The conventions of screwball comedy – the rapid-fire banter, the careful repetition of lines of dialogue, the willingness to cross freely and constantly between highbrow and lowbrow gags – play a major role in the films of Joel and Ethan Coen. The influence, primarily, is Preston Sturges. His writing, which blended crowd-pleasing slapstick-style hijinks and legitimately high-minded social observations, found its modern heir in the brothers. They skewer like he skewered. They put their characters through the wringer like he put his characters through the wringer. And while their pictures tend to lack the sex appeal that seeped from the syllables of Sturges’ dialogue, they make up for it by matching his oft-unsung propensity for philosophical musings.