Joel and Ethan Coen

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domino harvey
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Joel and Ethan Coen

#1 Post by domino harvey » Tue Aug 23, 2005 12:35 pm

Joel Coen (1954 - ) and Ethan Coen (1957 - )

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"It's more interesting for me as an audience member to see a movie about a loser. Who wants to make a movie about Elvis, y'know?"

Filmography

Features

Credited to Joel Coen:
Blood Simple (1984) R1/A Criterion
Raising Arizona (1987) R1/A Fox
Miller's Crossing (1990) R1/A Fox
Barton Fink (1991) R1 Fox/RB (0)
The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) R1/A Warners
Fargo (1996) R1/A MGM
The Big Lebowski (1998) R1/A Universal
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) R1/A Buena Vista
The Man Who Wasn't There (2001) R1 Universal
Intolerable Cruelty (2003) R1/B(0) Universal

Credited to Joel and Ethan Coen:
The Ladykillers (2004) R1 Buena Vista
No Country for Old Men (2007) R1/A Lionsgate
Burn After Reading (2008) R1/A Universal
A Serious Man (2009) R1/A Universal
True Grit (2010) R1/A Paramount
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) R1/A Criterion
Hail, Caesar! (2016) R1/A Universal
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018) Netflix

Web Resources
Coen Brothers - "You know, for kids!"
Senses of Cinema
Coenesque: The Films of the Coen Brothers

Forum Discussion
The Big Lebowski (Joel Coen, 1998)
No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007)
Burn After Reading (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2008)
A Serious Man (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2009)
True Grit (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2010)
794 Inside Llewyn Davis
Hail, Caesar! (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2016)
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2018)

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lord_clyde
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#2 Post by lord_clyde » Tue Aug 23, 2005 1:07 pm

Fletch F. Fletch wrote:I was watching Barton Fink again and besides being one of the Coens most brilliant films to date it got me wondering, if one is to assume that most of the movie takes place in Barton's head (as it seems to) when do you think this starts to happen? Right from the opening frame? From when Barton arrives in Los Angeles? Or something more obvious like when he opens the Bible and it contains the opening sentence from his new screenplay?
It's probably from the moment he arrives at his hotel. Steve Buscemi ascending from the basement to check him in is way too surreal to be real.

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devlinnn
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#3 Post by devlinnn » Tue Aug 23, 2005 7:19 pm

What about the theory that Barton starts his head-trip while Bernie is patiently waiting for Tom at the 'Barton Arms' apartments? Nah, me neither.

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#4 Post by Titus » Wed Aug 24, 2005 12:38 am

I typically go the more conventional route and claim that none of it is in his head. The film never really shifts in it's atmosphere, it's surreal throughout the entire picture, so there are no tonal changes to really clue the audience in.

I think the picture is primarily dealing with Fink's ignorance and arrogance.......why would Fink all of a sudden reach his epiphany through dreaming about his shortcomings? It's possible, but I don't personally buy it. I think the Meadows/Mundt character is real, and despite being a few bricks short upstairs, is a character of overwhelming sincerity and pathos.

The film is fairly enigmatic in that there are red herrings peppered throughout. Even a film like Eraserhead can be sort of deciphered, even if it isn't exactly the same as Lynch's original intentions. Barton Fink is a bit of an anomaly in that it has a coherent narrative that works on a literal level, but is stuffed to the brim with minor ambiguities, possible metaphors, and baffling idiosyncrasies throughout.

I've certainly contemplated the dream theories, but I just don't think any of them hold up. The only one that makes a lick of sense to me is the idea that everything in the hotel is simply a microcosm of what's going on in his brain, and that the hellish hotel is a visual representation of his anguish. But it's too poorly developed for me to latch onto.

Whatever the case, it's a film with almost infinite rewatchability. It's one of my absolute favorites of the 90's, and second only to Miller's Crossing in the Coen Brothers' canon.

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Fletch F. Fletch
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#5 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Wed Aug 24, 2005 9:35 am

Titus wrote:I typically go the more conventional route and claim that none of it is in his head. The film never really shifts in it's atmosphere, it's surreal throughout the entire picture, so there are no tonal changes to really clue the audience in.
I dunno 'bout that. I think the first bit with Fink in New York is pretty straightforward and not very surreal. It's not until he goes to L.A. signified by that shot of the water crashing loudly against that rock that things start to get weird. Hence, the theory that everything starts to take place in Fink's head once he arrives in L.A.
I think the picture is primarily dealing with Fink's ignorance and arrogance.......why would Fink all of a sudden reach his epiphany through dreaming about his shortcomings? It's possible, but I don't personally buy it. I think the Meadows/Mundt character is real, and despite being a few bricks short upstairs, is a character of overwhelming sincerity and pathos.
Yeah, until he has his freak out at the film's conclusion and goes on a kill crazy rampage. I ran across an interesting quote from Joel Coen where he talks briefly about the hotel being an extension of Goodman's character:
The hotel had to be organically linked to the movie—it had to be the externalisation of the character played by John Goodman. Sweat falls from his brow like wallpaper falls from the walls. At the end, when Goodman says he's a prisoner of his own mental state, that it's like a hell, the hotel has already taken on that infernal appearance.
I always felt that once in L.A. the world Fink inhabits is a hellish nightmare of his own mind. His writer's block really puts the zap on him and makes him start hallucinating -- i.e. the Bible that begins as his screenplay does, the odds sounds that the hotel makes, the lack of people in it, etc.

I think that the key is the woman in the picture. That is the idealized place for Fink, a la the Lady in the Radiator for Henry in Eraserhead. And I think that once he discovers that picture and starts daydreaming about it that he's lost in his own private space.
I've certainly contemplated the dream theories, but I just don't think any of them hold up. The only one that makes a lick of sense to me is the idea that everything in the hotel is simply a microcosm of what's going on in his brain, and that the hellish hotel is a visual representation of his anguish. But it's too poorly developed for me to latch onto.
How so? I think that the film's climatic conclusion in the burning hotel corridor is too fantastical to be taken literally. I mean, I guess you could but it seems in keeping with the notion that this is just part of a nightmarish hell of Barton's design.
Whatever the case, it's a film with almost infinite rewatchability. It's one of my absolute favorites of the 90's, and second only to Miller's Crossing in the Coen Brothers' canon.
Agreed. I really dig this film as well... although, The Big Lebowski is right up there as well.

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#6 Post by Titus » Wed Aug 24, 2005 12:25 pm

I dunno 'bout that. I think the first bit with Fink in New York is pretty straightforward and not very surreal. It's not until he goes to L.A. signified by that shot of the water crashing loudly against that rock that things start to get weird. Hence, the theory that everything starts to take place in Fink's head once he arrives in L.A.
I think the opening is as drenched in the bizarre as the rest of the picture, with the two obnoxious dinner guests, the camera following the employee sent to call Fink, the awkward interactions between Barton and his agent, and the general atmosphere. It's just as strange as the Hollywood scenes outside of the Earle, if not moreso.
Yeah, until he has his freak out at the film's conclusion and goes on a kill crazy rampage.
Touche. The character is obviously a lunatic, but the Coens' heaped on the sentiment and turned him into a tragic figure of sorts. I still don't understand the rampant accusations of the Coens' having disdain for their characters.
I always felt that once in L.A. the world Fink inhabits is a hellish nightmare of his own mind. His writer's block really puts the zap on him and makes him start hallucinating -- i.e. the Bible that begins as his screenplay does, the odds sounds that the hotel makes, the lack of people in it, etc.
I agree that the Earle is a visual manifestation of......something. At times I lean more towards Fink's mind, other times more towards Mundt's anguish, or perhaps even both. I hesitate to make the same claim outside of the Hotel though. Regardless, just because it works as a metaphor doesn't mean it can't work as a literal narrative as well, they aren't mutually exclusive. BF is densely packed with metaphors and symbols, both large and small, some straightforward and some that continue to baffle me after around 10 viewings. But the narrative works flawlessly, IMO.
How so? I think that the film's climatic conclusion in the burning hotel corridor is too fantastical to be taken literally. I mean, I guess you could but it seems in keeping with the notion that this is just part of a nightmarish hell of Barton's design.
The Coen's best films aren't bound by the laws of reality. The conclusion is jaw-droppingly over-the-top, but that doesn't mean it was a fabrication on the part of Fink. They've crafted a universe where this scene can be woven in seamlessly without the need to hypothesize too outrageously over it.

I'm not saying the inferno at the end isn't a projection of Fink/Mundt's mental state because it most certainly is. There are references to the Bible and Hell peppered throughout the picture, and then this scene unquestionably puts the exclamation mark on it. A sort of simultaneous catharsis for both Fink and Mundt. I just don't think it was a fantasy.

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Fletch F. Fletch
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#7 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Wed Aug 24, 2005 12:51 pm

Titus wrote:I think the opening is as drenched in the bizarre as the rest of the picture, with the two obnoxious dinner guests, the camera following the employee sent to call Fink, the awkward interactions between Barton and his agent, and the general atmosphere. It's just as strange as the Hollywood scenes outside of the Earle, if not moreso.
Hmm... well, I think we'll have to agree to disagree on this point. I think that the characters Fink meets in L.A. are more garish and extreme than anyone he interacts with in New York. His agent might as well be in a coma he's so calm and mellow. The pace in the NYC scenes seems much more frentic for lack of a better word, capturing the hustle and bustle of the city which sets up the sharp contrast to the laid-back vibe of the L.A. scenes.
Touche. The character is obviously a lunatic, but the Coens' heaped on the sentiment and turned him into a tragic figure of sorts. I still don't understand the rampant accusations of the Coens' having disdain for their characters.
Yeah, The Village Voice really has it in for the Coens and have panned most of their movies over the years. J. Hoberman in particular constantly charges them with being anti-Semitic so, they created the character of Walter in The Big L. in part as a rebuttal to Hoberman. ha!
I agree that the Earle is a visual manifestation of......something. At times I lean more towards Fink's mind, other times more towards Mundt's anguish, or perhaps even both.
Exactly. I'd say it is a split between Fink's and Mundt's mind. The capper being the death of Audrey as we never find out, for sure, who exactly killed her but it certainly seems to be at the hands of Mundt.
I hesitate to make the same claim outside of the Hotel though. Regardless, just because it works as a metaphor doesn't mean it can't work as a literal narrative as well, they aren't mutually exclusive. BF is densely packed with metaphors and symbols, both large and small, some straightforward and some that continue to baffle me after around 10 viewings. But the narrative works flawlessly, IMO.
Agreed. Yeah, once you get out of the Earle it gets a bit trickier... altho, when Fink goes to the USO dance I always felt that he was imagining it judging from the surreal camera angles and playing around with sound.
The Coen's best films aren't bound by the laws of reality. The conclusion is jaw-droppingly over-the-top, but that doesn't mean it was a fabrication on the part of Fink. They've crafted a universe where this scene can be woven in seamlessly without the need to hypothesize too outrageously over it.

I'm not saying the inferno at the end isn't a projection of Fink/Mundt's mental state because it most certainly is. There are references to the Bible and Hell peppered throughout the picture, and then this scene unquestionably puts the exclamation mark on it. A sort of simultaneous catharsis for both Fink and Mundt. I just don't think it was a fantasy.
Well said! I think you hit the nail on the head when you point out that the Coens are bound by the laws of reality. I think that is the key to understanding and appreciating this movie (and all of their films for that matter).

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#8 Post by Agee B » Thu Sep 01, 2005 11:32 pm

One might say that the entire movie is a dream--that is, in the sense that it is a surreal, allegorical fantasy--although not necessarily Barton's or any other character's inside the film's universe. I don't perceive Barton Fink 's sublime irony as bubbling from that well of mundanity.

For me, this is the Coen's most coherent and cogent work.

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#9 Post by Lino » Sat Jul 15, 2006 11:12 am

One of my favorite comedies ever since I caught it on TV when I was still an impressionable teenager.

Everything works in this movie: Holly Hunter and Nicolas Cage were born to play those roles (her accent and his hair... ahh... Heaven...!), the soundtrack is a riot (that reminds me, I've got to find it), the comedic timing is just about perfect (that scene with the dogs running always has me on the floor laughing my belly out), what more can I say? Luv it!

It's a pity that when discussing the Coen Bros. work, practically noone mentions this early success. I still think it's one of their very best.

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#10 Post by Lino » Sat Jul 15, 2006 11:45 am

Quite possibly my very favorite movie from the Bros. Coen (and this coming from someone who loves practically everythink they lay their hands on -- I even loved The Ladykillers). I will never forget the day I went to see it at the theatre. I still have images from it ingraved in my memory bank that just won't go away. I don't want them, either.

Probably the most memorable scenes are the ones with the Hotel in flames or the wallpaper slowing peeling from the hot weather. Turturro gives an A+ performance and the script is one of the very best on the theme of the writer's block that I've ever had the chance to experience on a movie.

Any thoughts?

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#11 Post by Scharphedin2 » Sat Jul 15, 2006 11:52 am

:D ... This one sure brings back good memories. I was working in my very first job as an usher, when this film came out, and as a consequence I must have heard that yodling soundtrack at least a hundred times... and, yes, I actually would line up for that soundtrack as well.

It is probably a display of poor critical faculty on my behalf, but I actually think it is one of the Coens best films. Certainly, it is the one I repeatedly enjoy the most -- a strictly entertaining off-beat comedy with a heart. From a filmmaking perspective, I think the Coens have perfected their style over the course of their career, but in this film they struck a really nice balance between style and entertainment.

Cage is perfect for his part, and I remember thinking how this was naturally where his persona from Valley Girl (another little remembered comedy that I would not normally talk about in cultured company) would have ended up a few years down the road.

Has a decent DVD of this film been released? Or, is it anywhere on the horizon?

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#12 Post by Ives » Sat Jul 15, 2006 12:30 pm

I agree - a fascinating film. I always get the impression that I am drifting slightly from my mental moorings when I watch this one. I can feel myself starting to lose my mind right along with Barton.

John Goodman completely rocks in this movie. Amazing performance right from the git-go. Everyone, really, is pitch-perfect. I get the biggest kick out of the cops investigating Audrey's disappearance. Just like the cops in The Man Who Wasn't There - I love the way the Coens write noirish cop-banter.

And what's in that box, anyway?

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#13 Post by Ives » Sat Jul 15, 2006 12:36 pm

It is merely adequate. Trailers & TV spots. It dates from 1999, so maybe a newer edition is on the way. The 20th anniversary is just around the corner.

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#14 Post by Lino » Sat Jul 15, 2006 12:52 pm

Admittedly a big fault on my part but this is probably the only one of the Coens that I still haven't seen... I know the DVD is out there for a long time but I still haven't made myself to go out and buy it. Maybe one of these days.

We used to have a great thread on the film on an earlier incarnation of this forum but I hope this new one will give me enough reasons to rush out and get it. Please, don't be shy...

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#15 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Mon Jul 17, 2006 9:50 am

For the longest time this used to be my favorite Coen bros. film. Besides being meticulously plotted, there is the Coens usual fantastic dialogue with colorful gangster-speak like, "Take your flunky and dangle." or the oft repeated, "What's the rumpus?" and stunning cinematography by Barry Sonnenfeld. I will never forget the shots of the tree tops that play over the opening credits or the lushness of Miller's Crossing -- the place where people are taken to be killed. There is a real rich, dark green, browns and black color scheme for this movie that is so atmospheric.

And this being a Coens film lots of allusions to other gangster films, like the opening that pays homage to The Godfather and I read somewhere that the ending is a nod to Part II...

I also feel that it is quite possibly Gabriel Byrne's best performance to date. His character is the epitome of brooding and I love how the Coens include so many shots of his character just sitting there thinking. I would imagine so considering that he's a guy who knows all the angles and is trying to play two sides of warring gangsters against each other.

Albert Finney is also fantastic to watch as a blustry mob boss. The scene where he defends himself against a home invasion is beautiful orchestrated mayhem.

It is definitely one of those movies, like many Coen films, that invited repeated viewings.

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#16 Post by HerrSchreck » Mon Apr 21, 2008 5:06 pm

I watched Fargo the other day for the first time in a long time. Aside from how much the Peter Stormare "grismud" character reminded me of the killer from No Country, I went online to research what I thought were those grisly "true" murders... and found this.

Anybody know whether or not the whole "true story" aspect was totally bogus?

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domino harvey
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#17 Post by domino harvey » Mon Apr 21, 2008 5:08 pm

It's definitely false, you can trust Snopes on this and anything else.

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#18 Post by kaujot » Mon Apr 21, 2008 5:47 pm

Also, the story of a Japanese woman who traveled to Minnesota to find the money that Buscemi buried (believing, of course, that the film was based on true events) and died from exposure to the cold is very, very false.

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#19 Post by Antoine Doinel » Mon Sep 08, 2008 6:51 pm

The story behind the name of their production company, Mike Zoss Productions.

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#20 Post by Street Dude » Mon Sep 08, 2008 7:02 pm

Is it true that the Coen's shot Burning After Reading using the new, great RED camera?

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#21 Post by knives » Mon Sep 08, 2008 10:35 pm

Yes they did. They actually retooled their behind the camera antics a whole lot for this one.

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#22 Post by aox » Mon Sep 08, 2008 11:32 pm

kaujot wrote:Also, the story of a Japanese woman who traveled to Minnesota to find the money that Buscemi buried (believing, of course, that the film was based on true events) and died from exposure to the cold is very, very false.
Snopes isn't so sure.

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Jeff
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#23 Post by Jeff » Tue Sep 09, 2008 1:00 am

Street Dude wrote:Is it true that the Coen's shot Burning After Reading using the new, great RED camera?
No. It was rumored that they would at one point, but it didn't happen. The film was shot on standard 35mm stock and Arriflex cameras, as you can see here. So far the only theatrical features shot with the RED One camera are Timur Bekmambetov's Wanted and Soderbergh's Che diptych.

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#24 Post by denis » Thu Oct 23, 2008 9:20 pm

back to his body of work it seems to me that would never be in the same category as martin scorsese or stanley kubrick, maybe because they had made a lot of comedies, they dont treat more serious theme and when they do they overtake the story and focus on the character like in no country for old men.

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Re: Joel and Ethan Coen

#25 Post by jorencain » Fri Aug 14, 2009 10:05 pm

A 3 minute film by the Coens, "World Cinema" is up on youtube. Pretty funny.

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