Keeping Up with the Coen Brothers
July 1-September 5
In the time since AFI Silver's comprehensive retrospective in 2008, the writing-directing-producing team of Joel and Ethan Coen has released another four films and won Best Picture, Director and Screenplay Oscars for the smash hit NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. This summer at AFI Silver, get caught up with the Coens' filmography, or come see your favorite of their films for the second — or third — time.
THE BIG LEBOWSKI
"The Dude abides." A case of mistaken identity embroils slacker Jeff "the Dude" Lebowski (a sublimely comic Jeff Bridges) in a kidnapping case and throws him into the role of hapless detective in the Coens' cockeyed homage to Howard Hawks' THE BIG SLEEP. The shaggy-dog shenanigans and pixilated dialogue deliver gut-busting hilarity from start to finish; the stellar cast, all playing with great comic gusto, includes John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, Sam Elliott, Philip Seymour Hoffman and John Turturro as bad-ass bowler "Jesus."
DIR/SCR Joel Coen; SCR/PROD Ethan Coen. US/UK, 1998, color, 117 min. RATED R
Fri, Jul 1, 9:15; Sat, Jul 2, 12 midnight; Mon, Jul 4, 9:45;
Thu, Jul 7, 7:00
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
"You can't stop what's comin'." Out hunting, Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) discovers the aftermath of a drug deal gone bad — bloody corpses, heroin, a couple of pickups and $2 million in a briefcase. Moss takes the money. Things get much worse. A kind of Western-noir with multilayered story lines — besides Moss, there's Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), the psychotic hit man sent to find him; Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) investigating the case even as something in his gut tells him it's time to quit; and Moss's wife, Carla Jean (Kelly Macdonald), caught in the danger. Eight Oscar nominations, winning for Best Picture, Director, Screenplay and Supporting Actor (Bardem).
DIR/SCR/PROD Joel and Ethan Coen, based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy; PROD Scott Rudin. US, 2007, color, 122 min. RATED R
Fri, Jul 8, 9:15; Sat, Jul 9, 2:00 - just added!; Sun, Jul 10, 2:45; Thu, Jul 14, 9:20
BURN AFTER READING
"What a clusterf*ck!" The Coens' sardonic send-up of CIA bumbling and Beltway buffoonery hits home hilariously for DC audiences. Recently fired CIA agent John Malkovich intends to get even by writing his "mem-wah." When the disc containing the tell-all falls into the hands of dim-witted gym trainers Brad Pitt and Frances McDormand, they take it for high-level spy stuff and attempt to blackmail Malkovich, setting in motion a series of ever-more-ridiculous — but deadly — intrigues. Playing out at the same time are overlapping love triangles involving serial adulterer US Marshall George Clooney, Malkovich's icy wife, Tilda Swinton, and gym manager Richard Jenkins.
DIR/SCR/PROD Joel and Ethan Coen. US, 2008, color, 96 min. RATED R
Sat, Jul 16, 5:05; Wed, Jul 20, 10:10
A SERIOUS MAN
"When the truth is found to be lies/And all the hope within you dies." In this existential 1960s black comedy, Michael Stuhlbarg is Larry Gopnick, a physics professor and father in a midsize Midwestern city suddenly facing a midlife crisis. His wife is leaving him for a family friend. His tenure board is receiving anonymous poison pen letters about him. One of his students tries to bribe him, then blackmail him about the bribe. His kids disrespect him, and his eccentric brother (Richard Kind) has taken up residency on the couch. When confronted by these liars, cheats, backstabbers and defamers, Larry still tries to do the right thing: turning to tradition, he "asks the rabbi."
DIR/SCR/PROD Joel and Ethan Coen. US, 2009, color, 105 min. RATED R
Sun, Jul 17, 7:20; Thu, Jul 21, 7:00
The Coens' uncommonly assured debut film was a bona fide indie hit — in fact, it helped define what an "indie hit" was. A Texas-set neo-noir full of grisly humor and a page or two stolen from the horror film playbook, the film features the Coens' first great screen villain in M. Emmet Walsh's Visser, a sleazy private eye hired by road house proprietor Dan Hedaya to catch his cheating wife, Frances McDormand. Greedy double-crossing and inventive plot twisting lead to a memorably thrilling climax.
DIR/SCR Joel Coen; SCR/PROD Ethan Coen. US, 1984, color, 99 min. RATED R
Sat, Jul 23, 9:30; Sun, Jul 24, 9:40; Wed, Jul 27, 10:10
Big-hearted policewoman Holly Hunter and reformed criminal Nicolas Cage make the perfect misfit couple, but no baby blesses their union. ("Her insides were a rocky place where my seed could find no purchase.") The solution: redistribute one of the local celebrity quintuplets into their family. Quirkily comedic in the Preston Sturges mold and a leftfield hit, the film helped launch the careers of future Oscar winners Cage and Hunter. John Goodman steals his scenes as Cage's ne'er-do-well brother, with family issues of his own.
DIR/SCR Joel Coen; SCR/PROD Ethan Coen. US, 1987, color, 94 min. RATED PG-13
Sat, Jul 30, 5:00; Sun, Jul 31, 9:45; Wed, Aug 3, 10:10
The Coens' ripping yarn of 1930s gang warfare boasts some of the most pyrotechnic gunplay to riddle the screen — and verbal fireworks to match. Italian mob boss Jon Polito wants to rub out Jewish gambler John Turturro, but he's protected by Irish godfather Albert Finney, who's sweet on Turturro's sister, Marcia Gay Harden. Finney's right-hand man, Gabriel Byrne, advises his boss against letting his heart interfere with business, but he's hardly one to talk. ...This one-of-a-kind crime saga was initially overlooked (it had the misfortune to be released the same year as GOODFELLAS), but now ranks as one of the Coens' greatest films.
DIR/SCR Joel Coen; SCR/PROD Ethan Coen. US, 1990, color, 115 min. RATED R
Sat, Aug 6, 5:00; Sun, Aug 7, 5:00
This hardboiled crime drama is laced with flaky humor, local color and deliriously memorable character grotesques. Hard-up used-car dealer William H. Macy engineers the kidnapping of his own wife to ransom to his in-laws, but his hired goons, Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare, botch the job. Macy might have gotten away with the cover-up, too, if it wasn't for sharp-eyed, quick-thinking and very pregnant Detective Marge Gunderson. "You betcha." Nominated for seven Oscars, with the brothers winning for Best Screenplay and Frances McDormand winning Best Actress for her much-loved turn as Marge.
DIR/SCR Joel Coen; SCR/PROD Ethan Coen. US/UK, 1996, color, 98 min. RATED R
Sat, Aug 13, 8:00; Sun, Aug 14, 7:45
O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU?
George Clooney mugs and charms his way through the Depression-era South, escaping from a chain gang with fellow cons John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson and circuitously making his way back to wife Holly Hunter in a winking parody of Homer's "The Odyssey." Along the way Clooney and company pull a bank job with Michael Badalucco, encounter backwoods magic, escape one-eyed Bible-selling maniac John Goodman, break up a Ku Klux Klan rally in high style and cut a hit single as the Soggy Bottom Boys. The smash-hit bluegrass and country soundtrack won a Grammy for producer T-Bone Burnett.
DIR/SCR Joel Coen; SCR/PROD Ethan Coen, based on "The Odyssey" by Homer. UK/France/US, 2000, color, 107 min. RATED PG-13
Fri, Aug 19, 7:30; Sat, Aug 20, 3:00; Tue, Aug 23, 4:30;
Thu, Aug 25, 7:00
Hotshot divorce attorney George Clooney goes gaga for gold-digger Catherine Zeta-Jones, even while successfully representing her husband, Edward Herrmann, in the divorce. Later, handling the prenup for her second marriage to Texas oil magnate Billy Bob Thornton, Clooney is gulled into thinking she's a changed women — making him the perfect candidate for husband number three.
DIR/SCR Joel Coen; SCR/PROD Ethan Coen; SCR Robert Ramsey, Matthew Stone; PROD Brian Grazer. US, 2003, color, 100 min. RATED PG-13
Sun, Aug 21, 3:10; Mon, Aug 22, 9:10; Wed, Aug 24, 4:45
THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE
Shot in glorious black and white by the Oscar-nominated Roger Deakins, the Coens' homage to novelist James M. Cain is a moody, existential meta-noir. Sad-sack barber Billy Bob Thornton gets suckered into Jon Polito's dry-cleaning scheme, secretly blackmailing department store magnate James Gandolfini about his affair with Thornton's wife, Frances McDormand. These things never go right, of course, and the Coens delight in following down the dominos. The terrific cast also includes Richard Jenkins, Tony Shalhoub and Scarlett Johansson. Best Director, 2001 Cannes Film Festival — Joel's third such honor.
DIR/SCR Joel Coen; SCR/PROD Ethan Coen. US/UK, 2001, b&w, 116 min. RATED R
Fri, Aug 26, 8:45; Thu, Sep 1, 7:00
This is a "writer's nightmare" from the not-so-Golden Age of Hollywood, and its Cannes win launched the Coens' international reputation. New York playwright and "champion of the common man" John Turturro tries his luck writing for Hollywood and soon finds himself toiling hopelessly on a "wrestling picture" for Wallace Beery. Stricken with writer's block, he begs his novelist hero John Mahoney for help. But if Turturro weren't so self-involved, he might listen more closely to real common man John Goodman, his neighbor at the seedy Hotel Earle, who "could tell you stories that would make your hair curl." 1991 Palme d'Or winner, Cannes Film Festival.
DIR/SCR Joel Coen; SCR/PROD Ethan Coen. US/UK, 1990, color, 116 min. RATED R
Mon, Aug 29, 9:20; Tue, Aug 30, 9:20
The Coens enjoyed the biggest hit of their career with this brilliant adaptation of Charles Portis' cult classic Western novel. Intent on avenging the murder of her father, 14-yearold Arkansas farm girl Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) seeks a man with "true grit" to track down the killer and bring him to justice. She winds up hiring Reuben "Rooster" Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), a sometime US Marshall and full-time drunk. Pursuing the same killer is buckskin-clad Texas Ranger LeBoeuf (Matt Damon). This oddly composed and frequently contentious trio must overcome its internal divisions to survive the dangers ahead. Nominated for 10 Oscars.
DIR/SCR/PROD Joel and Ethan Coen, based on the novel by Charles Portis; PROD Scott Rudin. US, 2010, color, 110 min. RATED R
Fri, Sep 2, 2:45; Sat, Sep 3, 12:15; Mon, Sep 5, 2:25