Maybe I’m doing this blog out of spite. Against whom, I don’t know. Not the Coens. Why would they care? More likely against the peons who profess their love for The Big Lebowski, which isn’t a good film at all. The Bottom Five Coen Films: Intolerable Cruelty, The Lady Killers, Hail Caesar, True Grit, and, yes, The Big Lebowski.
How is it possible that these films were made by the same guys who made (Top Five): No Country For Old Men, Raising Arizona, Hudsucker Proxy, Fargo and O Brother Where Art Thou? And by the way, why do people capitalize the ‘b’ in Coen brothers? That’s wrong too.
Every story needs its ticking bomb: Will Luke destroy the Death Star? Will Jack really kill Ralph? Will Gatsby run off with Daisy? Will Chigurgh catch Llewelyn?* We are compelled to keep reading, to find out what happens in the end.
Without this tension, this inherent inevitability, the story flounders, and with no land in sight, the audience is lost, the story a disaster.
Hollywood’s Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences is occasionally on the mark with their annual Best Picture – Casablanca (Curtiz, 1943), Midnight Cowboy (Schlesinger, 1969), Annie Hall (Allen, 1977) & No Country for Old Men (Coen Brothers, 2007). However these awards have more to do with Hollywood politics and marketing campaigns – such as Harvey Weinstein bullying on behalf of the dreadfully mediocre Shakespeare in Love (1998) – and much less to do with the art of film-making. As a consequence, the Best Pictures ends up consistently falling short. This isn’t just an issue with which film wins, but which are nominated and has been a problem right from the start of the Awards in 1927. The most apparent has been in the exclusion of most of the great foreign films in ages past, failing to nominate Passion of Joan of Arc (Dryer, 1928), M (Fritz Lang, 1931), La Regle de Jeu (Renoir, 1939), Seven Samurai (Kurosawa, 1954), Wild Strawberries (Bergman, 1957), Breathless (Godard, 1960), Aguirre, Wrath of God (Herzog, 1973) and The Sacrifice (Tarkovsky, 1986) and City of God (Meirelles, 2003)…to mention only a fraction. The Academy is flawed at its core, responding to the topicality of the film – social movements above all – and less to the work itself. “Best Pictures” are often predicable and dull, lacking in both vision and inspiration…and this year is no different. Here’s my list of the Academy’s most glaring mistakes.
Not even nominated Winner (Soon to be Forgotten)
1933 Duck Soup (McCarey) Calvalcade (Lloyd)
1946 Gilda (Vidor) Best Years of Their Lives (Wyler)
1952 Singin’ in the Rain (Kelly) Greatest Show on Earth (DeMille)
1958 Vertigo (Hitchcock) Gigi (Minnelli)
1968 2001: Space Odyssey (Kubrick) Oliver! (Reed)
1979 Manhattan (Allen) Kramer vs. Kramer (Benton)
1982 Blade Runner (Scott) Gandhi (Attenborough)
1989 Do the Right Thing (Lee) Driving Miss Daisy (Beresford)
2003 Elephant (Van Sant) The Lord of the Rings (Jackson)