O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) – Joel & Ethan Coen

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The final recommendation from Some Like It Hot in the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book is my second favorite Coen Brothers movie, an update on the classic Odyssey tale, and featuring some of that great old-timey music (overseen by T Bone Burnett).

George Clooney is Ulysses Evert McGill, and he has just escaped the chain gang, with Pete Hogwallop (John Turturro) and Delmar O’Donnell (Tim Blake Nelson) in tow. He’s convinced them that there is a money to be dug up from a heist he pulled before the valley it is buried in is flooded, and lost forever.

With dreams of the easy life and cash to spare, the trio set out on an epic journey across the American south punctuated by great music, and encounters with the weird and wonderful, like a Governor running for re-election, Pappy O’Daniel (Charles Durning), who is using radio for his mass communicating, the KKK overseen by O’Daniel’s electoral competition, a young guitarist, Tommy Johnson (Chris Thomas King), who may have sold his soul to the devil to play his guitar real good, a blind railway man, a trio of sirens, and a one-eyed bible salesman, Big Dan (John Goodman) who has his singular ocular vision on stealing McGill’s cash.

Holly Hunter co-stars as McGill’s wife, who has told his children he’s dead after being hit by a train, and is planning on remarrying in the near future.

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The epic journey sees them becoming recording sensations, betrayed by family, possibly getting turned into toads after being loved up, pursued by police, pairing up with baby faced gangsters, and partaking of the occasional gopher.

This one continues to entertain me with its style, it’s very quotable dialogue, and just the sense of fun that permeates the entire film.

The Coen brothers have perfectly updated the classic tale by Homer and transplanted it the American south of the early 20th century, Clooney is extremely likable, and goofy as the occasionally bewildered but never at a loss for something to say, even if it’s just about his hair, hero.

Pairing him with Turturro and Nelson makes for pure gold, as they all work as perfect foils for one another, and their dialogue weaves around one another, tying them together much like their shackles do in the first part of the film.

All of the elements you would expect, or have come to associate with Homer’s classic tale are here, as McGill struggles against the odds to return to the side of the woman he loves, and the adventures along the way just make the resolution that much more rewarding.

Just like that the recommendations from Some Like Hot comes to an end, and now I have to brace myself, because the next title on the list is Manhattan by Woody Allen, and there are more Allen films in the recommendations. I’ve never quite gotten into his films, so this next series will either be a trial or a revelation… let’s find out!

What are your favorite Coen Brothers movies? How about Woody Allen films?

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