The Coen Brothers

Allison Tolman in Fargo TV Series

It may not be the best movie of 1998, as its Best Picture honor claims it to be, but Shakespeare in Love is a delight for any drama nerd with a boner for the Bard. Hardly acceptable as a true account of the inspiration for and writing of “Romeo and Juliet,” John Madden’s film is really just a celebration of the work of William Shakespeare by being a pastiche of themes, tropes and lines from his plays. Another proper title for the movie would be “Mark Norman (and Tom Stoppard) in Love With Shakespeare.” In their script are direct reverential references — some of them nods of foreshadowing for things later to be written, others familiar devices employed as general homage — to “Hamlet,” “Twelfth Night,” “The Merchant of Venice” and more. Some of it is kind of silly if you find that sort of celebratory amalgamation and obvious, literal allusion to be a cheap reduction of an artist’s genius (at least Shakespeare got off better than The Beatles did in Across the Universe), and now that same kind of imitative collage is being done for Joel and Ethan Coen in the new TV series Fargo (making them modern day equivalents of the Bard, apparently deserving of equal admiration and tribute). Despite sharing its name with the filmmakers’ 1996 Best Picture nominee, the FX show is not quite an(other) adaptation or spin-off or remake of the story of Marge Gunderson and Jerry Lundegaard. It is not even set in the same Minnesota […]

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Angelina Jolie and Louis Zamperini

Louis Zamperini lived just about one of the craziest lives imaginable. A first-generation American, he went from being a young punk who grew up during the Depression and was the scourge of local law enforcement, to being an Olympian who ran in the Berlin Olympics and got a personal meet-and-greet with Hitler, to being a bombardier who fought against Axis forces in the second World War, to surviving on a life raft in the Pacific Ocean for 47 days while eating raw fish and drinking rain water, to being held in a Japanese POW camp, to eventually being a married man and motivational speaker. It’s the sort of story that Hollywood loves to turn into movies. But, due to all of the inherent drama in the subject matter and the delicacy with which it needs to be handled, it’s also the sort of movie that Hollywood tends to turn into sappy melodramas. So, seeing as Zamperini’s upcoming biopic, Unbroken, is being put together by Angelina Jolie, who’s only had one previous go-around at being a director (In the Land of Blood and Honey), sappiness is certainly a concern. There are a couple of indications that Jolie and company are going to get the execution right on this one though, and now that the film aired a teaser during the Olympics, we’ve all got a much better idea of what to expect. Click through to check it out.

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netflixbuffering

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Amy Adams;Jennifer Lawrence

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Barton Fink

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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inside-llewyn

It’s fitting that awards season comes during winter – after all, the more dramatic-skewing fare we tend to get come November and December all but blots out the sunny memories of yet another blockbuster-filled summer season – but that doesn’t mean that every big gun hitting screens near you has to be (or even is) an emotional downer. While Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave may have scared off a few viewers because of repeated cries that the film was brutal and wrenching and highly upsetting, the film is also very rewarding and, we daresay, well worth the emotional upheavals that happen within it (and, conversely, the emotional upheavals that happen to its audience while watching). The Coen Brothers’ latest, Inside Llewyn Davis, may fall victim to that same “it’s hard!” talk, and its muted color palate, wintry setting, and focus on a struggling folk singer (Oscar Isaac) who never makes it at his chosen craft might not appeal to those with drama fatigue – but it should. Especially because, in true Coen fashion, Inside Llewyn Davis is very, very funny. Sure, most of the film’s biggest chuckles come care of the crushing inevitability of life, terrible chance encounters, and drug abuse (this film really is funny, we swear), but that’s what makes it relatable. It’s what makes it ring true (and sing true). Yet, there’s nothing as funny, catchy, and plucky in the film than a little ditty called “Please Mr. Kennedy.”

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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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llewyndavis

The Coen brothers make the sorts of movies that are dense enough and interesting enough that there’s not going to be much you can say about them before you actually sit down and watch them. Are they going to be worth checking out? Of course. Are they going to be full of great performances? Undoubtedly. Is there any way to predict what they’re actually going to be about or what you’re going to end up getting out of watching them? Not a chance. So, more than being a traditional piece of marketing material, this new red band trailer for their next film, Inside Llewyn Davis, is just a little appetizer for you to take in and enjoy—something to lift your spirits after a long day.

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Oscar Statue

You know how sometimes your favorite series will do a clip show, or how a popular radio broadcast might replay old segments that tie-in thematically in order to take a vacation? Well, I’m using the occasion of the Academy Awards to do pretty much the same thing. It’s sort of obvious that several of the directors featured in this column are also Oscar winners. It’s a veritable Hall of Fame. Doing an Oscar-themed entry is a little bizarre because several weeks feature a gold-owning alum anyway (so this isn’t a complete list of the Best Directors featured on 6 Filmmaking Tips), but it’s still worth packaging their advice as a kind of collective knowledge set held by people who have statues on their mantel. Which means, depressingly, an excerpt from our most popular entry won’t be featured here. Not to mention others like Kubrick, Cronenberg or PTA. Fortunately, there are some truly immense talents who have hoisted Oscar on high even if some towering talents never had that particular honor. So here are some filmmaking tips (for fans and filmmakers alike) from an incredibly elite club of Best Director winners.

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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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Christopher Nolan at Sundance

The Sundance Film Festival is one of the largest independent fests in the country, but it probably has the best reputation for launching filmmaking careers and being the only thing in January that will be remembered around Oscar time 13 months later. It’s debatable just how “indie” it is — especially with studio shingles routinely picking up audience favorites for distribution — but it’s difficult to deny the raw directorial power that’s moved through Park City over the years. Names like Christopher Nolan, Kevin Smith, The Coen Brothers and Steven Soderbergh can count themselves amongst the Sundance ranks, but there are many, many more. In that (independent) spirit, here’s a double-size list of tips (for fans and filmmakers alike) from 12 directors who made a name at Sundance.

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Roger Deakins, Skyfall

Skyfall returns to the Connery days of the James Bond franchise, where nearly every frame would drip with coolness. Martin Campbell’s Casino Royale was a step in the right direction, but it wasn’t until director Sam Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins showed up that the series began to feel at its most alive, cinematic, and stylish. This world of Bond is lavish and bold, and to a degree we have never seen from this series before. Deakins achieved all that slickness with his new favorite storytelling tool, the ARRI ALEXA. Deakins used the camera on his previous film, In Time. After two outings with the ALEXA, Deakins fails to see any shortcoming with the camera. As the man said a few years ago, don’t expect him to return film, unless the Coen Brothers come calling. If you call that sacrilegious, as Deakins tells us, he doesn’t really get what your problem is. Here is what Skyfall cinematographer Roger Deakins had to say about working with Sam Mendes, the film’s stunning Shanghai fight sequence, and how anything rarely comes easy for him:

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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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Last month we celebrated Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon with a dedicated crew, and this month we’re teaming with Mondo and Constellation to present a special 4/20 online screening of the Coen Brothers‘ The Big Lebowski. If you’re not on board, clearly you’re not a golfer. Please join us on April 20th at 10pm EST/7pm PST and bring your White Russian because we’ll have drinking games, trivia, viewer polls, an interactive chat and the chance to win a $45 Mondo Tees gift card. Get your ticket here while they last. I’ll be hosting, and if you’re lucky, you might just get to see my interpretive dance.

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When we’re introduced to Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford‘s white-collar characters in the opening scene of The Cabin in the Woods, it becomes wildly apparent Drew Goddard‘s film is not your typical horror picture. They’re tasked with delivering an exceptional amount of exposition, which Goddard and Joss Whedon let them deliver with a pure sense of glee. Unlike Jenkins’s previous horror film performance, The Father in Let Me In, this is a character who is about as Average Joe as they come, and he just happens to have a not-so-Average-Joe occupation. Here’s what Jenkins had to say about comedic exposition, the brilliance of unexpected filmmaking, and why his character Ted in Burn After Reading deserved getting axed to death:

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Recently, director Jason Reitman has been doing a special series of script readings at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Basically what he does is he takes the script for a beloved film, recasts the whole thing with new actors, and does a stage reading in front of a live audience. Rights issues being what they are, something like this can’t be recorded, so getting to experience one of these events is a très exclusive honor. Reitman has already given this treatment to five universally loved movies (The Breakfast Club, The Apartment, Shampoo, Reservoir Dogs, and The Princess Bride), and tonight he’s set to cap off his series with a reading of everyone’s favorite film, The Big Lebowski. Who does he have on tap to bring legendary characters like The Dude and Jackie Treehorn to life on stage? Inside Movies has the scoop, and some of his decisions sound like they’re ripe with fun-time possibilities. For the part of The Dude (or El Duderino, if you’re not into that whole brevity thing) Reitman has chosen Seth Rogen, the man with the best stoner laugh in Hollywood. His best friend and security expert, Walter Sobchak, will be played by The Office star Rainn Wilson, a man not unfamiliar with bluster. As the other Jeffrey Lebowski, the millionaire (and a fucking goldbricker if I’ve ever seen one), is Jason Alexander, a man used to spinning unbelievable yarns. And for Lebowski’s red-headed and inappropriately sexual daughter Maude, they’ve tapped Mad Men star […]

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Every bit of movie news has to be taken with a fistful of salt. With so many moving parts, even the biggest players in the game sometimes see their work fall into the tall grass of development hell. That’s the bad news. The good news is that all of those times you shake your fist at a new project (be it remake or reboot) are warranted, but they don’t always get made. Sometimes, the stuff we’re dreading goes down in flames too. So it’s with that bittersweet spirit that we look back on a few announced projects that still haven’t been made. And might never be.

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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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