Posts Tagged ‘The Coen Brothers’

Burn After Reading: Deceptively Incoherent

September 18, 2008
The face that starts it all.

The epitomy of insecurity.

It’s like the good old days when all of the big star names would get together to make a nice bit of nonsense. Everyone here is great. J.K. Simmons, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, Richard Jenkins…and yes, more. Sometimes I wonder if the Coen Brothers just like to make movies with big stars just to show us they can. We all know that’s not the case.

As Antonio says, “I’m far more serious than my custom.” So are the Coen Brothers.

While watching Burn After Reading a song popped into my head, Eleanor Rigby by The Beetles. It’s a song about lonely people, Burn is littered with the people of this planet that are so lonely and depressed they don’t know how to not dig themselves into a whole. The insecurity factor in this film is so high the first place I walked to when the movie finished was a mirror in the men’s room to tell myself how great I was. Everything in this film – each action and reaction is based on the character’s inabilty to cope with their own decisions…so they make worse ones. It’s really quite amusing to watch, only because I see a lot of them in me.

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Anton Chigurh – Talk of the Town

December 14, 2007

No Country for Old Men a critical response

Jim Emerson writes at his blog Scanners

(A comment by Phillip Kelly in reply to an earlier post made me chuckle and got me thinking. He wrote: “I guess my theorizing [of] Anton Chigurh as main character doesn’t stand now that Miramax is touting him for Best Supporting Actor. Too bad.” That’s the jumping-off place for this entry.)

The New York Film Critics Circle gave Javier Bardem its 2007 Best Supporting Actor award for his role as Anton Chigurh (“shi-GUR”) in Joel and Ethan Coen’s “No Country For Old Men” (which was also named Best Picture). The funny thing is, so much of the discussion of the of the movie centers around Chigurh that you’d think he was was the lead. And critical reservations about “No Country” tend to focus on interpretations of Chigurh, and whether the critic accepts him as a character or a mythological presence or a haircut or some combination thereof.

Go read the rest of it, because he’s got more interesting points. Actually read all the articles he’s got there about “NCFOM”, and then all theearlier posts here. It’s a great film to discuss. That being said…

I still won’t relinquish my feeling that Chigurh is the lead character. He’s the only one we get to know well enough to understand his tics. Sure Carla Jean’s fate is sealed off camera, but he checks his boots. And what is it that we know he doesn’t like getting on his boots? We don’t get to know any of the other characters this intimately. He’s the only character talked openly about as having a code, which as I’ve written before a main character will either come around to a common belief or believe so strongly in something that the other character’s in the filmcome around to his – Anton falls under the latter. He’s really the only character others react to within any level of emotion for goodness sakes! I’m sorry but if Hopkins can win for best actor as Lecter, then this a lead role. But no, instead the character that we don’t get to see until several scenes in, the one whose demise we don’t even get to witness, whose face is hardly seen when we realize he’s dead, who merely steps into this story that’s already happening without him and would continue without him…who really just holds things up briefly in the grand scheme of things (boy if he represents mankind in this mess we’re in trouble!) is made to be the lead character. Only because he’s the closest thing to a “hero” we have. He’s fighting for his life after all, right? Just like we do every day. But we know better, just as Chigurh does when he tells him over the phone, the best deal he’s going to get is the one offered, and no offer says he’ll live. Does his life have the same meaning as even Tom Bell’s does? Is there hope for him afterwards, someone waiting for him? He doesn’t even make it to be one of the old men that the title refers to. We have no idea what he does for a living until he’s practically dead!! Main character my foot.

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No Country for Old Men: A critical response

November 30, 2007

No Country for Old Men a critical response

There are SPOILERS here! 

I find that sometimes to further infiltrate the skin of a movie one must read other’s interpretations to help resolve ones own thoughts, and then to create a dialogue. Jim Emerson at Scanners has recently put forth many posts about the Coen Brother’s latest film No Country for Old Men, and I’ll let him say many of the things I could say, as I agree with most of what he puts forth, which can be read in its entirety here. He states with eloquence some of the ideas that permeate the film and some of the problems he sees in other critics interpretations of the film. He begins with this assesment before moving into the film itself.

“No Country for Old Men” has been called a “perfect” film by those who love it and those who were left cold by it. Joel and Ethan Coen have been praised and condemned for their expert “craftsmanship” and their “technical” skills — as if those skills had nothing to do with filmmaking style, or artistry; as if they existed apart from the movie itself. Oh, but the film is an example of “impeccable technique” — you know, for “formalists.” And the cinematography is “beautiful.” Heck, it’s even “gorgeous.” …

But what do those terms mean if they are plucked out of the movie like pickles from a cheeseburger? How is something “beautiful” apart from what it does in the film? (See uncomprehending original-release reviews of “Barry Lyndon” and “Days of Heaven,” for example, in which the “beautiful” was treated as something discrete from the movie itself.) When somebody claims that a movie overemphasizes the “visual” — whether they’re talking about Stanley Kubrick or Terence Malick or the Coens — it’s a sure sign that they’re not talking about cinema, but approaching film as an elementary school audio-visual aid. When critics (and viewers) refer to the filmmakers’ application of “craft,” “technique,” and “style” (can these things be applied, casually or relentlessly, with a spatula?) without consideration of how these expressions function in the movie, we’re all in trouble. A composition, a cut, a dissolve, a movement — they’re all manifestations of craft (or skill), technique (the systematic use of skill), style (artistic expression).

 Great points before he goes further into the themes of the film.

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No Country for Old Men: The Review

November 29, 2007

No Country for Old Men

Over the years I’ve learned that safety is relative, unfortunately through no experience of my own. Instead I’ve watched some of my closest friends deal with some of the worst incidents that many times occurred in broad day light. Anywhere, any place, any time, anything can happen, and it feels like while this is happening, God or whatever being you believe in, the one being that can perhaps keeps you safe, is always a step behind. But those things that happen, those horrible things, don’t they feel like they’re getting worse. That the evil in the world is becoming braver and using more extreme methods to produce the carnage they want to produce? Where does that leave the people who came from a simpler time?

That is the basic, blanketing idea behind the title of No Country for Old Men, but as far as ideas in the movie goes, you’ll find yourself chasing each line, looking desperately for meaning in every word uttered and image seen. That’s how well crafted the Coen Brother’s newest crime film outing is. Like Fargo they take advantage of there setting, this time Texas, and create a mood with their characters unparralelled by other filmmakers. They’re fluency in film language has been perfected to the point over the years that even in shots that other directors would find a waste of effort, there’s a stark realism, sometimes those things are so realistic they come off as surrealistic. In every shot a story is being told, or an emotion is being conveyed, or an idea is being sought after.

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Paris Je T’aime — Weekly Movie Update from LA

May 25, 2007

Before Pirates lambastes the world I thought I would take a moment and praise this little film that has almost more passion than it knows what to do with. Passion for Paris and even more so, passion for cinema.

paris je t'aim movie poster

“Paris Je T’aime” is a new film from the same producer of “Amelie”, that other love note to Paris. But here the Directors are far more diverse. Everyone from The Coen Brothers to Walter Salles to the cinematographer Christopher Doyle to Alphonso Cuaron to Gerard Depardieu to Alexander Payne to Tom Tykwer to Wes Craven to Gus Van Sant ( and many French directors as well who I will now take the time to get to know)… well it seemed like every director or person who wanted to direct something in Paris poured their heart into one of the 18 shorts that comprised this film – you can see all of their names circling the poster along with all of the actors too.

And thank God they wanted to. What could have been an exercise in excess never once lurches as it passes from one skillful hand to the next. It sings, vaults and dances circles around your senses. One moment laughing at the absurdity – the next moved by something suddenly emotional. This film captures Paris in snapshots, beautiful little snapshots. Precise, keen snapshots. The subtlety at which some of the stories were told baffled and surprised me. All of you wannabe filmmakers out there who feel like a short film has to be a half hour long, watch this movie and learn.

And as I stated Paris isn’t the only thing the makers of this film are in love with, they show a passion for all kinds of cinema. And it’s a joy to watch them share their visions.

Check it out. It’s a gem.

Watch these trailers. Do not search for the American trailer, they give away too many plot points…idiot American Producers.


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