Saturday, September 04, 2010

Posterized: Coen Bros

An Asian remake of the Coen Bros' debut Blood Simple hit theaters this weekend. It's called A Woman a Gun and a Noodle Shop. So let's mark the occasion of their first remake (unless I missed one?) with a look back at the peaks and valleys of the Coen Bros. They're consistently interesting filmmakers and often inspired (see Robert's 'Directors of Decade' column) but have you seen their whole filmography?

Here we go...

Blood Simple (1984) | Raising Arizona (1987) | Miller's Crossing (1990)

Barton Fink (1991) | The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) | Fargo (1996)

The Big Lebowski (1998) | O Brother Where Art Thou? (2000) |
The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)

Intolerable Cruelty (2003) | The Ladykillers (2004) | No Country For Old Men (2007)

Burn After Reading (2008) | A Serious Man (2009) | True Grit (2010)

How many have you seen? How would you rank them? It's a pretty consistently fascinating filmography, percentage wise. Well done, Joel and Ethan. Do you think Oscar was correct to focus mostly on Fargo for the 90s and No Country for the Aughts? And am I the sole person alive who wishes Holly Hunter were nominated for Best Actress for Raising Arizona in 1987 instead of Broadcast News?

I'm getting more curious about True Grit (2010) as we near its release. That Carter Burwell evening I attended helped stoke my interest and then of course there's the cast and general quality of their filmography to recommend it, trailer unseen. Perhaps I should read the novel. Have any of you read it?


GJB said...

I've heard great things about the former... in no rush to see the latter.

/3rtfu11 said...

Holly Hunter’s Broadcast News performance is the kind of role many don’t realize is the most difficult form of acting. She has numerous character transitions that a lesser actress would’ve turned Brooks’ prose into pulpy melodrama. She makes it honest and with incredible choices.

On topic --- Fargo is still their single greatest accomplishment as filmmakers. They’ve made more than one film I can’t stand – The Ladykillers, Intolerable Cruelty, and Raising Arizona. The last is downright unwatchable; but Nicholas Cage was at his most sexy in this movie.

Anonymous said...

I actually took a film class last semester called "The American Film Artist" that focuses on one artist per semester. The Coen Brothers were the subject of my class and so I got to see every one of their films with the exception of "Barton Fink", I skipped class that day. The Ladykillers was worth it for Irma P. Hall alone, but I don't find it to be the failure that most do. I wanted to love The Man Who Wasn't There but I just didn't, it just didn't connect with me and the same goes for A Serious Man, though I thought the central performance in the latter was very good. It was my first time seeing The Big Lebowski, I liked it, but it doesn't hold a candle to Blood Simple, O Brother..., or No Country.... Those are my favorites, undoubtedly. Fargo is right under those.

seasondays said...

i've watched them all, but unfortunately i didn't love them all

my favorites:


the only film i find unwatchable is MILLER'S CROSSING

par3182 said...

01. raising arizona
02. blood simple
03. miller's crossing
04. o brother where art thou
05. fargo
06. no country for old men
07. the hudsucker proxy
08. the man who wasn't there
09. barton fink
10. burn after reading
11. the big lebowski
12. intolerable cruelty
13. the ladykillers

yet to see- a serious man, true grit

Seeking Amy said...

Oh let's see I've seen 9! I have Miller's Crossing in my Netflix queue and Blood Simple is coming to instant soon. I've had the Man Who Isn't There on DVD for ages yet never have watched, must remedy soon.

1. Fargo
2. No Country for Old Men
3. A Serious Man
4. Barton Fink
5. The Big Lebowski
6. O Brother Where Art Thou?
7. Intolerable Cruelty
8. Raising Arizona
9. Burn After Reading

Top 3 masterworks. Next three great/very good to good. Intolerable Cruelty decent, and the last two meh.

How would you rank them Nathaniel?

Robert Hamer said...

I'm pleased to report that I've seen every single Coen Bros film.

It's funny to see the varied opinions on their work. /3rtful calls Raising Arizona "downright unwatchable," while it's par3182's personal favorite. The Film Junkie wasn't hot on A Serious Man, but Seeking Amy declares it a masterwork. It just goes to show you how interesting those two really are.

Matt said...

I adore Hunter in Raising Arizona, but her performance in Broadcast News is one of my top five female performances EVER. Ev. Er.

Faith said...

I've seen all but A Serious Man. Raising Arizona is my hands-down favorite. I didn't like The Ladykillers or Burn After Reading. I don't think Intolerable Cruelty is as bad as many people say it is. It's more derivative than a lot of their work, but it's pretty solidly entertaining.

I'd say Fargo is overrated (not bad... just overrated), but it's been quite some time since I've seen it. I should fix that.

Glenn said...

I'm terribly slack with their early filmography, but I've seen Miller's Crossing and every other from Fargo onwards (except The Ladykillers, but really? who needs to see that?)

They do always have great posters though, except - curiously - No Country for Old Men, which is a bit of a dud if you ask me (the poster, not the film. the film is astonishing!)

vg21 said...

Oops, only Fargo and Burn After Reading. There are some of the others on my list to watch though.

Fargo was really good, I especially liked Francis McDormand's performance. Nobody has mentioned Burn After Reading yet, but I think it's a very enjoyable and cleverly made film, I loved it. One of those I would watch again and wouldn't be bored at all for sure.

vg21 said...

Oh, sorry, Faith has mentioned Burn After Reading. I guess this film divides audiences. I'm not surprised :).

Steolicious said...

I'm a bit surprised, thought I know more than just eight.

1. Fargo
2. A Serious Man
3. The Big Lebowski
4. No Country For Old Men
5. O Brother Where Art Thou?
6. The Man Who Wasn't There
7. Burn After Reading
8. Intolerable Cruelty

Mikadzuki said...

1. No Country for Old Men
2. Blood Simple
3. A Serious Man
4. The Big Lebowski
5. Raising Arizona
6. Fargo
7. The Man Who Wasn't There
8. Barton Fink
9. Miller's Crossing
10. O Brother, Where Art Thou?

They seem to do their best work in Texas settings, if you ask me. So that bodes well for True Grit!

MrW said...

I've seen every single one of them (plus 'Paris, je t'aime'), most of them more than once (I must have watched Fargo more than a dozen times, last time just yesterday), and there's not a single one among them I didn't like.

My attempt to rank them:
The Masterpieces:
The Man Who Wasn't There
No Country For Old Men
The Big Lebowski

The Near-Masterpieces:
Barton Fink
Burn After Reading

The Very, Very Fine Ones:
A Serious Man
Intolerable Cruelty
O Brother, Where Art Thou?

The Very Good Ones:
Miller's Crossing
The Hudsucker Proxy
Blood Simple (I really should see that one again, it's only a dim memory and it might rank higher if I rewatched it)
Tuileries (their segment in 'Paris, je t'aime')

The Good Ones:
Raising Arizona
The Ladykillers

al. said...


As Robert said, it's funny to see how differently everyone's taste skews! I love Raising Arizona, Miller's Crossing (my favourite) and The Big Lebowski. At the other end of the scale I'd put No Country and Burn After Reading. Which puts me at odds with roughly half of the previous comments. :)

Lorenzo said...


1 No country for old men
2 The man who wasn't there
3 Burn after reading
4 Fargo
5 Raising Arizona
6 O brother, where art thou?
7 A serious man

Andrew R. said...

Best Film: Fargo, followed by No Country for Old Men
Worst Film: Ladykillers. That's their ONLY, and I mean ONLY, bad film.

Yep, I've seen them all. I'm special! What an impressive filmography.

Regarding Holly Hunter...nope. She was way better in Broadcast News, her performance in Raising Arizona is good but not best-of-year.

Broadcast News is one of her best performances. She deserved the Oscar, actually, but Cher is a very solid choice.

Deborah said...

I'm missing 3: Ladykillers, Burn After Reading, and A Serious Man (and True Grit of course).

My reactions to them are incredibly uneven, and at odds with what appears to be the general consensus, although Robert Hamer is correct in noting how diverse opinions are.

I love:
Miller's Crossing (my personal fave)
Barton Fink
O Brother Where Art Thou? (Love it love it love it!)
No Country for Old Men

I like:
Blood Simple
Intolerable Cruelty

I dislike:
Raising Arizona
The Man Who Wasn't There


I haven't seen them all. Oops. I'm missing The Ladykillers (not into Hanks) and Miller's Crossing.

totally love
01 Fargo
02 No Country For Old Men
03 Raising Arizona

like a lot
04 burn after reading
05 the hudsucker proxy
06 the big lebowski

good stuff
07 blood simple
08 the man who wasn't there

has its moments
09 intolerable cruelty

have their moments but i have to admit i didn't connect with any of them.
10 o brother where art thou
11 a serious man
12 barton fink

Of those 12 I remember The Big Lebowski and The Hudsucker Proxy the least clearly. So I should probably rewatch. I remember finding Hudsucker Proxy hilarious and wondering why everyone hated it at the time. And the last 3 I know are beloved by some but i just can't connect with them.

IslandLiberal said...

Eight. My favourite is easily "Miller's Crossing"; "Fargo" is my least-favourite (I could never understand on watching it why it got so much praise).

Steven Santos said...

Seen all of them.

1. No Country for Old Men
2. Fargo
3. A Serious Man
4. The Man Who Wasn't There
5. Miller's Crossing
6. Raising Arizona
7. Barton Fink
8. Burn After Reading
9. Blood Simple
10. The Big Lebowski
11. The Ladykillers
12. The Hudsucker Proxy
13. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
14. Intolerable Cruelty

Robert said...

Ah my favorite working directors.

1. A Serious Man
2. Fargo
3. Barton Fink
4. No Country for Old Men
5. The Man Who Wasn't There
6. O Brother Where Art Thou?
7. The Big Lebowski
8. Burn After Reading
9. Blood Simple
10. Miller's Crossing
11. Raising Arizona
12. The Hudsucker Proxy
13. Intolerable Cruelty
14. The Ladykillers

I also took a college course on them back in the day. Good times writing an essay about Barton Fink's hidden meaning as an analogy for mid-twentieth century international relations.

JP said...

Four Stars (out of 4):
1. Raising Arizona
2. No Country for Old Men
3. Fargo

3.5 Stars:
4. Big Lebowski
5. A Serious Man

3 Stars:
6. Burn After Reading
7. Hudsucker Proxy
8. Blood Simple
9. O Brother, Where Art Thou?

2 Stars (only one I didn't like, though I admit I saw it a long time ago, and maybe just didn't "get" it):

10. Barton Fink

Casey said...

Seen 'em all. The Coens are probably my favorite filmmaker(s) altogether.
Nathaniel, I'd say you must see Lebowski again immediately. Probably my favorite film ever, and regardless of how well you remember it I think it necessitates multiple viewings.

1. The Big Lebowski
2. Fargo
3. Raising Arizona
4. A Serious Man
5. No Country For Old Men
6. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
7. Barton Fink
8. Miller's Crossing
9. The Man Who Wasn't There
10. Blood Simple
11. Burn After Reading
12. Intolerable Cruelty
13. The Hudsucker Proxy
14. The Ladykillers

JP said...

Okay, in addition to being a film nerd, I'm also a statistics nerd, so, I put together some facts from the responses given to-date:

In Order of Most to Least Mentioned (good or bad):

2)No Country for Old Men
3)Raising Arizona
4)O, Brother, Where Art Thou?
5)A Serious Man
6)The Big Lebowski
7)Burn After Reading
8)Intolerable Cruelty
9)The Man Who Wasn't There
10)Blood Simple
11)Millers Crossing
12)Barton Fink
14)Hudsucker Proxy

Standard Deviation (In Order of Widest Range of Opinions to Greatest Consenus):

1)Millers Crossing (biggest difference of opinion among voters)
2)Raising Arizona
3)Barton Fink
4)O, Brother, Where Art Thou?
5)Blood Simple
6)A Serious Man
7)The Man Who Wasn't There
8)The Big Lebowski
9)Burn After Reading
11)Intolerable Cruelty
12)Hudsucker Proxy
13)No Country for Old Men (little disagreement - most loved it)
14)Ladykillers (little disagreement - most did not love it)

Finally, Overall Average Ranking, from Favorite to Least Favorite:

1)No Country for Old Men
3)A Serious Man
4)The Big Lebowski
5)Blood Simple
6)Millers Crossing
7)The Man Who Wasn't There
8)Raising Arizona
9)Barton Fink
10)O, Brother, Where Art Thou?
11)Burn After Reading
12)Hudsucker Proxy
13)Intolerable Cruelty

No Country and Fargo are far and away the two favorites (interestingly, they're also the two Oscar darlings).

A Serious Man and Big Lebowski are pretty clearly 3 and 4, then there's a fairly tight cluster until the end, when, Hudsucker, Intolerable Cruelty, and, especially, Ladykillers come in as the least loved.

sam said...

Might as well chime in...

I've haven't seen: Blood Simple. And it's been too long since I Iast watched Barton Fink and Miller's Crossing to give them a fair shake, so I have some catching up to do. Here's the list.

Can't Get Enough of:
1. A Serious Man
2. The Big Lebowski

Really Enjoy:
3. Fargo
4. No Country for Old Men
5. O Brother Where Art Thou
6. Raising Arizona

It's Definitely Interesting:
7. The Man Who Wasn't There

Impartial to:
8. Intolerable Cruelty
9. The Hudsucker Proxy

10. The Ladykillers
11. Burn After Reading

Anonymous said...

I'm proud enough that I've seen half of the movies posterized here.

Big Lebowski
No Country For Old Men
A Serious Man
Blood Simple
Miller's Crossing
Burn After Reading

I'll forever kill myself for missing Hudsucker Proxy on TV for some reason I can't remember. And Intolerable Cruelty is on TV this Friday. Should I skip the festival for that?

cal roth said...

I've done that rate and rank before here.

Now I think their masterpieces are No Country For Old Men, Barton Fink, A Serious Man, Fargo and The Man Who Wasn't There, in this order, all of them a A.

Their worst movie (haven't seen The Ladykillers) is Blood Simple, a B-.

Great filmography.

Rob T. said...

Finally got around to watching Burn After Reading last week, which was the only Coen Brothers film I hadn't seen (except for True Grit). Here's how I'd rank them:

1. The Big Lebowski
2. No Country for Old Men
3. Raising Arizona
4. Miller's Crossing
5. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
6. Blood Simple
7. Fargo
8. A Serious Man
9. The Man Who Wasn't There
10. Burn After Reading
11. Barton Fink
12. The Hudsucker Proxy
13. Intolerable Cruelty
14. The Ladykillers

I've seen 1,2,5,6,8,9 and 14 in theaters (Blood Simple in the revised version from a few years ago). For a long time I'd have ranked Arizona as my favorite, but Lebowski is now the one I return to most often.

I remember one viewer at the opening night screening of Lebowski I attended calling it "the worst movie I've ever seen." Nearly 10 years later, one of my fellow theater viewers of No Country summed it up thusly: "Well, that was a waste of time." In contrast, the theater audience with whom I saw O Brother applauded at the end.


Rob T -- that's the way with so many clasics though. The audience has to catch up to the movie rather than the movie pandering to the audience.

Sean D said...

I've only seen 8. I should get on completing that.

1. Fargo
2. No Country For Old Men
3. A Serious Man
4. Miller's Crossing
5. Burn After Reading
6. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
7. Raising Arizona
8. Intolerable Cruelty

The only one I really can't stand is Intolerable Cruelty. I have no idea what happened to the Coens with that one.

Aaron said...

I've seen Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, Fargo, O Brother Where Art Thou?, The Ladykillers, Intolerable Cruelty, No Country for Old Men, Burn After Reading, and A Serious Man...I just netflixed Miller's Crossing, actually, so will watch that soon.

Fargo, Blood Simple, and No Country for Old Men are masterpieces in my opinion. I'm really not a fan of The Coens at all when they produce a full-out comedy...I find their humor a little too eccentric and a bit indulgent, honestly. Although I have to admit I really liked Burn After Reading and I even thought The Ladykillers had its moments, even though it wasn't very memorable...

...I was never on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? train. I couldn't stand that movie....and Intolerable Cruelty was a DISASTER for of the worst movie theatre experiences of my life (I'm not kidding).

brandz said...

Blood Simple has got to be one of the most under-rated movies of all time. It easily ranks up there with Fargo, maybe even higher.

Dimitra said...

I don't get their style. What others find genius, leaves me cold. I've watched 3 of their films, No Country For Old Men, Miller's Crossing and Burn After Reading.

NCFOM was good, but I didn't really get the fuss.
MC was the one I enjoyed the most, but still not VERY much.
And the only thing I liked about BAR was Brad Pitt.

But I'm still curious about The Big Lebowski, because everyone's making such a great fuss about it.

starfish said...

I have seen them all!

My favorite is definitely Miller's Crossing, and my second favorite is Blood Simple.

Very good ones:
No Country for Old Men
A Serious Man

I can watch again with pleasure:
The Big Lebowski
Raising Arizona
Burn After Reading

I may want to see again:
Intolerable Cruelty
O Brother, Where Art Thou?

I don't really feel like seeing again:
The Man Who Wasn't There
The Hudsucker Proxy
The Ladykillers

Barton Fink is special, I have seen it several times, it perplexes me, I can see it is a good movie but I just don't enjoy it much..

Ben said...

I've seen all except The Ladykillers, which I'm in no rush to see....

Love, love, love so much of their work.

My difficult rankings:
1. Fargo
2. A Serious Man
3. No Country for Old Men
4. Raising Arizona
5. The Big Lebowski
6. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
7. Blood Simple
8. The Man Who Wasn't There
9. Burn After Reading
10. Miller's Crossing
11. The Hudsucker Proxy
12. Barton Fink
13. Intolerable Cruelty (only one I don't like)

I just rewatched Barton Fink and Raising Arizona. Forgot how great Arizona was, but was a bit underwhelmed by Barton.

I need to rewatch Blood Simple, Man Who Wasn't There, and Hudsucker I think

Robert said...

I must be alone on this but I loved The Ladykillers. I thought it was hilarious!

Anyway, I've seen them all and the only one I could do without is Burn After Reading.

Fargo is my favorite.

Nick said...

I've seen (and own) all fourteen of their films that have been released so far.

Their best film is definitely Fargo. It's a masterpiece in every sense of the word. Barton Fink, The Man Who Wasn't There, No Country For Old Men, and A Serious Man are all excellent films. Blood Simple and Miller's Crossing are both entertaining but ultimately feel hollow.

Raising Arizona and The Big Lebowski are two of the funniest movies I've ever seen, while The Ladykillers and Burn After Reading are also both quite funny at times. I admire the Coens' modern take on the screwball comedy with The Hudsucker Proxy and Intolerable Cruelty, even if both those films have their share of problems.

Finally, I could never understand the praise for O Brother, Where Art Thou? It's an okay film, but it feels so forced that it's difficult to find amusing or moving.

Overall, I love the Coen Bros. and I think they're some of the most talented American filmmakers working today. I can't wait for True Grit.

Timothy Marshall said...

My rankings:

1. Fargo
2. No Country For Old Men
3. The Man Who Wasn't There
4. A Serious Man
5. The Hudsucker Proxy
6. Raising Arizona
7. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
8. The Big Lebowski
9. Miller's Crossing
10. Blood Simple
11. Burn After Reading

Have not seen Intolerable Cruelty, The Ladykillers, or Barton Fink. I really WANT to see Barton Fink. It's on netflix instant view right now so maybe the boyfriend and I will settle in tonight and give it a go.

Timothy Marshall said...

I've just noticed: lots of existentialism and men dealing with problems of personal identity in my top 4:

1. Fargo - William H. Macy longs to be entrepreneurial parking lot owner.

2. No Country For Old Men - Tommy Lee Jones wishes he were a braver, better lawman in the tradition of his family history.

3. The Man Who Wasn't There - Billy Bob Thornton longs to be entrepreneurial dry cleaner, music enthusiast - anything but a barber.

4. A Serious Man - Michael Stuhlbarg longs for spiritual enlightenment, moral enlightenment, family values, and a sense of personal identity.

Perhaps this is the hallmark theme of the Coen Brothers' work? You see it in other of their films (O', Brother, Hudsucker Proxy), but not as strongly as these four. Other films seem to either be a comedy of errors niche or characters put in peril. Maybe that's the key to their success? They give their characters so much agency? That's always been more interesting to me.

Burning Reels said...

Not seen The Ladykillers remake. Their last three pictures have all made my end of year top tens. If True Grit comes out decent, I reckon they're on the best stretch of their career.

Today, I'd rank them as:

Fargo A
No Country For Old Men A-
Blood Simple A-/B+
The Big Lebowski A-/B+
Barton Fink B+
A Serious Man B+
Miller's Crossing B+
Burn After Reading B+
Raising Arizona B+/B
The Man Who Wasn't There B
O Brother, Where Art Thou? B
The Hudsucker Proxy C+
Intolerable Cruelty C

chris na taraja said...

I've seen five, and so far would rank them...

OH BOTHER WHERE ART THOU (I love the odessy, so sue me)

I really gotta see more of there stuff, i love these films. Well, BURN AFTER READING I enjoyed, but didn't love.

Anonymous said...

I just saw Millers Crossing, I will watch it again
have seen Fargo, Blood Simple, The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men, Burn After Reading and A Serious Man..

I love all their films
cant wait for True Grit
im downloading Barton Fink and Raising Arizona