THE EYEBALL: Burn After Reading and The Iron Giant


Oscars, whatever.

I had two comfy movie-watching experiences this weekend. On Friday I watched the Coen Brothers’ Burn After Reading with my wife and yesterday sat down with my son to watch the Brad Bird animated movie The Iron Giant.

Conventional wisdom had it that Burn After Reading was a minor Coen Bros. film, on par with Intolerable Cruelty, and those who admired No Country for Old Men would find it lacking. But I had fun the whole time, appreciating the clockwork storytelling and delivery of droll humor. The movie reminded me how much I like George Clooney and gave me a reason to like Brad Pitt. The Coens make movies the same way the band Cake makes songs, with clearly delineated forces of action pushing one moment into the next, each player doing his or her distinct part to maintain the integrity of the whole. The Coen Brothers. I like those guys.

While watching the Oscars last night I had one of those weird experiences where someone mentions a pretty forgotten movie you just watched. In this case it was America’s most overrated actress Jennifer Anniston remarking on The Iron Giant, a 10-year-old movie directed by the guy who would go on to join Pixar and create The Incredibles. The Iron Giant has long been on my list, as it’s based on a novel by Ted Hughes, and is my friend Doug’s favorite children’s movie. I was curious about how Sylvia Plath’s (husband? boyfriend?) pulled off a robot novel. Good ole Wikipedia. While the novel takes place in the UK, the movie is set in the autumnal richness of Maine. My son and I dug it.

And hey, since I’m on the subject of giant beings from outer space invading the English countryside, check out, if you haven’t, the radio dramatization of War of the Worlds by Jeff Wayne. Imagine, if possible, a prog-rock version of the Orson Welles radio classic as executed by Richard Burton and Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy. Oh yeah.


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Ryan Boudinot is the author of the short story collection The Littlest Hitler (2006) and the novel Misconception. He was a DVD Editor at from 2003 to 2007. His work has appeared in McSweeney's, The Best American Nonrequired Reading, and other journals and anthologies. He lives in Seattle and teaches creative writing at Goddard College's Port Townsend MFA program. More from this author →