Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Coen Brothers’

Tim Blake Nelson as Buster Scruggs

“THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS”  My rating: B (Now available on Netflix)

132 minutes | MPAA rating: R

At one point In the Coen Brothers’ “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” several condemned miscreants stand on the scaffold awaiting the long drop.  One man sobs inconsolably; the guy to  his right tries to be sympathetic: “Your first time?”

Now playing on Netflix, “Ballad…” might be considered a toss off…but it’s a hugely enjoyable toss off.

The brothers — Joel and Ethan — have given us six short films set in the Wild West.  They are filled with loquacious characters, memorable faces, off-the-charts beautiful scenery.

In tone they range from comedy (usually of a very dark variety) to O. Henry-ish irony. There are a few moments of sweetness…not that they last. And there are a couple of terrific action sequences.

Zoe Kazan

Of course, the Coens aren’t exactly new to the genre, having given us a brilliant version of “True Grit,” not to mention the sobering modern Western “No Country for Old Men.”  Here they seem to be reveling in the opportunity to pay  homage to traditional Western tropes while playfully thumbing their noses at same.

A broad comic tone is set with the opening segment, “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” which features Tim Blake Nelson as a geeky parody of singing movie cowboys.  Buster wears an all-white suit, strums his guitar while riding (“he was mean in days of yore/now they’re mopping up the floor”), and cheerfully blows away anyone who gets in his way, employing a variety of trick shots. Of course, there’s always someone faster on the draw.

“Near Algodones” finds James Franco playing an outlaw with the world’s worst luck. A banker (Stephen Root) doesn’t take kindly to being robbed and fights back wearing armor made of kitchen pots and pans. The outlaw survives one lynching (it’s interrupted by an Indian attack) but he can’t rely on that sort of happy coincidence the next time he’s got a rope around his neck. The whole thing looks as if it were lifted from a Sergio Leone film.

(more…)

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

George Clooney

George Clooney

“HAIL, CAESAR!” My rating: C+ 

106 minutes | MPAA rating: R

The Coen Brothers’ “Hail, Caesar!” isn’t much of a movie, but as an affectionate (mostly) valentine to the Golden Age of Hollywood filmmaking, it’s a generally enjoyable goof.

The threadbare plot devised by Joel and Ethan Coen provides the siblings with multiple opportunities to go behind the scenes at the massive (and fictional) Capitol Movies studio in Los Angeles in the late 1940s.

We get to watch as America’s fantasies are brought to life. But as with sausages and laws, sometimes it’s best not to know how they’re made.

Kicking the yarn into motion is the kidnapping of stiffly handsome matinee idol Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), whose current assignment is to play a Roman centurion in the biblical epic “Hail, Caesar!”

The studio’s production chief, Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) gets to work recovering his ransomed movie star.

That’s about it for story.

The pleasures of “Hail, Caesar!” (the Cohen Brothers movie, not the “tale of the Christ” being filmed on the Capitol lot) are to be found in its satire/celebration of iconic Hollywood personalities and situations.

Early on Eddie must convene a meeting of faith leaders who have been asked to comment on the screenplay for “Hail, Caesar!” — it’s the movie’s funniest scene and a wickedly barbed sendup of institutionalized religion.

Channing Tatum

Channing Tatum

Eddie must contend with the potty-mouthed Esther Williams-type star of aquatic musicals (Scarlett Johansson) whose mermaid outfit now won’t fit because of pregnancy (she’s unmarried).

He drops off the ransom money on a soundstage where a Gene Kelly-ish song and dance man (Channing Tatum) is shooting a big production number about a crew of sailors dismayed at the prospect of eight months at sea without women.  Not only are Tatum’s acrobatic musical comedy skills first rate, but the slyly homoerotic elements of the dance routine suggests that these Navy swabs will find ways to let off steam during their voyage.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

inside llewyn 2“INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS” My rating: B+ (Opening Dec. 20 at the Glenwood Arts)

105 minutes | MPAA rating: R

I freakin’ love “Inside Llewyn Davis,” the Coens’ moody, bitterly funny, dead-on accurate recreation of the early ’60s New York folk scene.

I love it despite the fact that it’s a downer — similar in mood to “Barton Fink” — and that its protagonist is a talented but selfish sphincter.  I love its atmosphere, I love the music.

Of course, the main character is a dick, and I might  love the film even more if it showed even a teeny bit of heart, but then it wouldn’t be a Coen Brothers movie.

We meet our titular protagonist, Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac), playing and singing in Greenwich Village’s Gaslight club in 1961. Llewyn (pronounced Lew-In) is performing a traditional song called “Hang Me Oh Hang Me,” and he’s really, really good.

Of course he’s also a folkie purist, a snob, and an artiste whose uncompromising vision pretty much rules out anything like commercial success. He’s like a perverse King Midas — everything he touches turns to crap.

The film follows Llewyn as he drifts around the city during a cold snap. Wearing nothing but a threadbare sports coat and a muffler, his touseled hair blowing in the frigid breeze, our man could almost be a character out of Dickens. (Clearly, the Coens have  studied the cover of “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” LP.)

He’s got no home so he crashes where he can. He spends a night with a Columbia University professor and his wife, and inadvertently lets the couple’s big orange cat escape. Locked out of the apartment, Llewyn has no option but to carry the feline about on his chilly perambulations.

(more…)

Read Full Post »