Tag Archives: Ethan Coen

Inside Llewyn Davis

Llewyn Davis (played by Oscar Isaac) is a folk singer. It’s the early 1960’s in Greenwich Village, New York and Llewyn’s trying to scratch out a living with his music. Things had been starting to go well and he’d cut a record with his partner, Mike. But that was short lived and now Llewyn is a starving artist, dossing with friends and trying to keep body and soul together until he gets his big break. Llewyn’s friends are all quickly losing their patience with him as he moves from the sofa at one place to a floor and hopefully a meal at the next. He’s always borrowing money, too – his best friend, Jean (by Carey Mulligan) is sick of his hopeless ways and she’s also his worst critic. She and her boyfriend Jim (by Justin Timberlake) are doing okay at their music, even Troy Nelson (by Stark Sands) and Al Cody (by Adam Driver) are doing alright. But Llewyn just can’t seem to get a break. One day, after an overnight at the Gorfein’s, pet cat Ulysses escapes from their flat and Llewyn spends half the next day chasing the cat until he can return it to the ever-generous and unflappable Mitch Gorfein (by Ethan Phillips) and his doting wife Lillian (by Robin Bartlett). His luck goes from bad to worse when he wears out his welcome with his sister Joy (by Jeanine Serralles) and his useless agent fails him. So he decides to try a new big-time agent Mel Novikoff (by Jerry Grayson) in Chicago and he hitches a ride there with Roland Turner (by John Goodman) and his driver Johnny Five (by Garrett Hedlund). Roland’s a big-shot and spends the next few hundred miles telling Llewyn his endless stories. In Chicago, Llewyn plays for Mr Novikoff and hopes to get a record deal – things can’t get any worse, right?

In this movie, the Coen brothers are back to their wonderful best. Here, the hapless Llewyn Davis just blunders from one possible but insane scenario to the next. All the characters are truly and deliciously Coen-esque and the incidents are presented as only they could portray them. The dead-pan humour is classic Coen and the bizarre personalities just add to the delight of this movie. It’s not laugh-out-loud funny, but it’s very entertaining. Even if you don’t know at first it’s one of their movies, you will pick up on it once the movie gets going. Good performances abound here – Oscar Isaac is great, Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake are funny in their earnestness, John Goodman is outrageous and great and the terrible outcomes of Llewyn’s decisions and hasty actions are just as you’d expect in real life. For their efforts, the Joel and Ethan Coen won the Grand Prix at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival – well done.

Made in 2013. Directed by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen.

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Posted by on August 6, 2014 in Movies


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Burn After Reading

In Washington, Osborne Cox (by John Malkovich) is a CIA analyst expert on the Balkans who is suddenly fired from his job due to his drinking problem. He is bitter and throws wild accusations at the CIA, then starts a tell-all memoir about his work and the Agency. He saves all his evidence and background work on a CD, but then he mislays it. At the same time, his wife Katie (by Tilda Swinton) is having an affair with Federal Marshal Harry Pfarrer (by George Clooney). In another part of town, Linda Litzke (by Frances McDormand) is at work at a fitness centre – “Hard Bodies”, but she is so distracted about her looks and determination to get some plastic surgery that she doesn’t realise her boss Ted (by Richard Jenkins) fancies her like mad. Then another “Hard Bodies” fitness instructor, Chad (by Brad Pitt), who is a little slow on the uptake, finds the computer disk belonging to Ossie and views it, He sees what looks like CIA state secrets and when he tells Linda, they decide to run a blackmail scam – then Linda will finally have the money to get her face lift – but things don’t quite go according to plan …

I find the Coen Brothers’ movies are either great or awful.  This one is great – it has a fabulous and well-balanced mix between comedy and thriller.  All the characters work well in this madcap story and it’s very entertaining.  From the outset, John Malkovich’s Ossie is totally unlikeable – he is superb in this bitter and angry role. As Linda, you just want to shake Frances McDormand and get some reality back into her head … George Clooney is perfect as the suave but totally hapless Harry Pfarrer, he and Tilda Swinton are magic together … and Brad Pitt … what can I say? in roles like this he is just too funny … very good and he totally and delightfully inhabits Chad.  It’s really good – one of their best, well done.

Made 2008: Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen


Posted by on March 3, 2012 in Movies


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It’s winter in a wilderness town of Fargo in Minnesota. Jerry Lundegaard (by William H. Macey) is a car dealer who’s got himself into some serious financial problems – but he’s got a foolproof plan to resolve them. He engages the “hardened” criminal Carl Showalter (by Steve Buscemi) and his questionable friends to carry out the plan. Some weird stuff has happened on the snow laden highway out of town … a car stopped, the police passed by and got mixed up in a shooting. The heavily pregnant and tenacious Police Chief Marge Gunderson (played by Frances McDormand) is now investigating. During the her investigations, a kidnapping gets completely out of hand, a contract hit is bungled and an extortion scheme goes belly up … all in the space of a few days.

Sound weird and chaotic?  Well, it is … such is the work of Joel and Ethan Coen.

This is one of the best Coen movies ever. The characters all play completely dead pan – it’s so weird and crazy that it’s funny – really funny. In some places you won’t believe what your eyes are seeing. To describe the gruesome twists of the plot would make anybody who laughts at it just seem macabre … but the Coen’s have a wonderful talent of making the uttlerly awful, just seem pathetic and laughable. At the start you are told that the movie is a “true story” … but a disclaimer at the end says “persons and events portrayed in this production are fictitious” … so you be the judge.

You might call it a dark comedy. The main thread of humour throughout is the culture and colour brought by the locals – their regional traits, their craziness through endurance of such bitter cold and their mannerisms (exaggerated for effect of course) … the Police Chief’s pet sayings … “Okey Dokey” … “Be there in a jiff” and “Yah”  – and some of the characters are there just to provide more “weird”.

William H. Macy is just classic and superb as the desperate, incompetent and pathetic Jerry and Frances McDormand shines as the warm-hearted and earnest Marge Gunderson. The movie had seven Oscar nominations in 1996 and won six: Best Supporting Actor (William H. Macy), Best Director (Joel Coen), Best Film Editing (Coen Brothers) and Best Picture (Ethan Coen), Best Original Screenplay (Joel and Ethan Coen) and Best Actress (Frances McDormand).

Another of my all time favourite movies.

(Made: 1996, Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen)

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Posted by on February 21, 2012 in Movies


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