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Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens 
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
PeachyPete wrote:
Another movie we covered with the movie club all those years ago. Really good stuff in there, much about the ending, much about the rest of the film. Like, really, really good from a bunch of different folks.

I haven't seen The Hudsucker Proxy, so I can't comment. That and The Ladykillers are their only movies I haven't seen, and I don't really have much interest in seeing The Ladykillers.


That was full of great insights, thanks. Blonde Almond's meaty essay especially.

The Ladykillers I have forgotten many parts of it, but I would say that even the lesser Coens contain something that make it worth a watch at least once. I vaguely remember The Ladykillers having a very good performance by Tom Hanks, and The Hudsucker Proxy's set-pieces as mentioned are very much worth it.


Sat Jan 11, 2014 12:28 am
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
7/16

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The Big Lebowski (1998) - 8/10

Another rewatch, previously 8/10. It improves a bit on rewatch, but not by much. I am now able to see the construction and craft behind the plot and admire them better, but still feel they don't gel as much as I would have liked. This viewing also confirms my slight (and probably sacrilegious) annoyance of John Goodman's Walter. He has some great lines and the performance is very good, but I just have a hard time warming up to a character who makes strong, obnoxious gestures and then is wrong all the time. This viewing makes me really love The Dude though (only found him amusing on first watch); I enjoy his whirlwind adventure and one-liners a lot more, and his personality is so infectious. Still not in love with the movie like many others, but for a 2-hour film with not much of a clear overarching plot, it is remarkably well-paced and breezy, like relaxing with a good friend.


Sat Jan 11, 2014 7:46 am
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
8/16

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O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) - 8/10

Very, very silly movie. But comedy is a subjective thing, and I sure didn't know before that I would be easily set off by George Clooney stumbling, singing, speaking in accent, and just self-obsessing in general. Many of his expressions and lines in wide angle shots are priceless. The Coens still have a way with funny, almost poetic dialogue as ever, and the performances are all up to it. Maybe a bit too long and unfocused, but it hit more often than not. A good fun time.


Sat Jan 11, 2014 8:01 am
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
9/16

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The Man Who Wasn't There (2001) - 7/10

A worthy story doesn't make the noir homage feel half-hearted, with some very striking black-and-white images to match the film's twisty and unpredictable nature. However, although Ed Crane is wonderfully stoic and Billy Bob Thornton plays him to perfection, the character is not one to drive the story forward that well. The tension ebbs and the pacing feels dragged on after a while, even though you never really lose interest. It is a film I admire more than enjoy.


Sun Jan 12, 2014 9:26 pm
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
10/16

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Intolerable Cruelty (2003) - 8/10

Not perfect, but I could see myself returning to this often. This could have been one of the Coens' best comedies, but the pacing is too rushed and running time too short. Could have afforded another 10-20 minutes for the story to breathe and some character development. As it is, the film may be the broadest comedy of the Coens yet, and has some of their most hilarious scenes (the courtroom stuff and the lampooning of rich wives especially). The romance, as mentioned, is too hastily developed, but the smoldering chemistry between George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones really helps sell it. Clooney in particular is so delightfully sleazy. Really loving his performances in Coens' films thus far.


Sun Jan 12, 2014 9:27 pm
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
I remember loving The Man Who Wasn't There. Then again, I haven't seen it in years. That's another one that is up for a serious rewatch.

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Sun Jan 12, 2014 9:28 pm
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
11/16

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The Ladykillers (2004) - 6.5/10

"Least good" Coens film, but it is still enjoyable, and I wouldn't mind rewatching it sometimes. The story is way undercooked, and too occupied with Marlon Wayans-type humor. Still, most performances are good, and Tom Hanks' hammy turn as a verbose professor with an affinity for the baroque is a hoot. I could watch this character talk all day.


Mon Jan 13, 2014 9:59 pm
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
12/16

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No Country for Old Men (2007) - 9/10

Still the strange near-masterpiece that I saw six years ago. The themes and storytelling go hand in hand beautifully. It is a film of contrast: good versus evil, fate versus per-determination, old world being transitioned into new one, tranquil atmosphere interrupted by bursts of violent confrontations, and so on. It still engages me fully in the moment more than any other Coens thus far. If I have a (very) small gripe to make, it is that I wish the movie lets me be a little more invested in Llewelyn Moss. It is a very good performance, but my rooting for him comes almost wholly from a force of nature that is Javier Bardem's Anton Chigurh, who is still pant-shitting scary after all these years.


Mon Jan 13, 2014 10:00 pm
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
peng wrote:
11/16

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The Ladykillers (2004) - 6.5/10

"Least good" Coens film, but it is still enjoyable, and I wouldn't mind rewatching it sometimes. The story is way undercooked, and too occupied with Marlon Wayans-type humor. Still, most performances are good, and Tom Hanks' hammy turn as a verbose professor with an affinity for the baroque is a hoot. I could watch this character talk all day.

I personally find this film underrated and hilarious and thought the story was pretty good overall, Dustin Putman's review of the film I largely agree with:

http://www.dustinputman.com/reviews/l/04_ladykillers.htm


Tue Jan 14, 2014 12:31 am
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
peng wrote:
5/16

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The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) - 6.5/10

The film doesn't quite work as a whole. The focus grows increasingly aimless, especially in the second half of its too long running time. All the performances are on point for the classic screwball comedy satire (especially the delightful Jennifer Jason Leigh as a Katherine Hepburn-type take-down), but that also makes it hard to be invested in some characters enough when the narrative turns semi-serious later on. The hula hoop thing gets a little too cute for my taste as well.

There are still some absolute gems sprinkled throughout though: a background window joke that never happens of Paul Newman falling; two people narrating a meet-cute in a bar; the pure madcap fun of Newman talking on the phone while Tim Robbins flails around behind him; every scene with Leigh and Bruce Campbell; and a most hilariously failed suicide attempt.


I love this film. The Capra satire just works on every level for me, and Robbins hit this role out of the proverbial park. Visually it's astounding too, not just in the screenshot you posted, but the opening sequence was so spectacular that I was engrossed from the first frame. It undoubtedly helped that I saw this on a big screen. Wait, I just saw that it's streaming on Amazon Prime?! Rewatch time!


Tue Jan 14, 2014 1:13 am
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
What's amazing is that I'd rate the ones you two mentioned as the least of Coens, but they still contained many worthwhile things (Tom Hanks for Ladykillers; whimsy visual and great comic scenes for Hudsucker) that would make for a good and enjoyable rewatch, especially Hudsucker.


Tue Jan 14, 2014 8:17 am
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
13/16

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Burn After Reading (2008) - 7/10

One of their weaker efforts, but still with some merits. The biggest fault of the film is that it is too busy with carefully building a complicated house of cards and character connections, so much that the Coens' wit and humor is spread thinner than usual. It leads to a pretty amazing ending though when everything comes crashing down. All the actors have fun with their roles. Special mentions go to the always reliable George Clooney and Brad Pitt, who injects a manic dose of energy during the film's slower sections. The huge smile he greeted Clooney with is just priceless.


Tue Jan 14, 2014 8:18 am
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
What you call "injecting a manic dose of energy", I call "mugging for the camera". I don't like 'Burn after Reading' at all and Brad Pitt's performance is indicative of the reasons: His character's purpose is to 1.) have a funny haircut, 2.) be stupid, 3.) grimace a lot and 4.) be very, very stupid. And the whole movie is filled with characters such as this. Haha, That's Brad Pitt with highlights in his blow-dried hair! Haha, he's sooo stupid! Haha, That's George Clooney with a beard making a funny face! Haha, he's soo stupid!


Tue Jan 14, 2014 9:01 am
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
Yeah he's mugging alright, but I'm ok with the character (I recognize that that personality is not for all though). I would actually call only Brad Pitt's and Frances McDormand's characters intentionally stupid, whereas others just let their flaws get the better of them.


Tue Jan 14, 2014 9:36 am
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
peng wrote:
Intolerable Cruelty (2003) - 8/10

Not perfect, but I could see myself returning to this often. This could have been one of the Coens' best comedies, but the pacing is too rushed and running time too short. Could have afforded another 10-20 minutes for the story to breathe and some character development. As it is, the film may be the broadest comedy of the Coens yet, and has some of their most hilarious scenes (the courtroom stuff and the lampooning of rich wives especially). The romance, as mentioned, is too hastily developed, but the smoldering chemistry between George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones really helps sell it. Clooney in particular is so delightfully sleazy. Really loving his performances in Coens' films thus far.


Glad you enjoyed this one so much. Most people tend to overlook it, or outright dislike it, but I think it's a really good homage to the screwball comedies of the 30s and 40s. It's also the only film in the brothers' filmography that outwardly states what almost all of their movies are about on some level - people essentially being mean to one another. The title says it, and Clooney even goes so far as to wax poetically about the idea (calling it cynicism) in his Big Speech moment. And Catherine Zeta-Jones in this movie? Good God, man.

peng wrote:
No Country for Old Men (2007) - 9/10

Still the strange near-masterpiece that I saw six years ago. The themes and storytelling go hand in hand beautifully. It is a film of contrast: good versus evil, fate versus per-determination, old world being transitioned into new one, tranquil atmosphere interrupted by bursts of violent confrontations, and so on. It still engages me fully in the moment more than any other Coens thus far. If I have a (very) small gripe to make, it is that I wish the movie lets me be a little more invested in Llewelyn Moss. It is a very good performance, but my rooting for him comes almost wholly from a force of nature that is Javier Bardem's Anton Chigurh, who is still pant-shitting scary after all these years.


I always took the lack of focus on Moss to indicate how he's caught in the middle of something that isn't really about him. Like you said, it's a film of contrasts, and I think the larger point is to contrast Chigurh and Tommy Lee Jones' sheriff. Moss is just the mechanism that moves the plot, not necessarily what the film is about. A lot of people had issues with the movie killing it's "main character" without any fanfare (and completely off-screen), but I think it underlines this whole idea.

A wonderful, wonderful movie, of course.

Unke wrote:
What you call "injecting a manic dose of energy", I call "mugging for the camera". I don't like 'Burn after Reading' at all and Brad Pitt's performance is indicative of the reasons: His character's purpose is to 1.) have a funny haircut, 2.) be stupid, 3.) grimace a lot and 4.) be very, very stupid. And the whole movie is filled with characters such as this. Haha, That's Brad Pitt with highlights in his blow-dried hair! Haha, he's sooo stupid! Haha, That's George Clooney with a beard making a funny face! Haha, he's soo stupid!


It's probably my least favorite of what I've seen from the Coens, but I think they're trying to make caricatures of each actor's real-life persona. Pitt's the good-looking airhead, Clooney the ladies man, Malkovich the pretentious asshole, etc. It's an inherently silly movie, but that's how it's designed and it takes the silliness to extreme, so I still kind-of, sort-of like it.


Tue Jan 14, 2014 10:59 am
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
I think Burn after Reading and O Brother, Where Art Thou are George Clooney's funniest performances. His last scene in Burn after Reading gets me every time.


Tue Jan 14, 2014 11:24 am
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
PeachyPete wrote:
And Catherine Zeta-Jones in this movie? Good God, man.


Indeed. Hypnotizing.

Gwaihir wrote:
His last scene in Burn after Reading gets me every time.


Somehow I forgot to mention that. The jittery paranoia is hilarious.


Tue Jan 14, 2014 11:53 am
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
14/16

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A Serious Man (2009) - 9.5/10

Shit always happens in life. How can you know if it is totally random, or a consequence for things you have done from a higher-up power? When a dentist discovers mysterious words in his customers' teeth, do they mean something urgent, or the universe just randomly assign them that way? Who is right about the old man being a dybbuk in the ancient tale, the husband or the wife? As with Schrodinger's Cat, you are faced with two explanations, both equally, terrifyingly possible. That unknown factor might paralyze you with dread, with the frustration that you cannot know for sure, and cannot live your existence with an absolute "truth." But you forget one thing that is absolute: you can't stop what's coming. So might as well embrace the unknowable and go on with life the best you can. Accept the mystery.

The Coens have examined weighty themes in their past films effectively before (Barton Fink, No Country for Old Men), but A Serious Man is the first one where the thematic depth is matched, and maybe even bested, by the intensity of their story's emotions. It feels personal. While there are many things going on under the surface, it is still foremost a tale of a man whose universe seemingly turns against him. The usual quirks and dark humor (some of which are very, very funny) are still present, and masterfully executed and controlled. But my sympathy and feelings for the protagonist and his plight run deeper than any other leads of the directors, surpassing even Nicholas Cage in Raising Arizona. The universe has settled for Larry Gopnik once, and as an eternal optimist, I hope when he is picking up the phone and that weather hazard is bearing down, it will manage to align for him yet again.


Tue Jan 14, 2014 11:55 am
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
This is so damn awesome dude. You are flying through these. Damn I wish I could tackle something this big this fast.

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Tue Jan 14, 2014 3:01 pm
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
Unke wrote:
What you call "injecting a manic dose of energy", I call "mugging for the camera". I don't like 'Burn after Reading' at all and Brad Pitt's performance is indicative of the reasons: His character's purpose is to 1.) have a funny haircut, 2.) be stupid, 3.) grimace a lot and 4.) be very, very stupid. And the whole movie is filled with characters such as this. Haha, That's Brad Pitt with highlights in his blow-dried hair! Haha, he's sooo stupid! Haha, That's George Clooney with a beard making a funny face! Haha, he's soo stupid!


He was "mugging" because his character was that type of person. An extroverted, in-your-face, dumb guy. I'm on the exact opposite corner from you. Brad Pitt is probably the main reason why I loved this film so much. He played the character the way he was supposed to play it and I think his performance is hilarious.

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