O brothers! Coens take top Oscars honors

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A year after the Oscars finally honored Martin Scorsese as best director, the academy took care of business in speedier fashion by feting the widely admired Coen brothers.

Though Joel and Ethan Coen’s many die-hard fans might say their win was nevertheless belated — it coming 24 years after their first film — their Texas crime film ‘‘No Country for Old Men’’ has generally been viewed as a culmination of craft for the brothers.

Here's a look at their win as directors:

They are the first siblings to win the directing honor and just the second pair to share Hollywood’s top filmmaking honor, following Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins for 1961’s ‘‘West Side Story.’’

The Coens, working for the first time from material not their own, also won for best adapted screenplay for their script based on Cormac McCarthy’s novel. Accepting the award, Joel Coen alluded to the brothers’ 2000 film, ‘‘O Brother, Where Art Thou,’’ which was [very] loosely based on ‘‘The Odyssey.’’

‘‘Whatever success we’ve had in this area has been entirely attributable to how selective we are,’’ said Coen. ‘‘We’ve only adapted Homer and Cormac McCarthy.’’

The Coens won for best original screenplay for ‘‘Fargo’’ in 1997, though they lost to Anthony Minghella (‘‘The English Patient’’) for best director.

Many view ‘‘Fargo’’ as the Coen’s finest film, which, like ‘‘No Country for Old Men,’’ portrayed violent crime across a desolate landscape. To cultists, the directors’ most essential movie is 1998’s ‘‘The Big Lebowski,’’ for which fans still yearly congregate to celebrate.

After a series of box office and critical duds like ‘‘The Ladykillers’’ and ‘‘Intolerable Cruelty,’’ ‘‘No Country’’ has emerged as the Coens’ biggest financial success, surpassing $60 million.

‘‘No Country’’ was the favorite heading into Oscar night, and the awards went — unlike their characters’ exploits — largely according to plan, with the film capturing best picture honors. And Javier Bardem, who plays Anton Chigurh, an implacable killer with the hair of Prince Valiant, won supporting actor.

‘‘Thank you to the Coens for being crazy enough to think that I could do that, and put one of the most horrible haircuts in history over my head,’’ said Bardem.

Bardem’s curious ’do was one of the Coens’ few characteristically idiosyncratic touches. For ‘‘No Country,’’ they primarily played it straight, portraying three twisting plots with steely quiet and frenzied explosions of sound.

One tantalizing opportunity was missed tonight when the Coens lost for best editing. They were nominated under their pseudonym Roderick Jaynes (which they use for editing credits), and the academy had said it would read that name should ‘‘Jaynes’’ win. Whether the Coens would have stood up to accept was unknown; instead, Christopher Rouse won for ‘‘The Bourne Ultimatum.’’

The Coens seem to have realized adaptations might be worth it, after all. It was recently announced that they will reunite with ‘‘No Country’’ producer Scott Rudin to adapt Michael Chabon’s ‘‘The Yiddish Policeman’s Union.’’


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This page contains a single entry by Thomas Conner published on February 24, 2008 11:18 PM.

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