Number 15: The Hudsucker Proxy. On a purely aesthetic level, this probably belongs in the tier above. But for whatever reason, I found the movie genuinely grating this time around. Consider it the anti-Raising Arizona of the list, docked points for my own idiosyncratic response.
Number 16: The Ladykillers. For me, the easiest rating by far. I would almost make the case that the overall drop from 1 to 15 is less steep than that from 15 to 16. Almost. This is the only Coens film that I will actively avoid watching again.
• For those keeping track of my ranking of Carter Burwell’s greatest scores for the Coens, the final tally is 1. Miller’s Crossing; 2. Fargo; 3. Raising Arizona; 4. True Grit; 5. Blood Simple; and 6. Burn After Reading. Regarding their soundtrack collaborations with T Bone Burnett, I’d bump Inside Llewyn Davis up one notch from where I’d placed it earlier, for a final tally of 1. O, Brother, Where Art Thou?; 2. Inside Llewyn Davis; 3. The Big Lebowski; and 4. The Ladykillers.
• One of the pleasures of watching all the Coens’ pictures straight through is that you get a keen sense of their many visual affectations and in-jokes as they come and go. For instance, their early films (Blood Simple through Barton Fink) made notable use of fans, ceiling and otherwise. This trope overlapped a bit with their interest in Things That Roll, which stretched from Miller’s Crossing through The Man Who Wasn’t There before petering out.
• The most consistent recurring motifs included dreams and dream sequences, which appear in more than half their movies. (Another dream sequence was written for Fargo but never shot.) And I counted 12 out of 16 of their movies that featured important scenes set in bathrooms. My favorite, unsurprisingly, is this one. (Sorry I couldn’t find a more complete clip.) Hair pomade only shows up in two movies—though three brands are cited—but George Clooney characters are never without some vanity-related tic (hair, teeth, exercise).
• But perhaps the most comically self-aware trope was that of characters vomiting: I counted seven instances in the Coens’ first five movies (i.e., through Hudsucker Proxy). In their next two films, Fargo and The Big Lebowski, they seemed to toy with expectations, implying that a character was about to throw up: Marge says “I’m gonna barf,” but doesn’t; the Dude gags and goes to the bathroom but he doesn’t seem to either. And then, they’re done. Unless I missed it, there’s only one other instance of vomiting (Llewelyn in No Country for Old Men) in the rest of their corpus.
• Which seems like as good a note as any on which to conclude. This has been a lot of fun, and I want to offer my genuine thanks to the many readers who’ve responded in comments or on Twitter. Your replies have been thoughtful, interesting, and, not least of all, civil—a high hurdle when topics as heartfelt as the relative merits of Coens’ films are concerned. I’ve learned a lot, and wish I had the time to pore back through and cite some of the excellent nuggets that have been mined. There is one, though—offered on Twitter by Gabe Witcher, whose band, The Punch Brothers, recorded some music for Inside Llewyn Davis—that’s great enough that I want to note it. In my entry on The Big Lebowski, I noted the eerie, eerie coincidence that the Dude writes a check for 69 cents that’s dated September 11, 1991—that is, exactly 10 years before 9/11— and then immediately looks up at a television screen on which George H. W. Bush is declaring that Saddam Hussein’s aggressions “will not stand.” Given that the movie was made in 1998, this was obviously an unintentional reference. But what I missed is that there is a cunning joke embedded in the date of that check. Later in the movie, when the Dude’s landlord, Marty, stops by, he reminds the Dude that “tomorrow’s already the 10th.” Yes, that 69-cent check to pay for half-and-half was postdated. It’s delightful little discoveries like this one that made the entire exercise such a distinct pleasure.