Archives for posts with tag: coen brothers

It’s probably true that if this weren’t a Coen Brothers movie, its quality would have rated a 4/5, but they’ve raised expectations, so….

50s Hollywood! There are communists, and studios rule everything, and people have hilarious accents! Tilda Swinton plays two people, but they’re twin sisters! Fortunately they both have great hats.

During the movie it seemed strange how many disparate strands there were, until I remembered how Burn After Reading went. That said, the disparate strands in Hail, Caesar! did not resolve as well as those in Burn After Reading, even though it was literally Josh Brolin’s role (as Eddie Mannix) to bring them together. This is because he is the person who puts out fires at his studio, so he has to deal with all the nonsense his stars (and others) pull: Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) is making the shift, Horst Buchholz-style, from westerns to…not-westerns, and his director, Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes) is cranky about it; DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) is pregnant but unmarried, which is a problem; Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) is the star of the big sword-and-sandal flick about Jesus, and gets kidnapped by communists; he needs to consult with various spiritual leaders about the film; his son wants to play a different position on his baseball team. Oh, and he’s trying to quit smoking.

Channing Tatum also dances.

There are good moments, but the movie as a whole is disappointing. The film within a film is a hilarious send-up of Ben Hur and the like. The conversation Mannix has with three priests and a rabbi about how to put Jesus onscreen is incredibly funny. Laurentz teaching Hobie how to speak like a human being is drawn out the perfect amount, so that it stops being slightly irritating and starts being howlingly uproarious. The surfacing of a Soviet submarine is a bizarre but wonderful mix of The Hunt for Red October and Wes Anderson. But you can see how that might seem jumbled.

On a different note, it’s slightly odd to watch a movie that involves Hollywood and communists and doesn’t try to be a searing indictment of something but instead has David Krumholtz as an amusing drunk yelling pinko. Further, the various demands of the studio seem totally reasonable, since everyone who works there is an utter baby, and Mannix is put-upon and well-meaning. And, sure, it’s ironically exaggerated, but it seems just so much cutesier than most other Coen Brothers stuff.

Stray observations:

  • Scarlett Johansson is actually bad in her part as a pregnant screen siren; her accent obviously takes an immense amount of effort.
  • Channing Tatum can really hoof, man.

Directors: Joel & Ethan Coen
Rating: PG-13
Length: 106 minutes
Score: 3/5

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This movie is basically Love Actually but sadder and more French. I had an actual post but managed to hit the backspace in the wrong field and so that’s all you get for now. Maybe I’ll update later.

Edited: Right, okay, I’m now less annoyed, and fortunately I remembered not to close the TextEdit window with my notes in it.

The framework of this movie: each of twenty directors gets five minutes and Paris. You get roughly what you’d expect out of these; in the Coen Brothers’ contribution, Steve Buscemi gets beat up in a métro station. There’s only the most half-hearted attempt to relate the stories to one another, and I think maybe I wish they’d not bothered. Anyway, I’ve seen more irritating love letters to Paris, and at least this one puts it out there with its title.

Since the movie is a bit fragmented, I’ll move straight to the stray observations. I won’t treat each vignette, because some of them are just too predictable and unmemorable (Gus Van Sant, I’m looking at you).

  • Unlike Love Actually, this film has people who are actually poor or desperately unlucky, not just amusingly bohemian Kris Marshall. Unsurprisingly, this is sad. In fact, one of my notes just says: “sad immigrant from Lagos oh my god so sad.”
  • A horrible French child with a pea-shooter annoys Steve Buscemi as well. The horrible French child is the best part of that sketch.
  • Juliet Binoche sure has a face for tragedy.
  • Rufus Sewell and Emily Mortimer visit Oscar Wilde’s grave in Père Lachaise. She accuses him of being humorless, although this is not true (his offering for that brilliant man’s last words–“Bury me under something ugly”–made me laugh out loud), because what she wants from a man is that he is so hilarious that he quotes Wilde all the time. I submit, honey, that you might be doing it wrong, romance-wise.
  • I hate mimes. And I know everyone hates mimes, but there’s a reason for that.
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character is appearing in a period drama. I’d laugh, but I saw Hysteria, so it just isn’t funny.
  • When you hear English in a French film, it sounds slow and stilted. Native English speakers sound as though they have some sort of aphasia. It’s not quite as painful as a sudden American in a British movie.
  • I did not expect Olga Kurylenko to be my first doubled actor.

Director: Everybody ever; or: Olivier Assayas, Frédéric Auburtin & Gérard Depardieu, Emmanuel Benbihy, Gurinder Chadha, Sylvain Chomet, Joel & Ethan Coen, Isabel Coixet, Wes Craven, Alfonso Cuarón, Christopher Doyle, Richard LaGravenese, Vincenzo Natali, Alexander Payne, Bruno Podalydès, Walter Salles & Daniela Thomas, Oliver Schmitz, Nobuhiro Suwa, Tom Tykwer, Gus Van Sant
Length: 120 min.
Rating: R, for not a lot of reason except maybe the swearing in the Coen Brothers bit
Score: 2/5? I found exactly one vignette touching (“Place des Fêtes”), a few pretty, and the Gurinder Chadha one (“Quais de Seine”) cute if fairy-tale. I’m not mad at it.

I was struggling with the genre on this one, but I figured “Coen Brothers” fit the bill. Two points to start:

1. I missed when Justin Timberlake became a proper actor, and I’ve seen nothing else he’s done, so that threw me.

2. I desperately hate movies about people who, for whatever reason, feel entitled not to be fully paid-up members of the human race.

So. The music is amazing, and early 60s New York is lovingly (too lovingly, perhaps) sketched out for us. And that’s…about as far as this movie got me. This is a movie about crappy people, who are crappy to each other, and to whom crappy things happen. Fair enough, I guess.

But also: almost nothing does happen. You start out being sorry that you have to watch Oscar Isaac get hit in the face, because you figure it’s unlikely that he really needed to be hit in the face, and at the end you maybe still think that he didn’t need to be hit in the face, but you don’t really care one way or the other. I’m not asking for grand personal growth on the part of the protagonist, or his friends, or his damn cat, but something would be nice. I know with Mausam I was complaining that it went off the rails, but with this I was honestly waiting–hoping, even–that someone would shoot Brad Pitt in the head. He wasn’t even in the movie.

….yeah.

Stray points:

I could not understand a word Garrett Hedlund said. I can’t tell if this is an improvement on either Troy or Tron.

Conversely, Carey Mulligan’s accent was well-enunciated but terrible, as were her bangs. At least she didn’t smirk.

John Goodman observing that everyone knows that you jump off the Brooklyn Bridge, not the George Washington, was painfully hilarious.

There is something about Adam Driver that really, really puts me off. I think it’s his face.

Directors: Joel & Ethan Coen
Stars: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, Justin Timberlake
Rating: R, for a really impressive number of four-letter words
Length: 104 min.
Score: 3/5. You can’t ignore how carefully it was made, or how good the music is. But oof.