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'A Serious Man' could be serious awards contender

October 2, 2009 |  2:52 pm

A Serious Man Joel Ethan Coen Entertainment News Oscars Academy Awards 2468097 "A Serious Man" marks a return to the awards derby for the Coen brothers two years after "No Country for Old Men" won them three Oscars, for best picture, direction and adapted screenplay. Joel and Ethan Coen revisit their suburban Minneapolis childhood in the quasi-autobiographical "A Serious Man."

"A Serious Man" earned a respectable 74 from the 19 reviews surveyed by MetaCritic and an even better 82 among the 17 critics included in the cream of the crop at Rotten Tomatoes. Tony-nominated actor Michael Stuhlbarg ("The Pillowman") plays the lead role of the patriarch, while TV star Richard Kind ("Spin City") is his wayward brother.

Among the more enthusiastic reviews was that of Lou Lumenick of the New York Post who thought, "Though the Coens flirt with caricature, there are some serious questions about faith and Judaism underlying their sadistic fun." A.O. Scott of the New York Times called the film, "like its biblical source, a distilled, hyperbolic account of the human condition. The punch line is a little different, but you know the joke. And it’s on you, of course." And Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly said the film, "isn't perfect -- I'm still grappling with the powerfully offbeat ending -- but it's cathartic to see the Coens finally show you a bit of who they are, or at least where they came from."

Last year the Coen brothers contended at the Golden Globes for best musical or comedy, but "Burn After Reading" lost to "Vicky Christina Barcelona." While that farce was snubbed by the Oscars, over the years the Coens have accumulated eight nods between them. Besides those two wins for "No Country for Old Men," they also won in 1996 for their original screenplay for best picture contender "Fargo." This year -- with 10 films in the top Oscar race -- can "A Serious Man" generate enough serious interest with voters?

Photo Credit: Focus Features

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