The scheme is simple - if the film has the distinct Coen Brothers vibe - offbeat, quirky, funny and smart - I rate it with a color. Green is the best, orange is okay, red is sketchy. The ones in black, I haven't seen. These are my estimations about how good the films are; even a bad Coen brothers flick will be interesting however, and I'm no Roger freaking Ebert, so it may be worth watching one that I give a red rating to. Check 'em out.
Hail Caesar (2009) (pre-production)
No Country for Old Men (2007)
The Ladykillers (2004)
Bad Santa (2003)
Intolerable Cruelty (2003)
The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
The Big Lebowski (1998)
The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)
Barton Fink (1991)
Miller's Crossing (1990)
Blood Simple (1984)
I'll note that Blood Simple isn't really quirky or funny in the usual Coen Brothers way, nor is Intolerable Cruelty. I'll also note that Bad Santa is filthy, but hilarious. I haven't seen the first three on the list.
One other thing - if you like the Coen Brothers, you may also like Spike Jonze. A music video producer by profession, he produced Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, and the puerile but witty and hilarious (right up my alley…) Jackass 1 & 2 and Jackass the MTV series (not quite as good as the movie). Among his more noteworthy music videos are Beastie Boys “Sabotage” (loved the Starsky & Hutch vibe); REM Parallel (“Crush”); and Weezer's “Buddy Holly”. "Where the Wild Things Are,” is in post-production. I sincerely hope it is an adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s excellent children’s book, and not a teen-sploitation flick with lots of nekkid Neve Campbell. Though I’d settle for lots of nekkid Neve Campbell, I’m hoping for a smart and engaging kid’s movie I can watch with my son, who loves the book.
Please indulge me one other off-topic comment. I don't know whether you watched the Patriots/Giants game last night, but it was one for the ages. The heavily favored Patriots (14 point spread) were going for a perfect regular season record, 16-0. They could rest their starters - the tactically smart move - because win or lose, they have a bye the first week of the playoffs, and home field advantage throughout. The underdog Giants have already secured a wildcard playoff berth, and they know who they will play next week in the wildcard round. Winning simply didn't matter much. Neither team had any logical reason to play starters for more than a few plays, just to see if they could get a rhythm.
Yet both teams played their starters, their best players, for the entire game, rest weeks and possible injuries be damned. The Giants came out running and throwing hard, like an enraged heavyweight boxer. The Patriots, knocked on their heels at first, eventually matched them blow-for-blow, and had a huge comeback in the third and fourth quarters. The Giants, down 10 with four minutes left, scored a touchdown and tried for the onside kick, hoping for a quick score in the last minute. The game was in doubt until 57 seconds remained on the clock.
What was impressive was that neither team had anything to play for last night, except for pride, and the sheer joy of competition. Nothing at all was at stake except their pride. Had the Giants rested Manning, Burris, Short and Strahan, nobody would have complained. But they didn't. Had the Patriots done the smart thing and rested, win or lose, everybody would have said, "Bellicheck, coaching genius... not a popular decision to lose #16, but he *always* makes the smart move."
This wasn't the smart move, but it was the brave move.
The result was a game I'll remember for years and years, partly because of the significance of a perfect regular season, but mainly because it showed what The League is about. There's a reason that the NFL is top dog in American sports, and it's because almost all the time, the game and the teams embody the best parts of our culture - competitive, enterprising, hard working, courageous to a fault, and most of all, proud. There are times when The League and its players fall short - they suffer from the same doping scandals, the same off-the-pitch DWI's and domestic abuse problems every other sport suffers from. They have the same group of fixers, sharps, and gaming men surrounding them that all other sports have, and that indeed crop up in everyday life. But when you get down to it, when you let the boys play, and you get some of the good ones on the same field at the same time, The League is capable of handing you a masterpiece resembling the epic battles on the Stelvio and Alpe d'Huez, triple overtime at the old Forum in Montreal, extra innings between the Yanks and Sox, or Magic-Bird. The difference with The League is that all but the very worst teams deliver up a couple masterpieces each year, and the best teams, upon meeting each other, deliver up a nice work of art, if not a masterpiece two out of every three times; and two or three times per year you can count on seeing a game you will remember 20 years from now. I still look back on a regular season Sunday Night Football game between Miami and Denver, perhaps it was in 2002 when both teams were playing well, that was an absolute gladiatorial tilt. It was the hardest, most physical football game I can recall watching since Stabler's Raiders took on Bradshaw's Steelers.
The League simply brings out the best in its players and teams more often than almost any other sport, and even if you aren't a big fan you should appreciate it; true excellence is a rare thing in a world increasingly willing to settle for mass-marketed-very-good. Very good is nice; but a virtuouso performance is always both far better qualitatively, the leap from good to excellent being the hardest improvement to achieve.
So here's to The League. Long may it prosper, and long may it remind us Why We Compete.