Sunday, January 4, 2015

Philosophy of Action: Coen Brothers Ranked

I've finished watching all of the Coen Brothers, so it's time to rank! 

I think I like Ethan over Joel, personally.  Wait, we are ranking the films, not the brothers... sorry, forgot.

There is so much to love about the Coens.  Their quirky sense of humor; their unique, often confusing storytelling; their use of analogy; their literary view of filmmaking.  There are some things I don't like: the fact that they almost never have likable characters (the Dude is a huge exception), and people being mean is a theme in their films (in Intolerable Cruelty, that's the whole film).

If I was going to summarize their films under one category, I'd say that they all are reflections on how to live.  Their more existential pieces, like A Serious Man, Inside Llewyn Davis and Barton Fink, emphasize existential action, especially action that shows caring for other people.  Raising Arizona shows how foolish action can sometimes be detrimental, but it is better to act according to ill-informed concepts than to be passive, or to pull the rug out from other people's lives.  It seems like a simple philosophy of life, but when we look at their filmography as a whole, it is richly and widely displayed.  Whether comedic or tragic, I love (almost) all their films and I look forward to their next one, whatever it may be.

1. A Serious Man
The nature of truth and the meaning of life in one entertaining yarn.  One of my favorite films of all time.  5/5

2. Barton Fink
A mysterious fable about a writer in his own personal hell. 5/5

3. Raising Arizona
A hilarious take of two loving parents of someone else’s kid.  4.5/5

4. Fargo
Everything that makes a Coen Bros. film great—crime, comedy, stupidity, and a slight philosophical twist. 4.5/5

5. O Brother Where Art Thou?
A simple comedy about simple men with some of the best music ever. 4/5

6. Blood Simple
A wonderfully simple story with twisted characters.  Far more entertaining than a crime film has a right to be. 4/5

7. No Country for Old Men
Dark and darker still.  Tough to crack a smile at the foreboding message. 4/5

8. The Big Lebowski
A cult favorite, but nothing more than a quirky, curious entertainment for me.  3.5/5

9. Inside Llewyn Davis
“A Serious Man” with no character to really appreciate but the music.   3.5/5

10. The Ladykillers
Broad comedy for a broad religion. (Don’t tell anyone, but I really laughed hard at this one) 3.5/5

11. True Grit
Some good performances, but no one can really replace the crackle in the original. 3/5

12. Miller’s Crossing
A dark crime story that didn’t do much for me.  3/5 (need to rewatch)

13. The Man who Wasn’t There
I can barely remember anything about this one.  It’s about a barber, right? 3/5 (need to rewatch)

14. The Hudsucker Proxy
Lots of movie references, but Tim Robbins and it’s general unfunniness left me uninspired. 3/5

15. Burn After Reading
Unpleasant people doing stupid. 2.5/5

16. Intolerable Cruelty
Unpleasant people doing mean.  It was intolerably cruel of myself to force me to watch this film, just for completion's sake. 1/5

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