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Top 5 Coen Brothers Movies

By Scott Marks

The Coen Brothers have always been a hit-and-miss affair. First off, these boys have terrible senses of humor. I'd rather watch just about any Warner Bros. cartoon than Raising Arizona and as far as I'm concerned, Fargo will forever remain one of cinema's most over-valued oddities. My grudging acceptance of their work began with Miller's Crossing, and with the exception of a few of comedic missteps (The Hudsucker Proxy, Intolerable Cruelty, The Ladykillers), they have been fairly steady ever since.

1. 'Miller's Crossing'

Miller's Crossing
© 20th Century Fox
Great looking, perfectly cast depression-era gangster melodrama. The film's themes of political intrigue and the inner-workings of the mob are reminiscent of Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest. It's my personal favorite Coen Bros. film, probably due more to genre and production design rather than the filmmaker's individual contributions. And who doesn't love a machine gun that refuses to stop spitting bullets?
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2. 'The Big Lebowski'

The Big Lebowski
© Universal Studios
Jeff Bridges plays an L. A. slacker mistaken for a millionaire whose wife owes the mob big money. Together with a couple of his bowling partners, Bridges embarks on a Raymond Chandler-esque trek to sleuth out the truth. Hands down, the Coen Bros. most enjoyable film to date.

3. 'No Country for Old Men'

No Country for Old Men DVD
© Miramax Films
It won the 2008 Best Picture Oscar and in spite of that it's not a bad film. An amiable hunter happens upon a bloody crime scene with more drugs and dough than dead bodies. Leaving the pounds of powder behind, he makes off with the cash and it isn't long before he tops a hired psycho-killer's hit list. Violent and bloody (that's good), hopelessly film-schoolish in parts (that's bad) and with an ending that completely defies logic, it's still well worth the effort. I spent more time talking to people about this film than all of 2007's other offerings combined.

4. 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?'

O Brother, Where Art Thou?
© Touchstone
The screwball promise planted in The Hudsucker Proxy blooms in this hilarious Preston Sturges homage. Set during the depression-era, a trio of chain gang refugees (George Clooney, John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson) makes their way across the south on a treasure hunt. Arguably the only film to include a KKK musical number that one could actually define as a charmer.
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5. 'Fargo'

Fargo on DVD
© MGM
Basically the same plot as Blood Simple with a wood-chipper thrown in for good measure. A financially strapped car dealer hires a pair of bumbling thugs to kidnap his wife. The plan goes terribly wrong and it's up to the local police chief, with an infectious regional dialect, Marge Gunderson (McDormand) to solve three murders. I can't buy into the film's repetitive sense of humor and the scene between Marge and a long lost boyfriend adds little more than extra minutes to the running time. You love it, I don't.
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