Monday, May 11, 2009

The Cohen Brothers

I saw Burn After Reading this weekend and while I heard that the movie wasn’t very good, I wasn’t prepared for 96 minutes that felt like 180 minutes. This was dreck. My knee-jerk reaction was something like, “How can the Cohen brothers, the geniuses behind Fargo, The Big Lebowski, and O Brother, Where Art Thou give me something as crappy as Burn After Reading?” As an aside, you’ll notice that I did not include Raising Arizona in the mix of genius-level movies. The reason is simple. I did not like that movie. I realize that many people do and are baffled when I tell them that Raising Arizona simply doesn’t do it for me. I’m sorry. I just don’t like it.

Back to the Cohen brothers, I'm not sure why I was surprised that Burn After Reading was so bad because this isn’t the first time that they’ve lobbed a bag of vomit at me. Granted, I haven’t seen all of their movies, but I have seen several. Here’s the list and my comments next to each:
  1. Blood Simple. (1984) – didn’t see it.
  2. Crimewave (1985) – didn’t see it.
  3. Raising Arizona (1987) – didn’t like it.
  4. Miller's Crossing (1990) – interesting Irish gangster movie. I didn’t see it when it was new, but saw it probably about 10 years ago. I remember liking it, but not loving it by any stretch.
  5. Barton Fink (1991) – this was an extremely weird movie filled with caricatures and themes, I wasn’t into it.
  6. The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) – absolutely horrible. Tim Robbins was lame in this movie and I wanted to punt Jennifer Jason Lee out of a skyscraper’s window as soon as she appeared on screen. I hated this movie so very much.
  7. Fargo (1996) – One of my favorite movies of all time. I love the story. I love the characters. To this day I still quote the movie (“You’re such a super lady!”) and I will always watch it if it’s on TV. It’s a nearly perfect movie.
  8. The Big Lebowski (1998) – Quite possibly my favorite comedy of all time. Walter’s anger is fantastic. The Dude is flawless, and every character is wonderfully played (although I could have done without Julianne Moore to be honest). Gets high marks for possibly being more quotable for me than Fargo is. Also, for how mellow The Dude is, I love how he gets frustrated with Knox Harrington, the video artist. As a bonus, we named one of our intramural hoops teams in law school “Autobahn.”
  9. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) – This movie was great but does not reach Fargo or Lewbowski territory. However, it’s beautifully shot. The artistry is amazing and Clooney is very good. Also, the music is fantastic and the sirens scene is super, duper cool.
  10. The Man Who Wasn't There (2001) – I didn’t see any reason to watch this one.
  11. Intolerable Cruelty (2003) – massively disappointing. So much overacting and wildly uninteresting.
  12. The Ladykillers (2004) – sometimes just having an accent isn’t funny enough, Tom Hanks. More overacting here. Simply a stupid movie. Although I did like how the guy’s face in the painting kept changing. That was kind of funny.
  13. No Country for Old Men (2007) – They did a great job with this one. The movie stayed very true to the book and the casting was great. I enjoyed this a great deal.
  14. Burn After Reading (2008) – one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. I knew it would be terrible minutes into it because of Frances McDormand’s scene in the clinic. The jokes weren’t funny, the accents weren’t funny, she wasn’t funny (and she's typically great). It sucked. I’m a Brad Pitt fan and he brought absolutely nothing to the table. It’s just like they decided to make Brad Pitt play a kind of dorky guy and that would be enough to make it good. It wasn’t. Same with Clooney, I love the dude, but his character was unappealing, unlikeable, and far from funny. Whatever. I was pissed that I sat through this.
  15. Hail Caesar (2009) (pre-production) - I know nothing about this.
  16. A Serious Man (2009) (post-production) – or this.

So, of the 11 movies that these guys have made, I’ve loved three, liked one, was lukewarm on one, and hated six.

None of this means anything except that I (or you) should not blindly think that a Cohen brothers movie will be good.

It’s just strange that guys this talented who put out such great stuff can then release garbage like Burn After Reading and not feel bad about it. Perhaps they do and are just cashing checks, which is something that I completely understand, but that doesn’t make it right.

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