Patterico's Pontifications


No Country for Old Men: A Great Movie

Filed under: General,Movies — Patterico @ 3:03 pm

The lovely Mrs. P. and I saw “No Country for Old Men” a couple of weeks ago. (We don’t get out to the movies much, and when we do, they tend to be animated movies; something to do with the two small humans that follow us almost everywhere we go.) Other than “American Gangster” and “Into the Wild,” it’s the only movie up for an Oscar that I have seen — and it’s better than those films by a country mile, so I am rooting for it. It sounds like it has a good chance of raking in some awards, which means more moviegoers will be exposed to lines like this:

Wendell: It’s a mess, ain’t it, sheriff?
Ed Tom Bell: If it ain’t, it’ll do till the mess gets here.

That line is delivered by Tommy Lee Jones, who plays the part of Sheriff “Ed Tom” Bell with humor and authenticity. He is one of the “old men” for whom this is “no country” anymore; as he tells another oldtimer in one scene, things in 1980s America just aren’t the same anymore:

Ed Tom Bell: It starts when you begin to overlook bad manners. Anytime you quit hearing “sir” and “ma’am”, the end is pretty much in sight.

Another scene captures Ed Tom’s understated sense of humor. In it, the sheriff and his sidekick Wendell enter a trailer looking for a man, and find a bottle of milk on a table.

Ed Tom Bell: Now that’s aggravatin’.
Wendell: Sheriff?
Ed Tom Bell: [points to a bottle of milk] Still sweatin’.
Wendell: Whoa, Sheriff! We just missed him! We gotta circulate this!
Ed Tom Bell: Well, okay. What do we circulate? Lookin’ for a man who recently drunk milk?

You don’t have to be a guy to appreciate this movie. But it helps. A lot of the dialogue is so funny because it accurately captures the taciturn manner that many men from Texas have.

Carla Jean Moss: Where’d you get the pistol?
Llewelyn Moss: At the gettin’ place.

. . . .

Carla Jean Moss: Fine. I don’t wanna’ know. I don’t even wanna’ know where you been all day.
Llewelyn Moss: That’ll work.

Llewelyn Moss is played by Josh Brolin, who was a standout earlier this year in the weaker “American Gangster.” But the only actor in the movie nominated for an Oscar is Javier Bardem, a Spanish actor who was, by the way, riveting in the Spanish movie Mar Adentro. He has a million great lines in this movie, but I’m not going to repeat any of them here. It would give too much away.

Me, I don’t plan to watch the Oscars. Never do. I plan to invite neighbor Jeff C. down here; he’s been here the last two Oscar nights so we can avoid them together. Jeff C., if you’re reading this, give me a call!

21 Responses to “No Country for Old Men: A Great Movie”

  1. I am halfway thru the book. I highly recommend it. Someday I will see the movie.

    PatAZ (56a0a8)

  2. The scenery around Marfa is beautiful, although I read most of the scenes were actually shot in New Mexico. It helps a little that Ed Tom’s alter ego is an authentic, taciturn Texan.

    DRJ (3eda28)

  3. I’ve liked a couple of movies from the Coen brothers. I was going to flip a coin about this one but you have convinced me, Patterico.

    nk (669aab)

  4. Bardem won best actor.

    nk (669aab)

  5. I have a question for someone who has read the book.

    Being from the area, I spotted a plot hole that I hope was not in the novel. Nobody goes out in the brush for any length of time without taking a container of water. What was the reason given for Moss to return to…… (trying to avoid spoiling anything)

    From West Texas 2 (f28dac)

  6. WT2 – I haven’t read the book. Maybe PatAZ knows.

    NK – Was Bardem expected to win? His character looks chilling, and that’s just from watching the trailers. Apparently he was just as convincing in the movie.

    DRJ (3eda28)

  7. That line is delivered by Tommy Lee Jones, who plays the part of Sheriff “Ed Tom” Bell with humor and authenticity.

    It seems to me that Tommy Lee Jones quite often takes on the role of a current or former government employee:

    Eyes of Laura Mars (police investigator)
    Black Moon Rising (ex-CIA agent)
    Lonesome Dove (Texas Ranger)
    Fire Birds (Army CWO)
    JFK (suspected CIA employee)
    Under Siege (ex-CIA agent)
    Heaven & Earth (army sergeant)
    The Fugitive (U.S. marshal)
    The Client (district attorney)
    Natural Born Killers (prison warden)
    Blue Sky (army engineer)
    Batman Forever (former district attorney)
    Volcano (emergency management director)
    Men in Black (secret government agent)
    US Marshals (U.S. marshal)
    Small Soldiers (military commander (toy))
    Double Jeopardy (parole officer)
    Rules of Engagement (military attorney)
    Space Cowboys (NASA astronaut)
    Men in Black II (secret government agent, post ofice clerk)
    The Hunted (former FBI trainer)
    Man of the House (Texas Ranger)
    No Country For Old Men (sheriff)
    In the Valley of Elah (retired army sergeant)
    In the Electric Mist (police detective)

    aunursa (f56895)

  8. DRJ, I personally have no idea but my wife says he was a heavy favorite even though he is an “outsider”.

    nk (669aab)

  9. West Texas 2: Compassion for the person still alive. Not specifically stated, but obvious. I don’t want to give anything away either. As a resident of AZ, I found it hard to believe Moss was out there without water. Desert is desert, wherever.

    PatAZ (56a0a8)

  10. Comment by aunursa — 2/24/2008 @ 6:39 pm

    That’s because he’s absolutely perfect for those roles. For example, Tommy Lee Jones made The Fugitive.

    [TLJ barks a bunch of orders to assistant marshals after a long sleepless night, then without looking around:]
    “Renfro. Whattrya doin’?”
    *pause* “I’m thinking.”
    “Yer thinkin’. Well think me up a cup a coffee and a chocolate doughnut with some a them little sprinkles on it. While yer thinkin‘.”

    no one you know (1ebbb1)

  11. He’s not too bad as a psychopath either, e.g. “The Executioner’s Song” and “The Park is Mine”.

    I haven’t seen “The Good Old Boys”, because I’m mostly disappointed by the movie if I have first read the book, but I can’t think of any other actor right now who could play an aging cowboy coming to terms with the fact that his time has come and gone.

    nk (669aab)

  12. BTW: “Lonesome Dove” the movie was better than “Lonesome Dove” the book. “Streets of Laredo” lo mismo.

    nk (669aab)

  13. The ending of the movie bugged me even more after reading the book. They used the same ending as the book, but stripped out a lot of stuff that made it work.

    Jim Treacher (592cb4)

  14. “The scenery around Marfa is beautiful”

    – DRJ

    Yeah… I think you have to be from the Southwest to appreciate that kind of beauty, though: simple, serene… the beauty’s in the scale more than anything else. It’s sublime.

    Leviticus (43095b)

  15. NCFOM sure cleaned up at the Oscars. I agree with your assessment of the movie, and of Sheriff Ed as well. If you’re a fan of Cormac McCarthy, you ought to check out “Blood Meridian.”

    Russell (5ecf4a)

  16. Before anyone knew he would be a superstar, I loved Tommy Lee Jones in the epic TV miniseries The Amazing Howard Hughes. One of the reasons I didn’t even consider seeing The Aviator is because I couldn’t imagine chirpy-voiced pretty boy Leonardo DiCrapio (sp? — ha ha!) pretending he was credible as the hard-edged, gravel-voiced iconoclast. Not even Martin Scorsese could make Leo into chicken salad.

    The Fugitive is one of my favorite motion pictures, and within minutes of his first appearance on-screen as Marshal Sam Gerard, I knew he was going to be at least nominated. (Of course, I had the same feeling about Ian McDiarmid in Revenge of the Sith, whom I believe should have gotten an Oscar for this scene alone. He didn’t, but he won a Tony Award in 2006.) I was delighted to hear that they were spinning off the Gerard character for his own movie. Unfortunately, U.S. Marshals was a lame carbon copy of Fugitive, with innocent Wesley Snipes escaping from a plane instead of innocent Harrison Ford escaping from a bus. It goes on like that — it was as if it was written by the guys who wrote Home Alone II.

    L.N. Smithee (b048eb)

  17. Im looking forward to seeing also, but I just gotta get in the right frame of mind..I hear it is pretty dark….but well done!

    kim | download full movie (bd781f)

  18. no country for old men is unassumingly clever… tons of unexpected plot twists but it never goes over the top. well done from a movie making angle, dumbfounding form a moral angle.

    patrick (742448)

  19. Worst movie I ever saw… made no sense. and was totally pointless.. especially the ending… tooo many unresolved questions

    Steve (56a0a8)

  20. I won’t echo Steve but I just saw it too and was not particularly impressed. I liked it as cinematographic exercise, the acting especially, but the story was sub-par. It starts off with the cheapest of literary tricks. I won’t spoil it for those who have not seen it but, for those who have, you know how the movie could have been only five minutes long. I have not read the book so I won’t place the blame on Cormac Mc Carthy. But it seems to me that the story tried to combine the bleakness of Alan LeMay with the folksiness of Elmer Kelton and the grittiness of James Lee Burke (there was even one passage lifted entirely from James Lee Burke) without doing it anywhere near as good as those writers. As for painting a man’s world, with the women being only incidental or incidental victims, Sam Peckinpah did that a lot better too.

    nk (34c5da)

  21. I read the book yesterday. It’s not too long and very “readable”.

    I can’t say which one is better, the book or the movie, but they go well together — like the tenderloin and the strip in a Porterhouse steak. If you liked the movie even a little, I recommend that you read the book too. And if you liked the book I recommend that you see the movie.

    McCarthy did things that Hollywood cannot do and the Coens did things only Hollywood can do.

    nk (34c5da)

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