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A SERIOUS MAN 
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Post A SERIOUS MAN
Click here for the review of A Serious Man

SPOILERS must be tagged with the "SPOILER" tag!


Tue Sep 29, 2009 11:27 pm
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Post Re: A SERIOUS MAN
I'm incredibly excited to see this.

While I'm a huge Cones fan and would seek this out regardless of its buzz, I must say that most of the reviews have not piqued my interest very much, but this one, I feel (having not seen the film), conveyed the tone wonderfully. As with most Coen works, there are a variety of ways to consume the film I'm sure, but this one especially seems to be a straight comedy to some, and a complete downer to others. Regardless, I'm very excited.

James...you mention that the film "will reside in the upper echelon of [the Coens's] titles, although a little below the top."

I'm wondering: off hand, how would you rank the best of the Coens? Objectively rating their work is about as tough as it gets for any filmmaker given their variances, but do you see A Serious Man as being in their second tier? If so, behind what? Or is it on their top tier, just not quite the best film they've made?


Wed Sep 30, 2009 1:03 am
Post Re: A SERIOUS MAN
I actually just saw the trailer for this last night when I saw 9 and was VERY excited about it...it just said "coming soon" i'll have to see if it's coming at all near me lol.


Wed Sep 30, 2009 8:37 am
Post Re: A SERIOUS MAN
Shade wrote:
I'm incredibly excited to see this.

While I'm a huge Cones fan and would seek this out regardless of its buzz, I must say that most of the reviews have not piqued my interest very much, but this one, I feel (having not seen the film), conveyed the tone wonderfully. As with most Coen works, there are a variety of ways to consume the film I'm sure, but this one especially seems to be a straight comedy to some, and a complete downer to others. Regardless, I'm very excited.

James...you mention that the film "will reside in the upper echelon of [the Coens's] titles, although a little below the top."

I'm wondering: off hand, how would you rank the best of the Coens? Objectively rating their work is about as tough as it gets for any filmmaker given their variances, but do you see A Serious Man as being in their second tier? If so, behind what? Or is it on their top tier, just not quite the best film they've made?


I hear you. I'm there opening night for any Coen Brothers movie. They are, by far, the most interesting and compelling contemporary filmmakers. They seem to be making movies yearly now, which is a great thing. I'm curious to see how this one plays out. James' review makes it sound like it's directly up my alley. This is excellent news.


Wed Sep 30, 2009 8:49 am
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Post Re: A SERIOUS MAN
Shade wrote:
I'm wondering: off hand, how would you rank the best of the Coens? Objectively rating their work is about as tough as it gets for any filmmaker given their variances, but do you see A Serious Man as being in their second tier? If so, behind what? Or is it on their top tier, just not quite the best film they've made?


For me, their top three are Blood Simple, Miller's Crossing, and No Country for Old Men. A Serious Man would be in the group just behind those, with Fargo, Intolerable Cruelty, The Hudsucker Proxy, and The Big Lebowski.


Wed Sep 30, 2009 11:58 am
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Post Re: A SERIOUS MAN
James Berardinelli wrote:
Shade wrote:
I'm wondering: off hand, how would you rank the best of the Coens? Objectively rating their work is about as tough as it gets for any filmmaker given their variances, but do you see A Serious Man as being in their second tier? If so, behind what? Or is it on their top tier, just not quite the best film they've made?


For me, their top three are Blood Simple, Miller's Crossing, and No Country for Old Men. A Serious Man would be in the group just behind those, with Fargo, Intolerable Cruelty, The Hudsucker Proxy, and The Big Lebowski.


I definitely agree with Blood Simple and No Country for Old Men being amongst their best with the latter arguably being their masterpiece. Now, where would you place Raising Arizona and Barton Fink?


Wed Sep 30, 2009 12:53 pm
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Post Re: A SERIOUS MAN
James Berardinelli wrote:
For me, their top three are Blood Simple, Miller's Crossing, and No Country for Old Men. A Serious Man would be in the group just behind those, with Fargo, Intolerable Cruelty, The Hudsucker Proxy, and The Big Lebowski.


I like them all. I'd be hard presed to rank them, so I'm glad I don't have to.

I recently saw The Man Who Knew Too Much on DVD. I had always avoided it because I foolishly thought it was a remake of a Hitchcock film. Now, it may be one of my favorite Coen Bros. films.


Wed Sep 30, 2009 12:58 pm
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Post Re: A SERIOUS MAN
oafolay wrote:
I definitely agree with Blood Simple and No Country for Old Men being amongst their best with the latter arguably being their masterpiece. Now, where would you place Raising Arizona and Barton Fink?


I like Raising Arizona but it's among my least favorites of their comedies. Barton Fink is my least favorite Coens film, but with the caveat that I haven't seen it in a long time.


Wed Sep 30, 2009 4:48 pm
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Post Re: A SERIOUS MAN
To me, the top three Coen movies are Blood Simple, Fargo, and No Country. I actually don't like Miller's Crossing.


Wed Sep 30, 2009 7:15 pm
Post Re: A SERIOUS MAN
It's safe to say I am in the minority. No Country For Old Men is near or at the bottom of the Coen's credits. But I must say I do not dislike any of their films so it's not a jab at them or No Country.

I eagerly await A Serious Man but wish JB hadn't mentioned the unconventional ending. Said endings don't bother me a bit but I feel it should remain a surprise to the viewer. Oh well. It won't hinder my enjoyment of the film.


Thu Oct 01, 2009 4:27 pm
Post Re: A SERIOUS MAN
James Berardinelli wrote:
Shade wrote:
I'm wondering: off hand, how would you rank the best of the Coens? Objectively rating their work is about as tough as it gets for any filmmaker given their variances, but do you see A Serious Man as being in their second tier? If so, behind what? Or is it on their top tier, just not quite the best film they've made?


For me, their top three are Blood Simple, Miller's Crossing, and No Country for Old Men. A Serious Man would be in the group just behind those, with Fargo, Intolerable Cruelty, The Hudsucker Proxy, and The Big Lebowski.



I think 'Fargo' has received one of the most unfair backlashes of any film of the 90's, second only to 'Dances With Wolves'. I hear the word 'overrated' used in conjunction with this film, and I can't help but wonder why.

This is going to sound dry and pretentious, but I mean this is in the purest way imaginable; 'Fargo' cannot be enjoyed in one viewing. Much like 'Magnolia', it takes numerous viewings, and, indeed, total familiarity with the film for the brilliance within to truly grip the viewer. The closest comedy to approache this level of accomplishment in dense texture is 'Withnail & I', which evidences the same lingering charm that can only be attained far after your initial reaction has been felt.

That being said, I share your appreciation and love for 'No Country For Old Men' and 'Miller's Crossing' (the latter being perhaps their most nimble and impressive effort with tone), but I think 'Blood Simple', despite being an impressive debut, seems almost lazy and monotone by Coens standards. I find it's straight-forward nature to be slightly disappointing; even 'No Country For Old Men' has more dry humor and wit, and it also uses it's cold, serious tone for greater thematic purposes. Whereas 'Blood Simple' is simply a chiller well-done, 'No Country' is a great leap into the profound.

I cannot fathom how you would put 'Fargo' next to 'Hudsucker Proxy' (in my opinion their weakest title) or 'Intolerable Cruelty', but you did say it best yourself - comedy is subjective. This might be that expression's most potent example.


Thu Oct 01, 2009 9:53 pm
Post Re: A SERIOUS MAN
Evenflow8112 wrote:
James Berardinelli wrote:
Shade wrote:
I'm wondering: off hand, how would you rank the best of the Coens? Objectively rating their work is about as tough as it gets for any filmmaker given their variances, but do you see A Serious Man as being in their second tier? If so, behind what? Or is it on their top tier, just not quite the best film they've made?


For me, their top three are Blood Simple, Miller's Crossing, and No Country for Old Men. A Serious Man would be in the group just behind those, with Fargo, Intolerable Cruelty, The Hudsucker Proxy, and The Big Lebowski.



I think 'Fargo' has received one of the most unfair backlashes of any film of the 90's, second only to 'Dances With Wolves'. I hear the word 'overrated' used in conjunction with this film, and I can't help but wonder why.

This is going to sound dry and pretentious, but I mean this is in the purest way imaginable; 'Fargo' cannot be enjoyed in one viewing. Much like 'Magnolia', it takes numerous viewings, and, indeed, total familiarity with the film for the brilliance within to truly grip the viewer.


I wasn't aware of any "backlash" against Fargo. Most people that I know of really enjoy it or don't. Those that don't were never a fan to begin with. I fell in love with Fargo the first time I saw it right after it came out on video and I was 15 or 16 at that time. It does not take multiple viewings to enjoy. Fargo isn't a film for everyone.

My opinion is the same for Magnolia. I watched it at the theater and it was a true cinematic experience for me. The film blew my mind. I have not felt that way about and new film since. But like Fargo, Magnolia is not a film for everyone. You can't learn to like either film. It sticks with you or it doesn't.

As for Dances With Wolves...I was thinking about my top 10 of the 90's and Dances With Wolves would have to be on that list. It's a great film. And I think it's an example, along with Copland, that any actor can shine with the right project.


Thu Oct 01, 2009 10:14 pm
Post Re: A SERIOUS MAN
Bondurant wrote:
I wasn't aware of any "backlash" against Fargo. Most people that I know of really enjoy it or don't. Those that don't were never a fan to begin with. I fell in love with Fargo the first time I saw it right after it came out on video and I was 15 or 16 at that time. It does not take multiple viewings to enjoy. Fargo isn't a film for everyone.

My opinion is the same for Magnolia. I watched it at the theater and it was a true cinematic experience for me. The film blew my mind. I have not felt that way about and new film since. But like Fargo, Magnolia is not a film for everyone. You can't learn to like either film. It sticks with you or it doesn't.

As for Dances With Wolves...I was thinking about my top 10 of the 90's and Dances With Wolves would have to be on that list. It's a great film. And I think it's an example, along with Copland, that any actor can shine with the right project.


I heartily, but respectfully disagree. I think the best films are like the greatest albums; you can enjoy or even admire then on your first exposure to them but repeat exposure reveals greater depth. I think of 'Fargo' as the 'Paul's Boutique' of film in that it (figuratively) has a million layers of tone that the viewer/listener must (maybe I should say may) sift through that make the experience a deeper, more rewarding one. One viewing does NOT do justice to the film, and I can think of many friends of mine who have seen it numerous times and enjoyed it more with each viewing. My reaction to 'Magnolia' and 'Fargo' was very similar; I admired both films, but I didn't like either film because, at first glance, their greatest strengths appeared as weaknesses to me the first time. With 'Fargo', what seemed like a misshapen mess was actually a lovingly crafted, and rather endearing, tapestry of differing emotions and themes by the Coens that are not at all noticeable in any great detail on the initial viewing. And even if 'Magnolia' remains a mess, the compelling nature of that mess takes multiple viewings to appreciate fully. It grows on me because, like all great art, it does not conform to my high expectations, but instead opens up another part of my senses that was previously untouched and leaves an indelible imprint. I always argue that 'Fargo' (and, to a lesser extent, Soderbergh's 'Out Of Sight') achieves the same successful mix of thriller and comedy as 'The Princess Bride' does with fairytale and comedy, where everything comes together but takes a bit of perspective to enjoy as intended.


Thu Oct 01, 2009 11:24 pm
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Post Re: A SERIOUS MAN
IMO, Fargo was a great movie when the focus was on William H. Macey. But when the focus shifts to the Marge character it became less interesting. I love Frances McDormand in general. She's been wonderful in movies like Almost Famous, Wonder Boys and the underrated and little seen gem Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. But her work in Fargo is nothing special IMO. One of the most overrated oscar winning performances.

It's still my favorite movie from the Coen Brothers although I must confess I've only seen 5 of their movies.


Fri Oct 02, 2009 5:07 am
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Post Re: A SERIOUS MAN
Evenflow8112 wrote:
I think 'Fargo' has received one of the most unfair backlashes of any film of the 90's, second only to 'Dances With Wolves'. I hear the word 'overrated' used in conjunction with this film, and I can't help but wonder why.


I originally gave FARGO **1/2. The current *** rating came after a second viewing, when I re-examined my original opinion and upgraded it. So I'm certainly not a victim of FARGO backlash. Having recently watched it for a fourth time, I remain of the opinion that it's a clever little movie, but I still don't see the greatness some have ascribed to it.


Fri Oct 02, 2009 6:03 pm
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Post Re: A SERIOUS MAN
So the message of the movie is...if you worry so much about the little things, you'll forget to think about the important things that really matter. Right?


Sun Oct 04, 2009 9:21 pm
Post Re: A SERIOUS MAN
As a die hard fan of the Coens I'm extremely excited for this film. From what I have seen of it so far in the trailers and the clips post on Rotten Tomatoes it looks to be a throw back to much of their more subtle and very dry comedies of the early 90s like Fargo and Barton Fink. After the over-the-top comedy of Burn After Reading (not that it was bad, I just prefer more subtle absurdity from them) this should be a nice a return to that.

As for this debate on the best of the Coens works. Miller's Crossing is their most underrated by far and The Big Lebowski has become their most enduring film. But I still think that Fargo is their best film. Fargo is quintessential Coen and I really think it defines them as filmmakers.


Sun Oct 04, 2009 9:56 pm
Post Re: A SERIOUS MAN
This movie is fantastic. It's standard Coen Brothers in that it's completely different than anything they've ever done. They've taken some of the themes they explored in NCFOM and expanded upon them, and given the film a little more weight. It's heavy stuff, but there are some light, funny moments. They're tackling huge existential issues, with mostly great success. Exceptionally well-crafted and thought provoking. Go see it ASAP.


Mon Oct 12, 2009 10:54 am
Post Re: A SERIOUS MAN
My wife and I saw this movie over the weekend and we were both very impressed. We watched the film at the Lincoln Square theater in Manhattan, which was the perfect setting, as people were laughing at the (untranslated) Hebrew jokes as well as those in English.

I disagree somewhat with James's characterization of the ending, however.

[Reveal] Spoiler:
Though it is certainly the case that much is left unresolved, I don't believe that the movie will be "maddening" to anybody who has read the old testament. The ending of the film makes clear that none of the ill fortune visited upon Larry resulted from any action of his own, or of his ancestors, or his family members. No such simple explanation applies. Further, no explanation can be provided that we can possibly understand, and it is inappropriate even to ask as this suggests that God owes us some explanation for his actions.


At the screening we attending, it was very easy to distinguish the people who understood the final shot of the film from those who didn't. I think everybody liked the film, but those who remembered the details of the Book of Job felt they understood it, and the others were confused.

I count it among the best films I have seen in a long time; the power of the ending evoked for me "The Lives of Others," though the films otherwise have very little in common.


Mon Oct 26, 2009 7:06 pm
Post Re: A SERIOUS MAN
Central Harlem wrote:
My wife and I saw this movie over the weekend and we were both very impressed. We watched the film at the Lincoln Square theater in Manhattan, which was the perfect setting, as people were laughing at the (untranslated) Hebrew jokes as well as those in English.

I disagree somewhat with James's characterization of the ending, however.

[Reveal] Spoiler:
Though it is certainly the case that much is left unresolved, I don't believe that the movie will be "maddening" to anybody who has read the old testament. The ending of the film makes clear that none of the ill fortune visited upon Larry resulted from any action of his own, or of his ancestors, or his family members. No such simple explanation applies. Further, no explanation can be provided that we can possibly understand, and it is inappropriate even to ask as this suggests that God owes us some explanation for his actions.


At the screening we attending, it was very easy to distinguish the people who understood the final shot of the film from those who didn't. I think everybody liked the film, but those who remembered the details of the Book of Job felt they understood it, and the others were confused.

I count it among the best films I have seen in a long time; the power of the ending evoked for me "The Lives of Others," though the films otherwise have very little in common.


Glad to hear you enjoyed the film. I absolutely loved it as well. I agree with your take on the ending, but I'd take it a step further:

[Reveal] Spoiler:
I'd say it's about the human desire to seek proof/truth. You're right, God doesn't owe us that explanation, and I think the movie points that out. I'd say though, that it's more trying to say, what's the point of seeking such unattainable truth? No matter how you live your life, you won't get that truth. Good, bad, anything in between. No one knows until it's all over.


I disagree that some won't find the ending maddening. It's a challenging ending and requires the viewer to actively think about the film. It's not something most people will grasp just by sitting and letting the film unspool. It requires thought. It's challenging and rewarding. I love it, but I understand that quite a few people don't like such sudden, jarring endings to films. Some will find it maddening, some won't like it. Just because you, or I, didn't, doesn't mean others won't.


Wed Oct 28, 2009 1:05 pm
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