No Country For Old Men contest!

If you have seen No Country For Old Men, you know that it contains a virtual compendium of Coen moments — it’s practically a Coen’s Greatest Hits album, quoting at least once from every one of their previous movies. For instance:

*Blood Simple: the bleak, dry Texas landscape, as well as that movie’s “down here you’re on your own” attitude

*Raising Arizona: the examination of trailer-park life, as well as the Lone Biker of the Apocalypse, here resurrected as the dead-serious Anton Chigurh. (In Raising, the Lone Biker shoots at a lizard on a rock as he drives past, in No Country Chigurh shoots at a bird on a bridge as he drives past — and misses. The scene is straight from the book.) Also, the scene where the fugitive has a strange conversation with a gas-station attendant.

(There is another, funnier reference to Raising — in No Country, Sheriff Bell squats down to examine the dent in the wall made by Chigurh shooting out the lock — in Raising, the Lone Biker squats in the exact same attitude to examine the word “FART” scrawled on the wall.)

*Miller’s Crossing: the hotel ambush, characters leaping out the window to turn the tables on their pursuers, killers shooting through walls to nail would-be attackers. (The Coens altered and re-arranged the action of the ambush at the Eagle Hotel, which is significantly more complicated and less suspenseful in the book.)

*Barton Fink: The long hotel corridor, the lone tenant in the hotel listening for the thing that may be coming to kill him, calling downstairs for help that will not arrive.

*Hudsucker Proxy: this is harder to place, although I notice that the Coens saw fit to have a wise black man give advice to Moss as he hitch-hikes — another scene not in the book. Also there is, I think, a link between the designs of the Hudsucker boardroom and the strangely-designed office of The Man Who Hires Wells.

*Fargo: the simple, moral sheriff with the keen, intuitive detective skills, paired with a deputy whose skills aren’t quite as well-honed as his boss’s, and the final showdown between the sheriff and the psychopathic killer (which, in No Country almost takes place but then, crucially, does not). Also, the document case full of money — magically, the million dollars that fits into the case in Fargo has grown into over $2 million in No Country, but still fits in the same case.  In No Country, Bell goes to a motel to corner a fugitive and checks to see if he’s climbed out the bathroom window, perhaps because that’s where the fugitive in Fargo, Jerry Lundergaard, was caught — the scene is not in the book.

*The Big Lebowski: characters whose life experience is filtered solely through their experiences in Vietnam (which is in the book).

*O Brother Where Art Thou: shooting animals and then commenting on it, another strange conversation between a fugitive and a store clerk. (Too bad Anton Chigurh doesn’t use pomade to style his hair.)

*The Man Who Wasn’t There: executions, specifically by electric chair (in the book, prisoners are executed in the gas chamber).  And the main characters reluctance to speak very often.

*Intolerable Cruelty: the over-zealous, unstoppable attack dog (which does not exist in the book).

*The Ladykillers: dropping things off a bridge, Stephen Root as the man with the money, an orange cat as a harbinger of death. (And, the bird Chigurh shoots at on the bridge is a raven — as though the Coens are trying to kill their own poorly-received movie.  In the book it’s a hawk.)

As a special bonus, there is a reference to The Shining (which, like No Country, is set in 1980), when Moss calls Carla Jean to tell her he’s coming to get her and make her safe. The shot is lifted directly from the scene where Scatman Crothers calls his snowmobile-renting pal from the airport in Denver. The pay-phone is the same model as the one used in The Shining, Moss is placed in the same place in the frame, and, well, the rescue operation turns out about as well for Moss as it did for Scatman.

I invite my readers to contribute their own observances here.

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21 Responses to “No Country For Old Men contest!”
  1. Anonymous says:

    cantankerous in law person

    Like in Fargo there is a cantankerous in-law who dislikes the protagonist and takes an indirect action which ultimately undoes the protagonist.


  2. mr_noy says:

    I recognized the Shining reference as soon as I saw it, but a friend of mine pointed out an even smaller detail. The hotel room that Lewelyn died in was number 114, a number that appears in many Kubrick films, starting with the CRM114 discriminator in Dr. Strangelove.

    I’m sure he would have used the same number in The Shining but the owners of the hotel used for exteriors asked him not to use actual room numbers.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I’m prepared to be corrected if wrong, but don’t both Raising Arizona and No Country end with a voiceover in which two dreams are described? I haven’t read the novel to know whether this is a pure Coen affectation or a confluence of styles.


    • Todd says:

      Indeed! The novel of No Country ends with the description of two dreams. The last line of the novel is the last line of the movie.

  4. Todd says:

    The Coens like their dogs — or rather, one does and one doesn’t. When interviewers ask them about what their differences are, trying to divine what each brother brings to the creative process, Ethan (or maybe Joel) says “I like movies about dogs and my brother doesn’t.”

  5. Anonymous says:

    As in Raising Arizona, there is an overhead shot where the camera tracks downwards slowly towards the progatonist while he lies in bed…

    • Todd says:

      And, as in many Coen movies, characters wake up and mutter things. Hi in RA wakes up and says “Merry Christmas,” Ulysses in OB wakes up and say “My hair!” and Moss wakes up a number of times in NC saying things like “Okay” or “Ain’t no way.”

      • dougo says:

        I didn’t think he was asleep– I thought he couldn’t sleep, and said “okay” and got up when he decided he wasn’t going to get to sleep.

  6. dougo says:

    Like in Barton Fink, sounds travel through the pipes (here, air ducts). Also, there was a lot of stuff about boots and socks and being barefoot.

    The scene with Chigurh walking into the drugstore as the car blows up behind him– I know that’s a cliche that’s been in lots of movies, but it felt like a direct quote from something. Particularly the way he was limping. Can’t think of what.

    Also, the whole movie gave me a huge John Sayles feeling. But I don’t know if there were specific references to anything. (Though the “missing reel” felt a lot like the end of Limbo.) Hey, Sayles has a new movie coming out– are you going to do a retrospective of his films next? That would be awesome.

  7. Anonymous says:

    The gal by the pool trying to tempt Llewelyn with beer echoes Bunny Lebowski’s first appearance in The Big Lebowski (cash machine, blow job, etc). Both Llewelyn and the Dude respond in the same aw-shucks kind of way…

  8. curt_holman says:

    The one that got a way

    When I saw (and wrote about) No Country For Old Men, I made associations not so much with earlier Coen Brothers movies as a Coen Brothers movie that was never made. I believe before Intolerable Cruelty they wanted to film their adaptation of James Dickey’s To the White Sea, which depicts a U.S. serviceman on the scene of the firebombing of Tokyo (I think) during World War II. Apparently the script featured a hero who never spoke (and was possibly psychopathic) and no dialogue in English after the first 10 minutes. No Country for Old Men’s visual economy, long stretches without words and thematic exploration of violence seemed very much along the same lines as what To the White Sea may have been.

    • Anonymous says:

      Re: The one that got a way

      Bingo, Curt – I was going to make a similar point, but you’ve articulated it better than I might’ve.

      It’s my fervent dream that To the White Sea gets greenlit again in light of No Country’s… success. Apparantly Brad Pitt was attached to play the protagonist. But it probably won’t happen.

  9. pjamesharvey says:

    I may be smoking crack, but is Wells’s comment about counting the number of floors from the outside and the building apparently missing one a reference to the Hudsucker Proxy’s building’s mezzanine?

    • Todd says:

      Well, there’s a connection I hadn’t made, and it is certainly true.

      I think the “missing floor” line has to do with revealing Wells’s character — all the main characters in No Country are hunters and trackers, and that line is the only one we get to suggest that Wells is as good as he says. Out of sheer habit, apparently, he cased the skyscraper where The Man Who Hires Wells is, making sure, probably that he would know how to get out of anyplace he went into, and found that the building had a number of floors different from advertised. In the novel, it’s spelled out a little more — the point of the “missing floor” line is that this drug operation that The Man Who Hires Wells is part of is so lucrative and illegal, the people who run it have their own floor in an office building, one without a number. You know, like in Being John Malkovich.

      • dougo says:

        I thought it had something to do with the way some buildings number their floors to skip from 12 to 14. The Man Who Hires Wells seemed to have a “ha ha you’re an idiot” smile after Wells made that comment.

        • Todd says:

          I thought that too at first, but then that would mean that Wells is either an idiot or that Wells was testing Man Who Hires Wells to see if he were also an idiot. Thankfully, the book spells it out.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Huh. The “Shining” reference went right by me. But Carla Jean’s mom says that she “pre-visioned” the trouble Moss gets into. Guess she’s got “the shine” like Scatman.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I don’t know if you’re still checking this Todd, BUT:

    In MAN WHO WASN’T THERE, the barber Ed hires to replace Frank has a brief speech about putting change in his pocket and not realising until later that he’s a few cents short (I forget the exact line, and it’s not in the script). Reminded me of Chigurh’s insistence that the Shopkeep NOT put the coin in his pocket.

    Small connection, but it’s there. Still holding out for a BaR write-up (I’ve been picking at mine on and off for a month!).

    -Le Ted

    • Todd says:

      Re: I don’t know if you’re still checking this Todd, BUT:

      Hopefully you won’t have to wait until the DVD comes out.