No Country for the Coen Brothers 11/21/2007
Right off the bat, I'm going to traffic in a cliche, or at least a bit of conventional wisdom, namely, that the Coen brothers are impeccable but soulless film technicians, magpie postmodernists who love to pick the bones of genre pictures and laugh at them at the same time. In their defense, their best movies—or the ones I like, anyway—are shaggy dog pictures like The Big Lebowski or Raising Arizona that don't hew all that closely to a specific genre; the more overtly satirical they are, the more satisfactory the result. The one film of theirs that shows any dark passion is Barton Fink, and maybe that's because it's about filmmaking itself, in particular about its artistic and moral compromises. The most resonant moment (at least for me) in any Coen Brothers production, the only one I can think of that displays real terror on their part, is the climax of Barton Fink, as John Goodman charges down the flaming hotel hallway, bellowing "I'll give you the life of the mind!"
In which I mostly write about books, movies, and TV. An all-purpose spoiler alert: Sometimes I will talk about these works on the assumption that the reader's already read or seen them, so if you haven't, be forewarned.
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