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Non-Review Review: Suburbicon

Suburbicon is a disjointed mess of a feature film. It is a gonzo black comedy that never quite coalesces, but sustains itself with enough energy that it never completely falls apart.

Suburbicon is a bizarre hybrid. Watching the movie, one gets a sense that the film has been stitched together from two core stories. Indeed, this was very much the case; the central plot of Suburbicon was original written by the Coen Brothers as a grotesque comedy of murder and mayhem, while the movie’s prominent subplot was grafted on later by director George Clooney and collaborator Grant Heslov to add a sense of social realism to this late fifties Americana. These two elements never quite cohere, which means Suburbicon never feels truly focused.

Stress testing.

There is a telling moment around half-way through the film, when an insurance investigator has stopped by the family residence at the heart of the story. Investigating a suspicious claim, the gentleman is clearly fishing. “In the end,” he reflects philosophically, “it all comes down to one word.” Without any elaboration, he allows his mind to wonder and the conversation to drift. He only returns to that  train of thought when guided by his interviewee. “What is it?” they ask. He is lost. “What?” They clarify, “The word?” The investigator takes a moment to get back on track.

That small conversational aside captures what is most appealing and most infuriating about Suburbicon, a movie that lacks a strong core and finds itself caught between two very different stories without any strong focus on either. Suburbicon is never boring, packed with strange turns and driven by a pitch black sense of humour. However, it never seems entire sure of what it is.

Cycles of violence.

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Non-Review Review: Inside Llewyn Davis

Inside Llewyn Davis is great examination of a singer drifting through American music scene in the sixties, starting in Greenwich before embarking on a cross-country tour and then ending up right back where he started.

One of the nicer cinematic tricks employed by the Coen Brothers is a delightful sense of deja vu at the end of the movie. There’s a step backwards in time towards the start of the film, but also a sense that it’s so subtle you might be forgiven for missing it. After all, it doesn’t matter too much. The eponymous Llewyn Davis is an artist caught in a particular groove, stuck on repeat; despite his protestations to the contrary, he is a performing monkey who ultimately only knows one or two numbers that seem to resonate with the audience.

Inside Llewyn Davis is a melancholy examination of personal and professional failure, delivered in the Coens’ trademark tragicomic style. There’s a sense that the world itself has a cruel sense of humour, structuring a joke at the expense of Llewyn. The film doesn’t rank among the Coen Brothers’ best work, and it’s certainly not an instant classic, feeling too disconnected and occasionally too cynical to rank with with the best of their output. At the same time, a middle-tier Coen Brothers’ film is still well worth a look.

Sing when you're winning... ... or when you're not...

Sing when you’re winning…
… or when you’re not…

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Non-Review Review: True Grit

True Grit is a strange proposition. It’s very clearly a very typical Western movie, about a bunch of (effectively) hired guns hunting down a fugitive on the run from the law, in pursuit of a large bounty. However, it’s also very distinctively a Coen Brothers movie, in attitude and tone. It isn’t that the two are mutually exclusive (No Country For Old Men, for example, was a modern Western with a very Coen aesthetic), but it’s just strange to see both elements so strongly pronounced. Although not quite perfect, True Grit is a movie well worth your time.

Snow man's land...

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Eleven for Eleven: My Ten Most Anticipated Movies of 2011

What with listing my top ten films of the past year and all that, I thought that I’d take the opportunity to look forward rather than backwards. So here are my eleven most anticipated movies coming out in the next year or so. I picked eleven, because I’m not 100% certain about the release date of one. As ever, these are for Irish and British cinemas, so four of these will be arriving in our theatres within the next three weeks. Which, I suppose is something to look forward to. Anyway, without any further adieu, here are my eleven most anticipated films of the year ahead.

Coming soon...

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Non-Review Review: A Serious Man

I can’t help but feel like I’m missing something with A Serious Man. I mean, I get it, it’s all pointless and we’re meant to be as unable to make sense of it all as the dentist who finds words on his goy‘s teeth or Larry Gopnik himself, but there’s something ultimately uncomfortable about the film’s reflexiveness. After all, the story filters tales through tales through tales, with a rabbi sharing a pointless story with Larry as he waits there for the rabbi to instill it with meaning, but can’t. The movie’s central thesis is that – assuming he exists – God is a sadistic and horrible creature for the way he arranges the world without meaning and seemingly to punish a man “trying to be a serious man”. Of course, whether or not God exists is a question for each individual to come to themselves, but the film draws attention to its nature as a narrative rather than a documentary – first through a random introductory film and then through a-story-within-a-story – which makes it clear that while the real world may or may not have an omnipotent creator, Larry’s world does. And you can’t help but feel, at the end of it, that the Coens are really just dicks.

Is it wrong that I was a little board?

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Non-Review Review: No Country For Old Men

It’s a funny world. But it has always been a funny world and it’s arrogant to presume that the world waited until we got here to go and get itself in a mess. Sure, some of us carry the fire off into that night, but it’s a very cold and very dark night and all we have is faith that there is an even greater fire out there waiting for us. No Country For Old Men is a stunning film – an odd fusion of the Coen Brothers with Cormac McCarthy which manages to say a hell-of-a-lot without weighing itself down with too much exposition or dialogue. It’s a great film which realy stands out even amongst the Coens’ already-impressive filmography.

Yes, it's a silencer. On a shotgun.

Yes, it's a silencer. On a shotgun.

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Non-Review Review: Burn After Reading

I caught Burn After Reading last night and sat down with my aunt and uncle to watch it. Sure enough, it was as divisive among us as it was among everyone else – my aunt hated it, my uncle enjoyed it and I loved it. My aunt claimed nothing happened and the cast was full of over-actors, my uncle was relatively satisfied with his viewing experience and I was delighted to see the funnest Coen Brothers film since The Big Lebowski.

Artist's interpretation of Darren enjoying this film. Note: Hunkiness may be exaggerated.

Artist's interpretation of Darren enjoying this film. Note: Hunkiness may be exaggerated.

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