Sunday, September 21, 2008

Coen Movie Appreciation

The critics (myself included) liked, but didn't love, the new Coen movie. But should you trust us? Everyone who knows anything about the Coen Brothers knows that their movies get better with time (they appreciate). Each and every viewing of every Coen Brothers film rewards the viewer with unseen details and an increasingly significant subtext. Well, admittedly, I've only seen The Ladykillers once. But every other Coen film just keeps on getting better. I thought I'd take a look at the Metacritic scores of all the Coen films that we have scores for, to get an idea of what people thought of them initially, and then compare those results to my (incredibly unscientific) sense of what people think of them now as well as the allmovie rating. I'll also add my own initial and current ratings. Since you undoubtedly need even more information, I'll give you the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They? (TSPDT?) ranking for any of the films which is in the top 1000; They Shoot Pictures attempts to locate every important list of top films and index all of them to produce a 1,000 best regarded films ever made. And I suppose I'll throw in the current IMBD user rating for each film, even though I'm pretty sure most monkeys could tell that The Third Man (8.6) is a better film than The Shawshank Redemption (9.1).

Film: Blood Simple
Metacritic Score: None (The Director's Cut got an 81, but that was after everyone already acknowledged this as a masterpiece.)
My Initial Impression: 4/5. Skillful yet unformed
People Today: Tend to regard this one as an early, rough-hewn masterpiece; I'd say about 4.5/5 Allmovie Sez: 5/5
TSPDT?: 633rd best film ever made
IMDB. 8.4/10. That's pretty high
My Thoughts: 5/5. A small and nasty little film that is put together almost perfectly
Verdict: No Metacritic score means I don't know what the critics thought...
Appreciation: Hard to tell, but I think this one has appreciated some.

Film: Raising Arizona
Metacritic Score: 55. They didn't like it.
My Initial Impression: 5/5. One of the funniest movies I had ever seen.
People Today: Love, love, love this quirky movie.
Allmovie Sez: 5/5
TSPDT?: 747th best film ever made
IMDB: 7.5/10. They're obviously wrong
My Thoughts: 5/5. Gets funnier every time.
Verdict: The critics didn't know what they were watching, and got upset. Idiots.
Appreciation: Very High. This one went from critical hatred to classic pretty fast.

Film: Miller's Crossing
Metacritic Score: 66. Good, not great.
My Initial Impression: 5/5. More Coens, please.
People Today: Definitely like this movie alot.
Allmovie Sez: 4.5/5. More awesomeness from the Coens.
TSPDT?: 665th best film ever made
IMDB: 8/10.
My Thoughts: 5/5. Is it the best gangster movie ever made? Could be...
Verdict: They liked it more than Raising Arizona, but still weren't quite sure what to make of this sucker.
Appreciation: High

Film: Barton Fink
Metacritic Score: 69. Still in the good range, no more.
My Initial Impression: 5/5. I immediately worshiped the ground this movie walked on.
People Today: Often consider this their best movie. 5/5.
Allmovie Sez: 5/5. Those people like these brothers
TSPDT?: 529th best film ever made. That's getting there.
IMDB: 7.7/10. Wrong.
My Thoughts: 5/5. Is it the best movie ever made? Could be.
Verdict: They're still not quite getting it. How could this movie have a sub-90 Metacritic score?
Appreciation: Very High.

Film: Hudsucker Proxy
Metacritic Score: 52. Two points lower than You Don't Mess with the Zohan.
My Initial Impression: 4/5. A fun, off-kilter movie
People Today: Like, don't love, this one. 4/5, I'd say.
Allmovie Sez: 3/5. Not so much love
IMDB: 7.4/10. Sounds right.
My Thoughts: 4.5/5. Hawks and Capra have very little in common. This movie fuses their styles. Surreal, brilliant, hilarious.
Verdict: The critics liking this one less than the last two makes sense. On the other hand, The House Bunny has a higher score.
Appreciation: Medium

Film: Fargo
Metacritic Score: 85. First acknowledged masterpiece
My Initial Impression: 3.5/5. Seemed a bit overrated.
People Today: Love this movie. 5/5.
Allmovie Sez: 5/5. Everyone agrees!
TSPDT?: 292nd best film ever made. Again, everyone!
IMDB: 8.1/10. Seriously, everyone!
My Thoughts: 4.5/5. Far from my favorite, but it's a damn good movie.
Verdict: Something clicked for the critics on this one. They got it right away. Not so much for me...I think I was expecting something life-altering, based on the hype.
Appreciation: Maybe a tiny bit? Started off pretty high.

Film: The Big Lebowski
Metacritic Score: 69. Another good, not great reaction.
My Initial Impression: 4/5. Very funny, kinda confusing.
People Today: No Coen Brothers movie is better loved than this movie. And that's saying alot. 5/5.
Allmovie Sez: 4/5. Allmovie tries to keep their cred by not overrating this "cult" film!
TSPDT?: 828th best film ever made. Probably just too recent, or too stoner, to climb.
IMDB: 8.2/10. IMDB users not worried about cred, rate this movie higher than The Graduate, Nosferatu, and His Girl Friday.
My Thoughts: 5/5. Yeah, I've watched this movie, um, more than once. It's good..
Verdict: Surprisingly good initial reviews, but as a cult film, it's not that weird that the critics didn't love it. Allmovie is still holding out, but this is definitely the best loved Coen movie.
Appreciation: High. The critics liked it, but didn't see the fan worship coming.

(They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?, cuts off here - newer movies have a separate list that's meaningless in comparison)

Film: O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Metacritic Score: 69. Apparently, Coen Brothers movies get 69s.
My Initial Impression: 4/5. Surprisingly funny.
People Today: People like this movie, but I'd say it's about a 4/5. The Clooney era hasn't been too kind to the Coens.
Allmovie Sez: 4/5. Allmovie goes the safe route.
IMDB: 7.8/10. Consensus reached.
My Thoughts: 4.5/5. A very, very good movie, with amazing music and a whole host of brilliant performances. Not a masterpiece, but close.
Verdict: Very good, not great, both then and now.
Appreciation: None. Came into this world Very Good, will leave it the same way.

Film: The Man Who Wasn't There.
Metacritic Score: 73. The critics look favorably upon neo-noirs.
My Initial Impression: 4/5. Dark, noirish, not very significant.
People Today: Like this one, I think. Doesn't get talked about much.
Allmovie Sez: 4/5. Allmovie goes the safe route.
IMDB: 7.7/10. Surprisingly high.
My Thoughts: 4.5/5. Doesn't reach perfection, but it's real good.
Verdict: Everyone agrees: an above average movie, but not an amazing one.
Appreciation: Marginal

Film: Intolerable Cruelty
Metacritic Score: 71. The critics look favorably upon neo-screwball comedies.
My Initial Impression: 3/5. Funny, but pretty stupid.
People Today: Are divided, on this one. I know plenty of people who, like me, love this movie, but plenty also consider it mediocre or worse.
Allmovie Sez: 3/5. Allmovie likes it less now than the critics did initially
IMDB: 6.4/10
My Thoughts: 5/5. I've watched this one more than any other.
Verdict: Pretty good, nothing special (except I love it!!)
Appreciation: Actually, mild depreciation. The critics liked it more than people do today.

Film: The Ladykillers
Metacritic Score: 56. The critics look unfavorably upon bad remakes of classics.
My Initial Impression: 2/5. Annoying, mostly unfunny. Hanks was great, though.
People Today: Do not like this movie. At all.
Allmovie Sez: 2.5/5. Bad, bad, bad.
IMDB: 6.2/10. Seriously? On par with Intolerable Cruelty?
My Thoughts: 2/5. Haven't rewatched it. Uck.
Verdict: This one sucks.
Appreciation: Again, mild depreciation. The critics didn't like it; now this movie is hated.

Film: No Country For Old Men
Metacritic Score: 91. One of the highest scores I've seen.
My Initial Impression: 4.5/5. What was up with that ending?
People Today: Still love this movie.
Allmovie Sez: 4.5/5. Very high for such a recent movie.
IMDB: 8.4/10. The people have spoken. Practically Shawshank good!
My Thoughts: 5/5. Saw it a second time, left my reservations behind.
Verdict: A masterpiece then, a masterpiece now.
Appreciation: None. But it doesn't have much room to appreciate, either.

Overall Verdict: I think you probably should trust us that Burn After Reading is good, but not great. Ever since Fargo, the critics have been aware of how good Coen movies are, and are no longer underrating them. By far the highest appreciation occurred in the early part of their careers, with Miller's Crossing, Barton Fink, and Raising Arizona getting wildly underrated. But two of their most recent masterpieces (Fargo and No Country) were met with masterpiece level reviews. Hell, 2 of their last 4 movies have slightly depreciated. It looks like critics are suckups unable to look beyond past success. I think we already knew that. But at least they're not the IMDB users.

1 comment:

MovieMan0283 said...

One difference from The Big Lebowski is that there's so much going on in Lebowski that you don't catch much of it until repeat viewings (as you say, you were somewhat "confused" the first time you saw it.) There isn't much going on in Burn After Reading, comparatively speaking, so I don't think it has much wiggle room to appreciate. If anything people probably overreacted because No Country has primed them to see greatness in whatever the Coen Brothers lay a finger on. But they themselves, if the ending of Burn is any indication, don't seem very impressed with their latest work.