With the release of The Big Lebowski on blu-ray last week and this week’s release of Fargo, Miller’s Crossing, Blood Simple, and Raising Arizona (also on blu-ray), the Coen Brothers are all the rage on HD Forums and TalkBacks everywhere. Everyone, it seems, is chomping at the bit to bring a bit of their particular brand of roadside Americano home. Who can blame them? We at Reel Reviews felt the need to look back at their stellar filmography and tell you what we learned from repeat viewings of their top ten films
Problems with the list? Let us know about it in the comments section that follows the article. Make a good case, and who knows, we may edit accordingly.
1. Fargo: The 1996 darky rich crime-comedy taught us that, sometimes, the little stamps are important in life. It also taught us another way to use a wood chipper.
2. No Country for Old Men: The Coen’s tackle Cormac McCarthy’s novel and deliver a stunning drama about drugs, deceit, dreams, and how to effectively use the word “friend” and chillingly flip its meaning, friendo.
3. O Brother Where Art Thou: In this re-telling and re-tooling of Homer’s The Odyssey (which the brothers claim they’ve never read), we learned just how proud our rural blues and country tunes can sound. We also confirmed out suspicions about George Clooney being a Dapper Dan man.
4. The Big Lebowski: While the valkyrie-themed bowling segment is a highlight, there is no man I know who doesn’t, in some capacity, want to grow up (yes, grow up) to be as full of witticisms as The Dude. Never piss on another man’s rug. ‘Nuff said.
5. True Grit: Another Jeff Bridges performance. Here, he’s fatter, grumpier, and older and scarier than ever before, yet, still audiences love him. This true-to-the-novel telling of a Charles Portis classic rocked the western genre with moments of genuine weirdness and ample heart. Without hesitation, True Grit taught us that there is ancient wisdom inside the voice of a 14-year-old girl.
6. The Hudsucker Proxy: From the zippy performance of Jennifer Jason Leigh to the wide-eyed bubbly goofiness of Tim Robbins, there is a circular appeal to the construction and themes of their collaboration with Sam Raimi. Little known fact, one of The Coen Brothers favorite segments in their career comes from this feature. It’s the montage of the Hula Hoop’s development, guest directed by Raimi himself. Lesson? There is no end to director Howard Hawk’s influence.
7. Blood Simple: With this release, The Coen Brothers made a name for themselves and for cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld (who would later direct Get Shorty). Their ode to the world of crime novelist Dashiell Hammett taught us that Neil Diamond is not a substitute for The Four Tops. Thank you, Director’s Cut.
8. Miller’s Crossing: The Coen’s serve up a slice of Americana gangster style. While the film serves as an extension of the world presented in Barton Fink, the dense plot demands multiple viewings. The film is also a good argument on why every man should still where a fancy hat.
9. Raising Arizona: The zaniness of Nic Cage and Holly Hunter as Hi and Ed (in search of baby) makes for an unexpected comic journey through the highways of the desert. Easily, one of their wildest and weirdest films ever created, Raising Arizona is full of teachable moments; from how not to steal diapers to how to play Beethoven on the banjo.
10. A Serious Man: Many a person has pondered what exactly the ending of the film means. Larry Gopnik’s life is a mess and, now, a tornado threatens the horizon. Yet, after watching Gopnik’s life unraveled by a series of random incidents, the only answer for the ending is what everyone already knows: sometimes shit happens.
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