Showing posts with label coen bros.. Show all posts
Showing posts with label coen bros.. Show all posts

Monday, February 12, 2018

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Classics Watch: Sullivan's Travels (1941)


Watched:  01/30/2018
Format:  Alamo Drafthouse Village (for free!)
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1940's

Writing about Sullivan's Travels (1941), one of the most cited, most referenced movies in Hollywood history, is something that's unnecessary and probably foolish at this point.  But here we go!  (I'll keep it brief)

Monday, February 15, 2016

Coen Bros. Watch: Hail, Caesar! (2016)


As I said to Jamie when we left the movie "Normally I get annoyed when it's clear the filmmakers expect you to watch the movie more than once to 'get it'."  It's a ridiculous value proposition.  And I am not talking about returning to a mystery movie once you've seen how it all plays out so you can see the pieces working together before the big reveal.  I'm referring to a brand of filmmaking that works extra hard to show how damn smart they are that they forget to tell a compelling story and instead leave a breadcrumb trail for a message that, ultimately, you wonder why they felt they needed to make it so complex you needed a Lil' Oprhan Annie Decoder Ring to decipher it, and it still wound up being "Drink your Ovaltine."

But complexity in messaging has always been the case with the Coen Bros., going especially back to Barton Fink and playing out in even some of their most commercially viable films.  There's always a Mike Yanagita scene, a curve ball leaving you with more questions than answers or at least begging to make you look deeper, and, if you sort it out, it unlocks the picture.   After all, the Coen Bros. do not make mistakes.  They do not do extraneous.  That scene is saying something.

Now, I have my ideas about what the final scene means in Barton Fink, but I would always, always be willing to hear someone else explain it to me, because as much as I like that movie and like what it has to say about the assumptions and pretensions of the creative person, I can't quite nail that last scene on the beach.  I have my ideas, but I am willing to be convinced otherwise.

Sometimes I have a lot of patience for what the Coen Bros. are up to (Inside Llewyn Davis), and sometimes I don't (The Man Who Wasn't There).  And, frankly, while I enjoyed The Big Lebowski's screwball atmosphere the first time I saw it, it was the second time I watched it that the pieces fell in place and I felt like I actually "got it".  Which, of course, makes me want to re-watch The Man Who Wasn't There despite the fact I can't really seem to find it.  Maybe I forgive them because it doesn't feel so much like pretension as a solid movie they're putting out there, one where they offer everything up, and you can try to keep up.  And it's okay to have that nagging feeling that maybe you just saw something that you didn't entirely get on the first round.  With them, I really don't mind giving it another shot.

Hail, Caesar! (2016) was marketed as a sort of slapsticky comedy, something the Coens certainly did back in the Raising Arizona days and which they embraced mightily in The Hudsucker Proxy (a movie I will defend with punches, if necessary), riffing on post WWII-era Hollywood and the innate charm, goofiness and endless scandal that were part of the era.

But this is not that movie.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

TV Watch: Fargo Season 2



I was on blogging hiatus during the first season of Fargo.  In the year since returning I haven't talked about the program a great deal, but if you're a regular reader (Hi, Dad!), you may have seen me make mention of the show and the Season 1 star, Allison Tolman.  Hollywood, find this person work.  She's great.

When the show came back on again this Fall, I didn't care to write about this season of Fargo on an episode-by-episode basis.  When writing about television with its weekly installments, with its endless trails of breadcrumbs leading you in to the next episode and into the next season, you wind up tallying plot points, punching holes, checking boxes and idly speculating.  I do it here all the time when I talk TV.  

But with programs like FX's Fargo in this new era of American television, we're getting a new form of the medium, something akin to the novel for motion pictures.  Obviously, TV has grown and changed.  In many corners its unrecognizable from the industry and story-telling I grew up with, and while I find the idea of "binging" a show kind of weird and self-defeating, I can understand the desire to move from chapter to chapter and stay up late to finish a good book.

Fargo the TV series was never going to be the film of the same name, and seemed a hugely risky endeavor, a tight-rope act of television.  It was to be produced by the Coens, but that's code for: they'd get a check, but have no real participation.  Instead, it was the creative vision of Noah Hawley, a guy who worked on Bones and some other shows, but who didn't seem to have made a name for himself, exactly.  Few modern filmmakers are as highly regarded as the Coen Bros., and few have been as routinely successful in plunging into new territory, film after film.  And while you can enjoy a Coen Bros. film upon a first viewing, they bear repeat viewings and never disappoint.  And the Coen Bros. are prolific. 

The movie of Fargo arrived in 1996 to well-deserved critical acclaim and solid box office.  A noir-ish tale of avarice, crime, and human monsters with the soft glint of decency still living on the edges, painting the warm bed and the mundanities of life as a refuge - a good thing - in a world that has darkness always lapping at the edges.  The film struck a chord with a wider audience than the Coen Bros. had previously enjoyed, even when the studios tried to push them front and center with Hudsucker Proxy.  Sure, a lot of folks went to see the cop movie with the funny accents, but they wound up seeing a pretty good picture, too.

So what could we expect out of a TV show with a seeming lack of participation from the Coens?

Friday, February 6, 2015

SW Watches: The Big Lebowski

I'll never really be sure I understand what the Coen Bros. were thinking with this one.  That's not to say it doesn't work, but it's an odd bit of noir-detective, what with our detective in this mystery barely participating, a cowboy narrator and all the bowling.  At the end of the day, it's really a movie, I guess, about two very different guys who love and understand one another not just despite their differences, but because of them.  Maybe.

The movie certainly leans on the trappings of the Chandler or Hammett detective novel, which - 20 years after the fact, would get associated with noir detective movies, mostly thanks to the success of Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe adaptations.  There's the wealthy, non-ambulatory older gentleman in his castle asking for assistance, a sexy ice-queen of a daughter with schemes of her own, third and fourth parties working at cross-purposes, niggling idiots who cross the path of our detective who just get in the way, and repeated blackouts for our hero.

But, really, all our hero wants to do is go bowling and get a replacement rug for his living room.



Saturday, January 24, 2015

SW Watches: Raising Arizona (1987)

Truly, one of the great comedies and a movie everyone should see.  I like to think it has something for everyone, and it's one of the few movies in my life I actually kind of forced on my folks, KareBear and The Admiral.



It's also a movie that, if you grew up with it, you probably quote twice a day at this point without realizing it.  Just an absolutely brilliant script.  Good enough that you've seen a man's repeated crimes and incarcerations, a couple's entire courtship, and marriage, their failure to conceive and the hatching of a plan, and you haven't even seen the credits roll.

And, of course, the theme song, Way Out There, one of the most instantly recognizable movie soundtracks I can think of that wasn't the work of Johns Williams or Barry.

Jamie and I are Childfree or Childless Americans or whatever you want to call it, but that doesn't men we don't like the childrens.  We just want them to not be in our home 24 hours a day.  Or to touch our stuff.  This April, Steanso and Aimers are welcoming their own little Nathan Jr..  It's a blessed event and all that, but as HI is stressing over Dip-Tet tests and saving for the orthodonture, the stuff played for comedic effect is kind of much funnier.  It doesn't hurt that I've been watching all of y'all go through this, one after another.

Of course, that kind of makes me and Jamie Gayle and Evelle Snoats in this scenario.  I suspect this makes me Evelle.

So, we'll see if Jason starts to feel the pressure and returns to his old ways with arrival of The Wee Baby Seamus (as we've insisted on calling the baby until he arrives), but I'm not sure Austin is ready for that much bad guitar playing.

Anyhow, y'all don't need me telling you how good this movie is.  And I don't have the energy to write up anything about the deeper themes of the movie.  You guys can ponder than on your own.

But I guess I'm on a bit of a Coen Bros. kick.


Saturday, January 17, 2015

SW Watches: The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)


I'm not entirely clear on the reason, but The Hudsucker Proxy took a beating both critically and at the box office upon its release in 1994.  I saw it for my 19th birthday with JAL, and we loved the hell out of this thing.  It was immediately added to the list of highly quotable movies, and added the word "Dingus" to my vocabulary.  In '95, when we all showed up for the first day of the highly competitive film production program at UT and people asked what we wanted to make, I said something about Star Wars and then paused as all the folks who just talked about Truffaut and whatnot around the room glared at me, and said "You know...  for kids!".

JAL thought it was funny, at least.

Maybe the movie is too ambitious for it's own good.  Maybe it broke the Coen Bros' SOP a bit too much to work with a real budget and to have name stars like Paul Newman in the room.  The plot is less ambitious than Miller's Crossing, but perhaps too complicated for the light-comedy audience that doesn't want to keep up with the whole "circles and wheels of time" symbolism, metaphor, imagery, etc..  that absolutely permeates the film, right down to a Hula Hoop as the failure and success of a corporation's fortunes (and we can talk about throwing a disc out the window as the film' conclusion some other time).

I dunno.  But reviews at the time weren't good, and even when critics discuss the movie today, it's with a bit of a sigh, like Jennifer Jason Leigh doesn't totally kill it in every scene she's in.

Those critics can kind of go to hell, in my humble opinion.