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Miller's Crossing

post #1 of 48
Thread Starter 
I think this just might be one of the most perfect films ever made. I hate using that word perfect because if you look hard enough, you'll always find flaws but watching this again I'm finding it pretty damn hard to find anything to dislike about it. You have gangsters in a thirties setting, a great plot worthy of Dashiell Hammett himself, although, to be fair, it was loosely based on one of his novels and the writing is practically flawless along with the characters.

With most Coen. Bros. there's alot of room for interpretation, some of intentional, some of it not but it's always interesting. Here, the subtext seems to be homosexuality depending on your point of view, especially with the love triangle of Mink, Dane and Bernie Bernbaum but as I said, it's open to interpretation, it's never explicitly stated.

There's also Tom's descent into cold blood murder, I think up until that point, Tom had always managed to avoid it and therefore kept his hands clean but by the end he just can't avoid it and has to finally get blood on his hands, I think this contributed to the end of his friendship with Leo among other things.

There was one shot of Johnny Caspar sitting beside the fire and it immediately conjured up an image of hell with Caspar as Satan. I think Tom going over to Caspar's side in order to get rid of Bernie meant he had to make a deal with the devil and the end price was his soul because he took Bernie's life in cold blood.

These are all just theories so discredit them at your will but that's what makes this film so great, the literal meaning's you can take out of it.

Of course, the acting is superb. Gabriel Byrne plays such a likeable bastard as Tom, you can tell he's really enjoying the coens dialogue, Arthur Finney is also great as Leo, his Danny Boy scene is one of cinema's greatest moment's, just fantastic. Marcia Gay Harden conjures the spirit of any classic movie star from the forties and John Turturro, well, his performance is pretty much pitch perfect.

I'll always remember Jon Polito from Homicide but he delivers a good performance as Johnny Caspar, even though he looks like he's going to drop dead from a heart attack any moment throughout the movie and finally we come to, THE DANE, such a classic villain and J.E Freeman is awesome. Every line he utters in the movie could've from any classic gangster movie but it's filtered through the coens style. I loved it when he replied with "Nuts" when Caspar tried to calm him down.

This film looks so elegant, Barry Sonnenfeld did such a great job here with the cinematography, that forest is beautiful. The score is also fantastic, it's such a rich mix of irish and classical composing. I think I've heaped enough praise on this movie but I can't help it.
post #2 of 48
I watched this recently again and it gets better everytime. Between this and Goodfellas 1990 was the year of perfect gangster films.

It's funny Polito reminds you of something else, for me he's one of those actors that I've never, ever seen outside of Coens' films, so everytime I see him it's in a special role. Kinda like Jack Nance and David Lynch stuff, you end up wondering if they actually are alive between shoots.

There is a subtext of homosexuality but the main one I think is of loyalty, how far will you go for a friend - one possible interpretation is that every single action Tom makes in this film is in Leo's interest, from sleeping with Gay Harden at the beginning and telling Leo to discredit her completely in his eyes, to refusing to go away with her out of town and finally turning down Leo's offer to work with him again at the end of the film, so that Leo and Gay Harden are happy without interference from him. That's just one interpretation - I like your point about Tom getting his hands dirty for the first time and experiencing for himself having to kill and be killed, that might be another reason why he's leaving the business at the end. Or is he simply in love with Marcia Gay Harden all the time but refuses to admit it to himself until it's too late?

This film is deliciously ambiguous and on top of that has to be the most hat-oriented movie of all time. It doesn't get any better.
post #3 of 48
*starts random quote session*

"Close your eyes ladies, I'm coming in!"
post #4 of 48
The scene where the italians are about to lay a beating on Tommy and he hits one with a chair...

"Jeez tommy what did you have to go and do that for?"

Pure gold. That entire scene is choreographed, shot, and edited to absolute perfection. It's a great moment in a film full of great moments.

It's infinitely quoteable and definitely my favorite Coen bros. film. The actors don't so much read their lines as chew them up and spit them out, and there is not a single weak performance from any member of that cast. I was absolutely overjoyed the day I found this on DVD. It was one of the films I had hoped for since I bought my first player.

Bonus quote: "*slap* Now you take a page from this guy's book! A little less you talk... a little more you listen! Awww... whassamadda did somebody hit you?"

I like to think the terror on that fat kid's face is real as he stares into Polito's rapidly reddening mug.
post #5 of 48
Thread Starter 
"Kids, ya gotta be firm"

"I open my mouth and the whole world turns smart"

"Go ahead and run sweetie, I'll track down alla you whores"

Yeah, this film is full of quotes. I think the loyalty aspect makes sense and with Johnny Caspar out of the way, there's no threat now so no real reason for Tom to stick. I think, in a way he had fallen in love with Verna and he wouldn't have been able to stand of pain of watching her with Leo so he chose to leave. HA. Another interpretation.
post #6 of 48
I actally see it a bit differently. I see Tommy as an anti-hero who does what he does for the pleasure he gets from manipulating people. I don't see loyalty, I think Tommy is a guy who is always playing the angles and when he leaves in the end, he does so simply because the game is played out. There is one power left in the city at the end of the film, leaving a man who thrives on conflict with precious little to do.

The relationship with Verna, while he may have enjoyed it, just legitimizes his beef with Leo and gives him some currency with Caspar. The Dane is Tommy's counterpart, only less subtle, more shifted towards the intimidation side of manipulation than Tommy's subtler coercion. With the Dane distracted by Mink's disappearance he gets close to Caspar and pours the poison in his ear.

Tommy doesn't let Bernie go because he's merciful, he lets him go because he still has a role to play. He wraps the entire plot up like a christmas present and when he kills Bernie at the end, he's just knotting the bow. Kinda funny how Bernie's pleading has no effect when it saved his life the last time. his hesitation in the forest isn't mercy... he's just playing out all the angles in his head.

When I watch it, Tommy's not a good guy. He's running a ragged edge, and he gets lucky a few times, but I think behind his eyes is a brain that is running 5 moves ahead of everyone else in the film. He knows exactly how people are gonna move and he plays them off one another.

Just my opinion tho. The wonderful thing about this film is how much it leaves unsaid.
post #7 of 48
"Ever notice how the snappy dialogue dries up once a guy starts soilin' his union suit?"

"Does he want a pillow for his head?"

"What makes you so sure it was Bernie?" " It ain't elves..."

The Dane has got to be one of the most memorable villains ever. What on earth has J.E. Freeman been up to lately?
post #8 of 48
Last thing I saw him in was a tv movie about that LA bank heist that turned into a wild west show. I remember being shocked at how frail he looked in that film. I didn't even recognize him at first.

Looking at his IMDB entry, he's still alive, but I haven't seen anything he's been in since Alien: Resurection.
post #9 of 48
Thread Starter 
"Nuts". God, I love that.

Some excellent points there CZ. I definitely agree with you on Tom leaving at the end because there's no reason for him to stay. Caspar's dead and Leo's still ontop. I don't think it's ever stated Tommy was a good guy but he wasn't a killer and by the end of the movie, he's forced to murder someone in cold blood in order to wrap up the game. You can see it in his eye's the way it's already gone down and the way it's going to go down in that corridor. He already sold his soul right there.
post #10 of 48
Yeah, interesting angle Count Zero. I suppose that's what makes this film so great, Tom and his actions can be seen in different lights. It's never stated that he's a good guy in any way but there is some ambiguity as to whether he ever feels anything for anyone or is just a complete 100% bastard - hence the "look into your heart" scene and Verna telling him "you've got a heart, no matter how small"... And as you say, is he playing Leo like everyone else or does he actually feel loyal to him? And if he is loyal, is he just following the rules of the game or does he actually care about his boss? Maybe the whole film is a kind of love story between Leo and Tom, or maybe it's the portrait of a completely soulless character. There aren't that many films that can be seen in such different lights and still make sense.



Tom: Rug Daniels is dead.
Verna: Gee, that's tough.
Tom: Don't get hysterical.
post #11 of 48
Yeah just wanted to say that I finally saw this film for the first time. I have heard about it forever but when I finally decide to take the plunge of course my blockbuster doesn't have it. So fuck it I headed over to ebay and managed to pick it up for like 4 bucks, NO BLU RAY OF THIS FILM EXISTS!! Anyway I fuckin loved it. I appreciate how they shot some of the acion sequences, just perfect.

I always loved Brick. It really has been one of my favorite films of the last couple years. Now I see how it heavily borrows from Millers Crossing. Damn near perfect little film.
post #12 of 48
The Coens have yet to top it in my opinion. Raising Arizona will always be my favourite of theirs, probably of all time, but this is their best film, I reckon. Nothing bad or even mediocre in the entire film and it makes the genre bigger and better for its existence. In my book, that makes it perfect.
post #13 of 48
I think it's their best film to date, it's certainly my favourite of theirs.
Love that Finney plays one of the dames that squeals out of the room when Byrne charges in to confront Harden.
post #14 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Logan View Post
Love that Finney plays one of the dames that squeals out of the room when Byrne charges in to confront Harden.
Haha I never knew that.

It's been over two years since I've watched this, seems like as good a time as any...
post #15 of 48
There has to be a gif. of that kid getting slapped somewhere.

I think this film may be my favorite from the Coens. Maybe.
post #16 of 48
One of my favorite Coen bros. movies. So damn elegant and classy, especially the score.
post #17 of 48
Definitely my fave Coen Bros. flick, but aside from Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers (both of which have, um, their moments) all of their is golden as far as I'm concerned.
post #18 of 48
"I was in the neighbourhood, feelin' a bit daffy. So I thought I'd drop in for an aperitif."

Time goes by, things change, but MILLER'S CROSSING has been in my top five for almost 20 years now. And I can't see it dropping out any time soon.

Special mention to Carter Burwell's score, one of the best ever.
post #19 of 48
"...You get a clean shave every time."

For some weird reason, my favorite Miller's Crossing quote. And yes, where the friggity fuck is the frigging Blu-Ray?
post #20 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by Leto II View Post
"...You get a clean shave every time."
I've done the hot water on the face/cold water on the razor thing ever since seeing Miller's Crossing in 1990.
post #21 of 48
Nothing to add except distinct pleasure that my favorite Cohen Brothers film is getting so much love here. My dad and I watched this on VHS when I was 13 or so and I never forgot it. In fact, I blame it for my love of whiskey. Well, Miller's Crossing and Tom Waits.
post #22 of 48
About as perfect as a movie can get. I'm not a huge fan of the Coen's other films, and I think it's because I always use this as the standard which I compare their other films to.

Tom is probably my favorite film character ever.
post #23 of 48
I've held off writing in this thread, but I think MILLER'S CROSSING is the best Coen film in their catalog. The fact that their many of their later films are brilliant masterworks just goes to show how highly I hold MILLER'S.

I think Tom Reagan is the most enigmatic, deep, well-written character that the Coens have ever created. When Gabriel Byrne looks at something in the film, you can practically see the wheels turning, on how Tom can use what's going on to his advantage. Albert Finney, is of course, wonderful. I especially like his final shots, as we see how Tom has wounded him. Marcia Gay Harden's Verna, John Turturro's Shmatta, the terrifying J.E. Freeman - "I'll track down alla you whores" - all fantastic. And then there's Jon Polito's Johnny Caspar, a thug gangster who you can't help but like and even feel a little sorry for. He's right - even when the lines are blurred in their profession, there is ethics, and Caspar understands that.

I love the dialogue. Every line belongs on a t-shirt. It has beautiful cadence and rhythm, and even when the words don't make logical sense they do in the spirit of the film. "What's the rumpus?" "Nothin' more foolish than a man chasin' his hat." "If I'd known we were gonna cast our feelings into words, I'd've memorized the Song of Solomon." "You ain't got a license to kill bookies and today I ain't sellin' any. So take your flunky and dangle." Easily the best script in the past 20 years, and maybe even before that.

I love the cinematography, how the Coens shot this almost like an anti-gangster film, with rich colors of brown and green. Hell, I even love the furniture, like in Tom's apartment, where a giant living room chair conceals a character from the camera. I love how the plot has layers, like an onion, where even now I still peel back and discover something I'd never realized before. It took me years to understand that Verna didn't actually kill Rug Daniels, that she just didn't have it in her. Or the relationship between Shmatta, Mink, and the Dane. I love the score by Carter Burwell, both majestic and brooding.

And I love the ending, that final stare of Tom's, who has paid all his debts, and is free, but also alone like he's never been alone before.

I think MILLER'S CROSSING is a masterpiece, and I frankly don't expect the Coens to top it because the film's built a fortress in my soul at this point. In my opinion, it's required viewing for any film fan. As gangster films go, I think it's the best gangster film ever made, even over THE GODFATHER.
post #24 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by Alan "Nordling" Cerny View Post
I've held off writing in this thread, but I think MILLER'S CROSSING is the best Coen film in their catalog. The fact that their many of their later films are brilliant masterworks just goes to show how highly I hold MILLER'S.

I think Tom Reagan is the most enigmatic, deep, well-written character that the Coens have ever created. When Gabriel Byrne looks at something in the film, you can practically see the wheels turning, on how Tom can use what's going on to his advantage. Albert Finney, is of course, wonderful. I especially like his final shots, as we see how Tom has wounded him. Marcia Gay Harden's Verna, John Turturro's Shmatta, the terrifying J.E. Freeman - "I'll track down alla you whores" - all fantastic. And then there's Jon Polito's Johnny Caspar, a thug gangster who you can't help but like and even feel a little sorry for. He's right - even when the lines are blurred in their profession, there is ethics, and Caspar understands that.

I love the dialogue. Every line belongs on a t-shirt. It has beautiful cadence and rhythm, and even when the words don't make logical sense they do in the spirit of the film. "What's the rumpus?" "Nothin' more foolish than a man chasin' his hat." "If I'd known we were gonna cast our feelings into words, I'd've memorized the Song of Solomon." "You ain't got a license to kill bookies and today I ain't sellin' any. So take your flunky and dangle." Easily the best script in the past 20 years, and maybe even before that.

I love the cinematography, how the Coens shot this almost like an anti-gangster film, with rich colors of brown and green. Hell, I even love the furniture, like in Tom's apartment, where a giant living room chair conceals a character from the camera. I love how the plot has layers, like an onion, where even now I still peel back and discover something I'd never realized before. It took me years to understand that Verna didn't actually kill Rug Daniels, that she just didn't have it in her. Or the relationship between Shmatta, Mink, and the Dane. I love the score by Carter Burwell, both majestic and brooding.

And I love the ending, that final stare of Tom's, who has paid all his debts, and is free, but also alone like he's never been alone before.

I think MILLER'S CROSSING is a masterpiece, and I frankly don't expect the Coens to top it because the film's built a fortress in my soul at this point. In my opinion, it's required viewing for any film fan. As gangster films go, I think it's the best gangster film ever made, even over THE GODFATHER.
I feel like singing Meatloaf's "You Took the Words Right Outta My Mouth." Agreed. All of that.
post #25 of 48
Rewatching it now - last time I saw it was eight years ago. That Danny Boy scene is still GREAT. I love it a lot more now that I've gotten more into hardboiled fiction/film noir...I don't feel like I missed the boat this time through.
post #26 of 48
Definitely one of the most re-watchable movies around. I must have seen this movie 20 times and I always feel like I notice something new
post #27 of 48
Yes to everything that's been said so far. A true classic. Fox Movies plays the hell out of this flick, and I have to watch it every time it's on.
post #28 of 48
Saw it yesterday for the first time ever. I'm almost ashamed to admit I'd owned it for almost two or three months and had never sat down with it.

Glorious movie. An opening scene hasn't grabbed me like that in a long time. The acting, directing and writing in that scene was such a joy to watch.
post #29 of 48
I recently watched this again and I love it so hard. Makes me wish Gabriel Byrne was in more movies
post #30 of 48
Could be my favorite Coen Brs film.
"I'm Tired Of The High Hat"......
post #31 of 48
This, The Big Lebowski, and No Country for Old Men are the films that lead me to believe that the Coens, like Tarantino, are at their best when doing an adaptation of another person's work. I can't wait for True Grit.
post #32 of 48
The Ladykillers disagrees with your thesis.

And if you're gonna consider Lebowski and Miller's as "adaptations" (ie: Chandler and Hammet, respectively), you'd have to basically consider most of their canon that way.


Blood Simple...James M Cain

Barton Fink....Nathaneal West

Hudsucker Proxy....Sturges/Hawks/Capra

Oh Brother......Homer

Man Who Wasn't There......Cain again

Intolerable Cruelty....Sturges again
post #33 of 48
The Big Lebowski, Miller's Crossing, and Fargo are all perfect films.

Barton Fink and Oh Brother are not as good, but I really like them also. No Country for Old Men is simply not a movie I can love, but it is really good.
post #34 of 48
Well, at least you admit that it's really good. I had another person flip out last week about "WTF WAS IT ABOUT WORST MOVIE EVER" and I didn't have the heart to attack them, mostly because I know they're still a virgin at 35 so it's like kicking a litter of puppies to death at this point.

That being said, I just got this on DVD last week (finally) and I reaaaally wanna watch it again.
post #35 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jake View Post
Well, at least you admit that it's really good. I had another person flip out last week about "WTF WAS IT ABOUT WORST MOVIE EVER" and I didn't have the heart to attack them, mostly because I know they're still a virgin at 35 so it's like kicking a litter of puppies to death at this point.

That being said, I just got this on DVD last week (finally) and I reaaaally wanna watch it again.
I have the same problem with, There Will Be Blood. I think it has to do with the fact I find both movie kind of depressing. I like a lot of dark movies, but these two just get to me.
post #36 of 48
I don't have much new to add, just a great, great movie with some of best dialogue I've seen in a movie. I'll echo the love for the score too.

Apparently the guy who played Nathan Arizona in Raising Arizona was all set to play Leo, but died right before production and the Cohen's had to scramble to get Albert Finney. It'd be neat to have seen that, but you can't complain about Finney's performance one bit.
post #37 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin Macken View Post
....you can't complain about Finney's performance one bit.
Heck, I have a tough time imagining anyone else in the role of Leo, when you get down to it.
post #38 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin Macken View Post
I don't have much new to add, just a great, great movie with some of best dialogue I've seen in a movie. I'll echo the love for the score too.
This cannot be stressed enough in my opinion. Watched it again a few weeks ago and holy shit the Coens have a way with words. Much like most of their other films this gets better every time I see it.
post #39 of 48


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alan "Nordling" Cerny View Post

Or the relationship between Shmatta, Mink, and the Dane.

I didn't realize that "schmatta" wasn't really Bernie's name while watching it. It's Yiddish for "rag".

 

I also didn't pick up on the possible homosexual subtext with the trio. Not until Barry Sonnenfeld mentions (in an interview on the dvd) John Turturro thanking him for the inspiration for his gay Jewish character. Sonnenfeld (according to his marriage) is not gay however.

 

Learned a bunch of period slang from this beautifully crafted flick. Got a kick watching Sam Raimi get gunned down on the street.

 

Great great film. Would play well in a double feature with ROUNDERS (loyalty, bad habits, JT) or LAST MAN STANDING (mob meets Yojimbo) I think.

post #40 of 48

Just picked up the blu ray of the film - fuck I've waited ages for this movie on blu - and am looking forward to sitting down with it as soon as humanly possible. A glass of Scotch or several may also be involved. I can't pick a favourite Coens film, but if you put a gun to my head this one would definitely be up there. Maybe top three. Or top two...

post #41 of 48

How is there not a Coen Brothers Appreciation mega-thread around here by now?

 

This film is the cinematic equivilant of a really fine wine. It needs to be sipped at, appreciated, returned to to see how well its aged.

 

It's a true, fine vintage of a movie.

post #42 of 48

This is the Coen's at their most elegant, can't say it's my favorite or their best but it's certainly their most epic and sweeping film.

post #43 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Rain Dog View Post

How is there not a Coen Brothers Appreciation mega-thread around here by now?

 

 

I think the proper approach for the Coens' is for their best movies to all have mega-threads. 

post #44 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by DARKMITE8 View Post


 

I didn't realize that "schmatta" wasn't really Bernie's name while watching it. It's Yiddish for "rag".

 

I remember learning somewhere that "schmatta" (sp?) is a Jewish term for a tailor - probably a slam on Benny being a clothes-horse. 

post #45 of 48
post #46 of 48

Ok, the SECRET to this AWESOME film is quite simple, and resolves all the weird questions about both about Tom and the strange elements of the plot - such as the homosexuality.  The whole purpose of the homosexual love triangle is meant to clue us onto the final scene, which resolves ALL unanswered questions. 

 

The ENTIRE FILM IS ABOUT TOM COMING TO TERMS WITH THE FACT THAT HE IS GAY AND IS IN LOVE WITH LEO. 

 

That's the secret to the entire film. 

 

I know, you will rant and rail and squirm, but all you have to do is watch it ONE TIME again with an open mind, and watch that last scene closely and it explains ALL of Tom's actions and strange "unexplained" dialogue - as well as his strange choices.  

 

I can go into it in detail, and have with several people, but once I tell people this, then get them to watch it again one time through, holding this in mind.  It's the only interpretation in which all the loose pieces fall into place, and really brings the heart-wrenching final scene into gut wrenching focus.  

 

It's a darn LOVE STORY!  

post #47 of 48

I don't really agree with this interpretation at all, but holy shit how great is Miller's Crossing?

post #48 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phillip Taylor View Post
 

 

 

The ENTIRE FILM IS ABOUT TOM COMING TO TERMS WITH THE FACT THAT HE IS GAY AND IS IN LOVE WITH LEO. 

 

No, I would say it is more about friendship.  Tom is viewed as playing the angles to turn everything to his advantage, but in reality, everything he is doing in the movie is, ultimately, to help Leo...his stubborn friend, blinded by love.

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