A Serious Man (2009) Dir. Ethan & Joel Coen

Larry (Michael Stuhlbarg) tries to stop his brother's (Richard Kind) life from unravelling at the same time as his is reaching crisis point.

Rating: 10/10

The Coen Brothers have returned in fine form after the (in my humble opinion) disastous Burn After Reading. This film seems to be a much more personal one set as it is around a Jewish neighbourhood in the suburbs of Minnesota in the sixties. It focuses on maths professor Larry Gopnik (a brilliant Michael Stuhlbarg whose lack of fame means he is the perfect everyman) a man in crisis (and the Coen Brother are brilliant at doing men in crisis just look at the excellent Barton Fink) whose life starts to quickly unravel to his utter bewilderment. Larry is your average unassuming Jewish middle-class man with a family, wife (Sari Lennick), steady job  and nice house  in a nice suburb who makes sure (or tries to make sure) his children attend hebrew class and looks after his wayward unemployed brother Arthur (A brilliant Richard Kind). Naturally then he does not understand the shit storm that hits him.

It starts off with his wife leaving him for widower Sy Ableman (a brilliantly patronising and ridiculously zen-like Fred Melamed) forcing him to move to the Jolly Roger motel, we then quickly also see that his kids do not respect his authority and are not serious about hebrew lessons, to them he’s the one that fixes the satellite. Meanwhile, he is pestered by a Korean student Clive (a brilliantly presumptious David Kang) who wants a better grade and tests his scruples by leaving him money, his brother is found to soliciting illegal homosexual encounters and he possibly faces losing his job over his lack of published work and negative letters from Clive’s dad. And if that wasn’t enough he could also have a potentially serious medical condition.

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Vigilante Justice- The Return of the Revenge Film

Is Harry (Michael Caine) taking it too far in his pursuit of revenge?

This is an article I wrote a few weeks back for the website I write for Sound Screen, hope you like it and feel free to post your disagreements and comments .

Revenge is a dish best served cold but  it certainly seems to be (ahem) hot right now in the cinema.  With the recent releases of Daniel Barber’s Harry Brown and F. Gary Gray’s Law Abiding Citizen and the latest instalment of the Saw franchise, as well as the less bloody Gran Turino last year the revenge film’s popularity certainly isn’t waning. And this is despite the criticisms the genre has received since revenge films like Micheal Winner’s pro-vigilante Death Wish (1974) was branded a ‘poisonous incitement to do-it-yourself law enforcement’, and legendary film critic Pauline Kael called Sam Peckinpah’s  Straw Dogs (1971) ‘a fascist work of art.’ While others simply see the films as thrilling and fun. So which is it? To answer that question it really comes down to characterisation, the angle taken and the level of violence depicted.

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