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October 16, 2009


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Why does no one pick MILLER'S CROSSING? I guess because it wasn't their favorite. Well, it's mine.

Joseph "Jon" Lanthier

"like some stoned reimagining of the Powell/Pressburger ethos."

Beautiful. The Coens certainly have a well-tempered social-philosophical perspective on the Dude similar to that of P&P towards Clive Candy, though I never thought to juxtapose the two before.

The First Bill C

Mine, too, Bill. Evidently it's an acquired taste.

I haven't read the article yet, but I imagine LEBOWSKI wins the majority. In which event: yawn with a side of snore.


First Bill C - THE BIG LEBOWSKI does win (Glenn picked it! Sshhhh!), but outside of MILLER'S CROSSING I think all the main ones get a mention. I was glad somebody picked BARTON FINK, which is my second favorite.

Just realized there's no O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU? on the list, either. Oh well. Or BURN AFTER READIN, which doesn't surprise me, although I do love it so.

The First Bill C

Ha, oops. Should've worn my mint-flavoured shoes, as Rob Lowe once said. BARTON is my second-fave as well, mostly because it and MILLER'S at some point became an inextricable double-bill in my viewing habits.


I'm glad someone gave The Man Who Wasn't There some much-needed love. Probably my second favorite after Barton.

First Bill C: Don't you think Fargo would have been the more boring consensus pick? Glenn's point about the snobby critical backlash at the Bros. having some fun was well-put. Fargo is near the bottom of the Coens list for me in terms of what I enjoy in multiple viewings.

Dan Coyle

Miller's Crossing is a terrific film. It's sort of shared the favorite spot with, of all things, Raising Arizona for me. Raiaing Arizona, when I first saw it on HBO in, I guess 1989, was like nothing I'd ever seen before, granted I was 11. But it taught me it was possible to have contempt for your characters and still love them in a twisted way. It's still funny as hell, to boot.

The First Bill C

I dunno, Lazarus: FARGO doesn't have its own annual festival, or inspire the kind of compulsive quoting that Monty Python used to. FARGO wasn't repeatedly namechecked, then repurposed, by "How I Met Your Mother". FARGO didn't inspire an online religion! LEBOWSKI is the Coens' STAR WARS at this point, the movie that everybody who likes it thinks makes them unique.

I don't hate it, mind, I'm just disappointed that this list is so lockstep with status quo.


As a consensus pick, I suppose BIG LEBOWSKI is a little boring. I would have thought it even more boring had I not watched it again a couple of months ago. It is a REALLY good movie. What really floored me after watching it again after a long gap was how Donny's death actually manages to be moving. After 100 some minutes of total absurdity, they go and kill poor Donny, completely out of the blue, and it shouldn't work AT ALL. But it does. Walter's hilarious eulogy, combined with his line "I'm sorry, Dude", to that wonderful last scene with Sam Elliot, AND "Dead Flowers" over the credits...it's just amazing how they manage to pull that off.


This list just reminds me of something that the Coens do better than nearly all current filmmakers: endings. The bird plummeting into the ocean in Barton Fink, Tom tilting the fedora onto his head in Miller's Cross, Raising Arizona's "I don't know; maybe it was Utah," Burn's hilarious anti-climax, and of course A Serious Man's perfect punchline of a final shot that I won't spoil. I'd hate to pick a best Coen Brothers movie. Thank God Salon lost my number.

Ryland Walker Knight

More and more I'm pledging allegiance to THE MAN WHO WASNT THERE. In a way it, not LEBWOSKI, seems to perfect their blend of serious and non-serious. Though it clearly errs on the side of the serious, it's got UFOs and a dream sequence and that walking Avery dervish Michael Balducci, tho he's more porcine than foxish, plus some of their driest wit. And, just like LEBOWSKI, it's all about interpretation -- and understanding, or how we form our understandings -- in really cool linguistic, novelistic (tho always cinematic) ways. I mean, it looks great, duh, with all that smoke and those clothes. In any case, I like to think I got LEBOWSKI early on; at the very least I thought it hilarious, a really perfect follow up to FARGO in that it was vibrant as all get-out, and I dug the soundtrack. I'd not seen any P&P yet. I was in high school. My sentimental pick would have to be HUDSUCKER, which was always a sick-from-school favorite. Until I found out about HIS GIRL FRIDAY.

Matt Miller

I maintain that MILLER'S CROSSING is best from a narrative standpoint, BARTON FINK for its quietly apocalyptic tone and O BROTHER for its wordplay, but I'll always hold RAISING ARIZONA as my favorite. Like Dan Coyle, as a kid, this was my introduction to idiosyncratic filmmaking--it was the first movie that made me say "Somebody made this. Somebody weird." Plus, it's still more quotable than LEBOWSKI.

"Everything's CHAAAAYYYNGED!"


Anybody found bipedal in five wears his ass for a hat.

Dot says these here are gettin' too big to cuddle.

Well, no, not unless round's funny.



Awful good cereal flakes, Miss McDunnough.

The First Bill C

Yeah, I had the same PayTV experience with RAISING ARIZONA. I was 13, and it hit me like a truck. I taped the next showing, then I think I watched the first 8 minutes about 6 times in a row. Just kept rewinding back to the beginning, trying to decode it, I guess.

Okay then.

Matt Miller

"I dunno, they were jammies! They had Yodas and shit on 'em!"

And one of my favorite exchanges:

"And when they was no meat, we ate fowl. And when they was no fowl, we ate crawdad. And when they was no crawdad, we ate sand."
"Y'ate *what*?"
"We ate sand."
"Y'ate *sand*?
"Das' right."

Okay, I'm done.


All in all, Raising Arizona is probably their deepest, most brilliantly idiosyncratic film. For personal taste, I'll have to go with the boring old "status quo" and choose LEBOWSKI, since I also loved it early and have loved if often since - for pure repeat viewing resilience, it can't be beat. MILLER'S, a masterpiece in its own right, is second by only a micrometer.

The First Bill C

"Sometimes I get the menstrual cramps REAL HARD."


"I'll take these Huggies, and whatever you got in the drawer."

"No sir, that's one bone-head name, but that ain't me no more."

"They got two Koreans and a negra born with his heart on the outside. Craaazy world."

Dan Coyle

"Maybe he popped one Polack joke too many."

Ryan Kelly

My gut screams "Blood Simple" whenever I try to pick a favorite Coen, a task that I feel is almost impossible. That, and probably "O Brother Where Art Thou?", most unfortunately not represented on the list.

But the list of Coen films I don't love is considerably shorter than the ones I love.

Scott Nye

"What am I talkin' about? I'm talkin' about sex, boy, what the hell you talkin' about? I'm talkin' about l'amour! I'm talkin' that me and Dot are swingers, as in 'to swing.'"

It's that last line that really sells it.

BARTON FINK is my favorite. It's everything I love about the Coens cranked up all the way. Of all their films, it feels like the one they really went for broke on, and made it work. And that ending...wow...

Tony Dayoub

I'll weigh in with Raising Arizona and Barton Fink a close second. Of course, I love all of their movies except for The Ladykillers (big surprise) which was so bad it almost made me reexamine their whole output.

A Serious Man is excellent BTW. Best thing they've done since Lebowski.


"He's a good man. And thorough."

I don't quite know what my favorite Coen is, but I do know what my favorite Coen ending is, and that would be Blood Simple's. One of the more indelible uses of pop music in film, and one that doesn't come up often enough in discussions of the subject.


@JF - I'm not 100 % sure about this, but in the original version of Blood Simple, which I once owned on VHS, the closing music credits was "I'm a Believer" by Neil Diamond (a reprise from the earlier bar scene). When the 'director's cut' came out several years later, it was one of the few details that had changed - to "It's the Same Old Song" I've since misplaced my original copy, so I can't be absolutely certain, but if there was indeed a change, and I'm not totally crazy, it was a choice that perplexed me. Anyone out there able to confirm/disconfirm?


Ok, so next time I'll check IMDB first. They don't supply the whys and the wherefores, but it does confirm that "I'm a believer" was on the original VHS. A much better choice, I think, but it could just be because that's the way I first experienced it.


Zach, I was the same way about the song switch -- I wanted it to stay the way I knew it -- but I'm really come around on "It's the Same Old Song". It works really well, once you're used to it.


"It's the Same Old Song" was in the original theatrical release, but was replaced by "I'm a Believer" for the VHS due to rights issues. The Coens brought it back for the rerelease.


I haven't seen the "I'm a Believer" version, but I think the irony of the "It's the Same Old Song" version might be a little bit subtler. Though subtle irony isn't exactly the Coens' metier.


Ach, a rights issue. As per Bill's comment, I must say that "same old song" version has grown on me a bit, but something about the pure poppy-ness of "i'm a believer" - so upbeat and assured, really works as the first thing you hear after looking at the crazed mug of M. Emmet Walsh.

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