In anticipation for the release of Inside Llewyn Davis on UK shores tomorrow, I felt it would be appropriate to make a quick list of my top 5 Coen brothers written and directed films.
5. Blood Simple
The Coen brothers debut is as unpredictable as it is tense. The film is littered with elements characteristic of later work by the two brothers and the film noir influence is very obvious. Blood Simple helped launch the career of Frances McDormand and marked the beginning of a relationship with the brothers (Joel in particular who McDormand is still married to) that would last for many years to come.
4. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
This period piece was nominated for two academy awards: Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Cinematography. It's these two elements that ensure its place not only on this list but also in the minds of many movie critics. The screenplay is an eclectic mix of comedy, action and drama culminating in a close examination of both camaraderie and redemption. On the visual side of things, Roger Deakins was one of the first cinematographers to use digital colour correction so extensively and as such, the film has a unique and rustic visual quality previously unheard of.
3. The Big Lebowski
For all the praise The Big Lebowski gets for its wit and style, there is an equal amount of heart and soul. The examination of what it means to be a hero and perhaps more importantly what it means to be a friend lies at the very centre of this oddball comedy. The outlandish comic script is brought to life by a fantastic cast headed up by Jeff Bridges and frequent Coen collaborators John Goodman and Steve Buscemi. To this day it remains the choice feature of many Coen brothers fans.
2. No Country For Old Men
It won Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay and Director(s) at the 2008 Academy Awards and few would argue with any of those decisions (save a few There Will Be Blood fanatics). On the surface it's simply a good guy being chased by a bad guy but peel back the layers and there's a deeply emotional and intensely human nature to it. The pace is ferocious and never lets up throughout. The cast is once again stellar with Javier Bardem picking up the Best Supporting Actor Oscar while simultaneously introducing himself to the English-speaking masses.
I had no doubt in my mind which film would be taking the top spot on this list. Fargo is not only my favourite Coen brothers film but also one of my favourite films of all time. Joel and Ethan are at the very top of their game in this somewhat dark-comedy-crime-thriller which I'm certain everyone on here has already seen. It's certainly one of the brothers' darker projects but one with another very strong cast, intriguing plot and universal themes. It is in a word, a masterpiece.
Needless to say I'm incredibly excited for Inside Llewyn Davis and can't wait to see the Coen twist on the oft told struggling artist tale. I'm confident it'll be just as good as we all know it can be.
Thanks for reading,