The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

The Coen Brothers

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September will be a great time for fans of Joel and Ethan Coen. Their latest film, Burn After Reading, is set to be released on September 12, and a 10th anniversary DVD release of their cult classic The Big Lebowski will be issued around the same time. There was mention of the Lebowski DVD on Very Short List; you can view it at this link: http://www.veryshortlist.com/vsl/daily.cfm/review/566/DVD/the-big-lebowski-10th-anniversary-edition/?tp

My favorite Coen Brothers film, and what I think is their most underappreciated effort, is Miller’s Crossing. They took a crack at classic film noir with the 1990 release, and knocked it out of the park. The prohibition-era film is set in an unnamed city in the eastern United States that is on the verge of being torn apart by warring mob factions. Gabriel Byrne plays Tom, a stoic right-hand man trying to play all sides of the conflict. He has an affinity for a fedora that goes well with his dark suit and overcoat combinations; he loves it almost as much as he does his boss Leo’s girlfriend Verna. John Turturro complicates things as Verna’s brother Bernie, a greasy fight fixer who is the sticking point between the rival mobs. The most memorable scene is an ambush at Leo’s house in which Leo, played by Albert Finney, showcases his fluency with a Thompson .45 submachine gun as he fends off the hit. The Coen’s craft the scene in excellent style; it ends with one gunman doing the “Thompson Jitterbug” as he is riddled with bullets and Leo gunning down the getaway car as he stands in the street in his pajamas. An Irish tenor sobs “Danny Boy” on a record player throughout.

Speaking of underappreciated films… I watched The Wild Bunch last weekend for the first time in a few years. I’ve never been able to sell many people I know on the the greatness of Sam Peckinpah’s cynical western. The Wild Bunch came out in 1969, the same year as Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. They share some oddly similar title sequences. It pains me to say it, because I love Butch Cassidy so much, but The Wild Bunch is the better film. Butch Cassidy won acclaim and awards because of Conrad Hall’s cinematography, William Goldman’s screenwriting, and the excellence of Newman and Redford, but I challenge anyone to convince me it’s better than The Wild Bunch. It’s William Holden’s finest role in the latter part of his career, and the final shootout is unforgettable. Another oddity between the films is that Strother Martin is in both. He’s given much more to work with in The Wild Bunch, and ends up being one of the best characters in the film.

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Written by seeker70

August 30, 2008 at 1:05 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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