Review: “No Country for Old Men”

No Country for Old Men is the best movie I’ve seen from the Coen Brothers. Naturally, it’s about a psychotic killer with a high-pressure air gun looking for stolen money, and another guy who stole the money running from the guy with the air gun.

I normally don’t care much for the way the Coen Brothers use lethal violence in their movies, but in this case it’s fascinating and compelling because it’s so cinematic. It’s a pleasure to watch the craftsmanship that goes into it. And it’s not all for show. The images and the subtle details work together to create a story and a weird reality that takes you for a ride and leaves you thinking, “What the hell was that?” It’s a crime drama, a thriller, a comedy and a morality tale, and it’s entertaining. (A detailed analysis and discussion of the film on Jim Emerson’s Blog.)

Books I Read Recently

No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy 8 out of 10 stars (8/10)
Engrossing, well-written novel about a sheriff tracking down a killer who’s after someone that stumbled on some drug money in the middle of a desert. I wouldn’t want to see the well-reviewed movie if it portrays the violence in the book.

Rollback by Robert J. Sawyer 7 out of 10 stars (7/10)
A science-fiction novel that won the Hugo and Nebula Awards. As I’ve written before, Sawyer comes up with brilliant ideas, but his mainstream writing style is boring, plus he fills his books with too many popular cultural references; I got tired of coming across them. Still, I couldn’t put the damn thing down.

A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle 4 out of 10 stars (4/10)
Another Canadian (Sawyer above is one), Oprah popularized this. I couldn’t get past the first 50 pages. Mumbo-jumbo garbage about living one’s potential in society, trying to acheive personal fulfillment. Someone told me to just read Chapter Four, but I haven’t; what I read turned me off completely.

Books I’ve Read Recently

  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy 9 out of 10 stars (9/10)
    Yes, this is an Oprah pick, but I read that it had a science-fiction element to it, and it was cheap (at Costco). It’s a depressing novel about a father and son wandering America after civilization has been destroyed. It’s violent, touching, and memorable. The author doesn’t follow the rules of grammar for the most part, helping to set the somber tone and chaos that the characters live in. I recommend it as a horror story – not something to read to the kids at bedtime, although there’s some tenderness there, too.
  • Lullabies For Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill 7 out of 10 stars (7/10)
    This won the 2007 CBC Radio Canada Reads contest, which means little since the books are selected from five Canadian celebrities; however, the books they pick from ARE often good, including this one. It’s about a 13 year old girl growing up in a city with a dad who’s a drug addict. The story isn’t as depressing as The Road (above), but it’s close. The girl is smart, having quirks and observations that make her see happiness in awful situations. It’s an interesting portrayal of poverty and street life in a big city, with some hope in the end that things can work out well. Nicely written with lots of well-phrased passages. I would recommend it if you don’t mind reading about the gritty life of prostitution, poverty, and addicts.
  • The Kings of New York: A Year Among the Geeks, Oddballs, and Genuises Who Make Up America’s Top High School Chess Team by Micheal Weinreb 7 out of 10 stars (7/10)
    I think this non-fiction has a selective audience: those who participated in chess tournaments and were in a school chess club, which is why it piqued my interest (my Dad gave it to me). This is a well-written account of people who live chess and who just play the game as a hobby in school. You get to know the players. It chronicles a year of a famous high school chess club based in New York city; how the school recruits top players; who the players are outside of chess and why they play; and the unique world of chess tournaments. Recommended only if you were in a school chess club.