If you love the movies, you love the Coen brothers. And if you're not familiar with their work, then I am somewhat envious my friend because a bounty of cinematic brilliance awaits you. But let's digress. I'm embarrassing the brothers. One big reason their movies are so fun is depth. Joel and Ethan Coen return to past ideas, shots, and places, and the trailer for their latest, Hail, Caesar!, continues that tradition.
Here's the official trailer from Universal:
Coen brothers scholars will note Hail, Caesar! appears to be a mix tape of the writer/directors' past work. Is that simply smart trailer editing, meant to showcase what we already trust about their movies? Unlikely. Universal is smart enough to know these guys have a cult following and people would turn out to watch a blank screen as long as it's stamped "Written and Directed by the Coen Brothers" somewhere at the beginning or end. More likely: The brothers have their own meticulous style and movie fans like us love breaking it down. It feels good to fit the key in the hole, doesn't it?
A Return to the 1950s and Capitol Pictures
Hail, Caesar! is set during the late '50s when Hollywood studios tried one-upping each other with huge scale epics like The Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur. The Coens have been here before. Barton Fink was set in 1940s Hollywood and The Hudsucker Proxy takes place in 1959. The Coens' fictional Capitol Pictures is the studio in both Barton and Hail, Caesar!. Could the films be spiritual sequels?
Josh Brolin plays Eddie Mannix in Hail, Caesar! a Hollywood fixer who helps shield studio scandals from the press. His general bluster recalls other Coen industry leaders like Michael Lerner's Oscar nominated performance as Capitol head Jack Lipnick in Barton Fink and Paul Newman's Sidney Mussberger in The Hudsucker Proxy. And the offices/boardrooms match. The Coens love to convey power through production design.
Films Within Films
Another Barton Fink parallel is the full-on production of a Hollywood movie within the Coens' narrative. They showed us dailies from a Wallace Beery wrestling picture in Barton and the Hail, Caesar! trailer shows off at least two separate films in production within the movie. The dream sequence in The Big Lebowski also fits in this category.
George Clooney and Other Coen Favorites
The opening confessional scene in the trailer reminded me of A Serious Man, which is full of religious allegory and speculation, albeit Jewish, not Catholic.
Names on Doors
A recurring motif in The Hudsucker Proxy, the Coens like the vintage typeface used on old office doors.
Kidnappings and Ransom Notes
A kidnapping happens in Raising Arizona, The Big Lebowski (a fake one), Fargo, and now, Hail, Caesar! They've also used a ransom note before, in Lebowski. And both notes use the word "gather" and the term "await instructions." Also, the signature on the Hail, Caesar! ransom note is "The Future." And, in Hudsucker, the motto of Hudsucker Industries is "The Future is Now."
Bonus: A ransom note does appear on the TV series Fargo (Season One), which the Coens produce.