Brotherly Love: Familial Filmmaking

There seems to be a trend in Hollywood with brothers teaming up to make great movies.  It seems to have started with the Coen Brothers back in 1984 with their breakout hit the noir style Blood Simple. Followed by the quirky hilarious Raising Arizona in 1987, the raw gangster hit Miller’s Crossing in 1990. Along with cult classics Barton Fink 1991 and Hudsucker Proxy 1994 it was clear this brother team was special.  It culminated with their first Academy Award for a combination of their humor, quirky storytelling style with a dash of violence in the now classic Fargo 1997.

The Coen brothers were on a 10-year trajectory upwards leading them to that first Oscar with a unique ability to please their fan base along with academy of motion picture voters that continues today. Even with mainstream hits No Country for Old Men 2007 and the remake of True Grit 2010, they added another huge cult classic The Big Lebowski Currently working on Macbeth with Denzel Washington and Francis McDormand it’s likely they will continue to be a force.

Another set of brothers, Anthony and Joseph Russo, started with humble beginnings taking the Marvel Universe into the box office stratosphere with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War 2014 and 2016 respectively. They became rarified box office gold with Avengers: Infinity War 2018 and Avengers: Endgame 2019 both going over a billion with Endgame technically beating out Avatar 2009 for the all-time box-office grossing movie with 2.90 billion in earnings. That’s a lot of box office dollars. Adjusted for inflation it’s around 8 Billion!

The Russo’s success has garnered a bit of controversy with names like Scorsese and Nolan saying superhero movies are ruining the box office.  Their claim is these movies take away actor identities and by adding special effects anyone can put on a costume and the focus on acting and directing is lost.  Even actor Anthony Mackie, a member of the Marvel Universe as The Falcon, in a recent interview said “Hollywood movies suck. People don’t go to the movies to see movie stars anymore. They don’t go to see Anthony Mackie; they go to see Falcon”. Ironically, Mackie is set to play the new version of Captain America.  Is this jealousy? Are superhero movies killing Hollywood? Check out their arguments and you decide.

Currently there’s a new pair of brothers who are on that upward trajectory making a series of well received movies voted by film festivals as “must see” by people who put on these festivals.  These are the Nelms Brothers, and we can see some of the same signature items that made the Coens household names.

Eshom and Ian Nelms

Eshom and Ian’s recent hit Fatman (2020) crosses genres in such a fresh and exciting way we were left almost speechless when we covered the film on a recent podcast. Because it was a new film, although the Nelms have been working on it for nearly 16 years, we chose to give a spoiler free review of the film. The result was one of our shortest episodes to date, because we did not want to ruin the fun for new viewers to a Nelms brother’s film. As soon as we signed off, we found ourselves continuing to chat about Fatman for about an hour, which is unusual. Normally when we finish a podcast, we talk about what’s next, but in this case we could not stop talking about our reactions to this unique film.

If you know the Nelms Brothers, it is probably due to the buzz surrounding their last film Small Town Crime 2017 which was one of five must see films of that year’s SXSW (South by Southwest) film festival. If you watch the first five minutes of Small Town Crime you will stick around for the entire experience. It’s likely the success of Small Town Crime allowed the Nelms to make a movie they had been working on for 16 years. 

One of the great things about a Nelms film is they don’t insult their audience by showing every detail on screen. As a fan, you get to fill in the sometimes-obvious scenes not shown on screen. This is a big part of why we enjoy and highly recommend Fatman Mel Gibson is playing Santa Claus and if you’re older than four you know all about Kris Kringle. We don’t need to see a sleigh or his red coat. We know they exist in this universe, but if you want to see them watch one of the other 200 films made about the jolly one. Give yourself a gift this Christmas and add the Nelms brother’s dark comedy Fatman to your collection of holiday classics. You’ll thank us later.

Happy Holidays!

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