The last effort from Joel and Ethan Coen was The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, an anthology film for Netflix. But that didn’t count because it wasn’t really a single-narrative “Coen Bros. film” that opened in theatres. Within that realm, Joel and Ethan have been M.I.A. since Hail, Caesar!, which came out three years ago. Except that was a bit of a disappointment. It was fine (Josh Brolin was excellent) but at the same time a bit strained and somehow incomplete.
If you ask me the last real Coen brothers film was Inside Llewyn Davis, which was six fucking years ago.
I “liked” but didn’t love True Grit (’10) all that much. It was basically about Jeff Burly Bridges going “shnawwhhhhr-rawwwhhrr-rawwrrluurrllllh.” It certainly wasn’t an elegant, blue-ribbon, balls-to-the-wall, ars gratia artis Coen pic — it was a well-written, slow-moving western with serious authenticity, noteworthy camerawork, tip-top production design and, okay, a few noteworthy scenes.
So let’s just call the last ten years a difficult, in-and-out, up-and-down saga, but at the same time acknowledge that the Coens have enjoyed two golden periods of shining creativity and productivity.
The first golden period was a four-film run — Blood Simple (’84), Raising Arizona (’87), Miller’s Crossing (’90) and Barton Fink (’91). The Hudsucker Proxy (’94) was a weird, half-successful, half-sputtering in-betweener. The second golden period (’96 to ’09) was a nine-film run that included Fargo (’96), The Big Lebowski (’98), O Brother, Where Art Thou? (’00), The Man Who Wasn’t There (’01), Intolerable Cruelty (’03), The Ladykillers (’04), No Country for Old Men (’07), Burn After Reading (’08) and A Serious Man (’09).
My moviegoing life has been diminished by the absence of the “real” Coen Brothers. If I was a mega-millionaire I would invest in whatever they want to make.