Joel & Ethan Coen (YGtCTO #111)

Raising Arizona

Film directed, written, and produced by the Coen brothers

Maybe I was involved in more discussion after 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Last Picture Show. When we saw Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, and Pulp Fiction all around the same time, we took to stopping for drinks afterwards. But really, the Coen brothers have probably inspired most of my film-related conversations in the last thirty years.

I can’t explain it. The films sometimes walk along the precipice that leads to instant Mystery Science Theater 3000 readiness without actually plummeting. Without exception, they defy personal investment while managing to absorb our hearts and minds. Images sear into our brain- remember the baby on the road in Raising Arizona?

If somebody asked me to point to post-modern Hollywood movie-making, I’d eventually come up with the Coens, after I decided what they meant.

Postmodernism (according to pbs.org): A general and wide-ranging term which is applied to literature, art, philosophy, architecture, fiction, and cultural and literary criticism, among others. Postmodernism is largely a reaction to the assumed certainty of scientific, or objective, efforts to explain reality.
According to . A longer discussion is here.

Anyone willing to use the term is already interested in digging into the meaning below the surface. But that’s the thing. The Coens wear their commentary on their sleeve. They skate through genres and stories practically with a wink and a wave.

Joel & Ethan Coen

And that’s really the art we have now.

If you live anywhere near a television set, a tablet, a computer, a smart phone, a magazine, a newspaper, or a book, you spend ten percent or more of your day actively consuming art. You are an expert. You have chosen to expose yourself to more art in this life than all your ancestors ever had the chance to experience.

Storytellers in time immemorial won over listeners by promising the warmth of the fire and a tale that is new. We might like the repeats of favorites. Yet, we also need something that sets those neurons firing. The Coens are talking to an audience who has seen detectives movies out the wazoo. We have seen gangsters and comedies. We know the story of Ulysses from a hundred different viewpoints.

So, people end up with opinions about Coen movies. Most everybody has favorites and most everybody intensely dislikes some of them. Maybe Hitchcock ran the gamut almost as much, but we have forgiven him his wackiness by now. I think that the effort to chase something new must be inherent in the artist’s makeup. That something may not always be great or even all that good. Missteps are good because they mean that steps are being taken.

What’s it all about?

You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 189 more to go.

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