Raising Arizona, Fargo, The Ladykillers

Marisa Scheinfeld
Docent and educator programs manager, Museum of Photographic Arts

With a new Coens' film coming out, we've chosen to highlight the Coens' cult classic The Big Lebowski for MoPA's next POP (Photos off the Prado) Thursday on November 15. The Coens are responsible for making numerous films that depict a heightened sense of reality. Here's an additional pair of great Coen brothers' films that serve as evidence of their cult-classic worthiness. One of the first examples, Raising Arizona, follows a not-so-reformed criminal, "H.I.," and his new wife, policewoman "Ed," in their pursuit of a normal family. Raising Arizona is full of the visual comedy and unusual characters that are Coen brothers conventions. O Brother, Where Art Thou? is another film highlighting the Coens' unique humor. With their evident research of the time period, effort to show a sepia-tinted South, and amazing score, one can tell the Coens aren't just interested in telling a story.

Raising Arizona
(USA) 1987, Twentieth Century Fox

O Brother, Where Art Thou?
(USA) 2000, Touchstone

Laurel Higbee
Communications manager, Museum of Photographic Arts, www.mopa.org

Fargo won the Coens an Oscar for writing one of the most outrageous fictionalized true stories to be on screen. It's a dark comedy that goes from a bungled kidnapping to a murder mystery, culminating in a violent series of audacious criminal mishaps. All this interlaced with the persistent, unassuming police work of the very pregnant Marge Gunderson (played by the stellar Frances McDormand), and sprinkled with telltale Minnesotan accents. Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare (also in The Big Lebowski) play the kidnappers. Paris, Je T'Aime is a collaboration of 21 directors who create five-minute shorts linked together to deliver a love letter to the city and to humanity itself. The Coens' segment depicts an American tourist, played by Buscemi, perusing a guidebook as he waits for the Paris Metro. He's torn out of the safety of his page-flipping by a passionate young couple in a playful scene.

Fargo (Special Edition)
(USA) 1996, MGM

Paris, Je T'Aime (Paris, I Love You)
(USA/France) 2006, First Look Pictures

Priscilla Parra
Youth and film programs manager, Museum of Photographic Arts

Blood Simple, the directorial debut of the Coens, depicts all the quirks we've come to expect from them. In 2001, it received an unusual director's cut -- the version is some three minutes shorter than the original release. The Coens shortened the film by cleaning up the loose ends in editing, shortening some shots and removing others altogether. They also changed some music. The Ladykillers allows you to understand what the Coens can do to a story. It's a remake of a 1955 classic Ealing comedy. Tom Hanks plays the charming Professor Goldthwaite H. Dorr who rents a room from a God-fearing widow to mask robbery meetings with a gang of unfortunate criminals. Seeing how the Coens distorted the backdrop of this film and brought a new emphasis to each criminal's character is unique. Comparing and contrasting the Coen remake to the original helped me to appreciate the power of the auteur.

Blood Simple (Director's Cut)
(Director's cut) (USA) 2001, Universal

The Ladykillers (Widescreen Edition)
(USA) 2004, Walt Disney Studios

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