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  1. 12 Essential Coen Brothers Films You Need To Watch
  2. The New Cool | Peter J. Leithart | First Things
  3. Wearing Braids, Seeking Revenge
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Sadly, they just missed the mark. While Intolerable Cruelty features one of George Clooney's all-time greatest line readings , the chemistry between Clooney and Zeta-Jones is palpable throughout, the film is bogged down by labored plotting, thinly-drawn side characters, and a third act that twists one too many times for comfort.

Like an unsatisfying marriage, Intolerable Cruelty is — occasional outbursts of charm and hilarity aside — mostly dull and plodding, and it's a relief when it finally ends. Throughout their career, the Coen Bros. They've jumped and combined genres with such uncanny agility over the years that the words "the Coen Brothers" now intone a cinematic genre all its own; one born of outlandish characters, crackling dialogue, pitch black humor, and a non-Hollywood approach to style and story. An anthology film of sorts spread across the backlots of a film studio in the s, Hail, Caesar!

While that approach gives the film's more than estimable cast ample room to deliver serious laughs, there's just a bit too much going on for any one storyline to resonate the way you'd expect with a Coen film. Most filmmakers never make a movie that can be considered a legitimate masterpiece, and the ones who do almost never immediately follow one masterpiece with another.

12 Essential Coen Brothers Films You Need To Watch

Joel and Ethan Coen are not unlike most filmmakers in that regard — i. Not that The Coens' espionage-tinged caper comedy isn't an intriguing addition to their oeuvre. It very much is, and features a screenplay that somehow ranks among both the darkest and funniest they've ever written — not to mention stellar performances form the likes of George Clooney, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, and a marvelously over-the-top Brad Pitt.

To be honest, if Burn After Reading had been released anywhere else in the Coens' filmography, it would likely rank higher on this list. Unfortunately, the film was released a year after their nihilist opus No Country for Old Men , and while it's occasionally brilliant and well worth a revisit , it still comes across a bit shallow in the company of such lofty fare. With its hard-to-love characters, its dialogue that verges on annoying, its absurdist plot, and a twist of the fantastical that never quite feels at home within the Coen-verse, The Hudsucker Proxy co-scripted with their old pal Sam Raimi is undoubtedly one of the most maligned and forgotten films in the brothers' filmography.

The New Cool | Peter J. Leithart | First Things

That's a shame, because a closer look reveals well-drawn characters, brisk dialogue, and a giddily absurdist plot about the invention of the hula hoop. We're not gonna hard sell you on the film though, mostly because we're sure if you've seen The Hudsucker Proxy , you've already forged some very specific opinions about it.

If that's the case, we'd encourage you to give this impassioned, wholly original fantastical comedy another swing of the hips, because there's a lot more going on here than you think — in particular a boldly adventurous, endlessly fascinating performance from Jennifer Jason Leigh. If you've yet to see The Hudsucker Proxy , track down a copy immediately, and enjoy falling head over heels for this oddball classic.

Luckily, they learned from the experience, and when the duo set out to remake a bona fide Western classic, they managed to get just about everything right. It took some serious chutzpah to tackle a film held in such high esteem by cineastes and novices alike. The Coens wisely didn't try to reinvent the wheel, allowing their True Grit narrative to unfold in pretty much the same fashion as the original, with a young woman hiring a fading gun-hand to help track down the man who killed her father. It also helps that the brothers didn't use the original Duke vehicle as their primary source, opting instead to mine Charles Portis' novel as the inspiration.

If The Hudsucker Proxy is the most misunderstood film in the Coens' body of work, it's only because The Man Who Wasn't There is a film all but beyond rational comprehension.

Wearing Braids, Seeking Revenge

That's not necessarily a bad thing. From that unusual setup, the brothers spin one of the weirdest stories they've ever concocted, and deliver a wholly original neo-noir thriller fit for the modern age. The film is bolstered by Roger Deakins' stark black-and-white photography and a career best turn from Thornton who smokes more than he talks here. That being said, the film's meticulous pacing and cast of patently unlikable characters make The Man Who Wasn't There a film that's almost impossible to love. If their staggering body of work has taught us anything, it's that the Coen Brothers have no shortage of original stories to tell, that they want to tell them all no matter how big or how small, and that they're always willing to push themselves into new territory.

So it was that when the pair announced they were working on a Western anthology for Netflix, a whole new world seemed to open up. That series turned out to be a single, sprawling, Western anthology film composed of six disparate tales of the west. Some are funny, others dramatic, and a couple are downright heartbreaking.

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Though crime and criminals factor into nearly every Coen Brothers film, they've made just one legitimate gangster flick. In case you were wondering, Miller's Crossing is a near-flawless gangster epic, and it's the only one they'll ever need to make. Set in a bustling, prohibition-era metropolis, Miller's Crossing follows the chief advisor a cooler than cool Gabriel Byrne of a mob kingpin the inimitable Albert Finney as they try to navigate the shifting tides of a particularly nasty turf war.

Of those tides, we'll say that they never lead quite where you'd expect, that the stakes are nothing short of life and death for everyone involved, and that saying any more would spoil the fun of watching Miller's Crossing. It's a harrowing mistaken identity crime thriller about an average dude trying to replace his rug. It's a campy comedy classic about a fish out of water who gets in way over his head in the seedy underground of the San Fernando Valley. It's a character study about an aging stoner whose ambition in life is to smoke grass, drink White Russians, listen to Creedence on repeat, and occasionally hit the bowling alley for league play.

It's also one of the greatest cult films ever made, one of the most quotable scripts ever produced, and the cherry on top of a decade that saw Joel and Ethan Coen come into their own as filmmakers with trippy, insightful, endlessly re-watchable and award-winning works like Miller's Crossing , Barton Fink , and Fargo. Look, there's really not much we can say about The Big Lebowski that hasn't been said already. You either abide The Big Lebowski as the masterfully envisioned madcap stoner epic masterpiece that it is or, well, you're just wrong.

Like crime and criminals, religion has often found its way into the Coens' films.

With their caustic Judiastic farce A Serious Man , The brothers put faith front and center, and deliver a seriously complicated religious parable about a Jewish physics professor searching for meaning as his life falls apart around him. The films and filmmakers analyzed within The Grace of Destruction all actively work to present this play of forces to the viewer, and as such many of the works that make up the bulk of the book are art films. An unknown error has occurred.

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Read preview Overview. Lovell Praeger Publishers, As they have done before, the Coens dare us to take them seriously and then mock us for doing so. A Serious Man combines the best and the worst of the Coen Brothers into a narrative that is both complex and confused. This is not Cormac McCarthy, after all. This is Joel and Ethan Coen, always masters of technique and tone but only occasionally masters of theme.

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