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  • 1991movierewind

Episode #20: Barton Fink

Listen to Episode 20 of the Podcast here while you enjoy the show notes.

SUMMARY - Barton Fink is a playwright who recently found critical acclaim with his New York stage show. Almost immediately, Hollywood comes calling. Reluctant at first, Barton decides to take up residence in a rundown L.A. hotel and get to work on his first assignment, but can’t get past the first paragraph.

Screenplay by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen; Directed by Joel Coen, and released on August 21, 1991.


The movie starts off showing Barton's successful stage play with him in the wings and that leads him to LA.

There are a lot of recurring images that Barton keeps going back to, including waves crashing against a rock and this photo that's in his rundown hotel room.

Writers block sets in and the film does a good job of finding different ways to show that as well as show different angles of this lowly room.

There aren't a lot of memorable characters (there aren't a lot to begin with), but the neighbor played by John Goodman sure was.

We differed in opinion about some of the symbolism and Jon also questioned the pacing.

We have to mention Barton's relationship with W.P. Mayhew as he and several other cast members are meant to represent real people from this age in Hollywood. Judy Davis appears in her second episode in a row as love interest to both Mayhew and Barton.

We found it interesting that Barton got so incensed at learning that Mayhew was helped by Davis' character and then does the exact same thing.

Back to the thematical side, Jon wanted the descent into madness or the craziness to kick in earlier than it does.

Anyway, there is a long build up but it turns out that John Goodman's character is a killer and we get a very fiery ending. It's tough to know exactly what is real and what isn't.

There are just so many great screenshots we could have shown, and hopefully you have been listening to the episode as there's too much to discuss that can't be covered here.

Awards Talk - The film had the most success at Cannes where it won three awards, including the coveted Palme d’Or. Time to dance!

There were three Oscar Nominations, but the most surprising was for Supporting Actor Michael Lerner who played the studio boss.

But the Golden Globe Nomination went to John Goodman instead.

1992 MTV Movie Awards - It had a fake nomination during a montage for Best Inanimate Objects. We're guessing it was for the box.


This week our crime segment focused on the Cecil Hotel. There's information out there that this notorious location was a possible inspiration for the movie's Hotel Earle. We referenced this article in our episode:

After recording, we found another source that more directly claims that the Cecil Hotel was that inspiration for hotel Earle

We didn't cover music this week since it's a lot of the same stuff as before. So, onto TV we go.

We like to rediscover lesser known shows and we talked about a couple: "Davis Rules"

and "Married People"


Nikki 1-5 star scale - 4 out of 5

Jon 0-4 star scale - 3 out of 4

Would you watch it again? - We were left with a lot of unanswered questions, and so watching it again (especially with commentary) may help to find those clues and answers.

If you want to watch Barton Fink, as of this recording on June 2021, it’s available on Digital Rental, VHS, DVD. Check your local listings.


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Join us next time for Only Yesterday available on HBO Max or DVD/Blu-Ray


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