Edwards University Town Center 6 is billing itself as Coen Brothers Central this week as the Irvine theater will have two prints of the new film Burn After Reading when it opens Friday. Advance tickets are on sale now, and it's a sure bet University will have no trouble filling seats considering writer/director brothers Joel and Ethan had developed a legion of hardcore fans long before No Country for Old Men won the last best picture Oscar. But that isn't stopping the theater from churning out excitement like fleshy pellets flying out of a woodchipper.
Everyone's invited to show up at a “Salute to the Coen Brothers' World of Curious Characters Costume Contest – Trivia Contest” immediately before Friday's 10 p.m. screening dressed up as their favorite character from any Coen movie. Winners will be chosen, and prizes will be doled out. The theater is in the University Town Center at 4245 Campus Drive, Irvine, right across the street from UCI. The idea of the contest got Clockwork to thinking of its favorite Coen characters, based solely on the uniqueness of their looks and not on, say, Clockwork's desire to someday grow up to be The Dude, abiding and shit. Here they are in order:
1. Jesus Quintana in The Big Lebowski. Perhaps the most stylish child pederast in the long history of cinema, Quintana stays in your mind long after the end credits roll. And yet, John Turturro's brilliantly rendered character only appears on screen for a few minutes here and there. Some will credit that wild dance he does after bowling a strike. Clockwork tends to think it's the tight pants.
2. Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men. The compressed air tank-toting baddy became an instant pop culture phenomenon thanks to the menace oozing from Javier Bardem even when he's not spilling blood across the screen. Some will credit the serial-killer eyes. Clockwork tends to think it's the haircut.
3. (TIE) Walter Sobchak in The Big Lebowski, Big Dan Teague in O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Charlie Meadows in Barton Fink. You want baddies? It seemed for a bit that the Coens could not make a movie without at least one horrific scene per picture where John Goodman's character beats the living shit out of someone. Plus-size guys should have no trouble re-creating any of these so long as they get down Big John's same smug look of accomplishment after he sets a floor of the Hotel Earle ablaze and clobbers Everett and Delmar with a tree branch.
4. The Dude in The Big Lebowski. Yes, the best character Jeff Bridges ever played rates this high not only because of the most casual California look ever put on screen but also because of a shared affinity for Dylan, bowling, Thai stick, chronic unemployment and just the right rug to tie in the room.
5. Marge Gunderson in Fargo. Police Chief Gunderson's uniform will be all the easier to accomplish as long as there's a uniform store and REI within close proximity to one another. Then it's on to practicing Frances McDormand's pitch perfect reading of “And I guess that was your accomplice in the wood chipper,” one of the classic movie lines of the 1990s. It's been noted that Marge was one of the few likable characters in the Coen oeuvre. That she's also one of only two chicks on this list says something about the Coens, Clockwork or both.
6. Leonard Smalls in Raising Arizona. From the moment Randall “Tex” Cobb appears on screen offering to find one of the snatched Arizona Quints, it's obvious that what had until then been a fairly light comedic romp has now taken a dark Coen turn. Dwarfing his chopper like someone (or some thing) out of Road Warrior certainly gives one the instant willies.
7. (TIE) Waring Hudsucker in The Hudsucker Proxy and Pappy O'Daniel in O Brother, Where Art Thou? Like he does in every acting gig, Charles Durning disappears in his roles as Hudsucker's suicidal tycoon and O Brother's swampy politician. Again, the Big and Tall Guy's set should have no problem finding a Southern gentleman's outfit that's roomy enough to afford a little jig alongside The Soggy Bottom Boys or an angel outfit fit for singing the same song Waring did in Hudsucker and Gale and Evelle sang after they'd kidnapped Nathan Jr. in Raising Arizona.
8. Barton Fink in Barton Fink. John Turturro's character will be the easiest one to re-create for a costume contest. Simply go to your neighborhood costume shop and rent their Harold Lloyd costume.
9. Amy Archer in The Hudsucker Proxy. Another simple costume: go to a thrift store and find any standard matching 1940s' style working girl outfit, then bring it alive with the Barbara Stanwyck-style delivery Jennifer Jason Leigh channeled as she said lines like, “Is this guy from Chumpsville or what?” and “This is a face only a mother could love. On pay day.”
10. Jerome “Jerry” Lundegaard in Fargo. It'd be hard to find a costume that would scream William H. Macy. Just a standard suit you'd find off a rack where befuddled North Dakota car dealers shop, one supposes. Again, it'll come down to re-creating a familiar line and repeating it over and over with the same rapid-fire, upper-Midwest tinge: “The heck do ya mean?”
Honorable mention (with the actor in parenthesis): Marilyn in Intolerable Cruelty (Catherine Zeta-Jones); Professor G.H. Dorr in The Ladykillers (Tom Hanks); Loren Visser in Blood Simple (M. Emmet Walsh); Ed Crane in The Man Who Wasn't There (Billy Bob Thorton); Jeffrey Lebowski, the Big Lebowski of The Big Lebowski (David Huddleston); Johnny Caspar in Miller's Crossing (John Polito).