(Just a single rule: mix-tape-style, no more than one film per director. You know, because otherwise the whole thing would be pointless.)
Crime • dir. Joel Coen & Ethan Coen • 1996 • USA
I won’t trouble you with the details but I once found myself walking around a Massachusetts reservoir with an out-of-work actor and a film camera. (Ok, one detail: I was a grad student attempting to make an ultra-low budget short documentary.) It was a mostly fun and interesting experience. Yet, frankly, it was also more-or-less an unmitigated disaster. I’m not all that great with cameras and microphones, and didn’t really know what I was doing. The weather was, shall we say, changeable, and my plucky actor chronically ill-prepared. He was out late the night before (or something) and knew neither his lines nor what sort of person was supposed to be saying them. I hope you won’t think this overly mean, but he was basically an affable idiot. When I finally figured the whole reservoir thing wasn’t working out, I suggested we try again while driving around in his car. A bit of a punt, I know, but I figured maybe half-concentrating on something else – driving – would free him up to truly shine. It didn’t.
In short, making movies ain’t easy. Whether it’s two idiots who don’t particularly know what they’re doing, or a giant, studio-backed blockbuster production. There are so many things that can go wrong – and even when things don’t go wrong, half the time everyone’s just waiting around for many disparate things to be ready. (The lighting, make up, an insecure actor…) You will no doubt have noticed, however, that the Coen Brothers are different. Film after film, and across a wide range of genres, they make filmmaker seem easy. A lark. They made their first film, Blood Simple, 30 years ago, and have long-since put together a monster back-catalog. Everyone has a favorite Coen Brothers film, and mine is Fargo. It features snow, a horribly botched kidnapping, a suitcase full of stolen money, and a bunch of people either running away or racing to catch up. Simply enough – but by no means simple – it’s a movie in which everything works the way it’s meant to.