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Life's Imitation of Art or vice versa?

By Susie Duncan Sexton
Regarding NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, THERE WILL BE BLOOD (inspired by Upton Sinclair's 1927novel, OIL!), and IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH (based upon actual events), eager consumers/customers queue up at bookstore cash registers, movie ticket box offices, and DVD rental shops for doses of violence--or enlightenment?  Daily, the senselessness of human cruelty is thrown into our faces with every turn of a newspaper page, click of a mouse, or flick of a remote control.  Muslims and Iraqi puppies handily disposed of as we voyeuristically watch.  Pulp fiction emerges as telling reality while lunching at Wendy's, browsing at Von Maur's, purchasing underwear at Lane Bryant's, or matriculating like a herd of cattle into almost any college/university lecture hall or classroom.  Ah, yes--massacres occurring right and left during this recent season, this HUNTING season, where annihilation of Life reaches commonplace status.
All three mentioned movies might be categorized as extolling violence, but none of them, nor the blood-letting depicted, conjures comparatively as much audience quaking as once did those rough walks home from school while taunted and harassed by snot-nosed bullies.  Remember?  These films astonish with their eerily accurate portrayals of the human condition and resonate with total horrible believability.  Villains seem difficult to easily identify as life-forces swirl randomly around all characters' interactions.  
Classic novels once adhered to the rules of triangular structure, i.e. introduction, climax and conclusion.  "Once upon a time" followed by build-up to a significant crisis/dilemma resolved itself into a denouement of "happily ever after". Modern fiction nearly uniformly breaks from that pattern and for good reason.
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN recently garnered the Oscar and, thus, alerted the public to the film's existence--with mixed results.  Advice?  View this quirky cinematic endeavor as "a real page-turner", for the Coen Brothers innovatively transferred the movie's script from author Cormac McCarthy's galley proofs somewhat directly to the screen.  How dare any of us sanctimoniously sniff that "the book is better than the movie" when the book IS the movie, though no longer held in your own two hands nor upon your lap? 
This trilogy of 2007 cinematic terror hammers home important themes--allow Muslims to be Muslims, Christians to be Christians, armies to be armies, corporations to be corporations, politicians to be politicians, tribes to be tribes, cults to be cults marching to the beat of the drummer heard,  whether singly, in pairs, groups, or clusters.  Beware though, upon review of the films, several troubling questions tenaciously haunt the mind.  Does group-think somehow create more monsters than usual, either as part of the cliques/gangs themselves--or consequentially produce loners, mavericks, rebels, loose cannons quite simply frustrated with the collective status quo?  Also, the ultimate query remains that time-honored cliche'  "Which came first?"...(Forget the chicken or the egg) violence or the movies?
As NO COUNTRY'S dispassionate slaughter-house-foreman-type dispatcher of death, Spaniard Javier Bardem, that soulful skillful young coin-flipping actor, demands of a cross-sectional bewildered member of the family-of-man, " Call it, friendo!"

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