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Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens 
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Post Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
I intend to do at least one classic era director pretty soon, but this is arguably one of my biggest blind spots. I have seen only four Coens films so far, once: No Country for Old Men, True Grit, The Big Lebowski, and Fargo (the last one pretty recent). Many have said their works improve on rewatch, so I'm eager to re-visit some of them, especially the very well-acclaimed latter two that I'm not immediately in love with.

I might have seen Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers at some point, since my dad has them in the house for so long, but I have problems thinking of their plots (I do remember the climatic boat scene of The Ladykillers though).


Mon Jan 06, 2014 5:14 am
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
Damn. I am excited for you. All those first-time screenings...

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Mon Jan 06, 2014 5:20 am
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
Excellent choice of filmmaker(s).

That said, Intolerable Cruelty was a weaker one for me.

Recently watched A Serious Man, which is very good. I recommend Miller's Crossing, The Man Who Wasn't There, Razing Arizona and Burn After Reading on top of what you've already named.

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Mon Jan 06, 2014 5:21 am
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
1/16

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Blood Simple (1984) - 7.5/10

Don't quite get the "one of their best" status (if I remember correctly, JB seems to single this out as his favorite too), but still impressive debut nonetheless. It gets plenty of atmosphere, but for half of the running time, it's style over substance, often at the expense of characters and some logic. Most characters feel empty, and that doesn't bode well in the first half, when we are supposed to identify and be involved in their situations. Some actions they do are also just baffling, like when one stumbles upon a murder scene, or when one character walks around with blood on his shirt and another doesn't seem to notice and put two and two together at all. Still, it gains momentum as each convolution of the plot piles on. Many memorable scenes occur in the latter half (crawling away from the car; field scene). The climatic sequence is also ridiculously entertaining, with the story finally in synch with the stylistic choices. Very visceral and tense, with a great final shot.


Mon Jan 06, 2014 5:29 am
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
I find Blood Simple to be their best work, but can understand others not liking it as much as the rest of the filmography.

Least favorite Coen film is A Serious Man, that one just did absolutely nothing for me at all.


Mon Jan 06, 2014 5:32 am
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
Vexer wrote:
I find Blood Simple to be their best work, but can understand others not liking it as much as the rest of the filmography.

Least favorite Coen film is A Serious Man, that one just did absolutely nothing for me at all.


I think A Serious Man is probably their least broad film in terms of whom it appeals to.

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Mon Jan 06, 2014 5:35 am
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
Yeah, the reactions to A Serious Man have always been curious for me. Interested to finally tackle that one.

The best out of the original four I have watched is NCFOM. Still can't believe it won Best Picture though. A very worthy winner and I love it, but just never thought it appeals to the Oscar crowd to that degree.


Mon Jan 06, 2014 5:39 am
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
peng wrote:
Yeah, the reactions to A Serious Man have always been curious for me. Interested to finally tackle that one.

The best out of the original four I have watched is NCFOM. Still can't believe it won Best Picture though. A very worthy winner and I love it, but just never thought it appeals to the Oscar crowd to that degree.


The only thing I can say about A Serious Man is that I believe it is targeted at quite a specific kind of man at a relatively specific age. It would be dumb for me to reduce it to midlife crisis fodder because it's more subtle (and probably broader) than that, but it really (and hilariously) taps into the whole WTF is my existence all about angle of the aspiring middle-class conformist guy.

There's a scene in the movie that I won't spoilt, but hints at defining the meaning of life which had me in tears of both laughter and despaired laughter.

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Mon Jan 06, 2014 5:45 am
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
The Coens are probably on my Top tier of favorite directors. That is even though I haven't seen some of their early stuff like Blood Simple, or even Raising Arizona, even though I'm pretty sure I saw it once as a kid. I just don't remember it.

I do agree that many of their films work better on rewatches. I really didn't care about The Big Lebowski the first time around and now it's one of my favorite films; I enjoyed but didn't think much of Burn After Reading first, and now I keep going back to it; Other films like The Man Who Wasn't There stuck in my mind and now I consider them great. Even No Country for Old Men, which I loved the first time around, has improved on second (and third, and fourth!) viewings.

One that I saw back in my early 20's, and wasn't that impressed with, was Miller's Crossing. However, it is one that I haven't been able to rewatch for some reason. I wonder if it will have the same effect. Same maybe applies to Barton Fink which is a pretty odd film on its own.

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Mon Jan 06, 2014 8:40 am
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
For what it's worth, a ranking of what I've seen...

Fargo
No Country for Old Men
The Big Lebowski

The Man Who Wasn't There
Burn After Reading

Barton Fink
Miller's Crossing
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
True Grit

Intolerable Cruelty

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Mon Jan 06, 2014 8:43 am
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
peng wrote:
Blood Simple (1984) - 7.5/10

Don't quite get the "one of their best" status (if I remember correctly, JB seems to single this out as his favorite too), but still impressive debut nonetheless. It gets plenty of atmosphere, but for half of the running time, it's style over substance, often at the expense of characters and some logic. Most characters feel empty, and that doesn't bode well in the first half, when we are supposed to identify and be involved in their situations. Some actions they do are also just baffling, like when one stumbles upon a murder scene, or when one character walks around with blood on his shirt and another doesn't seem to notice and put two and two together at all. Still, it gains momentum as each convolution of the plot piles on. Many memorable scenes occur in the latter half (crawling away from the car; field scene). The climatic sequence is also ridiculously entertaining, with the story finally in synch with the stylistic choices. Very visceral and tense, with a great final shot.


The now defunct Reelviews Movie Club watched this (almost 4 years ago?!?!?!) once upon a time. Here's the thread, which you may find interesting. There's some good stuff in there, I think.

Anyway, I've seen the movie once since then and like it for the same reasons I did then. It's good, not great, which seems to be about how you feel about it as well. Cool.

And yeah, you're going to quite a path. They're my favorite working filmmakers, and I'd put a handful of their movies up against anything. They even manage to make their misses interesting.


Mon Jan 06, 2014 11:08 am
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
I don't think they've ever made anything I would consider to be totally bad. There are a few lesser ones in their filmography (the hired gun projects Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers). But pretty much all of them are worth watching at least once and several reward repeat viewings.

Their top 5 to me

1: Raising Arizona
2: The Big Lebowski
3: No Country For Old Men
4: Fargo
5: Miller's Crossing.


As for their other work: Blood Simple is pretty good debut film. But I don't see it as the classic a lot of people seem to. To me, they were still finding their footing there and it shows in spots. But it still shows that new filmmaking talent had arrived. Barton Fink is one that's meant to be watched multiple times to really appreciate. Or so it seems. It's one I admire more than love. But it's a great one in that regard.

The Hudsucker Proxy I probably should re-watch. The one time I saw it I enjoyed the sheer weirdness of it. Much liek Barton Fink.

O Brother Where Art Thou is one of their more purely fun ones. I rated it somewhat low when I first saw it. But now I'd rank it as second tier. Not on the level of the top 5 or even a few other ones. But still one of their better ones. And the soundtrack kicks ass. After I first saw O Brother I grabbed my guitar and set out to figure out how to play "Man Of Constant Sorrow".

The Man Who Wasn't There was more impressive than O Brother when I first saw it. Today I'd rank them both on about the same level.

Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers are the only two Coen films I would consider to be missteps or close to them. Both were the only two times they were working as hired guns and it shows.

Burn After Reading is pure fun. Not as iconic as Big Lebowski or as deep as No Country, it's still worthy,

Whereas a lot of their filmography is way weirder than most of the multiplex for the masses fare, I've wondered if A Serious Man may be their one film that's designed to appeal to a very tiny audience. I found it to be simultaneously hilarious with a downer of an ending. But maybe that's the point. Either way, it still should be seen.

True Grit is a worthy remake. In fact, like 3:10 To Yuma, it's one I prefer over the original. Aside from John Wayne's iconic performance, it trumps the Hathaway one.

Have yet to see inside Llelwyn Davis. Like A Serious Man it may not end up getting distribution down here and I might have to wait for DVD.

If I were to rank their films with the tier approach:

Top Tier:
Raising Arizona
No Country For Old Men
The Big Lebowski
Fargo
Miller's Crossing.

Very Good Tier:
Barton Fink
A Serious Man
True Grit
O Brother Where Art Thou

Good Tier:
Blood Simple
The Man Who Wasn't There
Burn After Reading
The Hudsucker Proxy

Lesser Tier:
Intolerable Cruelty
The Ladykillers

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Mon Jan 06, 2014 12:14 pm
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
Thanks for the Reelviews Club thread; that was an entertaining read.

Jeff, now that I have seen the next one, our top 2 are very similar (I might still put NCFOM on top, but I haven't seen that since it comes out).


Mon Jan 06, 2014 12:24 pm
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
GOD TIER

Barton Fink


TOP TIER

Blood Simple
Fargo
The Big Lebowski
No Country For Old Men
A Serious Man


MID TIER

Raising Arizona
Miller's Crossing
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Burn After Reading
True Grit


BOTTOM TIER

The Coens don't really have a bottom tier, so much as an "everything else" tier.

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Mon Jan 06, 2014 12:57 pm
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
Jeff Wilder wrote:
Lesser Tier:
Intolerable Cruelty
The Ladykillers

Unquestionably their two weakest. "Cruelty" was a project that was salvaged from others. There's just something rather off about the tone of "Ladykillers," despite a wonderfully hammy Tom Hanks.


Mon Jan 06, 2014 5:31 pm
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
H.I. McDonough wrote:
Jeff Wilder wrote:
Lesser Tier:
Intolerable Cruelty
The Ladykillers

Unquestionably their two weakest. "Cruelty" was a project that was salvaged from others. There's just something rather off about the tone of "Ladykillers," despite a wonderfully hammy Tom Hanks.

Personally I quite enjoy both of those films and would put them both in the upper tier.

Apart from A Serious Man, I would put O Brother Where Art Thou and Miller's Crossing in the lower tier, I found both of those films average and forgettable at best.


Mon Jan 06, 2014 6:07 pm
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
I think I've seen all of the Coen's work as they were released, and find No Country for Old Men, Fargo and Barton Fink is their absolute best (9/10 movies), and O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Intolerable Cruelty, and The Ladykillers as their weaker efforts (the former, especially I remember I didn't even enjoy - maybe a 5/10).


Mon Jan 06, 2014 6:21 pm
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
Using Ken's System...

GOD TIER

Fargo
No Country
A Serious Man

TOP TIER

Lebowski
Barton Fink
Raising Arizona
True Grit

MID TIER

Miller's Crossing
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Burn After Reading
True Grit

Tragically, due to basketball season, I haven't seen Llewyn Davis yet. Hopefully Wednesday. Petey's thoughts have me cautiously excited.

As that wonderful man mentioned, the Coen's work tends to open up more upon repeat viewings -- even if it doesn't improve in the viewer's mind, the encompassing picture of what they're going for can make it more consumable. On the other hand, of course, is the joy of experiencing Fargo or No Country or A Serious Man for the first time when you don't know where things are going. I love A Serious Man more than most, probably, and I truly hope it deepens for you on re-watch, but we'll see.

It's a toss-up between the Coens and PTA for my favorite working filmmakers, but if forced to take the collected work of just one on an island, it's easily the Brothers Co.


Mon Jan 06, 2014 9:39 pm
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
I haven't seen The Ladykillers, but I would agree with most people that Intolerable Cruelty is probably their weakest. However, I still consider it to be a somewhat fun film. IMO, it's still a B- film.

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Mon Jan 06, 2014 9:54 pm
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
Looking forward to reading your thoughts on these films, peng. These kinds of threads are always enjoyable, and you have some great films coming up. There are very few equals to the Coen brothers when they are firing on all cylinders.

I will say though that there are some rough patches, especially in the early going. Barton Fink is masterful, but personally I've never been able to embrace The Hudsucker Proxy, and even for someone who can tolerate a good deal of zaniness, Raising Arizona goes too far off the deep end for my tastes.

After reading through your David O. Russell thread, I was almost inspired to start my own for John Cassavetes. But then I came to the realization I wouldn't have the fortitude to get very far.

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