Ethan Coen

Allison Tolman

If you’ve been holding off on watching Fargo, the television spin-off of Joel and Ethan Coen‘s cinematic classic of the same name, now is a pretty good time to get going on the FX series, not just because the limited series is approaching its end, and not just because it’s getting to be seriously good, but because it features one of the most exciting and zippy leading ladies to hit the small screen in quite some time. Basically, you’re going to want to get on board with superstar-in-the-making Allison Tolman right now, at least before the accolades and other roles start pouring in. (Some spoilers follow.) Fargo is best described as a spiritual twin to the film (though later episodes do quite directly link up the series and the movie), so it should come as little surprise that the show’s most cheer-worthy and compellingly human character is a female police officer (in this case, a deputy), just like in the 1996 black comedy, which found its heart and head in Frances McDormand‘s police chief Marge Gunderson. Tolman’s Molly Solverson is similarly the soul of the series, and even when the series gets oofta-sized rough, she remains unfailingly interesting and damn charming to watch.

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inside-llewyn-davis

If it seems as if we’ve been covering the soundtrack from the Joel and Ethan Coen’s newly released Inside Llewyn Davis quite a bit around these parts as of late, that’s a totally fair observation, simply because it’s true. The sixties-set film about the eponymous New York City folk singer that never hit the big time is appropriately steeped in music, and all of it just so happens to be damn good. Inside Llewyn Davis is one of the best films of the year, but its soundtrack is easily the best soundtrack of the year. But if something like “Please Mr. Kennedy” is an unabashedly joyful jam (and it is) that proves that not all folk music needs to be morose and depressing (it does not), where does that leave the sadder songs of the soundtrack? Turns out, in pretty good standing, because while the Inside Llewyn Davis soundtrack may feature some upbeat compositions, it’s still packed to the gills with the kind of stuff that might make you consider ending it all (and that’s not hyperbolic – as we soon discover in the film that Llewyn’s former singing partner did just that before the action of the film unfolds). So what’s the saddest song on the Inside Llewyn Davis soundtrack? Behold – an investigation.

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llewyndavisgoodman

You wouldn’t think that a movie about sad folk musicians living in poverty in the 1960s would have all that much commercial appeal, but the Coen brothers’ new film, Inside Llewyn Davis, is getting a lot of promotional support from the studio while selling that concept anyway. Already we’ve covered the first trailer, which was masterful at establishing setting and mood, the red band trailer, which added some delightful potty-mouth to the mix, and a third trailer, which told us a bit more about the dramatic conflict of the film. That’s kind of a lot of trailers already, and seeing as Llewyn Davis is obviously one of the movies many of us are looking forward to most this year, we might be getting close to hitting the limit of footage we want to see from it before it gets released. Before we go sticking our heads in the sand for fear of spoiling things, it’s probably okay that we watch at least one more ad though. This is a Coen brothers joint after all, so it’s bound to be dense with good stuff we haven’t seen yet. Plus, this new trailer is mostly just a remix of moments that we’ve already seen, with two new big laughs involving suicide and Tang thrown in.

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fargotruth-1

Let’s paint a dark picture: You’ve finally snapped and committed the heinous act of murder. The problem is that you let it happen without properly planning things out. Now, you have this nasty little human corpse lying around. How do you get rid of it? Movies and literature have offered clever ways to get rid of dead bodies for years. In Luc Besson’s Nikita, Victor “The Cleaner” (Jean Reno) uses acid to dissolve bodies in a tub. In Psycho, Norman Bates mummifies his mother and keeps her around for posterity’s sake. And in the Coen Brothers’ Fargo, Gaear Grimsrud (Peter Stormare) feeds Carl Showalter (Steve Buscemi) to a woodchipper. Since concentrated acid is hard to come by (right, Mr. White?), and none of us at FSR have very good taxidermy skills, we got to wondering: Is a woodchipper an effective way to dispose of a body?

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davis

The first trailer for Joel and Ethan Coen’s upcoming film about a folk singer, Inside Llewyn Davis, and the red band trailer that followed, were both good at establishing a mood, giving us a sense of the time and place in which the film is taking place, and selling us on the cast that the brothers have put together. What they didn’t much do was let us in on exactly what this Llewyn Davis was looking all melancholy about, however. As a matter of fact, they seemed to make a point about fading out right before we got to the heart of the matter. Well, now there’s a third trailer for the film, and in addition to giving us a few more laughs and featuring yet another striking song from the era, it also does more to dig into the particular problems that this Davis chap is struggling with in his day to day life. Problems that seem to be myriad.

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inside-llewyn-davis

There isn’t much that needs to be said to sell the trailer for Inside Llewyn Davis. It’s the trailer for the new Coen Brothers movie, so its release basically makes for a holiday on the film geek calendar. More than that though, this is a Coen Brothers movie set in New York in the 1960′s, which is a time and place that people have recently been fascinated by due to the popularity of the TV show Mad Men. Inside Llewyn Davis takes the focus off of the ad men on Madison Avenue and puts it squarely on the folk scene in Greenwich Village (as the Bob Dylan song playing over the soundtrack might give away) though, so it’s like we’re now getting to see the other side of that same coin. Inside Llewyn Davis is still more than just an interesting setting, of course. Probably most importantly it’s a movie that sees the Coen Brothers once again working with John Goodman, which is a pairing that has never failed to produce anything less than gold. And in addition to Goodman we’ve got Oscar Isaac looking magnetic as the lead, Carey Mulligan doing that Carey Mulligan thing that everybody loves—and they’ve even found a spot for Last Action Hero’s F. Murray Abraham!

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Filmmaking Tips from The Coen Brothers

There are a lot of stories about colleagues and reporters asking Joel and Ethan Coen questions only to get the same exact answer from both (or to get one finishing the other’s sentence), so it seems at least plausible that they’d both agree on all these tips – no matter which brother they came from. Joel Coen got his start as an assistant editor on Fear No Evil and The Evil Dead. He and his brother then partnered for their first movie without the word “evil” in the title, Blood Simple., which rightly launched them to prominence where they’d go on to craft Raising Arizona, The Big Lebowski, countless other modern classics and a trophy case for all their awards. All of this fulfilled a childhood dream of making movies that started with a Super 8 camera and a hobby of remaking what they saw on television. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from two young masters who think exactly alike.

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Over Under - Large

Though Steven Soderbergh has had a lengthy career full of acclaimed projects, he’s perhaps best known for his remake of Ocean’s 11, a successful compiling of some of the biggest names in Hollywood for a good, old-fashioned heist movie that was so successful it spawned two sequels. Despite the fact that he was better known for artier fare when Ocean’s Eleven was released, audiences responded well to this fairly simple robbery tale, and the slight modern spin that Soderbergh put on the film’s largely vintage aesthetic got pretty universal praise. If there are any filmmakers working today who have a heftier resume of acclaimed works than Steven Soderbergh, then they’re definitely named Joel and Ethan Coen. The Coen brothers have been making artsy, weird movies ever since the mid-80s, and though it’s taken them a while to achieve any real financial success, they’ve always enjoyed an ever-increasing amount of critical acclaim. That is, until they ventured into the romantic comedy and heist genres in 2003 and 2004 with Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers. These two films are widely regarded as the Coens’ worst work, and their only movies worst skipping. This feeling is erroneous, however, because The Ladykillers in particular is very Coens and very fun, and the world was wrong for vilifying them for making a simple heist movie with a throwback feel. I mean, nobody minded when Soderbergh did it.

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A week ago, when I reported on Joel and Ethan Coen’s new movie Inside Llewyn Davis picking up Oscar Isaac as its leading man, I opined that further casting news would probably be coming soon. The Coens’ new film is about a folk singer coming up in the Greenwich Village scene, and it’s loosely based off the life of Dave Van Rank, so it’s going to be necessary for the brotherly team to cast actors as stand-in characters for all of Van Rank’s musician friends. Well, a week later the brothers have signed up their first, and this one is a doozy. According to Variety, Carey Mulligan has signed on to play the female lead opposite Isaac. Despite my conclusion-jumping that most of the characters in this film will be musicians of some sort, there isn’t actually any confirmation that the character Mulligan will be playing will be musically inclined at all. Variety is correct to point out that the actress has the chops to pull some musical numbers off if she has to, however. She plays a singer in director Steve McQueen’s upcoming sex addiction drama Shame and really knocks her singing scene out of the park in that film. It’s maybe the most crucial scene of the film, and Mulligan rises to the occasion admirably.

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Being chosen as the star of a new Coen brothers movie is kind of an honor. When you become a Coen headliner you join the ranks of huge names like Nic Cage, Jeff Bridges, George Clooney, and Tom Hanks. Just look what it did for the careers of guys like William H. Macy after he starred in Fargo or Josh Brolin after he starred in No Country for Old Men. One good performance in the lead of a Coen brothers movie can be your ticket to the top. So it had to be very exciting news for Oscar Isaac when he found out that he scored the lead role in the brothers’ next movie Inside Llewyn Davis. Or not — maybe he’s a cold, cold man. Isaac isn’t an incredibly well known actor as of yet, but he’s had a good amount of work. Most recently he’s appeared in things like Sucker Punch and Drive, and soon he will be showing up in a high profile role in The Bourne Legacy. So far I don’t know what to think about him from the little I’ve seen. I thought he did a fine job in Drive, but he seemed to me to be far too hammy in Sucker Punch. Just the act of being cast as a Coen lead gives me faith that this guy has the chops to become something big though. I have total faith in those two weirdos, and acting under their assured directing hands should bring out […]

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The last film we got from legendary directorial team Joel and Ethan Coen, 2010’s remake of True Grit, was one of their most successful yet. This time it wasn’t just film nerds heading out to the theater to see what the brothers had up their sleeves, they managed to pull in a large chunk of the mainstream audience as well. So it is with bated breath that we have been awaiting an announcement regarding their follow up. Wait no longer, because today Variety hit us with not only a title of their new film, but also some confirmation on what it’s going to be all about. There have been rumors that the Coens were looking to make a movie that dealt with folk music for a while now, and this next project appears to be it. The film is titled Inside Llewyn Davis, and it’s a fictionalized account of a popular folk singer coming up in the Greenwich Village scene of the 1960s. Well, actually there is word that the character is loosely based on the career of real life folk artist Dave Van Ronk, but when the Coens and the phrase “loosely based” get together, the material they end up presenting usually is so much their own that you could have called it pure fiction and no one would have noticed anyway. There are not yet any rumblings on potential casting, but as with all things Coen brothers, I’ll be eagerly awaiting word. Or we could just start a […]

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Why Watch? The sheer joy of watching a Coen Brothers’ film in three minutes. This segment from To Each His Own Cinema (which should be seen by everyone ever) is like taking the last bite of your favorite desert. It’s completely satisfying with its slow comedy, Josh Brolin’s fish-out-of-water-who-thinks-the-water’s-fine behavior, and the pocket of truth that everyone here is trying to find in its most common form. Maybe that’s what’s so appealing here. There’s nothing false about this scene at all, and yet it’s still so funny. What does it cost? Just 3 minutes of your time. Check out World Cinema for yourself:

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Culture Warrior

We often don’t think of commercials as having authorship, at least not in the same way we think of movies. Commercials are created by advertising companies, by focus groups, by strategists; not by “artists.” But while the purpose of a 30-second ad may on the surface differ from the motive of a feature length film (though not always), both are media assembled through a particular economy of storytelling devices and are made often by a collaborative company of individuals. But commercials don’t often contain credit sequences, and thus the phenomenology of its making is cloaked and the personalities who made it unconsidered. The focus is on the product being sold, not the creative team selling it. So it can be surprising to find out that well-respected, top-tier, artistic filmmakers often direct commercials. Sure, many filmmakers regularly make commercials as a more lucrative and less time-consuming alternative to feature filmmaking, and there are many visual artists who have honed an ability to express their personality in various media forms, but a surprising number of supposedly cinema-specific auteurs make commercials, despite a lack of apparent monetary need or professional benefit. This subject came to my attention recently because of a series of articles on Slate last week by David Haglund about the oeuvre of the Coen brothers that included the filmmaking duo’s commercials in considering their larger cinematic contribution. It’s an interesting way to view a filmmaker’s career, for it forces you to look for their identifying traits and revisited themes via […]

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Sound Works Collection has done a panel interview with the sound team of True Grit that is an interesting listen for a couple of reasons. They’ve gathered together longtime Coen collaborators Skip Lievsay, who is the Sound Re-recording Mixer and Supervising Sound Editor, Greg Orloff, who is also a Sound Re-recording Mixer, and Byron Wilson, who is a Dialogue/ADR Editor. Much of the interview centers on their work on True Grit, complete with clips of key scenes and their analysis of what they did and why to create the sound of the film. They go into not just the technical aspect of how they got the job done, but also explore the themes of the film and why they made the choices that they did in order to support the storytelling as a whole. It’s an interesting listen in that respect for audiophiles and prospective filmmakers.

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mwl-fargo

This week we feature the best movie the Coen Brothers have made and one of the greatest of all time.

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seriousman-header

Do you remember the movie Stranger Than Fiction? There’s a scene where Dustin Hoffman explains to Will Ferrell the difference between comedy and tragedy and has him tally up events that would fit into either genre. The Coen Brother’s new film, A Serious Man, seems to live this debate as I can’t really tell if it’s a dark comedy depicting tragic events or a tragedy with comedic characters.

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If there is one thing we can’t seem to stay away from here at FSR, it is a good discussion about what is the best or the worst movie in any particular category…

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The Coen Brothers

Joel and Ethan Coen take their superbly cast film into a Fall release.

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Joel and Ethan Coen will write and direct the Alaskan murder mystery, set in a fictional Jewish settlement.

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