Monday, September 13, 2010

Movie Monday: O Brother Where Art Thou

O Brother Where Art Thou, 2000. Starring George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson, John Goodman, (Director: Joel & Ethan Coen)

Loosely based on Homer's 'Odyssey' the movie deals with the grotesque adventures of Everett Ulysses McGill and his companions Delmar and Pete in 1930s Mississipi. Sprung from a chain gang and trying to reach Everetts home to recover the buried loot of a bank heist they are confronted by a series of strange characters. Among them sirens, a cyclops, bankrobber George 'Babyface' Nelson (very annoyed by that nickname), a campaigning Governor, his opponent, a KKK lynch mob, and a blind prophet, who warns the trio that "the treasure you seek shall not be the treasure you find."
 Written by Armin Ortmann

Trivia & Scenes!!

The American Humane Association, an organization that protects animal rights, mistook a computer-generated cow in the movie for a real animal and demanded proof before they would allow the use of their famous disclaimer, "No animals were harmed in the making of this motion picture." After seeing a demonstration at Digital Domain of how the cow was created, the Humane Association added the now-familiar (but then much rarer) "Scenes which may appear to place an animal in jeopardy were simulated."

The bluegrass trio, The Peasall Sisters, provided the singing voices for George Clooney's daughters, the Wharvey Girls, but didn't appear in the film. They were told they didn't look pitiful enough to get the part (according to their documentary, The Peasall Sisters: Family Harmony (2005)).

Although Homer is given a co-writing credit on the film, the Coen Brothers claim never to have read The Odyssey and are familiar with it only through cultural osmosis and film adaptations.

The character of Sheriff Cooley fits Tommy Johnson's description of the Devil exactly: "He's white, as white as you folks, with empty eyes and a big hollow voice. He likes to travel around with a mean old hound."

 The character of Pappy O'Daniel is based on W. Lee (Pappy) O'Daniel who served as Governor of Texas (not Mississippi) from 1938-1942 and later as U.S. Senator. He was a flour baron with a radio show and sang with the Light Crust Doughboys. He was famous for refusing to vote in protest of the poll tax

The historical Baby Face Nelson was a gangster named Lester M. Gillis (a.k.a. George Nelson, "Big George" Nelson, Lester Giles, Alex Gillis, etc.) who was known for his hot temper and itchy trigger finger. He was killed in Barrington, Illinois, in November of 1934 - three years before the setting of the film.

The film soundtrack's official website ran a trivia contest to promote the film, giving winners canisters of Dapper Dan pomade.

The film's soundtrack became an unlikely blockbuster, even surpassing the success of the film. By early 2001, it had sold five million copies, spawned a documentary film, three follow-up albums ("O Sister" and "O Sister 2"), two concert tours, and won Country Music Awards for Album of the Year and Single of the Year (for "Man of Constant Sorrow"). It also won five Grammys, including Album of the Year, and hit #1 on the Billboard album charts the week of March 15, 2002, 63 weeks after its release and over a year after the release of the film.

The whole concept is loosely based on author Howard Waldrop's novella, "A Dozen Tough Jobs", which recounts the labors of Hercules in a similar Mississippi setting, albeit ten years earlier. The Coen brothers tip their hat in Waldrop's direction through the name of Penny's suitor, "Waldrip".

The prisoner's musical chant from the beginning of the movie (and soundtrack) was actually an old recording of a chain-gang.

George Clooney practiced his singing for weeks, but in the end his singing voice was dubbed by country blues singer Dan Tyminski.

The character of Tommy Johnson is based on famed blues guitarist of the same name who, according to folk legend, sold his soul to the Devil at the crossroads in exchange for his prodigious talent. Robert Johnson, another bluesman and a contemporary of Tommy's (but no relation), borrowed the legend and wrote a song about it (and so the soul-selling legend was subsequently, wrongly, attributed to Robert Johnson).

The song "You Are My Sunshine" used as Governor Pappy O'Daniel's theme song was the theme song of Louisiana's "Singing Governor" Jimmie Davis. It was made one of Louisiana's official state songs in 1977

George Clooney's character is named Ulysses Everett McGill. Ulysses is the Latin form of Odysseys, hero of The Odyssey, on which this story is loosely modeled. The rest of his name may be in reference to actor Everett McGill. McGill appeared in Dune (1984), opposite George Clooney's uncle, José Ferrer.

Tim Blake Nelson's actual singing voice is heard during "In The Jailhouse Now".

 At the end, Everett's line, "Finding one little ring, in the middle of all that water, is one heck of a heroic task," is a reference to the legend of Theseus, who had to find a golden ring at the bottom of the ocean to prove he was the son of Poseidon