I am drawn to lively conversations about movies. That’s why this weekly column is called “Viewer Discussion Advised.” So when I’m invited to discuss big-screen beauty, I go.

Last weekend, I accepted an invitation to St. Leo University near Tampa, Florida, to participate in a public discussion about—of all things—the movies of the Coen brothers. Brent Short, the school’s director of library services, organized this seminar, and we were joined by Erica Rowell (author of The Brothers Grim: The Films of Ethan and Joel Coen) and Mark T. Conard (editor of The Philosophy of the Coen Brothers). For three hours we learned from one another and took questions from the audience.

It all seemed so Halloween-y. We talked about the Coens’ catalog—so genre-diverse, so full of tricks and treats. We talked about their crazy characters—H. I. McDonagh, Barton Fink, Jeffrey Lebowski, Marge Gunderson—all of whom deserve to become Halloween costumes.

But the film that haunted me all weekend was one that opened nine years ago this month. No Country for Old Men seems to resonate more meaningfully every time I see it.

As it begins, gun violence erupts near the border of Texas and Mexico. Stumbling into the bloody aftermath, a self-interested fool named Llewelyn (Josh Brolin) steals a cash-stuffed briefcase. He doesn’t guess that his greed will bring trouble neither he nor his wife Carla Jean (Kelly Macdonald) can afford.

It comes in a form that seems superhuman: Chigurh (Javier Bardem) is a killer who isn’t content to fulfill his assassin’s assignment; he’ll flip a coin—life or death?—for everyone he meets.

As bodies pile up, Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy ...

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