Coen Brothers Collection Blu-ray
In part two of the Coen Brothers Blu-ray Summer we take a look at the remaining films (including Miller’s Crossing Blu-ray) of the Coen Brother Collection Blu-ray set leading towards the final Blu-ray release of the Coens Summer Blu-rays, a 10th anniversary selection and it’s very popular soundtrack.
Miller’s Crossing Blu-ray
My most anticipated release on high def from the Coens has got to be the 1990 neo-noir gangster film Miller’s Crossing, starring Gabriel Byrne, Albert Finney, John Tutturo, Marcia Gay Harden, Jon Polito and a bit party by Steve Buscemi. This is by far my favorite Coen Brothers film and I would go so far as to say a permanent member of my top-10 all-time films. Time Magazine agrees that the film is quality, placing it in their top 100 films of all time.
The performancse in this Miller’s Crossing are perfection, right down to the supporting cast. Albert Finney is the right choice as Leo the Irish gang-leader who controls the city, including the police and government during Prohibition. Jon Polito brings an excellent performance to his role as Caspar the leader of the rival Italian gangsters. His character provides a lot of comic relief on top of some vicious moments. The anchor is Gabriel Byrne’s Tom. Tom is loyal to Leo almost wholly, with the big exception of his involvement with Leo’s girl, Verna. Leo wants to protect Verna’s brother Bernie (Tuttoro) at the expense of causing a war between himself and Caspar.
When Leo decides not to take Tom’s advice to hand of Bernie to Caspar, Tom decides to take matters into his own hands, seemingly joining up with Caspar in order to find out the real scoop on Bernie, whilst butting heads with Caspar’s #1, The Dane. Tom always makes the “smart play”, the problem is that he has trouble curbing his smart mouth fueled by booze and an addiction to gambling.
Tom is a noir character to his core, our broken “hero” who seemed doomed not survive the whole ordeal, getting involved with the femme fatale who is tied to his boss and playing the odds and sides against each other. The film is as much a neo-noir as it is a black comedy, with plenty of laughs and smart, memorable dialogue. It’s all tied together nicely by a wonderful musical score from Carter Burwell, the Coens long-time collaborator and excellent cinematography from Sonnenfeld. The score is anchored by Tom’s theme, A Man and His Hat, a beautiful, simple almost whimsical tune that somehow transitions well into the darker parts of the film and Tom’s personality. If you get any of the Coen Brothers Blu-ray releases, this is the one I would suggest. Watch one of my favorite scenes all time, Albert Finney in the Danny Boy sequence:
This is the only film of the Coen Brothers Collection Blu-ray set which is already in high-def. Still it is one of their most popular films, and rightfully so. The film stars Blood Simple’s Frances McDormand, along with William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi, Harve Presnell, Peter Stormare. This movie was infamously tagged as being a true story, though over time this has been revealed to be false. It was perhaps a not-so-subtle jab at films that legitimately claim to be doing just that. I wrote a paper on Fargo in college, if I can scrounge that up, I’ll post it here. Otherwise, this film has been available for quite some time, so there are plenty of reviews out there. It rounds out the collection nicely, and is stronger (by far) then our final entry in the collection.
Raising Arizona Blu-ray
Raising Arizona is the Coen Brothers original cult classic. Here’s a quote from the Miami Herald interview with the Coens: Ethan said, “We almost never watch our movies again. I usually have to be forced to go back and watch them for a specific reason. We don’t do it recreationally. But I just happened to have reviewed new video masters of two movies, Raising Arizona and Miller’s Crossing, so I watched them for the first time since we made them. Raising Arizona, that one ain’t so hot. But Miller’s Crossing, I had the same reaction you did. I kinda liked it. The actors are pretty good and the movie kind of works. I enjoyed that one. I didn’t enjoy the other one.” That pretty much sums up my feelings for this film, though I didn’t really enjoy it the first time I saw it either.
Raising Arizona is a weird comedy, with Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter, William Forsythe, John Goodman, Frances McDormand. The film again featured the work of Barry Sonnenfeld and Carter Burwell in their usual capacities. The idea of the film was to be as completely removed from Blood Simple as possible, and it is that, including in my opinion, where Blood simple was an excellent film, this is not. Raising Arizona is one of those cult films that you either love or you spend time asking yourself, “Why do people like this film?”. For those in first category, Raising Arizona finally gets release on Blu-ray as part of the Coen Brothers Collection Blu-ray set on August 30th.
The final part of the Coen Brothers Blu-ray Summer features the 10th anniversary of O Borther Where Art Thou, including a look as the release of a special 2-disc soundtrack to commemorate and capitalize on the popularity of the film and its music.