Top Coen brothers movies, Drive-Away Dolls | Reel-Time Review

Welcome to real time review. I’m your host, Jesse Nan, with me again, fellow Atlanta film critic, Jason Evans. Good to be here. Jason. I’m very excited about uh this week’s episode, this week, very special episode because we get to talk about the Coen Brothers. Um Yeah, um which means a lot to me because I’m someone who grew up like an avid fan of them. But what’s your relationship with the, with Joel and Ethan Coen? Oh man, I, I, you know, II I mentioned to you before we came on that I wanted to make a point

about Joel and Ethan Coen. I think about the number of careers that they have launched. I mean, it is not a stretch to say John Goodman, Holly Hunter, John Turturro, uh Oscar Isaac, I mean, Haley Steinfeld, I could go on and on with the important Francis mcdormand. You know what I mean? Like, I can’t even think of all of them, but for a long stretch of time, if you were in a Coen Brothers film as an actor, you knew that you were going to get a, a director, directors, I guess who would pull a great

performance out of you and it would really change your career. These are people who went on to be huge, huge stars. I don’t know that any of them have

the same career trajectory without Fargo and raising Arizona and on and on and on. And even then you got people like John Turturro and John Goodman and uh you know, Jeff Bridges that like some of their most iconic work is no question of working with these guys. Uh Jeff Bridges, especially like the, the renaissance that his career had over the past like two decades is almost exclusively

Coen Brothers. And he just became that guy. He just became, he went from like heart throb a actor to basically just becoming the dude in real life. Um I really love the Coen Brothers. I feel like growing up as like a young cinephile, they were like one of those filmmakers or in this case, filmmaking duo that like was very attractive for like my friends. And I, because they not only made these like contemporary, very entertaining movies, but they kind of had like 1 ft in Old Hollywood and kind of reaching back into like, you know,

uh screwball comedies and Noirs from like the forties and old westerns and just kind of a way to kind of discover a whole bunch of other different movies as well as because the Coen Brothers are um in interviews, very vague and are often times, very confrontational kind of dismissive about the idea of people reading anything into their movies. They probably think what we’re doing right now is incredibly, they made a waste of our time. Um that makes their movies, like, very open to different interpretations. And you can go on so many different rabbit holes with

all of them. And I can’t think of too many filmmakers in which, like, you know, you could go through almost every single one of their movies and like, you could write basically like an entire like thesis essay, like breaking down all the different, like literary references and references to old Hollywood movies and kind of what the structure of them has to say. But um we’re talking about them this week because Ethan Coen actually has a new movie. Now, can I ask, can we wait a second because we’re doing our Coen brothers thing. Now, let’s do

that before we hit. Let’s but, but don’t, you don’t want to end on a high note, maybe you’re right, let’s end on you. So Joel and Ethan Coen have kind of briefly split up in the last few years and have done these separate projects with their wives, Joel Coen did the adaptation of Macbeth with Francis mcdormand and Denzel Washington. Darker, more serious. Like, if you’ve ever wondered what are the coen individual, you know, what are their individual personalities, the film projects they’ve picked since they split apart starts to tell us something, right? Like maybe indicates

Joel is the one that’s like I’m reading old, like Raymond Chandler crime novels and like Ethan Coen’s the funny one. because his project that he did with his wife, um is this movie Driveway Dolls that’s coming out this week, um, about two young lesbian women who go on a road trip and uh they encounter a suitcase of mysterious things that we are not gonna spoil what’s in that suitcase won’t spoil for multiple reasons. Um But it’s essentially this kind of wild, crazy road trip, sex comedy. And I, I’m curious, what did, what did you think

about, about this movie? Because I, I kind of gauging everyone else when we walked out. Like there is, there are some very pointed takes, I think of people walking out of it. I, I really wanted to like it and it has a number of moments and I think one of the things the Cohens do so great is they, I think they draw out interesting performances. They put you in the head of the characters really, really? Well, it’s one of the, uh to me that might be the greatest thing that they do as directors is that

you feel like you’re inhabiting, um uh you know, at least the, the headspace of the, of the characters on screen. And this film has a lot of that and I like that that said, uh like the plot is ridiculous and there are a number of like quirky things that they do in the film that I, I say they sorry, it’s just Ethan, Ethan Cohen II I really didn’t enjoy, for example, one of them and I almost feel guilty saying this, the film is aggressively lesbian. I mean, let’s be clear about that. And I, no problem

with uh different types of sexuality depicted on screen. I’m not gonna get into any of that kind of stuff. But in this film, I don’t think there’s a female character who isn’t like, again, a very aggressive lesbian. And it was just a, a little strange, I, I was a little bit like, why are you making this movie? That’s fair. Uh You know, I, I’m not, II I, I’m not gonna necessarily judge whether or not it depicts lesbians in a positive or negative fashion. But the fact that I’m even questioning that is problematic, I think a

little bit, especially because it’s not coming from a director who themselves identifies as a lesbian. And I don’t know, there’s just a lot about it, the, the, the crime caper sort of thing that crops up toward the end. I was just like, this is, this is ridiculous. None of this feels realistic. And yes, the Cohens look, oh, brother, we’re out there is not a realistic film, right? A lot of, you’ve done plenty of these kind of like cartoonish manic comedies. I mean, you know, oh brother, we th raising Arizona, the Big Lebowski, which kind of

like, you know, the characters are just sort of wandering from sort of strange scenario to strange scenario and it’s just sort of like a, a vague road map that just get us to like a bunch of, kind of comedic set. And this film has a lot of that. I just don’t think it executes it nearly as well as those other classics do. I don’t think the scenes come off nearly as funny. Some of them come off as, as frankly kind of mean. And, and I, I don’t feel like Ethan had as much to say you

talked about, you could write a paper about it. No way you could write a paper about this. There just isn’t that much happening in this film from an intellectual standpoint. Yeah, I’m sort of this movie is like a weird quagmire for me because watching it as a Coen Brothers fan, like it both feels of a piece but also like is missing certain aspects that I think make their movies great. Like it has the kind of like rapid fire double talk dialogue that a lot of their movies have. You can see the script as a Coen

Brothers script. It feels as I said, like very linked to kind of like some of their more cartoonish movies like Raising Arizona and it has kind of like the crime caper elements to it like Fargo. Yeah. And the range of comedy, I mean, once we get into some of our favorite movies, what I love is like, the cones will give you like, uh, like highbrow literary reference jokes. But then they’ll also give you, like, you know, juvenile locker room jokes too. And it somehow all works in the same thing. This movie, it maybe feels like

by the speaking of juvenile, there are more dildos in this film that then I think I’ve seen on camera in a long time again. No problem with it. No, that’s just, it’s a choice. But something does kind of feel weirdly often this movie and I think it makes it sort of like an interesting text to analyze as like a Coen Brothers fan. But one that maybe feels like a little disappointing, like leaving it. I, I had a better time at it than you did. There were like some of the moments where I was like, this

feels quintessentially Cohen and like is, is hilariously funny and I enjoyed bits of it, but there is something about kind of the general tone and vibe and even kind of like the craftsmanship of the movie that’s not quite up to their usual standard and something, something that you can’t quite put your finger on. Feels a little off in this movie. I don’t think it’s sort of interesting that this is like trying to be a somewhat political movie about America today that you normally don’t think of the Coen Brothers making movies like that. So it being

interesting that, that is something that Ethan is clearly interested in, that maybe Joel is less interested in. It’s, it’s an interesting movie to talk about, but one that I think kind of walking out was not that successful audiences aren’t gonna be, uh this is not gonna be a big box office kind of hit you you’re talking about, you know, it’s tough to put your finger on the thing that was off. Like one of the things that bothered me was throughout the entire film, one of the main characters puts on a southern accent that sounds like

she’s trying to mimic George Clooney’s character from a brother that Margo quality doing it. And it’s, it’s, it’s just a, it’s, it’s so over the top as an accent that II I said, connecting with the characters is what the Cohen Brothers do so great. I couldn’t connect with her character because every time she spoke I was like, are you, you know, did he, did Ethan tell you listen to George Clooney’s entire performance and mimic that or did you do this on your own? It’s just, it’s weird. It’s strange. So let’s talk about it. Favorite Coen

Brothers films. Uh, much, much better way to spend our time. Uh You and I share two of them Fargo and the Big Lebowski Fargo probably, you know, is, is it the, the entryway movie of like the one you would reference to people? Like, if you’ve never seen a Coen Brothers movie, like Fargo entertaining crime thriller, but also gives you kind of a bit of their sense of humor that can guide you into some of the like weirder comedy. It was such an easy movie to watch because it has those lighter moments. But at the same

time, it is a really engaging and interesting crime thriller as you put it. And that’s one of those films again where I feel like, like you get in the, when William H Macy is at the car dealership and he’s on the phone with the folks from the financing. You know, I’m not gonna get into all the aspects of what’s going on there, but his conversations feel so true, feel so genuine. I am there with him. I understand exactly what he’s trying, he’s trying to pull off, you know, a scam, he’s trying to delay things long

enough so we can get, you know, like, I it’s, it’s so easy, I think from the standpoint of the audience to understand what’s happening and that’s a real gift. That’s not something you get in every film. And I think with the comedy too, like it finds this fun balance of the cohens both Midwest guys kind of making fun of like small town midwest folks, but also like, it doesn’t feel cruel in a sense. I feel like the ending, I feel like the sometimes get this sort of bad reputation for being like cruel to their characters

or hating their characters. But I think Fargo is an example of, like, there’s a great deal of humanity and warmth for their characters just as much as, like, you know, they’re kind of making fun of silly voices or buffoonish behavior. Yeah. The, the accents in that film are, they’re, they’re great and, and you’re right. I mean, I just sat here and I told you about an accent that bothered me throughout the film, Francis MC. None of the accents bother me at all in that movie because you feel like they do love the characters. So for

me, Big Lebowski is my personal favorite. And, um, I think it might be the funniest movie I’ve ever seen. Like it is, it is one of those movies that no matter how many times I go that far, but it is no, no matter how many times I’ve seen it, there is something new that, like I had not picked up on. And I, I think for as much as that movie gets this reputation as this kind of like college film, bro. Like dorm Room poster of, it’s just sort of this shaggy stoner comedy. Like, it’s an

insanely smart movie that just like the level of jokes that they’re able to pack into every single little moment. And, and as I said, like everything from sort of like broad physical kind of like locker room comedy to, you know, jokes about linen and like the Soviet revolution and stuff that like you, you pick up on after seeing it five different levels for every scene. The characters are so weird and quirky. Um And yet we, we love them so much. I mean, just good. John Turturro is barely in the film and, and they, they made

a sequel about just his character because it’s such a, it’s such a compelling character. So two others that are on our list that are different, but I think could be paired together. You had True Grit on your list and I have no country for old men, which I feel like they’re both westerns. Mine’s a classic western. Yours is a modern western, but also I think movies that are them kind of perfectly paired, like a peanut butter chocolate scenario with material that just like that they meet the material on its face, but also can like help

enrich in it and, and can underline what’s great about it with Cormac mccarthy in the case, no country for old men or um you know, Trigger is based off of a great novel and they’re kind of, it’s, it’s, they’re both great examples of, I think like them as filmmakers meeting material that really plays to their strengths. And as you said, are both these two set in completely different time periods, but these kind of like grand sweeping westerns true grit, a bit more um humanist than I would say like no country for old men leaves you

kind of like bleak. Pretty, pretty bad about the state of the world at the end. Um, I want to give you a chance to talk about the other two on, on your list. Uh, Raising Arizona and Miller’s Crossing, which are both two of their kind of earlier films. Yeah. And I don’t know that I need to get into raising Arizona a lot. I think it’s the film that, that really introduce the Coen brothers to, to the, to the entire world to a large extent. It, it introduced us to Holly Hunter. Uh, it’s one of, I

think it’s one of Nick Cage’s best performances of his career, such a funny film. And I think the thing that leaps out at you when you watch that movie is their use, uh, their, their ability to put the camera in unusual places and, and as I was talking about earlier by doing that, taking you into the scene in a way that I think very few directors are able to achieve. And it’s just, it’s such a funny movie. You, you understand where every character is coming from at every moment. It’s a live action looney tunes cartoon.

But there’s also just such a like fun joy part of it, like you mentioning putting the camera in weird places. Like there’s all these fun stories of them like strapping camera, like two by fours and throwing the two by four and stuff and just other crazy stuff they, they weren’t experienced enough to know that’s never gonna work. And so it did work that there’s, there’s a fun in the fun of filmmaking that they’re having with it. Um, I’m very interested to hear you talk about Miller’s Crossing, which I think is kind of their most underrated

movie. Like I feel like this is the one, not too many people have seen, but it’s really good. I, I’ll be honest, one of the reasons I put it on my list was I wanted to remind people that this is out there. It is a quintessential gangster movie and it features just a couple of great Gabriel Byrne is Fabulous and John Turturro who feels like he is in almost every Coen Brothers movie is in it. It, it, it’s just one of these films that it takes a couple of different twists and turns, the characters are

faced with real moral questions, the fact that they did this, which is really a, a humor free movie. It’s a and it’s a very violent film. The fact that they made that film so soon on the backs of Raising Arizona. This was them saying we are more than just the crazy quirky guys who toss our camera all over the place. This is them saying we are serious filmmakers who can tell really, you know, dark compelling stories. And I think it sets the stage for them to do stuff like Fargo and some of the other o

not a brother. Uh no country for old men later on. Um their ability to do those films is because of what they achieved with, with Miller’s Crossing that a film that when you sit down and really start to watch it, you’ll be drawn in and the ending just packs a huge punch. Oh yeah. Also a movie I would recommend people put their, their subtitles on for it. Not because, not because it’s hard to hear, but because like there’s some accents, there’s some stuff going on or even I was gonna say the dialogue is so good

in this and is so kind of poetic and is, is very like literary in the way that it’s written. Like that’s just the use of prose that they have in the movie that just like I, I would just encourage people if you watch it, like put the subtitles on it that even gives you like an even greater appreciation for how wondrous the dialogue is that? Absolutely. Um My two picks, I’m gonna get very uh borderline emotional here for a second because there’s two movies that are very personal to me. Um I put a serious man

in inside Llewyn Davis um a serious man starring Michael Steel Barg as a kind of neurotic professor who feels his uh life is kind of falling apart all around him and seeks guidance in the, the spiritual leaders at um the synagogue that he goes to and, um, is really, I, I think it rivals, uh, Big Lebowski is maybe their funniest movie. And it’s a comedy all about the kind of like the notion of ambiguity and like this idea of, like, us living in a world where you’re like, why is, why are bad things happening to

me? And you, like, turn to your religious leaders, you turn to God, you turn to science, whatever and there are no easy answer, there’s no easy answers. And like, that’s the whole idea of the movie, like, isn’t giving you easy answers for stuff, but it’s just kind of mounting this, like increasing comedic frustration of this guy who’s trying so hard to sort of just get like somebody tell me what I need to be doing to kind of like make my life, ok. And it just spirals further and further out of control. And that’s a very

like relatable thing. Like I’ve dealt with that feeling in my life. I’m sure tons of other people have dealt with that feeling and kind of able to take this kind of dark existential crisis that a lot of us as people deal with and turn it into this manic crazy comedy I think is kind of brilliant. And even inside Llewyn Davis has a little bit of that too of Oscar Isaac as this folk singer who maybe he’s, you know, there’s a way you can look at the movie as he’s really, really talented. But he’s just like,

he doesn’t get luck. You need luck in order to make it in the music that we have this or you can read it as this is a guy who’s really, really talented, but he’s self sabotaging himself because he’s kind of just a jerk and he doesn’t know how to collaborate with people and them never coming down on one side of that debate and you as an audience having to struggle with both kind of like, OK, the same ideas of why do bad things, why does unlucky things happen in our life? But then, you know, also

for me, it’s a movie I can watch and be like, I, I don’t know if you have this relationship with any movies where you’re like, I know that this person is potentially me on my worst day. Like I can’t help but watch inside Llewyn Davis and be like, I cannot become the Oscar Isaac character because I know from friends and family that I’ve been like this at certain times in my life. And that I think just makes my appreciation for it. All the, all the, all the greater and all the richer is because I think

I see in both of those movies, kind of a connection to real personal fears and anxieties that I’ve had throughout my life and that I know other friends and family members have had and yet they find a way to make it kind of like wondrous and funny and manic and it, it, I think makes those movies really, really special to me. Uh, look, both of those films I think are a great example of the point I was making earlier about the Cohen Brothers doing a great job of putting you in the head, putting you in

the space of, of a character that you might otherwise not be able to relate to one of the films that we, that isn’t in my top five that I think does a great job of that is, is Barton Fink. And I can’t recommend that anyone actually watch it. It is an excruciating film because it is about writer’s block. But as someone who writes, I sat there watching the movie, it’s so painfully. I sat there watching the movie. I was like, oh my God, how did they know this is me? And III, I went to that

film with my wife and when it ended, she’s not a writer when it ended. She said to me, I’m never seeing another Coen Brothers movie again. I think there are a lot of people who might look a serious man. And inside Llewyn Davis, these are not films or big commercial hits because they are challenging, super challenging. And you are going along for a ride with a character that you may, even though you may recognize, you may find the character insufferable at the end of the day, but there’s something like compelling about them and the, and

the way that they’re able to render them as fully three dimensional people that is, is so unique. And I think I’m, I’m glad that we’re talking about these films. This is really the genius of the Coen brothers. Uh And I wish there was a little more of it in driveway dolls. Uh I, I would agree. Um Jason, thank you again for stopping by this week. Next week, our audience can be very excited because Dune is finally arriving and, uh, you know, Tegna got back to us and we’re gonna be able to put sand all in

here. A lot of, uh, we’ll have worms and, and all of that. But, um, until then, uh, we’ll see you at the movies.

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