Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Second Enquiry

Second request this time by another fellow Blogger who is a master of poetry, Kenia Kris. Kenia asked "Do you like the Coen Brothers? Could you think of a post or a series of posts talking about their movies?" well to answer the first question yes I love the Coen Brothers' unique view and filming style in fact The Big Lebowski is by far my favourite movie of all time. The second question got me thinking, what could I write that has not already been said about these four time Oscar winning Filmmakers? Well he goes I hope you enjoy.

Joel's film career started earlier than most think before his first film as Co-Director/Writer/Producer/Editor with his younger brother Ethan he found work on two low budget horror films the first of which was the little remembered Frank LaLoggia's Fear No Evil and he followed this up with working on as then unknown filmmaker Sam Raimi's career making movie The Evil Dead. On both films he was credited as assistant film Editor, he later along with his brother wrote the screenplay for Sam Raimi's less successful follow up movie CrimeWave but it was their independent film shot on a budget of $1.5 million dollars in 1984 called Blood Simple that launched them into the conscious of the film making community if not the mass movie going public.

Their follow up film would change that as they would soon become a well known commodity with screwball comedy Raising Arizona which starred Nic Cage and Holly Hunter and it was also the first in their long collaboration with John Goodman. Between their first two films the brothers made a name for themselves in Hollywood with their writing ability as they are reported to have been brought into do writing work on such 80's films as Spies Like Us, Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom, Twilight Zone: The Movie and Fletch all of which has went uncredited as writers replaced them on each project which is a shame because if you watch these films you can definitely see some of their writing on the screen.

Their first epic motion Picture was definitely Miller's Crossing which showcased a new side to the two Brothers and it's here that the filming style for future movies such as No Country For Old Men was born. With Barton Fink and Hudsucker Proxy next out of the Coen Brother assembly line in quick succession and to rave reviews it appeared they were ready to unveil there masterpiece to the world and that masterpiece was a little movie called Fargo. Shot on a budget of $7million the film would go on to gross over $49million worldwide and win big at the Oscars cementing the brothers as the new big thing in town.

Unfortunately with a great hit comes a great backlash and the Coen Brothers suffered this when their next movie and in this writer's opinion their best opened to weak box office. The Big Lebowski would go on to gross $39.5million worldwide but in the USA it was not a hit and the backstabbing began in Hollywood, was Fargo a fluke? This is what the big guns believed and the Coen Brothers' would have to make a come back quick to maintain their earlier success and the film they tried to do this with was O Brother, Where Art Now? A budget of $25million which is less than it's star could request today as his salary, the film went on to gross $45.5million it wasn't the great comeback the Brothers' would have been wanting but it was enough to rescue them from Movie Jail for another few years at least.

Their follow up picture was The Man Who Wasn't There with a budget of $20million this black and white old fashioned movie was maybe guilty of being a little to unconventional in it's style as it went on to only gross $7.49million worldwide and sent it's makers to Movie jail for a short stay. I actually like this movie and feel it's very underrated but it should have been shot on a far tighter budget or independently from a studio.

The next film they would attempt was one they weren't originally scheduled to direct in fact the original director was Ron Howard who left half way through to go shoot The Missing, they were brought in originally to overhaul the screenplay which was written by the talented Robert Ramsay and after Howard departed the project it was George Clooney who recommended the Coens to direct. The studio trying to keep Mr. Clooney happy agreed and Intolerable Cruelty was made. Budgeted at $60million to accommodate the salary of George Clooney a reported $14million the film went on to gross $35.1million worldwide at the box office but it recouped any and all losses on DVD as it was one of the biggest sellers that year.

After Intolerable Cruelty the boys took a break from Directing and decided to produce what was then a Bill Murray vehicle called Bad Santa but when Murray pulled out to star in Lost In Translation the boys hired their old friend Billy Bob Thornton. The film shot on a budget of $18million went on to gross over $60million at the worldwide box office and make Thornton into a bigger star. Confidence back the brothers decided to remake the British comedy Classic The Ladykillers which I have always felt was a major mistake. The film was budgeted at $35million and grossed $64.2million off the name value of Tom Hanks alone not the quality of the film. The original is far Superior and Hanks is horribly miscast in the Alec Guinness role. This was followed up by the musical Romance & Cigarettes which the Coens produced and Coen Brothers' film regular John Turturro Directed.

After a two year gap of pre production the brothers returned to directing with another masterpiece in the form of No Country For Old Men, shot on a budget of $25million this masterclass on directing went on to gross $159million Worldwide and relaunched the brothers' into the big leagues of directors in Hollywood. Josh Brolin was not the first person to be courted for the role of Llewelyn Moss the original choice was the late Heath Ledger but he decided to take time off from acting instead and Josh Brolin went on to own the role.

Some short films followed this as they awaited George Clooney to finish his filming commitments so they could start Burn After Reading. Burn was budgeted at only $37million due to all the lead actors taking severe pay cuts to work with the Coens, the film went on to gross $155million Worldwide.

In 2009 the brothers made a very personal film entitled A Serious Man, the film was based on their own upbringing. It was made on a budget of $7million and grossed $31million worldwide, if you haven't seen this film you should check it out, very well made and very funny. Next up for the brothers is their long awaited remake of the western classic True Grit, with a cast including Josh Brolin, Matt Damon, Jeff "The Dude" Bridges and Barry Pepper this film is shaping up to be another Oscar contender for the brothers.

They are also writing the script for the remake of The Gambit which is scheduled to be directed by Doug Liman, Suburbicon a film the brothers are looking to direct themselves and the long rumoured The Yiddish Policeman's Union which is rumoured to reunite them with John Goodman as well as starring Sean Penn.


Thanking You
The Housebound Writer


  1. =))) Andrew!!!!

    Thanks for writing about the Coen brothers. I love their movies. I haven't seen all of them yet, but I'm organizing myself to do so. I really wanted to hear your opinion on them, since you like cinema so much. Many of my friends just hate them and say they are difficult to figure out, it's impossible to talk to them about the Coen brothers. LOL...

    Thanks again for answering my question sweetie. I loved the post. Very well written, as everything else you do.

    Take care and keep smiling. =*

  2. The Big Lebowski is also my favorite movie of all time (along with Apocalypse Now.) Since then I have been a huge Coen Bros fan. Not to say the common spammer phrase, but this post was very informative. Way to go, keep it up!

  3. Wow. I think you found out almost everything there is to know about these guys. Thanks for the well researched article.

  4. Thanks for this great post. Learned a lot I didn't know about the Coen brothers. Like you The Big Lebowski is one of my favorite movies of all time. Didn't know so much about the bros themselves though.