of the reasons I find them so enjoyable is they love movies, and their genre pictures seem to me to be their way to play and express themselves as defined by past filmmakers. For them to be smug, I would think they would be mocking film genres, and I don't believe any of their films do that.

Your comment about how the begging scene in "Millers' Crossing" doesn't know when to quit reminds me of how David Lynch often uses that technique in his movies and television shows. I don't know if there's a name for it, but I find it intriguing and thought provoking and usually (although not in the case of "Miller's Crossing") it makes me laugh a lot. It's feels based in reality to me. How many times in life do we experience a conversation or moment that seems to drag on infernally long? Last week, I had an experience at a nursing home with a resident that I swear completely imitated the scenes with the decrepit waiter in "Twin Peaks". And, man, it went on (with a couple short breaks) for 20 minutes.

Also, upon further consideration, I must say that the Preston Sturges salute definitely belongs to "O Brother, Where Art Thou" -- even beyond the Coens taking the title from Joel McCrea's unmade movie in "Sullivan's Travels" (such a tasty movie). "O Brother" has a lighter much like Sturges' movies. I think "The Hudsucker Proxy" has the theme of common man reaching the top and then hitting bottom found in most of Capra's movies, but the darker feel found throughout Hudsucker seems reminiscent of the edge in Billy Wilder comedies with some George Cukor and Howard Hawk's sensibility thrown in. Also upon further consideration, my earlier comparison of Jennifer Jason Leigh's portrayal to a combo of Rosalind Russell and Jean Arthur, should be a combo of Rosalind Russell and Katherine Hepburn now that I think on it. But that's just my opinion.


Damn, I wish I followed the sings, would have loved to have stumbled onto a set for this, can't wait to see this one next weekend.

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