The Coen Brothers

The Coen brothers create some wonderfully whimsical films. Jen enjoys their comedies most (especially The Big Lebowski) but I’m fond of their more ‘serious’ films. They came out of the gate with a wonderful twist on modern noir in Blood Simple and won well-deserved Oscars with Fargo and No Country for Old Men. Currently three of their films are available on instant play.

Miller's Crossing

1. Miller’s Crossing (1990) – “Trusted adviser to 1920s Irish crime boss Lee O’Bannon, Tom Reagan’s loyalty is tested when he takes up with O’Bannon’s gal pal, Verna Bernbaum. Meanwhile, rivals Johnny Caspar and Eddie Dane threaten O’Bannon’s racket. Gabriel Byrne, John Turturro, Albert Finney, Steve Buscemi, Jon Polito, J.E. Freeman and Marcia Gay Harden star in this marvelously crafted, unnerving crime-era epic helmed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen.”

This is my favorite Coen Brothers movie though Fargo and No Country for Old Men are clearly better films. I think it’s the homage to the old Warner Bros. gangster films while still having quite a few clever twists and turns. Gabriel Byrne gives a nice, laidback performance but the outstanding supporting cast takes the cake. It is hard to say whose performance is best – Steve Buscemi has only a few moments but is outstanding, John Turturro is incredibly slimy, Jon Polito is wonderfully volatile, and Albert Finney gives a nicely nuanced performance as a mob boss in over his head. Very highly recommended – just don’t get me started on the hat.

Barton Fink

2. Barton Fink (1991) – “Idealistic playwright Barton Fink (John Turturro) believes writing should reveal the hopes, dreams and tragedies of the common man. When Hollywood taps him to write a movie, Fink develops severe writer’s block and soon falls victim to a strange sequence of events. Unable to combine his deep-seated ethics with Tinseltown’s frivolity, the disillusioned and desperate Fink winds up involved in a murder investigation in this Oscar-nominated dramedy”

Absolutely bizarre, surreal perhaps even semi-autobiographical story is a little difficult to get into but worth the effort as events spiral out of control. John Goodman is quite good – his second best performance next to Matinee and look for a pre-Monk Tony Shalhoub and Steve Buscemi in good supporting roles.

The Hudsucker Proxy

3. The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) – “The Coen brothers deliver a screwball comedy gem about mail clerk Norville Barnes, (Tim Robbins) who falls into good — or bad? — luck when he becomes the CEO of a successful business. The evil Sidney J. Mussberger (Paul Newman) chooses Barnes so he and the other board directors can make a fortune on the falling stock price. Meanwhile, reporter Amy Archer (Jennifer Jason Leigh) befriends Norville in hopes of landing a big scoop”

A good screwball comedy that really only suffers from being not as good as the Coen Brothers other films. Funny but not particularly memorable in spite of good performances by Paul Newman and Tim Robbins.