Skip Nav
Steven Avery
Making a Murderer: 7 Theories About What Really Happened to Teresa Halbach
27 Vintage Shows on Netflix You Need to Binge Next
Game of Thrones
What Happened on Game of Thrones This Week? 30 Seriously Insane Things, For Starters

Spike Lee at Cannes, Coen Brothers

Spike Lee vs. the Coen Bros: Valid Point or Unfair Characterization?

The folks covering Cannes over at Cinematical highlighted some statements made by director Spike Lee about certain directors. I was specifically struck by the comment he made about Joel and Ethan Coen (who just won a batch of Oscars for No Country for Old Men):

I always treat life and death with respect, but most people don't. . . Look, I love the Coen brothers; we all studied at NYU. But they treat life like a joke. Ha ha ha. A joke. It's like, "Look how they killed that guy! Look how blood squirts out the side of his head!" I see things different than that.

While it may not be the fairest charge leveled against the Coen Brothers, I do think a discussion about the role of violence in filmmaking (and other forms of entertainment) is one that needs to take place and Lee has a point when he implies that no one is willing to ask the hard questions.

Do you agree with what Spike Lee is saying or do you think it's an unfair bin to toss the Coens into?


Join The Conversation
leeluvfashion leeluvfashion 9 years
CaterpillarGirl: Haha, that has to be an interesting snowglobe! I enjoy scene compaired to Bella; I thought the way the one foot wouldn't go down and the guy starts smashing it was funny (in a very dark way.)
fashion4ward fashion4ward 9 years
Strange. I don't have much of an opinion, but I like the Coens better than Lee, so I'm going with 'unfair.'
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 9 years
BTW I have a Snowglobe with the wood chipper, legs sticking out and there are is blood in the air along with snow.....I love it.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 9 years
lol @ Old Country....
Beauty Beauty 9 years
I dunno, I think Spike Lee makes a good point. I like some of the Coen Brothers' work, but violence sometimes ruins the film for me. (Fargo is a great film, but the woodchipper bit keeps me from watching it again.) I don't think he's jealous of the Coen Brothers; it makes sense that he'd question violence, since his films tend to examine societal trends anyway. I didn't see Old Country because I heard how violent it is. I'm at the point where I just don't want to pay money to see lots of blood and gore and so forth. I think the Coens are good filmmakers, but when they show so much violence, I usually pass.
JenniJams JenniJams 9 years
I never pay attention when Spike speaks. I hear the Peanuts teacher. The dude is so full of crap.
kcwebgirl kcwebgirl 9 years
outside of ob brother where art thou, i'm not a coen brothers fan. if it's take it or leave it, i'm definitely gonna leave it. i agree with spike though. some violence is overtly gratuitous and look where it's gotten us. everyone wants to kill more people than the previous person. everyone wants to see if they are smarter than the previous killer. we have too many sick cop shows given head cases too many twisted ideas. somebody should at least talk about it.
NadiaPotter NadiaPotter 9 years
There are different tastes, different people I am always saying "why this movie won that price?" but you have the final word in you: see it or not. Yo don't like blood baths, don;t see i t. Read recaps, read synopsis... you will know then if you wanna see a movie for me, I did like the movie. But it's not that I will see it over and over again. Like it, but well... I am still washing the blood away from my tv... spike lee sounds jealous, he should have not said anything about it. The Coens had a right to do those kinds of movies, and people have the right not to see them, it's not like those movies are for educational purposes...
Dana18 Dana18 9 years
Every Director or writer has the write to artistic licence are different perspectives of life and death in a lot of movies. The Coen brother are not documentarians. Spike lee loves to pick on any one more successful then him self. Stop the whining. It is are not real life, If you not like thous types of films don't see them.
freegracefrom freegracefrom 9 years
I wasn't insinuating that they made the movie about violence or even that it was an integral part of the movie. I was simply commenting ON how violence was handled in the movie as opposed to the way it's typically handled in other Hollywood movies. It was raw and more in-your-face, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 9 years
Spike Lee has no respect for the money people spend on his movies, because he tends to bore the pants off of me! Maybe he just doesnt have the intelligence to "get" the Coens or the movies they produce some people just cant look beyond the violence and really understand good literature, nuances, subtle plot points and artistic views. No Country was a beautiful, haunting, sometimes funny movie that really was true to Cormacs novel.
Greentea1203 Greentea1203 9 years
"no country for old men, the big lebowski, fargo, raising arizona, o brother where art thou > anything spike lee has ever done." I totally agree! And Cormac McCarthy's book "No Country for Old Men" was amazing. He's a great writer.
sundaygreen sundaygreen 9 years
no country for old men: did no one read the book? the dialogue in the movie is taken directly from cormac mccarthy's book. it doesn't seem that many people actually understand the film - the coens didn't just make up some la di da story and decide to put a bunch of violence in it for their own entertainment. this isn't kill bill, people. do yourself a favour and watch it again, pay attention to the dialogue and the subtleties you were sure to miss the first time (maybe you were distracted by javier's hair or something) i for one was left thinking about this movie for days after i'd seen it, and not because of the violence.
freegracefrom freegracefrom 9 years
Agreed with yesteryear and kristinmarta. This is one of the most absurd things I've ever heard. The violence in 'No Country' makes you feel uncomfortable because it's unprovoked and undeserved. Violence isn't used as a successful tool for revenge or conquest - it's just mindless, meaningless violence. When Javier's character killed that sweet, good-natured midwestern guy that innocently pulled over for him, it made me feel sick. With regards to the far-reaching effects and consequences on its audiences, I suppose I'd rather have a film out there which makes people feel complete disgust and aversion to murder and violence rather than make them think: "Violence and murder is all around us. It sure is rough, but aw shucks, that's life!"
sundaygreen sundaygreen 9 years
no country for old men, the big lebowski, fargo, raising arizona, o brother where art thou > anything spike lee has ever done.
leeluvfashion leeluvfashion 9 years
Unfair. While I do see Spike Lee's point, many directors take the "blood bath" direction. Also, The Coen Brothers have an actual story to go with the murder, rather then some empty film with mindless gore fests.
i-am-awesomeness i-am-awesomeness 9 years
I agree with Spike Lee. The Coen brothers seem to think that a key factor in making a good movie is violence, and that just isn't true. And Spike Lee-- the man knows what he's talkin' about.
AKirstin AKirstin 9 years
Violence is a part of our existence and it's effects and meanings should be observed and discussed, not ignored. Film is a good platform for this. Criticizing art is such a slippery slope. because there will always be people who feel differently and who see things you don't. As it should be! If it doesn't provoke, is it even really art? ;)
kristinmarta kristinmarta 9 years
i agree with yesteryear. i feel like while the coen brother may use violence, they are ultimately using it to say something about humanity. i felt the violence in no country was appropriate because it spoke to a central theme of the movie. tommy lee jones' character was retiring and dealing with the way law enforcement and violence had been changing during the time he had been sheriff. and he was coming to the realization that crime had changed and it was bigger than what he and previous generations had dealt with. and i felt javier bardem's character served as a physical embodiment of the brutality and ceaselessness of modern crime. and instead of getting it in the end, he walks away. to me signifying that crime marches on and that we live in a violent, messy society. maybe i am reading too much into it, but i feel that the violence served a purpose for a deeper reading. i felt the gore meant something as opposed to recent horror/slasher movies-where it is just blood for blood's sake.
yaliyah yaliyah 9 years
I'm not sure that I agree with Spike and I'm a major fan of his. 'No Country' definitely had a lot of violence, but it was committed by a man who was clearly a sociopath and it was never a laughing matter or a cause for humor. All of the deaths in the movie were significant because they were done in such a calous and cold manner.
luckyme luckyme 9 years
kastarte2, I think the violence in No Country crosses a different plain. The more I've been thinking about this, I've come to the conclusion that I do like quite a few violent movies. Fight Club, Sin City and From Hell come to mind. Each of those movies is violent and bloody. With that said, I don't know what it was about No Country that got to me. And I agree with you Jennifer76, it didn't add up. The movie ended and I was like, "that's it? Seriously?" I guess I was expecting more. Maybe I needed to see it before all the hype. One movie that did add up and lived up to all the hype was Gone Baby Gone. It was definitely violent and difficult to watch at times, but I thought it was so phenomenal. I'm not sure what separates these two movies, but I would guess it's a pretty thin line.
K-is-For-Kait K-is-For-Kait 9 years
While No Country was undoubtedly violent and not that great, I think there are plenty of other directors that Spike Lee could make this comment about. There is SO many films that are 95% percent violence, 5% plot (as with most action movies.) At least the Coen Brothers attempted a real, nuanced plot.. as confusing as that plot was!
yesteryear yesteryear 9 years
i think the difference is that spike lee's movies often try to say something about culture, and the coen brother's movies try to say something about humanity. they are both good. i love spike lee, but he's off base here. he should aim his remarks at whomever is responsible for the "rush hour" movies.
jennifer76 jennifer76 9 years
I completely agree about No Country For Old Men. There must have been something in it that I didn't see, because as far as I could tell, it was just a big gratuitous bloodbath. :? I'm not sure that's a fair statement about them by Spike Lee, though. I don't think it's fair to say they treat life like a joke. Semantics aside, though, I can see why he'd want to call them out on their depictions of life, death and violence.
kastarte2 kastarte2 9 years
Luckyme, I agree. I watched and thought "this won best picture?" It did seem unnecessarily and blatantly violent. That being said, I like a good slasher/horror movie as much as a next girl, but no country seemed like it was trying to accomplish something that just didn't come together for me.
Tom Cruise Injured on Mission: Impossible 6 Set
Who Played Young Selena in the Selena Movie?
'80s Movies on Netflix
To All the Boys I've Loved Before Cast
From Our Partners
Latest Entertainment
All the Latest From Ryan Reynolds