Coen Brothers Fest #2: "Raising Arizona"

This is the first Coen film I ever remember seeing. My mother absolutely loves this film and at the height of the VHS rental days this tape often found its way back to our house. I was all of 12 or so the first time I saw it. This movie is great because as a 12 year old kid there were plenty of sight gags and simple humor to be entertained by. As the years roll on, different and more intricate jokes start to reveal themselves to the aging and maturing Lordleiter.

The soundtrack alone makes “Raising Arizona” well worth the purchase. Nick Cage’s hair is also a treat throughout the film.

The Setting-character in this film is Arizona (as the film’s title may suggest). But don’t picture the lush, red-desert setting of the Sedona upscale area, or the green, piney forests of Flagstaff…oh no. This Arizona is the super dry, waterless, trailer park neighborhood outskirts of Tempe where days roll in an oceanic lull, and sunset is the best part of the day.

With “Raising Arizona” we also get our introduction to a Coen staple actor (The Coens tend to stick with many of the same people), John Goodman who plays escaped convict “Gale.” It is also the second appearance of Frances McDormand and Holly Hunter (though Holly Hunter was only featured as a voice on a telephone in “Blood Simple”).

I have seen this brilliant piece of cinema countless times and never tire of it; I still laugh out loud. This introduced me to some of my most prized phrases: “Son, you’ve got a panty on your head,” “Not that mother scratcher!” and the finest words ever strung together – “…these were the happy days, the salad days, as they say…”

Seeing as how I have seen this film to the point of memorization, I tried to make a point in this viewing to notice something I had not before. There were two things. First, much in the same vein as the Scandinavian “oh, yah”s of “Fargo,” the characters in this picture would emphasize a statement with “OKAY, THEN” as an audible exlamation point. Second, and how I missed this, I have no idea, but Leonard Smalls (please do not confuse with “Of Mice and Men”) and H.I. have the same tattoo, which strangely enough is also the same sticker I had on my bicycle when I was little.

Long Live H.I., turn to the right.

Next Episode: “Miller’s Crossing”

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