This is it. After many posts and fifteen films, we found ourselves at the end of the modern journey of the Coen Bros’ career. For now, at least.
This is Cinema of the Coens, Part V.
True Grit (2010)
It’s a remake of a John Wayne film adapted from a novel. Well, it’s more just the latter, as the Coens wrote directly from the novel as opposed to watching the Wayne classic. The western tells the tale of 14-year old Mattie (newcomer Hailee Steinfeld) as she seeks out her father’s murderer, wanted criminal Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). She enlists the help of US Marshal Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) and finds Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) also on the hunt for another murder. It’s a western man-chase that ends in one of the greatest shoot-outs in film history – scenes like this are why the screens shine.
The cast of No Country for Old Men had a few things to say about what it’s like to work with the Coen Bros. Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones and company mentioned how this is the way sets are suppose to be. They talked about how the level of professionalism is surpassed by none. Sets are quiet and productive. They’re the ultimate team with the same clear vision of where they want to go with the story, but at the same time they are open to collaboration. There are never any fights, least of all between Joel and Ethan. Working with them, they said, isn’t so much like being directed by two people as it is a person with two heads. Perhaps this is why, in 2011, they were awarded the $1 million Dan David Prize for being “a creative partnership unique in the history of filmmaking.”
This is the Cinema of the Coens, Part IV.
If the Coens’ previous three films (Fargo, Lebowski, O Brother) can be seen as a trilogy of success propelling them through the ranks and prestige of filmmaking, the next three are a trilogy of forgetfulness. None of the next three films are bad. In fact, two fall in the top half of my Coen favorites (well…I haven’t compiled that list, yet, so we’ll see – it’s difficult). There are no problems with writing or acting (there are never problems with these things). It’s just a matter of there not being anything spectacular or memorable. I enjoyed them. I was impressed by them, but I moved on. They aren’t award winners or box office bombs or rockets. They’re just movies made to give you a break from reality for two hours. The Coens are good at that.
This is the Cinema of the Coens, Part III.
Welcome to Cinema of the Coens, Part II.
It’s not often I get to write a blog with a theme song, but the Coen Bros. bring many surprises. After working ten years, their success was limited but significant. The opportunity for more was there and they kept seeking it, but never at the expense of what they loved. The Coens, in the end, are filmmakers through and through. It’s this attitude that’s made them respected. Many of the senior crew positions have been filled by the same people for every film they’ve made (cinematographer, costume, stunts, it continues). They make what they enjoy, regardless of whether it’ll make $10 million or $100 million, and people flock to the unity and creativity this inspires. At the same time, we’ll see that their second decade in the business will bring many of the films, and songs, that shaped the Coens into what they are today.
Joel and Ethan Coen are two of the most prolific directors working in Hollywood today, known not only for box office success but creating a unique artistic style that makes them stand out. Coen Bros. cinema falls into many categories, but it indisputably makes up its own. In our new multipart feature, I will be running through the history of the Coen Bros. on screen. What factors make a movie a Coen movie? At the same time, how have their films changed in the nearly thirty years and fifteen films they have under their belt?
A few facts to start us off: Joel, the taller one, is also the older one, and until 2004′s The Ladykillers is the only one credited as director. This was because the Directors’ Guild of America refused to allow two directing credits on a film, and only after the Coens were irrefutably successful was the ruling overturned. Despite this, the two brothers have always written, produced, directed, and often edited their films together, a collaboration well known to those who have worked with them.