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The Dude Abides: The Gospel According to the Coen Brothers [Kindle Edition]

Cathleen Falsani , Rabbi Secher Allen
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (105 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Fans of the eccentric and edgy films of the Coen brothers know there’s more going on in their films than meets the eye. Award-winning author and columnist Cathleen Falsani is the perfect guide for Coen fans, inviting them to take a deeper look at the popular films, from their debut Blood Simple to the recent Burn After Reading and all the strange and wonderful films in between. Falsani looks at the deeper meanings that can be mined from each quirky and enduring Coen film, including such cult favorites as Fargo, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and No Country for Old Men. With a journalist’s keen analysis, she unpacks the theological, mythological, ethical, and philosophical content. Readers will discover that the critically acclaimed Coen brothers speak to eternal questions with darkly intelligent humor. Coen fans, churched and unchurched of all faiths or none, will find in this book a spirited, thoughtful conversation with a good friend (who happens to be a film buff.) Readers will appreciate this examination of the intersection of popular culture and spirituality.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

It must be true that God can be found even in the quirkiest of places. Chicago Sun-Times religion journalist Falsani mined the 14 films (since 1984) of Joel and Ethan Coen to find God and to articulate their spiritual and religious questions and challenges. The Coen brothers have a reputation for injecting a lot of dark humor into their movies, but as the author illustrates, the comedy is an avenue to deeper issues. Death, betrayal, greed, the seeming absence of God and the dire consequences of one's choices are the complex themes expertly handled by the filmmakers. Falsani does not posit that these films are overtly religious, but she does successfully convey their spiritual insights about the human condition. Each chapter provides a movie plot summary and concludes with an insightful segment dubbed The Moral of the Story. Falsani is an expert at pop culture analysis and her love for the celluloid arts shines forth brightly—her interpretations are nuanced and sophisticated without being pretentious. Film lovers, whether religious or not, will be pleased. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

It must be true that God can be found even in the quirkiest of places. Chicago Sun-Times religion journalist Falsani mined the 14 films (since 1984) of Joel and Ethan Coen to find God and to articulate their spiritual and religious questions and challenges. The Coen brothers have a reputation for injecting a lot of dark humor into their movies, but as the author illustrates, the comedy is an avenue to deeper issues. Death, betrayal, greed, the seeming absence of God and the dire consequences of one's choices are the complex themes expertly handled by the filmmakers. Falsani does not posit that these films are overtly religious, but she does successfully convey their spiritual insights about the human condition. Each chapter provides a movie plot summary and concludes with an insightful segment dubbed 'The Moral of the Story.' Falsani is an expert at pop culture analysis and her love for the celluloid arts shines forth brightly---her interpretations are nuanced and sophisticated without being pretentious. Film lovers, whether religious or not, will be pleased. (Oct.) -- Publisher's Weekly


Product Details

  • File Size: 1158 KB
  • Print Length: 241 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0310292468
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Up to 5 simultaneous devices, per publisher limits
  • Publisher: Zondervan (September 22, 2009)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishing
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002QBV8G6
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #458,391 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
105 of 123 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars You've got to be kidding me! October 20, 2009
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I LOVE the Coen Brothers. They are the unrivaled champions of American film making. This book does absolutely ZERO as far as giving insight into what makes them tick. We're to believe that this book delves into a deeper meaning than what's on screen by naming it "The Gospel...", but all this book does is give a general overview of the plot to their movies. Sorry, but I can go to imdb for that.
This book dedicates 95% of its pages to generalized descriptions of their movies. That's it. Hardly any analysis whatsoever. Each movie has its own chapter dedicated to it, and the author spends 7-10 pages describing the entire plot with an occasional quote. At the end the author adds a brief paragraph or two telling us what she feels is the "moral" of the film. If you were to add all of her own personal thoughts and insights into the Coen Brothers' film works, you would come away with maybe five pages of fluff. As I started reading the book, I actually said out loud, "you've got to be kidding me with this!". Why would anyone interested in the Coen Brothers read a page synopsis when they can just go watch the movie? And why would anyone who has seen their films bother with this book? They wouldn't. And shouldn't. Just go see the movie if you haven't already. To add insult to injury, she prefaces the book by talking down to the reader by saying, "opinions are important, and they are subjective, colored, and shaped by life experiences". Gee, thanks Einstein. Like I needed someone to tell me that. It's even more insulting to realize that she has no opinions of her own in the book. Where are these colored opinions shaped by life experiences, oh enlightened author?
I also feel this book is a bit deceptive in its advertising.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Shallow, Repetitive and Shallow (and Repetitive) December 30, 2009
Format:Paperback
Essentially a collection of plot summaries and questionable assumptions that are never really tied to the films in a believable fashion. While there's nothing to say that the Falsani's interpretations are wrong, there's also nothing to say they are right, as what's presented are a bunch of "maybe's" and "you might think's" that seem to reflect the author's personal lens more than any meaning contained within the films themselves. Seems like a lazy attempt to cash in on the Coen brother's popularity, without offering any real insight. Of course all this might be forgiven if the book had a spark of personality or humor, which it does not. Blew through it in a few hours, and want them back, though it would be interesting to see the topic covered in a more comprehensive fashion by another author. As it stands, Coen fans and neophytes alike will be bored.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't offer much November 22, 2009
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
There are so many things I imagined _The Dude Abides_ being before I read it--a book of film criticism, a tongue-in-cheek "Philosophy of ..." sort of book, possibly even an out-and-out theology discussion. What I got, instead, is a shallow, surface-level summary with little in the way of valuable insights on the work of these fine filmmakers.

_The Dude Abides_ has one chapter dedicated to each of the Coen Bros.' 14 films. Here's what you get in each chapter:

* "The Forest," a brief introduction of sorts that sets the tone of the movie. This lasts 1 or 2 paragraphs.

* "The Trees," which is basically a film-school synopsis of the film. This can run anywhere from, about 6 pages (_Intolerable Cruelty_) to 10 pages (_No Country For Old Men_), with most being about 8 pages. And make no mistake, this is pretty much synopsis. While it carries the occasional aside or insight, it doesn't engage in deep analysis. If you've seen the film, there's a good chance you'll get bored quick.

* "The Moral of the Story," where the author offers what she thinks the film "means". These insights are often shallow, offering little more than you and your friends already figured out if you ever spent an afternoon talking about these films over lunch or during a long car ride. These are usually only a paragraph in length, sometimes two.

I am not kidding! Out of each approx. 10 page chapter, 80% is used up by film synopsis! And then in the end, she offers up her "Conclusions," which run about a page, and some Group Study questions such as ""After exploring the Coen's fourteen films, what do you think the brothers make of God?
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33 of 41 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
In The Dude Abides--The Gospel According to the Coen Brothers, award-winning religious columnist Cathleen Falsani offers a unique and engaging look at the "spiritual messages" she finds permeating the Coen Brothers' movies.

Now, "spiritual message." Odds are, that's not what most moviegoers expect to find in the darkly comic and brutally violent cinematic vision of Joel and Ethan Coen. Neither is the word "gospel," for that matter. While wisely resisting the temptation to cram their films into what she calls a "God-shaped box," Falsani succeeds in tracing the theological threads she sees holding the "Coeniverse" together.

She writes, "While marked by murder, mayhem, deception, and all manner of chaos, there is an order--a moral order--to the world depicted in Joel and Ethan Coen's films. That's the good news. The bad news is that when the moral order is upset, the consequences can be dire, brutal, and swift."

Published by Zondervan, a Christian book publisher whose mission, according to its website, is to produce "resources that glorify Jesus Christ and promote biblical principles," The Dude Abides will probably challenge (in a good way) the expectations of Zondervan's evangelical readers as well as the more secular-minded among Coen Brother fans.

As a self-described "sometimes churchgoing Catholic-turned-Baptist-turned-freelance Episcopalian" who has interviewed the likes of Bono from U2 and some guy who ran for president named Barack Obama, Falsani is certainly up to the challenge of navigating her text between the two groups. Her down-to-earth writing style glides easily from summarizing convoluted Coen Brother movie plots to drawing from Zen Buddhism, Jewish mysticism, and her own open-hearted Christian faith to interpret them.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars False advertising---don't buy this book!
I bought this book, assuming it was about the film, "The Big Lebowski." Unfortunately, it's a really bad religious book. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Patricia Nolan Stein
1.0 out of 5 stars A Pretentious Work
Marketed to really rev ya up for the Coen brothers but turned out to be a big disappointment. Nothing more than an outline of each film followed up with a short paragraph... Read more
Published 1 month ago by S.White
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Loved it!
Published 2 months ago by Big Henning
1.0 out of 5 stars A write-off.
There is more thought and scholarship in the other one star reviews than in this book.

I don't usually go out of my way to drag down other people's projects, but this... Read more
Published 3 months ago by P.S. Woods
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully fun
Falsani is an insightful commentator on contemporary culture- and any book that can draw spiritual insights out of one of the greatest movies ever deserves a careful read. Read more
Published on September 27, 2012 by Bob Hyatt
4.0 out of 5 stars A Guide to the Coeniverse
For any fan of the Coen Brothers or their films, Cathleen Falsani has written the definitive guide to the Coeniverse, which is a place filled with a surprising amount of faith. Read more
Published on April 16, 2012 by Tim Drake
3.0 out of 5 stars Bought for a gift that fell flat.
My husband is a huge Big Lebowski fan. We aren't doing trivia contests about it or going to conventions, but he sure does enjoy the Coen Brothers' movies. Read more
Published on March 21, 2012 by Meredith
5.0 out of 5 stars Great.
I haven't read the book yet but I imagine it's good. The book was in great quality for being used. I am very happy to add it to my collection.
Published on December 22, 2011 by chris o
1.0 out of 5 stars Reads like a first draft in bad need of editing
I almost gave up after the first page because of the poor writing. It reads like a first draft. I'm a big fan of the movies made by the Coens and was hoping for some good analysis. Read more
Published on October 20, 2011 by James Ethridge
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't Waste Your Time
I was so excited to read this book. I'm actually working on an essay regarding the same topic, religious themes in the work of the Coen Bros. Read more
Published on August 1, 2011 by Jonathan Busch
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More About the Author

Cathleen Falsani is Senior Editor of Religion Dispatches magazine based at the University of Southern California. An award-winning religion journalist, she is author of the critically acclaimed The God Factor: Inside the Spiritual Lives of Public People, Sin Boldly: A Field Guide for Grace, The Dude Abides: The Gospel According to the Coen Brothers, BELIEBER: Fame, Faith and the Heart of Justin Bieber, and Disquiet Time: Rants and Reflections on the Good Book by the Skeptical, the Faithful, and a Few Scoundrels (co-edited with Jennifer Grant).

A Connecticut native and granddaughter of Italian and Irish immigrants, Cathleen is a graduate of Wheaton College in Illinois, Cathleen holds a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University as well as a master's degree in theological studies from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. She also was a 2009 Divinity School Media Fellow at Duke University, a Gralla Fellow in Jewish Studies at Brandeis University, and was the 1996 Stoody-West Fellow in Religious Journalism.

At Religion Dispatches (www.religiondispatches.org) Cathleen is overseeing a three-year reporting project called Remapping American Christianities. She was the religion writer and columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times from 2000 to January 2010, and has been a longtime contributor and columnist for Religion News Service, Sojourners, and the Huffington Post. From August 2011 to December 2012, Cathleen was the Web Editor and Director of New Media for Sojourners, where she ran its popular God's Politics blog. She also was a contributing editor and columnist for Sojourners magazine.

Most recently, Cathleen was the Faith & Values columnist for the Orange County Register (from February 2013 to January 2014, when her position was eliminated) where she covered the election and first year of Pope Francis' pontificate (traveling to Rome for his election), the post-AIDS-emergency rebirth in Zambia and Malawi, music, film, comedy, and faith (among many other things.)

For more than 15 years, as a reporter and columnist from 2000-2010 at the Chicago Sun-Times, and as a reporter, commentator, essayist and columnist for a number of other publications as well, Cathleen has covered her diverse "God beat" from locations as far afield as Vatican City, Vedic City, Ireland, Germany, the Caribbean, the West Wing, the Playboy Mansion and the dugout at Wrigley Field. She was honored as the 2005 James O. Supple Religion Writer of the Year by the Religion Newswriters Association, and has twice been a finalist for the Templeton Religion Reporter of the Year award.

Cathleen began writing her popular weekly column on spirituality and popular culture for the Sun-Times in 2001, She wrote a regular column for Religion News Service for several years, ending in September 2011 when she took on a full-time role at, Sojourners Magazine. Cathleen has been a regular contributor to The Huffington Post since 2006.

Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, TIME, Rolling Stone, Christianity Today and Christian Century magazines, as well as the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post, the Toronto Star, Kansas City Star, Madison Capital Times, The Harvard Divinity School Bulletin, CNN.com and other publications in North America and Europe. She has appeared as a commentator on CNN, Oprah Winfrey's "Soul Series," National Public Radio's "The Story" and "Weekend Edition," BBC World Service, FoxNewsChannel, Moody Radio, WGN-Radio, NPR's "Day to Day," The Tavis Smiley Show (on PBS), and a host of other radio and television venues.

Chicago Magazine media critic Steve Rhodes has said Cathleen writes one of the city's "most compelling columns . . . despite her focus on a subject that often is handled with a deadly dullness." Of her column, Cathleen says she likes to try to "find God in the places some people say God isn't supposed to be," and that she defines both spirituality and popular culture quite broadly.

Cathleen is a sought-after public speaker having presented lectures and talks at colleges, universities, civic organizations, houses of worship and large faith-based conferences nationwide, including the Wild Goose Festival, the National Pastors Convention, the Catalyst Conference, the Los Angeles Book Festival, the Festival of Faith and Music, and the Festival of Faith and Writing, St. James Episcopal Cathedral in Chicago, WomenChurch, Point Loma Nazarene University's Symposium by the Sea, Dominican University in Chicago, California State University in Sacramento, and a number of other universities, conferences, festivals, and houses of worship throughout the country.

She is also a writing coach, offering workshops for writers and creatives through IncubateSpirit.com. Cathleen is honored to serve as a member of the advisory board for ONE Moms, part of ONE Campaign, the global advocacy organization focused on extreme poverty and disease in Africa co-founded by Bono of U2.

Cathleen has been married to the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author, Maurice Possley, since 1997. After 20 years in Chicago, in the summer of 2009, Cathleen moved with Maury and their son Vasco to Laguna Beach, California. Vasco, who was born in Malawi in Central Africa, became a permanent part of the Possley family on June 1, 2010 when his adoption was approved by the High Court of Malawi in Blantyre.

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