You Can Always Count On Me

So the movies by the Coen brothers contain smoking, lots of smoking. Everyone already knows that. However, I think very few people seem to notice precisely how much tobacco & related paraphernalia is actually contained within the walls of the Coen brothers’ 17 feature films. Compared to other popular or mainstream movies, the movies of the Coen brothers contain far more individual appearances of tobacco than any director should need to tell a compelling story, in my opinion. The ugly truth is that these 17 wonderfully inspired films made by the Coen brothers are littered with countless instances of tobacco. Countless, that is, until now.

Yeah… I actually counted them all.

Number of Tobacco Incidents in Films by Coen Brothers

After many many months of work carefully spent watching each film, I actually counted out every time a tobacco-related item was depicted onscreen within the walls of a Coen brothers’ movie. Unbelievably, among the Coen brothers’ 17 films to date I have personally discovered a total of 4165 instances of tobacco. Yes, well over 4,000 individual shots or cuts or edits where tobacco & related paraphernalia actually appeared.

That’s over 4,000 cigarettes, cigars, pipes, ashtrays, signs, logos, smoke rings, dialog mentioning a cigarette, etc. And that’s not even counting the fucking lighters, mind you. With the lighters, you are probably looking at a figure closer to 5,000. Either way, 4,000 of anything is a shitload of tobacco, in my humble opinion. Basically, that total number roughly translates to nearly 2.5 instances of tobacco visible onscreen for every single minute of film throughout the Coen brothers’ entire career of all 17 films. This immutable fact alone is extremely telling.

Another amazing part was how many additional instances of tobacco there were to be found upon repeat viewings of each film, on a bigger television, for example. I mean, the first time I counted up tobacco inside the Coen brothers’ fifth film The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) I found only 452 tobacco incidents — and that was truly an exhausting accomplishment, let me tell you. But then I rescanned The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) and probed even more carefully on a much larger television screen and found a total of over 750 incidents of tobacco.

Simply noticing 300 additional tobacco items just because I was watching the movie on a bigger screen?! I guess I should be doing all of my tobacco counting in IMAX movie theaters where a tiny ashtray might actually appear 13 feet up on the screen. Viewing the Coen brothers’ flicks on a larger screen really does give your brain access to way more tobacco & paraphernalia, but that doesn’t surprise me considering that Hollywood’s million dollar star-studded films are meant to be seen on the big screen, first and foremost.

/?\ What is a tobacco incident?
A tobacco incident (or tobacco instance, as I prefer to call it) is the appearance of a single tobacco related item such as a cigarette, cigar, pipe, chewing tobacco or any tobacco-related paraphernalia such as ashtrays, brand logos, rising smoke, etc. (Click here for more details on tobacco incidents.)

After the smoke cleared on my wacky Coen brothers Big Tobacco theory that I mentioned earlier, I guess I wanted some actual evidence to see if I knew at all what I was talking about so I naively decided to make an attempt to count each and every single tobacco “incident” in the Coen brothers’ 17 movies. Obviously, I knew it would take me quite awhile to sit down and count everything out but I really wanted some seriously good ammunition for an expose~ type article so I did in fact rewatch every single one of the Coen brothers’ 17 movies — many of them several times over in fact — diligently scanning each and every single scene for individual tobacco items and then carefully logging the results in a great big spreadsheet. I even noted what type of camera shot was used during each tobacco incident so I could see when closeups & extreme closeups were used when depicting these tobacco incidents. Closeups are used quite often, in case you were wondering.

As you can probably guess, it was extremely time-consuming for me to personally scrutinize over damn near every frame of one Coen brothers’ film let alone all 17 films. Plus, you really do wear out that pause button on the remote control. Anyways after looking this closely at the first few Coens’ pictures, I quickly realized that I probably was on to something. The closer I looked at the Coen brothers’ 17 films and the meaning behind all of these tobacco references, the more I thought about some sinister and secret agenda by Big Tobacco to make tobacco products more appealing by carefully displaying them in popular or controversial films.

“…And only a numbskull thinks he knows things about things he knows nothing about.”

So then, I have personally counted and described over 4,165 tobacco incidents spread over the 17 movies made by the Coen brothers. (Feel free to take a look for yourself.)

During my careful probing, I began to notice some other sinister themes at work… It seems that Coen brothers are well on their way toward capturing tobacco use in nearly every geographical region of the country… Notice how the settings of the Coen brothers’ films are working toward the display of tobacco use across many different regions of the United States.

Locations of Films by Coen Brothers

Not only that… I think the Coen brothers are well on their way toward glamorously depicting smoking and tobacco products in nearly every decade of the last century…

Time Periods of Films by Coen Brothers

After looking at my own charts… By the process of elimination, I think an upcoming Coen brothers’ movie might take place in the early 1900s or 1970s and will be located in either Florida or the American northwest, perhaps somewhere like Portland or Seattle.

Hey! Maybe the Coens can make a period film about D.B. Cooper… You know, back when smoking was still allowed on airplanes. That particular character would fit perfectly into the Coen brothers’ trademark style: basically an alcohol drink in one hand & a pack of cigarettes in the other. Also, I have never seen a hookah pipe in any of the Coens’ films either so maybe they can embed a hookah into their next screenplay somehow. Fucking wankers.

Anyways, on with the investigation. By repeatedly analyzing each of the Coen brothers’ movies over a short period of time, I personally began to witness how the Coen brothers literally flood their films with tobacco and other subtle messages that often make you (the viewer) want to take up smoking. Honestly, I think the Coen brothers’ movies get more odd and cryptic while tobacco use becomes more subtle and frequent. And that might be exactly the point. Critics and viewers alike always seem to be puzzling over each film’s hidden messages long after its release… Did I just crack the code and unlock the deeper meaning behind each and every Coen brothers film? It would certainly appear so.

To date, I have personally scrutinized over every single scene in every one of the Coen brothers’ 17 movies — which is actually around 30 hours total — so let me again give you my final summary…

In my opinion, the Coen brothers’ fiercely American films are basically nothing more than big long tobacco advertisements cleverly disguised as mainstream movies. Yeah bitches, I said it. Nothing more than fucking tobacco commercials. And Robert’s your mother’s brother. (Bob’s your uncle.)

In my personal opinion, the Coen brothers themselves truly seem to have built an illustrious career by crafting these eccentric “feature films” which in reality are likely just a bunch of blatant advertisements for cigarettes. I’d say things turned out pretty well for the Coens, all things considered. In my estimation, you could not have planned out the Coen brothers’ meteoric careers any better if you were an elite member of the Big Tobacco boardroom and had an unlimited budget — hence my uncanny vision. I mean, I knew there was alot of smoking in the Coen brothers’ films but when I personally sat down and counted up each and every instance of tobacco in these movies what I saw was incredibly disgusting and appalling, especially coming from two people whom I had previously considered to be my personal heros.

While watching some of the Coen brothers’ movies, you really do feel like tobacco spends more time onscreen than any other actor. Tobacco definitely spends more time onscreen than any other brand name, by far. Astoundingly, the tobacco use depicted inside the Coen brothers’ films is so varied and widespread that the individual tobacco instances almost seemed impossible for me to count. At several points during my study, I actually thought I might have to call up an ashtray expert and ask them to help me identify what appeared to be strange or unique models of ashtrays that I’ve just never seen before.

Seriously, even besides the ashtrays, it is truly overwhelming how much tobacco is present onscreen for viewers to witness within the Coen brothers’ 17 films. As I personally began to find & describe every instance of tobacco in the Coens’ pictures I began to clearly see that this was no mere accident or coincidence and goes a helluva lot farther than simply paying the bills or creating realistic background texture for a certain character, setting, or time period. It is no coincidence that warm, loving depictions of tobacco products find their way into the editing room for the Coen brothers to use at their disposal. It’s always so calculated. Amazingly, most of these tobacco instances do not appear in the original scripts, but they always seem to find a way into the final films.

When I broke down these literally thousands of individual instances of tobacco into a sterile spreadsheet format, the often confusing plotlines of the Coen brothers’ movies truly seem to serve no other purpose than to blatantly advertise the massive amounts of smoking to the viewer. Trust me, discovering this fact was like cracking the unbreakable code that made all of the Coen brothers’ films so puzzling. Suddenly, all of the Coen brothers’ films made sense to me like they never had before. You know that feeling when you leave a Coen brothers’ picture and that strange sense of bewilderment just washes over you? Well that doesn’t happen anymore… Viewing the Coens’ movies through this new optic does truly provide a profound sense of meaning to those often confusing films.

In my opinion, the Coen brothers are true masters of deception; they are among the few directors in Hollywood to truly understand the meaning of the term brand integration. The Coens have done such a spectacular job of not only embedding tobacco into their own films but also making sure that products like cigarettes do not stand out as any kind of obvious product placement. I mean, it’s fucking diabolical what they do to obfuscate the true meaning of any given film. And obviously there are many directors in Hollywood who can simply drop a few tobacco incidents into a film, but not every director in Hollywood possesses the same talent as the Coen brothers to generate these entertaining yarns with such massive amounts of tobacco woven in so delicately that viewers barely notice.

You might see unhealthy tobacco products everywhere in Hollywood movies and other media these days, but you’ll never see it glamorized and so extraordinarily portrayed like it has been by the Coen brothers. And I guess that’s precisely why I chose to focus on the Coen brothers instead of guys like Scorcese, Spielberg, David Lynch, or Quentin Tarantino. All these guys obviously seem to have some higher knowledge of film technique, film history, and film language but when it comes to laying down hundreds of subtle yet timeless references for tobacco, in my opinion the Coen brothers are kings of the jungle.


The Coen brothers are often referred to as the “two-headed director” because they share almost every duty throughout the entire film production from writing the screenplay to crafting the film’s final edit. When it comes to working with the Coens, many actors have even stated that Joel & Ethan will independently produce the same answer to a question, almost telepathically. Uh, that’s kinda spooky!

Many film critics often regard the Coen brothers’ movies as some of the best examples of bygone eras, but do people actually believe that it is the absurd amounts of smoking that help their pictures to feel so authentic to that time period? Or are these critics all in on the so called Big Tobacco hidden agenda thing? It seems to me that some movie critics go out of their way to NOT mention the overwhelming amounts of tobacco.

Roger Ebert once referred to The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) as “all surface and no substance” and “more calculated than inspired.” He continued by saying about the Coen brothers: “They obviously think their plot is unimportant except as a clothesline for the visuals.” [citation] Which visuals was Roger Ebert referring to? Hmmm… which indeed. I should mention that The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) is a Coen brothers’ period film within which I’ve discovered the highest number of tobacco incidents of all their 17 films.

The funny thing is, even most classic movies made during these same historical periods didn’t contain as much smoking as the Coens insist on displaying in their so called “independent” films made today. Granted, some classic films contain shitloads of tobacco, and glamorously, but in my opinion these classic films don’t seem to possess a fraction of the care and focus aiming toward these tobacco products that modern day filmmakers like the Coen brothers do.

Forget about period films, what about the Coen brothers’ flicks that take place in modern day settings and still contain hundreds of unnecessary shots that blatantly focus on cigarettes? Some of the Coens’ modern day movies such as Fargo (1996) have even gone down in history as true american classics!

Speaking of timeless classics… I heard that the Coen brothers might actually be working on another remake of Scarface. The original Scarface was a hit, the Al Pacino Scarface was legendary, so how popular do you think the Coen brothers’ Scarface will be? But then, there really wouldn’t be any role for tobacco products in that film, would there? Yeah right. I think the Al Pacino Scarface probably has a few hundred tobacco incidents. And the Coen brothers can always find a starring role for their favorite item. Either way, a Scarface remake at this point in time — combined with the absolutely insane popularity of the Coen brothers right now — well obviously that film might have the potential to deliver more tobacco impressions than any other film in history.

So, do you still think these are just a couple of goofy brothers hoping to make some harmless entertainment?

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