144. Fargo

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Movie: Fargo

Release Date: May 8, 1996

Director: Joel Coen

Starring: Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi, Harve Presnell, Peter Stormare.

Tag Lines: “A homespun murder story.”

“Small town. Big crime. Dead cold.”

“A lot can happen in the middle of nowhere.”

“An ordinary place, an extraordinary thriller.”

Relevance: Once in awhile a movie comes along that has everyone talking. ‘Fargo’ was one of those movies in 1996. I of course knew who the Coen brothers were and as soon as I saw the trailer for the film, I knew I had to see it. However, life got in the way and I missed its theatrical run.

I was living in Massachusetts at the time working as a manager in a movie and music store. Unfortunately around the time of the movie’s release, I found out that my store was closing. I then had made a decision to relocate back to New York state. That meant I had a month to pack up my apartment in Massachusetts, find an apartment in New York and at the same time acclimate myself to a new job. So going to the movies was one of the last things on my mind. ‘Fargo’ had to wait until the Fall when it was released on VHS.

As soon as the movie became available, I was one of the first in line to grab it. In my new store, one of my days off during every week seemed to fall on a Tuesday. At that time, new releases for both music and movies were on that day of the week. I found myself going to my local rental store every Tuesday at 10 am trying to grab the big new release from that week. On November 19, 1996, I finally got to see the film I had been waiting months to see.

I instantly loved the film and it had way exceeded my expectations. It actually blew my mind. It was funny, dark, violent and so quirky, even for the Coen brothers. I watched it twice that first time I rented it and actually bought the VHS as soon as I could. There was a Widescreen Special Edition release that included a snow globe that depicted the wood chipper scene from the film. When you shook the snow globe, both snow and “blood” fell. Of course, I bought that one.

I eventually bought the DVD of ‘Fargo’ and it has remained one of my favorite films to watch and re-watch throughout the years. I absolutely adored the screenplay as well as all of the performances. It was appropriately given many accolades during its award season and they were all 100% deserved. I knew who the Coen brothers were before ‘Fargo’ was released. After it was released, I became a huge Coen brothers fan and remain one to this very day.

Today’s Thoughts: “Oh, I just think I’m gonna barf…well, that passed. Now I’m hungry again.”

‘Fargo’ is as odd, quirky and fantastic as it was back in 1996. The Coen brothers definitely know how to write and direct violent yet darkly funny films and this one has to be one of their best. I loved revisiting it today. Despite owning it, I hadn’t watched it in its entirety in at least ten to fifteen years. That is much too long of a wait to not watch this modern classic.

It is a beautifully directed and acted art piece if there ever was one. Of course, Frances McDormand is phenomenal as lovable Marge Gunderson, but the entire ensemble is flawless. William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi, Harve Presnell, Peter Stormare and company are more than effective in this strange and bizarre true story-not a true story tale. Its dark, yet so much fun to watch. I find myself smiling even during those scenes where I should be appalled and covering my eyes.

If you do cover your eyes, you might miss the return of the penis thanks to a “flying” Steve Buscemi. In the middle of the film, Mr. Buscemi’s character is tossed pretty violently over a couch naked. Mid flight, you get to see “all” of Mr. Buscemi (or perhaps his stunt double, or would that be penis double). Regardless, that is penis number ten on my list of most influential moves of all time. You can check out the nine other “penises” here: 183. Terminator 2: Judgement Day, 199. Six Degrees of Separation, 209. The Fisher King, 295. Being John Malkovich, 296. Wildcats, 332. The Crying Game, 335. Born on the Fourth of July343. Sideways and 357. Amadeus.

‘Fargo’ is a fantastic movie and one that is a must watch for any fan or student of film. Simply put, it is one of the best dark comedies ever put on screen. Anyone that disagrees with that statement has no idea what they are talking about as far as cinema is concerned. Those sound like fighting words, but this is a film that I am willing to fight over.

“You betcha!”

Awards: Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, Frances McDormand (winner), Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen (winner), Academy Award for Best Picture (nomination), Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, William H. Macy (nomination), Academy Award for Best Director, Joel Coen (nomination), Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Roger Deakins (nomination), Academy Award for Best Film Editing, Joel Coen, Ethan Coen (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Director – Motion Picture, Joel Coen (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, Frances McDormand (nomination), Best Screenplay – Motion Picture, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Direction, Joel Coen (winner), BAFTA Award for Best Film (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Screenplay – Motion Picture, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role, Frances McDormand (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Cinematography, Roger Deakins (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Editing, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen (nomination), Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role, Frances McDormand (winner), Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role, William H. Macy (nomination), Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Picture (winner), Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress, Frances McDormand (winner), Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Director, Joel Coen (nomination), Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Screenplay, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen (nomination), Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, Joel Coen (nomination), Film Independent Spirit Award for Best Feature (winner), Film Independent Spirit Award for Best Director, Joel Coen (winner), Film Independent Spirit Award for Best Cinematography, Roger Deakins (winner), Film Independent Spirit Award for Best Female Lead, Frances McDormand (winner), Film Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead, William H. Macy (winner), Film Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen (winner), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Screenplay, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen (winner), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Picture (nomination), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Director, Joel Coen (nomination), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress, Frances McDormand (nomination), National Board of Review Award for Top Ten FIlms (winner), National Board of Review Award for Best Director, Joel Coen (winner), National Board of Review Award for Best Actress, Frances McDormand (winner), National Film Registry (2006), National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actress (winner), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Film (winner), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress, Frances McDormand (nomination), Writers Guild of America Award for New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Screenplay, Joel Coen, Ethan Coen (winner).

Ways to Watch: Philo, YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon Prime, DVD Availability.

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