The Wrestler

  • Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
  • Producers: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
  • Writers: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
  • Genres: Drama, Sport
  • Actors: John Turturro, John Goodman, Michael Lerner, Judy Davis, John Mahoney

At the start of the movie, Barton Fink is enjoying the success of his first play, Bare Ruined Choirs. His agent informs him that Capitol Pictures in Hollywood has offered a thousand dollars per week to write movie scripts. Barton hesitates, worried that moving to California would separate him from “the common man”, his focus as a writer. He accepts the offer, however, and checks into the Hotel Earle, a large and unusually deserted building. His room is sparse and draped in subdued colors; its only decoration is a small painting of a woman on the beach, arm raised to block the sun.

In his first meeting with Capitol Pictures boss Jack Lipnick (Michael Lerner), Barton explains that he chose the Earle because he wants lodging that is (as Lipnick says) “less Hollywood”.[2] Lipnick promises that his only concern is Barton’s writing ability, and assigns his new employee to a wrestling movie. Back in his room, however, Barton is unable to write. He is distracted by sounds coming from the room next door, and he phones the front desk to complain. His neighbor, Charlie Meadows (the source of the noise) visits Barton to apologize, and insists on sharing some alcohol from a hip flask to make amends. As they talk, Barton proclaims his affection for “the common man”, and Charlie describes his life as an insurance salesman.

Soon afterwards, Barton is visited by two police detectives, who inform him that Charlie’s real name is in fact Karl Mundt â€“ “Madman Mundt”.[4] He is a serial killer wanted for several murders; after shooting his victims, they explain, he decapitates them and keeps the heads. Stunned, Barton returns to his room and examines the box. Placing it on his desk without opening it, he begins writing and produces the entire script in one sitting. After a night of celebratory dancing, Barton returns to find the detectives in his room, who then reveal Mayhew’s murder. Charlie appears, and the hotel is engulfed in flames. Running through the hallway, screaming, Charlie shoots the policemen with a shotgun. As the hallway burns, Charlie speaks with Barton about their lives and the hotel, then retires to his own room. Barton leaves the hotel, carrying the box and his script. In a final meeting, a disappointed and betrayed Lipnick, who has been drafted into the Pacific Theatre of World War II with the rank of Colonel, angrily chastises Barton for writing “a fruity movie about suffering”,[5] then informs him that he is to remain in Los Angeles, and that â€“ although he will remain under contract â€“ Capitol Pictures will not produce anything he writes so he can be ridiculed as a loser around the studio while Lipnick is in the war. Dazed, Barton wanders onto a beach, still carrying the package. He meets a woman who looks just like the one in the picture on his wall at the Earle, and she asks about the box. He tells her that he knows neither what it contains nor to whom it belongs. She assumes the pose from the picture, and the film ends.

Bad Santa

  • Directors: Terry Zwigoff
  • Producers: John Cameron, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein
  • Writers: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa, uncredited, Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Terry Zwigoff
  • Genres: Comedy, Crime, Drama
  • Actors: Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Cox, Brett Kelly, Lauren Graham, Lauren Tom, with John Ritter, and Bernie Mac

The film begins in a bar on a December night in Milwaukee, where the viewer is introduced to Willie Stokes (Billy Bob Thornton), a bitter, lonely alcoholic. Willie works the holiday seasons as a mall Santa along with his dwarf friend, Marcus (Tony Cox), who works as Santa’s elf. Every Christmas Eve, the two of them disable the security alarm after the mall closes and rob the mall safe; afterwards, Marcus returns to living with his wife (who Willie finds very ugly and annoying), Lois (Lauren Tom), while Willie goes to Miami and spends all his money on booze, a resort condo, and other purely hedonistic pursuits.

At the new mall they plan to steal from, Willie’s alcoholic rants arouse the suspicion of mall manager Bob Chipeska (John Ritter), who asks security chief Gin (Bernie Mac) to investigate. Meanwhile, Willie meets bartender Sue (Lauren Graham), and they begin a relationship. He also meets a pudgy, preteen boy, whom he nicknames the Kid (Brett Kelly), during their visit in the mall. When he leaves the bar and is confronted by a hostile man (Ajay Naidu), the Kid stops the man from beating up (or possibly raped due to the man turning him around) Willie after the guy falsely accuses Willie of being gay. A lonely, unpopular boy, the Kid lives with his senile grandmother (Cloris Leachman) who only says “Roger, you’re home! Let me fix you some sandwiches”; his mother is dead and his father is in prison for embezzlement. After taking the Kid home to the Kid’s father’s mansion, Willie breaks into the house safe, takes all the money, “borrows” his father’s BMW, and winds up spending the money on more booze.

In the final scene, Thurman wears a shirt that Willie sent him, which says on the back, “Shit happens when you party naked,” together with his original present. When Thurman goes out for a bike ride, the head bully appears and starts to taunt Thurman by threatening to steal his bike. But Thurman kicks him in the groin and rides off giving the bully the middle finger.

A Serious Man

  • Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
  • Producers: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
  • Writers: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
  • Genres: Comedy
  • Actors: Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind, Sari Wagner Lennick, Fred Melamed, Aaron Wolff

Minnesota, 1967. Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) is a Jewish physics professor who is being considered for tenure at the university. His son Danny (Aaron Wolff) lives in constant fear of a physically intimidating Hebrew school classmate named Mike Fagle (Jon Kaminski Jr.), to whom Danny owes twenty dollars for marijuana. His teacher catches him listening to a portable radio in class and confiscates it.

Larry’s brother Arthur (Richard Kind) is sleeping on the couch and obsessively writing in a notebook. He purports it to be a scientific research work called The Mentaculus determining the fundamental mathematical relationships that tie all natural laws together.

A Korean-born student, Clive (David Kang), is about to flunk Larry’s class and lose his scholarship. He protests that Larry’s exams are unfair; that he understands the illustrative stories about Schrödinger’s Cat but does not understand the math. After the student leaves the office, Larry spots a thick envelope left by Clive and containing a great sum of money.

Larry’s wife Judith (Sari Lennick) is seeking a divorce and needs a get (a Jewish divorce), so she can marry widower Sy Ableman (Fred Melamed). At the insistence of Judith and Sy, Larry and Arthur eventually move into a nearby motel, the “Jolly Roger”. Judith has withdrawn all of the couple’s money from their joint accounts, leaving Larry penniless.

Larry’s department head compliments Larry on Danny’s bar mitzvah and hints that he will earn tenure. Upon receiving the bill for Arthur’s criminal lawyer he decides to pass Clive after all, and take the bribe left in his desk. His doctor calls him and asks to see him to talk about the results of a chest X-ray. At the same time a massive tornado is approaching Danny’s school.

Burn After Reading

  • Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
  • Producers: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
  • Writers: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
  • Genres: Comedy, Crime, Drama
  • Actors: George Clooney, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, Richard Jenkins, Brad Pitt

Osborne Cox (John Malkovich) is a CIA analyst who quits his job at the agency after being demoted, ostensibly because of a drinking problem. He then decides to write a memoir about his life in the CIA. His wife, pediatrician Katie Cox (Tilda Swinton), wants to divorce Osborne and, at the counsel of her divorce lawyer, she copies many of his personal and financial files off his computer and onto a compact disc. The lawyer’s receptionist accidentally leaves the disc at Hardbodies, a health club. After her husband is served with divorce papers, Katie changes the locks to keep him out of their house.

Two employees of the gym, Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt) and Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand) obtain the disc from the gym’s custodian. Seeing the content of the memoir, they assume that it is highly classified information. Initially Chad and Linda plan to give the disk back to Osborne hoping for a reward, intending to use the money to pay for Linda’s cosmetic surgery. However, after a confusing phone conversation and fury on Osborne’s part, their original plan descends into a blackmail attempt. Chad meets Osborne, who, aware that the “information” is merely his memoirs, refuses to pay and punches Chad in the nose. Linda decides to take the information to the Russian embassy. At the embassy, she hands the disk over to the Russians, promising that she will give more information afterward. Because they don’t actually have any more information, they decide to break into Osborne’s house to steal more.

The movie ends at CIA headquarters, where the official and his director are trying to sort out what happened: Chad and Ted are dead and Osborne is in a vegetative state after being shot by a CIA operative who had been tasked with observing him. The agent felt he could not stand by while Osborne was killing a man in broad daylight. Harry and Linda have been arrested; Harry was caught trying to board a flight to Venezuela, but the director decides to let him go to get him out of their hair. Linda promises to remain silent if the CIA will finance her plastic surgery. The baffled CIA agents agree to her terms.

O Brother Where Art Thou

  • Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
  • Producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
  • Writers: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
  • Genres: Comedy, Adventure, Crime, Music
  • Actors: George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson

Ulysses Everett McGill, known as Everett (George Clooney), Pete (John Turturro), and Delmar O’Donnell (Tim Blake Nelson) escape from a chain gang and set out to retrieve the $1.2 million in treasure that Everett claims to have stolen from an armored car and buried before his incarceration. They have only four days to find it before the valley in which it is hidden will be flooded to create Arkabutla Lake as part of a new hydroelectric project. Early on in their escape, they encounter a blind man traveling on a manual railroad car. They hitch a ride, and he foretells their futures, similar to the oracle of Homer’s Odyssey.

The group sets out for the treasure, and when they pass a congregation on the banks of a river, Pete and Delmar are enticed by the idea of baptism. As the journey continues, they travel briefly with a young guitarist named Tommy Johnson (a character with similarities to blues guitarists Robert Johnson and Tommy Johnson, played by real-life blues musician Chris Thomas King). When asked why he was at a crossroad in the middle of nowhere, he reveals that he sold his soul to the devil in exchange for the ability to play the guitar. Tommy describes the devil as being “White, white as you folks… with empty eyes and a big hollow voice. He loves to travel around with a mean old hound.” This description happens to match the policeman who is pursuing the trio.

The group sets out to retrieve the ring, which is at a cabin in the valley that Everett originally claimed to have hidden the treasure in. When they arrive, the police order their arrest and hanging. Everett protests that they had been pardoned on the radio, but the leader of the police force tells them that it is of no consequence, since the law is only a human institution, plus they have no radio. The guys begin to despair while Everett improvises a prayer to be saved. Suddenly, the valley is flooded and they are saved from hanging. Tommy finds the ring in a desk that he is floating on in the new lake, and they return to town. However, when Everett presents the ring to Penny, she tells him it is the wrong one and demands that he get her ring back. As Everett protests the futility of trying to find it at the bottom of the lake, the blind prophet the trio met earlier rolls by on his railway handcar, ending the film.

The Big Lebowski

  • Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
  • Producers: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
  • Writers: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
  • Genres: Comedy, Crime
  • Actors: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore, David Huddleston, Philip Seymour Hoffman

The film begins with a short voiceover introduction by an unnamed narrator (by Sam Elliott) introducing the character of Jeffrey Lebowski as he is buying half and half from a grocery store in 1991. The voiceover explains that Lebowski calls himself “the Dude”.

After returning to his apartment in Venice, California, two thugs break in and rough up The Dude. They are attempting to collect a debt Lebowski’s supposed wife owes to a man named Jackie Treehorn. After realizing they were looking for a different person with the same name, they leave, but only after one of the thugs urinates on the Dude’s rug. At the instigation of his friend and bowling teammate Walter Sobchak (Goodman), the Dude decides to seek compensation for his urine-soaked rug from the other Jeffrey Lebowski. The next day, the titular “Big” Lebowski, a wheelchair-bound millionaire, gruffly refuses the Dude’s request. After craftily stealing one of the Big Lebowski’s rugs, the Dude meets Bunny Lebowski, the Big Lebowski’s nymphomaniacal trophy wife on his way off the property.

Days later, the Big Lebowski contacts the Dude, revealing that Bunny has been kidnapped. He asks him to act as a courier for the million-dollar ransom because the Dude will be able to confirm or deny their suspicion that the kidnappers are the rug-soiling thugs. Back at his apartment, the Dude naps on his new, stolen rug, only to have a new set of criminals burgle his apartment. The criminals knock him unconscious. Following a musical dream sequence, the Dude wakes up on his bare wooden floor, his new rug missing. Soon after, when Bunny’s kidnappers call to arrange the ransom exchange, Walter tries to convince the Dude to keep the money and give the kidnappers a “ringer” suitcase filled with dirty underwear. The Dude rejects this plan, but cannot stop Walter. The kidnappers escape with the ringer, and the Dude and Walter are left with the million-dollar ransom. Walter seems unperturbed by this turn of events, and takes the Dude bowling. Later that night, the Dude’s car is stolen, along with the briefcase filled with money. The Dude receives a message from the Big Lebowski’s daughter, Maude. She admits to stealing back the Dude’s new, stolen rug, as it had sentimental value to her. At her art studio, she explains that Bunny is a porn starlet working under producer Jackie Treehorn and confirms the Dude’s suspicion that Bunny probably kidnapped herself. She asks the Dude to recover the ransom, as it was illegally withdrawn by her father from a family-run charitable foundation for orphans. She offers him a finder’s fee in exchange for his services.

After a disagreement with the funeral home director over the cost of an urn for Donny, Walter and the Dude go to a cliff overlooking a beach to scatter Donny’s ashes from a large Folgers coffee can. Before opening the can’s lid and haphazardly shaking out Donny’s remains into the wind, Walter remembers what little he knew about Donnie, including that he loved to surf and bowl, then quotes a line from Hamlet: “Goodnight, sweet prince.” After an emotional exchange, Walter suggests, “Fuck it, man. Let’s go bowling.” The movie ends with the Dude in the bowling alley and meeting the narrator at the bar. The narrator tells the Dude to take it easy and the Dude responds by stating, “the Dude abides”. The narrator briefly comments on the film to the audience, saying that although he “didn’t like to see Donny go”, he hints that there’s a “little Lebowski on the way.” The film transitions to the closing credits as Townes Van Zandt’s version of “Dead Flowers” plays.

Fargo

  • Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
  • Producers: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
  • Writers: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
  • Genres: Crime, Thriller
  • Actors: Frances McDormand, William H Macy, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare, Harve Presnell

In 1987, Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy), an Oldsmobile car salesman from Minneapolis, hatches a plan to end unspecified but severe financial troubles. Through a mechanic at his dealership, a Native American ex-convict named Shep Proudfoot, he enlists the service of Carl Showalter (Steve Buscemi) and his partner Gaear Grimsrud (Peter Stormare), an ex-convict. At a bar in Fargo, North Dakota, the three discuss Jerry’s plan to kidnap his wife Jean, who will be returned unharmed for a ransom of $80,000, half of which is to go to Jerry. The kidnappers receive the other half, as well as an Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera from the dealership. Jerry’s greater plan is to tell his wealthy but antagonistic father-in-law and boss, Wade Gustafson, that the ransom is $1 million, intending to use the large difference to settle the debts he’s accrued.

Even after cutting the deal with the kidnappers, Jerry tries to sell his father-in-law on a $750,000 investment in a 40-acre parking lot. Initially skeptical, Wade eventually shows some interest in the deal; Jerry contacts Proudfoot to have the kidnapping plan called off, but Shep tells him he has no direct contact with Carl or Gaear.

Jerry is later arrested in a motel outside Bismarck, North Dakota while on the run. In the final scene, Marge and her husband, Norm, sit in bed together watching television, and they discuss his mallard artwork winning the three-cent-stamp award. The fate of the hidden $920,000 remains unknown.

No Country for Old Men

  • Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
  • Producers: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Scott Rudin
  • Writers: Novel, Cormac McCarthy, Screenplay, Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
  • Genres: Crime, Drama, Thriller, Western
  • Actors: Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Woody Harrelson, Kelly Macdonald

West Texas in June 1980 is desolate, wide-open country, and Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) laments the increasing violence in a region where he, like his late father before him, has risen to the office of sheriff.

Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) strangles a sheriff’s deputy with his own handcuffs, steals his patrol car, pulls over another vehicle and murders the driver with a cattle gun.

Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), hunting near the Rio Grande, discovers a group of corpses, vehicles and a lone dying Mexican, the aftermath of a heroin deal gone awry. He also finds two million dollars in a satchel not far from the massacre and drives home. Moss cannot sleep and returns with water for the dying man, but he’s set upon by a pair in a jeep who chase him into the river. Moss barely escapes, his boots lost and his truck abandoned.

Chigurh tours the crime scene with a pair of well-dressed gangsters. He grabs Moss’s truck’s registration plate, receives their transponder, and kills them.

Moss fears the money’s owners will trace his truck in the morning and insists that his wife Carla Jean (Kelly Macdonald) stay with her mother in Odessa, Texas. Chigurh arrives as predicted and breaks into the Moss trailer using his cattle gun, finding nothing of use but a bottle of milk and the latest phone bill.

Now retired, Bell shares with his wife Loretta (Tess Harper) two disquieting dreams. In the first, he lost “some money” that his late father had given him; in the second, his father rode past him on a snowy mountain pass, going ahead to make a fire in the surrounding cold darkness. Whenever Bell got there, he knew his father would be waiting.