Coen Brothers Series


Master craftsmen Joel and Ethen Coen are men of many talents – writers, producers, and directors of some of U.S. cinema’s recent classics. Their films offer unexpected, often satirical, plays on genre, history, and the American experience. While their films are regularly described as genre-defying there are common threads that run through them all: the overwhelmed hero, the double-cross, a relentless villain who brings fate, meticulously crafted worlds, identity, miscommunication, and mortality. As disparate as Coen Brothers movies may be on the surface, they are all telling tales of the human experience. Drawing on three of their less-screened films, this series examines the potent mix of dark humor, melancholy, and perseverance that define the Coen Brothers modern hero.

Series Talkback with Alicia Kozma


The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001, 1 hour and 56 minutes)  Sunday, August 12

One of their most visually mesmerizing films, The Man Who Wasn’t There follows Ed Crane (Billy Bob Thornton) while his lame plan to blackmail his wife’s lover backfires bombastically. What could be an overwhelmingly grim tale of a man beaten down by an uncaring universe instead combines an emotionally stirring score, loving characterizations, warm bursts of humor, and striking black-and-white cinematography in a modern portrait of marriage, suburbia, and modern masculinity. The film won Joe Cohen a best director prize at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival. Starring Billy Bob Thornton, Frances McDormand, James Gandolfini, Richard Jenkins, and Scarlet Johansson

“The look, feel and ingenuity of this film are so lovingly modulated you wonder if anyone else could have done it better than the Coens.” Roger Ebert

“A gripping, unusual and challenging work from the most consistently brilliant filmmakers of the last decade.” Empire Magazine

“The Coens’ sly script is helped no end by Billy Bob Thornton’s supremely eloquent performance as the taciturn tonsor, lent terrific support from Frances McDormand.” Time Out


A Serious Man (2009, 1 hours and 46 minutes)       Sunday,  November 4, Sumner Hall, 4:30 PM

Acting powerhouse Michael Stuhlbarg is a Jewish science professor in 1960s Minnesota who must contend with multiple miseries in this odd, beautiful comedy-drama. One of their few films to pull substantially outside of their traditional casting realm, the movie dazzles with accomplished character actors. This may be the Coen’s most searching and inquisitive work, asking: is the universe cruel, indifferent, or sadistic? And can an understanding of God actually make a difference? Awarded Best Original Screenplay at the National Board of Review and the National Society of Film Critics’ Awards, nominated for Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture at the 82nd Academy Awards. Starring Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind, Fred Melamed, and Sari Lennick

“A Serious Man succeeds because it engages questions worth asking. What is integrity? Does our atavistic need for stories illuminate the meaning of life or further obfuscate it? What does it mean to be good and how are we to achieve it?” Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post

“The film’s potency is rooted in quiet precision and detailed realization.” Time Out

“Embrace the mystery, the Coen’s tell us. At the same time, they can’t resist pulling the rug out from under our feet.” Philadelphia Inquirer


Inside Llewyn Davis (2013, 1 hour and 44 minutes)     Thursday, October 18, 7 pm, Sumner Hall         

Oscar Isaac is Llewyn Davis, the bitter and befuddled 1960’s Greenwich Village folk singer whose haunted performance is at the heart of this immersive look at the ‘60s folk scene. Like its central character the movie contradicts itself every chance it gets, as it highlights an episodic story is filled with wonderful musical performances whose mythic arc ultimately upends Llywyn’s uneasy quest for a place in music history. Chosen as one of the New York Times’ “Best Films of the 21st Century So Far;” winner of the Cannes Grand Prix; one of National Board of Review and American Film Institute top ten films of 2013; Oscar nominated for Best Cinematography and Best Sound Mixing. Starring Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Adam Driver, John Goodman, and Justin Timberlake.


Inside Llewyn Davis is a transporting cinematic experience with a churl at its center.” – Boston Globe

“This is one of the strangest yet most satisfying movie experiences of the year, one of those films in which you can’t really appreciate what you’ve seen until it’s over. You just have to trust that the trip is worth the trouble. And it is.” – The Arizona Republic

“Celebrating and mourning a bygone moment, Inside Llewyn Davis is a tuneful wake intended to arouse us from our slumber to desires worth remembering. “- The Denver Post