So the Coen Brothers are back in cinemas with their latest offering ‘Hail, Caesar’ while critics seem to be loving it audiences are shunning it slightly, but by this point what else is to be expected of the Coen’s? All I know is that it will a unique, quirky and immensely entertaining experience. I am perfectly happy to go on record and say that I am more excited to see this than I am to see ‘Batman v Superman’.
Now I could do the clichéd thing of taking this opportunity to count down through my top five favourite Coen Brothers movies, but there are just so many that I love and would want to honour that I don’t think that’s good enough. So I’m breaking out the movie marathon format again to recommend the essential Coen movies to binge watch and a few alternative, underrated, suggestions in case you don’t want to see whether or not the Dude abides again.
No Country For Old Men – If you are going to watch their masterful cat and mouse tale then it’s best to see it straight away. Their adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel is constantly suspenseful yet oddly contemplative at the same time, it’s violent and nihilistic but also humane when it needs to be. Javier Bardem’s performance is one of the most unnerving in cinema history and just look at the film, it’s absolutely beautiful to behold.
Or … Blood Simple – If there was once phrase that critics used to describe the suspense of ‘No Country for Old Men’ it was Hitchcockian, and that is exactly how I would describe the suspense of ‘Blood Simple’. It shares themes of fate, conscience and circumstance as well as their usual display of violence. As well as that this film was not only the Coen’s directorial debut, it was the first major film of cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld (who would later direct ‘Men in Black’ and ‘Get Shorty’) and the first starring role for Frances McDormand. Speaking of which….
Fargo – I should say now, the critics may label ‘No Country for Old Men’ as their best and the fans probably point to ‘The Big Lebowski’ as their favourite, for me ‘Fargo’ is the Coen’s masterpiece. Their homespun murder story is beautiful, violent, humane, hilarious, tragic and fantastic in every way. I can’t a better way to describe it than the phrase Roger Ebert used “Films like ‘Fargo’ are why I love the movies”.
Or … Miller’s Crossing – A film that was apparently conceived by the image of a fedora sailing through a forest on a gust of wind somehow evolved into a tale of rival gangs caught in a power struggle. With touches of noir, had boiled gangster flicks and the usual touch of Coen brilliance, ‘Miller’s Crossing’ an another amazing addition to their filmography.
Barton Fink – This is where it gets horrific. ‘Barton Fink’ is basically ‘The Shining’ for writers, as a complex and satirical masterclass. John Tuturro stars as a young playwright who is hired to write scripts for Hollywood. It’s as unsettling as it is hilarious, brimming with dark comedy and intriguing themes.
Or … Hail, Caesar – So why not take this opportunity to go out to the cinema and see their latest film here, another parody of the Hollywood system set at the height of its power.
Inside Llewyn Davis – Given that they usual excel at telling deranged and sprawling stories that mostly avoid having any main character, ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ is an amazing character study. Oscar Isaac (pre Poe Dameron) is in the lead role as the struggling folk musician. Though at times it comes across as melancholic, ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ is consistently funny and heartfelt.
Or… A Serious Man – This could be the most divisive Coen brother’s movie so far. It is very much a love it or hate kind of film and my opinion of it is most definitely the former. It’s another character study, shot beautifully, bleakly comedic and highly compelling.
The Big Lebowski – I don’t need to sell this to you, so instead I’ll spend some time quoting a few lines from the film. “I'm the Dude. So that's what you call me. You know, that or, uh, His Dudeness, or uh, Duder, or El Duderino if you're not into the whole brevity thing”. “That rug really tied the room together”. “Nihilists! Fuck me. I mean, say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos”. “Nobody fucks with the Jesus!”, “Hey, careful, man, there's a beverage here!” “I love you, but sooner or later, you're going to have to face the fact you're a goddamn moron.” And of course “The Dude abides”. You want to watch this movie again don’t you?
Or … Raising Arizona – This may be the Cones at their most distinctive and wonderfully inventive. It is one of their very funniest movies and has such a great style to it as well not to mention a performance from the lovable-crazy Nick Cage as opposed to the scary-crazy Nick Cage.