47 FILMS: 48. MILLER’S CROSSING

In our continuing series of 47 films to see before you are murdered in your dreams we present the Coen Brothers’ Miller’s Crossing.

What’s the rumpus? The Coen Brothers gangster movie Miller’s Crossing stars Gabriel Byrne as a fixer, bad gambler and all round heel Tom Reagan. Albert Finney is one boss holding the town as Caspar, an insecure up and comer ‘Don’t come the high hat’, challenges his authority, specifically asking that he do something about his girlfriend’s dodgy bookie, John Turturro. It doesn’t help that Marcia Gay Harden is also hooked up with Tom. Yikes. Loosely based in what would no doubt now be called the Dashiell Hammett universe, the Coens create a brilliant period piece and a gangster epic as brown as a worn gun holster and occasionally as golden as those glasses of whiskey seen through firelight.

All the performances are pitch perfect with Byrne in particular showing what a charismatic screen presence he is. And how woefully underused through the years. But it’s hard put to find anything that isn’t right in this movie. The wit and snap of the script with lines that fire and hit like bullets from a Tommy gun. Barry Sonnenfeld’s autumnal  cinematography and Edward Hopper framing. The confident direction – this was only the Coens third outing. There’s a postmodern knowingness but at the same time the overall quality and obvious love of the genre elevates the movie way beyond pastiche.

For more of our 47 Films to see before you’re murdered in your dreams CLICK HERE.

THE SECRET ACTOR WRITES…

HOLLYWOOD – The Secret Actor is a new blog written by an Oscar nominated actor who still lives and works in Los Angeles in the film industry but wishes to write in a state of anonymity so he can fearlessly lift the lid on the industry and spill the beans on Hollywood.

Hi, I’m Josh Brolin and I’d like to tell you about how … wait a second. Let me start this again. I’m the Secret Actor. I am working in Hollywood and have done so ever since I was a kid. Hell, I kind of grew up on screen you might say. There are lots of secrets that I could tell and under the shield of anonymity and with no fear of litigation, I finally have the opportunity, thanks to my good friend, the Studio Exec, to do so.

When I was filming No Country for Old Men with the Coen Brothers, they came up to me… Sheet. Goddamn it. What I meant to say was when I was filming a film with … two directors … who might have been brothers, but I don’t know, it might have been The Lego Movie, because that has two directors. Anyhow, when I was in that film they came up to me and they said, ‘Josh, we want you to try it another way.’ ‘Oh,’ I said. ‘How would you like me to do it?’

‘Well,’ said Ethan. ‘We’d like you to turn towards the window and…’

‘Mr. Brolin, here’s your hotdog,’ said a runner, handing me the hotdog. Don’t go thinking that’s a clue to my identity. I know lots of people who eat hotdogs.

‘Go on,’ I told the director.

‘And smile sadly.’

Hmmm. I thought about it as I munched. I nodded because I’m quite well-mannered and I don’t speak with my mouth full. And no. I’m not Roger Moore.

We did the scene and I followed what the director had suggested. They seemed happy with the scene and we went on to the next set up. I felt bad that I hadn’t asked more questions. I wasn’t sure if I had perhaps acquiesced too readily in their version of the story. What about me I thought as I drove back to the hotel? What about my vision? But when I saw the finished film I noticed that I looked great turning to the window and smiling sadly. So it was a good thing that I had done this. It taught me an important lesson. Listen to the directors.

Oh, and don’t eat hot dogs. I had dysentery that night.

More Secret Actor Writes… soon.

 

FRANCES MCDORMAND MARRIES SECOND COEN BROTHER

LAS VEGAS – ‘I’ve got the set,’ shouted an inebriated Frances McDormand from the steps of the small Las Vegas wedding chapel where yesterday she married her second Coen Brother, probably Ethan or Joel.

The Oscar winning actress has already been married to one of the Coens, Joel or Ethan since 1984, but decided she would like to have both sometime in 2006.

Hollywood observer Yank Mayhew said:

Bigamy is becoming the new skateboarding in Hollywood circles. Already you have Goldie Hawn married to Kurt Russell, Russell Crowe and Russell Brand. But McDormand has gone for the jackpot, adding a tinge of incest to the brew. 

Sources close to the Coen Brothers camp reported that the siblings were in fact ‘relieved’ because for some time now they had been unable to remember who was married to the Fargo star:

Genuinely confused

 It would be quite funny as a matter of fact, as they squabbled about it once Frances had left the room. When she came back, they waited for her to say something or make a gesture and then would use that as a clue. I’m afraid to say Frances exploited their confusion to basically go home with the one she wanted. 

All of us at Studio Exec would like to wish the happy trio all the best for the future.

Hail Caesar is on general release.

FARGO AND THE WOMEN

FARGO – What is it with Fargo Season 2 and the women?

Season 2 of the hit FX show Fargo just concluded and the praise received if anything exceeded the first season, which itself had come as a surprise. And yet there was something that disturbed me throughout my viewing of Noah Hawley’s intelligent crime drama: namely the women. I remarked on this in my mid-season review (CLICK HERE to read that) and my perplexity only increased as the show went on. A brilliant essay by Kat George for the Decider website posited the absolute opposite of what I’m going to argue here (read that OVER HERE), so first I better concede some points. First off, Fargo gives women a central role. This is the core of the Coen brother’s original motion picture with Frances McDormand’s  Marge Gunderson, a down to earth police woman whose apparent simplicity firm moral rectitude and sharp investigative nous. The first season we got a riff on that with Allison Tolman’s Deputy Molly Solverson. And season two has a quartet of major female characters, all of whom are intelligently written, well performed and move the narrative: Kirsten Dunst as Peggy, Jean Smart as Floyd Gerhardt a would be matriarch of the local crime family, Betsy Solverson (Cristin Milioti) the Sheriff’s ailing wife and Rachel Keller as Simone Gerhardt, Floyd’s granddaughter, a would be femme fetale. In the first episode we get a taste of the strong women when a young Gerhardt tries to prove himself by threatening Judge Mundt (Ann Cusack). Her refusal to concede to the male bluster and her resistance is part of what sets off the chain of events that will unravel throughout the rest of the show – Peggy gives the coup de grace driving her deus ex machina – but it should also be noted that she ends up dead. This is a world not kind to strong women. Not kind to anyone, it might be conceded.

So let’s take the Gerhardt’s next. The ‘would be’s a stuck on there are essential here. Floyd and Simone are both responding to and trying to best the patriarchal mob family from opposite ends of the spectrum – Simone is trying to betray it from without and Floyd take it over from within. And they both fail dramatically. Kat George describes Floyd as a ‘rousing, formidable woman’ but there’s not much evidence of this. This is what she would be, but her only moment of anything like control is when she orders a massacre. All her other decisions end in failure and her sons systematically undermine her. As does her granddaughter whose inept betrayals and manipulations show her as naive and easily manipulated.

Next comes Peggy. The hair dresser with a butcher for a husband and a yen for self-improvement (actualization) is the narrative catalyst that just keeps on giving. George describes her as ‘the puppeteer’. However, giving her power as the lead agent fails to see that her agency is fatally compromised by her mental illness. As the hallucinations in the final episode make clear, Peggy is delusional. Diagnosing her is a tricky task, partly because mental health is always at the behest of narrative in such cases but also because she is the re-enactment of that old misogynistic stereotype – the hysterical blue stocking. Her dissatisfaction and yearning for self-improvement is part and parcel of her madness, hoarding travel and beauty magazines and hallucinating lifestyle gurus. In the final episode we have replay of the scene from the original movie when Marge confronts the main criminal Gaear (Peter Stormare) through a rear view mirror conversation in the police prowler. Her interrogation of the silent banal evil sat on her back seat reveals his smallness, his cupidity in stark relief to her basic un-cynical decency – it is the moral core of the film. The gender roles reversed, it is Patrick Wilson’s police officer Lou Solverson who asks the questions and Peggy who gives a passionate feminist reading of the whole situation – the constrictions of small town life, the limitations and criticisms and surveillance a woman is subject to, her inability to become who she really thinks she should be. ‘People got killed,’ Solverson reminds her. All her problems in the context of the dead bodies reads as a petty complaint of a desperate and desperately selfish housewife, whose delusions led to the death of her doltish but basically good husband (Jesse Plemons).

But Lou is not the only person to give a rebuttal to Peggy and her concerns. His wife Betsy is the counterpoint to all of the women striving to dominate their men, striving to realize themselves. Of her, George writes: Betsy ‘is just as threatening to her world as Floyd and Simone were to theirs, or as Peggy is to the world at large. Betsy has mastered the men in her world, managing to be smart, biting, motherly and gentle all at once.’ So mastery has come through being an uncomplaining, saintly, self-sacrificing, self-abnegating mother and housewife? She masters the men by doing the dishes? By waiting patiently at home, dying quietly while her husband does everything he can not to come back, under the guise of duty? Sure she finds the gun and dispenses stern advice to the town drunk, but all this only secures her in the one role that women are allowed to flourish in. She is a matriarch and not without power, but the matriarch is not necessarily a woman who opposes male power; much of the time they facilitate it – the woman who gets to boss the other women in how best to look after their men.

I get that Fargo is set in the mid-West in a nascent Reaganite America. This is a small town conservative homeliness pitted against the forces of darkness, the interlopers – blacks and native Americans, or just people from Kansas city. It is hard to unpick where that conservative world view is being satirized or lionized – a stickiness that is crucial to the appeal of the source film as well as the TV show. But women, at least in my ledger, seem to get the worst of it. They are mad, bad and dangerous to know on one side, or saintly, motherly and imminently dead on the other. And although misogynists all got short shrift as well – ‘You have a woman problem,’ hisses Dodd Gerhardt, the worst offender – one can’t help but feel the show comes down very much on one side – the Nancy Reagans rather than the second wave feminists.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. Use that l’il ole comment box below.

For more Fargo, Click Here.

FX TO MAKE HUDSUCKER PROXY TV SHOW

HOLLYWOOD – Following the success of the Fargo TV show, FX have announced they have green lit a spin off TV version of the hit Coen Brothers movie: The Hudsucker Proxy.

Based on the 1994 film starring Tim Robbins, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Paul Newman, The Hudsucker Proxy TV show will be written by Noah Hawley and executive produced by the Coen Brothers. Hawley came by the Studio Exec Bungalow to talk about the project:

I’m really excited. We’ve done two seasons of Fargo and the third will be a real challenge but now I have enough people in place that I can kind of let it run itself and I am ready for a new challenge. Hudsucker is going to give me that.

How is it going to be different from Fargo?

Well, if you’ve seen the film you’ll know that it is a tribute to the sort of screwball comedies of the 30s and 40s and much less dark than Fargo. So we’re going to be doing that. There will be much less violence. Bruce Campbell also had a great role in the film so we’re hoping he’ll come back for us.

So there’ll be less violence?

Oh absolutely. The whole tone will be lighter and more comic. Plus we’re looking at a totally different demographic. A younger audience. This is going to be fun and youthful, colorful and with lots of music and dance. Oh and they’re going to be the Muppets as well. They are going to be working in Hudsucker Industries int he lower sections.

That sounds… very different. So it’s going to be …

You know for kids.

The Hudsucker Proxy: The Show will be broadcast in 2016.

LARS VON TRIER INFILTRATES CANNES JURY

CANNES – It was revealed today that Lars Von Trier has infiltrated the Cannes jury but it is as yet unclear which jury member has the Danish controversialist hidden somewhere within them.

The Croisette was on red alert last night as it emerged that Lars Von Trier has somehow managed to infiltrate the Cannes Jury. Presidents of the Jury Joel and Ethan Coen released a joint statement in which they both said that the Nymphomaniac director had been detected via special irony machines set up for that very purpose by the Gendarmes.

We knew something like this might happen. What we didn’t know was how clsoe he would get. We know he is actually inside one of the members of the jury. How he did this is as yet unclear, though our money is on a Fantastic Voyage type of shrinking machine.

Where could Lars Von Trier be?

Rossy de Palma (Actress – Spain)
She would make the perfect host. Utterly charming and unsuspecting and plus Von Trier would be attracted to the dusky southern lady.

Sophie Marceau
(Actress, Director – France)
Unlikely. Sophie is a waifish figure unlikely to hide the gross presence of the Breaking the Waves director.

Sienna Miller (Actress – United Kingdom)
Lars Von Trier might try to infect the impressionable American born but UK based actress. Would she have the will to resist his MIND POWERS?

Rokia Traoré (Composer, Singer-songwriter – Mali)
Although not strictly speaking a racist, Von Trier is a Nazi and so his Aryan nature is unlikely to mix well with the Malian singer.

Guillermo del Toro (Director, Writer, Producer – Mexico)
Perhaps the obvious place to look. The Pacific Rim director has room enough for a whole Dogma movement.

Xavier Dolan (Director, Writer, Producer, Actor – Canada)

Canadian prodigy Xavier Dolan has had a string of critical successes. How could one so young be so artistically mature? Perhaps if there was a great Dane lurking within the state of Xavier.

Jake Gyllenhaal (Actor – United States)

We all know how much Lars Von Trier loves Hollywood movies and none more so than the Prince of Persia. In many ways Gylenhaal would be the perfect place to find one’s very own private Brokeback Mountain.

COEN BROTHERS ‘ARE OUT OF CONTROL’

CANNES – The Coen Brothers might be the Presidents of the Cannes Jury but we reveal that their past is a hot bucket of slimy Hollywood scandal.

The Coen Brothers‘ consistent misbehaviour has been kept from the headlines by an unholy cabal of powerful agents, celebrity friends and studio heads, but a recent acceleration in debauchery could see the Serious Men – as they like to be known – facing criminal charges.
You might know them as the writer/directors whose quirky, witty and intelligent films have brought a delightful sense of entertainment that works as an antidote to the usual brainless multiplex crud, whether we’re smiling gently at ‘comedies’ such as O Brother Where Art Thou? or being thrilled by the genre exercises like No Country for Old Men.  But now Studio Exec  finally has the courage to reveal that the soft spoken due are actual a pair of wanton rascals whose horrific assault on every social taboo led Charlie Sheen to ask for a restraining order against them.

‘It’s like the Hell Fire club has been re-invented,’ a shocked looking Tim Robbins squealed. ‘When I was making the Hudsucker Proxy I asked what the title meant. So they showed me. I’ve never been so disgusted in my life. I spent the next three hours retching until there was nothing left but stomach lining and an old licence plate.’
A wife cleans up at the end of a cocaine party


So what have the brothers been guilty of:

  • When David Fincher was making Panic Room they turned up on set and sniggered at him until he made the film craply.
  • They insisted that the fake snow for Fargo be 70% pure cocaine and then they wouldn’t share, not even with their wives.
  • They told George Clooney that he could do comedy and encouraged him to make Leatherheads and then laughed in his face (the only laughter the film provoked incidentally. 
  • They once ate a traffic policeman. 
Comedy? Are you sure?
 
  • Lady Killers was made for the sole purpose of making Tom Hanks feel ridiculous. 
  • They often walk around Hollywood naked with Steve Buscemi and John Goodman on leashes.
  • William H. Macy was told that to prepare for the role of Jerry Lundergaard he would have to be chemically castrated. He was horrified at the end of filming to find out the scene had been removed from the script and he had burned his own penis for no good reason.
We can only hope that these revelations will serve to make the brothers think about their callous behaviour and perhaps even bring about some activity from the otherwise sluggish LAPD.

FIRST LOOK AT COEN BROTHERS’ HAIL, CAESAR!

HOLLYWOOD – The Coen Brothers new film starring George Clooney is not out until 2016 but the Studio Exec got an EXCLUSIVE first look at the film.

In the picture George Clooney can be seen playing Mark Antony opposite Channing Tatum as Caesar. The official synopsis reads:

 Mark Antony (George Clooney) is sent to Egypt by his best friend Julius Caesar (Channing Tatum) where he must negotiate on his behalf with the Egyptian Queen and Caesar’s former lover Cleopatra (Scarlett Johansson). A musical sex-comedy for all the family, featuring songs by Elton John and Karen O.

The movie is currently in production but voices from the set confirm that it seems to be taking its inspiration from the most successful entry in the classic British comedy series Carry On Cleo. Although not billed as a remake, reports suggest that the Coens have been wanting to make a Carry On film for decades. Insider George Clooney told The Studio Exec EXCLUSIVELY and on condition of anonymity:

Both Joel and Ethan are huge Carry On nuts. Almost all of their films begin from a Carry On film and then kind of change of they go. The working title of Fargo was Carry On Wood Chipping. The Big Lebowski was called Carry On Toking. And No Country for Old Men was originally entitled Carry On Stealing Money from Mexican Drug Cartels. Amazing. I’ve even seen the original posters when the film still had that title. Worth a pretty penny these days.

Hail, Caesar! will be released in February, 2016.

FX LINES UP MORE COEN BROTHERS SHOWS

HOLLYWOOD – Following the critical success of FX’s hit show Fargo, more Coen Brothers spin offs are being lined up for the Fall season.

There are currently three Coen Brothers shows in pre-production:

  • Hudsucker will follow the fortunes of Norville Barnes (Zach Braff), a young inventor who’s placed in a position of power by the conniving executive of the Hudsucker company, Sidney J. Mussburger (John Lithgow). An insider says, ‘This will be a Mad Men style period drama but also keeping the screwball comedy of the original.’
  • The Dude sees the return of everyone’s favorite bowler Jeffrey (The Dude) Lebowksi, to be played by William Hurt. The Dude opens a PI office with old pal Walter Sobchak (Hugh Laurie) and each week will investigate crazy cases from a series of LA style off beats, while at the same time trying to progress into the regionals of the Bowling League. An insider tells us: ‘This will be Hart to Hart for the millennials.’
  • Raising Utah sees slacker couple John Krasinski and Ellen Page kidnap a baby and start an epic journey across America. Sam Mendes will direct. An FX executive promises ‘It won’t be very good.’

All shows are due to premier in the Fall.

INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS: REVIEW

INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS: REVIEW – If the Coen brothers have produced something of lasting worth in this world of ours, it is a growing cast of characters, never conventional, occasionally dumb, occasionally dislikable, who nevertheless somehow manage to win our affection and respect: The Dude, Barton Fink, Tom Reagan, Marge Gunderson, Ed Crane and Ulysses Everett McGill. Llewyn Davis joins the club. Except Llewyn in common with many a Coen anti-hero, isn’t what you might call a joiner.

Set in the midst of the folk scene of the early Sixties, Llewyn (an amazing reputation making role by Oscar Isaac) is what you might call a prickly character. Unable to filter his disdain, or feign interest in what bores him, he is a folk singer who can’t bear folk. Despite his commitment to his art, his decisions are of the one step forward two steps back variety. 

The Coen brothers lovingly reproduce the world of the pre-Dylan Village, but their portrait of tragic failure is both hilarious and unflinching. Whereas biopics swirl with stories of against the odds down on their luck heroes who triumph over adversity, the Coens create another type of hero: the glorious f*ck up of Llewyn Davis. 

And there’s a cat. 

COEN BROTHERS ATTACK AFFLECK

HOLLYWOOD – The bad boys of middlebrow cinema, the Coen Brothers, launched a scathing attack against Ben Affleck today during an interview with French culture magazine Chapeau.

‘That asshole stole our movie and he’s gonna pay with his nut,’ they said in unison in a The Shining -Danny-come-and-play-with-.us way that they’ve perfected over the years. ‘His film Argo was clearly a rip off of our film and when we get our hands on him he’s gonna be shy a nut. We’re going to take it off with pliers.’

It appears that the Hudsucker Proxies (as they prefer to be known) were labouring under the false impression that Affleck’s Argo was essentially a remake of Fargo. Joel – the more coherent of the two – flew solo on this one:  

Mr Potato Head

Mr. Potato head thinks he can do anything just because he used to dingle Beyonce or someone. Well, he can’t. Remaking our film and then just taking a letter off the beginning of the title to try and throw us has never worked. Look how we fucked up Spielberg after he tried to make Arton Fink. We broke William Friedkin’s arm when he was planning a script Brother, Where Art Thou?

Ethan continued:

We’re only gonna take the one nut, because the other one’s there as an insurance for good behaviour. 

Matt Damon – who is widely believed to be the origin of the rumour – looked shaken and tried to explain himself. ‘I thought the guys would watch the movie, see that it was obviously not Fargo and realise I’d been pulling their leg. What I didn’t realise was how heavily these guys are into crystal meth. They sat through the whole screening facing the wrong direction and basically saw their film against the blank wall opposite the screen.’