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Throughout an illustrious career Coen brothers Ethan and Joel have crafted some very outstanding and gripping movies as writers and directors.

Humorous movies, such as Raising Arizona, The Big Lebowski; Intolerable Cruelty, and the allegorical O Brother, Where Art Thou? based on Homer's Odyssey, both featuring George Clooney in two of his best roles. Gripping and more serious movies include Millers Crossing, Blood Simple, Fargo, and No Country for Old Men.

In so doing they have received numerous nominations and won 5 Academy Awards for Best Director, Writing and Picture for No Country, and Best Director and Writing for Fargo. Actors working with them have won Academy Awards: Frances McDormand for Fargo, and Javier Bardem for No Country. Frances is married to Joel Coen.

A Serious Man marks a continuation, a departure, and a progression in their work.

In No Country, thematically, people died randomly, and suddenly, and as a friend remarked. 'they never saw it coming.' Sometimes neither did we. People spoke of a nihilistic philosophy underpinning the movie.

Nihilism proposes that life and events have no inherent meaning or purpose, no rhyme or reason. In a contrasting philosophy when someone dies one might say that's karma, or they got what they deserved, or in the greater scheme of things, it makes sense.

It's 1967, midwest suburbia. Larry Blotnick, physics professor, up for tenure, has it all figured out or so he thinks, then things happen which make him search for meaning and answers. His blackboard is filled with formulas. Shrodingers Cat can be reduced to a formula, but he admits he does not understand the story. A failing student understands the cat, but not the math.

Anonymous letters threaten Larry's tenure bid. Blackmail, bribery, Sy Ableman happen, and throw him into crisis. No formula, no uncertainty principle, can explain what's happening. Larry is immediately recognisable as the everyman protagonist. If you're like me you recognise yourself as having walked in those shoes, and yet it's all done with humor, and you will root for this guy.

You hope that he gets it on with the attractive nude sunbathing female neighbor. His quest for answers take him to three different rabbis, with three different responses, and maybe Jefferson Airplane has the answers, and maybe there is no answer, maybe there is no point, and maybe you need to 'accept the mystery.'

I predict that you will scratch your head and wonder about the first scene, and how it relates to the rest of the movie. I don't know. Maybe there is no point, and that's the point.

Even though on the surface it may not be as universally appealing as No Country, if you look a little deeper it may be the most universally relevant movie they have done.

I hope this was helfpul.
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I watched A Serious Man and all the accompanying bonus features last night. Fans of the Joel and Ethan Cohen will love this one. I think the thing that I enjoyed the most about it was that I was not familiar with a single one of these actors before. When I watched it, I was able to immerse myself in 1967 and these characters, and believe they were real. Amazing performances by Michael Stuhlbarg et. al. didn't hurt.

A Serious Man is a film about Larry Gopnik, a Jewish man who realizes one day that his life seems to be falling apart. His brother is sleeping on the family's couch and constantly nursing a monstrous (presumably, we never see it) cyst on his neck. His wife is leaving him for a friend of his. His son is smoking pot and signed up for the Columbia Record Club (remember that?) under his name. His daughter is always either washing her hair or out with her friends. Within this setting, innumerable irritants and stumbling blocks fall in his way, usually within the same scene. Jefferson Airplane are the background music to a heap of problems he finds himself in.

All that Larry wants is to make something of his life, and become "a serious man". Confusing advice from Rabbis, a neighbor who seems to tease him by sunbathing topless, a South Korean student offering him bribes, a neighbor encroaching on the property line, and his own faith seem to taunt him at every turn. It's not a complex story, it is character driven, comedic, dramatic and nostalgic all at once. In other words, typical Coen fare.

As is par for the course with Coen films, special features are sparse. There is a brief bit explaining all the Jewish terminology in the film done as entertainingly as possible. There's a great feature on how they made the neighborhood look exactly like 1967, and how they got the cars, costumes and locations. Finally there is a feature with the Coens and actors on the film itself, what it means, and what inspired it.

I particularly enjoyed the short story the opened the movie, some made-up Jewish folklore that the Coens came up with. It is unrelated to the rest of the movie, but is designed to act something like an opening cartoon which used to open movies in the 60's.

Enjoy. 5 stars. I hope it wins Best Picture.
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on March 14, 2015
Here is a movie that is gently hilarious (if that even be conceivable!) but in a loving and usually quite tenderly understated manner. In 1967 the father, Larry, of a middle class Jewish Midwestern (Minneapolis area) family, is an earnest man whom misfortune besets, often to considerable financial as well as personal worry, in terrible but cinematically humourous ways. His run of bad luck sets in at the movie's outset when Larry's wife Judith demands a ritual divorce to marry anew, to his frumpish colleague Sy, who is reputed to be "a serious man" ("really?" the viewer cannot help but to ask himself), but who has been "cattin' around" with Judith. Further along, among much, much else, occurs Larry's son Danny's bar mitzvah, in which the 13 year-old boy participates, in a dazed stupor, while "stoned" on marijuana. So it goes, through a miscellany of merriment (for the viewer, not for Larry) throughout this motion picture, right the very end (as the ever-earnest husband and father is informed that he just may have some dreadful ailment, the nature of which the film does not reveal as it draws thereupon to a very "up-in-the-air" conclusion. Larry's problems are, variously, marital and familial, professional, legal, financial, at times riotously physical, and so on -- and on. Well, at least things never are quite so awful as they are in the nightmares that plague Larry's sleep!

Nothing much of any of this resolves itself. What goes on in the film is to pile one peculiar incongruity upon more of the same for the entire length of it. I suppose that many viewers will find the movie baffling or mystifying. Certainly, it helps to be some kind of, or at least to be some degree of, Jewish to understand all of this, or otherwise to have other familiarity with Jewish culture and folkways. In my own case, I can say that it is partly due to the "mischling" nature of the step-family in which I grew up, exceedingly repressed partly-Jewish Protestants, among a more extended family which, back In Thuringia, collectively had renounced Judaism in the decade or so preceding the First World War, not long before most of them would start to migrate to North America. They essentially had become (albeit spottily) Lutherans, with the edges of their forbears' renounced Jewishness often popping out in their own behaviour and conversation in the most unexpected ways and places. That background makes me feel like some sort of partial insider to all of this Yiddish madness; I also possess (and have read and listened to) a quite large amount of documentation of and about Judaica, both printed and recorded, sacred and secular (among it, much in Hebrew and in Yiddish), among my personal collecton of books and 78 r.p.m. and LP sound recordings. I was the only one in the family, either of my own or of my step-father's generations, to understand German (because I studied it at university), so only I came to realise just how much of my step-grandmother's supposedly venerable German really was laced generously with Yiddish (which is not hard, in large part, for someone knowing High German to recognise and to understand upon hearing it). Some of my step-father's cousins, mistakenly proud of their presumèdly "pure" German descent, spoke and read German in their homes and at their farms.

However, the DVD of "A Serious Man" presents one case where it is worth seeing its bonus features, not very lengthy ones but quite helpful, before viewing the film, the more so if one has little or no understanding of things Jewish. The potential viewer, however, should not worry unduly about these matters. There is so much fun along the way that anyone should be able to follow the movie's action with delight! That's enough from me, since the many other reviews on Amazon-U.S. and of Amazon-Canada go into further (and welcome) details about plot, philosophical underpinnings, and other aspects of this motion picture.
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on June 4, 2011
The movie "A Serious Man" has to be one of the funniest movies I have ever seen in my lifetime!

Professor Larry Gopnik represents the average person attempting to become a "serious man." He plays a middle class Jewish male that is going through a marital breakdown as his wife is leaving him for his best friend, someone is sabotaging his career advancement, his unemployed brother lives with him and is being investigated for criminal activity, a record of the month club finance collector is haunting him daily, a female neighbour is tempting him by sunbathing in the nude, his children are constantly at variance with each other, his son is preparing for a Bar Mitzvah and he is forced to live in a grungy neighbourhood motel with his loser brother.

In order to make sense of his misfortune, he seeks advice from three different hilarious Rabbis only to be further confused and disillusioned with his life path.

"A Serious Man" is an excellent movie and you will not regret viewing it! At times the humour is slap stick, but overall, it is extremely funny and it reminds me of the down to earth, good hearted and humorous Jews I was neighbours with, went to school with, worked with, played with and to this day are still my very close friends!

"A Serious Man" can be anyone of us, as it is based on true events that can happen to us at any time,except without the humour!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon February 28, 2010
This is the Coens' masterpiece. Obtuse, perplexing, exceedingly clever and insightful. From the perfect synchrony between the physics concepts Gopnik teaches and the form and content of the film, to the great characters and perfect acting, A Serious Man doesn't miss a beat. It follows a physics professor whose life is falling to pieces. Ironically, his decline mirrors the very concepts he teaches to his students, but he can't quite grasp the application to the real world. He focuses on the math, but doesn't understand that the principles apply to life as well. As such, he refuses to SEE the reality of his situation, the causal factors that are leading to his crises, and that his lack of objectivity in this regard is the very thing that keeps things from getting better.

At the end of the film there is a scene where Gopnik makes a choice and the consequences are immediate, as if the phone call he receives were a collapse of quantum probabilities determined by the state of him, the observer. He constantly refuses gnosis ("I don't want Santana *Abraxas*!"), sees only the chaos, and is thus at its mercy. He is slave to the law of accident, it the terms of Mouravieff's Gnosis. The dynamic is explained in depth in Laura Knight-Jadczyk's second Wave book. When everything he thought was true turned out to be a lie, then what? He did nothing, and his life was the direct result. The film is really a meditation on the truth of the Rashi quote which adorns the opening titles: "Accept with simplicity everything that happens to you."
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on July 15, 2013
"What's going on?" is the serious man's lamenting question, and he never does really find out. The Coen Brothers give us a very, very funny take on life in early 1960s Minnesota, with rock 'n' roll and marijuanna making their first appearances.
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on October 3, 2015
Wonderful specimen of existential Jewish angst: the test questions are unreasonably hard, and the answers don't make sense, but God is still gonna flunk you if you get them wrong. All you can do is shake your head and chuckle at the absurdity of it.
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on June 7, 2010
A Serious Man
Not being remotely Jewish was no problematic deterrent to enjoying this flick. It was darkly funny & poignant. The Cohen brothers do produce some strange & marvelous films. I really like this film & would recommend it to all 'Cohen Brothers' fans.
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on February 20, 2016
One of my favourite movies!
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on August 3, 2014
worst. movie. ever. absolute garbage, not remotely funny, characters are boring, story goes nowhere, waste of time/money
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