Entries tagged with “Coen brothers”.


I am yet to see a few other promising TV series that were broadcast this year, but I have no doubt that as good as they may be (and some are according to echoes so far), this 3rd season of ‘Fargo’ will still be among the best. The ten episodes continue to explore the universe of the mid-North United States which was first created in the Coen Brothers 1996 film although for the first time in the history of the film and series the story does not happen in Fargo, North Dakota but in Minnesota.  No need to worry – the place is as cold, as white, as populated by frozen infinite landscapes as in the titular place, and the story is at the same time cool and disturbing, populated with a landscape of characters that confront good and bad and bring together the fantastic and macabre with the day-to-day America. The guidance of and  who sign as producers of the seasons is felt in the coherence of world which is being brought to screen despite the different locations, characters and casting.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2802850/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2802850/

 

The good woman cop in the small town is now called Gloria Burgle (acted by in a manner consistent with the previous similar characters in the series), she has now a teen-age son and is divorcing her husband who left her for a man. When her step-father is assassinated one of the murders taking place in the area becomes personal. The bad guys are divided on different levels of evil. We have the local businessmen with their local conflicts and misdemeanors. We have the corrupt parole officer who sins into falling in love with one of his parolees (acted by the beautiful and amazing actress ) and from here on things can only spiral down. And the the top of the scale of evil we have the agent of the mob trying to launder many millions of dollars while taking over local businesses, The performance of  in this role is fantastic, it’s one of these role and faces which one will never forget, and will probably never encounter again because the role is all composition. The quartet of exquisite acting performances is completed by  who acts two brothers who are so different in character that it took me reaching the 3rd or 4th episode to realize the same actor is playing both. It is very seldom that such a level of acting happens in TV series.

 

(video source Trailers Promos Teasers)

 

A lot can be written (some was already written) about the action, how it is constructed, how much role the coincidences play, whether there are big holes in the story, continuity problems or gaffes, or whether some of the shorter (the East Berlin opening, the Holocaust survivor intrusion) or longer (the full episode about the comics SF writer grandpa) side stories add value or distract the attention. In my opinion most of the material that was criticized was intentionally made as it appears on screen. Have really the stories described in the season happened in reality, as claimed at the beginning of each episode? I doubt. They are not that much credible in details, but they are true to the world of the Coens. Life is complicated, sometimes funny, sometimes sad, many times scare, we do not understand all that happens around us. So is the universe created on screen by the Coen brothers in the original movie and continued by the TV series. I love it as it is because I love life.

 

A few weeks back I wrote about Bridge of Spies and I was mentioning the fact that I expected more than an OK+ story about the Cold War from a script written by the  and brothers. This feeling was now enhanced by viewing Hail, Ceasar!. The trailer was so promising – the anti-establishment brothers made a film about the Hollywood.  as the drunken (not even, actually) star in the historic super-production.  as the blonde brainless starlet. The bigger the expectations, the deeper the disappointment, they say. The brothers seem to have ran out almost completely of ideas and spices.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0475290/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0475290/

 

Hollywood loves making fun of itself, but never forgets to mix a dose of nostalgia. This is what made The Artist such a huge success, plus of course the French charm. It’s 2016 however, and nostalgia should not be consumed in overwhelming doses. Yet, the Coen brothers seem almost to crawl in repentance to the big studios they succeeded to teach in the past a few things about digging for gold in the classical fabric of American stories. There is only one scene where the Coen spin and spirit succeed to remind the good old days – that’s the ‘ecumenical’ discussion in preparation of the Christ movie with the participation of Catholic, Easter-Orthodox and Protestant priests plus one rabbi. It looked and sounded like a good joke. The difference is that we used to have ten or more such good jokes in the Coen brothers films, now it was just one. The social content which is also present in many of their films is now reduced to a parody of the black-listing of the 50s combined with an incarnation of Communist hysteria (in a Malibu villa by the ocean of all places) which is maybe the second good joke in the film. Still insufficient.

 

(video source Universal Pictures)

 

In a season that was so deprived of comedies that The Martian got a nomination in the category at the Golden Globes, Hail, Ceasar! is still the funniest show in town, but it’s more by lack of competition. and looked genuinely bored in a film which should have been fun to make. is no comedy actor. The ones lucky to get more interesting parts are the amazing and who left me with the dilemma of guessing which film director he took revenge upon when building his character.

I am waiting for the Coen brothers to return.

 

 

So after sharks, dynos, extra-terrestrials, WWII, Holocaust, Olympics terrorism, future, Lincoln and handful of other themes, it’s the turn of the Cold War to be processed, re-created and brought to screen in the vision of Steven Spielberg. ‘Bridge of Spies‘ inspired by the historical character of James B. Donovan, defender of the Soviet spy Rudolf Abel and then main negotiator in the spies exchange that set him free for the US pilot Gary Powers downed while in a mission over the USSR, is also the first movie in the political thriller genre directed by Spielberg.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3682448/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3682448/

 

Had the script of this film been written by Ken Follett or the late Robert Ludlum, I would probably have accepted much easier the outcome. However, when brothers Coen are two of the three authors of the script I would have expected more than a smooth narrative structure and well written dialogs (in many moments). There is almost nothing of the sparks or daring insolence of many of the scripts in the films directed by the two. The story is roughly divided into two parts, and the tentative to synchronize the two threads (Abel’s story and Powers’ story) fail not only because they were separated in time by five years but also because it is only the first that has interesting material and consistency. The lawyer who does the right thing defending the rights of a criminal who presumably caused harm to his own country in time of what some perceived as war is too gross an analogy to the contemporary fight against terror viewed from a liberal point of view. The second part is more like the classical East Berlin spy stories, but here again the schematic description of East Berlin and of the Eastern German policemen and even officials lacks authenticity and complexity.

 

(video source 20th Century Fox UK)

 

We are left with enjoying two formidable performances by as James B. Donovan and especially by and Rudolf Abel. I am looking forward to the nominations for the Academy Awards and I hope that Rylance will get at least an Actor in a Supporting Role nomination. His act here is my favorite from all 2015 movies I have seen until now. On the other hand the political messages that this film tries to convey are much too obvious. Yes, they are important, but important messages are not well served when the style gets that close to propaganda. Actually the genre this film is closer than other is the Western. One lonely hero fights for justice against the whole world and wins against all odds. It’s just that the century is the 20th and the hero is not using his gun, but is a lawyer. Problem is that the analogy does not work very well in this recent film of Spielberg.

 

For once the Coen brothers played it according to all the rules of commercial cinema, and no wonder they did it as the producer of True Grit is no other than Steven Spielberg. The film went out in time for the Christmas week (in the US) and for the Oscar season, and the result is 10 nominations including the one for the Best Movie, although I am not sure it will eventually get that many (it certainly deserves the one for the cinematography – the camera work is exquisite). It is also probably the most mainstream film the Coen brothers have ever made, so mainstream that I had all over the feeling that a twist in the action may happen, or a there are some hidden underground meanings that I am missing. Yet, the director brothers chose to do a very well made version of a novel adaptation already brought to screen in 1969 by Henry Hathaway with John Wayne in the main role, a classical Western with many moments of good cinema. Not little thing, just less surprising that I would have expected from them.

source www.imdb.com

Much of this story of pursuit and revenge in Texas and the Indian country relies on the actors. Jeff Bridges melts in the role of marshal Cogburn, a drunken but effective and heart-opened man of law. Hailee Steinfeld is the 14 years old girl whose coming into age is destined to be spent searching for justice in Wild West and her role has all the chances to launch a great career. Matt Damon and Josh Brolin act fine in the two supporting roles that fill in the human landscape of the film. They all do a fine job, and some beautifully written dialogs help in the way – watch the one of the bargaining of the young girl with the man that had a dept with her late father and remember it – or maybe you need not as film anthologies will help you do it in case you forget.

(video source ClevverMovies)

As in many classical Westerns the landscape and the rendering of the atmosphere of the wild country in the second half of the 19th century America play a central role. As I already said the camera work is wonderful, and it creates the right setting for this very credible story of human solidarity. I do not like many of the post action epilogues in movies, especially when told with the off screen voice of the heroes quoting from the original book (so it seems) but here it fits movingly, but this is again the combination of the image and words that enhance the human feelings. Surprises may be missing but True Grit is a piece of true (and good) cinema.

There is one mis-perception that this film fixed in my mind – there are not really funny films about stupid people. Stupid people are … well … stupid, their behavior is by definition subject of easy jokes, so for smart and educated audiences laughing at stupid people comes together with a feeling of guilt. No fun.

What makes ‘Burn After Reading’ different then? I think that one of the reasons is that this is not only a comedy about stupid people, but more about a stupid people in a stupid system. The Coens attack, catch, and dissect a lot of holy cows of the American political system (the CIA, the government secrecy), morality (matrimonial fidelity), social habits (Internet dating, the gym) and national obsessions (the shrink, the divorce lawyer, the plastic surgery). Almost nothing that is a cliche in the average American behavior escapes becoming a victim of their cynical look.

While the script has certainly its role in the success of the comic experience, the story by itself does not try to be more than a funny chain of coincidences that hit a bunch of characters that act according to their immediate instincts and bad planning, something that brings us back to the time of the great comedies in the 30s and 40s of the past century. It would have been of no special effect without the master story telling skills of the Coen brothers, which pace their gags and laughs in the 96 minutes of screening (low figures well below recent Hollywood average).

Overall however the film succeeds through the perfect casting, and the brilliant manner by which the Coens succeed to bring the best out of their actors. John Malkovitch is an actor of all seasons, one of those that brings his personality in any role he does. Not here, where he melds into the alcoholic spy clerk, who loses his useless job and wife, hates the whole world and nobody cares about him, his life, or even about him losing the secrets he was supposed to have learned during his career. Frances McDormand who was the Coen’s unexpected heroine in ‘Fargo’ is back in the role of a gym clerk who does not hesitate to betray her country to finance plastic surgery, but worries even more being in time at her workplace after leaving the Russian embassy. Brad Pitt is her gym trainer companion, looking flat-minded and younger than in the teen years of his role as Benjamin Button.

And then George Clooney. I feel every time that I write about Clooney in the last few years that I need to apologize (to myself of course, as he does not read me or care) for having underestimated his talent and having considered him yet another TV actor and beautiful face. His work as a director and his last performances as an actor are better and better. Here he is superb, the happy husband who cheats his wife with Internet dates without knowing the reason, the involuntary and hysterical killer who associates with other stupid people in senseless actions.

Yes, it’s a cynical view of the world – but hey, this is entertainment, these are the Coen brothers. I am only worried a bit as I heard that the subject of their last film are the Jews!

More information about the film and reviews can be found at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0887883/.