Burn After Reading (2008) Film Review

Linda (Frances McDormand) and Chad work at Hard Bodies Gym in Washington DC and have a disc with what appears to be sensitive security information and decide to return it to the owner, Osborne Cox (John Malcovich), an analyst recently forced into retirement. However, Cox has a short fuse and having been booted out by his wife Katie (Tilda Swinton), he won’t tolerate this. Then there is Harry (George Clooney) who is having an affair with Katie, and then also with Linda but is married to Sandy (Elizabeth Marvel), and Ted (Richard Jenkins) who is love with Linda. And then the Russians are brought in, and the whole ‘cluster fuck’ is being overseen by a mysterious CIA figure played by JK Simmons. And being a Coen brothers production, it’s fabulous.

There are Coen brother films that are amazing (No Country for Old Men, The Man Who Wasn’t There) and Coen brother films that are weird (Barton Fink, A Serious Man, ) and there are Coen brother films that are hilarious (Fargo, O Brother Where Art Thou?, The Big Lebowski). That’s probably simplifying it too much, but it seems to be the way I sort them in my brain – and the fact that they can do so many films across different genres and I love them all (or, at the very least, appreciate them all) is fabulous for me. Burn After Reading is a ridiculous film, for me in the hilarious basket. It’s pretty much my favourite ever Brad Pitt performance, and I just love all the weirdness, like Harry’s present in the basement (what?) or the amount of carrots cut up. Too good. Not for everyone, but certainly for me.

Burn After Reading was nominated for Golden Globes for Best Motion Picutre – Comedy or Musical and Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picutre – Comedy or Musical (Frances McDormand), and for a BAFTA for Best Screenplay – Original (Joel and Ethan Coen).


Fargo (1996) Film Review


Having recently watched the television series of Fargo, I wanted to go back and revisit this film. Set in small-town America, we have Jerry Lundegaard (William H Macy) arranging to have his wife, Jean (Kristin Rudrud) kidnapped to get the ransom from his rich father-in-law. The kidnappers: Carl (Steve Buscemi) and Gaear (Peter Stormare). But things don’t go great, and things are investigated by heavily pregnant cop Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand).

I love this film. It’s one of my favourites. It’s strange, sad, funny, odd, violent, wonderful, brilliant and I just loved it – I love it so very, very much, and will absolutely revisit regularly. Apparently, some people don’t get this film. I don’t get that.

Fargo won Oscars for Best Actress in a Leading Role (France McDormand) and Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Ethan Coen, Joel Coen) and was nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Director, Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing.

Blood Simple. (1984) Film Review


Abby (Frances McDormand) and Ray (John Getz) are having an affair and when her husband, Julian Marty (Dan Hedaya), finds out, he wants to end them. Add in a strange Private Detective, Loren Visser (M. Emmet Walsh) and things get really messy.

This is the first of the Coen brother films, and it’s a really interesting one. It’s confusing and almost stilted at times and it feels cheap and dated, but essentially, it’s a bloody good first film. And with a maddening and amazing final shot.


North Country (2005) Film Review

North Country

After leaving her abusive partner, Josey Aimes (Charlize Theron) takes advice from her friend Glory (Frances McDormand) and gets work in the mine. But she finds that the small group of woman who work there are putting up with appalling sexual harassment, from simple comments through to violent acts. Eventually, she can take no more and must try to stand up for herself, but faces the violent anger of the men of the mine who are annoyed and angered by the presence of women in the workplace.

It’s based on a true story, and it is surely impossible to watch this film without becoming angry. So much of the harassment that takes place in the workplace during the film could be seen as just jokes that the women should just laugh off – and indeed, much of the time they do. But it is horrible to watch just how nasty and abusive the men get – and that they feel totally entitled to act like this against the women and have full support of management, right to the top. It’s a heartbreaker of a film with fabulous cast.

North Country was nominated for Oscars for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Charlize Theron) and Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Frances McDormand).

Almost Famous (2000) Film Review


It’s the seventies. William Miller (Patrick Fugit) is a fifteen-year-old boy with an unusual mother who has driven his older sister away, but as she left, she gave him her records, and rock and roll started to save his soul. Driven by his passion and some advice from legendary rock journalist Lester Bangs (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), he manages to make friends with Penny Lane (Kate Hudson) and starts to hang out with Stillwaters, an up-and-coming band. Before he knows it, he is on tour with them; a teenager playing it older, out of his depth and learning a lot.

It felt real. It seems ridiculous that a young boy could end up in this situation, but I can imagine that, in the seventies, it could happen. I really liked the fact that everyone was effected by things; not just Patrick, not just Penny Lane, not even just Russel Hammond (Billy Crudup), the guitarist in the band and love interest for Penny. But also the other band members and the other groupies and especially Patrick’s mother, played by the almost wonderful Frances McDormand. This would be an excellent film for teaching film; not only does it hit all the marks, but it is interesting and fun and moving and ace.

Almost Famous won an Oscar for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Cameron Crowe) and was nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Kate Hudson), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Frances McDormand) and Best Film Editing.

Moonrise Kingdom (2012) Film Review


Suzy lives with her family in a mansion at one part of an island called New Penzance. Sam is part of the Khaki Scout summer camp that is based at another part of the island. Neither fit well into their environment, and when they meet, they find in each other a like mind. They run away together with the threat of a massive storm.

Wes Anderson polarizes audiences with his style. I fall into the side that loves his work.

The Royal Tennenbaums was a beautiful and amazing emotional journey and The Darjeeling Limited took a part of my heart. It took a second, and maybe even a third watch of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou for me to grow to love it, and I think that Moonrise Kingdom is like that for me.

I will need to walk away for a while, think about it, perhaps forget about it, and watch it again in six months or so. Then, perhaps, I will love it.

As it stands at the moment, it has elements of the other films that I loved which made it feel a bit like a greatest hits. Suzy had the style and the dark eye make-up of Gwyneth Paltrow’s character in the Tennenbaums, and the introduction to the house was reminiscent of the introduction to the submarine in Life Aquatic.

Moonrise Kingdom has, as Anderson always does, a marvelous cast.

It is always wonderful to see Bill Murray, but this film also had the bonus of Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Harvey Keitel, Jason Schwartzman and the always-wonderful Frances McDormand. On top of this, the new talent in the Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman as the young runaways.

Ask me again when it’s come out on DVD. By then, I’ll probably love it. For the moment, however, it’s far from my favourite Wes Anderson film, but still a film well and truly worth seeing.

Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola were nominated for an Oscar for Writing (Original Screenplay)