No Country’ brings long overdue acclaim to Coens

By Greg Toumassian

Dark humor comedy duo the Coen brothers may finally be gaining
mainstream acceptance.

With “No Country for Old Men,” the “two-headed director,” as
they have come to be known, took the 2005 novel of the same name by
Cormac McCarthy and ran it through their twisted filters of
creativity, criminality and an obsession with the macabre.

The story revolves around a drug deal gone bad in 1980 Texas. A
game of cat and mouse unfolds on-screen in traditional Coen
brothers style. Irony and the ideas of free will and chance are
faithfully represented in a very close – at times word-for-word –
adaptation of McCarthy’s original story.

“No Country for Old Men” has received high praise. It has topped
more than 300 critics’ top-10 lists across the country. Thus far,
it has received two Golden Globes – one for best screenplay – and
eight Academy Awards nominations.

One of Hollywood’s most famous critics, Roger Ebert, said it is
the best movie the Coen brothers have made, with near-flawless
scenes and storytelling.

With such high regard for the film from Hollywood’s biggest
names, it seems as though the independent brotherly duo has made it
big.

The Coens haven’t always been in the spotlight, however.

Ethan and Joel Coen have been working on movies since they were
children. In the early 1980s, Joel Coen developed a talent for
editing and worked with Sam Raimi on 1981’s “Evil Dead.”

Gaining creditable experience, the Coens collaborated on writing
and editing the stylish thriller, Blood Simple.” The film would
become critically acclaimed and catapult the Coens to the forefront
of the independent film scene for years to come.

Taking their influences from dark noir’s of the past, the Coens
remain consistent with their trademark style.

Their filming techniques involve use of racking shots, Stedicams
and the “Raimi Cam,” which frantically zooms into the faces of
characters for exaggerated reactions.

With the editing skills they have attained over the years, the
Coens are able to use color in a distinct fashion to define the
mood of their films.

In “O’ Brother, Where Art Thou,” the Coens set a new standard by
correcting the color of the entire movie with digital editing
techniques, a first at the time.

Set in the “Dustbowl” atmosphere of the Depression, the film was
toned down to add a feeling that better accentuated the time
frame.

Regarded as thoughtful filmmakers, the Coens would gain a
reputation for dry wit and exaggeration.

One of their most notoriously over-the-top movies, “Raising
Arizona,” set a standard for the Coens’ humor.

Staring Nicholas Cage, the plot line addresses the macabre acts
of baby snatching, ultra-violence and the bleakness of desolate
existence in a surprisingly tasteful and hilarious fashion.

The duo places great emphasis on location and character
development. Often over the top and exaggerated, the brothers take
their influences from noir films of the past and incorporate
elements commonly found in the classics into their movies.

Whether set in Arizona, North Dakota, Minnesota or Texas, the
Coens’ stories remain true to their respective locales, often
accentuating the common traits and stereotypes associated with
certain areas.

Their stylistic techniques are beloved by their many fans.Ana
Garcia, a second-year sociology student, said she loves the way the
directors twist reality.

“I really enjoy their sense of humor and bleakness. ‘The Lady
Killers’ made light of death … they have a certain way of having
fun with the unaccepted,” said Garcia

The Coens have gained a devout following throughout the years,
even when box office numbers were down. Their ironic and humorously
dark films are enjoyed by independent movie fans in true cult
fashion.

“The Big Lebowski,” the Coens’ tale of a bowling pothead caught
up in a kidnapping affair, has an annual event where fans hit the
lanes and celebrate the film.

Such devotion to the Coens is not out of the ordinary,
especially with so many critically acclaimed – albeit underground –
hits.

While they are no strangers to awards and recognition – their
black comedy “Fargo” took the Oscar for screenwriting – the duo’s
success has been relatively modest considering their acclaim.

With “No Country for Old Men,” the Coens have gained critical
acceptance and awards for their talent and creativity. They work
together closely to create a world filled with memorable characters
and a solid story line.

Their reappearance under the spotlight with the release of their
latest hit is a testament to their greatness in the eyes of
fans.

Cynthia Prieto Diaz, a third-year biotechnology student, said
justice has been done.

“You don’t have to be big names to make great movies,” said
Diaz. “I’m glad that they finally get credit for their talent.”

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