Every film that has ever been nominated for an Academy Award in any category. Enjoy!
A Serious Man
A Serious Man is the story of an ordinary man's search for clarity in a universe where Jefferson Airplane is on the radio and F-Troop is on TV. It is 1967, and Larry Gopnik, a physics professor at a quiet Midwestern university, has just been informed by his wife Judith that she is leaving him. She has fallen in love with one of his more pompous acquaintances Sy Ableman.
Unpopular opinion incoming! ‘A Serious Man’ is one of my favourite Coen’s and I would actually call it more likeable than ‘No Country for Old Men’. I love how their trademark edgy dialogues greatly blend into the much smaller and amateurish setting of the film, just like in ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’. It creates an intelligent comedy, which I think hits the directors talents better than the western crime gems they’ve created. Not often do I laugh out loud when watching a film, so honour where honour’s due, ‘A Serious Man’ deserves its four stars.
Fiddling with the aerial doesn't always make the signal more clear. The cat is both dead and not dead (Clive understands the dead cat, but not the math). The man in the prologue is or isn't a dybbuk. The bookends suggest an unbroken cycle that may or may not relate to what characters have and haven't done. "Accept the mystery."
Rabbi Nachtner: "We can't know everything."
Larry Gopnik: "It sounds like you don't know anything! Why even tell me this story?"
Nachtner: [laughing]"First I should tell you, then I shouldn't, hoo!" [places hands on cheeks]
Gopnick to dream class: "Even though you can't figure anything out, you will be responsible for it on the mid-term."
The Uncertainty Principle. It proves we can't ever really know... what's going on. So it shouldn't bother you. Not being able to figure anything out.
After seeing the brilliant Llewyn Davis, I have decided to work backwards through the Coen Bros filmography hitting every single forgotten gem or under appreciated masterpiece. Im doing this because my gut tells me that if Llewyn Davis doesn't see a second life on home video, it will sadly join the ranks of those other Coen films that have sunk below the radar.
The first stop on this tour through the Coen Brothers dark fairy tale universe is 2009's A Serious Man. Set in a predominantly Jewish suburb in the early 60's, (a setting very…
"Accept the mystery"
Another great one from the Coens that I'd been meaning to rewatch for a long time. It contains all the elements that the two directors often couple together to make their films so remarkable - a great lead performance, beautiful cinematography, a biting and terrific screenplay, and a uniquely established tone. However, the main aspect that sets A Serious Man apart is its supremely Jewish setting. Despite being familiar, the film is triumphantly unique and interesting.
On this watch, I kind of noticed a lot of similarities to Barton Fink, with it's offbeat nature and awkward male lead who's life is going in bad places. Both are probably the Coens most ambiguous films, with lots left up to interpretation. There is a lot of symbolism and depth here, it'd be interesting to see, or possibly write a full blown analysis.
It's also darkly hilarious. Poor Larry.
The question most people seem to have about A Serious Man, judging by the reviews I've read, is "What's it actually about?"
A lot of the time I don't think it matters what a film is about. I often find myself going round in circles trying to get to the bottom of this subject and losing sight of whether I enjoyed the film or not. Actually, I have this problem more when it IS a film I enjoyed. If it's a film I hated then I'm not going to waste my time trying to figure out what was going on with it. It can just piss off.
Even though it might not be one of their best films, A Serious Man is definetely one of the funniest comedies directed by the Coen Brothers and one of the most continuously funny films of the past decade. Great writing featuring near-perfect dialogue, brilliant characterization & intelligent story that's so large in scope that ends up covering several themes and great direction by the American duo who leads the film with a wonderful pacing, A Serious Man is a simple delight. In the lead role, Michael Stuhlbarg is just excellent and delivers one of his best performances in this wonderlly-realized dark comedy that's supported by a clever cinematography and by a brilliant score.
Just look at that parking lot
A Serious Man is somewhat of a strange film, though definitely not a story too dissimilar from the Coen brothers' other films. It starts out by introducing the audience to Larry Gopnik, our rather oddball protagonist; and as the plot begins to develop and the Coens offer us more of a window into his personal life, we begin to see just how much of a rut he's in. The best thing about this film is that the Coens have managed to create a brilliantly flawed and empathetical character, utilising along the way a lot of the dark comedy that plays in the Coen's other films, such as The Big Lebowski or Fargo.
But be not mistaken, this is not a…
Before I watched A Serious Man, I saw the trailer of it. It starts with the main character having his head continually being beaten on a black board, creating a steady beat. It plays in the background as the rest of the trailer shows his life swirling out of control. The beat becomes louder and louder, building to the end of the trailer, where is shows Larry trying to talk to the final Rabbi but gets rejected.
A Serious Man, sometimes called the remake of the Book of Job, wrestles the idea of man's relationship with God and the uncertainty of life. For the Coen Brothers, this is probably there most well thought out story, having multiple layers and context that one could miss the first watching it. The reason why I mention the trailer is because I believe it accurately shows the emotion of what you are about to watch.
There's a reason the Bible is filled with stories. The nature of storytelling, with its cause and effect and most importantly - its resolution - serves to confirm the omnipresence of God. After all, its only after the resolution of a story that we can discern its moral, or that the story has meaning. It's a pattern that rarely occurs in reality, although we seek it out all the time.
So how to you tell a story about the futile quest for God - since any resolution would either affirm or deny God's existence? With the Coens, you simply don't resolve the story. Every single thing in this movie is setup. There's no payoff anywhere, right up to the end.…
The Coen brothers chose the perfect actors to help them deliver this extremely hilarious farce, their most personal work to date, which splendidly combines dark humor and Jewish existential questions, and I can easily imagine them saying that, if not even God gives us all the answers, why the hell should they?
Coens have always been hit or miss for me. This is a HUGE miss. One of the worst movies ever made.
Probably chronologically the first movie I watched since Django a couple weeks earlier that I could have a real opinion on without having to make any kind of excuses for it.
That being said, despite the presence of The Big Lebowski in my top ten, I'm not a huge Coen brothers fan, and this is some of the Coen-est of their work. So I'll begin by saying if you like Raising Arizona, Barton Fink, and probably even Fargo* more than I do, you may feel the same way about this.
I wanted to come up with a one-sentence term for what happens in this movie, but I struggled with the task. I could be very cutesy and describe plot details…
Larry Gopnik, a Midwestern physics teacher, watches his life unravel over multiple sudden incidents.
As with a lot of the Coen Brothers' comedies, on first watch I couldn't get into A Serious Man. This time round I definitely got more out of it. The opening sequence while having nothing to do with the rest of the film is great in it's own right. The main film itself does follow Coen tropes to a certain extent with the life of an ordinary guy unravelling without him being able to stop it. I'm sure there's a lot of Jewish satire that went over my head but just as a surface piece it's good entertainment.
I still didn't love it and wouldn't put it near the top of Coen works but I'm glad I gave it another go.
Many favorites, as well as a small handful of films that I don't care for... in no particular order (1960-2014).