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The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – Ethan & Joel Coen (2018)

Well well, Netflix has a Coen that I had not yet seen. Actually, this is a Netflix production.

“The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs” is not really a film, there are six short stories told from a book with this name.

The first film is a typical Coen, weird, humorous and violent. Other films are more drama, but always with the Coen black humour, just not always of the screwball type.

“The Ballad…” is not the Coens greatest, but an amusing watch if you want something light.

Inside Llewyn Davis * Joel & Ethan Coen (2013)

Llewyn Davis from the title is an American folk musician who seems to have had some success when he still played with a partner, but solo things are fairly low. We see Llewyn struggling through life, heavily leaning on people he knows.

“Inside Llewyn Davis” is not of the Coen-comedy-type. Rather it is a drama with a subtle sense of humour which is not all that present.

The film is amusing, but not one of the better Coens.

The Ladykillers * Ethan & Joel Coen (2004)

Now this is a Coen screwball comedy! Much funnier than “Hail, Ceasar!”. Even Tom Hanks is not a reason to not watch this film. The man is actually pretty funny.

Tom Hanks plays an all-British crook who gathers a few accomplices to rob a local gambling hall. He has an elaborate plan which unfolds in the first part of the film. The Coens took some weird ways to introduce the characters, scenes in which they use some violent, black humour. Then there is a magnificent black community with their gospel music masses and Hanks’ character with its pompous style of talking. Add to this some ‘slightly-off’ elements and you have a nicely weird Coen film.


Hail, Ceasar! * Ethan & Joel Coen (2016)

I do not think I ever saw a Coen on the big screen. When I thought that I again missed one, I noticed that a local cinema plays it. Great! Perhaps even greater, this proved to be a pre-premiere, since the film will only premiere next week.

“Hail, Ceasar!” is of the Coen-screwball-type, not my preferred style of the two brothers. The film plays in a 1920’ies film studio which allows the directors to make all kind of weird scenes which later appear to be just one of the films recorded in the studio. The title of this film refers to one of the films recorded. The Coens made some funny dialogues and situations without much of a story. The kidnapping of the main actors makes a little twist, but it seems that the brothers Coen mostly wanted to say something about the film industry.

“Hail, Ceasar!” is not as funny as I expected, but there is one brilliant scene with Frances MacDormand which is particularly funny when you know that she plays in every Coen film and they literally crammed her in this time in a hilarious part.

Not the best Coen by far, but perhaps something to watch when you feel like watching something light.

True Grit * Joel & Ethan Coen (2010)

The brothers Coen created a Western that looks like a classic Western. The colour, opening titles, acting and out of tone music, it is all there. The young Mattie Ross goes to avenge her father who got shot about 100 kilometers from her home town. Because the killer has fled into “Indian territory”, Mattie has to find a man with “true grit” (guts) which she finds in Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges). Mattie is determined to travel with Rooster, which he, of course, initially does not like. A classic Western develops. The film looks too classical a Western (not my genre) to become really my thing, but the fun in the film are the typical Coen dialogues which they have done very well again. It is well done making a film look 50 years old and I had some laughs, so overall “True Grit” is nice. For a Western.

A Serious Man * Ethan & Joel Coen (2009)

The new film of the brothers Coen plays in the Jewish community of Minnesota in which Larry Gopnik thinks to lead a calm and normal life. He teaches physics as a Jewish highschool and his son is up for his Bar Mitswa. The only thing is that Larry’s brother Arthur stays with the family driving his daughter crazy and apparently also his wife. One thing after another goes bad and Larry no longer knows what is left and what is right. He visits a Jewish lawyer and Rabbis and the film gives a nice peek in the modern, American Jewish society. With the typical Coen black humour a story unravels of a man tossed between faith/tradition and the time his lives in. “A Serious Man” is not a hilaric film as the Coens can make them, it is more of a drama with subtle humour. The film seems to portray a few parts of different stories that suddenly end. “A Serious Man” is a nice film, but in my opinion, not one of the better Coens.

Miller’s Crossing * Joel Coen (1990)

Miller's CrossingYesterday I was at the lookal arthouse DVD rental and had a peek at the Coen shelf. There are some titles that I saw before I started making film reviews, but there are also some titles that I have not seen yet. So… a comedy or a crime? “Miller’s Crossing” is the brothers Coen third film, a crime like the earlier “Blood Simple” (1984). A nice 50’ies setting with a story about competing maffia groups, making a real Coen-film with violent outbursts and dark humour. Great acting, great stages/surroundings and a story that turns and twists like a small creek through the forest. Should you have missed it until now too: watch it.

Burn After Reading * Ethan & Joel Coen (2008)

Burn After ReadingI missed this film in the cinemas, but it happened to play in the Antwerp arthouse Cartoons, so I did not have to wait to see this film until it is released on DVD. The brothers Coen gathered a star-team to make a screwball comedy. George Clooney (of course), Frances McDormand (of course), John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, Brad Pitt and even David Rasche (Sledge Hammer!) and all play idiots and obviously enjoy doing that. The story is a bit of a spy/crime thing, but has only the purpose to carry jokes and absurd characters. “Burn After Reading” is not a particularly good film, but there is some great over-acting, brilliant jokes and crazy violence. A great comedy when you are in for a good laugh.

No Country For Old Men * Ethan & Joel Coen (2007)

No Country For Old MenHere we have another highly acclaimed film of the brothers Coen. I like the film, but I personally do not think it is a masterpiece. It actually reminds me a bit too much of their own film “Fargo” (1996 not reviewed), which is a masterpiece. Well, maybe “No Country…” is too, but the novelty is gone.
A man accidentally runs into the results of a drug-related shootout in the desert and even finds the money. He thinks he is cunning enough to keep that money out of the hands of the criminals who undoubtely come to look for it. He did not really count on the arrival of the stonecold killer Chigurh. “No Country…” is a violent cat-and-mouse film with less humour than “Fargo” and in which the police wonder where society is heading. The acting is great, the surroundings fitting and the filming beautiful. Indeed “No Country…” is a very good film and even though the story is good too, I keep thinking back to “Fargo” way too often.

Raising Arizona * Joel + Ethan Coen * 1987

Apparently there are still Coen-films that I haven’t seen. “Raising Arizona” was on tv a while ago. A real Coen film; nostalgic way of filming, weird sense of humour, John Goodman and Nicholas Cage as actors and overall the better kind of comedy.

Cage and his barren wife decide to steal a baby from a rich man who just got a quins (that is five) who “have more than they can handle”. Cage has a history of crime and met his wife (who used to be police-officer) in jail. Two old cell-mates of Cage escape and visit the bourgeois-couple and Cage is lured back to his old habbits. In the meantime a bountyhunter from hell is looking for the baby. Overall enough elements for an unusual story and with the brothers Coen’s unusual kind of humour you get a very amusing film.