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Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Coen Brothers in Order

For no discernible reason other than that it is August and besides, you know the total collapse of our country’s economic confidence, there isn’t a lot to talk about, Slate has decided to have people rank their favorite Coen Brothers movies in order. You can check out their cumulative ranking here: http://www.slate.com/id/2300656/

So of course I’m going to post my ranking here. A caveat: I have not actually seen all of the Coen Brothers movies. Perhaps I will update my rankings after viewing Intolerable Cruelty, The Man Who Wasn’t There, and The Ladykillers, but considering that they are in the bottom three spots on the Slate master list, I will not make a point of it.

A second caveat: I put three Coen Brothers movies on my list of ten favorite comedies, but I would like to now and forever repute that list as nonrepresentational. I made many mistakes in the composition of that list. I have recently rewatched both Raising Arizona and O, Brother, Where Art Thou? I found the former to be far more enjoyable than the latter. O, Brother has too many uneven spots in it, but I still do love the dialogue. But Raising Arizona is just a pure joy from start to finish.

1. Raising Arizona- Great original premise, wonderful script, terrific performances, the whole package.
2. Miller’s Crossing- Really cool, well thought-out homage to Hammett and noir.
3. The Big Lebowski- What if Philip Marlowe was a burned out hippie? No one but the Coen Brothers would even think to ask such a question, and I love them for it.
4. Fargo- Seriously, The English Patient? Fuck you, Oscars.
5. O, Brother, Where Art Thou?- The Odyssey in Depression era Mississippi? Love Clooney’s dialogue and Charles Durning in this.
6. A Serious Man- Not enough people have seen this amazing movie that talks about religious faith and the mysteries of the universe without managing to be condescending, flippant or naïve. Remarkable.
7. Burn After Reading- Spies in movies are always shown as remarkably cool and unflappable. It was hilarious to see a movie about idiots caught up in intrigue.
8. Blood Simple- Their first movie. Notable for great performances by character actors like Dan Hedaya and M. Emmet Walsh. Classic noir-style plot set in present day Texas.
9. True Grit- Easily the most accessible of their movies, but still well done. Portis’s novel is extremely well-suited to their style.
10. Barton Fink- I found the ending of this movie too frustrating, but there is a lot to enjoy before that point, particularly John Goodman. Also enjoyed the satire of writers and their motivations.
11. No Country For Old Men- I really liked this the first time, but a second viewing a few years ago had me checking my watch. Cast is great obviously, and suspense works for the first time at least, but once you know what happens it loses momentum.
12. The Hudsucker Proxy- As a huge fan of screwball comedies, and of Paul Newman, I really wanted to like this movie a lot. But Tim Robbins seemed like a bad choice for the lead role, and while the Coens got the dialogue at the right tempo, they didn’t get enough jokes in to make the exercise worthwhile.

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