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E.C. Henry

Billy, your post has me salivating at the mouth to see "A Serious Man."

A movie that possibly explains the mind-set of the duo who looked BORED when they were recieving Oscars for a film they did? I'm hooked. I wanna know what makes these "too cool for school" cats tick?

In his book "Writing for Emotional Impact" Karl Iglesias sites some insights as to make a character more "fascinating" on page 63-64: uniqueness, paradoxes, flaws and problems. Though what Karl is writing about is tips for creating great characters in a pre-pro's spec writting, I can't help but think of the Coen brothers when those adjectives are vollied about.

LOVE the points you make about the Coen brothers in this post, Billy. Would LOVE to get them to produce one of the specs I've written, namely "Indians of the Ancient Plains." Boyz, you rose to the challenge with "No Country for Old Men," think you could do it again with something the same only totally different?

Dreams... You see what your posts do to me, Billy!?!

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA


So, if I liked Lebowski, I might like this? I'll give it a look.

Also, it's "Reform" Judaism, not "Reformed." It's the Jewish version (kinda) of the Protestant Reformation (as I'm sure you know). We, personally, are unreformed (probably).

In their favor it is definitely hard to make a dark, cynical movie. The problem I think is two fold - the characters have to actually think that way and; they're just not a lot of fun.

I mean truthfully audiences don't care about your opinion only being entertained. Admittedly, that's not the type of movie I go in for but their cinema is usually riveting. And according to IMDB, they have a running $31000 per theater which compared to Couples Retreat is a blowout.

It's a shame that so many high average pics are being released so small, as if they have to prove it's not a fluke. Maybe it's the fanaticism of "hey we release it large enough even a $6000 per theater will make money."

It keeps competent cinema out of reach which may be why the viewership is still down from its peak in 2004.
It's all the same, same, same. And of all of the "toy games" coming, I could only think of one good plot line and that was surprisingly ViewMaster. I'm sure there are good writers working on them but come on. I don't see determining two years of slate as a great idea. Even superhero movies have fizzled.

Well, that may have nothing to do with the Coens...

Dave Morris

I've been losing patience with the Coen's contempt for their characters. In the Barton Fink days they picked characters who needed to learn, but lately that seems to have turned to pure mean-spiritedness. But I'm with you on Big Lebowski, and based on your comments here I'm willing to give Serious Man a try.


What's a reformed Jew? Someone born within that ethnicity/religion, but decides he's no longer a member or doesn't practise the faith?

Ralph Dobbins

I don't mean to be a prick, but does your web browser not work?


Hey Ralph, put the gun down. This site discourages hostility. Life is too short.

Jammin Girl, as has been pointed out, the proper term is Reform, and it refers to a kind of subset within the religion, a more moderate-modern, less textbook & formal ritual-focused group - as opposed to the Orthodox, a very strict religion-observant group who can be near Fundamentalist in their extreme stances re: mores and custom. See Jamy (above) for the real skinny.

Dave I think you'll like it.

Christian: What?

EC, keep dreaming.

And Jamy, thank you for telling it like it is.

I know I kind of rambled there but the gist of it was, I agree with you and think that it isn't always necessary to be "mainstream" to get an audience.


And in case anyone is still around and didn't click that (not very helpful) link, here's another one:

Seems like Reform is older than I thought. My understanding was that it came from Germany and began there sometime in the 18th Century. It was certainly the German version of Reform that came to the US and was eventually adopted by many later Jewish immigrants from further East (like my family).

Still haven't seen the movie...maybe tonight!



Great blog! I really like what you wrote about the Coen Brothers. They are two of my favorite filmmakers.

I have a little comedy blog of my own @ I would appreciate it if you would take a look at it and let me know what you think.

Thanks again, I really like your writing style - very distinctive.



Ralph, you DO mean to be a prick. Yes, my browser works fine. I had never heard the term, read Billy's blog and it jumped out at me so I made an immediate comment. Simple.

Anyways, thanks for the explanation Billy, makes alot of sence now...


I have a similar love/hate relationship with the Coens. Lebowski was as important to my college years as Monty Python was for high school (a dork? why yes, yes I am). I appreciate that they always seem to be working and try and diverse array of films. I couldn't finish Burn After Reading and I'm the type of person that can idly watch a Syfy original movie in all their awfulness. But they don't stop. After No Country and the awards you'd think they'd be satisfied but they seem to walk to their own drummer which is something to respect out in Movieland these days. Thanks for the review - might be checking this one out.

And please do give us a nice throttling of Couples Retreat sometime ;-)


Tony Conniff

What's with the Love/Hate?

The Coen Bros. are a two-man (plus Roger Deakins) modern Golden Age Of Cinema all on their own.
We're lucky to be around while they're making movies, like we were lucky to see Jordan play basketball or hear The Beatles' songs. I believe gratitude is the proper response - not mindless or uncritical, but gratitude nonetheless.

Have any other filmmakers in history made as many good-to-great movies in a 25 year stretch? And still going strong? A few, but not many. And they're getting better.

It's time we woke up to what's going on right before our eyes:
Blood Simple
Raising Arizona
O Brother
No Country
A Serious Man

They've made 14 movies in 25 years, at least half of them great, imho. Plus a number of 'minor' works with many enjoyable and notable features.

I don't think there's a 'curtain of dispassion', as you put it. I think it's a lack of sentimentality - sentimentality being a quality we are so used to that without it we feel like there's something wrong with the creators. Yet the 'cold eye' of the Coens is something they share with many of the greatest artists; I would argue that it's one of the marks of a great artist and one of their great assets.

And remember that the CBs are, I believe, at heart comic artists, lovers of exaggeration and absurdity, seen through a strong tragic sensibility - one that's deepening, presumably with age. Yes, they portray men and women in dramatic circumstances acting foolishly. And they don't cut the brew with lovable sentimentality. That's a strength, not a weakness.

And Bill, with all due respect, you need to watch No Country (or any of the titles above, really) again.


Hey Tone,
You can put the gun down - I AM a Coen brothers fan, for the most part (and I guess the post didn't indicate that as clearly as it could've)- I totally get your point of view on their art. I love their cinematic storytelling craft, which is about as good as it gets in American filmmaking. But we'll just have to agree to disagree on this "sentimentality" issue; I still believe that many of their movies, albeit unsentimental, are so cerebrally removed from their often grotesque characters that one does get the feeling that they're laughing at, as opposed to laughing with, their protagonists. And after two viewings, I'm resolutely anti-NO COUNTRY - apologies, but it's just a matter of taste. On the other hand, LEBOWSKI (and many of the other titles you cite) are movies I'll never tire of - and SERIOUS MAN is up there, I think, in their top echelon.

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