CATEGORIES On the Scene
It's difficult to think of many directors who -- after 25 years -- stay relevant and whose films continually get better. The Coen Brothers have produced 14 full-length features since 1984, movies that cover a wide range of genres, from broad comedies to bloody crime thrillers, and, depending on which film geek you ask, each one can be considered the directing duo's best.

A strong argument can be made that ''No Country for Old Men' (2007) is the Coens' crowning achievement. Not only did it gross more money than any of their other films, it was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning four.

Maybe even more impressive is that the Coens were able to successfully adapt a beloved novel and not create a finished product that fell prey to reviews claiming that "the book was better." They remained faithful to the source material while still making the film its own thing. And they did it with a $25 million budget, shooting on location in New Mexico and West Texas.
It's difficult to think of many directors who -- after 25 years -- stay relevant and whose films continually get better. The Coen Brothers have produced 14 full-length features since 1984, movies that cover a wide range of genres, from broad comedies to bloody crime thrillers, and, depending on which film geek you ask, each one can be considered the directing duo's best.

A strong argument can be made that ''No Country for Old Men' (2007) is the Coens' crowning achievement. Not only did it gross more money than any of their other films, it was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning four.

Maybe even more impressive is that the Coens were able to successfully adapt a beloved novel and not create a finished product that fell prey to reviews claiming that "the book was better." They remained faithful to the source material while still making the film its own thing. And they did it with a $25 million budget, shooting on location in New Mexico and West Texas.

Location as Character: Hunter Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) finds $2 million of drug money near the Rio Grande and, hoping to keep it for himself, goes on the run, staying in one rundown motel after another. It seems he may be too crafty for the diabolical hit man Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) and the group of Mexican criminals tracking him. Unfortunately, he gets preoccupied by a poolside betty and beer at the Desert Sands Hotel in El Paso and doesn't see them coming; it's a fatal mistake.

Moss' last stand was actually shot at the Desert Sands Hotel in Albuquerque. The Coens added "El Paso" to the sign to fit in with the story line. Cinematographer Roger Deakins told the Daily Telegraph that the key to the film's tone is its realism: "Very edgy and dark, and quite sparse. Not so stylized." The Desert Sands is certainly the real deal.

Historical Significance: Built in 1957, the Desert Sands was considered a first-class establishment with a fancy roadside sign. Now it's in a rundown neighborhood, just a cheap place for drifters to hide out ... with a fancy vintage roadside sign. The sign is well documented by travel photojournalists.

The motel is gritty and unique, making it the perfect location for two of the film's most memorable scenes. First, Moss falls from grace by flirting with a woman who's not his wife and ends up gunned down. Second, Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), who's been investigating the trail of dead bodies left behind by Chigurh, travels to the crime scene, room 114, and it seems like there will be a second gun battle -- between the sheriff and Chigurh -- but the killer vanishes like a ghost.

Fun Fact:
Room 109 is considered by many paranormal websites to be one of the most haunted places in New Mexico. People who rent the room claim they were watched by unseen eyes, that their hair was pulled by something unseen, that growling emanated from the bathroom, or that the TV turned on by itself.

Directions:
Desert Sands is located at 5000 Central Ave on the southeast side of Albuquerque, off the I-40.

Visitor Info:
Stay the night there at your own risk. Customer reviews online claim the rooms are clean, but the clientele and staff are less than friendly -- if not dangerous. One reviewer writes, "I wouldn't be surprised if the car got broken into. The management is rough with you as well, as if they are accustomed to dealing with thugs.‎" However, the on-site restaurant, Pho Linh Vietnamese Grill, seems to have the best Vietnamese food in the area, so come hungry.