Tiger of the Week: Filmmaker Ethan Coen ’79

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Ethan Coen ’79 at the BFI London Film Festival in October. (Photo: © Richard Goldschmidt/London News Pictures/ZUMAPRESS.com)

Inside Llewyn Davis, the new film written and directed by Ethan Coen ’79 and his brother Joel, has been drawing praise from critics, Golden Globe nominations, and predictions of Academy Award bids since its limited release in New York and Los Angeles earlier this month. It also has earned advance attention in Canada’s film capital, where the movie — set in New York City’s 1960s folk scene — will debut Dec. 20: The Toronto Film Critics Association named it the best picture of 2013, and the TIFF Bell Lightbox, home of the Toronto International Film Festival, is hosting a 10-film Coen Brothers retrospective in advance of the Llewyn Davis premiere.

Awards and critical acclaim are nothing new for the Coen Brothers, whose distinctive oeuvre includes Oscar winners No Country for Old Men and Fargo, as well as cult favorites like The Hudsucker Proxy and The Big Lebowski. In a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, the brothers discussed their success, in contrast with the struggles of their latest title character, who fails to hit the big time in spite of his talent and ambition. Joel said luck has played a role, to which Ethan added: “[I]n our case, OK, sometimes we were canny, more than the movie’s character, in figuring stuff out. And maybe that’s part of the explanation. It’s certainly not all of it. Our success is not wholly our creation.”

Coen, a philosophy major at Princeton, began writing screenplays with his brother, an NYU film school graduate, after college. The pair teamed up on two crime films before delving into comedy in Raising Arizona (1987). They shared their first Academy Award for the original screenplay Fargo in 1997.

Do you have a nominee for Tiger of the Week? Let us know. All alumni qualify. PAW’s Tiger of the Week is selected by our staff, with help from readers like you.

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