Thursday, July 23, 2009

Films of the 00s: O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Well, some things never change, and I guess the conversation-killing power of Up at the Villa is one of those things. I didn't pick this as my next post on purpose to attract more comments, but I suspect you all will have more to say. O brothers and sisters and everyone in between, what think thou?:

"The Coens are not always as smart as they pretend to be, even when they admit that they are pretending, and even when they use their own dramatis personae to set an ostentatiously low bar for their own comparative wit and urbanity. Normally, I'd be only too happy to snuggle up to a movie with lines of dialogue like 'She's at the 5 & Dime, buying nickels' or, with great consternation, 'These boys desecrated a fiery cross!' But the Coens are like party acquaintances who keep changing the subject and then staring at you quizzically when you can't follow the thread, or when you stop wanting to follow it, but who then block all your exit routes from their obnoxious conversation. They make it damned hard to pan one of their technically prepossessing, unimpeachably distinctive films without collapsing into standby allegations about their coldness and their cruelty." (keep reading...)

I've done more '00 viewing in the mornings before work than I'm letting on in the sidebar. Possible future topics of conversation: hijacked buses, split screens, Iranian smugglers, Staten Island, Pikey boxers, African feminism, dead whales at midnight, gays of the past, and gays out West. What sounds good?

Earlier in this series: Up at the Villa, Bamboozled (with Tim), Mission to Mars, The Beach (with Tim), Dôlè, La Captive, American Psycho, and Wonder Boys

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7 Comments:

Blogger Guy said...

Admittedly, I haven't visited these last few days, but I'm not sure if I'd have found something useful to say about "Up at the Villa" even if I had, given that I remember it as one of those wallpaper films whose pleasantly lulling politeness extended to its usually spiky stars. (Both of whom I adore.) Once more, your writing compels me to give it another look.

I have no such desire regarding "O Brother," however, because your revised review precisely pinpoints everything that I found agonising about the film in the first place. I do remember thinking at the time that the one thing in its favor was that it sealed Clooney's movie-star chops -- if only because his goofiness seems to come from a sincere (if befuddled) place, rather than the smugly programmed zaniness of its makers.

The film pretty much caused a seven-year trial separation between me and the Coens until we patched up our differences over "No Country."

(Even the soundtrack has faded over time for me, though that could be due to a long road trip during which we somehow lost all our other CDs and had no radio signal. On the plus side, I can recite the lyrics to "Big Rock Candy Mountain" at the drop of a hat. I forget why that's a plus.)

5:07 AM, July 23, 2009  
Blogger Catherine said...

"Split screens" is Time Code, am I correct? I hope so! I remember loving that film, but its been ages so I'd be glad to revisit it with you.

7:39 AM, July 23, 2009  
Blogger Encore Entertainment said...

I can't be fair to this film because I despise George Clooney. I CANNOT stand this man with all my soul. Ironically though, the one thing I enjoyed him in was another Coen pience Burn after Reading.

11:48 AM, July 23, 2009  
Blogger Cal said...

I remember being totally bewildered by this film. Saw it a few years ago so my memory is sketchy ( co-incidentally, so is the film :-P ) but generally couldn't get into it. The plot wasn't really interesting or expansive enough and the whole thing was unfunny. Reminded me a lot of a stage production too.

2:56 PM, July 23, 2009  
Blogger Glenn said...

I'm with Catherine, if "split screens" means TimeCode then I will be very happy indeed.

I don't really have much to say about O Brother.

10:36 PM, July 25, 2009  
Blogger tim r said...

Adam Mars-Jones put it well in a review once: "The Coen Brothers are very knowing and everything, but what exactly do they know?"

A tough question to answer. It always surprises people when I lay into O Brother, as if there was nothing in such a dawdling, layabout exercise that was worth getting fussed about. I love this piece because you've captured what's so thoughtless and gross about it, as well as meandering. Maybe it's not their very worst film, stacked up next to the almost eerily pointless Ladykillers, but it's certainly the one that gets the easiest ride of all their work, right?

Makes me happier to see Timecode fans queuing up...

12:56 PM, July 27, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a pretentious bit of self congratulation you are...

11:16 AM, July 16, 2012  

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