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No Country for Old Men (2007)

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What is with this spoiler hysteria? Blacked out text. Bright red warnings with exclaimation points. Is it really important to protect that minority of people who:

a. haven't seen the movie, which has been out on DVD for some time;

b. have nevertheless decided to read a thread about the movie; and yet

c. believe that their movie watching experience will be degraded if they know the details of the plot?

Where exactly can people go to openly discuss a film if not here?

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What is with this spoiler hysteria? Blacked out text. Bright red warnings with exclaimation points. Is it really important to protect that minority of people who:

a. haven't seen the movie, which has been out on DVD for some time;

b. have nevertheless decided to read a thread about the movie; and yet

c. believe that their movie watching experience will be degraded if they know the details of the plot?

Where exactly can people go to openly discuss a film if not here?

The statute of limitations on spoilage has not passed until NCFOM hits basic cable.

Besides, I love

the spoiler tags

. It's

fun

to

make you work to read my opinion

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Where exactly can people go to openly discuss a film if not here?

I'd call this an open discussion of the film. Spoiler tags are just polite. Maybe someone got to page 7 of this thread via Google, and while many excellent films hold up even when "spoiled", it'd be sad to taint someone's experience inadvertently.

This movie was NOT entertaining, NOT art, NOT what I think most normal AMERICAN people want to watch. It was dark and offensive and extremely disturbing. HOW could you give this movie 31/2 stars? Did I miss something???? I like how you tried to sensationalize the characters!!! I am disappointed in a web site touting Christianity that would give credit to a movie that had NOTHING to do with being a Christian much less just being a decent person! I feel compelled to somehow get into the movie business after such garbage!!!! I would love your input and arguments as to why this movie was rated so highly.

I realize responding to her points isn't really going to convince her (much less will she ever see it), but...

1) It won the Best Picture Oscar, which implies that it is entertaining, artistic, and/or what many people want to watch. For the record I hate the term American because it's imprecise, among other things.

2) Most movies have nothing to do with being a Christian. NCFOM, on the other hand, had "good" characters, so it could be construed as having something to do with being a decent person.

3) It'd be good for her to get into the movie business I think. Perhaps film school would teach her quite a bit about film as an art form, and she'd be able to look at this and other movies in a new, better light.

4) It was rated highly because it was masterfully made, and told a story that was interesting enough to generate at least 7 pages of discussion just on this forum... including the spiritual implications (or lack thereof) of the plot.

Unlike most CT mail, she seems genuinely interested in the answers to her questions, though sadly it seems she's made up her mind already.

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I realize responding to her points isn't really going to convince her (much less will she ever see it), but...

1) It won the Best Picture Oscar, which implies that it is entertaining, artistic, and/or what many people want to watch. For the record I hate the term American because it's imprecise, among other things.

2) Most movies have nothing to do with being a Christian. NCFOM, on the other hand, had "good" characters, so it could be construed as having something to do with being a decent person.

3) It'd be good for her to get into the movie business I think. Perhaps film school would teach her quite a bit about film as an art form, and she'd be able to look at this and other movies in a new, better light.

4) It was rated highly because it was masterfully made, and told a story that was interesting enough to generate at least 7 pages of discussion just on this forum... including the spiritual implications (or lack thereof) of the plot.

Unlike most CT mail, she seems genuinely interested in the answers to her questions, though sadly it seems she's made up her mind already.

1. A Best Picture Oscar isn't a guarantee of anything. Think of genuine turkeys like "Titanic", "Million Dollar Baby", "Gladiator", "American Beauty" and "Braveheart".

2. If "No Country For Old Men" is a celebration of nihilism, as I contend (and I realize that many people on this board disagree with this assessment), then by implication it is anti-Christian, and this lady's anger would be justified.

3. Or perhaps she called the film right and CT's reviewer called it wrong? Perhaps it is the CT reviewer who needs to learn how to read a film?

4. A film can be masterfully made and still lack ethics. Moreover, the fact that we have been discussing "No Country For Old Men" for several pages now and can't even agree what the film is about is a clear reflection of its postmodern credentials. I personally think that the Coens like their films to be a little obscure so that critics think they are far deeper than they actually are. Ditto P. T. Anderson.

Edited by The Invisible Man

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1. A Best Picture Oscar isn't a guarantee of anything. Think of genuine turkeys like "Titanic", "Million Dollar Baby", "Gladiator", "American Beauty" and "Braveheart".

You should have said Crash. All of these movies were popular, for different reasons. None of them were "terrible"... all very well made with varying levels of depth. In general, if a film wins best picture it's probably not a terrible film. There are exceptions, but I doubt the CT letter writer could point them out effectively.

2. If "No Country For Old Men" is a celebration of nihilism, as I contend (and I realize that many people on this board disagree with this assessment), then by implication it is anti-Christian, and this lady's anger would be justified.

Not really. She's upset about the star rating. Jeffrey's review was very negative about the movie's philosophy, from my reading. Yet the artistic quality of the film is well worth 3 1/2 stars, regardless of whether you or I interpret the film to be talking about something we agree with. It's not being honest to imply that great art which happens to be anti-Christian or ignores Christianity is not great art... so I'm glad that CT was honest about the film and gave it a fairly high rating.

3. Or perhaps she called the film right and CT's reviewer called it wrong? Perhaps it is the CT reviewer who needs to learn how to read a film?

I think you're just being argumentative now. Sorry if that's not your intent, but it's how you're coming across to me. You realize the implausibility of this statement, I'm sure. Jeffrey's reading of the film clearly doesn't align directly with mine, but it's almost offensive to me that you'd imply that he doesn't know what he's talking about.

4. A film can be masterfully made and still lack ethics. Moreover, the fact that we have been discussing "No Country For Old Men" for several pages now and can't even agree what the film is about is a clear reflection of its postmodern credentials. I personally think that the Coens like their films to be a little obscure so that critics think they are far deeper than they actually are. Ditto P. T. Anderson.

I agree, a film can be masterfully made and still lack ethics. But most people don't give out star ratings based on ethics. As for the obscure ending... I didn't much like it, but I've seen the same thing pulled off well in other films and it can be very effective. Anyway metacritic puts NCFOM at 91%... that should speak volumes to would-be letter writers claiming that the film sucked and that they could make a better movie despite having no experience.

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theoddone33 wrote: "All of these movies were popular, for different reasons. None of them were "terrible"... all very well made with varying levels of depth. In general, if a film wins best picture it's probably not a terrible film."

Per-leaze! "Titanic" makes "Plan 9 From Outer Space" look like "Citizen Kane". :P

theoddone33 wrote: "Jeffrey's review was very negative about the movie's philosophy, from my reading. Yet the artistic quality of the film is well worth 3 1/2 stars, regardless of whether you or I interpret the film to be talking about something we agree with. It's not being honest to imply that great art which happens to be anti-Christian or ignores Christianity is not great art... so I'm glad that CT was honest about the film and gave it a fairly high rating."

If a film were to present the Holocaust as a positive thing for the world and had Citizen Kane-like artistry and production values, would it still be given a maximum rating? Is art beyond good and evil? Personally, I tend to reject films that present an anti-Christian worldview. Consequently, I find myself watching less and less these days and am frequently flabbergasted at some of the stuff that Christians embrace. A while ago I came across this piece by John Frame and I have found it to be helpful:

John Frame

theoddone33 wrote: "I think you're just being argumentative now. Sorry if that's not your intent, but it's how you're coming across to me. You realize the implausibility of this statement, I'm sure. Jeffrey's reading of the film clearly doesn't align directly with mine, but it's almost offensive to me that you'd imply that he doesn't know what he's talking about."

I seldom read CT and was merely responding to the posts in this thread, so I didn't realize that Jeffrey wrote their review. I agree with you that my comment appears insulting, so I apologize to Jeffrey for that. To be clear: I do think that Jeffrey has a tendency to overstate the case regarding the Christian content in secular movies (e.g. Indiana Jones), but I don't doubt his ability to read a film. For what it's worth, I wasn't trying to be overly argumentative. I was simply trying to counter your point that the lady seemed to require some sort of higher education in order to have a valid opinion. Personally, I think the lady could be more right about "No Country For Old Men" than most of the people on this board, so I am sympathetic to her anger if not her brusque and snarky tone.

theoddone33 wrote: "I agree, a film can be masterfully made and still lack ethics. But most people don't give out star ratings based on ethics."

I do (not that my opinion actually counts for anything). If a film appears anti-Christian to me, I mark it low accordingly - which is why Alan reprimanded me a while back for going nutzoid with my one star ratings and why I no longer rate films on this board.

Edited by The Invisible Man

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If a film were to present the Holocaust as a positive thing for the world and had Citizen Kane-like artistry and production values, would it still be given a maximum rating?

Birth of a Nation is perhaps the best example of a masterfully made film that promotes vile ideas. "Is art beyond good and evil?" That's an interesting question... I find both good and evil in Birth of a Nation. I expect that most great art is never clearly good or evil.

I [give stars based on ethics] (not that my opinion actually counts for anything).

I'm aware of this, and I was aware of it when I wrote my sentence. I don't believe your opinion counts for nothing (and I don't believe you should feel you have to refrain from rating films in the star column based on your viewpoint), but I believe your defense of this woman's letter is misplaced. Sure, pot shots about grammar aren't fitting criticism, but if that letter is her best attempt, then it's clear that this woman has a lot to learn about films, about art, about culture, and perhaps about Christianity before she can criticize NCFOM effectively. Jeffrey did criticize it, but from a position of knowledge.

Of course she's entitled to an opinion about the film, and her opinion deserves to be taken seriously. But when she makes assertions about very highly regarded films being terrible, it's fair game to assume that she missed something. And, I don't think the fact that she coincidentally came to the same conclusion as you should mean you have to defend her position. You appear to come to your conclusions about films very seriously and intentionally, also from a position of knowledge. Her letter appears reactionary.

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So what is there to learn from "No Country For Old Men"?

That despite all the evil in the world, and how unstoppable its advance can seem at times, there's a light up ahead in the darkness.

yes, but, then he woke up.

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:spoilers: of course.

Of course I'm interpolating here since we saw none of this, but given the positions of the bodies of the woman (in the pool) and Moss (50 yards from his room, as if he'd been running from it), I didn't get the impression that they did anything but flirt.

Moss was dead in his doorway, the woman was dead in the pool. One Mexican gang member was dead on the pavement.

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And Chirghuh was not involved in the shootout at all. No final (even offscreen) confrontation between him and Moss.

I need to write some more--but alas have no time, so am settled with shooting off one liners. Good thread. Would like to think more about MLeary's comments. The Zeitz guy (name?) missed O brother Where Art Thou? as the Coen's most theologically aware film.

And NCFOM is a really, really good film--could it be a period piece more than anything else?

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So what is there to learn from "No Country For Old Men"?

That despite all the evil in the world, and how unstoppable its advance can seem at times, there's a light up ahead in the darkness.

yes, but, then he woke up.

I accounted for that with "despite," didn't I? You're welcome to see the film as ultimately bleak, but I remain uncertain. I see an aging man, wrestling with the possibility of something greater beyond this life and bigger than what he sees before him. He hasn't embraced it yet.

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So what is there to learn from "No Country For Old Men"?

That despite all the evil in the world, and how unstoppable its advance can seem at times, there's a light up ahead in the darkness.

yes, but, then he woke up.

I accounted for that with "despite," didn't I? You're welcome to see the film as ultimately bleak, but I remain uncertain. I see an aging man, wrestling with the possibility of something greater beyond this life and bigger than what he sees before him. He hasn't embraced it yet.

I read your "despite" as in terms of all that came before (Chigurh's rampage and Moss's killing), not in terms of accounting for the final line and fade to black. I don't disagree with the aging man wrestling with the possibility of something greater than this--that seems very clear, esp as many others have noted in the conversation with Ellis.

Interesting that no one seems to have noted the conversation's bit concerning revenge and forgiveness regarding the man who'd shot Ellis and died in prison (IIRC). Bell asks Ellis, what would you have done if he'd gotten out. Ellis' reply was nothing, as there would be no point in holding onto that sort of vengeance because it would have wasted away his life.

Chigurh's whole journey is one of revenge--at Moss for taking his money and inconveniencing him and at the Banker for hiring secondaries to ensure the collection and finally to off him for going rogue.

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I was reading McCarthy's "All The Pretty Horses" today and came across this sentence toward the end.

"If fate is the law, then is fate also subject to that law?"

Which of course reminded me of the auto accident scene in NCFOM.

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This sounds similar to Peter Jackson's lawsuit with New Line, but apparently Tommy Lee Jones is seeking $10 million dollars from Paramount Pictures for not paying out bonuses once No Country for Old Men reached a certain total at the box office.

Story here.

Edited by Baal_T'shuvah

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From another thread...

No Country For Old Men was better than There Will Be Blood, even though the latter film held much higher aspirations.

Nick, I don't want to turn this thread into a debate on the relative merits and demerits of NCfOM and TWBB, but I must say I have been harboring the opposite sentiment (at least as far as the first half of that statement is concerned). To me, Blood is superior, and it had higher aspirations. I'd be interested in reading more of your thoughts about this.

Jeff, I appreciated the reach that Paul Thomas Anderson was aiming for in There Will Be Blood. Throughout last year, and then Awards season, and acclamating myself with all these Oscar-bait films, I knew for certain that TWBB would be the superior film, whereas NCFOM was just a consolation prize to the Coens, who had been at it all along.

And then I saw the films on video.

I don't contend that either film is a four-star masterpiece. But I do believe the Academy got it right.

The ironies spelled out in NCFOM played out more vividly, the issues it raised were much more vital to conversations, and the storytelling was radical and controversial, appropriate for the story it wished to tell.

TWBB, by contrast, was a throwback to the epic films of yesteryear, with some needling against religious fundamentalism and American "can-do" thrown in for good measure. It works solely because of the performances of the two leads. It has some terrific imagery. I did dwell on the themes of TWBB, somewhat.

But at the end of the day, I just liked NCFOM better, nihilistic as it seemed. And that surprised me. I even liked it better than The Assassination of Jesse James..., which is also conventional, but with excellent cinematography and musical tone, and it was a splendid morality tale.

And lest you forget, my favorite film of last year still would be "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," a perfect marriage of art, story, performances, and redemptive elements. That was a knock-out. If "The Lives of Others" counted, (which it might have on some lists), I would've included that, because I was bawling at that film's end, something that almost never happens.

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Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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I've done a 10 Years Later piece on No Country, which debuted (is that a word) at Cannes in 2007. 

 

Quote

Hunter’s claim that No Country for Old Men is without character development gets closer to my problem with the film than does Rosenbaum’s moral censure of its violence. (I agree with Rosenbaum’s criticism, but that feature of the film didn’t bother me as much as it probably should.) There is minimal character development in the sense that our understanding of the characters (except Chigurh) deepens, but this is accomplished more consistently through exposition rather than action. Think for example of Woody Harrelson’s first scene, where his employer asks him to describe Chigurh. Sheriff Bell’s character is revealed through voice over and through conversations with his wife and deputy. I’like Bell’s character, but (thematically speaking) his final dream is not exactly subtle. What can seem natural in prose can feel forced in film, and (to quote from my friend Doug) thematic connections are always more powerful if you make them yourself rather than served up by heavy-handed writers or directors. So of all the awards the film won, I guess I quibble the most with Best Adapted Screenplay, since I don’t know that the film accentuates or meaningfully translates the book’s polyphonic narration and fragmented structure.

 

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Posted (edited)

This articulates so well my problems with the film, and with Cormac McCarthy as an author.

When I saw it, I thought No Country was a fine film, very suspenseful and excellent use of sound as so many noted, and visually I thought about 20% of the film early on was exceptionally beautiful. But it was and is my least favorite Coen film. (I haven’t seen some of their less lauded ones.) And after I saw There Will Be Blood and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, I didn’t think No Country deserved to will all those Oscars (and by “all” I really mean “any,” except maybe for supporting actor).

But overall I love the Coens’ films. I just think that comedy (and picaresque in particular) is where they are strongest. I think Lebowski is their masterpiece, and either that or O Brother, Where Art Though? is my favorite. Even their darker films like Fargo and A Serious Man have a humorous undertone lacking in No Country. When the good, the bad, and the ugly/stupid/foolish collide in Fargo, it’s a tragedy, but there is also justice and love affirmed. Not so in No Country. And A Serious Man channels the book of Job in such a way that God seemed very present even by way of absence. Every other Coen film I’ve seen has a heart of gold, the absurd giving way to a greater meaning, but No Country, it seems to me, has a heart of nihilism. (I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it celebrates sociopathic murder and revenge though.) It didn’t feel like an exploration of evil so much as a declaration that the world is ultimately without meaning.

 Likewise, I think, the book it’s based on. I only picked it up after the film and didn’t finish. I hadn’t read any McCarthy till after I saw the film, and then I realized that the source material was the source of my dislike of the film. (The Road is the only McCarthy novel I’ve finished. I think he’s a very good writer, but I don’t particularly like what he writes.) Still, if there was an award for adaptation of fiction into film (is there?), I’d give it to No Country.

After 10 years, though, the aura of the things I was impressed with in the film has diminished, even as my esteem has increased for the other films I mentioned earlier.

Edited by Rob Z

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Rob Z wrote:
: When the good, the bad, and the ugly/stupid/foolish collide in Fargo, it’s a tragedy, but there is also justice and love affirmed. Not so in No Country. . . . It didn’t feel like an exploration of evil so much as a declaration that the world is ultimately without meaning.

That was actually kind of the vibe I got off of Fargo the last time I saw it (two decades ago). The key thing about Fargo is that different people operate within their different spheres and don't understand each other across those boundaries. The cop and her husband get along one way. The kidnappers get along a different way (a mutually destructive way, as it turns out). And when the cop meets one of the killers, she basically openly says she doesn't understand why he did what he did. (Consider also how the film draws a parallel between the cop and the kidnappers by showing them in bed in different scenes, watching TV if memory serves.) Without this as one of the central themes of the film, it's a little harder to understand scenes that otherwise don't connect to the plot much, like the cop's dinner date with that weird ex-boyfriend (or whatever he was).

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