film... and fiction: No Country for Old Men

No Home Here:
An Unashamedly Obsessed Review of
No Country for Old Men

Despite all the recent accolades and the prophesied sweep in the awards, there are not enough great things to say about Ethan and Joel Coen brother's film adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy novel - No Country for Old Men. Ever the avid fan of anything resembling existential cinema, I fell in love with this film the first time I saw it, which was alone in a multiplex theater on New Year's Day at 10pm. It was nearly a moment of personal, existential crisis. And finding that I couldn't escape the narrative world of the film in my thoughts, I took up the book and read.

The filmmakers are quick to point out that the critics recognize this film as one of the truest, most appropriate and altogether closest adaptations of a book for the big screen. They are not wrong to boast about this. The stark and austere visual palette of the film matches so carefully the terse and matter-of-fact nature of McCarthy's fiction. This is a story that could only go down in south Texas; dusty, barren chaparral and all.

Without spoiling any of the bitter tragedy and languid terror of the plot, I have to say that a narrative like this might be the best Christians can hope for in a film. Reminding us that life is often darkly senseless and full of remorse, we might recall the reason we first grasped at hope and found ourselves just looking for a way out. In the face of a nameless evil, what is the sum of all your life and longing? Maybe the great benefit of this story is its aid in helping us remember the questions, once again or perhaps for the first time.

My simple word to you is: See this film. Read this novel. If you need any convincing, consider the scene below. How many deals with the devil do we make each day?

Read a NY Times interview with Cormac McCarthy.
(Online subscription required, but it's free.)


music... Joe Garner's 'Mourning Birds' EP

Introducing Tennessee artist - Joe Garner and his first EP - Mourning Birds...

Joe Garner - Bury the Hatchet (mp3)

Joe Garner - June and God (mp3)

Recorded at a mountain studio in east Tennessee and released independently, Garner's is a sound definitely grown from the ground. Earthy, honest and plaintive; Mourning Birds beckons back to the folk ballads of a simpler time and at the same time casts a shadow of unease on its own mirth. Compiled with a handful of friends giving sparse and simple accompaniment to his guitar, Garner's first effort includes six tracks that display the enigmatic range of moods that make this burgeoning songwriter and storyteller a haunted soul not soon forgotten.

Songs like 'Bury the Hatchet' and 'June and God' usher the listener into the quiet moments of human longing and the subterranean rage that either break our spirits or make us whole. These stories of squandered love and utter desperation place us as near voyeurs in the midst of lives unraveling and eroding before us. Idiosyncratic yet empathic, the images conjured up by Garner's characters evoke a time and place hauntingly too near. Other songs, like 'They're All Gone', move hesitantly out from the shadows. In his way, Garner captures a glimpse of hope's somber release, the silent joy of discovering that some of life's darker doubts and questions cannot be answered, not yet. For now, let's sit and listen.

Son to a life-long and road-weary Country 'n' Western picker, Garner comes by his music honest. While not too concerned with slaying the forefathers of his genre or recreating the wagon wheel, Joe Garner has been able to move in and inhabit the best sensibilities of a songwriting once known as Country Music, but upon its exit from the country now labeled 'Roots'. May his roots grow deeper; we'll sit and listen.

Visit Joe Garner Music.