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: No Country for Old Men (2007)  ( 85362 )
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« #60 : January 04, 2008, 07:25:31 PM »

If people use this term for "Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia" then I'd say you could use it for this film as well.



I wouldn't call that a western either. Modern or otherwise.




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« #61 : January 05, 2008, 10:45:51 PM »

Alfredo Garcia: Definitely not a Western.



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« #62 : January 05, 2008, 10:56:00 PM »

Hey I never said it was a western, I said a lot of people describe it as a Modern Western, and if Alfredo Garcia is one, then No Country is one.  Personally I don't care.

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« #63 : January 05, 2008, 11:07:18 PM »

Hey I never said it was a western . . .
Yet you begin your post on the previous page with "I'd say it's what they call a "Modern Western'". Surely you understand what the phrase "I'd say" means?



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« #64 : January 05, 2008, 11:46:54 PM »

Indeed. I would say it's what they would call a modern western.  And by they I mean casual film-going folk.  Take my English teacher for instance.  He has good taste, though he's certainly no film scholar.  He calls this a modern western, same for Alfredo Garcia.  And to my knowledge so do the good people at places like IMDb.  I know their word isn't law.  But nobody's is.

Is it really worth splitting hairs over?  Genres are for studios and video stores to organize their shit in groups.  Other than that it doesn't make a lick o' difference to me.

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« #65 : January 06, 2008, 12:50:16 AM »

Makes none to me either. I'm just pointing out that your use of "I'd say" is an endorsement of what "they say." If that isn't what you meant, fine. But that's what you said.



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« #66 : January 06, 2008, 04:28:01 AM »

So what should we agree on to describe a film that uses some conventions of the Western set in the modern era of the West to distinguish it other films?

« : January 06, 2008, 04:29:16 AM cigar joe »

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« #67 : January 06, 2008, 10:04:48 AM »

Is it even necessary to do so? Call it a crime film and let it go at that.



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« #68 : January 06, 2008, 04:29:20 PM »

Quote
Is it even necessary to do so? Call it a crime film and let it go at that.

I don't know dave, but I tell you when you see those wide open spaces, mountians and deserts a little switch goes off in my soul (the same thing happened the other night watching "Bad Day At Black Rock") and its difficult to just call them or consider them simply crime films.  8)


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« #69 : January 06, 2008, 07:04:49 PM »

Todays NY Times

Sound, Exploring Silence
 

By DENNIS LIM
Published: January 6, 2008
FOR all the raves and awards that have so far greeted Joel and Ethan Coen’s “No Country for Old Men,” there is one term of praise that does not apply: It is not a popcorn movie. Which is to say, it is especially ill-suited to the crunching of snacks or the crinkling of wrappers or any of the usual forms of movie-theater noise pollution. There is virtually no music on the soundtrack of this tense, methodical thriller. Long passages are entirely wordless. In some of the most gripping sequences what you hear mostly is a suffocating silence.  
By compelling audiences to listen more closely, this unnervingly quiet movie has had the effect of calling attention to an underappreciated aspect of filmmaking: the use of sound. (Several critics, including A. O. Scott of The New York Times, have singled out the sound design for commendation.) “Even in a movie like this where people think the sound is minimal,” Ethan Coen said in a recent interview, “it’s actually maximal in terms of the effects and how they’re handled.”
What is unusual about “No Country for Old Men” is not simply the level of audio detail but that it is a critical part of the storytelling. Skip Lievsay, the sound editor who has worked with the Coen brothers since their first feature, “Blood Simple” (1984), called “No Country” “quite a remarkable experiment” from a sonic standpoint. “Suspense thrillers in Hollywood are traditionally done almost entirely with music,” he said. “The idea here was to remove the safety net that lets the audience feel like they know what’s going to happen. I think it makes the movie much more suspenseful. You’re not guided by the score and so you lose that comfort zone.”
Joel Coen credits his brother with the idea of minimizing the score. “I was skeptical at first,” he said, but when they watched their first rough cut, “It pretty much told us that we didn’t need any.”
That decision was made with the help of Carter Burwell, the Coens’ regular composer, who has also been part of their stable since “Blood Simple.” (Mr. Lievsay introduced him to the Coens.) “My first suggestion was that if there’s music, it should somehow emanate from the landscape,” Mr. Burwell said. He tried a few “abstract musical sounds, just the harmonics of a violin or some percussive sounds,” but found that even these small touches “destroyed the tension that came from the quiet.”
Like film editing, film sound remains a somewhat misunderstood craft, partly because at its best it tends to be imperceptible. “The better we do our job, the less people realize what’s going on,” Mr. Lievsay said. “I think a lot of people think the sound just comes out of the camera.”
What actually happens is a labor-intensive process of editing and mixing that combines dialogue and sound recorded on location with effects that are added during post-production. The on-set sound is handled by the production sound mixer, in this case, another Coen veteran, Peter Kurland, who started out as a boom operator on “Blood Simple.”
The sound effects are created by the sound designer. On “No Country” the Coens worked with Craig Berkey, new to the fold but a frequent collaborator of Mr. Lievsay’s. In addition, there is the so-called foley process during which foley artists add sound effects that synchronize with the on-screen action, like footsteps or rustling clothes. In the final stage, known as the re-recording mix, all the aural components — dialogue, effects, music — are combined and adjusted to produce a seamless soundtrack.
There are two Oscar categories for sound: best sound editing, for which Mr. Lievsay would be eligible, and best sound mixing, for which Mr. Lievsay, Mr. Berkey, Mr. Kurland and Greg Orloff, who did the foley mixing, would be.
As on most films, the sound effects in “No Country” can be divided roughly into emphatic (gunshots, the beeps of a tracking device that connects hunter and hunted), and ambient noise (engine hums, the whistling prairie wind).
Mr. Berkey had to create a range of sounds for the array of weapons used in the film, which observes a cat-and-mouse triangle among an average guy who has found a bag of money (Josh Brolin), the hired killer on his trail (Javier Bardem) and a world-weary sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones). For the air-tank cattle gun favored by Mr. Bardem’s psychotic Chigurh, Mr. Berkey used a pneumatic nail gun. “I wasn’t looking for authenticity, so I didn’t even research cattle guns,” he said. “I just knew it had to be impactful, with that two-part sound, like a ch-chung.”
The silencer-equipped shotgun, which features prominently in the bloodiest scenes, was more complicated. To get an effect that was at once muffled and explosive — it is described in the original Cormac McCarthy novel as sounding “like someone coughing into a barrel” — Mr. Berkey layered several disparate sounds together. “There’s no actual gunshot that’s part of that sound,” he said. Instead he paired “high-end spitting-type sounds, like pitched-up female screams” with an accidental, bass-heavy thump that Mr. Lievsay had detected on an on-set recording.
 
 


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« #70 : January 06, 2008, 07:05:32 PM »

part 2

“The essence of sound design is you can’t record the sound,” Mr. Lievsay said. “You have to take a lot of sounds and put them together. You can’t just go somewhere with a shotgun and a silencer. It wouldn’t be the sound that Joel and Ethan wanted anyway.”
The other big challenge for Mr. Lievsay and Mr. Berkey was getting the right roar for the vehicle engines, reflecting the film’s roughly 1980 period. “We needed big-sounding, high-horse-powered trucks,” Mr. Lievsay said. “The more gas mileage and the newer the vehicle, the less distinctive the sound.”
The nocturnal driving scenes are occasions for the composer Mr. Burwell’s near-subliminal drone to creep into the sound mix. “The idea was to use the music to deepen the tension in some of these transitional scenes, when there’s not much going on,” he said. “The sounds are snuck in underneath the wind or the sound of a car. When the wind or car goes away, the sound is left behind, but you never hear it appear.”
Mr. Burwell found that most musical instruments didn’t fit with the minimalist sound sculpture he had in mind, so he used singing bowls, standing metal bells traditionally employed in Buddhist meditation practice that produce a sustained tone when rubbed. For one of the few interior scenes with score — Chigurh menacing a service-station owner with a fateful coin flip — he tuned the music’s swelling hum to the 60-hertz frequency of a refrigerator.
The sonic precision and cohesion of the Coens’ films have much to do with the close collaboration between Mr. Lievsay and Mr. Burwell. Extensive discussions between a film’s sound editor and composer are rare, given typical post-production schedules. It’s customary, Mr. Burwell said, for the two parties to meet only “at the final mix where everyone will be arguing about what should be the loudest.” But Mr. Burwell and Mr. Lievsay, having worked on all 12 Coen films, have figured out a cooperative approach. “We try to be complementary, or we stay out of each other’s way,” Mr. Lievsay said. On some films, like “Barton Fink,” they have gone so far as to divide up the sonic spectrum for individual scenes, so that one of them tackles the high end and the other the low end.
Mr. Burwell said he was pleased that his sound-department colleagues are getting the bulk of the attention this time. “If you ask film composers — and I have — whether they feel there’s too much or too little music in the average film, they will all say too much,” he said. “I’m very happy this time to be on the other side of that balance.”
His work on “No Country for Old Men” is by some measure the most self-effacing of his career. (“My self couldn’t be any more effaced,” he said, laughing.) Including end credits, there are a mere 16 minutes of music in the film. But after learning that it meets eligibility requirements (he initially assumed it didn’t), Mr. Burwell has submitted it for Oscar consideration, partly at the request of the distributor, Miramax, and partly, he joked, “to stand up for all the minimal scores in the world.” (Mr. Burwell also wrote the scores for two other 2007 releases, Sidney Lumet’s “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” and Lasse Hallstrom’s “Hoax.”)
Talking about minimal film scores, he recalled his initial preparations for “Blood Simple.” Because he had never written a score, he decided to tape the Hitchcock classic “The Birds” off television. “At the end of every intense scene I would slap myself and go, ‘Oh, I forgot to listen to the music,’ ” he said. Rewatching the film, he realized there was no music, just a blanket of electronic bird sounds. (Hitchcock’s composer, the great Bernard Herrmann, supervised the sound design.) “That was an interesting first score to pay attention to,” Mr. Burwell said.
There is at least one sequence in “No Country for Old Men” that could be termed Hitchcockian in its virtuosic deployment of sound. Holed up in a hotel room, Mr. Brolin’s character awaits the arrival of his pursuer, Chigurh. He hears a distant noise (meant to be the scrape of a chair, Mr. Berkey said). He calls the lobby. The rings are audible through the handset and, faintly, from downstairs. No one answers. Footsteps pad down the hall. The beeps of Chigurh’s tracking device increase in frequency. Then there is a series of soft squeaks — only when the sliver of light under the door vanishes is it clear that a light bulb has been carefully unscrewed.
“That was an experiment in what we called the edge of perception,” Mr. Lievsay said. “Ethan especially kept asking us to turn it lower and lower.”
Ethan Coen said, “Josh’s character is straining to hear, and you want to be in his point of view, likewise straining to hear.” The effect can be lost, he conceded, “if it’s a louder crowd and the room is lousy.”
Joel Coen interjected, “If it’s a loud crowd at that point, the film isn’t working anyway.”



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« #71 : January 06, 2008, 08:30:43 PM »

Makes none to me either. I'm just pointing out that your use of "I'd say" is an endorsement of what "they say." If that isn't what you meant, fine. But that's what you said.

Fair enough.

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« #72 : January 07, 2008, 12:24:12 AM »

CJ, thanks for that. One of the most interesting articles on a film since I don't know when.



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« #73 : January 13, 2008, 12:51:46 AM »

Just saw this for the first time, despite being a huge fan of the Coens and Cormac McCarthy.

Four things [spoilers ahead]:

1. Watching this movie is like having someone apply constant pressure to your chest for two and a half hours. The Coens carefully craft each scene so there's no real catharsis, and that's the problem I think many people have with the ending.

2. ...The biggest lack of catharsis is the way that Chigurh doesn't die in the end. There's a moment, a brilliant moment, where the Coens let us think that he's been killed in the chance (like the coin flip) car accident, which almost gives us the release that by that moment we crave. Doesn't get his just desserts. Just walks off into the sunset, the way we expect our hero to do. In a way, all of the Coen's serious movies (and some of their comedies -- Raising Arizona, for instance) deal with this unnameable evil that coexists with (or within) mankind. This is their most cynical representation -- there is no happy ending. There is no way to defeat evil. Reconsider the conversation that Bell has with his brother (?) -- the evil is bigger than Bell, as a person, and as a character. To think otherwise is vanity.

3. The underlying theme of the movie involves the fate that Chigurh talks about with that poor old gas station attendant, and the inevitability of his actions that he talks about with Carla Jean at the end ("People always say that: 'You don't have to do this.'"). Chigurh has taken the path of evil. Bell, the path of good. Moss diverges from his path to another when he follows the trail of dog blood to the "OK Corral." Though it seems as if a good deed -- bringing water to the dying man -- gets him fully involved, in reality, it's the moment that he takes the money home. I think he's conscious of the path he's walking at that point, or at least at the point he tells Carla Jean to get packed. Like the lead character in another movie I recently watched, Melville's Le Samourai, he's heading inevitably into death from that point on. Chigurh even tells him so, without argument.

4. I feel as though, though my wife disagrees, Chigurh becomes more human as the movie goes on. Our first clear view of him is his otherworldly, straining face, as he chokes the deputy with the handcuffs. Strangely, the more humanized his character becomes, the scarier he is. He moves from the realm of movie monster to someone you could conceivably imagine existing in our world. Does he kill Carla Jean at the end? He's not carrying a weapon as he exits the house....

5. (I'll throw in one for free) This is not, by any means, a date movie.

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« #74 : January 13, 2008, 04:11:34 PM »

nice post Eric


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