It’s been about an hour since the release of the Hail, Caeser! trailer – the new comedy by Ethan and Joel Coen – and every social media channel I frequent is already full of photos and .gifs of dancing Channing Tatum. That’s probably the way that it should be. For your viewing pleasure:
It might be time to admit that the two brothers spoiled us. From 1990 to 2010, we were treated to just about one film by the Coen brothers film every other year. Since then, their production has slowed down a little bit. With True Grit in 2010 and Inside Llewyn Davis in 2013, we seem to be settling into an (admittedly more manageable) production cycle, meaning we should learn to treat films by Ethan and Joel Coen like the gifts they are. To be anticipated, savored upon consumption, and then purchased on the highest-quality Blu-ray we can find.
And with all due respect to Mae West, when the Coen brothers are good, they’re very good, but when they’re “bad” – eschewing character-driven drama in favor of slapstick and broad comedy – they just might be better. Their successes in Hollywood and the relationships that they’ve cultivated give them access to actors that might not otherwise be interested in doing a comedy. We know from past experience that Clooney, Swinton, Brolin, et al have an excellent sense of comedic timing, but to get them all in a comedy about the “Golden” era of Hollywood? Hail, Coens.
It’s also another prestige film – comedy or no – to toss into the increasingly busy month of February 2016. Hail, Caeser! joins John Hillcoat’s Triple 9, Robert Eggers’s The Witch, and the oft-delayed release of Jane Got a Gun as films of interest being released; if you expand the criteria to include off-peak blockbuster movies, you can even throw in the Marvel After Dark Deadpool production. The pedigree of these films suggests that February won’t always be a month where good movies go to die; the distribution machine needs to be feed every week of the year, and some distributors know that a weak playing field can be just as good or not better than a prestige release date. Either way, we’re going to go ahead and block off a couple of weekends in February right now, just to be sure.