“Hail Caesar!” (2016) scr./dir. The Coen Brothers

Just saw “Hail Caesar!” … Absolutely loved it!   If the Coen Brothers’ brilliant, but ultra-bleak 2009 film “A Serious Man” was about an absent, or indifferent God, “Hail Caesar!” concerns the opposite.  Easily their sunniest, most upbeat film …  “Caesar” could be the first Coen Brothers film that could be screened in churches.  Of course, it won’t be, because it’s the Coen Brothers and it’s highly irreverent, off-kilter, and weird.  But … it’s the first film in their 32-year filmography that indicates their hearts are not as black as they’ve always implied.  I’m a religious skeptic these days, but if there is a God, you could do a lot worse than Josh Brolin’s Eddie Mannix character.  Trust me, this is a VERY deep film if you analyze it, but it’s done with such a light, goofy touch, it’s incredibly entertaining and fun even if you don’t dig deeper.   There’s even some affectionate digs at Hollywood liberalism gone amok … with George Clooney front and center gleefully sending himself up.   Critics and audiences have been lukewarm about “Caesar,” but you need to remember that “The Big Lebowski” had the same reaction when it first came out and is now one of the Coen’s most beloved films.  Mark my words, “Caesar” is one for the ages.

“Out of Sight” (1998) dir. Steve Soderbergh

A lot of people consider director Steve Soderbergh’s comeback to be the double-punch of “Erin Brockovich” and “Traffic” in 2000.  I would argue his real comeback came with 1998’s “Out of Sight,” one of the best films of the 1990s and one of the best crime + comedy films ever made.

Based on Elmore Leonard’s stellar novel, Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Frank took Tarantino’s corrosive and winning mix of black comedy and violence and finessed it into a fine jewel of a film.  Probably the most ingenious thing Frank and Soderbergh did was take Leonard’s extremely tense and grim finale and turn it into high comedy, while not changing a single event from the original narrative.  Seriously, this is pure genius, considering how grim Leondard’s original finale was.  George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez have never been better.  Don Cheadle, Albert Brooks, Luiz Guzman, Ving Rhames, Steve Zahn, Dennis Farina, and Michael Keaton all provide fantastic supporting performances.

If you’re in a rotten mood, please do yourself a favor and see “Out of Sight.”  There’s a good reason the National Society of Film Critics (America’s most prestigious critics awards) voted this Best Picture of 1998 (over “Saving Private Ryan” and “Shakespeare in Love”).   It’s seriously that f–king good!!