You Betcha!: The top five Coen Brothers movies
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In honour of producer, writer and director Joel Coen's 63rd birthday, we talk about the famous Coen Brothers' five greatest movies. In the Coens' greatest moments of satire and chaos, the American Idiots around which the action happens aren’t vilified for their idiocy. In fact, they’re celebrated, to prove to us that we’re all just like them. People are stupid, and the Coens love them. Sometimes, they’re screwballs in their own riotous cartoon: characters like H.I. McDunnough in Raising Arizona, or Hail Caesar!’s Hobie Doyle. Other times the idiot is a lot closer to home. At a certain point, we realise that we are the same idiot, deep down. It’s in the 30-something aimlessness of Llewyn Davis, the love-struck madness of Intolerable Cruelty’s Miles Massey, or the mid-life crisis of A Serious Man’s Larry Gopnik. The Coens can do either, and that’s what makes them so great. There’s barely a weak film in their 33-year career. Almost every one of them is somebody’s favourite. So here goes nothing: the five best films the Coens have made thus far. 5) O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) The Coens are skilled at taking attractive actors and making them wildly unattractive in a pinch. But arguably their finest attempt at this is George Clooney’s beatnik Ulysses Everett McGill, the leader of a trio of escaped convicts. In the brothers’ adaptation of The Odyssey, he is their Odysseus, the lead in a strange, wonderful fable that could only have come from the Coens. O Brother finds joy in its own existence, wringing every last drop of freewheeling elation from its soundtrack, its lovable caricatures, and its sprawling narrative. It might be the happiest film the Coens ever made. 4) Fargo (1996) It took me a while with Fargo. I found it hard to give myself to its much less obvious cinematic pleasures, having been enamoured with the more black-and-white drama of No Country For Old Men or clear-cut comedy of O Brother. But Fargo is better than the sum of its parts. It’s the combination of some exquisitely pathetic characters and a hard-boiled crime story that makes fools of everyone involved, save for Frances McDormand’s near-perfect Marge Gunderson. Each sequence is pitched to conform to a specific genre (crime-thriller, comedy, drama, romance), but the whole piece is of its own kind. Distinctive, highly original in tone, it’s the definitive film about the Midwestern identity in the United States; it may even be the most definitive Coen film. 3) The Big Lebowski (1998)
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