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Can I just say that I really had no interest in watching either of these? I mean, really… neither is a story that appeals to me.  Frankly, I could say the same about the next pair, too.  Kind of ready to be done with this project, but with only seven movies to go, I can’t give up now.

The Departed (Best Picture, 2006)

Oh joy.  Another movie about racism and crime, peppered with random outbursts of violence and every other word is profanity.

I get what Scorsese was trying to do here, and I can see why it was popular.  In violence levels it rivals the final act of the great Shakespearean tragedies: basically, everyone dies.  Also, almost all of the characters are male.  Lines blur, identities become fuzzy… in some ways it’s a story we’ve seen before.  It’s almost predictable, which makes its success all the more remarkable.  A cynical part of me wonders, though, if THE DEPARTED would have won the top award or even garnered nominations if the names attached to it were less well-known.  Martin Scorsese as director, and starring Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Sheen, Mark Wahlberg, Jack Nicholson, Alec Baldwin… THE DEPARTED is not quite at the level of CRASH, but it raises the same thought that the Academy has a checklist of points to hit.  It’s not like THE DEPARTED didn’t have competition in the Best Picture contest.  It was up against BABEL, LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA, THE QUEEN, and LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE.  If it had been up to me, I’d have chosen between the two latter.  LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE is particularly appealing, since it’s been quite some time since a comedy won.

I know I’ve expressed this sentiment before, but it’s relevant again, so here goes.  I prefer Shakespeare’s comedies to his tragedies.  I like a story that leaves me feeling hopeful and happy and like things might be on the upswing.  The tragedies might be grand and give us insight into the Human Experience, but I’d still rather laugh than cry.  I want my entertainment to be escapist.

No Country For Old Men (Best Picture, 2007)

The first trailer before this movie on the DVD is NATIONAL TREASURE: BOOK OF SECRETS.  You can tell a lot about a film by the trailers preceding it, and in my opinion, this is not a strong beginning.  But then, perhaps I’m a snob.  I also don’t like it when DVDs won’t let me skip over the previews.

So here’s what I want to know: What the hell is wrong with the Coen brothers?  Their films all seem to be so dark.  Sometimes it’s dark like NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, other times it’s dark like A SERIOUS MAN.  Whatever the source of this interest in emotional turmoil, violence, and just plain darkness, all I know is that I do not envy their shrink, if they have one. If they don’t have one, maybe they should.

That said, they do have the distinction of creating a recognizable style all their own.  “Coenesque” is apparently a Thing now, and as mysterious and unappealing as I may find it, it’s done well by Ethan and Joel Coen.  They also can be applauded for their adherence to source material.  NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN is an adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy book of the same name, and from what I read the film is pretty honest to the book, though of course it’s not identical.  O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU? is a retelling of the Odyssey, MILLER’S CROSSING is based on novels by Dashiell Hammett, A SERIOUS MAN is loosely based on the Book of Job, and in 2004 they remade THE LADYKILLERS.

While I understand the concept of a hit man, I am not a fan of a character killing just for killing’s sake.  I realize this may come as a surprise, given my enjoyment of shows like CRIMINAL MINDS, but the thing about CM is that it’s about the people who can explain, even to the killers themselves, the why of the killing.  The perpetrator may believe he is killing for killing’s sake, but the analysts of the BAU on CM show that there are always other reasons as well.  Even when the perpetrator is a psychopath or sociopath whose life experiences triggered a compulsion to kill, that’s a reason of sorts, because it makes it science rather than only simple, inexplicable evil.

Javier Bardem got a lot of praise for his performance (and teasing for his wig) in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, and I can see why.  He’s very frightening, this large, odd-looking menace of a man.

Though really, one major plot point defies understanding.  You find evidence of a drug-related shootout, and you find a massive amount of cash. It should be pretty obvious that you do NOT TAKE THE CASH.  But I guess history has shown pretty much daily that greed is stronger than sense. Unfortunately.

Next Up: Slumdog Millionaire (Best Picture, 2008) and The Hurt Locker (Best Picture, 2009)