Thursday, January 31, 2008

Two More Lumps of Chigurh Please


In defense of No country For Old Men...yep...I kind of want it to win Best Picture Oscar. I haven't seen Atonement yet...probably this weekend...but I have a feeling I will still be rooting for the Coen Bros. after seeing it, the story of Atonement just doesn't sound like something that would interest me...I didn't really like The English Patient I was a little like Elaine on Seinfeld "That's not a love story. Give me something I can use!"

Asterisk wrote a good movie review of NCFOM a few days ago...and the discussion is really worth checking out. The movie seemed to generate a lot of questions and mixed feelings...and two dozen comments! I was pretty impressed. Although I loved There Will Be Blood (which is like Treasure of Sierra Madre meets Citizen Kane)...and I think it is a brilliant story and good movie...I don't think it has as many innovative and incredible aspects as NCFOM. Something...not much mind you...is missing in TWBB.

I have been surprised to find, that many things I thought were amazing about the movie No Country For Old Men were not of interest or even noticed by many viewers. It seems many viewers see it as a genre film exclusively and therefore a cliche. Same old same old. I do not agree. I believe it's a movie where the audience takes from it what they choose...

So here is a quick list defending the storytelling of the film No Country For Old Men

1) Although it functions as an action film and crime genre it offers other layers and themes.
2) The Coen Bros have made another "anti-Hollywood" film. Trailers sell the movie as an action film when the moral of the story is to reject the action offered by our society...recreate your own action.
3) The off-screen death of James Brolin's character Moss has been a contentious weakness for many viewers. "Off-stage deaths" are a literary device of ancient tragedy. The purpose is to reveal a "false protagonist" (like Janet Leigh in Psycho was a false protagonist...even though Hitchcock wasn't using an off-stage death). Brolins character is a Vietnam Vet who feels he is entitled to a little "summin summin" seeing as he never got his as a war hero from his country. We care about him, especially American audiences understanding the context of Vietnam vets...and we want him to "get away with it".
4) There are two "false protagonists" in the movie. The other is that wicked and compelling bad guy "ant on sugar" played by Javier Bardem. Whoops! Nope he is not our hero of the story either folks!
5) Instead our "hero" is a stodgy conservative old man...who is always several steps behind the bad guys and action. We follow a slow moving...day dreamy anti-hero who is more and more disillusioned with life and "justice" each minute of the film. He seems to want to take a nap rather than be in the movie role. He is terribly sad, almost impossible to relate to...at first...
6) The movie proposes that the game of life...as it's played now...is not at all "fun". When will people get it through their heads: the house always wins.
7) The idea that two former Special Ops guys (Harrelson and Bardem) not only knew each other from the past but also both work for some corporation that smuggles drugs is a really fun plot idea...and interesting when compared with the recent release of a Rambo sequel.
8) The movie offers an "anti-showdown" too. This one tense scene outside a hotel room might be the very reason this movie should get best picture...and it has stumped audiences. Here is a site that tries to understand what happens in the "show down" between Chigurh and Sheriff.
9) Maybe the biggest risk the Coens took with this movie was the ending. We heard people complain about the ending in the theatre, on web boards, in reviews on blogs. The final scene between Sheriff Bell and his wife reminded me of the scene in Fargo when Marge visits an old school chum Mike. You can read that scene right here. In amongst all the story of Marge in Fargo this oddball meeting occurs. It has nothing to do with the plot, action and seems so out-of-place. But it tells us a lot about Marge, about love and company and in my mind is linked to this final scene of Sheriff Bell and his wife. (and remember Fargo also ends with a cozy scene of husband and wife in bed talking about stamps and birds)

10) Loretta Bell: How'd you sleep?
Ed Tom Bell: I don't know. Had dreams.
Loretta Bell: Well you got time for 'em now. Anythin' interesting?
Ed Tom Bell: They always is to the party concerned.
Loretta Bell: Ed Tom, I'll be polite.
Ed Tom Bell: Alright then. Two of 'em. Both had my father in 'em . It's peculiar. I'm older now then he ever was by twenty years. So in a sense he's the younger man. Anyway, first one I don't remember to well but it was about meeting him in town somewhere, he's gonna give me some money. I think I lost it. The second one, it was like we was both back in older times and I was on horseback goin' through the mountains of a night. Goin' through this pass in the mountains. It was cold and there was snow on the ground and he rode past me and kept on goin'. Never said nothin' goin' by. He just rode on past... and he had his blanket wrapped around him and his head down and when he rode past I seen he was carryin' fire in a horn the way people used to do and I could see the horn from the light inside of it. 'Bout the color of the moon. And in the dream I knew that he was goin' on ahead and he was fixin' to make a fire somewhere out there in all that dark and all that cold, and I knew that whenever I got there he would be there. And then I woke up.


11) The pagan references to dream analysis, vision quests, a father figure and the horn relate to mythology and rebirth and wisdom...like Marge in Fargo with her husband, talking about the blue-winged teal, the future, new life a mallard duck disguised in prosaic talk of postage stamps! The father carrying the horn with fire "like we used to" is a reference to unicorns, to Father Helio, to Goddess Moon...the horn was associated with the moon's ring of light. Anton Chigurh may have had his own pagan games with his coin toss reminding his victims of the idea of fate and randomness of death...but Sheriff Bell's sleep of ancient mythology is the anecdote. The idea that we can play the game and win is beaten down: it is our vanity that thinks we can beat darkness with its own game and rules.

12) There are no clean get aways.

13) We can't beat evil or people like Chigurh by playing in the same game. We can't fight the challenges of society with it's own rules or laws. We can fight darkness by consulting our own inner wisdom represented by "the light inside the horn".

Thank you for stopping by...it's been quiet around here for months...Please leave your URL address in the comments because blogger has changed it's format making it difficult to collect URLs. Thank you! all visitors will be linked here: 1) Tweetey 2) Fond of Snape 3) Suzanne Says 4) On A Limb With Claudia 5) A Blog About Nowt 6) Four dinners 7) Digital Media Tree 8) A Gentleman's Domain

15 comments:

tweetey30 said...

ME ME MEE First....LOL.. Anyway glad its been quiet. I love movie reviews and such. I havent seen this one yet but I have heard lots of ups and downs about it. All I can say is the the comercials they were running on it made it look good but now after the reviews I have heard I am not so sure anymore.

Janet said...

I haven't seen this yet, but I want to, so I won't read your comments too deeply!

Suzanne said...

I haven't seen the movie yet, and hadn't really wanted to until I read your 13. Thanks. :)

Open Grove Claudia said...

Gosh, they are playing this movie right by our house - I think we'll check it out. I didn't want to see Atonement because, as a therapist, I really know a lot about rape and families.

Happy TT!

Anonymous said...

You might like to read Yeat's poem, "Sailing to Byzantium," which starts "That is no country for old men," and surely was in the author's mind in drawing the themes here. I agree with your identification of the real hero here. This is the link to the poem: http://www.online-literature.com/yeats/781

Muppie

Candy Minx said...

Oh yes, familiar with the Yeats poem thank you very much though Muppie. Nice to see you! "that" country is Ireland...and McCarthy's family was Irish American...

FOUR DINNERS said...

Being an old man now I suppose I'd better not go there then?

Yeats poem is a long favourite of mine.

Bloody hell careful Dinners or you'll start to sound cultured...

...street cred wobble ;-)

L.M. said...

Atonement can't hold a candle to No Country. It is a great movie Candy, you are right. (another movie that I just watched or should say swooned over for two and a half hours is The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Nick Cave co-wrote the music. It's outstanding. I hear that maybe four people liked it)

* (asterisk) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
* (asterisk) said...

We had hoped to go see Atonement locally yesterday, where there was a discussion between viewers afterwards. But it had sold out by the time I got my shit together to book tickets.

So, NCFOM... Thanks for the shout-out, firstly. Y'know, When I read your transcript of the last scene, I realized I'd tuned out of Tommy Lee Jones's monotonous voice and missed half of what he said. That can't be good!

I have no recollection of the horn (which I know you'd mentioned to me before) or the blanket! And, even more surprising, I didn't know he ended with "And then I woke up." This is surprising because, when I was a kid writing essays in English class, we were told, "Never ever end your story with 'And then I woke up'." We were told that this was the laziest, lamest way to end a story.

And I think here the Coens are fucking with us. Because, despite it (arguably) not being a valid ending to a story, we all say it at the end of retelling our dreams. So it's perfectly appropriate here, and yet maybe a terrible last line for a film. I don't know... I liked the movie a lot and I will re-watch it, but it is definitely not an action movie. Is it a genre film? Maybe... but I'm not sure which genre. Anyway, for me, genre doesn't mean cliched.

Did you read the Tarantino article I sent you a link to?

Candy Minx said...

L.M. my sister and I accidently drove onto the set of Jesse James movie...ok ok I wouldhave LOVED to accidently meet Brad Pitt and Affleck...it was a crazy cold day in Calgary and w got lost on a huge area and then got in trouble for being there...even though no shooting that day. I had heart palpatations regardless...looking around frantically where's Brad...where's Brad? I haven't seen the movie yet...but it's on my list...I have about 10 filmsI want to see in the next two weeks before Oscars (that is if there are Oscars...where are the writers?)

4Dins. you have all kinds of culture! You know piunk the best culture! Hey...I think you might like this movie NCFOM...

*, You're right the whole movie fucks with movie making (the novel did the same thing to writing) this is why I am surprised when folks don't like the movie or think it's a story that is run-of-the-mill.
I suspect part of the problem is...itis a very simple story, seen a million times...and then it is always "stunted" it's like the process of letting go and getting satisfaction from story is crushed every turn. Even Bardem's character atthe end is frayed and not as "powerful" or evil as we thought with his bone sticking out and schleping away from the cops at accident...

Nicholas said...

I haven't seen this but I expect it will make it's way to the top of my Netflix list in about six months. I find the Coen's very hit and miss. I enjoyed O Brother Where Art Thou? but was bored rigid by Barton Fink.

Tink said...

I have never even heard of this one, but now I want to see it!
Thanks for visiting my fridge TT.

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