I've been on a huge Coen kick lately, watching older films of theirs I hadn't seen before, and rewatching ones I hadn't seen in a long time. They're already my favorite directors working today (well, alongside Steven Soderbergh, Errol Morris, and Christopher Nolan, and a few others). Blood Simple (1984) - God, how's that for a debut? It doesn't quite have the genre-eluding slipperiness of their later work, but it establishes their unique stringing-together of individually powerful scenes that at first seem incongruous. And, damn, they are masters of tension. It's so good that I'd want to place it right beside Fargo in the National Film Registry. Barton Fink (1991) - Hadn't seen this one since it was released, so the only thing I remembered about it was John Goodman's climactic hallway rampage. It's one of the more complex films they've done, and I'm still unpacking it; there's a lot of awesome things going on here, including comparisons of Hollywood versus Broadway culture, tons of visual metaphors, and a critique of literary blindness to "the common man". Fargo (1996) - Another one I hadn't seen since it came out, and I'd forgotten about how spectacularly it was received at the time. It's an affectionate tribute to where the Coens grew up, as only they can express, with a setting that's simultaneously warm (pleasant upper-Midwestern sensibilities) and desolate (wintry nothingness in every direction). Frances McDormand deserves every bit of the Oscar she won for Marge Gunderson's combination of affability and hidden steeliness. Hell, it's even in the name - Gunderson. Burn After Reading (2008) - Brad Pitt is one of the finest comic actors of our time. A Serious Man (2009) - Most of the Coens' films are indirectly about the universe's harsh, even perverse indifference, and A Serious Man finally stares the damn thing in the face and it's exquisitely uncomfortable, as Larry Gopnik is alternately hacked away at and lifted up. Probably deserves an award for being the best film that no one ever talks about. True Grit (2010) - A straight genre film, which the Coens don't do very often, and one with perhaps the least detectable "Coen" elements, but they're there if you look. I'm not especially interested in comparisons to the 1967 version, or even to the original novel - this one more than stands on its own.