RELEVANT Roundtable is when we ask our slate of culture writers a question and compile their responses. This week’s question: Which Coen Brothers movie is the most rewatchable?
Tyler Daswick: There’s a slowness to No Country for Old Men that, in a counterintuitive way, become more intense with every rewatch. It’s a movie full of waiting, with a prolonged chase-scene plot that couldn’t be further from Mad Max if it tried. What makes it all work is Javier Bardem’s permanent performance as Anton Chigurh. He’s the definition of an inevitable villain, and his watchability and magnetism is only intensified by the movie’s decision to cut away from so much of his violence. No Country is slow to bring things to a boil, but its climactic moments still level you, even if you never actually watch them happen. That payoff—punishing as it might be—is worth repeated hits.
Tyler Huckabee: It’s rarely listed toward the top of the Coen Brothers canon, but I have a strange soft spot for Hail, Caesar!. Its aims are grandiose, but it never loses the narrow character studies that define the directors’ best work. Even when the whole affair devolves into high farce, you can’t miss that Coen grin behind the camera — the one that makes you feel like there’s more going on here than what you’re seeing on screen. To my thinking, the Coen’s movies are all, in one way or another, about normal people getting caught up in things too big for them to understand. In this case, the thing is the movie, and we’re the normal people.
Lesley Crews: One of my earliest childhood memories is sitting cross-legged on the floor of our living room watching O Brother, Where Art Thou? with my dad. Each time it graced the TV Guide, we would sit and quote it in its entirety, and I would marvel at how cute George Clooney was. Then I grew up and I read The Odyssey. Suddenly, the film became more re-watchable and more quotable. It’s considered a classic in my family, and its soundtrack follows suit. Soggy Bottom Boys’ “Constant Sorrow” sits at the top of my car karaoke playlist.
Seth Tower Hurd: When the Coens were growing up, they pooled their lawn mowing money to purchase a Super 8 camera and remake TV shows with the neighborhood kids. True Grit feels like the movie the brothers wanted to make in junior high. It contains all their signature Coen-isms, but it feels fresher and more innocent than the rest of their filmography. Plus, True Grit served as our introduction to the brilliant Hailee Steinfeld, who—at just 13 years old—picked up an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Mattie Ross.
Joshua Pease: I quote The Big Lebowski almost every day (“AM I WRONG?!” “Nihilists, Dude” and of course “this isn’t Vietnam, there are rules!”) and I’ve probably watched it over a dozen times. It’s the definition of a cult classic, and is for my money on the Mt. Rushmore of comedies. Infinitely rewatchable.
Mary McCampbell: I will go with Raising Arizona, the unlikely love story between repeat ex-con H.I. (Nicolas Cage), his parole officer Ed (Holly Hunter) and the child they kidnap from Nathan Arizona, a local furniture retailer and father of quintuplets. The movie is side-splittingly hilarious, with many quotable lines (“Son, you gotta panty on yer head!”). It is the first in a long line of Coen films that work because of their local color focus, parodying habits, goofy accents and spotlighting of the different weird enclaves of culture around the country. Raising Arizona also gave me high hopes for Nicolas Cage’s acting career. That, in the end, was the only disappointment.
Matt Conner: The Coen canon is filled to the brim with inspiring works that will be imitated for decades to come, but only one impresses the heart like Inside Llewyn Davis. The story of the titular ’60s folk musician was a critical sensation in 2013, but it failed to move the meter at the box office. Still, Llewyn Davis is an affecting treasure for those who find it, a beautifully-acted tale of an artist chasing his dream and all of the euphoria and despondency that comes with his struggle. For those who love its swirl of emotion—and a super soundtrack produced by T Bone Burnett and Marcus Mumford—it’s a joy to watch again and again.