Well, I was wrong, and I’m happy to admit it: My original review of “No Country For Old Men” on DVD said that a Special Edition likely wasn’t in the works, given the history of sparse extras on Coen brothers DVDs. But my magic 8-ball was cloudy. I never mind ‘fessing up when I’ve erred, and in this case I’m thrilled because we finally have a feature-packed Coen brothers DVD.
And boy is this one ever packed. Disc One is the same platter released last year (there’s a mail-in rebate for folks who bought it and want to upgrade to this new version), so click over to my earlier review to learn more about it and what I thought of the film. The short version: Great movie, but there’s no commentary and we only get a trio of featurettes that merely scratch the surface of the making of this film. That’s pretty much standard fare for a Coen brothers DVD.
Disc Two of this new edition, however, is overflowing with materials; I guess a Best Picture Oscar will do that to a DVD’s budget. It leads off with Josh Brolin’s 10-minute “unauthorized” behind-the-scenes featurette. The basic premise is: The Coens were dicks and I’m going to get people to say so on film. I’ll even trick Javier Bardem into thinking the camera is off so he’ll bare all to me. It’s all in good fun, of course, since, as we all saw in the “Working with the Coens” featurette on Disc One, the brothers are the best “two-headed” director. Ever. They remind me a lot of Woody Allen, in the sense that they’re prolific auteurs who play by their own rules and who have many Hollywood stars hoping to work with them.
After Brolin has his fun, there’s a publicity timeline to work your way through. You may want to do so chronologically or click around and check out the stuff that interests you the most first. I went the latter route, but my brain tends to be wired like that anyway. I don’t even read newspaper comics in any particular order.
To make this easy, though, let’s go through these from the top, beginning in October 2007:
Lunch with David Poland: a 26-minute interview with Brolin and Bardem. Poland is a columnist with the web site Movie City News.
Los Angeles Writers Guild of America West Q&A: 24 minutes with the Coens and the main cast members.
Variety Q&A: Three minutes with the three main cast members.
EW.com: A 13-minute interview with Bardem.
Creative Screenwriting magazine podcast: A 21-minute audio piece with the Coens.
NPR’s All Things Considered: Another audio interview: five minutes with Brolin.
ABC Popcorn with Peter Travers: 15 minutes with the three main cast members.
In-store appearance: 40 minutes with Bardem and Brolin.
Charlie Rose interview: 22 minutes with the Coens, Bardem, and Brolin.
WNBC Reel Talk with Jeffrey Lyons: 10 minutes with Brolin.
Channel 4 news: About four minutes with the Coens.
KCRW The Treatment: An audio interview by Elvis Mitchell with the Coens. 28 minutes.
NPR’s Day to Day: Another audio piece with Bardem. 6.5 minutes.
Spike Jonze Q&A: An hour with the Coens and their cinematographer, Roger Deakins.
NPR’s All Things Considered: Nearly eight minutes with Scott Rudin, who produced two movies nominated for a Best Picture Oscar that year. (The other was “There Will Be Blood.”) He was the guy who made “No Country” happen, after he read the novel and gave it to the Coens, telling them they should consider filming it.
NPR’s Weekend Edition: Five-and-a-half minutes with the Coens.
The timeline ends in February 2008, before the Oscars aired. On any of the three screens in the timeline, you can click on “Call it, friend-o” at the top, the coin will flip, and you’ll be taken to a random featurette.
By the time you’re done with this DVD, you’ll probably be tired of Bardem’s “call it, friend-o” scene at the gas station: most of the interviews use it, even the radio ones. However, there’s plenty of interesting information to glean out of the discussions – particularly the longer ones, where there’s more room to get into in-depth topics – although I wouldn’t be shocked if the Coens, the next time they’re asked how they write a script together, pull out a coin and ask, “What’s the most you’ve ever lost on a coin toss?” My favorite response was when one of them replied: “One of us holds the book open while the other sits at the computer.”
Placing the interviews in chronological order not only shows us how grueling it must be to promote a movie (imagine how many interviews didn’t get included), but it also shows an interesting progression in the angles the interviewers take, as they go from “Hey, it’s a new Coen brothers film” to “Wow, this Coen brothers film is getting an interesting reaction” to “Well, ‘No Country For Old Men’ was nominated for eight Oscars. How will it do?”
Unfortunately, novelist Cormac McCarthy is nowhere to be found, although as far as I’ve learned, he’s a pretty reclusive guy who didn’t do his first TV interview until 2007 (with Oprah Winfrey, of all people). A fan maintains an official Cormac McCarthy web site with a forum where you can learn more about him and his work.
Finally, the third disc in this set includes a digital copy that you can transfer to your computer and place on your iPod or other portable player. That’s a better option than forcing us to buy the movie again through iTunes or making us figure out how to rip the film so we can stick it on a portable player without having to pay for it twice.