A Coen Brothers Critique: Who is Hail, Caesar For?

I just finished watching Hail, Caesar! the latest film to be written, directed and produced by the Coen Brothers. For some reason, I PAID for this film on blu-ray and when it finished all I could think was ‘I got nothing out of this’. Now I don’t know why I bought the film, I think for some reason I thought it was a Wes Anderson film. Considering that The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of my most favourite films of recent years, I was looking forward to a new Anderson film. But no, just another Coen brothers affair and I’m left dissapointed.

Hail, Caesar! is a day in the life of a big shot producer, Josh Brolin, at a big movie studio in the Golden Age of Cinema, 1950’s Hollywood. Now I’m no schmuck, I’ve studied film and what the Golden Age was like, so I’m not one to miss the references and all that. Also many of the actors in the film I really enjoy, but for the most part, there are so many shoved in that many only have a single scene or two, so there is limited character development or even room for comedy. This has the added overall effect of taking time away from the main plot lines. In the end, I was left feeling like Hail, Caesar! was a fun, kinda quirky historical piece and that was it. I’ll probably never think about it again.

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Don’t get me wrong, for all intents and purposes it’s a very well crafted and executed film but there’s so little substance, and I know the Coen Brothers films are more about characters than plot, but come on give me something to follow, someone to root for. I think that’s the problem with Coen Brother’s films, they are well made and unique movies with lots of star power so they’re really hard to criticize. I like the fact that they’re meant to be for an audience of a certain educational level and you get more out of them the more you watch them. However, this is meant to be a comedy and I barely laughed a single time. I like the actors in the movie, appreciate the characters, understand (most) of the movie industry references and yet I have no reason to watch it again and have no idea who I would recommend this to.

Maybe my expectations were too high, but if someone like me found the film forgettable then who is it for? 1950’s cinema historians, the George Clooney Josh Brolin fan club, anyone still alive today who worked in the Golden Age of Cinema? The Coen Brother’s could take a lesson out of Anderson’s book in that The Grand Budapest Hotel featured a tonne of actors playing oddball characters, yet each was given appropriate screen time for their role, the narrative was charming and engaging and we had likeable characters to root for, oddball characters to laugh at and villainous characters to despise.

Just like Anchorman 2 was criticized for straying into the self-indulgent at times, I feel as though the Coen Brothers are at risk of the same here. Fargo was a fine film, I enjoyed it much more the second time when I understood more about the subverting of cinema conventions in the narrative. The Big Lebowski is a cult classic that I have to watch again, No Country for Old Men was a great film with a strong central plot and Inside Llewyn Davis was a critically lauded film that I’m yet to see. The Coen Brothers make well crafted movies…when they focus on the narrative.

Once again the problem remains, who is Hail, Caesar! for?

Movie Reviews: Arrival and Brazil

Last night, I went to the theater to see Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival and the night before that I watched Terry Gilliam’s Brazil on blu-ray. I do love my sci-fi and both of these are very different approaches to the genre. I’ll talk about Brazil first because I watched it first.

Brazil is a 1985 dystopian science fiction film starring Jonathan Pryce (played the High Sparrow on Game of Thrones), plus a slew of cameos from noted British character actors and – strangely – Robert De Niro. This is a strange film, really bizarre and surreal. If you know any of Terry Gilliam’s other works, like 12 Monkeys and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, then this shares many of the similarities of those films. I think the best things about the Gilliam films I’ve seen thus far are his skills in world building and the whimsical machines which exist in the dystopia.

The actual narrative itself feels somewhat bloated and there’s some ridiculous dream sequences which perhaps drag on for a bit too long. I did really enjoy the film overall and I can’t get the stupid song out of my head that the film is based around. I probably wouldn’t recommend this to your general viewer, but if you like dystopia, sci-fi, Terry Gilliam or just weird stuff from the 80’s then you’ll get a kick out of Brazil.

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My feelings were kind of mixed when I went to see Arrival, mainly because I knew the movie had been received well and Denis Villeneuve was a good director (from Sicario and Prisoners), but I can’t stand Amy Adams. Her role as Lois Lane in the new Superman films and whoever she was in American Hustle (which still stands as one of the most overrated movies ever) really put me off her. I don’t know what it is about her, the fact that she seems to play the same character every time, or I just don’t buy her acting. Anyway, I did really like her in this role so maybe I’ll come around.

So Amy Adams plays a linguist who’s haunted by flashbacks of her daughter who died young from some rare disease. Aliens…arrive (see what I did there) and the military sends after language experts to try and communicate with them. It gets a bit silly with the whole China thing, like ‘oh China is irrational and of course will be the first who wants to blow them up’. Then like the rioting and looting and stuff is dumb and the fact that there is always some dumb American soldier who does something rash because he needs to protect his family. Man am I getting sick of that trope.

The whole reason that stuff is dumb is because the Aliens literally do nothing. The ships just sit there, a door opens every 18 hours and they converse with whoever goes in for a bit. Then the world just loses their shit because aliens are here and the government seems to be doing nothing. Apart from those gripes, the film was quite good. Really smart sci-fi, that avoids alot of the dumb action stuff that often bogs down the genre. The film is so like a Christoper Nolan one in it’s structure that to say any more would spoil it.

Overall, would very much recommend Arrival, especially as a debut sci-fi film for the director that will have you thinking long after the credits role.

Intro to JK Pimento’s Personal Blog: Writing, Video Games, Film, TV, Comics, Books + Life!

Hello anonymous reader, you are reading the first ever post in the blog of JK Pimento; aspiring writer, media student, and general swell guy. First things first, I am a 22 year old male and I live in Sydney, Australia. I am studying media at university, I work as a cook at a restaurant and I hope to be able to write fiction for a living one day. I have worked as a writer for a sports website, pets magazine and film website. This blog is essentially procrastination from actual writing as well as being practice in a sense.

I will be sharing my thoughts and opinions about various things; from nerdy stuff like video games and comics, to more serious stuff like life, relationships and politics. I don’t know where this blog is going to go but hopefully I can document some of my adventures along the way, share a slice of my life with you guys as well as being able to do something creative on a regular basis. Assuming I keep up with the posts, I will probably open up about my personality a bit more as I go but at my core I’m a liberal atheist but I probably won’t go on too much about that. Anyway thanks for reading, I’m gonna end my first post with a summary of all the media I am currently absorbing,

Cheers.

Books:

  • Sword of Destiny by Andrzej Sapkowski (Book Two in The Witcher series)
  • Dangerous Visions edited by Harlan Ellison (cutting edge speculative fiction anthology from the 1960’s)
  • Life, the Universe and Everything by Douglas Adams (Book three in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy)

Games:

  • Modern Warfare Remastered
  • Battlefield 1

TV:

  • Westworld
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 4
  • Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood Season 4
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine Season 3
  • The Walking Dead Season 7 (sorta on the fence about continuing watching after that first episode…jeesh)
  • Gravity Falls Season 1

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