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The Dude Abides: The Gospel According to the Coen Brothers Paperback – September 21, 2009

3.1 out of 5 stars 107 customer reviews

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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.)
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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
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan; 1 edition (September 21, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0310292468
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310292463
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #789,971 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Marblehead VINE VOICE on 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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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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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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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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