Song of the Day #4,553: ‘Way Out There’ – Carter Burwell

Continuing my countdown of every Coen Brothers movie…

#8. Fargo (1996)
(down two spots from previous ranking)

The ugly true crime sensibility of Blood Simple moved from sweaty Texas to frigid Minnesota, and the Coens enjoyed their best reviews yet, eventually taking home a Best Original Screenplay award and another Best Director prize at Cannes.

Fargo might be the best encapsulation of the Coens’unique sensibility, as it alternates between chilling violence, nail-biting suspense and big laughs, defying any attempt at simple categorization.

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Song of the Day #4,547: ‘Norville Suite’ – Carter Burwell

Continuing my countdown of every Coen Brothers movie…

#16. The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)
(no change from previous ranking)

The Coens’ fifth film is a mash-up of their influences from 1940s Hollywood, including Preston Sturges, Howard Hawks and Frank Capra. It follows naive mailroom clerk Norville Barnes (winningly played by Tim Robbins) who is given the top job at massive Hudsucker Industries in a plot by the board of directors to tank the stock so they can buy it back cheap.

Rather than sinking the company, however, the nincompoop makes it even more successful when his idea for the hula hoop (“you know, for kids”) strikes a nerve. The hilarious sequence dramatizing the birth and popularization of the hula hoop is one of the most inspired in the Coens’ canon.

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Song of the Day #3,815: ‘The Gal Who Got Rattled’ – Carter Burwell

The penultimate segment of The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, titled ‘The Gal Who Got Rattled,’ is the film’s longest. In fact, I could see this one being effectively fleshed out to feature length had the Coen Brothers wanted to go in that direction.

Starring Zoe Kazan as Alice Longabaugh, a young woman following the Oregon Trail to the vague promise of an arranged marriage, and Bill Heck as Billy Knapp, one of the cowboys charged with escorting the caravan, this is one of the most earnestly romantic stories the Coens have ever told.

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Song of the Day #3,814: ‘Hello, Mr. Pocket!’ – Carter Burwell

‘All Gold Canyon,’ the fourth segment of The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, is the only one in which a main character doesn’t die. It’s also the only one adapted entirely from another source — in this case, Jack London’s short story of the same name.

An unrecognizable Tom Waits stars as a prospector who ventures into the most beautiful, pristine canyon you’ve ever seen and begins digging for pocket gold.

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Song of the Day #3,813: ‘The Wingless Thrush’ – Carter Burwell

The third chapter of The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is by far the bleakest. Following two darkly comic segments, ‘Meal Ticket’ is just plain dark.

Liam Neeson stars as an impresario who travels from town to town with his act, an armless, legless man nicknamed Harrison the Wingless Thrush (played beautifully by Harry Melling, Dudley in the Harry Potter films). While he might look like a carnival side show act, Harrison’s talent is in his oratory. He eloquently delivers poetry, Shakespeare, Biblical verses and famous speeches from atop a stool.

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