Here Come The Coens

Here Come The Coens

Some of my readers are not going to like this, but most American filmmakers bore me to death!

They have NO imagination. Except for special effects which they are good at, all their films seem to be cut from the same cloth: sex, drugs, foul language, car chases, violence, and rock and roll.

For this reason...

...I became a fan of foreign sub-titled films. Give me a French or Italian comedy any day of the week, and I guarantee you it will be superior to an American movie.


With all this said, I made a recent discovery that has helped change my mind about American-made movies. That discovery can be summed up in three words: the Coen brothers.

Although I have seen only three of their films ('Raising Arizona,' 'Fargo', and 'True Grit,') I am amazed at the creative spirit that went into these productions.

My late actor friend and poker-playing buddy Dick Alexander appeared in 'Raising Arizona,' a low budget film that was shot just outside Chandler, AZ. more than three decades ago. The plot has an offbeat couple, Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter, kidnapping a baby to raise as their own after Hunter's character discovers she cannot have children.

Dick and I were regular poker players in a regular weekly game at the American Legion in Phoenix...

...when he told me he had been signed to play a police officer in the film. He had high praise for the way Joel and Ethan Coen worked and the movie turned into a hit artistically and commercially.

While I liked 'Raising Arizona' and laughed myself silly watching 'Fargo,' a black comedy about kidnapping and murder in the midwest, the movie that convinced me of the Coen brothers' brilliance was 'True Grit.'

In the original 'True Grit,' made more than 40 years ago, John Wayne played Rooster Cogburn, a one-eyed U.S. Marshall who was hired by a 14-year-old girl named Mattie, to find the man who murdered her father. The movie was made into a comedy and did well at the box office.

The Coen brothers decided on a different approach to the movie. While they included some of the dialogue from the original film, they made it much more realistic to the times, giving the scenes dialogue out of the past. They chose Jeff Bridges to portray Cogburn, making him a hard-drinking character out of the old West, and giving the plot a different ending that surprised and delighted film fans.

I never thought I would say this, but here it is in print:

The Coen brothers are American's answer to Federico Fellini, Louis Malle and the other great Italian and French film directors who produced such masterpieces as 'La Dolce Vita,' '8 1/2', and 'The Toy.'

In the future I will be watching more Coen brothers films. And if you are as smart as I think you are, so will you!

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