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“No Country For Old Men”

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By Matt Singer

IFC News

[Photo: Josh Brolin in “No Country For Old Men,” Miramax Films, 2007]

I’ve seen over 80 new releases in the five months since I saw “No Country For Old Men” at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, including fine works by directors like Steven Soderbergh, Michael Winterbottom and Abel Ferrara. But none has stayed as fresh in my memory — or, hell, just straight-up kicked as much ass — as the Coen brothers’ “No Country For Old Men.” I’d say it’s their masterpiece, but they’ve already put out two or three other movies that might qualify for that title.

I saw the movie in the middle of one of the busiest weeks of my life, after a long day of interviews and live web shows. The movie started at 10 o’clock at night and I half-expected to fall asleep. Not only did that not happen, but when the movie ended I couldn’t sleep because I just wanted to keep talking about it. And though I wasn’t able to take notes like I normally would, it didn’t matter. After all that time, I can still instantly call to mind a whole fleet of moments and images and characters from the film.

Based on the Cormac McCarthy novel of the same name, “No Country” follows Llewelyn Moss (a shockingly rugged Josh Brolin), a hunter who stumbles on a botched drug deal and all the dead bodies and cold hard cash that goes with it. He absconds with the money and, before long, the men with claim to it have sent a hitman named Anton Chigurh (a shockingly creepy Javier Bardem) to retrieve it. Despite Brolin’s impressively gruff performance, in addition to solid supporting turns from Tommy Lee Jones as a too-old-for-this-shit sheriff and Woody Harrelson as another drug enforcer on the trail of Moss’ money, it is Bardem who will receive all the attention and, almost assuredly, all the Oscar nominations for the film — somewhat rightfully so. Sporting an outlandishly bad pageboy haircut and a truly psychotic bug-eyed stare, he’s a great movie villain in the Hannibal Lector mold — a vision of heinous, unbridled menace who nevertheless carries a perverse sort of allure thanks, in part, to the purity of his purpose and to his quirky, for lack of a better term, sense of humor.

Eventually, the film settles into a series of cat-and-mouse chases between Moss and Chigurh, but even more than the mercilessly suspenseful set pieces, what lingers is the Coens’ remarkable attention to visual details, the way a man struggling for his life on a linoleum floor would scuff it up with his boots, or the look of disturbed dust in a ventilation shaft. Reading those words on the page, they must sound totally mundane. But they demonstrate the Coens’ directorial precision: every choice is considered and every element, down the smallest one, has been measured and selected with care. Even the things that must have been happy accidents, like the ominous lightning in the distance of a shot as Moss runs for his life, work perfectly.

Curiously, when I asked colleagues at Cannes what they thought of the movie, they all said almost the same thing: “I think it’s their best film; I just don’t like them in general.” On one hand, that doesn’t surprise me. The film is good enough to easily transcend their fan base; though “No Country” features elements of past Coen brothers movies — the grim humor in the face of tragedy, the hard-boiled dialogue, the postmodern twists on a well-worn genre (in this case the Western) — but it is its own movie, and stands side-by-side with their greatest works (a title I’d ascribe to “Fargo” and “The Big Lebowski”) as an equal, if not an outright superior.

On the other hand, when it did it become cool to bash the brothers? Certainly their last few films haven’t been as good as their best works, but “No Country For Old Men” is a true return to form. If they keep putting out movies like this one, my peers are going to look awfully foolish. This has got to be the best movie of the year.

“No Country For Old Men” opens on November 9th.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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