Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Films of the Coen Brothers

I stumbled across a list of the 50 Best Directors Working Today at the IMDb. It looks like it was compiled by one person (screen name michaakchoti) and he ranked them in order. Here are his first 10:

1. Steven Spielberg
2. Terrence Malick
3. Martin Scorcese
4. David Fincher
5. The Coen Brothers
6. Francis Ford Coppola
7. Darren Aronofsky
8. Steven Soderbergh
9. Clint Eastwood
10. Ridley Scott

It’s not a bad list. Surely movie buffs could argue endlessly about it (and the other 40; only one woman?). For myself I wouldn’t put Spielberg at the top, but somewhere a little lower. I wouldn’t have Fincher or Aronofsky in the Top 10 at all. Malick? He’s only made five films, and though it’s true that three of them are masterpieces, that’s a mighty thin record. If I was picking Number One, it would be either Scorsese or … two for the price of one: The Coen Brothers.

There’s no doubt in my mind that they are the most innovative directors (and writers and producers and editors) working today. People speak of “a Coen Brothers film,” and it’s true there are certain characteristics that one can point out common to their movies, but in another sense they have been all over the place. They have made comedies and dramas, and seem to be working their way though most of the well-known film genres and having a great deal of fun with them. (I eagerly await the Coen musical comedy, if they ever get around to it.) (O Brother Where Art Thou doesn’t count; sure it’s full of great music, but I’m talking about where characters suddenly burst into a musical number to express their feelings. The Good Old MGM Stuff.) And, yes, they have made at least one stinker … but so did Hitchcock, so did Kurosawa, so did Fellini, so did Scorsese, so did Spielberg, so did Bergman, so did … well, I can’t say that about Kubrick, and I’ve seen all his films except the first, Fear and Desire. He made some lesser films and some greater ones, but never a stinker. Kubrick is God, let’s face it.

I have seen all the Coen films, too. But we thought it would be fun to go back and look at them all again, sequentially. So that’s what we did …