Tag Archives: Coen Brothers

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

18 Nov

 

Director Martin McDonagh, a playwright best known for such dark comedies as “The Pillowman” and “The Cripple of Inishmaan,” put film audiences on pleasurable, if uneasy, heel with his cinematic crossovers “In Bruges” (2008) and “Seven Psychopaths” (2012). Humor amid violent doings – the graphicness of which you couldn’t make happen in the center of a stage – was the takeaway from those first two films; Tarantino meets the Coen brothers is in the ballpark, and what a glorious one it is. But McDonagh’s vision and style is something of its own, and it operates on its own bloody terms. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” is more of the same, and a bit of a feminist anthem that arrives coincidentally, and poetically, as entertainment heavies including Harvey Weinstein and Louis C.K. are eviscerated for lewd and criminal sexual behavior.

As if a Coen influence was not enough, the film stars Frances McDormand, who ruled the roost in the brothers’ masterworks “Blood Simple” (1984) and “Fargo” (1996), for which she won an Oscar. (She’s also married to Joel Coen). Here McDormand plays Mildred Hayes, a steely eyed woman who’s responsible for the three billboards of the film’s overly long title – and something of a bother to the town. Against blood-red backdrops the billboards say “Still No Arrests?”; “How Come, Chief Willoughby?”; and “Raped While Dying.” They concern the death of Mildred’s daughter, which has gone unsolved for months. Mildred blames the town’s beloved sheriff, Willoughby (Woody Harrelson, able to keep pace admirably with McDormand). Continue reading

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Suburbicon

29 Oct

 

https://player.vimeo.com/video/227269516

The “Suburbicon” of the title is a 1950s housing development and community in sprawling suburbia that’s practically a closed socioeconomic ecosystem, like the towering apartment complex in Ben Wheatley’s near-futuristic “High Rise” (2015). There, the elite lived at the penthouse level while the servicing class made do in the shabby confines below; here it’s a mass-marketed commercial ideal where all are on an equal plane and essentially have the same humble abode. It’s an endless sea of sameness, a sleepy Ozzie & Harriet existence, until the Meyers, an African-American family, buy a lot. The all-white town meeting that erupts to discuss “what to do” casts uneasy shades of the recent Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.

Oddly and wastefully (if not irresponsibly, given the issues of race today), the black folk next door become a mere distraction for the plot’s main thread of self-interest, murder and money – and it’s a silly one, at that. Based on a Coen brothers script and directed by George Clooney, who seems to lose more footing as director with each outing, the film angles to be a dark comedy in the vein of “Miller’s Crossing” and “Fargo” but lacks the wit and whimsy of either. What it is, is a beat-up, welded-together jalopy, angry and mean in its quest for recognition, but that’s a hard feat when the only likable characters in your crew are a family under duress for their skin color and a young boy (Noah Jupe), who’s not sure if his aunt and father have inside information on a home invasion that accidentally killed his crippled mother. (Trust me, I’m not giving anything away. There’s little in the film that will surprise you).

For such a stylishly tepid affair (it does look great) Clooney has assembled an impressive cast. Dad, Gardner Lodge, is played by a portly Matt Damon, and mom and her sister are played by the ravishing Julianne Moore, who gets a scene where she gets to sip iced tea with herself. The film even boasts ubiquitous scene stealer Oscar Isaac, who crops up as a fast-talking insurance adjuster. He’s in it so briefly it almost seems criminal, considering he’s the liveliest thing in the film besides a pair of bungling hit men (Glenn Fleshler and Alex Hassell), who seem ripped lazily from an early draft of “Fargo.” Continue reading

Inside: Llewyn Davis

26 Dec

‘Inside Llewyn Davis’: An impassioned troubadour with real couch jumping skills

By Tom Meek
December 20, 2013

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If there’s one thing about a Coen brothers movie, it’s never boring and usually a fresh spin on something that’s been dogeared and begging for a makeover. Sure, they’ve had some arguable miscues (”The Ladykillers” and “The Hudsucker Proxy”), but you have to admire the brothers for their panache, appetite and diversity. Their southwest thriller, “No Country for Old Men,” exceeded the vision of Cormack McCarthy’s laconic prose, “The Big Lebowski” become an instant cult staple and “Blood Simple” was a perfect Hitchcock homage without egregiously lifting. And of course there’s “Fargo,” perhaps the crowning jewel of the duo’s quirky repertoire. If the brothers Coen decided to step in and helm the next chapter of “The Expendables” franchise, even if addled by a script by series star Sylvester Stallone, I’d be the first in line to buy a ticket. You can’t go wrong. Whatever they do, it might not be your cup of tea, but it will stir your gray matter.

122013i Inside Llewyn DavisFor their latest, “Inside Llewyn Davis,” Joel and Ethan have wound back the clock to bohemian New York circa 1960, as doo-wop fades, mixes with the passion of the beats and folds in with the rising folk rock movement. It’s a time of discovery preceding Vietnam, counterculture rebellion and free love, yet still rooted loosely in post-World War II morality. The film’s titular hero, Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac), is an idealist and a self-absorbed asshole who’s intermittently sympathetic. By trade he’s a merchant marine shipping out with a gunny sack for long hauls, but he’s also an impassioned troubadour, plucking gentle, heartfelt ballads about daily misery and eternal yearning.  Llewyn takes himself quite seriously, and he’s also quick to take a handout and has no qualms about bitting the hand that feeds.  Continue reading