“If he wakes up, we’ll worry about it then.” (Burn After Reading)

Burn After Reading may be the Coen bothers’ meanest movie, which is saying a lot. And its cruelty is magnified because this is a goofy screwball comedy, albeit a goofy screwball comedy with a high body count and more than its fair share of vicious characters going out of their way to do harm unto others. As a group of loosely connected morons circle a seemingly life-or-death scenario involving blackmail, spying, and secret government documents, we occasionally check back in with two CIA agents (played by David Rasche and J.K. Simmons), who quickly remind us that the actual plot of the movie is entirely trivial and everyone is getting worked up (and shot) over nothing. The film’s final scene is a masterstroke of cruel comedy. John Malkovich‘s deranged Osborne Cox murders Richard Jenkins‘ Ted (the only truly decent person in the entire movie) with a hatchet… and then we smash cut back to CIA headquarters, where Rasche and Simmons quickly wrap everything up, dismiss the entire movie as nonsense, and hope that they never have to speak of it again. The final joke is on you, the audience, for actually thinking this story was worth your time. It’s glib and it’s mean and it’s just so damn funny.

“The Uncertainty Principle. It proves we can’t ever really know what’s going on.” (A Serious Man)

All Michael Stuhlbarg‘s Larry Gopnik wants is answers, but the world of A Serious Man goes out of its way to deny him anything. Religion denies him comforting and easy answers. His wife is leaving him for another man. His seductive neighbor is as mysterious as anything else in his life. And why is he being charged by the Columbia Record Club for records he didn’t order? A Serious Man is a comedy defined by pain and uncertainty – if there is a God, he certainly doesn’t give a shit about you and his servants on Earth aren’t particularly helpful either. Which brings us to this amazing dream sequence, which begins with advanced physics, edges into spiritualism, and concludes with some truly inspired physical comedy, all done in the service of denying its lead character satisfaction of any kind. It’s the entire film in a nutshell. 

“I don’t see a lot of money here.” (Inside Llewyn Davis)

The YouTube clip below ends a few seconds too early. It captures Oscar Isaac‘s performance of “The Death of Queen Jane,” one of several incredible songs the beleaguered folk singer Llewyn Davis sings during Inside Llewyn Davis, but it misses the cruel punchline. After trekking halfway across the country, after facing countless hardships and trials, after destroying his life and his relationships in pursuit of his craft, Llewyn finally finds himself face-to-face with Bud Grossman (F. Murray Abraham), the man who can make or break his career. And after his astonishing performance, after showcasing the artistic integrity he has fought so hard to protect, Grossman gets honest with him. He’s good, but he’s not going to make anyone rich anytime soon. Sorry, kid. Best of luck to you elsewhere. Unfortunately, Llewyn spent his last reserves of luck a long time ago.

Pages: Previous page 1 2 3

Cool Posts From Around the Web: