'No Country for Old Men': mysteries dispelled (?)

Nocountry_lHow did the Coen brothers make the critically acclaimed film No Country for Old Men, nominated for an impressive eight Oscars, including Best Picture? Though the brothers can be notoriously opaque when answering questions about their art, the Coens, along with key members of their crew, attempted to enlighten 300 guild members at a recent Q&A panel held at Hollywood’s Harmony Gold theater. (Such panels are a common Oscar season occurrence in Hollywood.) Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation) moderated the discussion, along with No Country cinematographer Roger Deakins, sound editor Skip Lievsay, sound designer Craig Berkey, re-recording mixer Greg Orloff, sound mixer Peter Kurland, and production designer Jess Gonchor.

Two hours into the panel, I still had many questions for the Coens. (One can only hope they record a DVD commentary track.) I did, however, learn that…

• The Coens storyboard every shot of their films, but when it comes time to shoot, they often throw the storyboards out.
• Throughout the shoot in Texas and New Mexico, Deakins hoped it wouldn’t rain because he cherished the drab, brown color of the parched soil. As luck would have it, it never rained.
• The Coens shot only 250,000 feet of film. Most directors shoot three or four times that amount.
• Carter Burwell’s score is only 16 minutes long, and the majority of it is heard during the end credits.
• Jonze asked the Coens if they were as calm on the set as they were at this Q&A. "Yes, it approaches catatonia," Joel Coen jokingly replied.
• Tommy Lee Jones’ voice-over narration was recorded on set instead of in post-production, so that it would be easier for him to remain in character.
• The U.S.-Mexico border station was actually built by a production design team in New Mexico, a few hundred miles north of the actual border. That didn’t stop some locals from mistaking it for the real thing.

addCredit(“No Country for Old Men: Richard Foreman”)

A side benefit of attending the panel: a few causally overheard conversationsfrom some of the guild members. I’m betting that a fair number of themare Oscar voters, and that these conversations could be an invaluableglimpse as to who wins — and who loses — on February 24th.

Guy No. 1: What did you think of Juno being nominated for Best Picture?
Guy No. 2: Don’t know. Haven’t seen it.
Guy No. 1: It’s a lot like the movie with the yellow bus in it.

And:

Guy No. 3: What was with There Will Be Blood? The music would start rising and yet there was nothing happening on the screen!
Guy No. 4: Yeah, who did the score?
Guy No. 3: Jonny… Greenwood?
Guy No. 4: That doesn’t even sound like a real name.
Guy No. 3: I know! That movie must have got in by only one or two votes.

If I had a vote, I’d cast it for There Will Be Blood. What aboutyou, PopWatchers: Which of the nominees would get your vote for Best Picture? And if you had five minutes alone with the Coen brothers, whatwould you ask them?

Comments (108 total) Add your comment
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  • RightNextToMarsDotCom

    My vote would definitely be for There Will Be Blood, although I loved Michael Clayton, too.
    One question for the Coen Brothers: Do you even need to talk with each other anymore to make a decision or do you pretty much share a common brain?

  • RightNextToMarsDotCom

    My vote would definitely be for There Will Be Blood, although I loved Michael Clayton, too.
    One question for the Coen Brothers: Do you even need to talk with each other anymore to make a decision or do you pretty much always know what the other’s thinking by now?

  • Jason

    If those last comments from guild members are for real, it’s no wonder the Oscars are a joke. Shouldn’t only people who are passionate about films and understand film language be allowed to vote?

  • Sally in Chicago

    Sorry those were not mysteries dispelled and the title is misleading. Mysteries I would like dispelled are:
    1) What was with the ending where Bardem gets in a car crash and walks away?
    2) The editing was so quick between the time that Brolin’s character died and his wife’s mom died and the wife allegedly died I couldn’t tell if any of them were dead.
    3) Who were all those Mexicans and how did they find everybody? Did they too have gps devices? How many gps devices were there to track people?

  • Oscar watcher

    Sally -
    The Mexicans found them so quickly because the mother told them where they were going to be.
    I would vote for Atonement or Juno for best picture. No Country is good but needs a real ending. Haven’t seen There will be Blood but will in a couple of days and understand it is very bleak but awesome so may change my mind.

  • Nose

    I’ve heard people complain and complain about the lack of ending in No Country For Old Men. Isn’t this because the novel ended the same way? I mean, they couldn’t just tack on a sappy ending where everything was tied up in a neat package if they wanted to stay true to the story.
    It’s all open to interpretation, but I just came away with the feeling that sometimes evil does triumph over good. Sucks, but it’s true.

  • Cliff

    I’d vote for No Country for Old Men. I’d still nominate There Will be Blood, though, alongside Gone Baby Gone, The Savages and Zodiac.

  • GOB

    Sally: maybe you need to watch the movie again. Pay more attention. The scene at the end was a continuation of the themes the entire movie set up… sometimes, fate and luck favor the bad guy… sometimes good people with good intentions get the short end of the stick… sometimes, the bad guy does win

  • Jeanne

    My vote would be for No Country For Old Men. The ending didn’t bother me at all, in fact I loved that they didn’t feel the need to tack on a typical neatly-wrapped Hollywood ending.
    I’d have to agree with the guild members about Jonny Greenwood’s score for There Will Be Blood, it bugged the hell out of me.

  • Rachel K

    Of the five nominees I’d give it to No Country for Old Men. I really enjoyed Juno but nothing got to me more than the Coen brother’s masterpiece. However, if Sweeney Todd had been nominated for Best Film I may have given my vote to it. That was such an outstanding and mind-blowing piece of cinematic work.

  • Chris G

    I am I the only one who actually loved the ending to No Country? It wouldn’t have worked any other way. The movie really works because of the ending… i mean how great is it that all we can talk about is that slap to the face conclusion?

  • Sarah

    Atonement, hands down.

  • Anna

    The ending to No Country DID bother me. Not because of the message it sent (I’m a big fan of movies dont’t have sappy ending where everything was tied up in a neat package – Sweeney Todd is a recent example).
    I didn’t like the speech at the end by Tommy Lee Jones. I found myself bored halfway through it and all of a sudden the movie ended. Obviously I missed out on important dialogue, but there was no sign that the speech was a “this is the ending” kinda speech. I was thrown off. Although I felt a lot of aspects of the movie were excellent (direction, acting, etc), I didn’t enjoy the movie as a whole. I believe I am in the minority with that opinion. Anyway, my vote would be for There Will Be Blood. Followed by Michael Clayton.

  • amystars

    There is no question that I would vote for No Country for Old Men. The film ends in exactly the way the book ends, with a satisfying reflection on good and evil. No, it’s not the pretty little package we are so used to, and the movie is way better for it.

  • darren

    I would also vote for There Will Be Blood. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I saw it. I also loved No Country and would not be upset if it won. If Michael Clayton wins however, then there really will be blood.

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