Want to become an instant expert in our filmmaker of the month without committing yourself to an entire filmography? Then you need the Hell Is For Hyphenates Cheat Sheet: we program you a double that will not only make for a great evening's viewing, but bring you suitably up-to-speed before our next episode lands…
FARGO (1996) and THE BIG LEBOWSKI (1998)
Usually we try to err on the side of films that come from the chronological extremes of a career, but there's something about the one-two hit of these works that feel as if they encapsulates what the Coens are all about. 1996's Fargo was a huge hit, its strange mix of comedy, violence and drama the perfect example of their interest in the dark and ugly side of polite society. And their follow-up? 1998's The Big Lebowski is pure Coens: an ageing hippy finds himself in the middle of a gumshoe detective drama, one that he has no interest in or ability to navigate. This is arguably their most beloved film, a deeply funny film that pays tribute to a genre by subverting it.
Substitutions: If you can't get or have already seen Fargo, you must watch 1990's Miller's Crossing, their extraordinary Italian mafia vs Irish mob thriller. If you can't get or have already seen The Big Lebowski, then tap in 2000's O Brother Where Art Thou, the 1930s deep south retelling of Homer's Odyssey.
The Hidden Gem: How do you find a hidden gem in a filmography such as this? Probably the closest is 2009's A Serious Man, their strangest and most niche film about a 1960s Jewish physics professor whose life is falling apart. It's genius.
The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Martyn Pedler talking the films of the Coen Brothers, will be released on the morning of March 31 (AEST).