Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Okay. This is going to be fun. Wild but fun.

Not everyone loved NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN even though it won Best Picture. Bob Gale, a screenwriter who I have enormous respect for (among his credits: BACK TO THE FUTURE) is one of those naysayers. He had a few teeny-weenie logic issues and one or two questions. Here's his assessment and I know the comments are going to start flying. I'm just the hockey referee. I drop the puck and you guys go for it.

The puck drops....NOW.

It made no sense at all!

Javier the bad guy wanders around Texas doing a bad impression of “The Terminator,” lugging a big compressed air tank and hose instead of just carrying a pistol with a silencer that he could put in his pocket. Right.

The Deputy arrests Javier, takes him to the station, then turns his back on him (perhaps not noticing he is twice his size) to call Tommy Lee instead of putting him in jail first. Right.

Tommy Lee doesn’t put out an APB for the entire state of Texas regarding the killer of his own deputy. A cop killer is on the loose but no one knows. Right. Of course, maybe he did, but since nobody in the whole movie listens to a radio or watches television because there’s just so much to do in west Texas, how would anyone know?

Then we meet Josh Brolin, hunting deer in the desert – there’s a natural habitat for you – but he doesn’t have a canteen with water. Right.

Then, after ripping off a bunch of dead drug dealers who have been massacred with machine gun fire, Josh decides in the middle of the night to go back to the desert to bring water to one of the dying drug dealers he just ripped off. Great idea. Does he wait until morning? No, he chooses to do this at night when you can’t see shit. And he doesn’t bring a flashlight. Double right.

It just so happens that the very next day when Josh and his wife clear out of their trailer, that’s the day when the phone bill comes so Javier can find it. Right.

Plus, knowing that drug dealers are going to be after him, he decides not to tell the lady who runs the Trailer Park a cover story that might get the bad guys off his trail. Oh, he’s brilliant.

Why does Javier kill the 2 guys who at the scene of the crime who have just hired him to find their money? Did it not occur to him that they would be working for other guys who might not like having their people killed? Does he think this will look good on his resume?

And these guys just happen to have the most powerful transponder and tracking device in Texas, which can pick up a signal from miles away. James Bond didn’t even have this. Right.

When Josh Brolin finds the transponder, he doesn’t throw it out the window to decoy the bad guy or conceive some clever plan to lure Javier into a trap. No, he just sits right next to it. Genius.

Josh Brolin fires a shotgun with double aught buck at Javier who is 6 feet away from him behind a door and he doesn’t kill him, nor blow up his compressed air tank. What planet are we on where the laws of physics work in such mysterious ways?

There’s a big burst of machine gun fire in two different motels, and then a whole bunch of shooting in the main street of a dead quiet small town and it doesn’t bring the police or any armed citizens. Oh, wait – I missed the part that explained we’re on a different planet. Or something.

Josh Brolin can just walk across the border into Mexico AT A BORDER CROSSING, dripping blood, without being stopped by the Mexican authorities. What is this, some special “Bleeding-fugitives-can-get-into-Mexico-free Day?” Where exactly was the sign that was advertising this promotion? At least they could have had Josh bribe the border cop.

Javier is looking all over Texas for Josh and can’t find him, but Woody Harrelson finds him immediately in a hospital in Mexico. I guess I also missed the scene where they explained that Woody had super-powers.

Woody can find the money, but Javier can’t. Wow, those super-powers of his are really amazing. And Josh decided to keep the money in its original suitcase because obviously he knew there would be no way the bad guys would be looking for THAT. Oh wait, I forgot, he’s a Vietnam Vet so the war must have messed up his ability to think.

Who killed who in the El Paso motel? How did the mother-in-law die? In the shootout? Then why didn’t Josh’s wife get killed? And what was the point of the woman at the pool who wants Josh to have a beer with her? What finally happened to the money? There’s a whole bunch of carnage at this motel, but Tommy Lee and the local Sheriff have time to have coffee so the Sheriff can complain about kids with green hair. Sure, why not.

Did Javier kill the wife or not? And how come Javier just happens to have an auto accident at the end? I guess it was because he was looking in his rear view mirror, worried that the 2 kids on bikes might have some serious armament and be coming after him because, goddammit, they look like dangerous bad kids in the employ of a rival drug dealer. The one kid gets money and the other doesn’t. Why doesn’t the other kid rat out Javier to the cops? Meanwhile, Javier is just walking down the street, dripping blood, with police sirens approaching and no one is going to notice? Oh yeah – I keep forgetting that it’s another planet. That would be Planet Deaf Dumb Blind and Stupid.

Meanwhile, Tommy Lee is pontificating about nothing with some crippled fucker in the middle of nowhere. And everybody talks….real….slow….because…it’s….real…important…philosophical….existential…claptrap…and…this….is…a ….real….important…motion…picture…

And then the movie ends with Tommy Lee telling his wife about some fucking dream he had? What the hell was that????? Oh wait – I get it – the whole fucking movie was his dream.


Unknown said...

Hey Ken-
This is my first time writing on the blog.
So, I'm trying to figure out how this got posted at 6:47pm, when you were at the restaurant until close to 7pm? Is there a ghost rwiter (named Annie?), or are you a speed writer awho used superhuman skills to do this in the car before you drove away?

Anonymous said...

... And 88 mph in a Delorean with a flux capacitor lets you travel through time?

Anonymous said...

I agree 100%. Gale picked up way more problems with logic than ever occurred to me but I guess he was making a point.

I enjoyed the movie, though, because I learned long ago that unless you want to hate every movie you see you have to suspend disbelief.

I can even watch submarine movies and I'm a submariner.

Try it, you'll like it.

By Ken Levine said...


That flux capacitor really DOES work.

blogward said...

Seconded. The script is/was available online and it's the duff ending that makes you question the story altogether. It's as though some of the pages got folded over in the photocopier. With a resonant, satisfying ending you wouldn't worry about the logic.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Ken. Agreed 100%. You took the words right out of my mouth.

Thanks for this.

Also, to the second poster - anonymous - you're an idiot. A story can have fictional elements in it as long as they're justified.
Are you telling me NCFOM takes place in a sci-fi world where everyone is basically senseless and idiotic, thus justifying the stupid behaviour of, for example, Tommy Lee?

I can't stand when people use that stupid argument to justify continuity, plot, and character errors in a movie that did not justify them.

Dinosaurs are in Jurrasic Park because, in it's universe, it made sense.
However, you can not be stupid enough to argue that dinosaurs in
"There Will Be Blood" is the same damned thing. However, that's what you just did, anonymous.

And flem, suspending disbelief only goes so far. I can only pretend a movie is 'good' for so long into the movie. When it proves to me, outright, that it isn't worth my appraisal, I give it my word that it won't recieve it.
I'm good like that.

A_B said...

Was Mr. Gale's post serious, as in we're supposed to take the criticisms seriously, or was it meant in jest?

I ask because a lot of the questions or alleged flaws in logic are either explained in the film or meant to convey certain themes to the audience in a non-literal manner.

While the film is not without its faults, Mr. Gale appears to not have been able to discern any of them.

There are too many questions for me to go through them point by point, so I'll just pick a few.

For example, Mr. Gale writes, "What finally happened to the money?"

This is a significant point in the film and if Mr. Gale is being serious, undermines his position as "critic." The film makes it very clear that Chigurh got the money. Moreover, that fact is significant in developing his character because he killed the wife even after he had the money simply to uphold his promise to Moss.

The reason it's quite obvious that Chigurh got the money, if one takes the time to pay attention, starts earlier in the film when Chigurh sees that Moss stashed the money in a vent.

Later, after Moss is killed, Bell goes to the hotel where Moss was. Chigurh is hiding, and Bell sees that the vent has been opened. Later, after his accident, Chigurh gives the teen a $100 like Moss had been giving our earlier. Clearly, that money was from the stash and Chigurh got it.

Mr. Gale asks, "Why doesn’t the other kid rat out Javier to the cops? Meanwhile, Javier is just walking down the street, dripping blood, with police sirens approaching and no one is going to notice?"

This isn't a logical flaw. This is an unanswered question. What does happen? As viewers, we don't know because the narrative for Chigurh ends. Moreover, it's irrelevant to the story.

At the end of Back to the Future, the audience is left hanging. "Wait??? The future has no roads??? Where are they going????" Not every film wraps up every question that the audience has. And I would offer that the unanswered questions in BTTF are far more important to the audience than whether the one kid squeals.

But, in the very least, this scene establishes that Chigurh is very much not a "Terminator." Despite his previous apparent "unstoppability", he's very much susceptible to mundane events of life like anyone else. This was a key scene because it established this aspect to the character (i.e., he may be a psychopath, but he's only human) and revealed that he had the money and decided to kill the wife anyway.

Mr. Gale is equally thoughtless throughout his post.

Indeed other criticisms are similar. For example, "The Deputy arrests Javier, takes him to the station, then turns his back on him ... to call Tommy Lee instead of putting him in jail first." This comment, combined with Mr. Gale's comment regarding Bell's description of the dream, further demonstrates that he simply didn't understand the film.

From a practical stand point, it's not uncommon for police officers to not immediately put prisoners in cells. And, in this instance, we don't know why Chigurh was arrested. It could have been for any number of non-violent reasons.

However, thematically, it ties into the entire story, which are given away by the title of the film and Bell's initial narration. Bell describes at the beginning, for lack of better words, "the gold old days." He talks about how "some of the old time sheriffs didn't even carry a gun." This statement and the rest of the narration immediately preceded the casual treatment of Chigurh. What we're seeing is this "old time style" (the film is set in 1980 or so) coming into conflict with a new type of criminal. We see that it is unprepared for it (and is part of the reason Bell retired).

Indeed, the entire film is about the transition from this somewhat casual attitude to the unknowable and unfathomable brutality of criminals like Chigurh. Bell's character, throughout the film, is the narrator of this transition. For example, his discussion of the newspaper article with the other deputy. (The title of the movie is another clue.)

Consequently, Mr. Gales criticism is not only inaccurate from a literal point of view, but he fails to comprehend how it is an essential element in the narrative.

Mr. Gale adds, "Tommy Lee is pontificating about nothing with some crippled fucker in the middle of nowhere." This is why I ask if the entire point of this post is for the sake of humor. While the final narrative is somewhat muddled and the end isn't entirely satisfying, "crippled fucker"? Really? That's neither funny nor insightful.

So, again, I ask, is this post supposed to be taken seriously, or is it simply meant as illogical ranting for the sake of humor?

Anonymous said...

This is a great read. I though I was the only one who thought the story wasn't, ehrm, great. It wouldn't have gotten any Oscar from me, this film.

Anonymous said...

From Merkin Guano:

Oh my god. Why is this even a problem when shit like National Treasure, The Game Plan, and their ilk are raping our feeble minds?

Seriously folks. Time to stop the hate, stop the jealously, and start going after the fucks that don't give a shit. Let's opine about the discrepancies, the ludicrousness of National Treasure 8: "Nic Coppola is a smug, Chihuahua stealing frog-fucker", before we start tearing the assholes of tried and true originals.

At least the Coens, the Andersons, even the Reitmans (Jr.) of this world give a shit about what goes into our brains and not necessarily what comes out of our pockets. That should count for something.

Shame on Mr. Gale. And shame on Mr. Levine for supporting him.

Unknown said...

I truly belive that this post was meant as a jest. it's not the first quasy-serious post on this blog, from mr. levine's hands or otherwise.
oh, and the deputy killed in the beggining is from a different county, he's not Sherrif Bell's deputy. it's all in the details, folks. if Mr. Gale meant it as a serious critic of the movie's "logic flaws", i guess he really didn't pay any attention whatsoever.
BUT, if this post is made in point to make fun of people who make such empty and pointless critics, than job well done, sir!

Unknown said...

"Fargo" could be taken apart like this too.

I think the author just doesn't get it. Sometimes you have to accept submarines with command rooms the size of a barn and enjoy Gene and Denzel Duke it out.

Deal with it.

I hated "Juno" because I am not 15 years old or in a midlife crisis. Doesn't make me question the plot.

Anonymous said...

I both read the book and saw the movie, and to me this was a classic case of a poor adaptation. The Coens didn't deserve any rewards for adapting this book (which was great, BTW) because they cut out the wrong things, and left in things that should have been cut to make a better movie.

For example, Tommy Lee Jones' character is the protagonist in the book. The book is about the way this case affects Jones' character, which works in a book because books can focus on internal things (i.e., thoughts and feelings). However, Jones' character is way too passive to work for a movie.

If the Coens brothers had really thought about it, they would have realized they needed to make Josh Brolin the protagonist and focus on that rather than trying to find a way to incorporate Jones. Then they could have focused on ensuring that the crime and all that happened afterwards made sense.

Anonymous said...

Did Javier kill the wife or not?

Yes. Remember when he leaves the motel, when he looks at his shoes? He's trying to see if he got any of the wife's blood on them. It's called subtlety.

Unknown said...

"or blow up his compressed air tank"

He should watch Mythbusters.

Matty said...

This was either a very lazy attempt at criticism or a dumb joke. Ugh.

probability said...

Umm, I read the book too, and I loved this movie. I thought it was very faithful to the spirit of the book. What really irks me is that people can't just accept it when they "don't get" a movie. Instead, they have to get really angry about it like Mr. Gale.

James Patrick Joyce said...

Josh Brolin fires a shotgun with double aught buck... and he doesn’t... blow up his compressed air tank. What planet are we on where the laws of physics work in such mysterious ways?

They did this on Mythbusters. Even high velocity rounds only dented a regular compressed air tank. Double-ought wouldn't blow it up.

Anonymous said...

Right on! About time to take this dreadful, boring, blood-drenched waste of time film apart. I saw it at the Academy, semi full of people, and the reaction at the end was...nothing. Very unusual. NCFOM not only didn't deserve the statue, it didn't even deserve the nom!

Mary Stella said...

I read the post and comments and the most entertaining part is thinking that this might be the only place on Earth where people are making critical comparisons between No Country for Old Men and Back to the Future.

I hated "Juno" because I am not 15 years old or in a midlife crisis. Doesn't make me question the plot.

I'm 50 and not in a midlife crisis and I loved Juno. Sorry. You need other reasons to hate the movie. (j/k)

Unknown said...

Teenagers and a guy in a midlife crisis were in the movie. I gave examples of people who could relate and therefor love the movie.

I didn't give any reasons why I hate it and that's what I tried to say: you can simply hate a movie no matter what.

This gives me a chance to add something: taking a movie apart because of it's faults is a good way to get rid of your anger. I think discussing it like this is ok and doesn't have to serve any other purpose than finding people out there who agree - which gives you a good warm fuzzy feeling inside and gets rid of all that anger because you wasted time and money on a movie you didn't like :-D

So I guess this was just a good way to blow off some steam :-)

And again, I hated Juno. I want my money back. Then again I am not that angry to point out its "flaws" :-)

Terese Ramin said...

ROFLMAO!!! Oh good. Now I don't have to watch the movie - especially with the dh because I know exactly what he'll say, the mumbled running commentary I'll hear underneath the film (or that I'd wind up making myself in spots if I wasn't too tied up in either the action or the emotions) to ignore the *logic*.

But then...there is that flux capacitor thing with the Delorean. There was never any logic in that either and I totally enjoyed BttF.

Anonymous said...

Ed Bell:

"...Anyway, first one I don't remember so well but it was about money and I think I lost it. "

Ken,I'd have to agree you're right. The movie is a dream.

Anonymous said...

Just a quick note to address the deer hunting, they're not in their natural habitat. It looked to this Texan like a hunting preserve and Brolin is poaching game.

Anonymous said...

Well…I…never…. Obviously it must be some time since Mr. Gale has been here on Planet TEXAS. (Incidentally, current hq of what is left of the De Lorean Motor Co.). The reason Brolin couldn’t shoot and blow up the compressed air tank from only 6 feet away is because this is Texas. He fired and accidentally shot a lawyer in the face. Do I have to explain everything people?

I’m pretty sure this is largely sarcasm. We can probably do without the “Shana you ignorant slut” Point Counterpoint punctuation, although I'll accept that sarcastic tonality doesn't always manifest itself in either direction in print. And yet I felt I learned both from the original post and the seriously thought out backlashes that KL predicted. Really. In fact, I’m so confused that, not having seen the picture, I can now, and still not have had any of these spoilers spoil anything for me.

I can’t imagine how any of Bob’s deconstruction could have approached the headache he must have gotten proofreading his own Back to the Future for logical flaws. (Btw Christopher Lloyd rocks!). Incidentally, it might be of interest to Bob, that around 1988, the 25th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination (just a few years after Back to the Future), a slew of scripts came into Dallas, all with the same general theme: scientist goes back in time and tries to prevent it.

I went with one of them to the 6th floor of the Texas School Book Suppository building, where there is now a really great museum/exhibit on the life and death of JFK, and then up to the 7th floor, which was used by Oliver Stone, because it pretty much looked the way the 6th floor originally looked before the Extreme Home Makeover guys got there. I remember one of the party asking something like, “Were there the same number of steps going up the stairwell to the actual 6th floor as we just took up to the 7th floor?" Then I remember turning to someone else and exclaiming sotto voice,” What the f difference does it make? You’re talking about a guy who goes BACK IN TIME fer Chrissake!”

Emily Blake said...

People sure say some asinine shit when they don't leave their names.

Anyway, I'm glad I'm not the only one who didn't get it. I wrote a post about how much the screenplay confused me and left me wondering what the hell was going on and everybody told me I've just got to accept that it's the way the Cohens write and it's genius whether I get it or not.

Anonymous said...

i can't argue either way. I fell asleep in it.

Jim Endecott said...

While I enjoyed the movie I though it had it's problems as well.

I still hold that Chigurh killed Tommy Lee in the motel and the rest of the movie is him finishing up his time on earth...

But I am wierd like that.


Richard Cooper said...

I understood the theme, intent, and subtleties of NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN perfectly well, thank you very much. My only question is: What exactly is in that mysterious, glowing briefcase that John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson are sent to recover?

Cathy Fielding said...

In theater there is an oft-used term, "Suspension of disbelief", which is the willingness of a person to accept as true the premises of a work of fiction, even if they are fantastic or impossible.

When I go to see a film I want to believe that it's real and possible. That's the attraction of the movies.

Unfortunately, NCFOM had far too many inconsistencies to ever have been believable.

When you're watching a film and have to keep turning to the person next to you to ask what just happened, the writer did not do their job properly.


An even bigger shame is that this film was so highly lauded when there was Atonement...or There will be Blood.

Anonymous said...

Why on Earth would anyone compare a lighthearted sci-fi movie like "Back to the Future" to a movie like NCFOM?

For Jesus' sake, what's wrong with you. A sci-fi can have things that 'don't make sense', like a Time Machine. That doesn't mean you can have a superhero in a movie like "American Gangster".


By Ken Levine said...


Let the ref just call a quick time out for a couple of comments.

First, be nice to each other. You're welcome to attack each other's position, not each other.

And secondly,it's okay to suspend belief as long as the movie establishes rules and sticks by them. If the rules aren't clear or the rules are established but broken then things fall apart. BACK TO THE FUTURE dealt with time travel and created a device to accomplish it. They then were true to that device. You can't question whether that device would really work. Of course it wouldn't. If it did Faye Dunaway would keep going back in time to 1967.

Okay, resume play.

Anonymous said...

The Coen brothers are just plain weird, okay. Either their movies resonate with you or they don't. For me, not so much, though I did enjoy Fargo -- but that had more to do with the performances of Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, and Steve Buscemi (sp?) than with the direction or the script.

Jim Endecott said...

It was my understanding that it was Marsellus' soul in the brief case corresponding with a band-aid at the base of his skull in one shot.

Like the movie or not I thought the acting was awesome. Javier Bardem had me on the edge of my seat everytime he was on the screen.


Anonymous said...

since nobody in the whole movie listens to a radio or watches television because there’s just so much to do in west Texas, how would anyone know?

I just spent a week in far West Texas (Lajitas, Terlingua, Alpine). There are exactly 3 radio stations in the entire area, one of which is an NPR affiliate in Marfa which started about 2 years ago (the other two are an oldies station in Alpine and a priate station in Study Butte that only plays music, and was started in 1997). That's including AM stations; all that comes though on AM are Mexican stations and an ESPN affiliate out of San Antonio (about 6 hours drive away). As for television, the closest affiliates are in Odessa and El Paso, which are both 4-5 hours away, and can only be picked up via cable.

This is in 2008. The movie takes place in 1980. I'm just sayin'...

by the way, Back to the Future is fine. Used Cars, however, is genius.

Anonymous said...

So I'm not the only one who thought the movie was awfully stupid at its core. Beautifully made stupidity, but stupid.

The movie lost me the moment he used that pneumatic cattle killer. What an unwieldly, silly weapon. There was nothing it did that wouldn't be more easily accomplished with more conventional weapons.

People just stand there while he kills them with the cattle stunner? There was no way I could get past that.

And, yeah, Used Cars is one of the greats.

Anonymous said...

I think a helpful point of reference for the Anton Chigurh character would be Robert Mitchum's character, Harry Powell, in 'Night of the Hunter.'

Also, I hate to call Mr. Gale's own work into question, but as far as I know, there are no time machines. He probably should've researched that a little further.

Anonymous said...

I can't answer all of Gale's points based on one viewing of the film, but I'll tackle a few:

1. Javier uses the air tank primarily to blow out door locks. I think the only time we see him use it as a weapon is when he doesn't have a gun. Otherwise, he kills with a shotgun that has a silencer.

2. Don't know if this matters, but I think Brolin is hunting antelope, not deer.

3. I don't know that I buy Brolin's decision to bring water to the dying man, but it's set up as his conscience belatedly getting the best of him. And if he's gonna do it, of course he'd go under cover of night (the lack of a flashlight is a good point).

4. Phone bill -- who cares? It's plot expediency. I guess they could've shown Javier going through drawers and finding an old phone bill. Would that have been better?

5. The transponder is not shown to be particularly powerful. It only beeps when the money is in range, as when Javier drives past the motel.

6. Brolin fails to kill Javier through the door because, um, he misses? Is it so hard to believe Javier would anticipate the possibility of a shot through the door?

7. Just because Woody finds Brolin in the hospital first, doesn't mean Javier wouldn't find him soon as well.

8. If I remember correctly, we're to assume Woody finds the money because Brolin tells him where to look.

9. The mother-in-law dies of cancer. The wife survives the shootout because she wasn't there. She's clearly shown arriving at the motel in a taxi, post-shootout (can't recall if her mom is with her).

10. It's pretty clear that Javier kills the wife. He's not checking his boots for dog doo.

11. Tommy Lee's pontificating with the "crippled fucker" (jeez!) and the recounting of his dream go to the theme of the film. Obviously, the more commercial choice would be to end with a cathartic shootout and the capture or death of Javier. McCarthy had bigger fish to fry, and the Coens apparently followed his lead (I haven't read the book).

Gale clearly gave up on the film early on and had his claws out for it the rest of the way. If a film doesn't draw you in, for whatever reason, you naturally stay outside of it. This means you can miss things that are right in front of your face while you're busy crafting snarky criticisms in your head.

Without question, there are plot holes, inconsistencies and ambiguities in NCFOM. Much of the story is told visually and perhaps requires a more attentive viewing than the usual Hollywood product. I'm looking forward to another look on DVD to clarify and refine my own thoughts on it.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Tommy Lee should have stopped the movie in the middle, whipped out a blackboard, and explained the whole story with diagrams.

Or as Mr. Gale might have said, it's not built to exact scale - or painted.

Derryl Murphy said...

They're pronghorn antelope, not deer, so they're not uncommon there. If you're driving along and you see potential game (likely as a poacher) you don't go looking for water first. Bringing water in the middle of the night, I guess that's when the conscience kicks in. No flashlight? I can see better without one in most cases, since the flashlight restricts the distance you can see and makes it impossible to see if you have to shut it off. That's probably a Vietman vet decision, actually.

When you're dumb enough to run off with the money, you're dumb enough to not think of everything to cover your tracks. The mother-in-law was sick, with cancer, if I recall that correctly. So gee, maybe the cancer killed her. And yeah, he promised he would kill the wife, so that's what he did. Not all of us need the salacious details with every death. As far as the car accident goes, I believe the other fellow ran a stop sign. This is irony, since Chagur ran his life by a combination of arbitrary rules and (wait for it) fate.

The crippled guy was a former cop (Tommy Lee's uncle? I'm getting old and can't remember) telling him that this sort of crap wasn't all that new.

But, Tommy Lee knows that isn't true, that this is a new and more vicious world, one that he can't handle. His dream is about his father, carrying fire in a cone, and TL loses sight of him. The cone can, I believe, be viewed as a symbol of civilization. Instead of a regular old torch, this was the sort of thing that earlier hunter-gatherers would likely have used to keep the fire going when they moved from one camp to another. The light and heat that keeps us alive. But with the changes coming because of the drug wars, TL's dad was the last able to do this. Civilization, someone who can carry the light as a symbol of hope, that's gone, and TL realizes it and gets out while he can.



Anonymous said...

The big kicker about this movie is that the characters downright sucked. I understood the movie, but I just didn't care. It was mediocre at best, with some cool scenes that could've been in any action/thriller movie.

What frusterates me is how well recieved these kinds of movies are. We read all of these tips on how to write better as screenwriters, yet there are so many blatant problems and uninspired characters in movies today that makes me wonder - does anyone give a crap about a solid movie nowadays? How do movies like NCFOM, which has cool thrilling sequences at times and a cool villain, get a victory at the Oscars for BEST PICTURE?
NCFOM had amazing characters that you won't forget? Amazing and deep plot? A fantastic ending that made you applaud?
No, it had one thing that was done well, and that was it. However, that seems to be all it takes nowadays.

Oh fracking well. Losing hope in the film industry is not a new thing, and I am not intending to sound like the only person on EArth who feels this way. It's like beating a dead horse, but hollywood keeps giving me more reasons to continue doing so.

Stop, Hollywood. My arms are starting to get sore.

Anonymous said...

Bob Gale isn't very smart.

Anonymous said...

Despite the validity of many of Gale's comments, you can usually punch a hole in the logic of almost any story.

In WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? you could wonder why any young couple would stay so long in a house where their hosts are so crazy aggressive. RIght.

Gale's logic is so impeccable and iron-fisted, it might even be an argument against paying attention to any kind of story analysis.

Anyway, so glad Gale didn't write NO COUNTRY.

It wouldn't have been worth watching.

Tim W. said...

All the screenplays for the Best Picture noms were flawed in some way. No Country For Old Men was detailed in your post. Atonement pretty much lacked a third act. There Will Be Blood featured a main character that no one seemed to realize was beyond contempt, and kept trusting him. Juno decides to give her kid up to a single mom who seemed to be more concerned with appearance than substance. Michael Clayton's big climax is him recording the antagonist confessing, which was also the climax for the movie Fracture, and about 2 dozen other movies last year.

Still, all the films were, I thought, at least good. If a film is good enough that you look past it's flaws, then everyone's done what they need to do.

What I'd love to see, is for writers, especially, to be a little less critical of their own. It's hard enough in the business than to have your own colleagues trying to chop you down at the knees. There are enough people trying to do that.

Anonymous said...

I'd disagree. I think we need to be critical of 'our own' because it's a part of the job. We learn from bad movies, and we learn from good movies.
If I shoot for writing a movie like NCFOM, then I won't be shooting very far. I cannot settle and just say every movie is good just because I want to be nice. I'm a nice guy, but if a movie is bad, it deserves to be told so, at least for the reasons I believe it's bad.

When I say a movie or show is good, it actually means something.

I think you're misinterpreting how I critique movies. I have no problem with movies that don't take themselves too seriously, like Transformers. Yeah, it was a dumbed down pocorn flick, but it was darn good at what it aimed to do. However, NCFOM won an award for being 'close' to being a good movie of it's kind. It was not deep, dramatic, or worthy of post-discussion of the characters or plot, other than discussing how they were lackluster.

NCFOM was not entertaining. It aimed to be a movie that entertained through interesting characters and what they do in the presented situation, but it failed. Horribly. What it suceeded in doing was giving us a villain, while lackluster in his depth, who did some things that made us think 'cool'.
However, there's no substance. It did, however, have enough drab atmosphere to it to make the lack of depth, substance, and personality in the characters to seem like an 'artistic' film.

As I said somewhere else, it had the illusion of being a 'smart' film, because, apparently, boring and lacking characters and plot requires 'smarts' to decipher. Bullshit. I know intelligent entertainment. What NCFOM did was rely on it's lack of depth to SEEM like an abundance of gritty true-to-life artistic greatness. For example, monologues by Tommy Lee that had nothing I repeat - nothing) to do with the story.

But whatever. It won an Oscar, further reducing the meaning of awards in the film industry. Anyt movie can get one now for Pete's sake.

Anonymous said...

Wow, talk about typos! Sorry for anyone who had to read my previous post. Haha

Tim W. said...

I didn't mean that writers should critique other scripts. I think that is important. Hey, if I don't like a script, I feel just as much a right as anyone to say so. What I don't do, however, is harp on the screenwriter. An example is the level of hate that seems to be out there for someone like Diablo Cody. Sure, she takes advantage of publicity that comes her way and does her best to self-promote, but a lot of people actually seem to be offended by her success, as if it's somehow taken away from their own. I just think it's a little sad. And unnecessary.

nKr said...

I see this all a different way. First and foremost, the film is a work of fiction produced the entertainment industry, not a documentary produced by ken burns. (notice how I draw the distinction between burns and entertainment..or maybe that should be burns and non-sanctimony). So most good film storytelling relies on different degreess of disbelief suspension. Like, there are no such things as hobbits, but they sure cleaned up at the box office and oscars. Even in the realist genre there are certain sacrifices of logic that have to be made to make the story more compelling. And the coen brothers have never shied away from tinkering with the universes in which their films are set.

Take the visual art world too. We don't decry the logical abiguity of Dali's melting clocks or Picasso's cubist nude bathers, the latter of which definitely satisfies my fetish for placing my beer on perfectly square boobies. Yet both are classics.

The other thing specific to Javier's personal millieu is that the film takes great pains to describe this creepy, solitary killer as a complete nutjob, which should logically explain why he can kill or not kill arbitrarily and why he uses a pretty original way to take people down, incidentally without leaving traceable bullets at his various crime scenes. He's a mad genius driven by a strict moral code that happens runs against the grain of our own "moral" society.

So overall I don't think that NCFOM should be taken as anything more than an impressionistic, moving painting, and the lapses in logic don't detract from the beautiful imagery and rich moral play the coens constructed.

Just another 2 cents.

Anonymous said...

Chigurh kills people with a cattle-killer airtank because that's how he sees the rest of humanity - as cattle to be slaughtered.

it's an expression of his arrogance and contempt.


Anonymous said...


Clearly you have never been to west Texas... it IS another planet where people just talk real slow. To be fair... you have to admit, the marketing was fantastic!

Anonymous said...

Carlos: I'm not sure why you think NCFOM was trying to fool us all into thinking it was "artistic." Except for Tommy Lee's ruminations, the film is mostly a brilliantly crafted cat-and-mouse story. Even many of the nay-sayers seem to appreciate that aspect of it.

I get the impression that many complaints about the body of the film would evaporate if McCarthy and the Coens had provided a conventionally satisfying ending. But they didn't and, yes, that colors everything that comes before. But if you really think Tommy Lee's monologues had "nothing - I repeat - nothing" to do with the story, then I respectfully suggest that your disdain for the film is preventing you from looking beyond your initial reaction. Of course you might hate it even if you did see a connection between the monologues and the story. But as someone who found the film both highly entertaining and thought-provoking, I can't go along with the suggestion that I and the others who like it have bought into some kind of illusion.

Anonymous said...

nk and adam: As I mentioned in my first long post above, most of Chiguhr's murders are actually committed with a shotgun fitted with a silencer. But the air tank is so visually compelling, most everyone seems to mis-remember it as his weapon of choice.

When this hits DVD in a couple of weeks, I expect a lot of critics, fans and bloggers will going through it frame-by-frame to clear up all the bones of contention.

Marly K said...

I agree 100% with Carlo Conda's critique of the movie and with Tim W's point about critiquing the work, not the screenwriter. People are being extremely harsh to Diablo Cody.

Personally, I didn't feel engaged or invested in this movie at all. I wrote a whole long post about it but I don't know where it is and my wrists hurt too much to replicate it. I'm old! Thank God there's no such thing as No Blog for Old Women.

Marly K said...

"I get the impression that many complaints about the body of the film would evaporate if McCarthy and the Coens had provided a conventionally satisfying ending."

I disagree with this observation. I don't think this is what the naysayers here are talking about. The ending didn't bother me. It was the lack of depth in the characters and in their stories. They not engage me; I didn't care about them one way or the other. This is not the same thing as LIKING a character, btw. But I have to be wrapped up in his story, even if I want to kick him in the teeth.

Contrast this with Fargo--which deals with similar themes much more successfully. There's a movie in which I'm engaged with each and every one who shows up on screen (even the repulsive people) and when it's over, I get a deep emotional sense of whatever the filmmakers were exploring.

Anonymous said...

The sign of good script and good film making is that while you are engaged in the theatre with the story you don't have time to think about how much easier it would be for the bad guy to have a pistol and not a kick-ass cattle stun gun becasue you are so wrapped up in the story.

Bob Gale's most known work is Back to Future and let's just say that the logic of that movie even in it's own internal sci-fi universe is pretty weak at times, but you know what when watching the movie you don't care becasue it is so good.

A lot of people don't like the ending, but it's faithful to Cormac McCarthy's novel and it creates something to think about leaving the theatre. Gale proably hates RTosebud too cause ot was frick' sled.

Anonymous said...

You think we’re overreacting? An FDA inspector just got a look at the scenes with that West Texas Chigger – or whatever the hell his name was -- dispatching folks with the pneumatic cattle stunner, and they recalled 21 million pounds of featured extras from the federal school lunch program. “Don’t tase me, Ant!”

And I didn’t find that nearly as unsettling as the dream about carrying fire in a Coen.

But Brad, Alpine I’ll give ya, even Marfa, where the two movies in question were shot. Something special ‘bout those place. Lajitas, Terlingua? Well maybe not so much. Congrats though on finding the one corner of our Lone Star state where you can get completely away from stations playing both kinds of music country and western.

My only question is what’s a “priate” station? Did you mean “pirate?” Or does it have something to do with priapism, as in, “If you experience listening to this station for more than 4 hours, see your doctor?” And speaking of that, and whipping things out, it sounds like Tommy Lee was a hell of a lot better in this picture than i that one with Pamela Anderson. Although that's a judgment call. Oh, nevermind.......

Anonymous said...

There's nothing wrong with disliking a movie like NCFOM (I hated There Will Be Blood, which many loved). But disliking it for the reasons Gale outlined is asinine.

Some of his arguments simply prove that he didn't care to follow the movie closely enough (other posters are right; issues like "what happened to the money" are clearly addressed, albeit subtly).

Others quibble with "yeah, right!" moments you could find in literally any film. For example, his "oh, the phone bill happened to come that very day." This is not a documentary. Would you have been THAT much happier they showed Bardem rummaging through a drawer labelled "Old Phone Bills?"

If you don't like a movie, that's fine. Everyone has opinions. Just don't couch it in language that implies the movie is objectively bad and flawed, especially if you're not going to take the time to look a little closer to answer your own questions.

Anonymous said...

Jbryant, you do realize that Tommy Lee's last monologue, in the book, was an insight into Cormac McCarthy's next book and had nothing to do with the story, right?

I thought the movie was going to be pretty good when I watched it. I don't carry biases into films and look for reasons to say they're bad. Don't think I'm silly enough to do so and type paragraphs on such a naive point of view.
I'm fairly cirtiquing the movie, and I don't let my personal opinions get in the way of my jurisdiction, if that's what you want to call it.

I'm able to say a movie is 'good' even if I didn't enjoy it very much.

Further regarding the monologues, they suck in most movies I've seen and, in a book adaptation, you need to remove monologues and narrative texts and replace them with visuals and action. The Cohens didn't do that, which is another one of the things I disliked about the movie.

Talking heads hardly even make for compelling storytelling. The only way it can 'seem' as if someone yabbering on about the movie's theme is 'good storytelling' at all is if you're fooled into thinking so. The fact that Tommy Lee wasn't just yabbering, but yabbering about folk tales, gives us the impression that NCFOM is a 'smart' movie.
Folk Tales? People don't hear folk tales regularly, sp to see the Cohens use the scenes straight from the book, and use the folk tales in contrast to the movie's story, makes this movie seem really smart.
It's like how you can fool someone into thinking you're intelligent by yabbering about Shakespeare all day. It's a trick in storytelling, just like slow long shots and silent dramatic scenes are. However, talking heads always will be a cheap and uncinematic way to expose a movie's story.

Remember Heroes' season 1 finale, when the dead man literally tell us everything about Peter's character in a 3 minute talking-head scene? As if we didn't know anything about Peter?
It's garbage writing for movies and shows.

And it's not about the ending that made the movie bad, it was the first two acts that lacked character progression and depth. The first and second act were fine because there was potential that I felt was going to be unleashed in the final act, but that wasn't the case. This leaves NCFOM a fragmented story and, while it has a nice second act cat-and-mouse shmeel, it doesn't save this movie. This movie may have had a good theme, some cool sequences, and an intriguing villain. However, a good movie is supposed to be more than a theme, cool scenes, and a cool villain.
Therefore, I cannot call NCFOM a good movie.
Heck, two-dimensional characters are enough to render a movie unrewatchable in my books.

Yeah, I talk too much. Haha

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I get the "lack of depth" argument. The story follows three characters who have almost no onscreen interaction (even the exception -- the street shootout between Moss and Chiguhr -- isn't face to face). A conventional story would add depth through interaction and dialogue, and we do get that here in a few places (such as the brief narration at the beginning, Chiguhr's coin toss confrontations and the late scenes with the sheriff). But much of this story is told visually, especially the thriller portions. What do we not know about these guys that we need to know? Should the Coens have included more dialogue in which the characters "explain" themselves?

That said, I do think you can argue that the film contains deliberate ambiguities that make us dig to find a theme that isn't especially profound. You may do a lot of deep cogitatin' only to conclude that the film's title says it all. :)

Anonymous said...

And there was just enough plutonium to reach 1.21 gigawatts in the flux capacitor? Get a life you two.

Anonymous said...

Jbryant: "A conventional story would add depth through interaction and dialogue"

Uh, no. Sorry, but a "conventional story" has a lot of ways to reveal character. Having a character not interact with eachother is no excuse the leave them as two-dimensional walking goal-getters.

I also don't know why you'd think I want the Cohens to include more dialogue so the character can "explain themselves". Are you kidding? Did I NOT just discuss how you cannot reveal story via dialogue alone? Geezaloo.
Stories are complicated things, and good character development happens in many different ways. To think all it takes is a conversation to make you understand a character is silly.

Also, NCFOM isn't unconventional. A behind-the-curtain ending doesn't make the movie unconventional.
Bad character depth and plot depth isn't 'unconventional', it's garbage.

A lot of movies have weird plot structures and beginnings/endings, but they have good characters and so forth to make us give a crap. Memento didn't suck because it was 'unconventional'. It still had what makes stories good.

I'll kind of agree that NCFOM didn't have many continuity, plot, or logic 'errors', because the movie made sense to me. Heck, I'm a fan of Lost who understands the show inside and out, so I doubt something like NCFOM is going to leave me scratching my head. Haha
NCFOM was very easy to watch, but it wasn't compelling.

Anonymous said...

"And there was just enough plutonium to reach 1.21 gigawatts in the flux capacitor? Get a life you two."
Hello person who is relating a popcorn sci-fi movie to NCFOM. I reccomend learning how stories are created rather than thinking sci-fi family films are the same thing as gritty realistic films.

Anonymous said...

Interesting to see how everyone else would've made this movie.

Clearly, they would not have made a very good movie.

Anonymous said...


Marly K said...

"Should the Coens have included more dialogue in which the characters "explain" themselves? "

No, this would've been dreadful screenwriting. Let's see if I can give you an example of what I mean, by talking about one scene that accomplished what the rest of the movie lacked: the one in which Chigurh interacts with that clueless old man at the store. I FELT that old man's confusion, his mounting fear. At the same time, I FELT Chigurh's sense of power, his seriousness, his ability to toy with people. Now, I didn't know anything more about that old man than what is shown in that scene but I know everything I need to know him as a human being and that scene lasts, what? Five minutes, tops. Yet so much is conveyed that I was wracked with anxiety for the duration. And that was the only scene in the movie that elicited any reaction in me. In that scene I felt how deeply important the stupid coin-toss was whereas I wasn't all that sure why the Josh Brolin character is so willing to risk everything for the money. Oh, you can say, Well, it's money, duh! But, come on. I have to feel why it's important to this particular character since not everyone places the same value on money. And it's not just enough to say: Oh, Llewellyn had debts. Contrast this with the scenes in which you sweat for that William H. Macy character's absolute desperation for money. He's not just greedy; you feel his discomfort, you feel his pain. You might hate the amoral stupid sucker but there is no doubt in your mind what that money means to him and why he's willing to go as far as he does.

Personally, you put a scary mofo like Chigurh in front of me and not only would I HAND him the money, I would even spit shine each and every coin. All the more reason why I need to know more about the Brolin character and this is not best accomplished by dialogue or by outright explanation but by SCENES. Hell, the best screenwriters do it with visuals alone and I'm not talking about lame flashback sequences.

But, really, are we all going to get upset bc we don't like the same movies? This is the sort of adolescent fascism that makes high school intolerable.

The bottomline: Many people thought it was a great movie. Others thought it was overrated. Some people were touched by it--others couldn't have cared less.

The wonderful thing about disagreement is that it leads to a conversation. After all, if we all agreed, we probably wouldn't discuss this at length, nor would we have cared to think deeply about these things.

Why the scorn someone who has different tastes about movies or art or music? Passion I can understand. But condescension and scorn and insults don't add to any conversation. Worse, insulting people makes others less likely to express any opinion that doesn't conform to the status quo. I doubt any reader here wants us all to be conformists.

Anyway, it's been a kick-ass conversation. Thank you, Ken for giving us the fodder. And thanks to the rest of you for making me think this deeply about it. (Although my wrists ain't happy with all this typing.)

Anonymous said...

carlos said: "Jbryant, you do realize that Tommy Lee's last monologue, in the book, was an insight into Cormac McCarthy's next book and had nothing to do with the story, right?"

No, I didn't realize that. And I must not be alone, because this is the first I've heard of it. Besides, isn't it possible that the monologue could be an insight into the next book while still being pertinent to the book in which it's actually included?

carlos said: "I don't carry biases into films and look for reasons to say they're bad. Don't think I'm silly enough to do so and type paragraphs on such a naive point of view."

I believe you. In fact, I never said anything about you carrying a bias into the film. But I think most of us have a tendency to avoid putting a lot of thought into something we don't like. So I wondered if your assertion that the ending had nothing to do with the story was a considered point or just a kneejerk reaction.

carlos said: "Talking heads hardly even make for compelling storytelling."

I wholeheartedly agree with this. That's why I'm so impressed that the film avoids dialogue for long stretches. Ending such a visual film with a monologue is a bold choice and I'm giving the Coens the benefit of the doubt that they intend for us to ponder its implications. As I said in another post, I'm not convinced it works, but that's why I'll be taking another look.

Anonymous said...

By the way, the name's Carlo.

Anonymous said...

Sorry about getting your name wrong.

carlo said: "I also don't know why you'd think I want the Cohens to include more dialogue so the character can "explain themselves". Are you kidding? Did I NOT just discuss how you cannot reveal story via dialogue alone? Geezaloo."

I didn't mean to imply you WANTED more dialogue. I was rhetorically asking if that might be an acceptable solution.

But hey, we can definitely agree on Lost. That's a kickass show. :)

Anonymous said...

eme kah said: "Why the scorn someone who has different tastes about movies or art or music? Passion I can understand. But condescension and scorn and insults don't add to any conversation. Worse, insulting people makes others less likely to express any opinion that doesn't conform to the status quo."

I'm pretty sure this doesn't refer to me, even though you quote me at the top of your post. I don't see any condescension or scorn in my posts, unless rhetorical questions are condescending. :) But if you did infer those things from anything I wrote, rest assured they weren't intended.

I agree with you about the scene at the store; superb scene. As for Moss, I think we can tell a lot about him from his actions, but I wouldn't mind more scenes that clarify his motivations.

Carmenzta said...

I haven't seen that movie yet but now I've real all this, I don't think I want to see it. I hate movies where at the end someone was dreaming everything. It's like songs that end by fading out.

Anonymous said...

carmenzta: I think I can safely say that the "it was all a dream ending" is a minority opinion.

Derryl Murphy said...

More than minority. I'm not sure how anyone could say it was a dream. TL talks about a dream, but it's in relation to what has happened in his life.


i could be a bob said...

And what was the point of the woman at the pool who wants Josh to have a beer with her?,

When he smiles at the woman with the beer, it shows he finally lets his guard down. Anything that happens after that, he's a goner. In fact I think that's his last scene in the movie, dead body on the floor withstanding.

I posted the 2nd comment about the "88mph in a Delorean" last night, tongue firmly in cheek. Halfway through reading Mr. Gale's argument, I got the impression he was just having fun busting on NCFOM. Rare is a movie that can stand the harsh reality of the West Texas sun, Chigurh's bullets and Bob Gale's killer logic. Methinks he has issues with people who bust on his own chalkboard timelines in BTTF.

When I walked out of the theater after seeing NCFOM, Miramax had people distributing cards to gauge reactions. (with the little golf pencils.) This wasn't a test group, this was opening weekend. The big question was, "are you confused by the ending" and I honestly was at the time. It's a movie that I've grown to like. When I think back on it I don't nitpick in the logic, but think about the themes and the story they chose to tell.

For the record, I think all Coen Bros. movies exist in their own worlds, not mine.

Michael Berry said...

In general, I think it's a poor strategy to expect logical plotting from ANY Coen Bros. venture. From the dumb-ass couple in "Blood Simple" to the shaggy-dog, Chandler-after-a-bong-hit charm of "The Big Lebowski" to a bellowing Jim Goodman racing down a hall on fire in "Barton Fink," the chracters and situations in the Coens' films flagrantly defy cause and effect. They're simply not much interested. Ambiguity, coincidence and self-defeating protagonists are their stock in trade.

Anonymous said...

Based on this continuing dialogue, I think that Chigger guy just killed 3 more people carpal tunnelly.

Anonymous said...

@ a buck short

Hehe, Chiggur. Tigger's arch nemesis.

Anonymous said...

this coming from the guy who wrote back to the future? and I'm not talking about the flux capacitor thing, I can perfectly accept a time machine, but have you ever heard of the "grandfather paradox"? If someone gets killed, and you go back in time to prevent it, the picture of the tombstone doesn't just disappear in front of your eyes in the present, the picture never existed in the first place, along with your reason to travel through time. _that_ makes no sense.

Of course, being the seasoned internet troll that I am, I know perfectly well the counter-argument to this: "just because back to the future was a piece of shit doesn't mean he's not right about the logic if this movie", to which I say, get over it. This guy got to vote for the oscars, right? You lost, quit whining.

Anonymous said...

Suspending belief...this is tricky I guess. Because in King Kong, for example, I was ready to buy a giant ape. But when she goes running down the snow covered streets in a flimsy dress without her coat only THEN did I think "Oh come on!"
(And for a truly memorable killer see "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer" with Michael Rooker)

Anonymous said...


Of course, because the movie justified the giant Ape. However, they did not tell us that people were genetically engineered to survive in cold climates with little to no protection. Which is why it's fine to 'call them' on the scene you described.


You need to read over what you're saying and compare it to what you know about storytelling.

Anonymous said...

Gale's made a lot of money.

But hard to argue that he's made any GREAT movies.

Now we know why.

Tim W. said...


You'll have to explain to us how not liking a certain movie automatically means that you can't write a great one. You'll also have to explain to us which great movies you have written.

Anonymous said...


Did you read Gale's critique?

Aaron Burdette said...

There is so much wrong with this post my mind is boggling. I have to counter most of these points because the lack of thought put into this "critique" blows my mind. Here we go.

1. A compressed air tank is untraceable. For a guy who kills people for a living, traceability is an issue. He also uses it for the element of surprise, as shown in one of the first scenes of the movie. The guy in the car has no idea Chigurh was going to kill him, though he was looking directly at the murder weapon.

2. The Deputy made A MISTAKE. People make them, even when they have a bad guy (which the officer didn't realize just how bad Chigurh was at this point) handcuffed behind them. He had to pull the cuffs from behind him to strangle the cop. This is EXTREMELY hard to do, and not a thing a simple cop like the one in the movie would expect a nondescript criminal to be capable of.

3. Can't put an APB out when you don't know who you're looking for. "All Points Bulletin for a... guy who... strangles people." Doesn't cut it.

4. Deer live in the Texas desert sometimes. Do a little research and stop guessing.

5. Moss made an emotional decision, which he even implied was stupid before he went out there. People have emotions and even show them in films sometimes.

6. The phone bill had to come sometime. Why not that day? If Chigurh hadn't found the phone bill, he would've had to have either found a new method of tracking or given up, which would've meant no movie.

7. Moss was in a hurry, so he didn't tell the landlady anything. I assume you want all the characters to be chess masters who plot everything out in advance when under extreme duress?

8. Chigurh wants the money for himself, and he's sure of his killing abilities, so why worry about killing two more people? Again you talk as if you're the one making the decision.

9. The tracker only works when it's VERY close to the transmitter, as evidenced by the fact that it didn't move until Chigurh was right next to Moss' motel. Were we watching the same movie?

10. Moss was trying to figure out what to do after he heard the sounds outside the room. He again didn't have time to come up with some huge grand scheme to fool someone he had never seen before. Also, part of Moss' character comes from his consistent bad decisions, reflecting on his character, which is pretty important to a movie.

11. Compressed air doesn't always explode, especially not from a spread shot like Moss fired. Bardem did get shot in the leg. People often survive leg shots, FYI.

12. People usually try to avoid confrontation, plus the gunfight was late at night on an empty street.

13. Border control was considerably more lax going INTO Mexico in the 80s, when the movie is set (as indicated by the math done when you add the years Chigurh says the quarter was in circulation to the date on the quarter).

I thought I'd counter your entire blog, but I'm getting tired. I hope 13 direct counterpoints will show you YOUR incredible lack of logic, despite your claim of having oh so much.

Aaron Burdette said...

And of course by "you" I mean Mr. Gale, not the blogger, but I was flustered.

Anonymous said...

aaron, i agree with most of your points (in fact, I made most of them myself in my first post in this thread, not that I blame anyone for skipping over my longwinded comments), but I guess it bears repeating for a third time that Chiguhr commits most of his murders with a shotgun that has a silencer attached. We see it a number of times. If I'm not mistaken, he only uses the air tank thingie to kill that first guy whose car he steals. I don't think he has any other weapon at that point.

Anonymous said...

Javier the bad guy wanders around Texas doing a bad impression of “The Terminator,” lugging a big compressed air tank and hose instead of just
carrying a pistol with a silencer that he could put in his pocket.

The character was treating killing as an art form. That's what the movie was about: People killing. It wasn't a crime caper.

He also was killing in a manner that didn't leave evidence (e.g., shell casings) that could lead back to him.

The Deputy arrests Javier, takes him to the station, then turns his back on him (perhaps not noticing he is twice his size) to call Tommy Lee instead of putting him in jail first.

1. The prisoner was handcuffed.

2. The deputy was living in a world of the not so distant past when it wouldn't occur to a minimally trained, not-so-bright small-town deputy that a handcuffed guy with a weird haircut could or even would attempt to kill him.

Yes, it was dumb of him not to have locked the guy up.

But yes, he was not very bright.

Also: Was he in the process of taking the prisoner to his cell when Tommy Lee called, and the deputy picked up the phone? If so, again we're talking about an incompetent deputy -- but not incompetent beyond belief. Certainly not incompetent beyond my experiences with various Persons In Authority.

(I saw a TSA security officer perched on his stool in front of the metal detector at an airport...sound asleep. Bob can call me a liar. Or Bob can accept the reality that some people are less competent than perhaps they should be.)

Then, after ripping off a bunch of dead drug dealers who have been massacred with machine gun fire, Josh decides in the middle of the night to go back to the desert to bring water to one of the dying drug dealers he just ripped off. Great idea. Does he wait until morning?

He waited until night, and the guy died. That was bad of him.

If he'd waited until the next morning, the guy REALLY would have died.

He went back at night because his conscience wouldn't let him live with what he had done: left the guy in the heat of the desert, begging for water.

And his conscience literally didn't let him live. The fact that he had a conscience is what got him killed; if he hadn't gone back, he would have been free & clear. The defining difference between him and Javier is that one had a conscience.

In the good old days of Movies Reflecting The Perfect Life We All Live, the guy with the conscience would prevail and the psychopath would die.

The point of this film, however, is We Ain't No More In The Good Old Days.

It just so happens that the very next day when Josh and his wife clear out of their trailer, that’s the day when the phone bill comes so Javier can find it.

Oh, c'mon.

So there's no phone bill in the day's mail but there's one in a desk drawer.

Or an address book.

Or he beats the crap out of a neighbor until he gets the info he wants.

Yeah, that device was flat. Probably the weakest part of the movie. But hardly a plot killer.

Plus, knowing that drug dealers are going to be after him, he decides not to tell the lady who runs the Trailer Park a cover story that might get the bad guys off his trail. Oh, he’s brilliant.

And with all his experience at coming into possession of a million bucks in cash, remnants of a botched drug buy that left a dozen guys dead. What a jerk. He doesn't take the time to think:

A) I should give her a good cover story.

B) Okay, what's a good cover story....?

Especially when he had the added advantage of not having slept all night and just barely escaping with his life?

Why does Javier kill the 2 guys who at the scene of the crime who have just hired him to find their money?

That was not explained in the movie. Is it vital that we know?

Is it your experience that in Real Life people usually explain their motives immediately before they act? You'd be happier if he'd said, "Hey, if kill you guys then I can keep all the money for myself"?

Even without being able to read his mind, might it possibly suggest to us he's a guy to whom killing people is a perfectly logical response to whatever need or desire he feels at the moment?

And these guys just happen to have the most powerful transponder and tracking device in Texas, which can pick up a signal from miles away. James Bond didn’t even have this.

Wait a minute. You wrote "Back to the Future," and you're criticizing the technology for being far-fetched?

Okay, cheap shot.

How about this:

Google can show me you, in front of your car, in the driveway in front of your house. I believe such a tracking device can and does exist.

They "just happened" to have it? No, I believe they decided it might be a good idea to find a way to keep track of the million bucks in cash. Not exactly a coincidence.

When Josh Brolin finds the transponder, he doesn’t throw it out the window to decoy the bad guy or conceive some clever plan to lure Javier into a trap. No, he just sits right next to it. Genius.

A) I agree -- especially if this were a caper film.

B) On the other hand, his character overestimated his own ability to handle anything. (Remember his threat to the bad guy over the phone? He was in over his head, but he didn't know it.)

He thought, "Okay, the bad guy's after me. I just called the front desk and, strangely, nobody answered. Instead of running away -- which he'd expect me to do -- I'll just sit here and wait, and when he comes I'll blow his head off."

Bad choice.

Still, as a movie viewer I would prefer that he'd put the tracking device somewhere other than where he was sitting.

Josh Brolin fires a shotgun with double aught buck at Javier who is 6 feet away from him behind a door and he doesn’t kill him, nor blow up his
compressed air tank. What planet are we on where the laws of physics work in such mysterious ways?

I wasn't able to see through that door when Josh fired. Hmmm....Is it possible Javier decided NOT to stand directly outside the door at that moment?

Javier is looking all over Texas for Josh and can’t find him, but Woody Harrelson finds him immediately in a hospital in Mexico. I guess I also
missed the scene where they explained that Woody had super-powers.

Woody was really smart, really resourceful, and really formidable. Which made it pretty damn shocking when the bad guy dispatched of him so easily. (Think Janet Leigh getting killed off so early in "Psycho.")

But as smart & tough as Woody was, there was a difference between him and Javier. Woody elucidated it: "You don't have to do this."

The poor, innocent widow said, "You don't have to do this."

And Javier mused, "They always say the same thing." Very strange to him: Why should it matter that he doesn't HAVE to murder someone?

That's underscored when the widow refuses to call the coin flip: "No, this isn't a matter of luck. YOU are choosing to do this."

Woody can find the money, but Javier can’t. Wow, those super-powers of his are really amazing.

It's not possible that he's just more clever than Javier? I mean, he's got the whole grooming thing down 'way better.

Who killed who in the El Paso motel?

The second who was Josh. From the movie, it's presumed to be Javier. (Apparently in the book it was the Mexican drug guys, who pretty much were dropped from the film.) I mean, were you wondering if it was accidental carbon monoxide poisoning?

Then why didn’t Josh’s wife get killed?

She wasn't there.

And what was the point of the woman at the pool who wants Josh to have a beer with her?

There's probably a bunch of stuff on the cutting room floor, but the point was he said no. Even though his wife wasn't there.

What finally happened to the money?

Well, it's not a caper film, and it doesn't really matter, but it's safe to assume Javier got the money. For one thing, he was the only participant left alive.

Did Javier kill the wife or not?


As he came out of her house, he stopped on the front porch to examine the sole of one of his shoes. Do you think the actor improvised that to demonstrate a new-found fastidiousness of his character? He was checking for blood.

Maybe the DVD version will have his thoughts in voiceover: "Oh, good. For a moment I thought maybe I got some of her blood on my shoes."

And how come Javier just happens to have an auto accident at the end?

Okay, now you're starting to piss me off.

Auto accidents happen. Even -- you'll think I'm making this up, but it's true -- when you don't expect it.

His car was slammed into.

In A Good Old Movie, Javier would have been killed and the audience could have thought, "Well, thank goodness Einstein's wish turned out to be true: The universe IS, ultimately, kind. Or, at least, just."

What a terrific, satisfying ending!

In Real Life, he should have been killed or at least badly injured. But the sonofabitch WALKS AWAY, free as a (limping) bird! What the hell kind of world is this? Which is the point of the entire goddamn movie: In this world, evil can and does go unpunished.

Meanwhile, Tommy Lee is pontificating about nothing with some crippled fucker in the middle of nowhere.

It was his brother. The reference to "when Dad died" was kind of a clue. With luck, in the DVD version they'll add a line to cover it for you: "Hey, big brother! How's it hangin'?"

And he was in the middle of nowhere? Gosh, after seeing first-hand how fun the untethered violence of humans is, why in the world would he withdraw from society?

And then the movie ends with Tommy Lee telling his wife about some fucking dream he had? What the hell was that?????

Well, what he said kinda hinted at (i.e., stated quite plainly) the meaning:

This ain't his dad's world, where the good guys always won and the bad guys always got killed.

Whether the world has changed or he's just now realizing this is the way it is, he's living in a world where people do awful things and not only get away with it but often profit from it. A world where his old-fashioned ideas of right and wrong are quaint and irrelevant. A world for which he is poorly suited. A world that, as a result of this awakening, now seems less and less preferable to the world in which his father resides.

TCinLA said...

Bob Gale is right. I walked out of this waste of innocent filmstock masquerading as a movie yesterday, fully convinced that the only movie these two autistic bozos have ever made worth looking at is "Fargo." What a piece of overdone crap!

No wonder the Oscars are now getting PBS-level ratings.

If you want to see a movie that is inventive, original, interesting, has something worthwhile to say about politics and human existence, go watch "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End." A bazillion times better than this piece of dreck.

And yes, I am surprised to have said that. I got interested in seeing it after watching the clips in the Oscar Sunday night snoozefest, they being the only clips besides those from Bourne-3 that weren't their own sleeping pills.

As a longtime supporter of "independent film," I have watched my last Independent Spirit Awards as of last weekend. These are the people that Clinton-supporting union president was referring to when he complaiend about "Latte-sipping, Birkenstock-wearing, over-eudcated trust-fund babies..." in his indictment of Obama supporters (none of whom that I know fit that description, but every "independent film" graduate of Fillum School, who proves by their existence that my old friend David Freeman was right when he said 20 years ago that "Hollywood is the last respectable profesion for upper class white boys."

Anonymous said...


First of all, I feel REALLY stupid. When I first read your blog on this matter, I accidentally hit the down button and TOTALLY missed that it wasn't you that wrote the scathing review of NCFOM.

I thought to myself, "Ken is especially cranky today."

I still stand by my position that NCFOM is Ed Bell's bad dream that he can't (or won't) recall.

The entire scene on the bridge where Josh Brolin heaves the bag over the fence and buys the college kid's jacket has that whole "fever dream" vibe.

To me, it's a brilliant conceit.

Of course, I thought the premise of "Crash" was entirely plausible as well.


Anonymous said...

dan: the old guy Tommy Lee visits is not his brother. The relationship isn't explicitly stated, but the man (Ellis) does mention he was deputy when Tommy Lee's granddad was sheriff. He also mentions Tommy Lee's daddy, but the line starts something like "When your daddy..."

I agree with a lot of what you say, but apparently my post of 10:10 a.m. is invisible, because people keep remaking my points.

And for the fourth time now, Chiguhr doesn't kill everybody with the air tank. You can't burst through a motel room door, shoot compressed air at someone sitting on a bed 10 feet away and expect to kill them. He used a shotgun with a silencer. I promise this is the last time I'll mention it, unless someone thinks I'm wrong. Then maybe we can find the script online and settle it.

blogward said...

The problem with NCFOM is not that the ending isn't closed, but that the film loses focus on who the protagonist is. That's why the characters seem shallow by the end. I suppose the ultimate killing of the main character is supposed to be a Psycho-style structure twist, but there's no-one to take his place afterwards, as there was in Psycho. Norman Bates had comedy value at least: Chigurh is uncompromisingly totally unlikeable, and the close is nihilistic and empty. Not because of the story, but because of the lost focus.

Anonymous said...

The odds of the phone bill being there? 1 in 31 at the worst? My bills come monthly, maybe 1 in 90 for some people.

Compare that to the 1 in quadrillions odds that the McFlys, after having their temporal paths significantly altered by their time-traveling son Marty, still managed to have 3 children genetically identical to the children conceived by their temporally undisturbed counterparts, in the same order with the exact same birthdays.

You, Mr. Gale, are an ass.

By Ken Levine said...


Calling each other or the author of this piece an idiot or an ass is not okay. I love the idea of a brisk discussion with numerous ideas, many in contradiction, flying around. But if you start attacking people personally I'm going to have to delete comments and shut down the discussion for this topic.

Play nice kids!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, you're an idiot. Stop comparing sci-fi films like BTTF to a movie like NCFOM. You're sounding more ridiculous as you continue, so just stop. Now.

Anonymous said...

Wow, carlo. Did you not see Ken's post directly above yours?

Ken, thanks for this topic. Despite a few bumps, it's been a great opportunity for some of us to put more thought into this divisive film and try to understand its virtues and flaws.

Michael Berry said...

In case anyone here still has an open mind, here's a link to some of the best essays I've seen online about what the Coens might be up to in "No Country."

Scroll down and start with the "No Country for Old Men" Contest post. I'm especially intrigued by the notion that, like "Fargo" and "Blood Simple," NCFOM is a thriller without a protagonist.

Anonymous said...

blogward said: "The problem with NCFOM is not that the ending isn't closed, but that the film loses focus on who the protagonist is."

I wouldn't say it's a question of losing focus. I don't know exactly how much screen time each of the three male leads has, but I'm guessing it's fairly evenly split. I think it's interesting that by the time we meet Moss, we've heard Sheriff Bell (via narration) and seen Chiguhr. So in a way, from the very beginning, the Coens are telling us that this will not be a conventional story that follows a single protagonist. One can still disagree with their choice, of course.

michael: Thanks for that link. I look forward to checking it out.

Anonymous said...


* As I fell asleep last night, I realized it probably was an uncle, not a brother. (It has been a while since I saw the movie.)

But clearly it was not just some random guy as the original critique seemed to imply. It was a relative or someone close to the family. The original poster seemed miffed that although those two guys knew what the relationship was, it wasn't spelled out for the audience.

I appreciated the fact that they didn't resort to condescending, false dialog to tell the audience.

(On a TV show that TiVo has decided I should watch, more than once this one guy has said stuff such as, "Hey, I came to you because you're my big sister, not to be lectured." I have four sisters, and I don't recall a single time when I felt the need to remind them that they're my sisters and I'm their brother.)

* You're correct about the shotgun, and you raise a fascinating point when you muse about so many people misremembering as the result of the visual impact of the compressed air attack. We also saw him use a shotgun on Woody. How quickly we forget.

* I agreed with pretty much everything you said in your original post. I'm sure no one else does this, but here's what I did:

I read the post that began this debate and thought it got a lot of things wrong.

Then I skimmed the replies, noting with relief that you already had said smart things in response.

After scrolling through the 86 postings, the one that stood out was the first one, and I wanted to respond to it -- even though you'd already done such a good job.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, dan. And I laughed out loud at your TiVo anecdote. Exposition is a bitch! Sometimes when I hear lines like the ones you quoted, I think of Chris Farley interviewing Paul McCartney: "Remember when you were in the Beatles? That was awesome!"

Anonymous said...

I'd just like to point out to JayJerry that a protagonist doesn't = the character with the most screentime. That's usually how it ends up in most stories, but screentime is not a part of what makes a protagonist a protagonist.

Anonymous said...

carlo: I know, which is why I referred to the characters as "the three male leads" (which still may not be accurate, strictly speaking). At any rate, I'm not convinced that Moss is the sole protagonist in the film. One can argue that it's Sheriff Bell, or both, with Chiguhr as the antagonist. My reference to screen time was just a preface to my main point, which is that the protagonist role is less clear in NCFOM than in most films, and I think that's by design, not a mistaken lack of focus on the Coens' part.

Anonymous said...

Agree on the ending 100%. The rest didn't bother me.

But what about the hotel when TLJ walks into the room where Anton supposedly is hiding behind the door? And nothing happens and we're never told whether Anton just chose not to kill him or was in another room or...?

Marly K said...

No, no, JBryant, I didn't mean you when I complained about the scorn flying around here. I'm a little bit of a space cadet and I used your quote bc I wanted to address that particular point; it didn't have anything to do with the second half of my post. I'm sorry if you felt I was calling you out in particular. But thank you for being civil about the misunderstanding. It can be such a struggle to be courteous online.

Btw, Ken, 100 posts!! Is this the most posts an entry has gotten on your blog?

By Ken Levine said...

Yeah. Over a 100 comments. Maybe tomorrow I should post some writer who hates LET THERE BE BLOOD.

Anonymous said...

thanks, eme. I was pretty sure you didn't mean me, but I wanted to make certain. I also thought it might be unclear to anyone who had just been skimming the posts.

Funny thing is, I can completely understand someone not getting into this film. I really only jumped into this because I thought a few of Gale's points went beyond differences of opinion into errors of fact. I love a good film discussion, and it wouldn't be very interesting if we were all in agreement. But I agree it works best when everyone remains civil.

Anonymous said...

I had a good time.
Since I haven't seen There Will Be Blood, I won't be able to be a part of that electrifying discussion (haha). Aw well.

Jbryant, if you like Lost (as you said above in the sea of comments), you may want to check out my blog.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the invite, carlo. I may do that (it's mostly a question of time management -- even if my frequent posting here recently gives the impression that I'm an unemployed shut-in). Definitely digging the show these days.

Anonymous said...

I'm interested in why this was in fact posted at all, Mr. Levine. Gale denied the logic in what was a symbolic, dream movie. And, I think, he was still wrong in most of his points. Don't you think his whole premise is moot? I don't write movies, I don' pretend to understand the scriptwriting process, but I think I think Gale is bitching about a standard that shouldn't exist for all films. Why should there be internal logic at all? The movie didnt defy physics. It wasn't Jumper. To piss on it for being illogical is lame. I am sorry Gale is such a stickler for statistical probabilities. I suggest he takes a quantum physics course; maybe then he could define how his Delorean works. Back to the movie: I can see how some people would hate it, and I can see why some people would love it, but the deconstruction by Gale was less than satisfying for either camp. It was like a argument for a version of health care; a prospect, perhaps, but surely a convoluted logic.

Anonymous said...

As people have already made perfectly clear, defying physics DOES NOT make the movie illogical so long as it justifies it.
What it DOES do is place the movie in a sci-fi genre (primary or sub).
Geezaloo. You anonymous people are clever for staying anonymous and not embarassing yourself.

Davinder said...

I'd love to see you post a commentary on There Will Be Blood. Some of the posters here have made some really insightful critiques, and it'd be great to see Blood get the same treatment. The signal to noise (or thoughtfulness to crap, if you will) ratio here is unusually good for the internet.

Unknown said...

Not one to usually contribute to these always entertaining internet arguments, but I'd suggest that the simple fact that people are investing this kind of time to discuss the merits of a movie, is almost proof itself that a movie has done it's job. Whether it's a casual conversation with friends over a pint, a heated debated between people who are in "the" business, or hours invested reading the rambling of complete strangers, it's all conversation, and the sign of a film that is above the fluff that usually captures the 12 odd bucks of the average movie goer.

And honestly... if 95% of films came close to No Country, or really any of the Coen's films, I'd spend a hell of a lot more time in a movie theater.


Anonymous said...

Content of discussion is more important than the length of discussion, my friend.

People talk about Bush's performance as a President a lot. However, you wouldn't use the same faulty logic in that case.

Unknown said...

Ha.. Yeah. And people once argued that the earth was round. And that is about as relevant to our topic as the faults of some American president.

Obviously there's some very strong opinions about this film, many of which are being reiterated louder and louder. I have had similar conversations with friends and co-workers (albeit usually without name calling) weeks after seeing the film. You don't usually get this kind of reaction from your Weekend at Bernie's II of the world.

I personally thought the mood was brilliantly captured. And well shot. I could feel the pain on the screen from a gunshot wound to the leg.. something usually treated lightly in your average Hollywood flick. I thought the performances, Javier's especially, to be captivating. The list goes on.

I also saw some flaws, once again wondered why Tommy Lee Jones is always a sheriff, and yes even wondered - almost aloud - why he didn't throw the bloody transponder out the window...

But ultimately the flaws were far out weighed by the positives for me. That some people here seem to be actually "hateful" of this film seems, to me, a bit over the top. Not that I'm not arrogant enough to think my opinion is "truth", but have to wonder if No Country For Old Men was such shit, what films in the past year make the grade?

But hey, to each his own. I enjoyed the film. I'm fully aware it's not the benchmark for all films past and present, but it made a couple hour window on a rainy Wednesday night enjoyable.

Your friend,

blogward said...

@ jayjerry: by 'lost focus' I mean that when the character with most at stake is killed, there's no reason to care about any other characters. It's as though Godzilla (Chigurh) successfully destroys the entire planet - The End. Otherwise it's a great cinematic ride.

AltSung said...

I think Nora Ephron's comments on this movie are spot on. And hilarious.

No movie can stand this sort of plothole analysis. Maybe except for that Andy Warhol movie where he just films the front of a building. Isn't there a film like that?

As someone who is a big fan of the Coens and at the same time thought NCFOM was not their best work (not even close -- nothing comes close to Barton Fink -- remember the Simpsons where Millhouse and some friends are going to sneak into an R-rated movie? They were going to see Barton Fink!), I find Bob Gale's comments funny, if a bit shallow. By the way, I loved Interstate 60, Mr. Gale -- totally underrated.

Michael Clayton or Diving Bell should've won best picture.

Anonymous said...

I don't like it how people criticize this film. Remember the joke competition? It's not as easy as it looks is it. But worse than the people who aren't smart enough to interpret the themes of NCFOM are the people who are so smug who think anyone who doesn't like the ending "just didn't get it". This movie has become one of those middle brow benchmarks people say they like so they sound smart. Does anyone read Tom Robbins novels any more? What's wrong with this movie is not a failure of profundity. It's the most commonplace thing that writers do -- faced with the inevitable ending of the story they abandon their character 2/3 of the way through. 90% of movies do it. Since you're dealing with geniuses here, they paint it up with philosophy, but its the same thing. My personal preference is less smart people making movies with enough heart to follow a premise to it's absolute end. Those movies are more memorable and disturbing even if they're less artful. I liked the movie about the girl who blew the dog. Laugh, but that film was more honest than this one. The funny thing is, I bet you the Coen Brothers don't even like films with a didactic philosophic point to make. They're trying to make a film of To The White Sea! How bad could they be?

Anonymous said...

Thanks to the blog author and many helpful comments. NOW I KNOW! After reading this I am free not to watch NCFOM second time. So let me make my point.
NCFOM is one with twisted film media, because viewer is left without a moral message. I think it is tempting, but wrong to attribute "country", "old men", "old times", "evil", "emotional", "stupid", etc. for a NCFOM subject. The subject is deeply yours, there are no idols (characters to stick to) in this film reality. Nothing gone, nothing came, just old man had got wiser. May be it is an oportunity for us too.
High attention requirement (which I lack) is getting fashionable in cinemas lately, but it is not epidemic. Thanks to internet I can live with that.
I liked NCFOM.

Anonymous said...

Here we go again.
People, NCFOM was not more 'intelligent' than other movies. Being hard to follow =/= intelligent storytelling.

NCFOM wasn't even complex. It was much too simple.

Anonymous said...

...this site will answer some of your questions:

..this is definitely a movie where you should read the book first ... from what I have been told, there is a lot more that is exposed in the book..for this reason, I do not think, in my personal opinion, that it is "award winning" material, as the film adaptation left me with questions and feeling stupid..maybe I missed something??...The book clearly answers all of the questions left unanswered.

Anonymous said...

Sorry I'm late, but I just wanted to tell Bob Gale that I love him. I was annoyed by the last 20 minutes of the movie, but I didn't even realize how dumb the rest of it was until he pointed it out.

Chigur was still awesome, though.

Anonymous said...

have just finished watching the film. left me thinking 'how stupid'

cos it is a stupid film

Fran said...

Yes, Only intelligent people think How Frinken Stupid!!!!

Smegma said...

I actually saw this abortion of a film – twice.
First time after all movie critics raved about it,
suggesting highly it be seen. Second time to give
myself another chance at things I might have “missed”.
Now I really am convinced, this is nonsensical crap.
I can accept logical flaw or ten, but the biggest problem
I have are many lose ends, and undeveloped characters.
Yes, leave few things up for my imagination. I do have
plenty of it, but don’t distribute the film without including
the last reel…It’s a crime to give this film any Oscars.
Then again, no surprise here either. We know how the
system works, by whom, and for who…
I’m sick of those that praise this crap, trying to appear
intelligent and better than the rest…
Call it what it is, putrid excrement.

Anonymous said...

At the end, I had the same feeling as when I went to see the play "CATS!"... What the $&%$# was that? Was there a plot in there somewhere?

Actually, it was like a cross between CATS! and a Friday The 13th film... if Jason Voorhees was on Valium.

This was the worst, over-hyped piece of hooey since The English Patient.

And by the way, I loved Pulp Fiction, Fargo, Lebowski, etc. in case anyone thinks I'm an "Independence Day" fan because I don't like THIS movie.

A cop-killer parades around the state hunting people like the Terminator, and no one seems to care... especially not Tommy Lee Jones, who sips coffee througout, content to hear the details of the latest massacre from his seat at the diner.

By the end of it, I was hoping the killing machine would stop using the air gun on innocent people... and concentrate on killing Tommy Lee.

And then to find out that it was all a Bobby Ewing, 'that never happened' dream sequence? OMG.

Biochalk said...

People don't take into consideration that the movie is expressed through the late 70's, the process of resolving crime was not even close to how simple it is today in terms of informing officials and solving crimes such as the ones seen in NCFOM.

Anonymous said...

Okay. I'm late, but I didn't want to read this piece or the comments until after I saw the movie, which I just did.

I had a lot of the same objections as Gale, particularly about shoot-outs and explosions on the streets and no one calls the cops, and who the hell was that guy Barry Corbin played? (There are ways to tell us who he is without "Bob, you're my uncle and I love you, but..." level dialogue.) But I also found the film compelling, and the ending (Which IS NOT A DREAM, he just talks about a dream. It didn't turn into WIZARD OF OZ. Why are people seriously saying it all turns out to be a dream?) didn't bother me.

I have a drawer full of old phone bills in my desk. Anton would find them in in a few minutes, but why not just compress the time a bit?

I seem to recall James Bond tracking Goldfinger's Rolls from quite a distance with a rather small, 1964 transponder, so yes, James Bond did have a powerful one, in a movie where Oddjob killed people with his lethal HAT (Couldn't he get a gold-plated air-bolt gun?), and Fort Knox had gold bars lying about in huge, pretty heaps. (Pretty HEAVY heaps!) Frankly, if we're dealing with suspension of disbelief, I have trouble believing anyone actually, volutarily lives in Texas, though I'm told they do.

As for the dearth of West Texas radio stations in the 1980s, I drove from El Paso to Dallas one early morning in 1975. Desperate for SOMETHING to listen to while driving that long, BORING stretch of road, I mostly found people babbling about Jesus until I hit 640, and there was KFI sailing in, clear as it would be on the Hollywood Freeway, and I had the always-welcome company of Lohman & Barkley on my drive, telling me what freeways were clogged up back in L.A. I felt like I was home.

These days, Lohman & Barkley are both dead, KFI is a bastion of right-wing nutjob blather, and I have not returned to Texas in 32 years, and hopefully never will again.

Was it a movie worth seeing? Well, let's see if HORTON HEARS A WHO and/or COLLEGE ROAD TRIP gets this LEVEL of discussion. (The Whos are totally unbeievable! Elephants don't use Horton's style of diction when they speak! Jim Carrey isn't funny.)

NCFOM's worst sin, to me, is taking the extremely sexy Javier and making him look like crap for the whole movie.

Anonymous said...

Oh, one last point, about luxuriously large submarine rooms. Check out Ray Harryhausen's 1955 IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA. All the submarine interiors were shot on a real sub, moored in Long Beach. The camera can't get more that a couple feet away from the actors, and they had no technical advisor, so the actors just flip switches and twist controls at random, but it LOOKS completely realistic.

Of course, it is a movie in which A GIANT OCTOPUS TEARS DOWN THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE, but the sub interiors look very real. (Actually the octopus only has six tentacles - cheaper to animate - so it's really a sextopus.)

And the San Francisco city fathers wouldn't let them shoot on the real Golden Gate Bridge because it might "Undermine public confidence in the bridge." Yup, I'm always nervous when using the Golden Gate that a giant octopus might attack it while I'm on it. Or that, after I've crossed it, the octopus might find my old phone bills and track me down!

Anonymous said...

Are people really thick enough to compare "Horton hears a who" to movies like NCFOM when it comes to suspending disbelief?
Geezaloo. Ken, you're attracting quite an illiterate crowd.

Anonymous said...

"Are people really thick enough to compare 'Horton hears a who' to movies like NCFOM when it comes to suspending disbelief?
Geezaloo. Ken, you're attracting quite an illiterate crowd."

Gracious Damon, as the author of two published books, one of them film criticism, I haven't been called illiterate in decades. I am a bit thick, but I have taken 10 pounds off recently, so I'm less thick than I was.

A close, let's say literate, look at what I wrote shows I mentioned HORTON as a JOKE; the level of intellectual desparity between it and NCFOM being the crux of the joke.

At the risk of disobeying Ken's "Play nice kids" dictum I have to say you seem a lot more intelligent and perceptive on the LOST DVD extras, unless of course, you're not really Damon Lindelof. Your inability to absorb the simple meaning of what I wrote is almost - well - illiterate.

I will however, remain devoted to LOST.

Anonymous said...

the plot had some holes, granted, but I still loved it. To each his own.

and anyway, the most unrealistic moment in any Cohen brothers movie (or in the history of cinema) is the one in which Billy Bob Thornton turns down a "favor" from Scarlett Johansson in the front seat of his car. No way this happens in real life.

Anonymous said...

I've come to this discussion late but some of the criticisms of the film in the original post are stupid.
Why does Javier kill the 2 guys who at the scene of the crime who have just hired him to find their money?

Don't even understand that bit.

Plus, knowing that drug dealers are going to be after him, he decides not to tell the lady who runs the Trailer Park a cover story that might get the bad guys off his trail. Oh, he’s brilliant.

Why should he be brilliant anyway? Maybe he didn't choose not to give the old lady a cover story rather just never thought to do so.

Most of his silly comments have been countered here.I loved the film, it was instantly engaging and the performances were amongst the best I've ever seen in any film.The only thing I found that rang true from the OP was the lack of response to murder and mayhem in the towns, I did think at a couple of stages well surely the police would be here by NOW or at least someone would have noticed what was going on.

This Bob Gale chap really hated the film as became apparent toward the end of his little essay when he started swearing and really getting frothy at the mouth.
I loved it. It was a lot better than Back to the Future anyway.

Anonymous said...

I think this movie had *some* merit. The bad guy (however you spell his name) was probably the best bad guy I have ever seen. But I wish I hadn't watched it. It was an overall waste of my time and I have very little free time. So if you are like me avoid this movie. Unless of course you read the book and think you can appreciate the movie's so-called inconsistencies.

Anonymous said...

I've seen this too often. A movie is put together in such a way that it is so confusing people use it to tout themselves as "deep". "Oh that movie was so deep, so good, blah blah blah". When in reality it's just a method of confusing the majority viewing public into saying that it is a great film rather than admitting that they didn't "get" it. They didn't get it because it was random shit. Anyone who says differently is selling something, touting their own ego. "No, the movie was great, you just don't get it. I'm intellectually superior to you. I understand the movie, you don't. I'm better than you, blah blah blah" Eat shit. The movie was lame.

Anonymous said...

I was pissed because the movie ended before it got good. I kept thinking "Okay, NOW it's going to pick up, ... umm... ok.. maybe NOW.... or... NOW.... ok.. not yet.... NOW!!... ".. then it just "Dead man" with Johnny Depp.

DT Thomas said...

"No Country For Old Men" is probably one of the greatest movies to come along in decades. It ranks right up there with The Godfather, Bullit, The French Connection, Ronin, Taxidriver, Dirty Harry and Three Days of the Condor.

enough said...

AB and the rest of you admirers of this movie are idiots. "Emperors New Clothes" indeed. Yeah, I understand this movie. It was stupid and a crappy script and the numerous criticisms are well justified. But if you want to pretend it's really profound and meaningful, go ahead.

enough said...

Absurd movie. One of the rare times when at the end of the move I said aloud "I want my money back".

Anonymous said...

This has to be the most insufferably arrogant films I have ever seen in my life. The acting and cinematography was brilliant, but other than that, it was complete rubbish.
This film moves slow and then every now and then chucks in some scenes where one of the characters will mercilessly slaughter innocent victims, and for what reason? None really.
This film plays on the arrogance of those who think they understand good films, by presenting a bland and uninspired story, whilst masquerading under the false pretence of having some sort of moral message in it.
The only message to it was that the Coen brothers are losing their knack for filmaking.
The Coen brothers try to tell us that this movie is about how violence is becoming to much a part of our society. I'm sorry, but if you need the Coen brothers to tell you the most obvious facts in the world, then you are obviously living under a rock. Of course violence is becoming to much a part of our society, and its because people like the Coen brothers keep making these terrible movies with mindless violence in them.
I can't stand films like this, one's which benefit on the fact that the majority of critics out there don't care about good filmaking anymore, they just care about presenting the image that they support this kind of movie because its "intelligent", when it is the polar opposite. Go see Inception, Memento, Prestige, or any film made by Christopher Nolan if you want to see a smart film.
Not only is this film terrible, it is also insanely racist. The story follows a Mexican man who goes around killing people, whilst all the white characters are kind and welcoming. So the message the Coen brothers are trying to represent when making this film is that they believe Mexicans are the reason that violence is too big a part of our society these days.
If you want to see a movie that is slow paced, has great acting, great screenplay, great cinematography, brilliant plot, and provides beautiful messages that actually mean something, watch The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. This film however is absolute garbage.

No Country For Old Men has to be quite literally one of the worst films I have ever seen in my entire life, don't make the mistake of watching it as well.

ixenal said...

When I saw this movie in the theater, I laughed out loud at the end. Silly film, but they got my money. You left out two of my exceptions, although the no-canteen one pushes the movie to Sci-Fi in my book.

One would no more hire a psychopath to fetch one's lost money than you would hire one to teach kindergarten.

When Javier catches Woody on the stairs Woody has only one play, which he has to do. Jump backwards knocking them both down the stairs. Sure he might die, Javier might die, or one or both might be severely injured, but he might live. He knew going along with Javier was sure death and did it anyway. Stupid.

Anonymous said...

Just found this blog after watching NCFOM for the third time on IFC.

Can't believe so many disliked this film .. it was awesome !!

I watched as if it was me who found 2 million dollars and what would I do.

I'm not in the industry so maybe my opinion means nothing but it seems to me that most of you who hated this film are just sore losers.

One part that confused me was when Tommy LEE goes back to the hotel and notices the lock shot out, yet goes in anyway. Why risk getting killed ? Why not call for back up pronto ? Then it didn't matter anyway because the killer was gone somehow.

I do feel the makers could have added much more but this was still a great movie and has made me aware to get rid of original casing of any valuables I may find.

Anonymous said...

Some of these points are just not paying close enough attention to the movie but not all of us have seen it multiple times. I agree about Llewelyn going back to the desert though. Guy was so meticulous and careful about approaching and navigating the scene and finding the money in the first place, then abandons all logic and returns to the scene with none of his previous caution. Of course had he not done that the movie would have just been about a trailer park couple striking it rich.

Anonymous said...

Read. The. Book.

Anonymous said...

I'm watching this movie for about the sixth or seventh time at the moment. (Let's just say I saw it on my birthday, March 2, 2008 - shortly after this blog post originated! - and that I'm the nostalgic type.) I've had problems with certain logistical matters in the past, such as how the case ends up on the wrong side of that vent shaft when Llewelyn tries to retrieve it later, but it occurs to me now that the most blatant disregard for logic is how easily both the Mexicans and Chigurh track down the transponder in a place as vast as West Texas. That and the fact that Chigurh is nowhere to be found in the Desert Sands once Bell enters, even though we've already see him behind the door and the bathroom window's locked from the inside. Maybe Chigurh is a ghost after all, or maybe the sheriff meets his reward there, as certain viewers seem to believe. Either way, though, it's a well-acted, beautifully shot film, and that's enough for me. Sorry, Mr. Gale.

Anonymous said...

So you're a complete dumbaas and here's why

1.Anton does have a gun, he uses the air gun for breaking locks.

2. The deputy is armed and clearly not too bright, he probably didn't even consider the possibility of this giant man to place the cuffs under his legs, and then suffocate him in the time he takes him to call in the arrest which probably took a minute or 2.

3. There is little to no description of Anton, the deputy only descibed the air compressor. It's in the middle of nowhere, without a clear description how are they going to find him? Needle in a haystack.

4. Plenty of explanations, perhaps he isn't far from home, he had a water bottle or 2 that he already drank and disposed of, but even if it was something they forgot to add in it's such a small nitpick that listing it as an actual complaint is ridiculous.

5. Its made very clear that he isn't bright, he acts on emotion and it fucks him over, that's what leads to his eventual death.

6. Yes, it's called a coincidence. Many movies use that sort of thing to progress the story. And if you weren't aware, coincidences happen in real life.

7. He isn't very smart, the movie intended this for him. He isn't a typical hero who doesn't know what he's doing and wins at the end, the whole ending subverts what you expect from film like this.

8. The movie should have explained this better, the men were to be killed for letting the deal go wrong, Anton works for a third party.

9. The transponder started working when it was near to the hotel, that's miles to you? Do you know what distance is?

10. He was waiting to kill whoever was followimg him, it would be easier than just running.

11. Anton was most likely not standing in the doorway as it was made clear he is extra cautious about these things. He and the tank were probably set aside.

12. Average police response time is 15 minutes, neither scene lasts that long. They could easily escape before they arrived. And the lack of police was also used as a way to keep the feeling of lawlessness, similar to a western, which is what the movie was.

13. It was night, he bought the jacket from the kids to hide his injuries so he could get passed the guard. That was the point of that scene.

14. Carson had more resources, and Anton also managed to track him to Mexico, so this isn't even a complaint

15. Anton wanted the money brought to him, he wanted Llewellyn dead, he explained that in the scene with Carson very clearly.

Anonymous said...

16. Mexicans killed Llewellyn, yes the mother died in the crossfire, his wife avoided the gunfire, or was in a different area. The girl could have a lot of different reasons, perhaps representing simply that he loves his wife and wouldn't risk something like that,or maybe it's Llewellyn denying the last bit if pleasure (getting drunk or being with woman) before his death. Mexicans got the money after killing Llewellyn, that scene could have happened any time after the shooting, and the sheriff doesn't do all the investigating. And them talking about the kids with green haor was there to add to how Tommy Lee Jones character thinks the world has gotten worse, and the man in the wheelchair tells him that it's always been that way. The world is chaotic and violent, it's the point of the film.

17. Yes he did, it was pretty obvious to anyone who actually watched the movie. He checks his boots, it's been made clear every time he kills he will make an effort of not getting it on him, lifting his boots from Carson, and using the shower curtian in the hotel. He was looking at the kids yes, got distracted and crashed. Is that really difficult to comprehend? And everything else you said is conjecture as we don't lnow what happens after. The kid probably won't rat him out because he has no reason to, and if he did then he did, we don't know. It's laughable how far you're trying to reach with some of these "serious complaints".

18. He was explaining how the world is and always has been violent, as mentioned before. It brings the movie full circle.

19. "I get it, the whole movie was a dream" you're a real obnoxious prick, you know that? The ending has many different explanations, if you don't understand it then look it up. I've written enough already.

These are all easily answered if you paid attention instead of looking at things to bitch about. Don't try to make your poorly thought out nitpicks out to be legitimate complaints.

Bodragon said...

The point about lugging around the air cylinder and stun bolt is that it left no bullet behind as evidence. That's a big PLUS in my book.