Buster Scruggs is about people facing death and what comes after death. Each short gives us a different version of this through the lens of a different familiar western trope.
Mannix is a Christ figure, shouldering the sins of the actors he supervises to protect the films they appear in. A martyr for the cinema, Mannix receives none of the glory or wealth of his actor counterparts, but sacrifices the comforts of a normal life to the altar of storytelling.
Even though Inside Llewyn Davis is a period piece, it feels like a sharp reflection of the moment of its creation, more than any prior Coen film.
While the Coen version of True Grit is structurally a straightforward Western, on a deeper level it engages with a type of narrative that the directors had never attempted before -- the coming-of-age story.
Probably the closest thing to a horror film that the Coens have yet made, a semi-surrealist American nightmare set in a stand-in for their own Minnesota hometown.
Burn After Reading mirrors No Country’s pessimism, presenting inevitable suffering, failure and death in a farcical rather than purely dramatic context. The thematic parallels allow the films to work companion pieces, similarly to the complementary pairing of Miller’s Crossing and Barton Fink.
No Country is an exceptionally difficult film because it doesn’t even hint at a resolution or solution to the fatalistic pessimism of the story. We’re left to figure out for ourselves whether harsh vision of reality it depicts is true.
I’m declaring The Ladykillers officially underrated. A comedy that takes place mostly inside one house over the course of a few days, it’s the smallest and least ambitious of the filmography so far, but it accomplishes what it sets out to do with aplomb.
As far as rom-coms go, it’s a lot more com than rom. This is partly by design; the Coens are more interesting in playing with screwball and noir elements and crafting rapid-fire dialogue than they are in portraying an actual romantic relationship.
While critics went nuts for the beautiful black-and-white cinematography and Thornton's performance, The Man is easily my least favorite entry in the Coen filmography.