Monday, September 15, 2008

Coens Part 5: Oscar Winning Brutality

Fargo (1996)

This is one of those films where nothing good happens. From the opening scene to the final arrest, it’s all just one big cluster. Well, I guess Norm got the three cent stamp. That was a plus. But for how brutal this film is, it is also incredibly funny. That quick shot of Jerry Lundagrd’s sales’ board. Margie eating Arby’s. Carl trying to get service at the Jose Feliciano show. Yah, you betcha, this is a bute.

The best known feature of Fargo is the celebration / ridicule of the Minnesota accent. Joel and Ethan Coen grew up in Minneapolis. Their mockery of “Minnesota Nice” is truly done out of affection. Although, I imagine people from Fargo get tired of wood chipper jokes, especially since only the first scene set in Fargo. The rest is all Minnesota, baby.

Francis Mcdormand won the best actress Oscar. Her pleasant strength is such an interesting thing to study. When she corrects her partner on his police mistake, she is agreeable but still firm. She then disarms the situation with a bad joke. When she repels her old friend from high school, she remains the same uncompromising, friendly woman. In these slow moments, study the subtlety of her facial expressions. It is a deeply convincing performance.

Steve Buscemi really is funny looking.

No Country For Old Men (2007)

Here is a link to a review of No Country from As much as I love this movie, I’m just feeling too lazy to write a big thing about it. But I will mention two things.

First, there is no music at all in this entire film. That makes the tension that is built that much more impressive. Most movies make the audience feel suspense with a variety of tricks. Zoomed in tight shots that shake a lot. Loud startling noises. And most commonly, creepy sounding string music. In No Country, the Coens managed to make the sound of a light bulb being unscrewed frightening. That’s an impressive bit of film making.

The second fact of note is that Josh Brolin who plays Llewelyn Moss also played the older brother on The Goonies. Remember the cool guy that wore sweats under his shorts and made out with the cute redhead that Lucas was on love with even though she liked Charlie Sheen? I’m mixing my 80’s movies here. That may have been confusing.

It’s great to see how that cast grew up. Brand (was that really his name?) stole a suitcase full of money from a Mexican drug cartel, Mikey got a sack for Notre Dame and then carried Frodo up Mt Doom. Stef got knocked up by Kianu Reeves (anyone else see Parenthood?). Data liberated child slaves in India while saving Indiana Jones from the clutches of Thuggee Cult (fire always cures people from mind control potions). Mouth killed some vampires, found Ray Brower’s body and then got married on the Surreal Life while wearing knickerbockers.

But what the hell happened to Chunk? I don’t think he did any other movies. It’s a shame really. Perhaps he spiraled into a depression from being a nationwide fat joke. Or maybe he was balanced enough to walk away from the "Corey" lifestyle.

Here are a few clips from No Country For Old Men, winner of Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor, Best Director and Best Picture in the 2008 Academy Awards.

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