Friday, September 12, 2014

#766. Mock Squid Soup: Burn After Reading

The second meeting of Mock Squid Soup, which oddly enough originates from a dude named Mock and another dude named Squid, is exploring the Coen Brothers' Burn After Reading, released in 2008.
via Stand By for Mind Control

The Coen Brothers, otherwise known as Joel and Ethan Coen, have been making some of the quirkiest movies of the past thirty years (beginning with 1984's Blood Simple).  I'm sadly lacking in some of the essentials (Fargo, Miller's Crossing, The Big Lebowski, Barton Fink, Raising Arizona), but I've been a die hard fan since the release of 2000's brilliant O Brother, Where Art Thou? (which conveniently enough for my personal tastes is a pastiche on The Odyssey).  My dad is a big fan of John Wayne, so I saw the original True Grit when I was a kid, but I love the Coen version more.  No Country For Old Men is a movie I actually made a personal holiday out of catching when it was in theaters, and while I appreciate it a great deal, it's one of those movies I really need to see again, because like everyone else my enduring memory of it remains Javier Bardem's Anton Chigurh ("Call it, friend-o"), even though it was the culmination of a hot streak for the perennially underrated Josh Brolin I very much appreciated at the time.  And I love Tom Hanks in The Ladykillers.  One of his many classic performances.

But getting back to Burn After Reading, and why I selected an image of J.K. Simmons, I'm actually realizing for the first time in a while (because it's been a while since I saw it), that the image I want is actually probably John Malkovich:
via Cinematic Thoughts
I'm now pretty sure it's Malkovich who repeatedly utters a phrase...I cannot share on a family-friendly blog.  It contains the word "morons," and another word that ends with "king" but certainly does not begin royally.  I remember the phrase if not exactly who utters it (I'm pretty sure Malkovich now!) because I subsequently adopted it as my foul-mouthed oath to the world.  I have issues.  I indeed think a lot of people are "[...]king morons."  

Judge me.  But that's the major reason I love Burn After Reading.  For me, it's about as accurate a movie as I've ever seen about how the world really works, when there really are no competent people around and everyone's flaws are magnified into their dominant personality traits.  (I can be cynical.)

I know, I know, it's terrible.  But c'mon!  Okay, so maybe you don't relate.

I also love it because Brad Pitt is running around in an overtly comedic performance.  This was before Inglourious Basterds, which for me instantly became one of his defining performances.  (Great movie.  Tarantino found his perfect muse at last in Christoph Waltz.)

Speaking of perfect muses, other than Jeff Bridges, do the Coens have a better or more consistent one than George Clooney?  He's in the mix here, too.  I love Clooney, have ever since I saw him in ER.  I don't know why it took so long for everyone to admit the guy has charisma to spare, but at least it finally happened, and he landed in a perfect groove to exploit it.  I make no qualms about saying so.  Clooney exploits his charisma, sometimes for some truly dramatic performances (Syriana, Up in the Air, Three Kings), sometimes just being Old Hollywood goofy.  I think he's less consistently successful with wide audiences, not to mention critics, because he's so sure of his own skills.  It's not that he can't disappear into a part, but his movie career came about only after everyone discovered Clooney could be a star.  It wasn't a role, other than a few seasons on a TV show, that made him.  It was pretty much Clooney himself.  He's what Hollywood stars used to be, but stopped being decades ago.  Which come to think of it probably explains his whole career.

But getting back to Simmons, I love that his career finally became a thing, and it's the major development I take away from Sam Raimi's Spider-Man movies, where Simmons played the blustery J. Jonah Jameson, the one cartoon performance that's been completely owned in a comic book movie to date.  He's been consistently great ever since, and like Clooney all he has to do is do his thing.  Great in Juno (but everyone's great in that one).  Great in those All-State commercials.  Even if he isn't the one to...utter the phrase, he's still a great reason to watch this movie.

Maybe I've already spoiled the movie and perhaps even your opinion of me with some of the things I've said here today (but were they really surprises?), I don't know.  Just watch the movie.  Watch more Coens movies.  Watch more Clooney movies.  Watch movies.  They have weird ways of explaining the world around us.


Anonymous said...

Nice take! I wasn't a big fan of the flick, though I do like a few of the other Coen Brother's movies. Simmons was in Ladykillers also--suffering IBS if I remember correctly. He was surely a highlight of BURN AFTER READING, for me.


Maurice Mitchell said...

Simmons was great! Almost too good because I can't help thinking of him in every role he does. Cool movie I might watch.

The Armchair Squid said...

As I said in my review, Simmons makes the movie for me.

Tony Laplume said...

Everything's coming up Simmons!

Toinette Thomas said...

Yeah, I liked Simmons too.


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