O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
January 4, 2018 4:33 AM - Subscribe

In the deep south during the 1930s, three escaped convicts search for hidden treasure while a relentless lawman pursues them.
posted by frimble (38 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
See also, The Odyssey
posted by pjern at 7:40 AM on January 4, 2018 [9 favorites]

I adore this movie.

"We thought you was a toad!"
posted by cooker girl at 8:13 AM on January 4, 2018 [12 favorites]

"Damn! We're in tight spot!"
posted by wabbittwax at 9:54 AM on January 4, 2018 [8 favorites]

Also - the soundtrack has gone onto every mobile media device I have owned since this movie came out - top-notch.
posted by jkaczor at 9:55 AM on January 4, 2018 [4 favorites]

I think of this movie pretty much every time I put product in my hair.
posted by LegallyBread at 10:21 AM on January 4, 2018 [9 favorites]

The title comes from the "serious" movie that the great comedy director (played by Joel McCrea) wanted to make in Sullivan's Travels.
posted by ubiquity at 10:31 AM on January 4, 2018 [4 favorites]

There's nothing in this life I want more than my own tin of Fop.
posted by komara at 11:06 AM on January 4, 2018 [5 favorites]

"We thought you was a toad!"

Mrs. Example and I still respond to John Turturro appearances with "DO NOT...SEEK...THE TREASURE!".
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 11:27 AM on January 4, 2018 [6 favorites]

I saw this for the first time at my parents' house, after a long drive, and dozed off about ten minutes in. I enjoyed what little I'd seen so much that the next day, on my way home, I bought it and watched it as soon as I arrived. That was a great decision, and this is a great film with a great script, great cast, great production, great soundtrack, just great.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:12 PM on January 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

This movie is so simple and yet so brilliant. I love how it mirrors The Odyssey in much the same way Strange Brew "mirrors" Hamlet.
posted by Sphinx at 12:30 PM on January 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

I spent part of an afternoon once watching this film and noting the name of every town mentioned and plotting them on a map to see if I could make sense of their journey, but unfortunately they must have been chosen more for sound than cartographic continuity.

I can say, however, that I did not have to look up the location of one city, what with it being my hometown. I think it's the only time it's ever been mentioned in cinema history.

"Judge Hobby over in Cookeville was hit by a train."
posted by komara at 12:33 PM on January 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

I loooooove this movie. It is bona fide! And the soundtrack is fantastic. When my kids were little, I used to play "Down to the River to Pray" and talk to them about the way the song was constructed. One voice, two voices, three voices, etc., and talk to them about the harmonies. It's a beautiful song. So is "I'll Fly Away" which I remember from childhood.

I remember watching the beginning of the film and trying to figure out what it was going to be about.. and then there's a line:

Say, any of you boys smithies? Or, if not smithies per se, were you otherwise trained in the metallurgic arts before straitened circumstances forced you into a life of aimless wanderin'?

Hilarious. It just takes off from there.

The entire movie is incredibly quotable:

"Them syreens did this to Pete. They loved him up and turned him into a horny toad."
"I... am the Paterfamilias!"
"You two are just dumber than a bag of hammers."
"R U N N O F T"
"Oh, George... not the livestock."
"Ob Stackles"
"They... left... his... heart! "
"And stay outta Woolworths!"
"I'm a Dapper Dan man!"
"The two of us was fixin' to fornicate!"
"Can't I count on you people?!"


There's a wonderful feature on the DVD that talks about how this film was the first to be entirely digitally color graded. This article explains:
In the early days of cinema, color grading (that is, the adjusting of a film's relative color levels) was accomplished through film emulsion alchemy. By the time CRT displays became widespread, movie makers had begun relying on telecine devices to adjust and edit the color levels on a roll of film stock. White light shown through the film negative strikes a prism, which separates the light into its component red, green, and blue lights,which then strike a charge-coupled device. This CCD converts the incoming light levels into electrical signals that are used by the telecine device to modulate a video signal that can be color-graded before being transcribed back to film.

However, in the mid-1980s, digital color grading systems began to appear. Rather than converting an analog medium (film) to another analog medium (the telecine output)—adjusting the colors, then converting back to the original analog medium—these devices instead leveraged a digital intermediary for the editing and adjusting work. But it wasn't until the production of O Brother that an entire film employed this grading method and actually was output to a digital master copy.

posted by zarq at 12:51 PM on January 4, 2018 [5 favorites]

IndieWire: The Coen Brothers and George Clooney Uncover the Magic of ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’ at 15th Anniversary Reunion.
“We hired this guy and he came to set with a golf club and what he would do is he would look around for snakes,” added Joel. “If he saw one he would rope it with the golf club and put it in this bag. I asked him what you called somebody with this profession, and he said, ‘An idiot.'”

Switching gears, Clooney and Joel ended the discussion by talking about filming the movie’s infamous Ku Klux Klan rally. “There was a funny moment when we were shooting the Klan scene at night in Los Angeles right below Van Nuys airport. We were trying to picture what the people in the planes flying over would be thinking.”

“What we did was we hired a formation troupe — they were military guys who march,” said Joel. “A lot of those guys were black and they said, ‘This is the freakiest thing!’ The lines to the porta potties had just a bunch of guys holding Klan hoods.”

“By the craft services, table there would be a bunch of black guys with Klan hoods in their hands!” said George, who erupted into laughter and sent the audience home on a high note.

posted by zarq at 1:06 PM on January 4, 2018 [6 favorites]

This movie has magic powers. When it was in the theaters still, I'd seen it once already, and was having a really crap day one day and spontaneously asked a friend if they wanted to see it again with me later that night; he said sure. And less than an hour later - even just the knowledge that at the end of the day, I was going to be watching it again, was enough to cheer me up and break me out of my funk.

And the SOUNDTRACK. Chris Thomas King's solo arrangement of Hard Time Killing Floor Blues gets a little lost in the film, so it wasn't until listening to the soundtrack that I finally heard it properly and was floored; just him and the guitar.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:14 PM on January 4, 2018 [8 favorites]

YAY! frimble fixed the movie poster bug!
posted by jazon at 1:57 PM on January 4, 2018

"I guess I'm the only one that remains unaffiliated!"

Yeah, the soundtrack for this is great, I used to have it on CD.
posted by Query at 3:54 PM on January 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

Such a great film. "Pa always said, 'never trust a Hogwallop.'"
posted by Zonker at 4:20 PM on January 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

"I'm voting for yours truly."

Love this movie; I think I saw it three times in the theater, and the soundtrack is wonderful. I need to show it to my kid - she's old enough to appreciate the absurdities and enjoy the references to the Odyssey.

"Gopher, Everett?"
posted by mogget at 6:39 PM on January 4, 2018

It's a totally perfect movie.
posted by potrzebie at 8:00 PM on January 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

The only complaint I have about this movie is the straight line you can draw from the its pioneering digital color correcting to the continual plague of awful blue and orange color corrected movies since.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 3:24 AM on January 5, 2018 [5 favorites]

John Goodman's grifter Cyclops. So good.
posted by mumblelard at 8:32 AM on January 5, 2018 [6 favorites]

BIG! Dan!
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:55 AM on January 5, 2018

Ulysses Everett McGill: What'd the devil give you for your soul, Tommy?

Tommy Johnson: Well, he taught me to play this here guitar real good.

Delmar O'Donnell: Oh son, for that you sold your everlasting soul?

Tommy Johnson: Well, I wasn't usin' it.


Ulysses Everett McGill: I am the only daddy you got! I'm the damn paterfamilias!

Wharvey Gal: But you ain't bona fide!
I love this movie. I'd rank it up with Raising Arizona as a Coen Bros. film that's simultaneously one of the goofiest of comedies and yet possessed at the same time of a weird, proud beauty that's not quite like anything else on the screen.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:34 AM on January 5, 2018 [5 favorites]

Yes, this is a perfect movie. I love it particularly because it was shot around the town I'm from, something that rarely happens. Most movies set in Mississippi are there for the cruelty and sorrow, not the natural beauty, but this film really captures the landscape of the Delta in a rare way. My dad knew a few guys who were extras -- one of the musicians on the truckbed, IIRC. The shooting was a nine days' wonder in the town.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:09 PM on January 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Unfortunately the excellent Kreider snd White essay on this movie is behind a film quarterly paywall but it’s abstract “Beneath its broad caricatures and genre­­bending, O Brother, Where Art Thou? has an earnest, Depression­­ era agenda. Its episodic plot can be understood as a series of moral trials in which the solidarity of the poor is tested by various threats and temptations of the rich and powerful. The most crucial of these tests is put not to the film's protagonists, but to its audience: Will we see, as clearly as do the three white fugitives, that their fate is inextricably bound to that of their black brethren?”
posted by The Whelk at 11:14 PM on January 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

My partner and I call each other Everett all the time when we want each other to look at something. "'Course it's Pete. Look at 'im, Everett."
posted by goofyfoot at 9:00 PM on January 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

One of my favorite things about this movie is that there's a sizeable "Goofs" section of its IMDB page, meaning that there at at least that many people who were trying to view this film as a historical document.
posted by octothorpe at 9:05 AM on January 7, 2018 [2 favorites]

A third of a gopher would only arouse my appetite without beddin’ her back down.

This film is also a landmark in that it is the first film to be entirely digitally color-corrected in post. While it was certainly done with good reason and tastefully, it is also somewhat responsible for the ugly orange-and-teal palate we see in contemporary films.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 9:21 AM on January 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Watching on Hulu thanks to this thread. It is indeed perfect. I forgot about the "K K K" mask on the horse.

It's kind of bitterly ironic to watch the scene where a crowd shouts down a politician for being a racist. In Mississippi. In the 30's.
posted by ftm at 12:59 PM on January 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

at least that many people who were trying to view this film as a historical document.

Awful piece of crap movie. I saw those welded rail joints (in the damn 1930s??!?)and I marched right out and got my money back!
posted by Naberius at 5:23 PM on January 7, 2018 [5 favorites]

Well, ain't this place a geographical oddity. Two weeks from everywhere!
posted by entropicamericana at 6:24 PM on January 7, 2018 [9 favorites]

You might not have known, but this was, surprisingly, the first movie to be completely digitally color-graded. It looks wonderful here, but unfortunately served as the first step toward today’s sea of teal and orange Hollywood blockbusters.
posted by DoctorFedora at 8:01 PM on January 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

I seem to remember the DVD version I had having some sort of warning at the beginning that the color was intentionally wrong.
posted by octothorpe at 4:58 AM on January 8, 2018

The orange and blue color palette (for night scenes) was around long before digital color grading and is probably going to be around for a long time after. For the most part it's captured in-camera on the day it's filmed. I think it mostly stems from the fact that you've got two kinds of lights on a film set: daylight (and bulbs meant to mimic that), which tends toward the blue end of the spectrum; and tungsten lights, which tend toward the orange end of the spectrum. When they were shooting on film, you'd also have two kinds of film stock, daylight film or tungsten film and you'd choose the light to match the film and vice versa. The combination of those lights and the sensitivity of the film meant you could easily get some striking high contrast lighting effects where the dominant colors would be blue and orange and this was especially useful for night time scenes. It ends up being kind of hack-y though, because everybody learns how to do that in film school, and it really is easy to achieve. I personally put more blame on James Cameron and Michael Mann for the overuse of the cool blues in night time scenes. It's been a while since I've been anywhere near a film set though, so take this rough explanation with a grain or two of salt.
posted by wabbittwax at 6:33 AM on January 8, 2018

You probably don't know this, but this was the first film to be digitally color corrected. And it's directly responsible for the sea of orange and teal that has taken over Hollywood.

I just thought someone should make that clear.
posted by Naberius at 4:21 PM on January 9, 2018 [4 favorites]

I have to add my voice to those calling this a perfect film. It really, really is.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 1:31 PM on January 10, 2018

I don't see how you can say that about a movie that tries to pass off welded rail joints a good thirty years before they existed.
posted by Naberius at 4:21 PM on January 10, 2018 [5 favorites]

I wonder if the issue of welded rail joints came from the same IMDB contributor who was jolted out of Unstoppable any this egregious mix-up:
As Dewey is preparing to move 777 from D-16 to D-10 at Fuller yard near the beginning of the film, the sound of 777 starting up is from an EMD 645-E3, a two-stroke diesel engine found in a number of EMD locomotives, most notably the SD40 (locos like 1206). 777 is an AC4400CW built by EMD's rival GE and uses the GE 7FDL-16, a four-stroke diesel engine which make a completely different noise.*
In short, Hollywood is no friend to the discerning trainspotter.

*This is followed by a small and plaintive, “Is this interesting?”
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:57 AM on January 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

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