The Definitive Ranking of the Coen Bros. Movies
November 16, 2018 7:26 PM   Subscribe

I suspect that the Coen brothers would not regard a ranking of their films with much respect. For nearly 35 years, the duo from Minnesota have been making movies that celebrate and undermine genre, thumbing their noses at convention and trends, and exploring the meaninglessness of existence with the depth and absurdity worthy of the cause. Joel and Ethan Coen’s 18 films—including The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, the anthology Western debuting on Netflix this week—represent one of the truly unified American accomplishments in the arts.
posted by MovableBookLady (153 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
 
Token grrarr: "that movie" is no way as good as "that other movie"
posted by sammyo at 7:36 PM on November 16, 2018 [18 favorites]


I had some quibbles about the list, but my main takeaway is I need to watch A Serious Man. It keeps getting recommended here and I still haven't seen it.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 7:43 PM on November 16, 2018 [10 favorites]


my main takeaway is I need to watch A Serious Man. It keeps getting recommended here and I still haven't seen it.

Eh, you're not missing much: "Nothing means anything. The end."

(I just saved you two hours)
posted by Ndwright at 7:51 PM on November 16, 2018 [17 favorites]


Eh, you're not missing much: "Nothing means anything. The end."

(I just saved you two hours)


this is not accurate at all but I mean, why even bother watching almost any of the Coens’ movies then
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 8:00 PM on November 16, 2018 [38 favorites]


I don't want Santana's Abraxas! I don't need Santana's Abraxas! I'm not going to listen to Santana's Abraxas!

A Serious Man is excellent.
posted by hototogisu at 8:06 PM on November 16, 2018 [13 favorites]


I got half way through A Serious Man and turned it off, something I almost never do. I just didn't want to know how badly it ended for everyone involved.
posted by octothorpe at 8:09 PM on November 16, 2018 [4 favorites]


the ending of a serious man has one of the best music cues in cinema history.
posted by JimBennett at 8:14 PM on November 16, 2018 [3 favorites]


I was surprised Hudsucker wasn't higher and they don't really give much of an explanation. It's my favorite Coen movie but I can understand it not being the top of the list. Near the bottom was a surprise.

I got half way through A Serious Man and turned it off

I've done the same thing several times with Lebowski and I think I'm done trying to figure out what's so good about it. It's just not for me.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 8:15 PM on November 16, 2018 [8 favorites]


I've seen Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, Miller's Crossing, Barton Fink, and The Big Lebowski. Those I liked, to varying degrees. That's it.

I've seen parts of The Hudsucker Proxy, The Man Who Wasn't There, Fargo, Burn After Reading.

I don't like movies that coldly, pitilessly observe their characters like lab specimens, without empathy or compassion. I don't much care for Stanley Kubrick movies for the same reason.

Granted, the brothers Coen have impressive technical chops. Their movies look good, their scripts are sharp, their storytelling ability is top-notch. But for a long time now, I've thought their movies are exercises in smug condescending contempt-- for their characters, people in general, and especially their audience. No thank you.
posted by KHAAAN! at 8:18 PM on November 16, 2018 [4 favorites]


"Call me tomorrow, this might be no. 1 then." is exactly how I feel about Miller's Crossing too. I can never settle on a favorite or even on a steady ranking of Coen Bros movies, but even if Miller's Crossing isn't my momentary #1, it kind of always is in spirit.

Lately I've even come around a bit on The Ladykillers. It's fun! Heck, the bottom of the article's list sounds like a fantastic weekend marathon. Weird to me that I can see the bright side to The Ladykillers but I'm kind of cold on Llewyn Davis lately but *shrug* I think that's Coens fandom for you.

Also, the brief mention of The Man Who Wasn't There that talks about how nobody pays attention to The Man Who Wasn't There while barely talking about The Man Who Wasn't There perfectly encapsulates the response to that sadly overlooked movie.
posted by jason_steakums at 8:21 PM on November 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


A Serious Man is excellent. If it was the only Coen Brothers movie, no one would give a fuck about the Coen Brothers. Test that against Fargo, Oh Brother Where art Thou, The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men or Raising Arizona, any of which would have made them cult gods on their own.
posted by es_de_bah at 8:31 PM on November 16, 2018 [5 favorites]


Watching A Serious Man at the Riverview Theater in Minneapolis is one of my top movie-watching experiences, purely due to the communal joy of the local audience. They filmed the neighborhood scenes in a part of my hometown that was hit by a tornado a couple years prior, so the lack of mature trees fit the era. They filmed the synagogue scenes at a location on my commute to work. My husband, who grew up too far outside of metro-area daytime TV reception, had no idea why the loudest laugh from the audience came from a character calling a Meshbesher for legal advice. And that ending! Definitely #1 for me. Plus, at the Riverview everyone claps at the end of a movie, and I love that.

I hated Llewelyn Davis.
posted by Maarika at 8:31 PM on November 16, 2018 [13 favorites]


I hated Llewelyn Davis.

Ah, but did you hate Llewelyn Davis or did you hate Llewelyn Davis? An argument can be made against either... or both.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 8:38 PM on November 16, 2018 [10 favorites]


Just thinking about the pointlessness of Barton Fink drives me into an uncontrollable rage...

Now to read the list.
posted by Windopaene at 8:41 PM on November 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


I was agape at learning the Coen-Evil Dead connection. Everything is different now. Also the Coen bros are a national treasure.
posted by dis_integration at 8:42 PM on November 16, 2018 [3 favorites]


I had A Serious Man cued up on Netflix, so I tried watching it just now, but... dang, does anyone else think the scene at the start with the Asian student is really racist? Does it get better?
posted by J.K. Seazer at 8:43 PM on November 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


I need to rewatch The Big Lebowski because I love many of their films (not all), yet I've never managed to get through that one.
posted by betweenthebars at 8:52 PM on November 16, 2018


O Brother, Where Art Thou? was robbed! (I haven't seen A Serious Man.) One of the best movies I've seen.
posted by Schmucko at 8:55 PM on November 16, 2018 [11 favorites]




> I was agape at learning the Coen-Evil Dead connection.

You know that the cop in Miller's Crossing with the itchy trigger finger at the Sons of Erin shootout is Sam Raimi, right?

> Watching A Serious Man at the Riverview Theater in Minneapolis is one of my top movie-watching experiences, purely due to the communal joy of the local audience.

I went to see it in the suburbs with a friend, an old friend who was opinionated and vocal and ... you had to have known him, I guess. Anyway, at the end the lights came on and someone in the audience said, mostly to themselves, "I don't know what that was about." Dennis stood up and angrily replied, "IT WAS ABOUT YOUR LIFE!"

> I got half way through A Serious Man and turned it off

I've done the same thing several times with Lebowski


My life experience has showed me that I'm pretty much predisposed to dislike any Coen movie on first view, and then really enjoy it on every subsequent viewing. I'm still on first view with both Llewyn Davis and Hail Caesar and True Grit and haven't been compelled to go grab that second watching for any of them.

Anyway, I 100% recommend Miller's Crossing as anyone's favorite. It's a very funny movie with a perfectly serious face that dares you to laugh. I didn't even realize there were jokes the first several times I watched it.

[this here FPP is about a thing I did about Miller's Crossing and New Orleans.]
posted by komara at 9:03 PM on November 16, 2018 [14 favorites]


"Burn After Reading" was pretty damned good, and it was cast perfectly. "Fargo" is my all-time favorite, though.
posted by Agave at 9:04 PM on November 16, 2018 [6 favorites]


I'm just gonna list off my top 5 Coens and then go see what the ranking has to say-

Barton Fink
Miller's Crossing
A Serious Man
No Country
Fargo

Pretty much everything else I've seen of theirs lands somewhere on the scale of 'Meh, that was alright...' to 'Hey! That was alright!' but those five films, man, I can and will rewatch them any chance I get. Fucking perfection.
posted by mannequito at 9:21 PM on November 16, 2018 [4 favorites]


This aggression against True Grit shall not stand. Mattie is the closest cinema will ever get to young praemunire.
posted by praemunire at 9:28 PM on November 16, 2018 [16 favorites]


I hated Llewelyn Davis.

But what about Llewyn Davis?
posted by axiom at 9:29 PM on November 16, 2018 [3 favorites]


It's a very funny movie with a perfectly serious face that dares you to laugh.

“They took his hair. Jesus, that’s strange.”
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:31 PM on November 16, 2018 [5 favorites]


Coen films are usually not quite my cup of tea, and I was bored to tears by the half of Hail Caesar! that was George Clooney being lectured by communists, but I would gladly watch another eight movies of 1950s Hollywood production numbers and cat-and-mouse shenanigans between Singing Cowboy Detective and Secret Communist Channing Tatum.
posted by nonasuch at 9:34 PM on November 16, 2018 [7 favorites]


It's a good list, but I have my bones to pick with it. First, I liked A Serious Man and thought it very good and memorable. But I'd have it at least switch places with No Country For Old Men, which is #1 for me. The bleakest film they've made (other than Blood Simple), but that source material! That Deakins cinematography! That Anton Chigur!

Barton Fink and Miller's Crossing I haven't seen in many many years, and I didn't really like them back in the day, but want to try them again. As a young guy I found them kind of pretentious, but given my love of most things Coen by now I might have to reassess.
posted by zardoz at 9:52 PM on November 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


I love True Grit. I couldn't name one misstep in the entire film. The dialogue is far and away their best work. Eh.
posted by Brocktoon at 9:55 PM on November 16, 2018 [5 favorites]


Gabriel Byrne’s line in Miller’s Crossing that leads to passionate sex with Verna is still one of my favorites, “I came for me hat!”

There’s nothing more foolish than a man chasing his hat after all.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 9:55 PM on November 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


Everyone has a different favorite, so we should just loop the list around in a circle.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 9:58 PM on November 16, 2018 [11 favorites]


Jfc I saw Burn After Reading with two of my friends in college and we spent the whole movie whispering WTF to each other with increasing concern until finally the dildo rocker sequence came up at which point this old woman sitting nearby looked at her husband and said without any awareness that she was not speaking softly at all:

"Isn't that the thing you wanted me to get back when my hip worked"

Husband: "yes and look George Clooney agrees that it'd still be a good idea"

Me: "he's not wrong"

Husband: "See? Wait, what"

Woman and her husband: "what"

My friends: "WHAT????"

Me: "uh oh"
posted by Hermione Granger at 10:09 PM on November 16, 2018 [56 favorites]


There was one little ne that blew me away in this article:
they are 62 and 64 years old!
posted by growabrain at 10:12 PM on November 16, 2018 [6 favorites]


I picture them as eternally 40s, but that makes way more sense.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 10:15 PM on November 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


Here's another vote for moving Hudsucker up the table a bit. The art direction is amazing and the story just circuitous enough to be a good Coen movie. You know, for kids!
posted by St. Oops at 10:30 PM on November 16, 2018 [14 favorites]


All this Coen talk and none speak of The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, which I saw just a few hours ago. It is (to my mind) a great little buffet of some bite-sized bits of Coen perfection. “The Gal Who Got Rattled” is the longest of them and is just sublime.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:39 PM on November 16, 2018 [3 favorites]


Fun fact: Bill Murray signed on to do Garfield because he thought it was a Coen bros movie. It was actually weitten by Joel Cohen.
posted by zaixfeep at 10:47 PM on November 16, 2018 [7 favorites]


Miller’s Crossing is appropriately high, potentially should be #1.

O Brother is painfully too low. An outright injustice.

I’m torn on Lebowski. On a bad day, it’s a silly novelty movie, but on a good day, it’s absolutely brilliant.

No beef with A Serious Man, just that Miller, O Brother, and Lebowski are all so obviously superior.

I feel like their big critical/commercial successes are overrated when compared to the whole body of work. Fargo, Barton Fink, and No Country — all very fine movies, but none of them are truly genre defining, or as transcendent as some of their best stuff.

Intolerable Cruelty is too low. The story is just perfectly told with a straight faced rapid fire dialogue that reminds one of really great live theater. And Cedric is amazing.

Raising Arizona is appropriately middle of the pack and I don’t understand the people who think it’s the best. It’s cute and funny, like Lebowski, but not nearly as funny or sophisticated and kind of classist.

Blood Simple, way overrated in my opinion.

Lady Killers, everyone should agree, dead last.

Never saw Hail, Caesar.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:48 PM on November 16, 2018 [3 favorites]


Billy Bob Thornton's eyebrows should have won an Oscar for The Man Who Wasn't There.

There is no way you could change Burn After Reading that would make it better.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 10:50 PM on November 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


Ahem.

Hail, Ceasar was clearly two scripts smashed together but it’s also every topic I was ever interested in all at once PLUS has Channing Tatum do a song and dance number about situational homosexuality. The 1950s head of CPUSA is in it! It’s like it was made for me.

See also Hudsucker Proxy, which I admit has pacing issues but also something I’ve been trying to live inside for decades now.

Intolerable Cruelty would’ve been better as a period piece, it’s a pistache of Cary Grant movies specifically, even down to the tooth cleaning obsession. Set it in the 1930s and it’ll sing.

O Brother Where Art Thou is not about the Oddessy, that’s a framing device. It’s about cross racial solidarity amomg the poor and downtrodden.

True Grit was robbed, never has a movie been so much about rigid Protestantism.

Inside Llewelyn Davis is about how authencity and how people don’t actually want it. They want an easy to sell version of it. It’s about the hollow cliches of just do what you love and be authentic in your art (No one actually likes art).

Fargo is their best period peice cause I always forget it wasn’t actually made in the mid 80s.

Burn After Reading is their bleakest film because it’s nit trying to be bleak and now it’s a documentary.

Raising Arizona is maybe more very influential then very good, performances aside (Jon Foodman Holly Hunter AND Nick Cage?!) plus another movie about a working stiff.

Miller’s crossing is beautifully photographed and has that first peek of a sprawling, episodic, novelistic mode their later stuff would dig into hard.

I have nothing to say about The Big Lebowski other then it’s a much better adaptation of the Big Sleep then that Bogart movie.

I never cared for No Country For Old Men. Barton Fink is an excellent black box play about fascism but also just a mood of apocalyptic dread. If you want to track some of the “idealist goes cynic” thread in their works, this is a good start.

The Ladykillers is overstuffed.
posted by The Whelk at 10:51 PM on November 16, 2018 [33 favorites]


The Ladykillers is "unquestionably minor, perhaps deliberately so, but it is nonetheless intermittently delightful" - - it is far from their worst film.
posted by fairmettle at 10:51 PM on November 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


Carter Burwell gets some recognition? Yes?

Then the list is fine.
posted by theory at 10:54 PM on November 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


Oh, I do have something to say about The Big Lebowski.

John Goodman’s character is the best encapsulation of the puffed up ego and petty resentments that drive the American reactionary.
posted by The Whelk at 10:55 PM on November 16, 2018 [26 favorites]


I am so damn sick of the recieved wisdom that Intolerable Cruelty isn’t any good. It’s damn fabulous. It’s funny, the performances are charming, it is imminently quotable (“everybody eats berries!”), it’s a lovely tribute to screwball comedies without being mawkish, and it’s peak hot George Clooney and Cathetine Zeta Jones. It’s got great visual gags (“Let NOMAN put asunder”). It’s got Cedric the Entertainer. It’s a great little movie.

Come at me.
posted by supercrayon at 10:56 PM on November 16, 2018 [13 favorites]


I hated Llewelyn Davis.
posted by Maarika


So perfect because I saw and loved Inside Llewyn Davis at the Riverview. The Coen Brothers are for everyone, occcasionally.
posted by padraigin at 10:56 PM on November 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


Oh man, I was just sitting in this thread waiting for someone to give Intolerable Cruelty its props, so that I could favourite the hell out of that comment. And then it appears, and it's by my wife. Haha, I chose well.
posted by Paragon at 11:10 PM on November 16, 2018 [50 favorites]


I am so damn sick of the recieved wisdom that Intolerable Cruelty isn’t any good.

Yeah, I wouldn't try to argue that it's better than a lot of their other films, but I sure enjoyed it more.

Although I had the experience of watching half of it one night and the other half the next, and in the intervening 24 hrs one of the plot twists occurred to me and was clearly obvious, but I doubt I'd have realized it if I'd just watched the whole thing in one sitting.
posted by straight at 11:12 PM on November 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


Do men just rank Coen brothers movies, is that their job

Yeah, I could've sworn this is the 4th or 5th Coen films ranking I've seen on Metafilter alone.
posted by naju at 11:50 PM on November 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


Well sometimes they make more movies
posted by The Whelk at 11:54 PM on November 16, 2018 [2 favorites]



I was agape at learning the Coen-Evil Dead connection.

Bruce Campbell covers them a bit in his autobiography. Also, there is Crimewave, which has Bruce Campbell, written by the Coen Brothers and Directed by Sam Raimi.

It is not as good as it sounds.
posted by lkc at 12:05 AM on November 17, 2018


Oh and the hula hoop sequence in Hudsucker was most likely done by Raimi.

Rumor has it the Coens contributed a lot to Raimi’s first Spider-Man movie which may explain why it’s the mot expressly working class hero movie about Spider-Man.

The biggest pin drop on the Coens was in Hail, Ceasar’s depiction of the mid century communist working group. You ...do not land that many perfectly observed joked about bearded Marxists academics without having at one point spent a lot of time around them.
posted by The Whelk at 12:24 AM on November 17, 2018 [8 favorites]


Yeah, I could've sworn this is the 4th or 5th Coen films ranking I've seen on Metafilter alone.

This FPP is definitely in the Top Three, though.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:26 AM on November 17, 2018 [29 favorites]


I think that this buster scruggs is their best movie yet!
posted by growabrain at 12:58 AM on November 17, 2018


I watched a serious man recently and it blew me away. I wasn't sure what to expect and can see why people don't like it as much, but man it really resonated with me.
posted by Carillon at 1:07 AM on November 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


What I would like to know is why Netflix in the browser lets me click on the main actors' names to list their films but not the director's? WHY?
posted by Harald74 at 1:13 AM on November 17, 2018


Carter Burwell gets some recognition? Yes?
Fargo has "...a load-bearing score from Carter Burwell" which I think is delightful way to describe what the score did for that film.
posted by fullerine at 2:17 AM on November 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


A Serious Man is excellent. If it was the only Coen Brothers movie, no one would give a fuck about the Coen Brothers

I quite literally could not pay attention to A Serious Man. I know I watched it, but I remember nothing other than maddening frustration. To me it’s the movie that showed not even the Coens can make a passive protagonist watchable. Idk maybe I’d feel differently now that I’m older, but...probably I’d still want to shake him by the lapels.

The Coens produced (and, one suspects, rewrote) Bad Santa from a script by an unknown with no other credits (I think?), and you can tell. It should be the red headed step child of this list, but I still love it.
posted by schadenfrau at 2:54 AM on November 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


Oh, but Lebowski, No Country, and Blood Simple are my loves.
posted by schadenfrau at 2:55 AM on November 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


I mean, damn, I saw A Serious Man at a small theater in San Francisco, at most one of five in the room. No one said a word as the credits rolled. I walked away texting a dear friend about the film, as I played Jefferson Airplane and walked home.

His only response was: "stings, doesn't it?"

I think it's a lesser film of theirs only such that it concerns the mundane aspects of lives that we (as Americans) shy away from romanticizing. Except I was born in St. Louis. I grew up there and in southern Illinois. The stereotypical and absurdly dull details of the relationship dramas ring true to me so clearly I can't ignore them.

It's an abbreviated Greek-style tragedy. There are no heroes. There is just a person who has tried to be a serious man. Because that is what we are supposed to do. Right?

I mean holy fuck, a second after Larry takes eraser to grade book and makes a selfish (but entirely reasonable!) decision he receives a call from his physician. The movie is instantaneous karma, writ large. Everything is still dust in the wind, right?

"don't you want somebody to love?"
posted by hototogisu at 3:17 AM on November 17, 2018 [9 favorites]



I don't like movies that coldly, pitilessly observe their characters like lab specimens


But this is exactly the, dare I say it, most meta thing about Coeniana that one can say! That's all that film, lenses, digital capture, etc. do! Coldly, pitilessly observe.
posted by Chitownfats at 3:53 AM on November 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


Love most of their films but the widespread enthusiasm for the Big Lebowski has always puzzled me. It had a ton of great moments but I felt let down by the ending. I don’t even remember the ending now but do remember feeling that all the great character work seemed like window dressing.
posted by bonobothegreat at 4:03 AM on November 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


I forget who said it, but one reviewer on NPR summed up Inside Llewyn Davis perfectly:

"I liked everything about it except the movie."
posted by ssmug at 4:16 AM on November 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


I took screenwriting in college from Spike Lee and the one and only comedy script on the assigned reading was Raising Arizona.
posted by escabeche at 4:31 AM on November 17, 2018 [8 favorites]


I love Raising Arizona so much, and it's one film that I reliably and embarrassingly cry at the ending of.

And I love the Coens, but really don't want to look at the list. I don't understand the obsession with ranking things. It just seems like people running away from thinking about qualities by going all in on quantification.
posted by Grangousier at 4:39 AM on November 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


My List Before I Clicked:
• The Big Lebowski
• No Country for Old Men
• Fargo
• O Brother, Where Art Thou?
• Raising Arizona
I have a bunch of early Coen Brothers that I've not ever watched and I need to just make a list and get 'er done.

*puts Barton Fink, Miller's Crossing, Blood Simple on list*

I didn't like the first half of Inside Llewyn Davis, I love Oscar Isaac but I was just bored out of my mind. Maybe I wasn't in the right mood. I felt very much the same about A Serious Man. I need to give it another chance.

Also, completely agree that True Grit is not appreciated as greatly as it should be.

“Time just gets away from us.”
posted by Fizz at 4:54 AM on November 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


Fargo, Raising Arizona, and O Brother are 1a, b, and c on my list, based on how often I quote from each.
posted by schoolgirl report at 5:01 AM on November 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


Lebowski isn't my favorite and I'm somewhat mystified by the cult around it but I saw a 35mm print of it at EbertFest on the huge screen at the Virginia Theater in Urbana and it was a lot of fun. You can tell that everyone in it was barely keeping a straight face while they did their lines.
posted by octothorpe at 5:09 AM on November 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


Honestly one of the best parts of O Brother was the color grading. If I recall correctly that level of digital color control was something of a novelty at the time, and it was heralded as the wave of the future, a peek into what films in the coming decades would all look like. It wasn't, though—the technology caught like wildfire, but then instead of doing anything creative or pretty with it everyone just used it to make all films everywhere teal & orange.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:12 AM on November 17, 2018 [15 favorites]


A Serious Man played a not insignificant role in why I began exploring, in earnest, a possible conversion to Judaism. Is that weird?

Burn After Reading really captures the tone of what it's like to grow up in the DC metro region. I could never quite put my finger on what it meant to be from here. It's a very odd, elusive culture that changes often (due to so many of its residents "coming and going" with the political tide, military, government contract jobs, lobbyists, etc) but is still as unique and identifiable as a thumbprint, if you know what you're looking for. I watched Burn After Reading and was like, "Oh, I'm not just being gaslit. That's really what it felt like to grow up around all of these assholes. Wait. Am I also one of those assholes?" I felt very seen.

Everyone who says that True Grit should be much higher on this list is absolutely right.

The only Coen Brothers films I haven't seen (other than the new Netflix special) are the bottom three (The Ladykillers; Intolerable Cruelty; Hail, Caesar!). I have no interest in changing that. Unless someone wants to spend a lot of time convincing me (good luck to you).
posted by nightrecordings at 5:16 AM on November 17, 2018 [7 favorites]


Hail Caesar felt like a bit too much of a Giant I joke/shaggy dog story to me at the time, but I suspect will do better on rewatch and might have some depths like Burn After Reading turned out to.
posted by Artw at 5:34 AM on November 17, 2018


(Can’t see the other two really getting that kind of redemption though. They’re just... not good. Absolutely watch the original Ladykillers if you haven’t though.)
posted by Artw at 5:36 AM on November 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


I had a power cut whilst watching O Brother, Where Art Thou? and I've taken that as God doesn't want me to watch it. On this point I agree with God.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:46 AM on November 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


The top five are all stone cold classics (though I'd probably shuffle the order)... the rest isn't that bad, but plenty of I'd have X higher and Y lower. Plus a reminder that the Coens have made some real stinkers along the way.

I'd have rated Ceaser much higher and I've never understood the love for Llewyn Davis, could not even finish that.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:58 AM on November 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


What you must understand about "A Serious Man" is its deliberate and specific time setting -- the months (and by the end, days) before the Six Day War in which the total and humiliating defeat the Israelis dealt their enemies profoundly changed the image and self-image of Jews around the world and especially middle-class Jews in the US, for whom the Holocaust and (at home) overt institutionalized anti-Semitism were very much recent memory items. The final scene implies tragedy (the main character's cancer or some other such terrible disease), but in fact what was coming was a period of extraordinary triumph for that entire community.

(Go back and watch it again -- for the closeups on the calendars!)
posted by MattD at 5:59 AM on November 17, 2018 [19 favorites]


Carter Burwell gets some recognition? Yes?

Watching A Serious Man at the Riverview Theater in Minneapolis is one of my top movie-watching experiences, purely due to the communal joy of the local audience.

I was sharing a house with Carter in Long Island, where he worked as a geneticist at Cold Spring Harbor under James Watson. One day he got a VHS tape in the mail, and it was a final cut workprint of Blood Simple. "Some guys at NYU want me to score this student film." We watched it, his reaction was something along the lines of, "it's not very good, but maybe it could lead to something else."

He came home after the premier and said, "Man, I was totally wrong about those guys. It was great in the theater. The way the whole audience was gasping at the broken finger thing. They really know what they are doing, I did not get the way that the group experience was calculated into the whole experience. These guys really know what they are doing, and I didn't get it."

They were so loyal to him that when they chose not to have a composed score for Oh Brother Where Art Thou, they put a little blip of his music after the credits, just so they could still give him the Music By Carter Burwell credit in the up-front titles.
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:59 AM on November 17, 2018 [37 favorites]


I should go back and re-try A Serious Man. Sometimes their films just hit you wrong the first time you watch them; I was too creeped out by Barton Fink the first time I tried to watch it and then came back to it about 15 years later and loved every minute of it.
posted by octothorpe at 6:00 AM on November 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


Inside Llewyn Davis is my favorite movie. I've probably seen it nine or ten times. If it weren't for my fear of tornadoes, it might be A Serious Man, instead. I love the little opening vignette, particularly. True Grit is great, too.

I've realized that I really love the Coens when I dig what they're doing genre-wise. Early on, all I had seen was The Big Lebowski and Raising Arizona and I'm just not a comedy person. But give me a moody period piece with a touch of slipstream and I'm totally there.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:34 AM on November 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


One of Burn After Reading or Hail, Caesar is my second-least favourite film of theirs, and I still small-l like both of them. Intolerable Cruelty is down there too, but it contains the bit I laughed harder at than anything else in their filmography. The Ladykillers is, of course, last, and it's flaming garbage I still can't believe they had anything to do with. At the other end of the scale, Miller's Crossing is probably my favourite, followed closely by No Country, Lebowski and Fargo in some order. Overrated: O Brother. Underrated: The Man Who Wasn't There.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:51 AM on November 17, 2018


> schadenfrau:
"Oh, but Lebowski, No Country, and Blood Simple are my loves."

Me too, but I cheat on them with The Hudsucker Proxy.
posted by Samizdata at 6:58 AM on November 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


I always considered myself a huge Coen brothers fan, yet Hail, Caesar remains the only film in my 47 years that I've walked out of. I also got nothing out of Inside Llewyn Davis.

That being said, although I'd pick Fargo as my favorite (just about my favorite movie, period), I was delighted to see A Serious Man at the top of the heap. Brilliant film. I watched it one weekend, loved it, and immediately watched it again. Haven't done that with another movie, ever.

I hated Lebowski on first view, as did my wife. We've grown to love it. Funny how that happens.
posted by newfers at 6:59 AM on November 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


The first time I saw Lebowski I thought it was an okay trifle, the second I kind of actively disliked it and the third I thought it was a work of genius (no, I was not high).
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:16 AM on November 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


All things considered, doesn't being ranked as the Coen's worst movie still make the film better than most any other director's efforts?
posted by Thorzdad at 7:16 AM on November 17, 2018 [12 favorites]


Inside Llewyn Davis has a cat, A+++
posted by Artw at 7:28 AM on November 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I could've sworn this is the 4th or 5th Coen films ranking I've seen on Metafilter alone.

The Coen ranking threads are the low key megathread. Some day we'll get a mod note about relitigating Lebowski.
posted by jason_steakums at 7:36 AM on November 17, 2018 [12 favorites]


Inside Llewyn Davis has a cat, A+++

Not only a cat but a schrodinger's cat!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:37 AM on November 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


Funny movie. It’s aging well—one part period-piece satire, one part inside baseball, with a dash of Russian conspiracy. Were this, say, a Ron Howard movie, it would be harkened as a thrilling reinvention, a masterful ode to old Hollywood with a fondness for Busby Berkeley musicals. For the Coens it was just fine. This is the burden of success—reinvention and homage is no longer enough.

What in the whole, entire fuck. Supposedly this person watches and writes about movies for a living, right?
posted by codacorolla at 7:54 AM on November 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised at the low ranking for True Grit. Maybe because they play it pretty straight and it doesn't have too many overt Coen Brothers ticks?
posted by octothorpe at 8:00 AM on November 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


The only part in True Grit which really seemed "Coens-y" to me was the bit with the "bear man": "Do either of you need...medical attention?"
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:27 AM on November 17, 2018


You know, for film geeks.
posted by Joey Michaels at 8:28 AM on November 17, 2018 [7 favorites]


Raising Arizona is appropriately middle of the pack and I don’t understand the people who think it’s the best.
Favorite anythings always depend on how they intersect with your life. You don't understand, while I can't not understand.
posted by ArmandoAkimbo at 8:29 AM on November 17, 2018 [12 favorites]


Extra points to Fargo for giving us the Fargo tv series.
posted by Marky at 8:39 AM on November 17, 2018 [7 favorites]



my main takeaway is I need to watch A Serious Man. It keeps getting recommended here and I still haven't seen it.

Eh, you're not missing much: "Nothing means anything. The end."


disagree. It's more like, "You think things are serious, that you're a serious man? You don't know serious. Oh look, here it comes. Fade to black."

Excellent movie, but not one I've felt compelled to revisit. Perhaps I should.
posted by philip-random at 8:45 AM on November 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


I saw Raising Arizona just after it came out (probably on HBO) and it was my first exposure to the Coens' sensibility and holds a special place because of that.
posted by octothorpe at 8:47 AM on November 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


In conclusion, Coen fandom is a land of contrasts. Thank you.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:51 AM on November 17, 2018


I am not sure that Burn after Reading is their best movie, but it is the movie that makes me laugh harder than almost anything else
posted by PinkMoose at 8:53 AM on November 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


- - it is far from their worst film.

the problem with ranking the Coen Bros is that even their "failures" tend to feel like fresh air. "Least excellent" is probably a better way of phrasing things. In that regard, I'm impressed that Hudsocker Proxy is only #14. By which I mean, yes, I mostly agree. Though I'd rate it as their least excellent movie. A brilliant first act (an American Brazil) that falls into a silly hole and never recovers.
posted by philip-random at 8:53 AM on November 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


Whenever Raising Arizona comes up in discussions like this, I always wonder if the people who criticize it as "classist" do so because it's funny and it deals with a class of people that they're either not familiar with or have some very particular baggage regarding. I see it as being deeply sympathetic WRT H.I. and Ed; they want just a little bit of what the rich people have, and in the end, they can't have it, although H.I. still dares to dream. Even the fearsome Leonard Smalls ("Lenny to my friends. Only I got no friends.") seems deeply wounded in some way; he's got a pair of baby shoes hanging next to the grenades on his vest that are never explained.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:54 AM on November 17, 2018 [7 favorites]


Coen films are usually not quite my cup of tea, and I was bored to tears by the half of Hail Caesar! that was George Clooney being lectured by communists--nonasuch

They mentioned this movie is too much 'inside baseball' covering the chaos of making movies in the 1950s, and this scene is an excellent example. Communism was actually once an accepted political party and groups of Communists did gather to have political discussions in Hollywood, but then the Red Scare and McCarthyism put a quick end to it.

My favorite scene in the movie is when they are taking a break in filming the Caesar movie and a guy walks up to the person on the cross playing Jesus and asks him if he's a regular actor or just an extra, so he can get him the appropriate lunch (since the movie was about Caesar, he was probably just an extra).
posted by eye of newt at 9:00 AM on November 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


All things considered, doesn't being ranked as the Coen's worst movie still make the film better than most any other director's efforts?

Oh yeah. The only Coen Bros. films that I have never rewatched are Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers (and, technically, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, but it has been less than 24 hours since my first viewing). I have seen 4.1 of Michael Bay's films in my entire life -- I gave up on Transformers about one reel in -- and I would much rather see the Coens' least efforts again a dozen times. Even at their most indifferent, they just don't connect with me, rather than bore me or annoy me.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:02 AM on November 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


Except I was born in St. Louis. I grew up there and in southern Illinois. The stereotypical and absurdly dull details of the relationship dramas ring true to me so clearly I can't ignore them.

I grew up on the West Coast and have grandparents from the Midwest (US and Canada), their parents were Norwegian and Irish. The Big Lebowski is so perfectly West Coast, and Fargo is so spot-on NoDak.

One of the best parts of Lebowski, watching it in Oregon when it first came out, was how it captured things people actually said in real life and put them into perfect little scenes that turned them into big-screen quotes. I mean to this day I still shrug and say, "well that's just, like, your opinion, man," and it was something we said, in just that mix of irked hippy blasé, before that movie came along.

I can get why people find Lebowski meh because it is so very West Coast. Likewise I can see how people would think Fargo is stilted and cold and distant, because that's so very NoDak.
posted by fraula at 9:17 AM on November 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


I love Intolerable Cruelty but I can see how it might not be some people's cup of tea. I think The Whelk is on to something with it being a period piece—you can see some of the DNA from His Girl Friday in there.

For years I used "Heinz, the Baron Krauss von Testy" as a sample account name for testing.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 9:22 AM on November 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


I didn't realize until fairly recently just how much Raising Arizona is a proto-Wes Anderson movie.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:29 AM on November 17, 2018 [7 favorites]


I don't like movies that coldly, pitilessly observe their characters like lab specimens, without empathy or compassion. I don't much care for Stanley Kubrick movies for the same reason.

Wow. I love Kubrick, but it's a knife-edge sort of thing for me. 2001 and Clockwork Orange are perfect, but then Barry Lyndon and Lolita are too much. I've never heard a more perfect description of the particular vibe of his movies.
posted by 256 at 9:39 AM on November 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


I honestly don't know if I can bring myself to watch Buster Scruggs, despite having been a die hard fan of the Coen's oeuvre since the age of 13 when my friend and I popped in a DVD of The Big Lebowski not knowing what to expect. My pause is solely due to MeFi's own dope_feeny who made a website that makes the thoroughly convincing and original argument that the Coen brothers have cynically been selling us tobacco for the past 35 years. You know, for Americans!

(My friend and I did start smoking in high school, FWIW)
posted by Taft at 9:43 AM on November 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


I think it was mathowie who revealed to me, here, that the date on The Dude's check at the grocery store is 9/11/91

WAKE UP FILM SHEEPLE
posted by thelonius at 10:04 AM on November 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


My favorite scene in the movie is when they are taking a break in filming the Caesar movie and a guy walks up to the person on the cross playing Jesus and asks him if he's a regular actor or just an extra, so he can get him the appropriate lunch

"There's something a little chilling about turning up for work and finding a cross with your name on it." - Eric Idle, on filming Life of Brian.

[The quote's from his recent "sortabiography", Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.]
posted by Paul Slade at 10:08 AM on November 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


I enjoyed Hail, Caesar, but IIRC, it kinda stalled in the third act and didn't seem to quite meet it's potential. Agreed, Blood Simple is very overrated. But still pretty good as far as first feature films go.
posted by Brocktoon at 10:29 AM on November 17, 2018


I watched Buster Scruggs yesterday and am still trying to decide how I feel about it. I tell you what, though, the one with Tom Waits is a gem. He's scruffily bearded and alone on-screen for almost the entire vignette, talking and singing to himself and panning for gold. It's like the purest distillation of both Tom Waits and romantic American Western cinema, and it's absolutely amazing.
posted by mudpuppie at 10:46 AM on November 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


Oh come on you guys, Fargo is the best movie ever and that's just an objective fact.


"I don't like movies that coldly, pitilessly observe their characters like lab specimens, without empathy or compassion. I don't much care for Stanley Kubrick movies for the same reason.."

I love Kubrick movies, and what you call lack of empathy I call an honest willingness to examine humans and their reasoning in a fictional environement. Examining them in any real world context would obviously be unethical.
posted by Dumsnill at 10:47 AM on November 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


Burm after Reading should be higher. Rarely after age 20 has a movie had me literally ROFL, but this one did it.

What did we learn?
posted by Dumsnill at 11:02 AM on November 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


Buster Scruggs now on FanFare too
posted by growabrain at 11:14 AM on November 17, 2018


Back in the days before streaming, I caught the first ten minutes of O Brother, Where Art Thou? before passing out at the end of a very long day (well, 36ish hours) and, the next day, went out and bought a copy. That's how much I like that movie.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:18 AM on November 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


I can't even start to rank them but I know that Hudsucker Proxy deserves to be in the top five and that, as a kid from northeast Oklahoma, that frosted-over nighttime ride near the end is so precisely what northeast Oklahoma looks and feels like that I couldn't breathe. The Coens get a lot of props for a lot of things but for real their greatest gift might be capturing a sence of a place better than anyone else can. Truly every one of their movies is about where they take place as much as what takes place there.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:05 PM on November 17, 2018 [10 favorites]


I enjoyed A Serious Man but my response to the end (in the theatre, out loud) was "You fuckers."

Good movie but not even close to their best work.
posted by hoodrich at 12:15 PM on November 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


The Goy’s Teeth” sequence from A Serious Man is perhaps the most wonderful, sublime piece of moviemaking I have ever seen, absolute perfection. The use of Hendrix’s “Machine Gun” is beyond brilliant. I have watched this sequence more times than I care to admit, it may very well be the funniest thing I have ever seen. I was thrilled to see this masterpiece in the #1 slot.
posted by dbiedny at 12:48 PM on November 17, 2018 [9 favorites]


This take on "Inside Llewyn Davis" explains some of my liking for it (that, plus the loving recreation of the New York folk scene of the early 1960s; also Please Mr. Kennedy).
posted by gudrun at 1:08 PM on November 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


Richard Kind needs to be in more Coen Bros movies, he makes everything better and A Serious Man is no exception.
posted by jason_steakums at 1:13 PM on November 17, 2018


In no particular order:

Fargo
O Brother, Where Art Thou
Raising Arizona
Miller's Crossing
The Big Lebowski
Burn After Reading
No Country for Old Men

I never need to see No Country again but I am glad I did. As a childless couple, the ending of Raising makes the Bers very verklempt. I have never laughed harder at a Coen film than Burn After Reading. Lived in Minnesota and now back in North Dakota. Fargo is not fiction. No fucking way. I am certain that it all happened. Why would the Coens lie about that? (We saw Fargo in the Uptown Theater in Minneapolis the weekend of release - the laughter in some scenes was deafening).
posted by Ber at 1:51 PM on November 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


Turns out I've only seen about half of the movies. Must fill in the gaps. Until then, Fargo & Burn After Reading are at the top of my list.
posted by kingless at 1:53 PM on November 17, 2018


I think of the Coen brothers’ catalogue like I think of a menu. Sometimes I want a steak. Sometimes fish. Sometimes just soup and salad. Steak will never suffice for fish, and on and on. Ranking those movies is pointless and I curse myself every time I fall into the trap.
posted by MorgansAmoebas at 2:47 PM on November 17, 2018 [13 favorites]


This thread is the first time I've felt safe admitting I find Lebowski to be ... boring and annoying.

Fargo, though. *kisses fingers*
posted by MiraK at 2:59 PM on November 17, 2018


But sometimes one of the meals offered aren't just bad but likely to keep you away from that restaurant forever if you accidantally ordered it the first time.

That's Ladykillers.

Lebowski is brilliant, just not quite as brilliant as a few of their others,
posted by Dumsnill at 3:06 PM on November 17, 2018


Alright, enough of all this talk! Let's do this properly and vote using a Condorcet Poll. I've set one up here. I'll keep it open until around this time next Saturday.
posted by leibniz at 3:20 PM on November 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


In no particular order:

I think you may be missing the central concept here...
posted by Paul Slade at 3:27 PM on November 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


I think you may be missing the central concept here

No, I get it. But the Coens are kind of like picking a favorite album by your favorite band, the order can vacillate depending on mood, time of year, what was viewed recently...

I forgot to mention that I too bailed on Hail, Caesar. But the musical number with the sailors was FUCKING HILARIOUS!
posted by Ber at 3:44 PM on November 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


Paul Newman's Sidney J. Mussburger in The Hudsucker Proxy is the greatest Paul Newman role.

And I can eat 50 eggs.
posted by Cookiebastard at 4:14 PM on November 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


Pants
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 4:28 PM on November 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


Love most of their films but the widespread enthusiasm for the Big Lebowski has always puzzled me. It had a ton of great moments but I felt let down by the ending. I don’t even remember the ending now but do remember feeling that all the great character work seemed like window dressing.

The ending had me crying with laughter so hard in a nearly deserted theatre that my friends were worried I was going to pass out. What a great sendup of the notion of closure.

The Stranger: It was a pretty good story. Don't you think? It made me laugh to beat the band. Parts, anyway. I didn't like seein' Donny go. But, then I happen to know that there's a little Lebowski on the way. I guess that's the way the whole durned human comedy keeps perpetuatin' itself down through the generations. Westward the wagons, across the sands of time until we - ah, look at me. I'm ramblin' again.

posted by benzenedream at 5:31 PM on November 17, 2018 [7 favorites]


A brilliant first act (an American Brazil) that falls into a silly hole and never recovers.

but
but that's the whole joke
literally that's the whole joke, the movie is literally about a hole, the hollow hole at the heart of the consumerist "future" promised in and by the american 1950s, symbolised by the 2D image of the hula hoop
(and really, "brilliant first act, falls into a silly hole and never recovers" describes America itself pretty decently at this point)
posted by halation at 5:48 PM on November 17, 2018 [9 favorites]


Any Coen Bros Film is worth another look, I think that we agree that they're Autuers (nobody says everything they do is terrible). Almost every film that they make has some brilliant set pieces mixed with muddled or understated sections. How the overall effect shimmers is complex with repeated viewing. Trawl the bottom of these lists, and there's goofy comedies which are held up to a very high standard, and introspective meditations on the nature of failure.

O Brother is my personal favourite because it has many different aspects to it; reviving interest in a new audience for old Gospel & Bluegrass music is just one aspect. Raising Arizona is also good, but they're all good.
posted by ovvl at 6:15 PM on November 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


I have nothing to say about The Big Lebowski other then it’s a much better adaptation of the Big Sleep then that Bogart movie.

This is why I love The Big Lebowski (in addition to it being so much fun) and in fact I think it’s underrated by nominal film buffs precisely because of its tone.

Anyway, I don’t really care about rankings, but I do think A Serious Man is my favorite Coen Bros. movie. I’m not disparaging the idea that it’s too limited in scope to qualify as a true great, but I don’t agree and have always preferred intricate miniatures over world-spanning epics, and I think the former aren’t any less rich than the latter. The last scene is still one of the most potent moments I’ve ever seen in a movie.
posted by invitapriore at 6:22 PM on November 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


Fargo is not fiction. No fucking way. I am certain that it all happened. Why would the Coens lie about that?

Apparently someone thought it was true. Or not.
posted by gtrwolf at 7:02 PM on November 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


Alright, enough of all this talk! Let's do this properly and vote using a Condorcet Poll. I've set one up here. I'll keep it open until around this time next Saturday.

Useful and enlightening. After sorting these all around for a bit (I’ve seen 11 of them) Miller’s Crossing ended up a the top, followed by No Country & Lebowski. I have lots of Big Thoughts about the the theme of Big Lebowski, but I think it comes down to being set in the place where America ran out of west. True Grit was my least favorite, though I enjoyed it... I think I went in expecting Eastwood, because that’s what westerns have always looked like to me, & it didn’t meet my misguided expectations. I should try it again.

The more I think about it, no matter where their movies are set, they get locations right. They get the places as well as the people, and that’s always impressed me about their films, though it’s only become apparent now by looking at them as a whole
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:30 PM on November 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


I find a lot of their movies to be incredibly forgettable and/or boring. There’s a certain amount of transparent mockery of the characters; it combines with a magical-hand-of-god/the auteur and makes it hard for me to invest. It’s like they’re dedicated to making a movie in which they’re smarter and more powerful than their characters. Okay. But the knowing smirk is not my personal favorite emotion.

Their movies are often saved by the acting and by their characters deserving more respect than they seem to want to give them.For example, the Big Lebowski is saved (if it is) by John Goodman and Steve Buscemi being much more sympathetic than they have any right to be, largely because Goodman is so naturally charming and sympathetic. In contrast, the scenes with Julianne Moore are terrible, and one can easily imagine more of the movie going in that particular direction.

Similarly, in Fargo, the scenes with Marge and her husband are very human, but I’m not sure that they were supposed to be. The way the Coens treat the prostitutes and the wife/victim are borderline mocking and unsympathetic. Maybe the movie has a heart despite them, not because of them.

I couldn’t even make it through Raising Arizona, it was boring to watch them smirk for hours. Similarly, Burn After Reading is one of the least memorable movies I’ve seen. I’m sure it’s clever; the Coen Brothers are clever. But that’s not really enough to tell a story that matters.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 6:30 AM on November 18, 2018


(and really, "brilliant first act, falls into a silly hole and never recovers" describes America itself pretty decently at this point)

yeah, I get it, but it's just not that strong a joke -- nothing to hang two acts of a multi million dollar film on. If it had been a half hour short, I'd say brilliant. If it had been a twist that led to something/somewhere that had enough tension to carry me for another hour of screen time ...

But as is -- all I can do is shrug.
posted by philip-random at 9:16 AM on November 18, 2018


I'm surprised at the low ranking for True Grit. Maybe because they play it pretty straight and it doesn't have too many overt Coen Brothers ticks?

One of the things I find amazing about True Grit is that, having read the novel many years earlier, I thought that the film dialog was nearly word-for-word lifted from the book. Then I reread the book shortly after and realized it was nearly all original dialog by the Coens. They are so good at that spare, straightforward speech, illuminated by arcane and obscure vocabulary that is so very American. And they manage to do it by region and class and culture. I don't think there's anyone else in film so enamored of the way language creates a sense of place.

I don't like movies that coldly, pitilessly observe their characters like lab specimens, without empathy or compassion. I don't much care for Stanley Kubrick movies for the same reason.

I totally get this, and absolutely agree about Kubrick. I do feel that there's always some little bit in Coen films that demonstrates their empathy for characters, but sometimes it takes multiple viewings to tease it out. I remember reading somewhere that Steve Buscemi had no interest in playing Donnie in Lebowski until he read that line "... as a surfer he explored the beaches of Southern California, from La Jolla to Leo Carrillo and... up to... Pismo." Watching that film and seeing that opening up of Donnie's character, and the gentle sadness of Walter when the Dude gets mad at him for going off on the Vietnam tangent is so raw and revealing.

Llewyn Davis is one of my favorite Coen brothers' films, and the article Gudrun posted gets to the heart of why for me. F. Murray Abraham's character tells Llewyn he might find success in a folk group if he stays out of the sun (looks less Semetic, essentially). Yet contrary to the advice to be clean cut and look "white" as possible in order to succeed, the biggest folk singer to come along in America would turn out to be Robert Allen Zimmerman. Even the kingmakers can't escape fate in Coen brothers movies.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:04 PM on November 18, 2018 [5 favorites]


The Coen Brothers are my favorite directors/writers/producers/editors of all time (closely followed by George Miller), despite the fact that I actually really dislike about half of their films. I don't know how that works exactly, but I'm content with the fact that it does

My Coen Bro dislikes

Intollerable Cruelty
Millers Crossing
Ladykillers
Barton Fink
A Simple Man
The Man Who Wasnt There


My Coen Bros LOVES

Hudsucker Proxy
The Ballad of Buster Scrugs
Blood Simple
Raising Arizona
Oh Brother Where Art Thou
True Grit
Big Lebowski
Fargo


I suspect I would like No Country For Old Men but Im afraid the violence will give me an anxiety attack so Ive never tried it.

I have no interest in Llewelyn Davis or whatever its called.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 12:49 PM on November 18, 2018


There's currently 35 votes in the condorcet poll. Given the discussion here I'm a bit surprised that Fargo is on top (though it might get beaten by Lebowski in the end, I can't see it being unseated by any of the others).

A Serious Man was climbing the poll for a while, but now seems to have slumped towards the middle. Barton Fink is doing surprisingly well.
posted by leibniz at 1:55 PM on November 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


Well, since F. Murray Abraham's character is based on Albert Grossman (I think), one time owner and manager of Chicago's Gate of Horn, later Peter Paul and Mary's manager then Dylan's and many others, the fate he didn't escape was that of being a millionaire many times over. A man with more tacking maneuvers than a Nassau yacht race.
posted by Chitownfats at 4:24 PM on November 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


(hee hee The Hudsucky Proxy! Subliminal vote-fixing!)
posted by praemunire at 4:59 PM on November 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


Jon Foodman

Thanks.
posted by snofoam at 5:02 PM on November 18, 2018


Intolerable Cruelty is more boring than bad, but it features two of the hottest actors of all time at peak hotness.
posted by kirkaracha at 5:12 PM on November 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


This thread has me thinking there's got to be some sort of gross Myers-Briggs equivalent based on Coen preferences - or maybe something like those old geek code blocks [ref] . I propose that the first letter or symbol be used to indicate whether that person thinks that The Ladykillers is a tolerable movie so I can dismiss those people more rapidly and efficiently.

[I took the Myers-Briggs once and the results just said "J"]
posted by komara at 10:05 AM on November 19, 2018


John Goodman’s character is the best encapsulation of the puffed up ego and petty resentments that drive the American reactionary.

Totally...

"Nihilists! Fuck me. I mean, say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos."
posted by e1c at 10:47 AM on November 19, 2018


Still evergreen.

The best Coen brothers movie is two in a row, so you can see how they fit together.
posted by aspersioncast at 1:07 PM on November 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


Jeff Bridges gets mentioned more often but Goodman is the real star of “The Big Lebowski.”

Walter Sobchak on ararchists: “Say what you may about the tenets of National Socialism, at least it’s an ethos.”
posted by sudogeek at 3:16 PM on November 19, 2018


Ok The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs is pretty fucking great.
posted by schadenfrau at 3:33 PM on November 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


Totally effing stoked about Buster Scruggs.
posted by aspersioncast at 7:10 AM on November 20, 2018


Yeah I loved No Country For Old Men, but definitely find it hard to rewatch. I've tried a few times and have yet to make it all the way through. Kinda like how I love Blood Meridian but could probably never read it again.
posted by Brocktoon at 1:16 PM on November 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


Currently 70 votes in the condorcet poll. The top six look pretty steady (Fargo-Lebowski-No Country-Miller's Crossing-O Brother-Barton Fink) but there's still movement around the middle. Buster Scruggs is certainly underrated down in 15th- but I'm guessing that's just because it's new.

On a Coen Bros trip I watched Hudsucky Proxy again last night. It's a fine movie. Fast paced, charming, some nice characters. Jennifer Jason Leigh is good as the reporter- though she's clearly riffing off Rosalind Russell from His Girl Friday, and doesn't own the character the way Rosalind Russell did. It did not quite feel like a Coen Brothers movie. Perhaps it was the big-city setting, where Coen Bros' films are generally set in the suburbs or the countryside- or it may be that they just rushed a bit too much, didn't pay enough attention to the fine details. It doesn't quite nail that 'American Rustic' style they are so good at. I wish they'd done more with the Beatnik bar idea as well.
posted by leibniz at 2:58 PM on November 20, 2018


Ok, with 78 votes, here's the final result. Certainly a more definitive ranking than the original article:

1. Fargo (1996)
2. The Big Lebowski (1998)
3. No Country for Old Men (2007)
4. Miller's Crossing (1990)
5. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
= 6. Barton Fink (1991)
= 6. Raising Arizona (1987)
8. A Serious Man (2009)
9. True Grit (2010)
10. Blood Simple (1984)
11. The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)
12. Burn After Reading (2008)
13. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
14. The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)
15. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
16. Hail, Caesar! (2016)
17. Intolerable Cruelty (2003)
18. The Ladykillers (2004)

It should be noted that the films between position 8 and 13 never really settled consistently. For instance, Blood Simple beats The Hudsucker Proxy (28-22), and The Hudsucker Proxy beats Burn After Reading (30-23), but Burn After Reading beats Blood Simple (29-24). I guess voters don't believe in the transitivity of artistic value.

The only major disagreement I have is with O Brother Where Art Thou? It's good, and has good music, but there's no way it's better than even half the items below it in the poll.
posted by leibniz at 4:52 PM on November 24, 2018 [4 favorites]


I just re-watched A serious man for the Nth time, and I agree that it's one of their very best
posted by growabrain at 1:05 AM on November 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


... and I've been picking way through The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (it's a movie version of a short story collection) and am finding it at best The Very Best Cohen Bros Stuff I've Ever Seen and at worst, really not that bad at all. In fact, the worst segment so far may well be the best thing I've seen all year. Call it troubling, horrifying even in a quiet sort of way. I'm still haunted.

You never know what's coming with the Brothers Cohen.
posted by philip-random at 8:54 AM on November 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


Miller's Crossing is also the best film version of two of Dashiell Hammett's major works, Red Harvest and The Glass Key. It's the third, and by far the best, adaptation of the latter, but it also contains many elements from the former, a film which has never been adapted straight-on, but has been a strong influence of Kurosawa's Yojimbo, Leone's A Fistfull of Dollars, and Hill's Last Man Standing, among others.
posted by ubiquity at 10:44 AM on November 26, 2018 [3 favorites]


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