Monday, February 25, 2008

The Coens on Oscar Street

I haven't really been watching the Oscars the last three or four years - the ceremony, famously described by George C Scott as a meat parade, keeps finding new ways to get more boring each year - but just caught some of today's show. What I enjoyed most was the almost resigned, "ya, well" expression on the faces of the Coen Brothers as they went up to collect their three awards for No Country for Old Men. (The two of them are such non-Oscar types in nearly every way that it feels strange even seeing them up on the stage - they belong in a parallel universe.) Also liked Joel Coen's wisecrack after they won for best adapted screenplay - "We're very selective - we've only adapted Homer and Cormac McCarthy so far", which was a dig at the boo-boo made by the Academy a few years ago when it nominated them in the adapted screenplay category for O Brother, Where Art Thou (which was only very loosely inspired by The Odyssey). Predictably, hardly anyone in the audience laughed.

Otherwise, dull ceremony as usual. But now is a good time to point you towards the Coens' magnificent body of work. My favourites among their films, in no particular order, are Barton Fink, Raising Arizona, Blood Simple, Fargo and The Man Who Wasn't There, but nearly everything they've done is more original and refreshing than most Hollywood studio productions. Yes, even the less-known works like The Hudsucker Proxy, which features the funniest scene you'll ever see that involves a man leaping to his death from the top floor of a skyscraper.

Heck, go watch all their films. Meanwhile, I'll try to fill the gap in my fan resume by buying a pirated DVD of No Country for Old Men.


  1. Wait, did you just write a whole post about the Coens without mentioning The Big Lebowski.


  2. Sorry! It should've been there, of course. Best ashes-scattering and car-smashing scenes ever.

  3. I absolutely loved NCFOM - my second favourite Coens' movie now after "O Brother" (a very non-Coens' movie kinda like "The Straight Story", my favourite Lynch work).

    Some people have been saying that they deserved it more for "Fargo" or "The Big Lebowski", but I personally like this one better than them.

  4. Jwock, do try to see NCFOM on the big screen if you get a chance. Roger Deakins does wonders with the 'country' (largely New Mexico in this case) of the title.

    @Wanderer, so what would be a 'typical' Coen movie? I thought O Bro was very much in their style. The only differentiator was that it has the best soundtrack for a Coen movie. That, & the fact that my wife liked at least one Coen movie :-) Straight Story on the other hand was *so* different that sometimes I feel Lynch made it as a joke...

    Btw, I tought Daniel Day-Lewis's acceptance speech was classy.

  5. and you didn't mention miller's crossing??? the story goes that the Oscar bosses didn't like it one bit when they were told by the Coens that they had written the screenplay for the movie, not the fictitious name that appears in the credits! truly, a coen moment...

  6. "Heck, go watch all their films."

    Yes, but not Intolerable Cruelty. The only thing that movie did was to live up to its name.

    Also, sad that both Persepolis and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly could not make any.

  7. Coen bhais rock.Oscar or no Oscar.The bhais owe a lot to Sonenfield and Deakins for their visual style.On that note,their work reminds me of Micheal Cimono's Deer Hunter and the much reviled Heavens Gate.A filmmaker who was,sadly for him,way ahead of his time.
    Also Terence Malick.

  8. Have you read the book? I felt that this was an adaptation that was very very faithful to the book.

  9. Hello Jai.

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    I'm preparing an online blog directory of blogs being maintained by Indians and people of Indian origin. Whenever you get some time, please submit a few details at

  10. The Big Lebowski is my favorite Coen film. The first time I saw it, I didn't shave for two months. Consequently, I have shaved, but have also bought the DVD and watched it many times. All three lead actors are awesome and Moore is eccentrically comical. What highlights Bridges' achievement is the lack of any other comedy role of note in his career.

    Saw Razing Arizona a few days back. The chemistry between Cage and Hunter is brilliant, rivaled only by that between the two goons, but I did not like that dirty assassin angle.

    The false note about Fargo being a true story at the beginning of the film is awesome, not to mention amazing performances by McDormatt (sp? - Oscar), Buscemi and Macy.

    Not a fan of Oh Brother. Thought it was too slow though Clooney pulled off some great comical expressions, no doubt enhanced by that Gable mustache.

    No Country was different from any Coen film I had seen in terms of genre. Bardem, with that weird haircut brought a certain spooky yet calm chill to the role. The ending was fantastically abrupt. The brothers probably deserve their long due Oscar over Atonement simply because of that. Haven't seen There Will be Blood yet; so can't comment on that.

    I have Blood Simple, Barton Fink and Miller's Crossing pretty high up in my video library queue.

  11. I was going to point out The Big Lebowski, but a few others have commented already.
    Remember the scene where the German nihilists enter with a cricket bat ?

  12. I wonder what Barton Fink would have made of the screenplay Oscar (of course, he had ample time to think it over, after Fargo) :-)

    And what, no love for Man Who Wasn't There among the commentators? I found it very cold though, the beginning of their decline which NCFOM have hopefully stalled.

    David Denby gives them the New Yorker treatment -

    @Bongopondit, a friend & I still refer to TBL as the Big Lebu :-) That cricket bat was bizarre!

  13. You should definitely watch the brothers' short film which was part of an impressive body of work by several directors titled "Paris je t'aime" ( )

    If you get that DVD please watch the Coens' interview under special features.

  14. Here is a better link

    on Paris.