Friday, October 9, 2015

Some thoughts from a Coen fanatic on the new 'Hail, Caesar!' trailer

George Clooney can't remember his lines in Hail, Caesar!

A new day has brought with it a new trailer for the Coen Brothers' upcoming film, the 2016 comedy Hail Caesar! As a long-time Coen superfan who has seen all of their films multiple times and written about them extensively, I'd like to share my thoughts about what stands out from this new, two-and-a-half-minute trailer. If that sounds good to you, then let us proceed.

  • The brothers like to work with the same actors repeatedly, so there are lot of familiar faces here: Josh Brolin (No Country for Old Men), George Clooney (O, Brother, Where Art Thou?), Frances McDormand (Fargo), and Tilda Swinton (Burn After Reading). The IMDb says Fred Melamed from A Serious Man is in this thing, too. No Buscemi or Goodman this time, though.
  • Big-deal newbies include Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, and Jonah Hill. The IMDb has a few more interesting names in its cast list: Dolph Lundgren, Fisher Stevens, and Christopher Lambert. Jonah Hill, it should be noted, seems to have inherited Barton Fink's glasses.
  • It's another kidnapping flick, the Coens' fourth at least, after Raising Arizona, Fargo, and The Big Lebowski. Those boys do love them some kidnapping. Like Lebowski, this one even has a close-up of a ransom note.
  • Another Coen staple: what I call the Big Stash O' Cash. The brothers love to have suitcases, briefcases, envelopes, and bags full of money in their films. Here, it's a tasteful brown leather briefcase, stuffed with $100 bills.
  • Hey, this film takes place at Capital Pictures, presumably the same fictional movie studio from 1991's Barton Fink. Studio bigwig Jack Lipnik (Michael Lerned) is not in evidence, though, which is troubling because -- if my interpretation of Fink is accurate -- Lipnik is the Coens' stand-in for God. I guess God died during World War II. Hail, Caesar! seems to be set in the 1950s, even though the trailer uses "Rumble and Sway" by Jamie N Commons from 2013.
  • Tilda Swinton is playing gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, which gives her the chance to snoop around the way Manhattan Argus reporter Jennifer Jason Leigh did in The Hudsucker Proxy. One of my pet theories about the Coens' films is that Leigh's character in Hudsucker, a sharp-tongued, fast-talking redhead, is an archetype who recurs in their later films: via Julianne Moore in The Big Lebowski and (yes) Tilda Swinton in Burn After Reading. They all have that same, slightly snooty, not-quite-British accent.
  • Scarlett Johansson seems to be playing an Esther Williams-type star, which allows the brothers to do the kind of old-school production numbers they previously sent up in The Big Lebwoski.
  • Another weird Coen staple: the kidnappers seem to have a comically tiny little dog, like the ones from Intolerable Cruelty and, again, The Big Lebowski.
And that's basically what I noticed on my first viewing of the Hail, Caesar! trailer. The usual behind-the-scenes team, including cinematographer Roger Deakins and composer Carter Burwell, are on board once again. The film comes out next February, which seems to indicate that maybe Universal doesn't have a great deal of commercial faith in it. Doesn't matter. I'll be there anyway. Hail, Caesar!

P.S. - Back when I was in the Flushing High School marching band, we had a little cheer we'd do during the football games. It went like this:
Leader: Hail, Caesar! 
Crowd: Hail, Caesar! 
Leader: Hail, Flushing! 
Crowd: Hail, Flushing! 
Leader: Hail, [insert name of opposing team]?!?
Crowd: Hail no!