I like the genre re-invention or deconstructionism applied within their films, ie Fargo, The Big Lebowski, Burn After Reading.
I haven’t liked the Coen Bros’ films since RAISING ARIZONA.
Their work seems to me to be slick and empty, smug and heartless, derivative and tiresome, a boring mishmash of genres and styles. I’ll lead a long and happy life without seeing any of their films (ARIZONA excepted) ever again.
What I like about the Coen Brothers is their ability to have both high entertainment value and high art value at the same time, which very few directors know how to pull off. Their movies are incredibly fun to watch. But also, the scripts are intelligent and manage to reimagine genres. In many of their movies we see the reality of human nature asserting itself over popular cliches and the things we’d like to believe about the world and just aren’t true.
Smug, slick? Guilty. Heartless, empty? I don’t think so.
High entertainment value? High art value? I don’t think so.
Roscoe, so we disagree, let’s leave it at that; there are no right answers, just opposing opinions.
The Coen’s intelligence and versatility amazes me. Having said that, I don’t necessarily like all their films. Hudsucker Proxy was lame,and O Brother lost steam about halfway through.
I was going to answer but it was going to be a list of reasons so I voided it.
I love the Coens. Haven’t seen A Serious Man yet, and as discussed above, Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers were a little sub par, but No Country for Old Men, The Man Who Wasn’t There, Fargo, The Big Lebowski, Miller’s Crossing, Barton Fink, Raising Arizona, Blood Simple, across genre’s, all done with great detail and great care.
Miller’s Crossing is my favorite, it is so carefully crafted, with great performances from every actor, cinematography is top notch, writing is brilliant, the ending is perfect.
I even like the madcap “his girl friday” feeling of The Hudsucker Proxy.
I guess I like them because when I think back, I can’t remember seeing any bad films from them. I haven’t seen all of their films, and I know they probably made a few bad ones, but it just hasn’t been my experience yet. The one I’m closest to calling bad is “A Serious Man”, because it was so clearly not a movie for me and not meant for me to understand the comedy or the cultural references. Even so, I question does that make it a bad movie, or just make it a movie whose language I couldn’t speak?
I like the Coen brothers because they have a vision they pursue, and when they’re on, they’re really on. I still say “No Country For Old Men” is the best Hollywood movie I’ve seen in over a decade (maybe that’s saying a lot, and maybe it isn’t, but that’s how I feel). But it’s about that time to revisit it and see if it still holds up.
It is said that cinema is the least pure form of art, because of the amount of people that is involved in the process of making a movie; well, this doesn’t work with Joel and Ethan. They direct, produce, write and edit; they both think the same, and achieve to make everyone else think as they do. Therefore, their films are maybe the most pure.
Plus, their movies always put a smile on my face, and in some cases like The Big Lebowski and Burn after reading, I can’t stop laughing even a week after watching the movie.
I like the way they are sometimes like the spiritual sons of Hitchcock with their particular dark sense of humour.
Not in any order.
Dry, dark sense of humour.
Use of camera.
They try to make something different (But it’s always the Cohen brothers)
What was learnt from Sam Rammi.
They make me smile.
I’m sorry, but I Iove them, not all, but most of them.
I guess this is gonna be a list:
(1) Their shots are perfectly framed: and by “perfectly” I mean not “textbook” but like … always appropriate.
(2) [a] No Country excluded, everything they do is as funny as it is sad. Which is admirable because one or the other (funny or sad) is easier to control (but not easy); they balance both ends of the spectrum and a lot of the space in between. (Though there are some good chuckles available in No Country: “Aw jeez, sheriff, we missed him!” and the mother-in-law’s complaining. But those are moments, not its overall tone.)
[b] Their humour is self-deprecating and intelligent. J.J. Leigh’s character in Hudsucker is a big ass allusion to ship loads of 30s/40s’ stars but is never mocking or dismissive and turns out to really aid our appreciation of her and her role in the story — ie. if she wasn’t that way, the more poignant moments would be less affecting.
(3) They cast well or are just swell are drawing A+ performances out of actors.
(4) Their pacing: it’s not innovative like other directors’, but is distinct and consistent and pretty powerful and persuasive; versus, say, directors whose films always play like losing arguments. I’m thinking of things like the order of scenes in Fargo (cross-cutting several inter/intra-related plots) or how in something like Barton Fink each scene lasts precisely as long as it needs to — ie. it’s comfortably paced. (I’m not sure how to express this, but if you know what I’m getting at, I’ll hope you’ve seen them do it.)
(5) They entertain (ie. are never boring) as much as they provide cerebral fodder for post-viewing discussion/thinking.
(6) They make like Mahler and turn each film into a world (Mahler made each symphony as comprehensive, it’s said/agreed on). Like: Fargo feels like a real place and not just a depiction of that place. Again: inarticulateness on my part and overwhelming talent on theirs makes this mostly unintelligible (and I’m sorry for that) unless you’ve seen that aspect in the work; then I hope you can related to my point that I’m driving at and missing.
Because they think torturing their characters is a hoot.
I wasn’t a fan of Fargo to begin with, but as the years have on and people have raved and raved about it, I’ve grown to like it less, it’s still better then a great deal of films, but it is near the bottom of the list of Coen Bros films for me.
fargo isn’t my favorite of theirs…. its also been a while since i’ve seen it. however, i have some family from minnesota and it makes me laugh just thinking about them. if you’ve spent time there or listened to garrison keillor talk about lake wobegon it might have an added effect. the movie didn’t really stick in my mind except for the ending with the wood chipper in the snow…. terrifying.
how you feel about fargo was how i felt about the big lebowski. finally saw it this year. it was good and everything. i’m just sick of everyone talking about it. but maybe one should watch it with a white russian and a joint? but you know… it does have that california vibe.
barton fink was great and disturbing. raising arizona and o brother… its been a while since i’ve seen them.
i like that their movies have a sense of place, accents, temperature, location etc.
no country for old men – i forgot that it was their film. for me it stands on its own. the movie speaks louder than the auteur(s) which i think is impressive and important. they must have taken a lot of risk with it. its so ruthless i don’t remember any quirkiness to it which i think is a trait of their films. its not my favorite but it may require further consideration etc.
a serious man is my favorite. although its been my impression that not many people actually like this film because they think its boring. it does run on the slow pacing side and to them i just say with big doey eyes … look at the parking lot, larry! his brother with the journal and the cyst…. that was pretty disturbing.
I think that, like others have said, a Coen brothers film has a certain type of sensibility that is offbeat but also realistic, in that people are rarely “normal.” A Coen character is just slightly to one side, if you will. Their dialogue is very quirky as well.
I thought No Country was the most atypical of any of their films, but with the appearance of Woody Harrelson, it seemed like that Coen sensibility came rushing back in. I could go on and on about these guys – they’re fantastic.
They make a scrumptious pound cake. Believe it.
I think they have made some really interesting characters.
I don’t like the Coen Bros. films, but they’re always interesting films. They fail for me because they undermine the interesting elements with odd choices and uninteresting elements. Frances McDormand is an uninteresting element. Put her in a Coen Bros. film and she negates anything good about the film. This was the case for me with FARGO and BURN AFTER READING.
There are often potentially funny farcical elements in the Coens’ comedies, but they’re undermined by being played at the wrong pitch or wrong casting or cutting away from something that needs to be shown. They don’t do their comedies right. The stuff we needed to see during the finale of BURN AFTER READING is not shown and instead is discussed in a conversation back at CIA HQ. I don’t know why they didn’t SHOW us the final bits of action involving Malkovich’s character. Malkovich is the best thing about BURN AFTER READING, but he’s not in it enough. Instead there’s way too much time spent on unfunny characters played by Clooney, Pitt and McDormand. I don’t get it. Why ruin a potentially good comedy that way?
NO COUNTRY…—ruined by the last half-hour. Once Brolin’s character disappears from the story, my interest in it just dissipated.
I like the Coen Brothers mainly because:
Their shot sequences have an predetermined order and a logic to them. Too often modern directors seem to be footage collectors, or collage artists- just cover the action from a million angles and then let the editor figure it out . The fantastic dog chase scene from “No Country…” could not have been created that way (one shot from the wrong distance would have destroyed the urgency). Much like Hitchcock, the Coens believe in “guiding the eyes” of the audience in a step by step fashion. A most cinematic choice! ((This is a matter of degree, of course. I’m sure there are Coen sequences figured out in the editing room too. I would also like to add that some “collage-style” directors make great films by really pursuing it’s possibilities —like “The New World” for example))
I dislike the Coen Brothers because:
For some reason (the writing? the directing of actors?the coldness?) I often feel while watching a Coen Brothers film that I am being invited to sneer at the characters. Example: Fargo. Those are all technically brilliant performances, but for me, the only actor to fully inhabit the humanity of his character is Steve Buscemi. For the rest of the characters, I sense the actors are playing too much to a mocking audience. It always seemed to me that it was up to the actors (like Jeff Bridges in “the Big L…”) to really give heart and soul to their characters, because this was not a concern for the Coens. I must say that this problem I’ve had with the Coens is starting to go away in their later films.
That dog chase was one of the greatest suspense sequences I’ve seen in many years.