411 Movies Top 5 12.06.13: Top 5 Coen Brothers Movies
Posted by Shawn S. Lealos on 12.06.2013
From Fargo and No Country for Old Men to Raising Arizona, The Big Lebowski and more, the 411 staff counts down their top five Coen Brothers movies of all time!
Welcome to Week 403 of the Movie Zone Top 5. My name is Shawn S. Lealos and you have entered my world.
The 411mania writers were given the following instructions: With Inside Llewyn Davis coming out this week, lets count down our Top 5 Coen Brothers films. Only ones they directed, not ones they only wrote or produced
I didn't quite get into this remake the first time I saw it. I laughed and thought it was generally funny and liked Tom Hanks, but I didn't really "get" what was going on. I had to watch it in bits and pieces and then again as a whole piece over a series of months in order to fully appreciate it. It isn't the Coen brothers/ goofiest movie, but it definitely feels like a Coen brothers' movie right from the beginning. The movie didn't make much of an impact at the box office, but I think, over time, it'll eventually find its audience and be considered, at best, pretty good. It's also many times better than Intolerable Cruelty.
4. The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)
This is the second Coen Brothers movie I saw, after the brilliant Raising Arizona, and couldn't believe that it came from the same movie making duo. It isn't as violent or dark or hilariously nasty; The Hudsucker Proxy is a positive movie watching experience. I'm not sure if it's all Tim Robbins as the idealistic moron Norville Barnes or if it's just the general tone of the movie that makes it damn near heart warming. I never thought I'd say that about a movie featuring a guy trying to jump out of a high window. Paul Newman is awesome in this movie.
3. No Country for Old Men (2007)
I have no idea how close the Coens came to matching Cormac McCarthy's novel, but in terms of what I'll call the "Coen Brothers Cinematic Universe," the super deadly Anton Chigurh can easily exist in the same world as The Dude from The Big Lebowski and Leonard Smalls from Raising Arizona. In other words, even with the harsh subject matter and incessant bloodlust, No Country for Old Men feels like the other Coen movies, and that's a good thing. I also want to applaud the lack of an ending for the movie. There are no final confrontations, big fights, final showdowns, etc. Just about everyone dies at the end or suffers some sort of nasty trauma. How often do you see that and say "yes, awesome?" I can't remember any past instance where that happened.
2. Raising Arizona (1987)
Raising Arizona is the first Coen brothers movie I saw and I was both blown away and confused. Just what the hell was going on here? Why did it start out as a kind of goofy comedy and then, when Randall Tex Cobb's Leonard Smalls shows up, turn into an action movie? It was funny throughout, sure, but explosions and car stunts and whatnot? The closest thing to an action scene in the beginning of the movie is when H.I. (Nicolas Cage) robs the convenience store and then gets chased by a heavily armed store clerk, dogs, the cops, and other people with a gun (like the fat guy in the supermarket with the double barrel shotgun). It's one of the greatest movie sequences I've ever seen. I know that they're not in the business of repeating themselves; I'd love to see the Coens try to recapture the energy of this movie in something else. It's infectious and fun. I like that kind of thing.
1. The Big Lebowski (1998)
The Big Lebowski is yet another Coen Brothers movie I had to watch several times in order to "get." I thought it was funny and kind of weird right from the beginning, but I didn't understand what the hell was going on. Why was The Dude acting as a detective investigating this big scheme? Why was Walter such a psycho? Why were the Nihilists nihilists? And what was the deal with those musical interludes? After at least ten viewings I finally saw the entire movie and suddenly got it and became obsessed with it. And I'm still obsessed with it. I've become one of those people who can't stop telling people to call me the Dude. Annoying? On some level, yes, but I can't help myself, much in the same way Walter can't help being Jewish. Out of every movie they've done and will do, I doubt they'll duplicate the quotability of Lebowski. It's still just so dang amazing.
Shawn S. Lealos
5. Miller's Crossing
I always find it interesting that one of the Coen Brothers greatest movies is rarely mentioned when talking about the filmmakers. Everyone mentions Fargo and Big Lebowski, and often their first movie Blood Simple or the Nic Cage madcap caper Raising Arizona. However, among them all, Miller's Crossing might be the brother's most mature work and a film that proves they are more than just cult filmmakers. The movie is a gangster film with an amazing cast, including Gabrielle Byrne, Albert Finney and Coen mainstay John Turtutto. It is a masterwork of the gangster genre and needs much more promotion from fans of the Coens and the gangster genre itself.
If you want to see one reason why Fargo still holds such a prominent spot in pop culture, just look at the news. There are still people looking for the buried money in this "based on a true story" movie that was not based on any true story. Frances McDormand was spectacular as a pregnant police chief who was investigating some murders while William H. Macy was perfectly pathetic as a used car salesman who hires two low life criminals (including a perfectly cast Steve Buscemi) to kidnap his wife so he can extort money from his greedy father-in-law. The movie picked up seven Oscar nominations and is one of the brother's most successful movies.
3. The Big Lebowski
This movie is easily the Coen Brothers most beloved cult movie. Jeff Bridges starred as The Dude, a role that he still carries proudly to this day, a slacker who wants nothing more than to be left alone to live his life and bowl with his friends. However, when his precious rug is stolen and he is mistaken for a millionaire who he shares the same name as, he ends up in over his head, battling nihilists, kidnappers and all kind of eccentric characters, including a nude artist played by Julianne Moore. Add in musical interludes and everything a stoner could happily stare at for two hours, and you have a perfect cult classic.
2. No Country for Old Men
No Country for Old Men is the one Coen Brothers movie that looks nothing like a Coen Brothers film, but feels exactly like a Coen Brothers film. Like with all Coen films, the movie takes a hapless man who is just trying to get ahead and puts him in a situation that there is no possibility for escape from. There are all the iconic Coen Brothers characters, but the most chilling is Anton Chigurh, a villain scarier than almost any other in movie history and a distant relative of Death itself from the Ingmar Bergman classic The Seventh Seal. This movie shares a strong tie to Blood Simple and is one of the coldest films in the Coen Brothers already chilly filmography. It is also brilliant and one of the best films of the last decade.
1. Barton Fink
The Coen Brothers new movie, Inside Llewyn Davis, is about a folk musician who feels his music is the only pure music and all others are disposable. In Barton Fink, John Turturro plays a New York playwright who feels the same way about Hollywood, yet finds himself in Hollywood writing a professional wrestling movie, before realizing it is much harder than he ever expected. Turturro is brilliant as the uptight and neurotic Barton Fink and John Goodman is a perfect character to play opposite him, a down home, kind and outgoing man who also might be a serial killer. Part of the movie is about writer's block, but at the end of the day, Barton Fink is a movie about a man who believes he is great only to have life kick him in the face over and over again until he finally realizes he is just another man. This is – in my opinion – the perfect movie that shows what the Coen Brothers films are all about. It is perfection.