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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:
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.


I'm with Petey on this in terms of Moss. I think, given the way the film begins and ends, the main character is clearly Sheriff Ed Tom Bell. The Coens take a subverted approach to this of course, given that he's on screen the least, but I think every character exists in relation to him -- Chigurh as the representation of evil he can't stop (echoing the story he tells in the opening monologue), Moss as the common man capable of evil, Carla Jean as the innocent (the shot of Chigurh checking his boot as he leaves the house is as devastating as any the Coens have constructed). Don't get me wrong, I don't think each character is that simple, but in terms of Ed Tom's life, at the late point that we meet him, they challenge his belief of if he's done anything worthwhile.


Tue Jan 14, 2014 5:01 pm
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
Shade2 wrote:
PeachyPete wrote:
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.


I'm with Petey on this in terms of Moss. I think, given the way the film begins and ends, the main character is clearly Sheriff Ed Tom Bell. The Coens take a subverted approach to this of course, given that he's on screen the least, but I think every character exists in relation to him -- Chigurh as the representation of evil he can't stop (echoing the story he tells in the opening monologue), Moss as the common man capable of evil, Carla Jean as the innocent (the shot of Chigurh checking his boot as he leaves the house is as devastating as any the Coens have constructed). Don't get me wrong, I don't think each character is that simple, but in terms of Ed Tom's life, at the late point that we meet him, they challenge his belief of if he's done anything worthwhile.


I agree. At the simplest terms, the story is about good (Bell) and evil (Chigurh), with Moss being somewhere in between. However, Bell remains through the most part as a mere spectator, just like us. Its symbolic of how we might feel unable to face or deal with the inevitable evil. Moss tries, but fails. Bell decides not to, but seems to regret it anyway.

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Tue Jan 14, 2014 9:45 pm
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
Gedmud wrote:
This is so damn awesome dude. You are flying through these. Damn I wish I could tackle something this big this fast.


Potentially violent political turmoil is a good way to stay in the house, clear some work, and watch loads of movies/series. :) Actually my semester should start this week but the universities in the city area are all postponed. :/



I have read about the Bell/Chigurh stuff before going in this time, and still feel the contrast might be too subdued for me, although I could see it.



Tangentially related to this thread, but I just found out there is going to be a Fargo tv series this April, and they are looking for more than one season too. Apparently each season is self-contained, with new cast every year. Sounds weird, but at least the Coens are executive producers. And the cast is pretty good: Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, Bob Odenkirk, and Colin Hanks. Hopefully it turns out good. Can't wait to see Odenkirk with an accent, though:

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Tue Jan 14, 2014 11:13 pm
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
peng wrote:
Gedmud wrote:
This is so damn awesome dude. You are flying through these. Damn I wish I could tackle something this big this fast.


Potentially violent political turmoil is a good way to stay in the house, clear some work, and watch loads of movies/series. :) Actually my semester should start this week but the universities in the city area are all postponed. :/


Where do you get copies of the movies so quickly and consistently?

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Wed Jan 15, 2014 1:53 am
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
peng wrote:
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.

You just made me want to watch that again. I remember loving it, but I wouldn't have placed at the very top of the Coen's work. Deserves another look me thinks.


Wed Jan 15, 2014 1:57 am
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
peng wrote:
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.



Yeah, I liked the hell out of this film. And you do an excellent job of explaining why.

The Dentist mystery is probably the single funniest thing I saw in film last year. I think it almost functions as a psychological test itself. If you, like Larry, are only interested in the mystery as a matter of fact (rather than the meaning that the Rabbi was getting at), then you are probably quite a frustrated person too.

I fell for it!

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Wed Jan 15, 2014 5:18 am
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
Gedmud wrote:
Where do you get copies of the movies so quickly and consistently?


If you asked that back in the previous Russell thread I'd have blushed :oops: . But Coens are a bit more revered over here. Apart from A Serious Man, my household has their works from O Brother, Where Art Thou? onward, plus Fargo. The rest I got from a friend who is a big fan of the Coens. So it had been an easy marathon, save for me unfortunately watching Blood Simple on VCD :| . It also seems fast because I had been watching ahead 3-4 movies for a while. I kinda unload them a lot recently because I have a GRE exam coming up, so I want to finish this before (after which I hope to find a theater in a non-demonstration area to watch Inside Llewyn Davis).

Quote:
The Dentist mystery is probably the single funniest thing I saw in film last year. I think it almost functions as a psychological test itself. If you, like Larry, are only interested in the mystery as a matter of fact (rather than the meaning that the Rabbi was getting at), then you are probably quite a frustrated person too.


Yep. As for my favorite comedic scene, I find Danny's bar mitzvah (up to him meeting with the rabbi) very hilarious all the way through.

Amazing to think though that their best film(for me) is the 14th one!


Wed Jan 15, 2014 11:49 am
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
15/16

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True Grit (2010) - 8.5/10

As "straightforward" as Coens can get (almost to the Coens like The Fighter is to Russell but much better, to compare to my last thread), and it shows that even without most of their trademark sensibility, they are still in precise control and able to turn out a genre pic as good and fun as any veteran of the genre. The craft is impeccable (well, maybe apart from that wonky background in a horse-riding scene towards the end), the acting strong across the board, and the progression of the story accumulating a real sense of adventure, without underselling the harshness of such western world. It is not void of humor, but it's more of a dark kind that derives organically out of its drama. Mattie Ross is one atypical kid, and Hailee Steinfeld plays her to perfection in all her mannered language and hard determination. Great chemistry too with a wonderfully grumpy Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon.

Also, a little surprised when I checked the rating afterwards and found out it's PG-13, what with the headshots and limp-chopping and all that.


Thu Jan 16, 2014 9:42 pm
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
I found Burn After Reading to be smug and full of itself. It thinks it's oh so clever when all it does is show contempt for it's characters and the audience IMO. Worst movie by the Coen brothers by a landslide. In fact, it's the only movie of theirs that I didn't like.


Fri Jan 17, 2014 2:48 am
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
16/16

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Inside Llweyn Davis (2013) - 8.5/10

The Coens still retains their own language that is fascinating (and also slightly frustrating). More of a melancholy mood piece without any of a usual character drama's narrative trappings, the main character has no growth nor closure with any other character or the events around him. His life is a constant loop of being kicked down and standing back up to trudge along another day. Movies without catharsis or evolution run the risk of wearing out its welcome, but once again, the Coens' direction gives purpose to the proceedings. Atmosphere reigns supreme, with wintry cinematography full of harsh, foggy nights and dusky lounges. The music is expectedly fantastic. Llweyn Davis is pretty much a dick, but Oscar Isaac's performance, full of quiet determination and stubbornness, can't help but make you root for him on some level. Like many of the Coens' films whose meanings seem elusive at first glance, I suspect this will gain something even more on rewatches.


Sat Jan 18, 2014 12:14 pm
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
Applying Ken's system...

GOD TIER

A Serious Man
Raising Arizona
No Country for Old Men

TOP TIER

Barton Fink
Fargo
True Grit
Inside Llweyn Davis
The Big Lebowski

MID TIER

O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Miller's Crossing
Intolerable Cruelty
Blood Simple
Burn After Reading
The Man Who Wasn't There

EVERYTHING ELSE TIER

The Hudsucker Proxy
The Ladykillers


Sat Jan 18, 2014 12:16 pm
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
I wasn't that impressed with True Grit. Not a bad film, and Bridges was great, but I found the film lacking something. For what it's worth, I haven't seen the original.

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Sat Jan 18, 2014 7:11 pm
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
ilovemovies wrote:
I found Burn After Reading to be smug and full of itself. It thinks it's oh so clever when all it does is show contempt for it's characters and the audience IMO. Worst movie by the Coen brothers by a landslide. In fact, it's the only movie of theirs that I didn't like.

It definitely has a very tossed-off quality to it - more than any of their other films - but no way is it inferior to their something's-just-not-right-here remake of "The Ladykillers." or the a-little-broad-for-the-Coens, salvaged from others project "Intolerable Cruelty."

Thief12 wrote:
I wasn't that impressed with True Grit. Not a bad film, and Bridges was great, but I found the film lacking something. For what it's worth, I haven't seen the original.

I think it may be because it seems to me to be their most poker-faced and un-ironic film. And, yeah, I'd say it's replaced "The Big Lebowski" as their most overrated work.


Sat Jan 18, 2014 11:40 pm
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
I dunno, outsides some of their comedies, I just feel True Grit is the most "pure fun" of the Coens (not to mean "better" than their other dramas, just that it's the most enjoyable at surface level).


Sat Jan 18, 2014 11:56 pm
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
This was rad. What's next pengy?

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Sun Jan 19, 2014 12:48 am
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
H.I. McDonough wrote:
ilovemovies wrote:
I found Burn After Reading to be smug and full of itself. It thinks it's oh so clever when all it does is show contempt for it's characters and the audience IMO. Worst movie by the Coen brothers by a landslide. In fact, it's the only movie of theirs that I didn't like.

It definitely has a very tossed-off quality to it - more than any of their other films - but no way is it inferior to their something's-just-not-right-here remake of "The Ladykillers." or the a-little-broad-for-the-Coens, salvaged from others project "Intolerable Cruelty."

Thief12 wrote:
I wasn't that impressed with True Grit. Not a bad film, and Bridges was great, but I found the film lacking something. For what it's worth, I haven't seen the original.

I think it may be because it seems to me to be their most poker-faced and un-ironic film. And, yeah, I'd say it's replaced "The Big Lebowski" as their most overrated work.

I enjoyed both of those moreso then Burn After Reading.


BTW Peng, any idea which director's filmography you're going to do through next? I would recommend John Woo myself.


Sun Jan 19, 2014 12:59 am
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
Gedmud wrote:
This was rad. What's next pengy?


Vexer wrote:
BTW Peng, any idea which director's filmography you're going to do through next? I would recommend John Woo myself.


Well I had said I'd go for a foreign and/or older director next, but a big, magnificent-looking book detailing the movies, life, and behind-the-scenes of an American director came out last year, and my dad got me that as a New Year gift. So I suppose I'd tackle him first so I can pore through the book. Any guess?

John Woo is a brilliant suggestion though; I'd only seen two of his. I'll keep that in mind.


Sun Jan 19, 2014 1:19 am
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
peng wrote:
Gedmud wrote:
This was rad. What's next pengy?


Vexer wrote:
BTW Peng, any idea which director's filmography you're going to do through next? I would recommend John Woo myself.


Well I had said I'd go for a foreign and/or older director next, but a big, magnificent-looking book detailing the movies, life, and behind-the-scenes of an American director came out last year, and my dad got me that as a New Year gift. So I suppose I'd tackle him first so I can pore through the book. Any guess?

John Woo is a brilliant suggestion though; I'd only seen two of his. I'll keep that in mind.

You mean Martin Scorcese? I too got a book about him as a gift.

Which Woo films have you seen so far?


Sun Jan 19, 2014 1:27 am
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
I thought True Grit was solid but not great. I actually think Matt Damon stole the movie and gave the best performance over Jeff Bridges. The girl is great too although she's a little too, oh I don't know, precocious for her age I think.


Sun Jan 19, 2014 2:40 am
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Post Re: Peng Does Underseen Director#2: The Coens
My personal favourite Coen brother films are the following, in no particular order:

1. Blood Simple (possibly one of the best examples of film noir I have seen in a long while)

2. Raising Arizona (possibly one of the funniest comedies I have seen in a long time -- I laughed so hard during some scenes my sides began to hurt)

3. Intolerable Cruelty

4. No Country for Old Men

5. The Ladykillers (I'm surprised why so many here on Reelviews along with many online critics I'm familiar with disliked this film -- I thought it was hilarious, and perfectly in line with the Coen Brother's aesthetics, even though it is a remake of an earlier British caper comedy starring Alec Guinness and Benny Hill)

6. True Grit (an atypical film for the Coen Brothers, but probably one of the best Westerns I've seen; admittedly I did not see the original film with John Wayne so can't speak about that).

I have also seen Burn After Reading and while that film was funny and entertaining, I would have to rate it on a lower level than the others because I thought overall it was a little unfocused, although not as much as O Brother, Where Art Thou?, which is probably the weakest and my least favourite Coen Brothers film.

I haven't seen any of the other Coen Brothers films yet, but plan to at some time in the future.


Sun Jan 19, 2014 12:31 pm
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