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whiskeypriest
Posted: Sun Jul 22, 2018 12:31 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 20 May 2004 Posts: 6916 Location: "It's a Dry Heat."
billyweeds wrote:
Inside Llewyn Davis (in which I toiled as an extra and got personal direction from the amazing Ethan) is one of the Coens' most unsatisfying movies IMO.

OTOH, WADR, FWIW, Pale Fire is my favorite novel of all time.
I would put it behind Donkey Hotay, but other then that I agree with one of those two sentiments.

I think I should rewwatch ILD and put my thoughts into a characteristically brief write up.

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Syd
Posted: Mon Jul 23, 2018 8:58 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 21 May 2004 Posts: 12522 Location: Norman, Oklahoma
I really didn't like Inside Llewyn Davis. I think the best way to watch it is to say it could be worse, I could be watching The Ladykillers. The Coens have made great films, but they have their share of turkeys.

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gromit
Posted: Mon Jul 23, 2018 11:19 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 31 Aug 2004 Posts: 8582 Location: Shanghai
I liked ILD, but it had a sort of negative vibe around the central character which could be off-putting. And it didn't all cohere. But it's a solid period piece, the music is quite good, and I'm about ready to rewatch it. Also bonus points for featuring a cat.

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whiskeypriest
Posted: Wed Nov 21, 2018 12:31 am Reply with quote
Joined: 20 May 2004 Posts: 6916 Location: "It's a Dry Heat."
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, currently streaming on Netflix, is an interesting addition to the Coen canon. An anthology of old west stories, ostensibly stories from a book by the sane name, the movie presents a lot to like. It may lack the cohesion of the Coens' best work, but it worked for me. For one thing, one of the Coens' great strengths is the way they can create memorable minor characters with a few cinematic strokes, which given the format frees them from a lot of character exposition, and allows them to move straight into story.

The movie opens with the book, of course. Cover adorned with a drawing of a dead tree and a cow skull, the tune we best know as Streets of Laredo playing... You should probably be able to guess where this is heading, thematically. Death is everywhere in each story: ironic, justified, heartbreaking, death. Without giving away too much, the only episode that does not overtly feature a climactic death at least features death hovering above the characters in a literal and figurative sense.

A word more about the book. The dedication: "To Gaylord Gilpen, who shared with us these stories and many more alike, one night in a camp above the Roaring Fork, til the approach of morn stained the sky, and our esteem for him stained our trousers." cracked me up. Anyway, each chapter is introduced by a color print (enacted in the film) with a quote from the "book" beneath it. The quotes echo into the stories; underlining a point, mocking fates, and in one notable case, deepening the sorrow of the characters.

Of the six parts, the first two are the weakest. The first, with Tim Blake Nelson as the titular Scruggs, a singing cowboy, dressed in white, is sort of a Gene Autry singing cowboy movie directed by Sam Peckinpah - or, I guess, the Coens. Comic violence, arch conversation, a song and dance after a brutal killing (Scruggs chafes at being called a misanthrop: he does not hate people, there are just of lot of them he has to kill. He does not live up to the expectations of that white outfit). It does shoot of tendrils that come up later, and I think the lightness is necessary. The movie gets very dark, and the first section sort of prepares us for the plunge.

The second, Near Algodones, has James Franco as either a phenomenally luck or phenomenally unlucky bank robber, depending on where in the story you drop into. It has its moments, but when you get to the end, you realize it is a 15 minute set up for a very old joke. Not that there is anything wrong with that, and Franco is vouchsafed a bit of beauty before the end. It is dark humor, and it transitions us to the next segment.

What follows, Meal Ticket, is perhaps the darkest thing the Coens have ever committed to film. It starsLiam Neeson as an impresario, with Harry Melling as his meal ticket, Henderson the Wingless Thrush, who recites poetry and speeches to ever dwindling crowds. There is no human connection between the two, despite all that Neeson has to do for his meal ticket. And in the end, Neeson makes a business decision, that he carries out with a grim and frightening smile.

All Gold Canyon gives us Tom Waits as a grizzled prospector and by the way if you are casting a grizzled prospector part look no further than Tom Waits who frankly should play nothing else. He finds himself in a place where you can espy neither man nor the handiwork of man. But Waits smells gold, and begins, methodically, to prospect for what he calls "Mr Pocket". His prospecting leads him to excavate for Mr. Pocket - and if you can look at what he digs and not make certain connections you have not been paying attention to the movie. For Waits is in fact not alone, and in the end he does not so much object to being shot in the back as he does to having done all the work he did before getting shot in the back. It all ends happily, though, at least for half the people, and when man leaves the pristine landscape, it is peaceful and empty and beautiful again.

At this point, I need to mention how beautifully shot the movie is. Bruno Debonnel has a great tapestry to work with - I do not know where All Gold Canyon was shot but I very much want to go there. Anyway.

The penultimate episode is perhaps the best. The Gal Who Got Rattled features a beautifully acted love story against the backdrop of an Oregon bound wagon train - Bill Heck and Zoe Kazan are both great as Billy Knapp - a trail boss - and Alice Longabaugh, whose brother and protector does not make it far on the trip; the hesitant lovers, with language straight from True Grit. And a gorgeous wagon train, and a dog named Franklin Pierce that will not shut up and is unsure what to make of prairie dogs. And Alice wanders from the trail and Billy's partner rescues her, and we are actually rooting for the expected outcome despite knowing that these are the Coens and the bastards are not going to let our expectations sit unupended. "Mr. Arthur had no idea what he would say to Billy Knapp" the quote that accompanies the colored plate tells us, and it is the last line of the story as well. And damned if it does not make the whole thing more wrenching.

While the fifthe may be the best, my favorite is the final section, Mortal Remains. Five people in a stagecoach - a trapper whose constant uninterrupted blather is as hilarious as it is improbable and who is referred to by another passenger as "the tedious man", a prim lady (Tyne Daly) on her way to meet the husband she has not seen in three years, and a frenchman who has definite ideas about man and just what the lady's husband may have been doing for he last three years. And across from them, two bounty hunters (Jonjo O'Neill, Brendan Gleeson) - reapers, they call themselves - who seeing as the posters say "Dead or Alive" take the path of least resistance with their finds. The lady has an attack of apoplexy, but... the Coachman does not stop - policy. And the screen goes black and white, and three of the passengers begin to get a rather ominous feeling, especially when O'Neill tells them how he likes to look in his prey's eyes, when they die and negotiate the passage... and damned if that hotel seems like a wild west branch of the Hotel Earl chain.

Anyway, what I liked: the screenplay which is by turns loquacious and silent. The great cinematography and the work of the normal Coen gang of suspects - Carter Burwell, Skip Livesay, Mary Zophres, et al. The acting, especially Heck and Kazan, and Tom Waits and Liam Neeson's silence. The way lines of dialogue echo in later segments. It is not top rate Coen pantheon, but it is really good.

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billyweeds
Posted: Sat Nov 24, 2018 9:57 am Reply with quote
Joined: 20 May 2004 Posts: 20401 Location: New York City
Coen brothers films, ranked (by me):

SUPERB
Fargo
A Serious Man
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

EXCELLENT/VERY GOOD
Burn After Reading
Raising Arizona
Blood Simple
No Country for Old Men

GOOD/FLAWED BUT INTERESTING
Millerís Crossing
The Big Lebowski
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
The Hudsucker Proxy

NOT SO HOT/UNWATCHABLE
Inside Llewyn Davis
True Grit
The Man Who Wasnít There
Barton Fink
Intolerable Cruelty

NOT SEEN
Hail, Caesar!
The Ladykillers
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billyweeds
Posted: Sat Nov 24, 2018 10:05 am Reply with quote
Joined: 20 May 2004 Posts: 20401 Location: New York City
Whiskey--Great recap of the film, but you'll have to explain to me what I was missing in "All Gold Canyon" by having no idea at all that Waits was being followed. Tell me or I will go out of my mind.

I also strenuously disagree that this is not top-rank Coen. As you can see by my ranking, it's IMO one of their all-time masterpieces. But hey, I HATED "Barton Fink," so WTFDIK?
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whiskeypriest
Posted: Sat Nov 24, 2018 12:56 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 20 May 2004 Posts: 6916 Location: "It's a Dry Heat."
billyweeds wrote:
Whiskey--Great recap of the film, but you'll have to explain to me what I was missing in "All Gold Canyon" by having no idea at all that Waits was being followed. Tell me or I will go out of my mind.

I also strenuously disagree that this is not top-rank Coen. As you can see by my ranking, it's IMO one of their all-time masterpieces. But hey, I HATED "Barton Fink," so WTFDIK?
Did I say I knew he was being followed? Or am I misreading you? I knew what he was digging was a grave, and I wrongly assumed it to be his, but until the shadow fell over him, I thought he was alone in that canyon.

I'll let you talk me into elevating my opinion of Buster, if you would like to try. My Top Tier are:

Fargo
No Country for Old Men
A Serious Man
Blood Simple

So I would put TBoBS in a level with Barton Fink, Inside Llewyn Davis, The Big Lebowski, and maybe Miller's Crossing.

My unwatchable, ever again, list would be Hudsucker Proxy, Raising Arizona, Intollerabl;e Cruelty. Hail, Caesar and The Ladykillers.

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billyweeds
Posted: Sat Nov 24, 2018 2:26 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 20 May 2004 Posts: 20401 Location: New York City
whiskeypriest wrote:
billyweeds wrote:
Whiskey--Great recap of the film, but you'll have to explain to me what I was missing in "All Gold Canyon" by having no idea at all that Waits was being followed. Tell me or I will go out of my mind.

I also strenuously disagree that this is not top-rank Coen. As you can see by my ranking, it's IMO one of their all-time masterpieces. But hey, I HATED "Barton Fink," so WTFDIK?
Did I say I knew he was being followed? Or am I misreading you? I knew what he was digging was a grave, and I wrongly assumed it to be his, but until the shadow fell over him, I thought he was alone in that canyon.

I'll let you talk me into elevating my opinion of Buster, if you would like to try. My Top Tier are:

Fargo
No Country for Old Men
A Serious Man
Blood Simple

So I would put TBoBS in a level with Barton Fink, Inside Llewyn Davis, The Big Lebowski, and maybe Miller's Crossing.

My unwatchable, ever again, list would be Hudsucker Proxy, Raising Arizona, Intollerabl;e Cruelty. Hail, Caesar and The Ladykillers.


By this quote "if you can look at what he digs and not make certain connections you have not been paying attention to the movie. For Waits is in fact not alone..." I thought you had gotten clues from something in the movie that he was not alone.

About Barton Fink I seem to be in a small minority. Hudsucker is indeed very flawed but there are mitigating factors (my voice, for instance, and that's a joke). Unfortunately, Jennifer Jason Leigh gives IMO by far her worst performance ever.

Really glad we agree on A Serious Man. That's another polarizing movie.
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whiskeypriest
Posted: Thu Nov 29, 2018 12:16 am Reply with quote
Joined: 20 May 2004 Posts: 6916 Location: "It's a Dry Heat."
billyweeds wrote:
I also strenuously disagree that this is not top-rank Coen. As you can see by my ranking, it's IMO one of their all-time masterpieces.
You may be right. Second viewings of Coen films are always key.

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Ghulam
Posted: Thu Nov 29, 2018 2:10 am Reply with quote
Joined: 20 May 2004 Posts: 4722 Location: Upstate NY
.
For laughs, "Burn after Reading" is number one for me.


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Ghulam
Posted: Thu Nov 29, 2018 2:11 am Reply with quote
Joined: 20 May 2004 Posts: 4722 Location: Upstate NY
.
For laughs, "Burn after Reading" is number one for me.


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whiskeypriest
Posted: Thu Nov 29, 2018 8:15 am Reply with quote
Joined: 20 May 2004 Posts: 6916 Location: "It's a Dry Heat."
Ghulam wrote:
.
For laughs, "Burn after Reading" is number one for me.


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I had that on the other day, doing some work from home, and you know what made me laugh hardest, after of course every damned thing J. K. Simmons says? The photograph on the wall behind the Russian official when McDormand and Pitt meet with him.

I would agree that BAR is their funniest movie, but for me humor in a Coen brothers movie is better as an ingredient than as the main course. It's like eating pepperoni without the pizza.

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bartist
Posted: Fri Nov 30, 2018 2:09 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 27 Apr 2010 Posts: 6415
The sudden switch from Yeltsin to Putin has to be the funniest continuity error on film. Like the famous disappearing and reappearing chair and desk in The Shining, it's hard to see as anything but deliberate directorial mischief.

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