An intelligent interview with the head of Sony’s video game arm, Yair Landau, where he talks about the changes the movie studios, the video game industry, and the audiences of today are experiencing as the boundaries between entertainment mediums begin to merge.
Jeremy and I got onto the subject of The Game as having a story with as many layers as No Country For Old Men, which brought us to the merits of David Fincher movies, which led me to recount the merits of the cinematography and these extremely well-designed opening credits for Panic Room.
I think of myself as a Coen Brothers fan. Honestly, I do, even though I’ve never seen Fargo, their supposed masterpiece — a fact that might lose me a fair amount of readership before I even get to the end of this sentence (still here?). The Big Lebowski will undoubtedly be in my top 10 movies of all time when the dust settles (it’s currently at #11), and O Brother Where Art Thou will probably be in my top 100. The Ladykillers — although it likely won’t make an appearance in my top 250 — was entertaining enough.
Well, make room for No Country For Old Men. Make room to see it at the theater. Make room for it in your DVD collection. Make room for it in your list of the greatest all-time movies. Really, it’s that good.
No Country is set in Texas in 1980. The anchor of the story, as intimated in the movie trailer, is a satchel of drug money carried home by Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) after he finds it near the corpse-strewn site of an ill-fated drug deal. Turns out somebody was interested in getting their money back, surprisingly enough, and it’s not long before Moss is on the run from the bad-news collections man, Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem). Chigurh hunts for Moss and his satchel in a manner so methodical and unrelenting that it saturates every little nook of the movie with an all-enveloping tension and dread. The pacing of the pursuit is alternately swift and measured, depending on what befalls each of the men as their respective paths meander toward an eventual intersection.
But despite the gunfire, the chases, the struggles, and the occasional explosion, what gripped me the most was the quiet: the “space between.” It’s there, just behind the weathered voice of Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) telling us about how the lawmen used to be in those parts, in those desert towns near where he grew up. It’s there, as Moss hunts a pack of deer in the desert with his rifle, in every click… of… his… scope… as he calibrates his aim, never moving his eyes from his living target, with only a light breeze as an aural backdrop. The closest touchstone here might be The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: recall the opening scene, unveiling an empty landscape of desert and wind, until a second later, a man’s close-up face, lined and stubbled, swings crisply into view, and for three or four seconds he simply stares — right through the camera, at the horizon behind you. Such it is with No Country For Old Men: an excellent story, told at the pace that fits it, never rushing, dwelling on all the right details, and free of the cinematic artifice (like heavy-handed scores) that too often serves to remind you that, oh yeah, this is just a movie.
Every one of the characters in the film is terrific; not just Jones’ aging sheriff, Brolin’s go-it-alone everyman, Harrelson’s too-smart bounty hunter, and Kelly Macdonald’s role as Moss’s wife, but all of the incidental characters we happen upon along the way. It’s the canvas of everyday folk — from the gas station owner to the manager of Moss’s trailer park — that undergirds the film’s fundamental believability.
Of all of them, though, I’d be willing to bet that one will stick in your mind more than any other: Bardem’s Anton Chigurh. He’s the rare bad guy who stands apart from all the other bad guys you’ve ever seen, who is so different — in his posture, his idioms, his tone of voice, his method of killing, and his uniquely twisted sense of ethics — that he trods deftly through the minefield of antagonist cliches so well stocked by those before him, and becomes a template all his own. The fear of this guy comes not only from the fact that he murders without guilt or even that he seems to like it, but that he sees it as his duty, and that clemency might arbitrarily be granted by the unseen workings of a mind gone wrong, and can hinge — clad in the armor of moral certainty — on no more than coin toss.
Did I say that Fargo is considered the Coen Brothers’ finest work? Oops. A fair amount of reportage says the 1996 movie might’ve just defaulted to the title of runner-up, has-been, also-ran. I know that hurts to hear, dear Fargo people; and maybe the zeitgeist has it all wrong. Maybe this is a case of the new and shiny getting top billing over the…well, 1996, all deeper quality issues aside. But why listen to anyone else? Do what I plan to do: Hit the theater, if you haven’t seen No Country yet; pull out the DVD of Fargo, if you haven’t seen it recently; watch them both. Weigh their relative merits. And then call it. Friend-o.
If No Country For Old Men ain’t the Coens’ masterpiece, it’ll do till the masterpiece gets here.
It seems like 2007 has been an odd year for horror. Even though Hollywood seems keen to cash-in on “torture porn” films like Saw IV, Captivity, and Hostel Part II, there have been a few movies that have transcended the shock to genuinely give you a bit more of a true scare.
Although horror author Stephen King is quoted as defending the current style of horror films stating, “sure it makes you uncomfortable, but good art should make you uncomfortable” – he’s also the man responsible for two of this year’s best true traditional style horror movies. Both pulling from his short story supply, 1408 and The Mist make for more cerebral thrillers that leave behind the slashers and masked murderers to focus just on the raw terror that stems from the psychological torment and claustrophobia that King seems to savor putting his characters through.
The Mist also happens to be the third pairing of King’s writing and direction by Frank Darabont, who worked together on The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption. While those films represented two of King’s better non-horror stories, The Mist marks the first for the duo to tackle what King does best – a scary story. And boy is it a bleak, scary story.
After a rather abrupt intro that introduces the wife, the son, the next-door neighbor, and our movie poster painting protagonist David Drayton (Thomas Jane), the story gets right into it with no time to waste. Everyone ends up at the local supermarket – a more 50′s era town market than Super Walmart – and the mist rolls right into town as the military seems to be heading out in a hurry. We meet the grocery store worker Ollie Weeks (Toby Jones), the wicked town bible-thumper Ms. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden), and the new schoolteacher in town Amanda Dumfries (Laurie Holden), along with a supporting cast of townsfolk, patrons, and store employees who suddenly are all trapped within the store. The long and short of it is, the mist is bad, and if you’re not inside the store, you’re lunch for something out there.
The monsters happen to come in several forms of course ranging from acidic spiders, to prehistoric flying creatures, to bugs that could eat your cat. Oh and the tentacles, but who knows what they’re attached to. But none of them are as frightening as the real monsters – the people inside. The film quickly devolves to everyone taking sides as Ms. Carmody corrals the God-fearing folks and pits them against the barely sane survivors as they try to decide how to get out of it alive. The characters’ hope is all but completely lost which ultimately makes for a fantastic end-of-the-world scenario, and a twist ending that will leave you painfully aware of how every decision can change the outcome in the very worst way.
There are scenes where you are reminded it’s just a movie (those tentacles are really CGI shiny!), scenes that leave you wondering where the subplots disappear to as people start dropping off (cute bag-girl, nasty neighbor), and scenes that revel in the awesomeness of the huge monster moments closer to the end (look at the size of that thing!). It’s also a great humanistic story amidst the attacks of the beasties where religion, government, parenthood, loyalty, and courage are all put to the test.
Even though many people will have difficulty remembering and comparing this film to the critical atrocity remake that was The Fog, you shouldn’t mistake it for what is one of the darkest and creepiest creature features in recent years. Darabont’s fast-paced direction combined with King’s knack for realistic people-you-know characters makes for a truly welcome unnerving experience at the movies. You’re guaranteed to clench your seat, applaud when you-know-who gets their well-deserved fate, and hold your mouth open wide at the viciously rewritten ending which King warns us, “There should be a law passed stating that anybody who reveals the last five minutes of this film should be hung from their neck until dead.” Well said Steve, well said.
On the Top 20. Nope. Top 250? Yeah, I think it’ll end up in there somewhere. Top 500. You betcha.
I wanted to take this opportunity to kick off what hopefully will be the first of many reviews of the latest movies for our Flickchart Blog with one of the year’s most critically acclaimed films, “No Country For Old Men“.
The latest film from the Coen Brothers marks its place by accomplishing what few films can – making a great movie by disappointing the viewer with every resolution. This is not to say that it isn’t a fantastic achievement, in fact it’s quite the opposite. “No Country For Old Men” allows you to only predict what you think will become of the incredibly well-realized and detailed characters. It sets the scene with deliberate pace as Llewelyn Moss (ex-Goonie Josh Brolin) happens upon a drug deal gone wrong and unwisely makes the choice to take home the leftover spoils. This sets in motion a series of unwise choices that leaves him running from the year’s most brutal and ruthless bounty hunter Anton Chigurh (played by the scene-stealing Javier Bardem, whose choice of weapon will be forever injected into cult stardom).
Along the way, Tommy Lee Jones plays the same role we’ve seen countless times (The Fugitive, Men in Black, U.S. Marshals, The Hunted, Natural Born Killers, etc.) of the aging lawman Ed Tom Bell trying to save the day and catch both men before everything is torn up in their path. Although Jones’s character has hardly changed throughout his career, he still manages to keep you rooted to the realism of the story and every wrinkle in his aging face lends itself well to his place in the modern Western setting of the film. The only underdeveloped part was filled by Woody “High Times” Harrelson as an all-too brief clean-up man working for the “client” to take care of the mess Chigurh leaves behind.
The number one complaint of anyone who sees this movie will be its ending – and while avoiding spoilers – its safe to say most people will leave wanting more and desperately seeking closure. This movie is guaranteed to trick you several times by almost entirely avoiding cliches and never once becoming predictable. There are wonderfully played out thriller scenes that are as tense as any horror film of late. Many scenes throughout cause you to question who you’re rooting for to win between the three men as they slip by one another. The film’s best moments are its quiet ones with focus on the minute details that other films often have difficulty translating from novel to screen. The Coens masterfully frame and give time to these instances so that you can soak in the mood and atmosphere completely.
It’s a film I’m glad to have seen, but will end up sitting alongside films like Requiem for a Dream and Schindler’s List as “Movies Not To Watch Again For A Long While“. It leaves you with something – something that you’re not sure how to take in, or how to feel about. But at the very least, it gives you a sense of time and place that few films deliver.
Where would I predict this movie to end up on my list? Top 20? Not a chance. Top 250? It’s possible. Top 500? Almost guaranteed.
At some point in the future, we’ll start doing more deep-linking of these reviews into Flickchart to help guide you towards finding out more information about the films we discuss. Our hope as well is to allow you to jump directly from any review to say that you have both seen it, and allow you to rank it against other films out in theaters. Hopefully our proper public launch will kick off at some point before 2008. We’ve got a lot of really cool things to come and we’re working hard to get as much of the initial functionality prepared before we let you all see what we’ve been cooking up.