Saturday, July 21, 2007

Old, but still sprightly...

Another favourite film clip for you to enjoy. I had meant to post this a few weeks ago, but YouTube has been misbehaving mysteriously in the People's Republic of late. Only today have I been able to access this excerpt again.

This comes, of course, from the 2nd greatest of all the Coen brothers' films, Miller's Crossing. Now there's a provocative discussion point for you - which do you think is their No. 1? Surely everyone must have an opinion on that. After all, who does not love the Coen brothers??

Irish gang boss Leo (Albert Finney) gets ready to unwind at the end of a hard day's racketeering; he puts his feet up, lights himself a stogie, and cranks up his favourite rendition of 'Danny Boy' on the gramophone;.... but someone is intent on disturbing his reverie. Big mistake.

Ah.... "the Old Man's still an artist with the Thompson."


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that I've seen any of the other films by these brothers, but I did rather enjoy Fargo.

It won a lot of prizes, though, didn't it? So perhaps it's a bit too "mainstream" for your tastes, Master Froog?

Miller's Crossing, I'm afraid, rather passed me by. I shall look out for it in the DVD store.

Froog said...

Ah, Snopes old man, there you are. I'd been getting worried about you.

You are a shrewd judge of my pretensions. 'Fargo' won an Oscar, for heaven's sake! How can it be any good? Well, it is probably the weirdest, most unconventional film ever to win in my memory (I suppose some would cite 'American Beauty', but I feel that was pretty humdrum by comparison; its eccentricities of plot - the fantasy sequences [Ally McBeal], the 'dead narrator' reveal at the end [Sunset Boulevarde] - were hardly that original, and are becoming more commonplace on TV all the time.), and its success in the awards did take me by surprise. But really, I feel it is amongst the least substantial or satisfying of their works.

Coen brothers' films - the best of them anyway - hinge on a key line that sums up the theme of the story. In 'Miller's Crossing' it's the climax of Johnny Caspar's opening monologue - "It's a question of ethics." In 'The Man Who Wasn't There' it's the line repeatedly thrown as a challenge, a rebuke at Billy Bob Thornton's bland, amoral cypher of a character, to which he never offers an answer - "What kind of a man are you?"

In 'Fargo' it would appear to be "Why can't people be nicer to each other?" It's perversely ironic in the context of the carnage the plot involves, but it does ultimately seem rather lightweight to me.

argonox said...

I have to confess that I'm not actually much of a Coen brothers fan, and I've never seen Miller's Crossing. The Big Lebowski is appealingly wacky, but I didn't find Fargo all that special. Partially, I suspect, because I found the film's representation of the American Middle West (my homeland, as you know) to be rather shallow and too unsubtle a caricature.

Froog said...

Yes, well, I've noticed before that your pop culture exposure is... er, well, I was going to say 'limited', but let's stick with 'eclectic'. Your purported ignorance of The Simpsons I find quite unfathomable. Were you brought up in some kind of cult?? (Actually, I met a girl once who was brought up in some kind of cult, denied any access to TV until she went to college.... and she still developed a passion for The Simpsons almost immediately upon at last encountering it.)

Anyway, that's rather by the by. Although 'Lebowski' has many great moments, I find it overlong, over-the-top, far too full of itself. For me, it's really carried by the great performances of Jeff Bridges as the titular stoner and John Goodman as his pyschotically tightly-wound bowling buddy. Overall, though, (and I know some people are going to hate me for this, because it is probably the most cultishly popular of their films) I think it's my least favourite of all their works.

I do recommend you to seek out some more. They're all entertaining, thought-provoking, very 'literary' in conception (intricately plotted and stuffed full of brilliant dialogue), and highly original in a variety of different genres.

Miller's Crossing is very close to being the best of the bunch - but not quite.

"Look into your heart"

"What heart?"

Anonymous said...

I should first say that I had to look up their movies to know which were their movies, so obviously my opinion here should count for very little. I've never seen Miller's Crossing, but Albert Finney is awesome, so I'll have to put it on my list of things to view.

I've only seen five of the other movies I think, and while I enjoyed Fargo, I prefer O Brother Where Art Thou? I felt like it was a very daring choice of setting, character, dialogue, and title, and very daring performances on the part of the actors as well. Daring, but still successful. The concept and themes were delivered well, and it was darn funny. Plus, the music was great.


Froog said...

Yes, it was an outrageous piece of cheek that they managed to get themselves nominated in the 'Best Adapted Screenplay' category for Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?! The links with The Odyssey are comparatively few and tenuous, mostly thematic only.

Very funny, gorgeously photographed, and - as you say - with great music. It almost made me want to spend more time in the American South.

However, I did ultimately feel that it was somewhat vapid, lacking in point. As I commented above, I think the best Coen brothers' films hinge on a particular theme which is encapsulated in a prominent line. I'm not sure what the key line/theme in Oh, Brother would be. Maybe there wasn't one.

Froog said...

My favourite line from Oh, Brother is:

"I don't want 'Fop'! I'm a 'Dapper Dan' man."

Lovely to see Clooney revelling in the chance to send up his matinee-idol persona.

Anonymous said...

"I'm the damn pater familias!"

Anonymous said...

Love Miller's Crossing. That scene may remind some of the baptism in The Godfather because of the superficial music-over-gangsterism resemblance, but I prefer this one because it's not so self-consciously Art. (OTOH, the one guy's Tommy-gun stitchery of floor, ceiling, chandelier, print on the wall, and his own shoes isn't without a certain style of its own.)

Was an early convert to the Coens, having seen Blood Simple in a theater based on nothing but a little ad in the newspaper. I tend to measure their later films by the yardstick that one set: OMG I feel like somebody just drilled a hole in my brainpan and poured rye into my head. Never again looked at a Stetson in quite the same playful-headgear way, not after M. Emmett Walsh.

Froog said...

Ah, yes, I was lucky enough to see Blood Simple in the cinema on its initial release, and was delighted by it. Wonderfully warped! "This is Texas. We do things differently."

I have most of their stuff on DVD, and really must revisit some of their early classics again. I've only seen The Man Who Wasn't There once, but it is certainly close to claiming the top spot in my personal ranking of their work.

And I haven't seen No Country For Old Men at all yet. I must do something about that.

Still nobody has suggested what they think my current favourite of their films is....