Friday, February 5, 2016

Hail Caesar! (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

Coen Brothers Say, “Hail Caesar!”
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

 Joel and Ethan Coen are brilliant directors with short attention spans. John Ford mostly made Westerns. Preston Sturgis mostly made comedies. Alfred Hitchcock mostly made suspense thrillers. But when it comes to the Coen brothers, their films shift from genre to genre to genre like a kaleidoscope.

The Coens (jokingly referred to as “The Two-Headed Director.”) are known for elaborate, self-conscious homages to past films and filmmaking styles.

Think about it: “Blood Simple” (psychological crime thriller), “Raising Arizona” (black comedy), “Miller’s Crossing” (gangster film), “Barton Fink” (period mystery comedy), “The Hudsucker Proxy” (fantasy), “Fargo” (crime thriller), “The Big Lebowski” (stoner comedy), “O Brother Where Art Thou” (Greek classic retold),  “The Man Who Wasn’t There” (neo-noir drama), “Intolerable Cruelty” (rom-com), “The Ladykillers (British crime comedy remake),  “No Country for Old Men” (neo-Western thriller), “Burn After Reading” (spy comedy), “A Serious Man” (drama), “True Grit” (Western remake), “Inside Llewyn Davis” (musical “biopic”).

And now “Hail Caesar!” (Let’s call it a Hollywood crime comedy).

Coen brothers films often center around a botched crime. Frequently they include kidnapping plots. “Hail Caesar!” is no different in that regard.

“Hail, Caesar!" follows a single day in the life of a studio fixer, a guy who cleans up problems and scandals created by movie stars. The idea is to keep stars’ bad behavior from hitting the gossip rags.

Here, Eddie Mannix is a fixer helping with the production of “Hail Caesar,” a costume drama starring famous actor Baird Whitlock. When Whitlock is kidnapped by a group called The Future, Mannix is the one who must collect $100,000 to rescue him. Chaos ensues, of course.

Some people call “Hail Caesar!” a love letter from directors Joel and Ethan Coen to a bygone Hollywood.

The Tinseltown of the ‘50s is on full display: In addition to the studio’s go-to guy (Josh Brolin) and the kidnapped movie star (George Clooney), you’ll find an entertaining array of oddball characters that includes an effete film director (Ralph Fiennes), a pregnant swimming star (Scarlett Johansson), a semi-talented hoofer (Channing Tatum), a frustrated film editor (Frances McDormand), a number of Communist screenwriters (Fisher Stevens, Patrick Fischler, Fred Melamed, and David Krumholtz), twin flacks (Tilda Swinton), a Hollywood accountant (Jonah Hill), a randy filmmaker (Christopher Lambert), even a Soviet submarine commander (Dolph Lundgren).

The Coens describe it as the third film in their “Numskull Trilogy” starring George Clooney.

Clooney describes it as another “idiot” film. Actually it’s his fourth “idiot” film with the Coens.

You can find “Hail Caesar!” screening at Tropic Cinema.

Ethan says, “The movie people let us play in the corner of the sandbox and leave us alone. We’re happy here.”

His brother Joel adds, “I like Hollywood just the way it is, actually. I don't think I’d change anything. I like that it’s out here 3,000 miles from where I live.”

As for the Coens’ penchant for playing with differing genres of film, Joel Coen shrugs. “We’ve never considered our stuff either homage or spoof. Those are things other people call it, and it’s always puzzled me that they do.”

No comments: