Sunday, February 24, 2008

Busboys, Poets, Mexican Gangsters, Assassins

I spent a really enjoyable afternoon in Shirlington yesterday. For those who don't know it, Shirlington is an odd little oasis of restaurants, theaters, and businesses in Arlington. It's not really connected to the nearby neighborhoods. It just sits by the side of the I-395, near the Condo Canyon. Recently, it has been changing a great deal. Previously, it was a collection of businesses in high-rises (WETA headquarters is there) with a single street of restaurants and some shops, terminating in the movie theater. Now there Signature Theater has built a new home there, sharing space with a branch of the city library. New shops like CakeLove, more cafes, high-rise condos, a big grocery store - all have opened up recently. So it is quite lively, a sort of suburban downtown, not as far as DC, not as congested as Old Town.

I went to lunch at the cafe/bookstore Busboys and Poets, which was fun. It was extremely crowded - so much so they had to use the little "Your table is ready" buzzers like Ruby Tuesdays. They fixed me up with a delicious barbecue chicken panini. I was tempted by the peanut butter and banana panini - the Elvis Special. Maybe next time.

Because of the crowd, I just barely made it through lunch in time to get over to the movie theater for the showing of No Country for Old Men. I'm a big fan of all of the movies the Coen Brothers have made. I find they fall into two types: comedic capers (Raising Arizona, The Hudsucker Proxy, The Ladykillers, O Brother Where Art Thou?) and tragic thrillers (Fargo, Miller's Crossing, Blood Simple). No Country is clearly one of the latter. Of course, it retains a great deal of their signature humor, mostly of the gallows variety.

After watching the movie, I am forced to agree with what many reviewers have said. The Coens are less interested in the mechanics of the plot - who gets what, wins, loses, etc. - than in the question "why do they do these things?" It doesn't hurt that the many switches and turns of the story have the players reversing roles constantly. To steal a line, it is less a game of cat and mouse than a game of cat and also cat. It's a very tense film, but not in an artificial way - scenes play out slowly, ratcheting up, without feeling drawn out or stretched. If you like any of the other movies by the Coens, I recommend you beat feet down to the movies and see it on the big screen while you still can.

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